RD November 2015 Letters

Tenant farming returns?
RD: An issue plaguing agriculture today is how to encourage new and/or young people to become involved within the industry, and how can they be helped to succeed. A scheme that has been quite successful in the UK is “farm letting,” or “tenant farming.” For example, the UK National Trust, which owns 255,000 hectares in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, lets out 60 percent of their land to farmers, with the goal of supporting sustainable agriculture and to ensure that there are enthusiastic and skilled people involved with farming for generations to come.
    Other programs, some of which are run in conjunction with environmental conservation organizations, provide farmers with livestock which, for their contracted time, they can raise, manage, graze on conservation lands. At the end of their contract they must hand back a herd of the same size they started out with. Any profits made during the contract are kept by the farmers, which will help to provide capital for purchasing land for starting their own venture. 
    These programs allow young farmers to develop and run a business from a pre-existing farm, therefore new entrants are not required to purchase large tracts of land, equipment, and supplies, which are often the largest costs in starting a farming venture. Most importantly, these programs allow young farmers to gain valuable experience, and they contribute to local food security and economic development – benefits which could be seen here in Atlantic Canada if such a program were in place. 

Mikaela Marr
Dalhousie University Faculty of Agriculture
Truro, N.S. 

Setting the bar high
RD: Another year has gone by (and seems very fast). This year the sunflowers rose up to 12 feet six inches. The bar has been set and we will see again how high we will get. Love the magazine. Kate (my wife) planted and photographed the sunflowers.

Kate and John Blake
Milltown, N.B. 

Back in black
RD: I would like to share these pictures of a large Black hornet’s nest. Have not seen these in years! I would like to hear if anyone else has seen the return of the Black hornet. 

Garry Matheson
Hazel Grove
Hunter River, P.E.I. 

(Gary, Black or not, we’re hearing a lot of stories about large, and often high-up wasp nests this fall. Is it coincidence, or harbingers of a hard winter ahead? DvL) 

Pickled pests
RD: Every year around this time, when I return to my hunting camp, there is one thing I can count on when opening the door and stepping into the place for the first time in months – critter damage! Mouse droppings scattered on the counter tops and on the shelves where plates and glasses are stacked (upside down, of course). Insulation hauled down from its intended place in the ceiling now makes a nice bed for mister squirrel behind some pots and pans above the wood stove. And finally, five or six Victor traps flipped upside down with what remains of the unlucky critters that just couldn’t resist that small piece of cheese.
    The problem with “snap” traps is that the unfortunate critter starts to decay over time, and makes an awful stink. That smell can linger for some time thereafter.
    My cousin introduced me to what he called the “perpetual mouse trap,” a neat, affordable, reusable trap with little to no odor if left with its catch for longer periods of time. A simple design, and a very efficient (and somewhat horrible) way of catching mice or other small critters. 
    Here’s what you will need: a 5- to 10-gallon plastic bucket; a wooden spindle cut about a foot and a half long; a piece of foam “pool noodle” cut about five inches long; a length of wood strapping to create a ramp; antifreeze; and peanut butter or Cheez Whiz. 
    Melt or drill a hole in each side of the bucket just below the rim. Push the wooden spindle through, remembering to insert the foam roller (pool noodle) in the centre. Add some peanut butter or Cheez Whiz to the foam roller. Make sure it spins freely. Use your piece of strapping to build a ramp for the mouse to climb up to the top of the bucket. Fill the bucket about a quarter to half full of antifreeze. When the critter makes his way up to the top, it will reach out with its front legs to get to the foam roller that contains the tasty treat. The roller spins, dropping the animal into the antifreeze, where it will quickly meet its demise in the poisonous liquid. 
    I have caught as many as five at a time in one bucket while away for about a month. No smell, and no decaying mice in numerous traps set throughout the camp. Just discard the contents properly and add more antifreeze to reset. 

Stephen Nickerson
Liverpool, N.S.

(Wow, Steve, the deviousness of that method is worthy of a villain from one of the James Bond movies. Perfect for your camp, although closer to home people might not want to leave a pail of antifreeze around, especially where kids or domestic animals could happen along. In the barn, my grandfather used to set out a bucket of water topped with a sprinkling of bran, which would float on the surface and create the illusion of safe ground for mice and rats. It would be great to hear from readers who would recommend other methods of rodent control. DL)