On The Fence – November/December 2018

I won’t even offer a feeble excuse, but this will be the November-December “On The Fence” for several reasons. The greatest of these is there is not a lot to write about what is happening on farms at this time of year. Almost all harvest has been completed. I have some farmers locally, and I’m sure there are others, who are waiting for the ground to freeze hard before they can get in some fields and wrap up their harvest. We’ve had just enough rains this year to make some of those poorly drained fields impossible to harvest.

cows grazing stalks-2Another activity for some has been fencing fields with crop residues and turning cows out to graze them. This never looked very palatable to me, but the cows seem to like it! This is actually a great food source for stock cows and is much cheaper than feeding hay. So as long as it doesn’t snow too much, cows will make use of this abundant food source. Another advantage to grazing stalks is cows will recycle  of the nutrients throughout the field as they graze.

One big activities for many farmers is end-of-year tax planning. Each farmer’s situation is different, but it’s important for them to see if it would be to their advantage to prepay expenses such as fertilizer this year or if they should sell some stored grain or livestock before the end of the year. Everyone has until April 15 to pay their income tax for the previous year, but farmers and fishermen have some different rules if they pay their taxes by March 1. So many farmers will have this done before I really start to sort all of my tax information out.

Life at Wilson’s Last Resort hasn’t slowed down too much, just shifted gears. I have leaves raked up and added to the compost pile, some (probably not enough) firewood brought up close to the house so it is relatively easy to access when I need it, flower beds cleaned off, lawnmower taken out to the shed and snow blower brought up to the house, and the blade on my tractor ready to move snow… I’ve actually already used it once.

Winter WoodpeckerWe feed birds year round, but this last snow reminded me how important it is to make sure I keep those feeders full when the weather turns bad. Up until it snowed, I have to fill my feeders every 2-3 day to make sure there is a consistent source of food for the birds. But after the last snow I was filling them daily. It can be harmful or even fatal to the birds that become dependent on my feeders for food if I don’t keep them full when the weather turns bad… you know, the kind of day you really don’t want to get outside and do anything.

Robins at BirdbathI also have two bird baths, one on a pedestal and one on the ground that both have heaters in them so the birds have a reliable source of water. Although I put these out for the birds and our pets to get a drink, I have seen rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, an opossum, and even a deer drinking from these birdbaths. It was fun to sit inside with a cup of coffee and watch all the different birds that we haven’t seen for a while show up in our back yard.

And since I seem to be on a bird kick, I want to pass along an idea to anyone who has a natural Christmas tree. After the holidays, your tree doesn’t have to be recycled or thrown on the burn pile. All wildlife have three basic needs… food, water and shelter. Your Christmas tree can provide some backyard bird habitat and meet two of those three needs, shelter and food. A heater for your birdbath will meet the other need (a great holiday gift idea).

First, remove all decorations and ornaments including tinsel. Then take it outside and but the base in a bucket of sand or tie it to neighboring trees, or both, preferably in a location where it is easy to view from inside your home. Then add different kinds of food that birds will like… use your imagination.

Different birds like different foods so consider stringing popcorn and cranberries, smear peanut butter in pine cones, put suet in a mesh bag or roll it in bird seed and then hang any of these on the tree. It’s amazing the birds you will attract. Also, don’t forget to scatter some bird seed on the ground. Some birds only feed on the ground and will not eat at feeders or food hanging in a tree.

Well, I hope that gives you some ideas on how to beat the winter blahs. Whatever you do, enjoy your great surroundings, be thankful you’re not stuck in town, and have some fun on your acreage!

1 - Last Resort

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