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By Shelly Paulocik

Winter is a relatively quiet time in the orchard. However, there are several things to keep in mind to prepare it for the great cold. These include shortening the ground cover, either by grazing or mowing. This eliminates favourable nesting sites for mice. You should also removing any extra items, i.e. bales or equipment, which may provide cosy protection for mice or rabbits.

The tree trunks should also be protected. Use plastic (white only) or wire mesh guards, but be sure these are buried an inch or two into the ground to prevent the mice from tunnelling.

Several repellents are used to keep nibblers away from fruit trees. A trapper in Ohio suggests stringing baler twine (the sisal kind is likely the best) that's been soaked in motor oil around an area you want to protect. He keeps the line six inches off the ground for rabbits, and about five to six feet off the ground for deer (i.e. nose level in both cases). The twine will need to be 'freshened up' with oil occasionally. Here are other ideas for deer problems. Others that work on repugnant smell are bloodmeal, human hair (this can be "blended" with vegetable oil, and cayenne, allowed to age and placed in nylon bags which are tied to the trees), and soap (Lifebuoy and Irish Spring are most effective).

Other preparations based on taste should keep rabbits and deer from sampling. Skoot is a ready-made option. Your own mix of hot pepper concentrate and vegetable oil can also be painted or sprayed onto the trees. We've learned you can't count on any method - Skoot failed miserably for us one year when it came to rabbits.

Whichever option you use, be sure to vary it as time goes on - it seems the critters eventually catch on.

Copyright 1994 Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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