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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

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Squirrels and Pears-How to Harvest Both Species!

Squirrels are cute little varmints who are not too particular about whether they eat the apples or pecans that you have spent a fortune on trying to produce.

But squirrels and pears don't mix! Squirrels are cute little creatures that have become lazy in my yard. The furry devils ate all of my apples and are now mutilating my pears, rather hunting for the "wild nuts and berries" that squirrels are supposed to eat. Squirrels don't want to search for their food in the wilds anymore. And why should they? We've grown their food for them in convenient, easy?to?eat forms. You can say the squirrels of the new millennium are NOT what their parents were. These new-age squirrels want fast food, conveniently packaged.

Squirrels typically feed on tree fruits and nuts. Acorns and pecans have long been favorite foods, but now they have added apples, pears, peaches and tomatoes to their diet as well. These critters have probably been reading health magazines and think they can lower their cholesterol by improving their diet! That's all we need-a longer living, healthier squirrel! Squirrels do have a problem with overeating and if weren't for a daily program of strenuous exercise and rigorous climbing, would probably be terribly obese.

Squirrels can be responsible for phenomenal pecan losses. Each squirrel can hide and eat more than 25 pounds of nuts per year. During times of peak population numbers, when enough food is scarce, squirrels may even chew bark from a variety of trees.

What can be done about squirrels? Squirrel damage can be prevented by eliminating the presence of the squirrels. Easy? Not really! A variety of traps will catch squirrels. One good type of bait consists of slices of orange and apple, pecans removed from the shell, or peanut butter. Crackers to accompany the peanut butter is optional. Setting out bait can be used as a distraction rather than as a means to actually catch the varmints. Some folks have decided that if you can't beat them, you may as well join them! People have reported that squirrel damage to desirable crops can be eliminated if the critters are offered other food. Putting out a bucket of dried dog food near the crop may also help solve the problem. This makes squirrels so fat they can't climb well or run as fast. Squirrel obesity is the number one cause of their demise-fat squirrels combined fast, hungry dogs and cats usually add up to squirrel population control.

The most commonly used trap is called Havahart. These traps catch the squirrel unharmed so the cute little critter can be released into the wild or in another person's yard with whom you have a vendetta. Using the trap also insures that you avoid having your fingers eaten off by a trapped, savage squirrel. The surest and most fulfilling, or should I say filling, method is stewing. Squirrel stew can't be beaten! Havahart traps are also a preferred path to stewing since it reduces meat bruising and clotting spots from bullet damage. The good news in many areas is there is no legal bag limit.

For those of you who think squirrels resemble rats and shouldn't be eaten??forget such a ridiculous idea! Squirrels have furry tails; rats do not. Have you ever heard of rat stew? No! Yet everyone has heard of squirrel stew. In fact there wouldn't be a Texas if it weren't for squirrel stew. Don't condemn the idea of stewing your squirrel problems away. That's right! Davy Crockett and his Tennessee sharpshooters wouldn't have reached puberty if it were not for squirrel stew. Besides, what do you think they ate on the long trip from Tennessee to the Alamo? Enchiladas? Nope! You guessed it??squirrel stew. Now aren't you ashamed of comparing squirrel to rat? Besides, squirrel meat is lean and an excellent choice for diet?conscience people. Squirrel meat tastes like what the squirrel has been eating the most of, so, if your pear crop has been under attack, recycle the flavor in preserved squirrel meat.

Each person with a squirrel problem must decide the best remedy for each particular situation. This is a pro?choice situation! Something HAS to be done or the furry critters will reap the fruits and/or nuts of your labor.

Luckily, squirrels, as well as most folks, can't eat all the pears a tree can produce. It doesn't take an exceptionally brilliant person to produce a decent crop of pears. In fact, once the proper variety is selected, a gardener can plant the tree and forget it. If you are doubtful about how easy pear production can be, check some of the old, abandoned homesteads in Texas. The house may have fallen down, the people are long gone, but the pear tree is still growing strong. What is even more frustrating is that the abandoned tree probably is producing better than the tree in your backyard that you are carefully nurturing.

Several criteria can be used to determine pear fruit maturity. These are firmness, color, and corking of lenticels. While few homeowners have pressure testers, a crude measure can be done by hand. When the fruit changes from the firmness of a baseball to the softer feel of a softball, it is close to maturity. The background color of a mature fruit will change from a light green to a yellow color. Fruit lenticels are probably the easiest indicator of maturity. These are small 'dots' or indentations on the skin of each fruit. Lenticels on an immature pear are white. However, as cork cells develop, the lenticels become brown and shallow. The brown color in the lenticels is a good indicator that the fruit is ready to be picked, and will ripen without shriveling. Another surefire sign is when the pears begin to fall off the tree.

If you are lucky enough to salvage any pears from the squirrels, store the fruit with no teeth marks at room temperature until they soften. After softening, pears can be eaten fresh, canned or stored in the refrigerator until needed. Pears are best if they are picked when hard and allowed to ripen at 70 degrees F. until soft. The varieties Orient and Monterrey will require about a week to ripen. Kieffer pears should be individually wrapped in paper and held at room temperature for about 14 to 30 days for best flavor. Remove any rotted fruit if it occurs. If you plan to cook the pears, make sure to use the fruit while it is still firm. If you wonder why pears that look good have become brown inside, it is because they have been held too long at a temperature that is too low.

Luckily, most pear trees produce more pears than the squirrel's digestive system can accommodate. Any sensible squirrel knows there is no way to keep diarrhea away after eating too many pears in one day. Such a situation gives new meaning to the phase "squirrel on the run". Enjoy this year's pear bounty-with or without a side-dish of squirrel stew!

How Can You Protect Pears from Squirrels?

Exclusion is one technique. Try to keep the little devils from getting to the edibles. Prevent squirrels from climbing isolated trees and power poles by encircling the trunks and structures with a 2?foot wide collar of metal, 6 feet off the ground. Attach the metal using encircling wires held together with springs to allow for tree growth. Trim trees appropriately to prevent squirrels from jumping onto roofs. Prevent squirrels from traveling on wires by installing 2?foot sections of lightweight plastic that is 2? to 3?inches in diameter. Slit the pipe lengthwise, spread the opening and place it over the wire. The pipe will rotate on the wire and cause the traveling squirrels to quickly become painfully familiar with the hard ground beneath. If exclusion doesn't work, you may want to try repellents. Naphthalene (moth balls) may temporarily discourage squirrels from entering attics and other enclosed spaces. A cat in the attic or on the premises may discourage squirrels and/or provide supplemental feed for the cat.

Raccoons can also be destructive to crops. Their physical presence must be eliminated. I do not recommend coon stew. However, baked or barbecued coon has no culinary rival. Coons can be trapped if you know how to lure them into the trap. I have been told that the best coon bait is tender sweet corn in the early spring and sardines later. If you want to erect a physical barrier, try putting up a 36-inch chicken wire barrier with the bottom and top 6 inches bent outward. These "fenders" will prevent a coon from digging under or hopping over.

Each person with a squirrel or raccoon problem must decide which remedy is best for a particular situation. This is a pro-choice approach! But remember, something MUST to be done unless you want these furry critters to reap the fruits and/or nuts of your labor.