Critter Control Sans Dog.

Our yard, from the back gate.

As you know, if you follow my blog, we lost our dog in May.  I still miss her, and I knew she was an active hunter.  But I didn’t realize just how great of a hunter she really was, or just how good she was at her job.  I’m finding out that critter control was a full time job.  No wonder she slept so soundly at night.

It had only been a few weeks, about 4 to be exact, when I noticed the critters moving in and making themselves at home in our yard, as well as the next door neighbors’ yards.

Our southern neighbors suddenly have a swarm of chipmunks under thier porch.  Our northern neighbor’s house was sprayed by a cat!  There’s cat poo in my rhubarb.  The birds are flying much closer to the porch, pooping on our chairs, and dive bombing us as we eat breakfast.  The birds have also decimated my peas, and if I didn’t know any better, it looks like they were rolling around in my lettuce. (I know it’s the birds, I caught them in the act of eating the peas, while jumping about in the lettuce!)  There are chipmunks living under our steps.  And just the other day a cat, a freakin’ black and white, fully grown cat, was sitting on the table on our porch looking at my breakfast plate!  Personally, I’m wondering if it’s the same cat that sprayed the neighbors’ house.

So now, critter control is up to me.  Sigh.  Did I mention that I miss the Jasmanian Devil?

CDs strung over the raised bed with peas and lettuce.

The first thing I did is an updated version of an old classic gardening trick – I strung old, scratched, or damaged CDs together and hung them across the raised bed that contains the lettuce and peas.  My mom and grandparents used to do the same thing, but they used aluminum foil pie plates.  I still see pie plates hanging in gardens, so it must be a somewhat effective deterrent.  So far, since I hung them over the raised bed, the lettuce looks less rumpled, and the peas started growing again – it’s too late for me to get any actual peas from the plants, but I’m glad to know it worked.  This time.

I also strung some CDs from the hops arbor to our fence, right over our blueberries.  The Jasmanian Devil always ate all the berries before they turned blue, so we never got a harvest.  I didn’t mind sharing them with her.  But darn it, she’s not here to eat them this year, and I’m not willing to share them with the birds!

Wouldn’t you know it, while I was standing among the shrubbery, stringing the CDs onto the twine, a robin perched on the arbor and yelled at me.  It’s a good thing our neighbors know I’m a bit crazy when it comes to gardening, because I yelled right back and let that bird know exactly what I thought about him being there and that he wasn’t getting the berries this year.

In another corner of the yard, something was eating one of my bean sprouts.  I wasn’t sure if it was a bug or a 4 legged critter.  I was leaning toward critter, due to the location, condition of other nearby plants, and condition of other bean sprouts.  I had heard somewhere that many rodents don’t like hot pepper flakes, well The Goat does.  So we usually have some in the spice cabinet.  I sprinkled the pepper flakes around the little struggling sprout.  So far so good.  Since then, it’s grown a few more leaves and a few inches taller.  I’ll just have to remember to get out there and “reseason” my beans every few days, and especially after it rains.

Now, part of the critter problem, is that for critter control to be effective, you have to be vigilant and switch methods often.  Again, this is where the dog was especially effective; one of the few things a critter is afraid of is a larger, often predatory, critter – like a dog or humans.  And since the pest critters can’t predict when the larger critters are going to come outside, sit on the porch,  chase them, or even eat them, they stay away.

Another view of our yard from the back gate.

That means that while the CDs and hot pepper flakes work now, they might not later.  This is going to be an ongoing battle.  I might make a scarecrow to watch over my fall pea crop.  Maybe next year I’ll just hang the CDs on the blueberry bushes like ornaments.  I wonder if hot pepper deters cats from pooping in the garden?  Maybe I can find a cheap plastic owl to move about the yard as guardian.

Being a lazy gardener, I don’t look forward to the effort this critter control job requires.