Sunday, July 29, 2007

Darling Vermin !@#$%#!s

Earlier this year Beo and I were thrilled to spot a thirteen-lined ground squirrel in our front yard. He was eating the seeds around our bird feeder, and we were so glad to have attracted more wildlife. Soon we saw him scurrying around the back prairie, and we crowed over the fact that we had a real ecosystem going there now, with a native critter having made his home back there. When the gardens got going, we were happy to see that we didn't have any problems. Beo had spotted more than one ground squirrel at a time in the backyard now, and we'd seen them scurrying in from other areas of the neighborhood.

Then about 6 weeks ago we had such a rush on lettuce orders from our coffee shop that we started some new lettuce seedlings. Once they had multiple leaves, we transplanted the 1.5 inch plants into a carefully prepared bed. The next afternoon, they were gone, nibbled to the ground. Meanwhile the new bed couldn't seem to push up a seedling for the life of it. We'd planted about 100 seed patches, and only a few things were coming up. Finally we realized that the seedlings were coming up, only to be gnawed down overnight. At first, we decided it was rabbits, and we put up chicken wire. No dice. Next we decided it was birds--we'd spotted a robin in the lettuce beds on multiple occasions. Beo spent an afternoon and rigged an elaborate netting system over both of our seedling beds. Our poor little lettuce seedlings kept getting nibbled to the ground. Soon we noticed holes appearing in our garden. One little burrow came up right in the middle of one of the seedling beds. Another exited on either end of the raised potato bed, and as soon as the tomatoes started turning orange, we began finding half eaten tomatoes at the edge of the hole. It was the dang little adorable thirteen lined ground squirrels.

We debated over how to handle it. They're so tiny that there's really no way to protect the garden from them. Although we loved having them in our ecosystem, we finally agreed that since they were ruining our gardens, they had to go. Beo bought a small live trap and we baited it with peanut butter--somewhat skeptically. The next morning I spotted our little friend sniffing around the trap. He got a tomato (little bugger) and ate it on top of the rock border, eyeing the trap the whole time. When I next looked out the window, the trap was sprung, and sure enough, our little friend was in there. We took him to a local park where I'd recently found there was a whole colony of his kin. The next day, Beo took the NEW lettuce seedlings of of a bench, and by that afternoon they'd been eaten to the stem. We saw another little friend in the prairie today, so set the trap back there. 5 minutes later Bugger2 had sprung the trap, but we had set it wrong and he got out. You'd think he'd have learned a lesson, and you'd be right if that lesson was "Peanut Butter is tasty!". We baited the trap again and less than 2 minutes later he was in it again, this time for good, and is off to find a new home. There's definitely a balance to this whole permaculture thing, and I guess sometimes there's just not enough room for all of us in the backyard.

1 comment:

e4 said...

This reminds me very much of something I read elsewhere.

Ah... here it is. I guess we all face similar dilemmas.

We've been lucky so far with pest control in the garden this year.

So far...