While emptying the compost bucket recently (note to self: wear snowshoes next time), I noticed that something had been in the garden. The snow is deep enough to make getting around difficult, and I was in a hurry, so I didn’t investigate. I saw moose, canine, and hare tracks, and it appeared that something had been digging or a moose had been napping in the raised beds. Hey, what are beds for if not for napping, right?
After last year’s moose-munching-raspberries incident, I decided to leave our temporary fences up over the winter. With more than two feet of snow, they no longer even suggest that animals should stay out, and, of course, they never had the ability to physically keep a moose out. Hares hop right over the top few inches of the rabbit fence that remain above the snow, but who cares this time of year? I don’t even care that something is digging or sleeping in the beds. The ground is frozen–it’s digging snow, not soil–but I am curious. What’s the attraction?
The mystery solved itself today.This looks like a young cow. She digs with her hooves down to the beds…
…then kneels to nibble some holiday treats.
She’s eating the pea plants I spread over the beds last fall.
Pea plants are nitrogen fixers; they’re supposed to be good for the soil. I discovered after Gardening Year 1 that they decompose quickly, so my goal has been to let them decompose directly in the beds over the winter.
The very day after I took down the fences after Gardening Year 2, a moose devoured all the scattered pea plants. Okay. Moose like pea plants, too.
This is post-Gardening Year 3. We had about three times as many pea plants as we had last year. I thought I was home free once they’d wilted, turned brown, froze, and got covered with a couple of feet of snow. I thought I’d learn once and for all if they really do decompose in a single winter, and I thought we might finally make some progress in natural soil fortification.
Instead, I’ve learned that moose really like pea plants, and who can blame them when all they’ve got to eat is willow twigs? So be it. Enjoy them, Moose, just don’t get tangled up in the rabbit fence and break a leg.
A real fence is in the plan for next spring, one that, I think, will provide more of a physical barrier, even for moose. Next fall, I will dig some of the old pea plants into the soil so that they freeze into the dirt, and I will leave the rest outside the fence for any animal that wants them. I’m not completely unreasonable; I’m willing to share.