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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Thanks for this forum. I just signed up.

I live in Northern Florida. My property is basically beach sand pretending to be soil. Unless you count the large rocks. Due to lack of confidence in the very brilliant, honest, hardworking, inspiring people who run our country, I am interested in growing a few things in order to delay starvation in the future.

Today a friend and I picked up some tomato plants. Better Boy, Cherokee Purple, and Mortgage Lifter. The lady who sold them to us has the same kind of soil I have, and she grows in buckets. Her backyard was full of beautiful plants with no sign of disease. She said she had no problems growing heirloom tomatoes. Amazing, since I tried to grow blackberries and grapes here, which are basically indigenous weeds, and they amounted to nothing.

Anyway, my farm is infested with hateful, disgusting squirrels, not to mention *****, possums, coyotes, rabbits, and birds. The lady with the backyard garden has two chihuahuas who apparently drive animals away from her crop. I am willing to sink pretty low to protect my food, but I am not ready to plunge to the level of chihuahua owner, so I am looking for a small greenhouse. She had something which is apparently called a Quictent, and it seemed to work fine. I am thinking about an enclosure about 20 feet long.

I thought it would be smart to join a forum and see if anyone had a better recommendation. A Quictent is a Chinese enclosure made of steel half-hoops holding up something like a polyethylene tarp. They run about $250. Is there something better out there for comparable cash? I was thinking it might be okay to stick some poles in the ground and put something in the chicken wire family around them, but perhaps this is a stupid idea.
 

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I am willing to sink pretty low to protect my food, but I am not ready to plunge to the level of chihuahua owner
That is gold. Welcome to the forum.

You can build a hoop house much cheaper and longer lasting by using 16' long cattle panels, or PVC poles. Google will take you down a rabbit hole there.

I'm fixing to start work on a structure made out of EMT conduit for my greenhouse. Will still come in under 250.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I have someone else's cattle on my farm for tax purposes, but I don't know a whole lot about them. I had to look up "cattle panel." I have a couple of rolls of goat fencing wire which looks pretty similar, and I need to get rid of them. Maybe this is the answer.
 
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Welcome to the forum. Sand, anywhere in the world, is inert. You'll need to add biomass--organic, decaying plant materials that will anchor your plantings, retain water, and grow the microorganisms which will give those plants the necessary nutrients for growth. Other than that, I know nothing about Florida gardening, and you will have to go with the local people.

Vegetable Gardening - UF/IFAS Extension (ufl.edu)

geo
 

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Apparently, I have sinned by using the wrong word to refer to raccoons. I did not curse. Honest.
It wasn't a bad word until sometime last year. The owners implemented a new word filter. Amazingly there are actual curse words that get through but some words in regular use are starred out.

Is your avatar Hank Kimball?

I don't think a greenhouse is the answer, especially in Florida. They get really hot inside and you have to open the doors or your plants will cook.

Except for squirrels, your other critters can be kept out with an electric fence. Fox and coyotes would be more interested in the little critters eating your garden. Rabbits can be kept out with fencing that has less than 2 inch openings. Raccoons don't want your tomatoes, but deer might be a problem.

I have never grown in sand. My soil is an ugly tan/brown clay. I have read that you have to add a lot of organic material to sand and mulch well to get stuff to survive long enough to produce a crop.

Good luck with your garden.
 

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Welcome to the forum!--Love your ID pic and your writing style.

As others have said, a green house/hoop house/ tunnel system will probably be too hot for your area. Your goal is to keep varmints out, so cheapo fencing is all you need....You could use 1" PVC or PEX tubing to form the skeleton like for a low or high tunnel and then cover it wilth chcken wire or weld wire fencing-- way cheaper than cattle paneling. You're dealing with cat sized varmints, not buffalo. Mice can get tjru anything, but I've only had problems with them if I don't tie up all the tomato vines.

In regards soil, you're on the right track-- you'll need some sort of a bucket or raised bed system to provide yourself with soil you import or build yourself out of composted manure and such. Search "raised beds' and "hugelkultur." Commercial horse stables usually give away manure/stall renderings free- an excellent start for building good soil in large quantites.
 

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A container garden ie buckets, tubs, framed raised beds is a great solution for areas with poor soil and those with bad backs. You can make your containers as high and as large as you wish.
Look up "live trap" for a solution to animals squatting on your land.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks for all the replies.

Releasing live varmints isn't the style here. I am ramping up my efforts to kill them, though. It's too bad the squirrels have so little meat on them. I used to eat them, but it was so much work, I started tossing them into the woods.

I had a neighbor who said she swerved to run over them. They are a plague here.

I started hearing about fire ants when I was a kid. They sounded terrifying. As an adult, I found out they were the plain old red ants I had known all my life. They're not a big deal unless you manage to fall asleep on a mound.

Will a greenhouse kill the plants if it has flaps to let air in? Buying a prefab house with a plastic cover and flaps would be easier than building a wire enclosure, and I would like something that gives some protection when it freezes. We get frosts that last a few hours.
 

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The problem with a lot of sand in Florida (where I used to live/garden) and here in southern California (where I currently live/garden) is root knot nematodes. Some plants do just fine battling them, others - like tomatoes - will struggle, mightily.

I don't know if greenhouses in Florida are like greenhouses here, but in the summer, if you're trying to grow food in one (or honestly, just outside in the evening sun), shade cloth is more important than plastic. The sun and heat is brutal to fruit. I've literally gotten stewed tomatoes off the vine in the open air, I can't imagine how much worse it would have been under the magnifier of a sheet of plastic.

We mostly use high raised beds to keep rabbits out - some areas where I have tomatoes in the ground, we just surround with chicken wire fencing. I don't think rabbits particularly care for tomatoes from my experience. Coyotes don't care about vegetable gardens. Most birds don't care about vegetable gardens once the plants are past the seedling stage, until things like tomatoes start fruiting and they need water (here, can't imagine birds being that thirsty in Florida and I never really had a problem with vegetables - fruit trees are another story, we net those - you can net things from birds if having issues).

Squirrels and other rodents...no solution for that one. They will get in a greenhouse unless you've basically made a hardware cloth box with perfect seals. Around here there are crazy people who put pantyhose over ripening tomatoes/fruit to keep the rodents off, but I'm not that dedicated. I just try to keep on top of harvesting so they don't learn where the grocery store of ripe fruit is in the first place, and if they already know where it is, I beat them to the food.
 

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My little greenhouse got to 95°f with all 4 windows and both flaps open. The outside temp was 75°f and there were no clouds in the sky. In a couple weeks I will take off the plastic cover so the plants inside won't get too hot. I have considered putting shade cloth over the frame but I have few sunny spots now.

Have you heard of a lathe house? I would consider building one if I had more sun.

Another thing you could do is make a tunnel garden with cattle pannels.

 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I have checked out the cattle panel idea. It looks like a gray squirrel could go through the holes, no problem. I am thinking about 1" chickenwire, but I have read that squirrels chew it, so I am looking for more information.

I used to feel a tiny pang of guilt when I shot a squirrel, but now it feels like swatting a mosquito.
 

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I used to feel a tiny pang of guilt when I shot a squirrel, but now it feels like swatting a mosquito.
About as effective too.

Squirrels haven't chewed on my chicken wire but they do eat bird feeders. I don't know if you can ever really prevent all squirrel damage. Here if they don't kill plants by digging them up, they bury black walnuts in the root zone and the juglone kills the plants. I lost a beautiful marigold that way last summer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
It is supposedly possible to get rid of a lot of squirrels with a trap lures them with peanut butter and then drowns them, but I'm not sure it's legal here. It should be mandatory.
 
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I have checked out the cattle panel idea. It looks like a gray squirrel could go through the holes, no problem. I am thinking about 1" chickenwire, but I have read that squirrels chew it, so I am looking for more information.

I used to feel a tiny pang of guilt when I shot a squirrel, but now it feels like swatting a mosquito.
Hardware cloth is a solution, if you're willing to do it on all sides, the roof, and the floor, and then tie all of those together in a way that there's not even an inch gap they can get through. You'll have to figure a way for yourself to get in and out that also leaves no gaps.

I wouldn't do it (really, if you keep up on your garden harvesting/maintenance the losses are manageable), but if you really want to, that's about the only way.
 

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Whatever the form of your enclosure, look around for people trying to give away an old hot tub. Recycle the metal junk. Make sure the drain is open. Lay rotten old hard wood logs inside to about 24 inches from the top. Fill the rest with garden soil/peat/cowpoop/etc. You can make a reasonably suitable fence around the interior of the tub with a variety of material or have it inside a green house. This keeps out a lot of critters and saves your back a lot of strain! ;)
 

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Squirrel Stew with Paprika and Greens

There are a lot of ways you can play with this dish. You can use rabbit or chicken instead of squirrel, you can red wine instead of white wine, red vinegar instead of cider, kielbasa instead of smoked Portuguese sausages, collards instead of wild greens etc, etc. Have fun with it. The only trick to this stew is to build the flavors bit by bit. Not everything needs as long to cook as, say, squirrel legs. Follow my instructions on when you put in each ingredient and you'll be fine.

Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs 20 mins

Course: Soup
Cuisine: Portuguese

Servings: 8 people

Calories: 736kcal

Author: Hank Shaw

Ingredients
  • ▢3 squirrels, cut into serving pieces
  • ▢Salt
  • ▢Flour for dusting
  • ▢1/3 cup olive oil
  • ▢2 cups sliced onion
  • ▢3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ▢1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
  • ▢1 cup white wine
  • ▢1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • ▢1 heaping teaspoon dried savory or oregano
  • ▢1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ▢1 heaping tablespoon paprika
  • ▢2 to 3 cups of whole peeled tomatoes, torn into large pieces
  • ▢1 pound smoked sausage, such as kielbasa or linguica, sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • ▢1 pound greens, kale, chard, collards, wild greens, etc
  • ▢black pepper to taste


Instructions
  • Salt the squirrel pieces well and then dust in flour. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy, lidded pot over medium-high heat. Brown the squirrels in batches, being sure to not overcrowd the pot. Move the browned pieces to a plate or cutting board while you cook the rest.
  • When the squirrels have been nicely browned, remove them all from the pot and add the onion. Saute the onion until it just begins to brown on the edges, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the tomato paste, mix well and cook this for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often.
  • Pour in the white wine, vinegar and about 1 quart of water. Add the savory, red pepper flakes and paprika, then the torn-up tomatoes, then the squirrel. Mix well and bring to a simmer. Add salt to taste and cook gently until the squirrel wants to fall off the bone, about 90 minutes. Fish out all the squirrel pieces and pull them off the bone -- this makes the stew a lot easier to eat. Return them to the pot.
  • Add the smoked sausage and the greens and cook until the greens are done, about 10 minutes (If you are using collards, they need more than 10 minutes to cook so adjust accordingly). Add salt, black pepper, chile and vinegar to taste and serve with crusty bread.
Nutrition
Calories: 736kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 90g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 344mg | Sodium: 797mg | Potassium: 1866mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 3695IU | Vitamin C: 22mg | Calcium: 95mg | Iron: 14mg
 
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