Monday, April 30, 2012

The battle of Tenderbreak Corn Field 2012

This year we had our best corn crop ever. We had composted the garden well (which included plenty of old, broken down chicken manure) before planting, and given plants a little extra spacing to encourage good growth. We had even planted successive crops so we could harvest cobs over an extended period. Our mouths were watering as we watched the first crop gradually mature. 
The crop ripens
Finally the day for the first taste arrived and we stepped into the “corn forest” to select the best cobs. To our horror we found we had been beaten to it by some ravenous rodents who had already stripped several cobs. To us, that was a clear declaration of war!
A demolished cob

Our first defensive strategy was to leave our brave dog Bluey out all night to do his duty and repel attacks. He did a good job for about half the night, but gave up at about 3am and came and slept by our bedroom window.

Of course the rodent incursions continued and we lost a few more cobs. If he’d been successful in his mission we were going to promote him to General Bluey, but his lacklustre performance will keep him at the rank of private for quite a while yet.

Private Bluey

Our next strategy was to go on the attack. We pulled out our dusty collection of traps, including Big Bertha.

This latter gizmo is an electronic rat trap called a Ratzapper. It is powered by 4 D cell batteries and when a rodent enters, it delivers an electric shock that quickly and humanely kills the offender. We set up our traps every night for a week and caught enough rodents to save about half of our first crop. Unfortunately, this was not quite enough corn to hold our traditional annual family corn party.

Big Bertha
Two weeks later, our second crop was ripening up when we noticed that nibbles were again appearing in the best cobs. As these were smaller we guessed that the mice army was having a go this time. We brought Big Bertha out again to do her thing and each night for the next week we caught offending rodents.
We do not like having to kill rodents and only resort to this if our crops come under serious threat. As we will not allow poisons in our garden we believe the electric trap is probably the most humane way of dealing with rats and mice.
 In the early days we did try relocation, by trapping mice in a home-made rat trap (non lethal) and then walking right up the back of our place (500m) and letting them go. We have stopped doing this because:-
·       Trapping rodents, and shifting them is traumatic for them
·       Our home made trap was too small for rats
·       Relocation is possibly inhumane in that they may not be able to find enough food in their new location and could starve to death
·       When they do find food, it possibly reduces food availability to animals already resident in that area
·       Relocation may be just passing the problem on to someone else
·       Unless they are relocated some distance away they can make their way back and the problem continues

The battle of Tenderbreak Corn Field was hard fought and there were quite a few casualties. However we managed to save about three quarters of our crop and were able to hold a smaller version of our annual family “corn” party. Our feast included corn on the cob, corn patties, pop corn and fried rice with corn.

One of our delicious meals with corn.

My heart bleeds for our rodent population and I only wish we could live harmoniously together at all times. Why wouldn’t you salivate at the glimpse of ripe, succulent corn if you were a rat or mouse. BUT, I love my corn too, and ever so sadly turn my head away as Andrew does the dirty deed.
My mum once gave me a beautiful piece of pottery ......a dear little mouse sitting beside a mouse trap with a look of total horror on its face.


Kerry said...

It's easy to live in harmony with nature, until it threatens your food! :)

Last year I had the dilemma of rescuing a black rat, that was at the time eating our corn, from our cat.

Do I leave the rat to get eaten, bearing in mind that the kids are really excited to see it? Or do I remove it and place it somewhere safe, knowing it will come back later? And it is a pest species...?

The rat won and was escorted from the property at due speed.

We didn't lose any more corn after that, so perhaps he repaid the favour by telling his mates to leave it alone? :)

Andrew and Heather said...

Thanks for the comment Kerry. You are right about the difficulties of living in harmony with nature. When we established our orchard we planted far more than we could eat ourselves, with the idea that animals might eat 20-30% (preferably the fruit at the top of the tree) and we would have the rest. Unfortunately birds have different ideas and often seem to be after 100%. Interestingly, each year is different. Some year’s they seem to focus on some trees and not others. However every year provides a challenge of one sort or another and our ability to “rise to the challenge” is tested!

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