See anything unusual here?

Look closely at the passenger seat on our utility vehicle.  Do you see anything unusual in this picture?


Don’t give up – keep looking!



 Still haven’t spotted anything out of the ordinary?



Scroll down, and I’ll show you what I can plainly see (in person, of course).



Lookee what we’ve got here:

How do I mow this?

I’ve heard of not letting grass grow under you feet, but how about not letting it grow under your seat?

But the real question is – how am I going to mow this?

It’s Fall And They’re Fallin’

Black walnuts in tree

As you may recall from a previous post entitled Black Walnuts On My Mind, we have from 200-300 black walnut trees on our property, out of which I have located and mapped 94 individual trees that are prolific nut producers this season.  Eventually, the time comes for the nuts to fall from the protective limbs of the walnut trees onto the ground below – that time has now come, as you can see from the following photograph.

Black walnuts on ground

Of the 94 productive trees, 7 are located in the yard surrounding our house, which, for aesthetic reasons, I like to maintain as mowed lawn.  The walnuts that fall from trees in our pastures and fields remain where they lie, until our friend Jasper comes to gather them (which will probably be in the next two weeks, and the subject of a future post).  But the nuts that fall upon my lawn get gathered soon after they fall from the tree, for two reasons.  As you can see in the photo above, the walnuts can easily cause twisted or sprained ankles for the unwary person traversing the lawn, so for safety reasons I like to remove them quickly.

Decaying walnuts

As you can see in the photo above, the walnuts begin their decomposition soon after hitting the ground, and the black, tar-like substance that emanates from within the husk will kill the grasses that lie beneath the rotting nut if it is allowed to remain on the ground.  If this happened with only a few nuts, it would not be a problem, but with thousands of nuts falling from each tree, the lawn would soon disappear beneath the trees if the nuts were not rapidly removed after falling.

Walnut picker-upper

What you see here is a tool for picking up walnuts (and other types of nuts, as well) that Retta was kind enough to purchase for me from a farm store she was visiting in Ozark, Missouri a couple of years ago.  Each and every time I use this tool, I am grateful to her for having had the foresight to buy it, as it has eliminated the back-wrenching stooping that I used to go through in order to pick up the walnuts that were befouling my cherished lawn.

Gathering fallen walnuts

Here, you can see how simple this tool is to use – simply roll it along the ground where the nuts have landed, and like magic, the nuts end up trapped inside.  Soon, the tool will fill with nuts, as seen below, but it is quick and easy to empty the nuts into a suitable container and continue with the task at hand.

Nut gathering tool filled with walnuts

Each morning, after gathering the nuts that have fallen the previous day, I dump them into a pile, where they will remain until either;  A) Jasper picks them up, or B) “my” squirrels gather and bury them for their winter sustenance.

Pile of walnuts awaiting Jasper's arrival

The picture above is the pile of nuts that had fallen in one single day from these seven trees in my yard.  I will gather these nuts on a daily basis until the trees are barren and enter their winter slumber, saving their strength for the crop that they will surely produce next summer.

Variable size of walnuts

It is hard to say with any degree of certainty how much an un-hulled black walnut weighs.  As you can see in the photograph above, the size of the nuts that fell from the same tree are quite variable.  To try to ascertain an average weight of the un-hulled nuts, I filled a five gallon bucket with walnuts, as seen below.

Guess how many walnuts are in this 5 gallon bucket

After filling the bucket, I weighed it on our bathroom scale, and determined the net weight to be 24 pounds.  A manual count indicated that there were 337 nuts in the bucket.  Therefore, simple arithmetic yielded an average weight of .0712 pounds/nut, or about 14 nuts per pound.  Remember these figures, for they will be used in an analysis of Jasper’s labors in a post that will appear here in the near future.

Feeder Maintenance Time – Part III

Regular readers of this blog, after perusing the title of this post, might conclude that I have a wildlife feeder fixation.  These readers would be correct – I do have a dogged determination to keep my wildlife feeders reliably operating at all times.  There is something very gratifying to me in seeing turkey or deer from my window on a regular basis, which is why I go through all of the fuss and bother keeping the feeders operating properly.  And fuss and bother it is, indeed.  The feeders that I have used all seem to have a common trait – they are built cheaply and lack any semblance of durability. Perhaps this is because feeders are mostly used by hunters for only brief periods of time each season, and therefore manufactures don’t feel the need to produce a high-quality product,  or perhaps it is because I have just not stumbled upon the right manufacturer yet.  In any case, I will probably end up having to write many posts about my episodes in keeping the feeders running.  It just might be the nature of the beast, as they say.

The first post was on my experiences with battery life and solar charging.  The second post was on the topic of general feeder maintenance.  You might recognize the following photograph from the general feeder maintenance post-

Changing the battery

This was the type of feeder timer/motor unit that I had been using in one of the feeder stations.  There were several things I did not like about this device.  Changing the battery was a task that required three hands, an abundance of dexterity, and a little bit of luck to accomplish.   When the battery was changed, the timer unit would have to be reprogrammed with start times and feeding durations for each of the feeding times you desired to set in a day, and the current time would have to be reset as well.  Setting all of these parameters was a tedious chore, due to the design of the user interface.  A major annoyance was the lack of a “test” button.  As the battery weakened, there was sufficient power to run the programming circuit, but insufficient energy left to spin the motor.  Without a test button, there was no way to determine the condition of the battery.  But the worst problem with this unit was it’s lack of durability.

Broken spinner plate assembly

The photograph above shows a broken spinner plate.  I had replaced the spinner plate on this unit once already, and the fact that the replacement spinner also broke is testament to the inferior quality of this feeder unit.  With all of it’s other shortcomings, I decided to replace it with a different brand this time around.

Emptying the barrel of corn

Before I could install the timer/motor unit on the feeder barrel, I had to empty the contents of the feeder onto the ground.  After removing the old unit, I drilled new holes into the barrel using the template provided with the new feeder unit, and then bolted the new timer/motor assembly onto the barrel. 

Timer/motor unit housing

This is the new housing for the timer/motor unit.  Unlike the previous unit, which was constructed primarily of plastic parts, this unit is built with powder-coated steel, and feels much more sturdy than the one it replaces.  Also unlike the old unit, this one is designed in a manner that makes battery replacement a quick, simple affair.  There is ample room inside for the battery, motor and controller module, and the housing is weather-proof.  The spinner plate, hub and motor shaft are constructed from heavier material than the previous unit was.

Feeder controller module

The controller module shown in the photograph above has several features that I like.  First, it is encased in it’s own weather-proof housing, providing a redundancy of moisture protection.  Second, the duration of each feed dispensing cycle can easily be adjusted by turning the dial on the upper right.  There is a test button located at the upper left.  Unlike the old unit, this one does not require re-programming each time you change the battery.  The cycle duration is controlled by the duration dial, and the feed dispensing times are set by placing the pegs (stored along the two sides) into the circular dial at the desired feeding hours.  The entire unit is protected by an in-line fuse, so that a jammed spinner plate (from debris in the feed) will not burn out the motor.

Access door for internal components

There is one other feature of this new feeder unit that I like.  On the old feeder, access was through a plate located on the underside of the unit.  Entry required the use of a screwdriver, and the four tiny screws always seemed to end up on the ground, especially during the cold winter months, when one’s fingers aren’t the most nimble of tools to work with.  If you look at the picture above, you will see that the access door of the new feeder is in the front, and is secured with one large thumb screw.  The thumb screw is attached to the housing with a ball-chain, so that it cannot fall to the ground if it is dropped.

I am hoping that this new timer/motor unit will help to alleviate some of the problems I have been experiencing in my quest for the “perfect” wildlife feeder.  As you may have guessed, I’ll keep you posted.