Deer-resistant grass, firewood, and ground hogs

Fall brings blooming grass and a some advice about buying firewood. Don’t get burned.

Pink muhly grass

Pink muhly grass is a deerresistant native grass with fine green-blue foliage that is round in shape. It grows 2- to 3-feet tall and up to 6-feet wide, and thrives in full sun to light shade. Very drought tolerant, it grows in many soil types, as long as it has excellent drainage in the winter months.

In early fall, muhly grass explodes into blooms of airy pink flowers that last four to six weeks. The seed heads dry to a soft tan color for the rest of the winter. Hardy from Zone 6-9, muhly grass is a good clump-forming grass with no listed pests. (Source: University of Maryland Cooperative Extension weekly IPM Alert Report published weekly from the Central Maryland Research and Education Center.) Photos courtesy of UM Extension Service

Don’t get burned when purchasing firewood

If you are lucky enough to own land, you might be able to cut your own firewood. Otherwise, you probably purchase it. Firewood is always sold by the cord, or in multiples of a cord, since this is the only legal way to do so. A cord is 128 square feet of wood; or, 4-feet high by 4-feet wide by 8-feet long.

When advertising, a firewood vendor should list whether the wood is cured or green. If you need to burn wood immediately, select cured firewood; green firewood should cure for four to six months.

The vendor should also list what type of firewood they are selling (such as oak, locust or mixed). Ask the vendor how the material is delivered. Normally, the vendor will drop the wood at your residence. There will probably be an additional charge if you ask them to carry or stack the firewood.

How do you ascertain whether or not you got a good deal with your firewood?

The first thing to do is to stack the wood and see how closely it resembles a “face” cord. You can also handle the wood before it is dumped to see if it is cured or still green. Green wood is heavier, has a dull sound when hit against another piece, has a cool or wet feel to it, and typically has distinctive colors or odors. Cured wood, on the other hand, is lighter, drier to the touch, has a crisp sound when struck (like a baseball bat) and usually has a grayish to dull coloration and not much odor.

Educate yourself in wood identification so you’ll know if you are getting the oak firewood you paid a premium for. If the wood does not look right, don’t accept the delivery; just make sure you do so before the vendor unloads it.

Groundhogs

Groundhogs are the largest rodents in this area. A member of the marmot family, goundhogs are great at burrowing and can excavate up to 50 feet of tunnels, as deep as five feet, with several entrances. In fall, they can be found preparing winter burrows in which they will hibernate until spring. The burrows can undermine building foundations and can be a danger to livestock. Trapping is often the best way to deal with groundhog pests, and professionals can be hired to deal with problem animals.

Goundhogs are mainly vegetarian, but will also eat grubs and insects. The origin of the commonly used term woodchuck doesn’t have anything to do with wood, but is based on the Algonquian indian word for the animal, wuchak.

Nature Notes for 11/16/2008