One of the many issues I’ve run into with the bulbs growing on our East Texas farm, is the fact that they are so tasty to so many different things! I thought for sure when I found secret stashes of Byzantine gladioli or hoards of Texas tulips (Tulipa praecox) that they would all transplant very nicely on my farm. In fact, that is one of the main reasons I chose my location. I knew this spot just north of Tyler, TX in the little town of Golden was perfect for growing so many different types of bulbs.
A scrumptious crate of Byzantine gladioli bulbs…or more appropriately called corms.
What I failed to note, was that even though the climate 1 hour west of here is EXTREMELY similar, that does not make up for the fact that the soil types are different. Many people have heard me say this before, but there are 10 different vegetational regions across the state of Texas, and most of those differences stem from the different types of soils.
Used by permission of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.
Just for a recap, the 10 vegetational regions of Texas loosely accepted are:
1. Piney Woods
2. Gulf Prairies and Marshes
3. Post Oak Savannah
4. Blackland Prairies
5. Cross Timbers and Prairies
6. South Texas Plains
7. Edwards Plateau
8. Rolling Plains
9. High Plains
10. Trans-Pecos Mountains and Basins
The point I’m making, is that a Byzantine gladiolus that grows so well in the blackland prairie clay soils near Dallas will also grow very well in my sandy loam soil just an hour east. However, my favorite little varmints (I hope you hear the sarcasm) called voles cannot tunnel around in that blackland prairie that dries as tough as a brick in the summer. Therefore, even though Dallas voles (if there were such a thing) and Tyler voles (there IS such a thing) both enjoy eating Byzantine gladioli, they only pick the nasty habit up on places such as mine. My sandy loam soil is nothing but butter on the bread/bulbs for them here. So, you can imagine I’ve had my fair share of frustrations, such as losing 2,000 gladiolus and another 2,000 tulips to voles.
This post is not about voles though, it’s about pack rats. No, not your cousin Bob that doesn’t through away the newspaper, but what we colloquially call a pack rat. I’ll be honest, I don’t even know the scientific name for him. I’ve just seen glimpses, and I know he’s big. He eats through crates and crates of tulips and muscari, and gathers hoards more in massive nests that he makes for himself in the tractor engine block. Sometimes the nest is in the crate of bulbs itself. It’s not just bulbs, it’s paint brushes, pieces of cloth, tarp, and anything else that is lose and light enough to carry away. He makes me afraid to go into the barn alone when it’s dark.
Enter Southern Bulb barn cats to the rescue! You’ve seen pictures of them, but maybe we never explained why they’re here. It’s primarily to keep the rodents away from the bulbs. However, a close second reason is to keep Rebecca and I company while we ship out bulbs. Only problem is, they’re a little too dependent on us I’m afraid. They’re not quite the hunters we’d imagined that they would be. I don’t get the sacrificial mouse laid at my feet while working on the computer. Instead, they jump up on the keyboard and try to help me type. In their favor though, I haven’t seen the nasty pack rat for some while. Long story short, they need us to feed them cat food, as there’s not enough natural food floating around our farm.
When we planned to be gone a week for Christmas, we needed a way to keep them fed! In came the gravity flow feeder from Tractor Supply. I was weary of the idea, because we do have raccoons, but I pulled down the dispersing door low enough to where they couldn’t get their hands too far up the gap. I also screwed in the lid and mounted it to a post with a table in a way that I felt only the cats could jump to and have access too. By all accounts, it seems to have worked quite well. The cats were healthy and fed when we returned, but quite starved for attention. The bulbs? They were all in the barn where they belonged, and not a rat to be found! What I really want and have searched in vain for is a battery operated cat feeder….I’d prefer they were fed during the day at the same time. Any suggestions out there?
Finding the right post for the feeder.
Stabilizing the my meager frame.
Cat approved but now I need a lid that nothing can open while I’m gone.