Nature Photography

Porcupine the Gardener

Some people just can’t help gardening. Take the local porcupines, for instance. They love to chaw down on the pile of cull apples a farmer dumps at the top part of his property, up against the old canal. They have a little road there, actually. Here is one on its way back from lunch three years ago. You can see that the edge of the canal makes a great hideaway.



These guys are not always so discrete. Here’s a member of the family cutting from one gully to the next mid-winter.


Gullies are great for porcupines. There’s shelter, and you can make a road there going up and down from the high country to the sagebrush and, ahem, that pile of apples. Rocks are great, too. Here’s one hiding from me, high up… again, between gullies. Note, though, that there is a saskatoon bush. Porcupines like bushes. And cull piles of apples.



Why do I keep mentioning the apples? Ah. Take a look at the main porcupine freeway. My camera had a hard time with the variations in light, but the choke cherries love it, and it makes a good highway.




And by highway, I mean this:


That was the uphill grind. Here’s the downhill swoop:P1540325There is even a traffic monitoring system. No lie. It looks like this:



I tell you, a magpie sat in this tree the other day and squawked and crackled for five minutes as I came up the deer trail on the other side of the gully, to let this guy know that this lumbering nut with a camera was creating traffic congestion and it would be wise to skedaddle.



The gully, though, ah, it has so many good things to eat. No, not this …


Choke cherries are nowhere as good as apples. No, the bark, man, that’s the ticket.

p1210457 Very tasty.



It is an excellent form of pruning and branch renewal in trees that are short-lived because of insect damage. But, you know, all that work whips up an appetite and when you’re tired of roughage, a bit of desert is just the thing, and then, well, it’s back uphill, and maybe you, ahem, leave a little gift behind, a little memento, a little pile of apple seeds and mush, and ten years later, why, what then?


Oh, let’s go see.P1540285


Come on, it’s not far now. Ah, here we are:


Nice huh. This apple seedling is obviously a Spartan x Red Delicious cross. It has a pretty shape.P1540304 And an old-fashioned approach to colour.P1540307 It wouldn’t sell, you know, but it sure is a survivor. The deer have cleaned it up up to six feet, and did that stop it? No, it did not.P1540299 When the apples fall, they’ll fall on the trail, and the porcupines can snack on their way down to the cull apple pile and back, which is nice.P1540300


Well, except for one.



This one the porcupine won’t get.

P1540321Excellent! Look at that gleaming white! It tastes exactly like a spartan. It’ll be a good keeper, too, as it’s two weeks later than a spartan and very firm. And so, with hands smelling of sagebrush and the apple tasting like the spartan orchard of my childhood, up the road I went. Nice view.



Here’s an apricot tree further up, that gets too much frost in the spring to set. Not one of the porcupine’s better plantings.


Still, it sure is pretty, with its blossoms and its yellow leaves. I like porcupine orchards. They are great places to go, in between worlds.

P1520854Porcupines are shamans, that’s what they are.




9 replies »

  1. A wonderful piece, read first thing on my tablet while the last bits of Hurricane Gonzalo thunder outside. The day has begun well.


  2. Yes, a lovely piece…..but I take it the porcupines don’t snack on your house too often. They used to love the wood on our old family cottage. Every spring there’d be repair jobs. My father wasn’t so fond of them then!


    • I had a pileated woodpecker that ate my house in the Cariboo. I know how your Dad felt. But I convinced her to move on, eventually, although she yelled at me from the poplars out back, every single time I went around the corner of the house.


  3. You’re very lucky not to have a house-munching Muskoka porcupine in the neighbourhood. I saw a pileated woodpecker once in the ravine here. Gorgeous bird, and it was much more interested in trees than in bits of houses. Fred Bodsworth told me I was lucky — they didn’t penetrate the heart of Toronto too often.


    • That woodpecker could take out a four inch chunk of a window frame every second, much like a chainsaw! Try hot sauce, I was told. She loved hot sauce. Like nachos and dip. Try sticky tanglefoot paste. Ha ha ha. “Harold, I have a feeling that if you were to go to town between 10 and 11 am I think you’d find when you got back that your problem would be gone.” No way. This was a battle of wits, not war, because, as you say, she was a beautiful bird. I did research. Loves wood the colour of Sears Peanut Butter Wood Stain, because it looks rotten. Loves walls with electrical wires, because that sounds like insects. Likes the southwest side best of all, about 23 feet above the ground. Well, I hit all those! So I built her a US Forest Service approved nesting box and nailed it onto a tree, southwest side, 23 feet up… not safe! Don’t try this! No luck. In the end, what worked was all of the shiny christmas ribbon in town, hanging from my windows. She hated that and moved to the black poplars out back, where the moose hung out with her calf.. But she yelled at me every time I went out around the side of the house. Anyone else could go around, but with me, it was war.


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