If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N is for the Queen

The late afternoon breeze dwindled to nothing more than a hush whisper.  The song birds became eerily quiet as the sun melted behind the trees in a fiery glow of amber and orange.  The colors so pure and bright they must be meant for only royalty.  The world stopped to watch the splendor of the setting sun.  Even the shadows, despite their continued growing paused momentarily to watch the king bed down for the night.

Ferocious reds gave way to soft purples and deep, supple blues and the sound of the song birds now became the song of the crickets and the frogs as they chirped and croaked their way onto the scene. 
An owl hooted in the distance and the sound echoed among the growing shadows.  The shadows brought with them the coolness of the eve and once again a slight wavering breeze began to flow.  Carried down from the heavens on the cooling thermals.  The cool air spilled over the landscape, collecting in pools and pockets and only spilling over as it filled, carried on to all the lowest points in the forest. 
Banks of misty fog arose when the cool thermals mixed with the leftover puddles of air warmed by the last of the suns rays.  They hung in the air, silent.  A mystery contained in their embrace.

The moon rose as the sun fell, illuminating the world in a new glow.  Soft tones of white arose from the sharp shadows.  Everything that was the same became new.  The Queen had arrived.  She now held sway over the land while her husband slept.  Creatures emerged and began their nightly rituals.  Feeding and scurrying about in the moonlight while junebugs and bats danced in the air.  The moon watched.
Tonight she was full.  She had been feeding for weeks.  Slowly growing from crescent to half and now to full.  Her power reigned down upon the land with a glowing brilliance and the creatures of the night took full advantage.  Raiding and pillaging everything in their path.  Dawn would bring a new surprise to those who had not prepared!
Night time.
The time when bad things happen to good gardens.  Preparation is the key to success on this front but be warned sometimes it just happens and there isn't much you can do about it.
Here is my list of nighttime raiders of the garden

#1 Rabbits
They can squeeze through the tiniest holes and dig under the best fences.  They will eat your garden clean in one night.  Especially if its young.

#2  Woodchucks. 
They love fresh crops.  Lettuce especially.  To them it's like our nose when we walk by a burger joint or smell fried chicken.

#3  Raccoons
My personal nemesis.  Coons will wipe out an entire sweet corn patch in one night.  They also climb fences.  Not to mention somehow manage to get the grease trap out of my grill all the time.  Crazy coon fingers.

#4  Deer
While not much of a problem in my yard thanks to my neighbors dogs they can jump fences and nibble the night away.

These are the top 4 predators in the world of the garden.

Rabbits are easily deterred by fences.  Just make sure you bury a little fence in the ground so it stops them from digging.  Marigolds planted around your precious crops will also deter them.  They hate the smell.

Woodchucks go the same way as the rabbits.  Strong fence.  No holes.

Deer can be deterred by certain smells.  Some folks hang bags of human hair in the garden while others use an aluminum cooking tray on a string tied to a stake.  The wind will blow it around and the clanging scares them away.  Except when it's calm.  Then they probably use it as a serving tray.  They also make a spray that deters deer and rabbits although I've never used it.

Raccoons can be deterred by shooting them!  No...well yeah... but if you don't want to sit up all night waiting then the next best thing is live traps.  Coons can't resist marshmallows.  Then you can relocate them.  Problem with that is, one trap only catches one coon.  Then the others can gorge all night at the expense of the unfortunate one. 
I have trapped many coons.  I also have used poison.  I live in farm country and a river bottom.  There are more coons and possums than you can shake a stick at.  I don't like to kill for fun I only do it if they cross the line.  This is my food. They can go eat crayfish and frogs.  Flybait, available at your local farm co-op.  It is used for killing flies in barns.  Mix a couple tablespoons with some coke or pepsi and put it in a pie tin in the garden.  Preferably behind the fence to keep all the dogs away from it.  It is a quick death.  I have found coons dead with their head laying in the tin.  All the other ones have never made it more than 10 feet away from the tin.
For the most part they don't mess with anything but the corn so if they are not raiding your corn then try and trap them.  Flybait is for last efforts only.
Please don't put cat litter or dog poo in your garden to scare away the critters.  It's gross.  You eat out of there.  Besides the critters walk thru my backyard to get to my garden which means bypassing all the poo piles along the way.  It doesn't bother them. 
Some folks use wind chimes as well.  It's nice for the animals to have some music to dine by.
Noise is something they get used to.  I have read stories where deer will walk by a chained up barking dog within 20 feet.  They are so used to the barking dog and know how far he can get.  They become immune. 
Mix it up from time to time.  Keep 'em guessing.
A radio turned on every once in a while on a talk station works well.  Just not all the time so they are used to it.  Put it on a timer with multiple settings to come on a few times each night.

My best advice to night time predation is just be vigilant.  Check things out everyday.  If your alert you have a better chance.



  1. Great story - and excellent insight to what goes on after dark... spooky!

    You paint a most incredible picture with your words. Bravo!


  2. Coon traps only trapping one coon is bad, for sure. But, think of all the razzing that poor dumb bastard who blundered into the trap will get from his buddies.
    That's gotta be worth SOMEthing.


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