A sign that spring is coming

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know I deal with various furry woodland creatures around my house.

Every spring, I have the battle of the chipmunks. Skunks and raccoons frequent the garden in the summer.

Now, I have a bigger problem since the temperatures are starting to warm up and furry creatures wake up from their long winter naps.

Squirrels.

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My usual tactic is to grease my shepherd’s hook with lard or Crisco. It makes the pole slippery enough to deter chipmunks, but the squirrels aren’t bothered by it.

Ugh. They’d be easier to hate if they weren’t so cute.

Back to the drawing board. I think I just need to give up and buy a baffle.

A trip around the ol’ backyard

Come take a photo walk with me. I’ve found some interesting things in my backyard lately.

Last night, I found some persimmons that have fallen off of the tree too early and have started to rot. Normally they’re green on the tree, turn yellow, and then after the first hard frost turn a fantastic shade of red to signal they’re ready. The frost part I’m told is nothing but an old-wive’s tale, but my tree’s fruit is bitter as heck until a hard frost turns them. In this purple stage, they’re kind of a rotten-sweet. Either way, I let the birds have them.

A persimmon.

The persimmon tree shelters my zinnias, which I grew from seed and are taking the heat like champs.

Zinnas

Near the zinnias a few weeks ago, perched in a shrub, were a pair of cecropia moths. This is the male moth in the photo and the first one I’ve ever seen. They’re the largest species of moth in North America and have a wingspan of 5 to 6 inches. I think they’re beautiful creatures.

They only spend about a week in the moth stage before dying. They don’t have mouths in this stage, so they don’t eat. Their final stage is only for mating and laying eggs. Since I found a pair of them, you can guess what they’re doing. I guess that means I just posted moth porn. Bow chicka wow wow…

Ahem.

Crecropia moth

I often find bumblebees that like to chill in my sunflowers. I plant sunflowers and marigolds around the garden to attract the pollinators for my plants.

Just chillin' like a villian.

And then, on rare nights when the moon is in the Seventh House and Jupiter aligns with Mars, the elusive Cougar will appear:

She's so pathetic, she's adorable.

Yep. She looks ferocious, doesn’t she? The pink and brown collar really adds to her street cred.

~Julie

The raccoon wars

Used with permission from Microsoft. http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/?CTT=97

It was around 7 a.m. Sunday morning. I was walking out past the shed and around the garden to feed The Ladies when I noticed a corn husk on ground. That’s odd, I thought.

Two steps further and I spot an entire corn cob. Two more steps lead me to two more gnawed corn cobs. Uh oh…

I rounded the shed and was greeted with total corn carnage. We only planted three small rows of sweet corn this year and about a quarter of them were ripped, knocked over and pretty much totaled.

I first suspected deer, but when I couldn’t find hoof prints, I knew it was the work of a masked bandit. My suspicions were confirmed when I found a stalk bent just enough for the critter to much off part of an ear of corn that was closer to the ground. It was just about raccoon height, to be exact.

I put a warrant out for his arrest. Dead or alive. Problem was that I had no way of trapping it and I still have issues with shooting things first, asking questions later just because the raccoon happens to like corn.

I stewed about this dilemma all day Sunday. I knew Mr. Bandit would be back that night because once a raccoon finds a food source, you can bet the farm that he’ll be back and bring his buddies to have the best raccoon night of their lives. (I love that Allstate commercial, by the way). On the other hand, I wasn’t about to turn over my garden without a fight.

I decided I’d try some raccoon repellant before getting the gun. I found a recipe for a hot sauce raccoon repellant online, whipped it up and sprayed it on the remaining ears of corn. Sax Guy didn’t think it would work. I was 90 percent sure it wasn’t either, but come hell or high water, the ‘coon is at least going to get heartburn. If it came knocking on my door for Rolaids, I wasn’t sharing.

I woke up this morning to expect total corn annihilation. I dilly-dallied with my coffee and waffles until it was somewhat lighter at 5:15 a.m. because I was dreading what I would find. I threw on my barn jacket, shoved my feet in my barn boots and grabbed the flashlight.

Imagine my glee when my flashlight beam showed only three stalks, and tiny ones at that, knocked over. Victory was mine! I walked among the rows and didn’t see any ears on the ground. Feeling pretty pleased with myself, I fed The Ladies and came back to the garden to bask in my awesomeness for a final time. I did one last swoop with the flashlight when I spotted a furry tail just outside the perimeter of the beam.

I totally didn’t consider the raccoons might still be in the garden in the wee hours of the morning. Fail.

I inched the flashlight a little to the left, fully expecting to find a ferocious and indigestion-suffering raccoon. Nope, it was no raccoon. Try a friendly neighborhood skunk instead. Fuddruckers!

Not wanting to freak out Pepe Le Pew, I backed up slowly. The skunk looked just as surprised to see me as I was to see it, but if it moved, I didn’t hang around to find out.

So the score stands as Raccoon 1, Redhead 1, but it’s only been 24 hours. If I have no corn left standing Tuesday morning, I have a recipe for roast raccoon compliments of the 1972 edition of the “Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook.” It’s on page 106.

Anybody wanna come over for dinner??

~ Julie

If my critter caper tale gave you a good laugh, visit my Chipmunks are the Devil ,  A rabbit’s Christmas in July and Finding my inner Steve Irwin.

A rabbit’s Christmas in July

Do you remember making paper snowflakes in grade school? You know, the kind where you fold a sheet of paper a few times, start cutting out tiny shapes and then unfold the paper to reveal the creation?

This must be the rabbit version:

A Petunia "snowflake." I'm guessing a rabbit nibbled on the bud before it blossomed. The holes are identical.

By the way, for the holiday crafters out there like myself, there’s only five months left until Christmas. Start panicking!

~Julie

Finding my inner Steve Irwin

Steve Irwin’s got nothing on my sister and I. Let me explain.

About a week ago, my husband and I were sitting on our front deck enjoying the weather when he said “Look hun, a snake!”

He's not so scary in the feed sack now, is he?

Very few things cause me to look up from my reading. That statement was one of the few that did. Sure enough, a large snake (to my standards) slithered across the yard and into the flower bed adjacent to our deck. There are only three venomous snakes in Ohio and I was positive it wasn’t one of them from the markings I could see. I’m of the live and let live mentality, so I figured I’d leave him (her?) be and he can have a buffet of chipmunks that have taken up residence all around the house. Those cute furry rodents are domestic terrorists as far as I’m concerned, but that’s another blog for another day.

Flash forward to last Tuesday. Mr. Snake made another appearance.

My kid sister was spending a few days at our house and she and I were tackling my Garden of Weedin’ in the backyard. She has a degree in biology and is pretty handy and identifying weeds, beneficial bugs and other critters. She heard robins sounding distress calls and immediately ran to the side of my house where a pair of the birds have been nesting. Guess who was climbing up my eaves spout looking for a chick dinner? The snake.

It was too cute not to save from being snake food.

I know some snakes can climb, but I’ve never witnessed it myself. This added a whole new freaky factor to how I view snakes. I’m not generally frightened of the things, but I’m not about to touch them and make acquaintances either. My sister however is unfazed by them.

“Go get me something with a hook!” she orders. Um, come again?

I must have had a pretty flabbergasted look on my face because she ran to my garage and let me stand there looking stupefied as I watched the snake inch its way back down the spout and behind the chimney. Jeepers.

We spent the next half hour with a hooked piece of wire trying to “finesse” the snake out of its hiding spot. Well, let me retract that statement. My sister spent the next half hour trying to get the snake while I was standing there with an empty chicken feed sack to put it in and a camera. That was an instance when I was totally OK with her doing the dirty work. After lots of poking, prodding and verbal statements too course to be allowed here, a very frazzled snake came out the other side of the chimney. My sister pounced, gently pinned its head down with the hook, grabbed the roughly 4-foot long reptile by the tail and placed it in the feed sack. Ta da! She’s got skills, yes?

She peeped in the bag and identified it as a rat snake. We decided it relocate it to the very back of our property so it could find dinner elsewhere, then spent a few minutes scooping up the baby robins that had bailed out and placed them back in their nest.

After this ordeal, I asked her if she could tell if it had dined on any chipmunks during its short stay at our house. She said it still looked skinny, so it was doubtful. Dang it.

I’m now taking up any offers for chipmunk control that don’t involve poison, kill traps or snakes. I think I’m fighting a losing battle.

~Julie