Granite Ledge Township Homestead Wildlife

I haven’t posted in a bit, so I thought I’d just toss this one up.

Ian and Olivia, my son and daughter-in-law, recently purchased a home on several acres in Granite Ledge Township, Benton County, MN.  The lot is mostly wooded.  They received a wireless “security” cam set as a housewarming gift, and it captured some interesting things in their first months at the home.

SPOILERS BELOW – read after viewing:

The first critter is an opossum.  Little cutie.

In the second set of videos, the animal being chased is a feral house cat.  The chaser is a fisher, a large member of the weasel family.  It is sometimes called a fisher cat.  Unfortunately evidence suggests the fisher killed the feral cat very shortly after this video.

The third critters are a pair of big lumbering stinkers looking to put on some weight before a long winter’s nap.

Ian and Olivia are hosting a rather large Thanksgiving in their home and we’re all looking forward to attending soon.




Spring Plantings


One of the 25 White Pines planted May 3rd. This tree is about 8″ tall. Pines this size planted here 5 years ago range from 4 to 9 feet tall.

Tree seedlings, saplings and shrubs were planted May 3rd through May 5th.  The 99 plantings included 25 White Pines, 25 Silver Maple, 25 American Cranberrybush, 5 Hackberry, 5 Basswood (American Linden) and 14 Golden Willow.  We ran out of tree tubes and have already had some silver maples munched.  I think it is by rabbits.  They may recover if I can get them protected soon.


A “Forest Restoration Intern” applying Plantskydd to a Silver Maple seedling in hopes of keeping away deer, rabbits and voles.  Another silver maple, the next tree in this row without a tube, has already been eaten down to about 5 inches.

The garden planting was finished May 24th. There is still more tilling and fencing to do.  (Asparagus bed and apple trees are not new but are included for reference.)  The tomatoes, eggplant and peppers were started from seed indoors several months ago.  All other plantings were by seed.  More herbs and some tomatoes will be in pots and planters near the house.  This is the last year for a ground-level garden.  Pots and raised beds only next year.




First Day for Outdoor Drone Flight – No Audio


This video was made today during the first outdoor flight of the drone I received for Christmas, a little DJI Spark.  After some initial messing around with huge file sizes, I decided to go the Youtube hosting route using the “unlisted” video setting, which means it isn’t private, but you can only see it if you know the link.

Ten days earlier, this area was under about foot of fresh snow.  Some snow remains on the edge of some distant fields. The pines and spruces are just starting to green up as the frost comes out of the ground.  In most places, the soil remains rock hard below 6″.  Delivery of the hundred or so tree seedlings I’ll be planting has been delayed until May 3 when more frost will be gone.  I’m hoping for thawed ground to 16″ when I plant.

I had seen a few videos of raptors attacking drones, and sure enough, one seemed very interested in it today. (Not in this video – The hawk was well above the drone so it wouldn’t have been captured by the drone’s camera.) I swiftly flew the drone close to me and made myself very visible.  It soared about 100 feet above the drone for 20 seconds then decided to look elsewhere.  Pretty sure it was a Red-tailed.  During this flight, the tree swallows were curious but remained at a distance

If you look quickly, you can see the L-shaped garden soil I tilled last fall.


Jackfruit / Nangka

We bought a 30lb Jackfruit or Nangka from a local Asian grocer knowing it would be an adventure.  After researching the best plan of attack, I wrapped the knife handles and oiled my hands and the knife blades to keep latex from sticking.


Here it is halved. There was very little latex.  I’m not sure why . . .  maybe because of age, temperature, degree of ripeness . ..  I don’t know.

After cutting it into long quarters and cutting out the core, I turned it partially inside out to separate the pods and make them easier to extract.

Here are about half the pods and a third of the seeds from our Nangka. Ensie gave the flavor an “A”, high marks from a Malaysia-born fruit lover, but the texture did indicate the fruit was a bit under-ripe. I tried several recipes for cooking the seeds, the size of a fava bean but twice as thick. The best one was the most labor intensive: Boil for 10 minutes. Peel the thick outer translucent skin. Slice in half. Brown in a 50:50 mix of butter and a fragrant coconut oil. Season. I used garlic, black pepper and a good curry powder blend. The result is like a slightly nutty firm yet cooked potato. Another recipe called for roasting them in the oven before peeling off the skin. My attempt resulted in 5 or 6 exploding before I called that off.


Tree Ordering Time

Trees in the late summer of 2017


This is Round #3 of tree and shrub ordering from our local county conservation district to reforest or naturalize lands that had been used in the past by me and others as pasture. The plantings are on 5 acres of our 10 acres, with the other land either wetlands or lawn.

Let’s recap:

Plantings from 2012 and 2013:

    • 75 Eastern White Pine 10″+ seedlings
      • These have done quite well. Most are 6-8′ tall, even with the deer eating the growing tip, which leaves them more rounded at the top.  At this height, the deer will likely begin leaving them alone.
    • 50 White Spruce seedlings, 12″+
      • These also did quite well in most sites.  While they are not eaten by deer, in the past few years, deer have used some of them to scratch their antlers, leaving the tops stripped of needles, slowing their growth.  Some may not have recovered from this.  Average height about 4′.
    • 25 Black Hills Spruce seedlings, 12″+
      • These were largely a flop.  They are a subspecies of white spruce, but they seem to need a different soil (perhaps not as acidic) and better drainage than I provided. Average height 2′, with a less than 20% survival rate.
    • 5 White Spruce transplants, 36″+
      • These are the same as the white spruce seedlings, and after 5 years are pretty indistinguishable from them.  I think one of the five died.  These trees planted at 36+ inches need a lot more attention (watering, soil prep) in their initial days. Like the seedling spruce planted at the same time, they average only slightly taller than 4′
    • 25 Norway Spruce, about 12″
      • About 75% mortality, likely because of severe dry then wet conditions the first year.  The ones that made it through that year have done well. Non-native, this wasn’t planted in “wild” areas.
    • 25 Red Oak, 18″
      • These mostly did OK.  There was quite a bit of initial mortality within the first year, from unknown causes and rodent girdling.  They seem to grow faster than their trunk’s diameter can support, resulting in some succumbing to winds in recent years.  Present height varies, mostly 3′ with some 6′.  I have tied up one in hopes of saving it.
    • 10 Red (Norway) Pine, 8-24″
      • These have done well.  They are growing almost as fast as the White Pines, and aren’t preyed upon as much (at all?) by the deer.  Average height 5-6′, with about 80% surviving.
    • 10 Arrowwood (Shrub) 12-18″
      • These are planted in both sunny and somewhat shaded areas, with the plants in the less sunny (& less windy) areas doing better, at about 4′.  It could be that the deer are eating down the other ones more often, as they definitely munch on this.
    • 25 Hazelnut (Shrub) 12-18″
      • These guys are slow to take off.  I think I have about 60% survival, with only one of the 15 or so shrubs producing nuts at 4 years.  It was still exciting and I consider these a success.  As they self-spread, I will probably rely on existing shrubs rather than future purchases to expand their numbers.
    • 25 Tamarack 6-12″
      • Sadly, these seem to be 100% lost.  As they are planted in wetter areas, I don’t think they were able to compete with the nasty reed canary grass that has taken over wetlands and damper areas of old pastures.  I saw a few after three years, but haven’t seen them since.  There is a slight chance a few survived and will poke up through wetland grasses.
    • 25 Bur Oak 12-18″
      • While there was a lot of first year mortality (~50%), these slow-growing seedlings are great.  Average height is still below 2′, but they seem very sturdy now.
    • 25 Silver Maple 2-3′
      • There was a bit of deer predation and a lot of rodent predation, but these are doing well, as expected.  They are mostly taller than the red maples, but there have been some losses from winds and deer just knocking them over.  They average about 4′ but many are 3′ or 5 or more’.
    • 25 Red Maple 2-3′
      • A deer favorite, these are only allowed to grow as tall as a surrounding cage, unless I spray them religiously with Plantskyyd.  Probably 20 or more of these are still alive, some looking more like 20″ shrubs.  If deer populations are allowed to go up and down naturally, these trees would do well.  However, deer are managed by the state for the hunting revenue, and their numbers are always kept too high.  These red maples will only do well with a lot of protection from deer.
    • 25 Red osier dogwood (Shrub) 18″
      • All except two of these were eaten to the ground their first season.  If they were protected from deer year round, and rodents in the colder months, they would have done very well.  Height about 6′.

American Hazelbrush nuts

American Hazelbrush nut


Since these plantings, more research has been done regarding tree choice in relation to climate change.  I balance this with what I have observed on this land now, knowing that a shift of species is likely, as always, in the future.

White pines are not expected to do well this far south in coming years, but will do OK a bit further north.  Red pine, due to its lack of genetic diversity, is susceptible to a large kill-off and may disappear altogether.  White spruce, which do quite well here presently, are not expected to be able to handle the climate in coming years due to pests from warmer areas popping up locally.

Silver maple, bur oak, basswood and hackberry are expected to do well, while Red Maple and Red Oak could do OK.

We have been losing a lot of oak, particularly red oak, to oak wilt in resent years.  I may have two affected trees, which isn’t good.  Nobody is planting (green or black) ash trees, which are the most abundant tree in the state, until the emerald ash borer is under control.

Here is what I have ordered for planting in late April of this year:

  • 25 Eastern White Pine 12″
    • Based on the success of past plantings
  • 25 Silver Maple 15″
    • I have some volunteers of yard trees that I’ve been planting too.  These others will hopefully increase genetic diversity
  • 25 Golden Willow 18″
    • These aren’t native and will be used in wetter areas of the yard (not reforested areas) to soak up moisture and block winds.
  • 25 Highbush Cranberry (American Cranberrybush) 10″
    • Ive seen this growing in area woods.  It is a beautiful large shrub that has great value to wildlife.  It is a native viburnum, not a real cranberry.
  • 5 Basswood, 3-4′
    • I have 2 of these growing slowly but healthily already,  They do quite well.
  • 5 Hackberry, 3-4′
    • I’m not very familiar with this tree, but it is a species that is common around here and expected to out-compete some natives in coming years.

American Cranberrybush

I’m considering getting few more bur oak if I’m ambitious.  Our local county conservation district doesn’t offer them.  In the past, I’ve traveled a few counties away to get them.