Thu, 27 Jun 2013 16:46:34 EDT
Pulling a Fast One on Wildlife
By Tom Lounsbury
Maintaining a large yard including multiple trees, shrubs and flower gardens, as well a fair-sized vegetable garden has it challenges. However my wife Ginny and I love yard work and doing things together in this regard. Of course she manages the flowerbeds and the trees and shrubs tend to be my main course of duty. The garden is something we share pretty much equally (at least according to me).
Then there is the farm pond in our backyard, which is actually a major focal point, especially during the summer months. This tends to be my duty area of responsibility, and I take great pride in how it is maintained, including adding the blue colorant that spiffs it up and controls algae, as well as putting in chemicals to properly control weed growth. Caring for the pond however, created one of my most horrific moments entailing typical yard work. This all began several summers ago when my son Joshua and our daughter-in-law Rose decided to get married in the gazebo in our yard, which is located right next to the pond. This was a proud moment for Ginny and I indeed.
Of course before you know it, the wedding was only a couple days away and I had more things to do as quickly as Ginny could think of them. I was trimming the edge of the pond with a weed-whacker and was thoroughly soaked clothes and all with sweat, when Ginny called out to remind me to add the blue colorant to the pond. I dropped for the moment what I was doing and went to the garage to get the blue dye and take care of the issue before I forgot about it.
Ginny in her shopping travels frequently comes upon some real deals. In this instance she had found the blue pond dye in a packaged powder form. Previously I had always used the liquid form and was amazed that this small cellophane packet would take care of my half-acre pond. The directions said to mix the contents in a 5-gallon bucket of water, and dump it at regular intervals around the pond’s perimeter. With multiple chores yet to do, I decided to cut to the chase and carried the packet to the end of my dock that is centrally located in the pond. By simply dumping the contents of the packet into the pond at this central point, it could mix itself, and another job done, and I could return to other important matters, such as finishing my weed-whacking ordeal.
When I opened the packet at the end of the dock and prepared to pour it out, I did notice it was real fluffy, being about the texture of fine soot, but no worries, as the air around me was dead-calm and no breeze whatsoever (a main reason I was sweating so much). I poured the contents out into the water, but there was a bit of blue dust remaining suspended in the air all about me, and that is when a sudden light breeze came out of nowhere, almost as from a puff of breath from some sort of (evil) spirit floating about nearby.
That breeze I admit was cool and refreshing but to my horror I quickly discovered just how far that little cloud of blue dust could spread. I was changed into an instant “Smurf”, including my sweat-soaked clothing, hat and any exposed skin (face, neck and bare arms). I headed for the house calling out for Ginny’s assistance (and a little sympathy). She came out on our deck, spotted me and let out an automatic horrifying scream, which suddenly was immediately followed by hysterical laughter, so much so, she could hardly stand.
For the life of me, I still can’t figure out how someone can pack two completely opposite emotions back to back like that, and I certainly saw no hilarity at all in my predicament. I was plenty satisfied with just the scream. Ginny had to hose me off thoroughly, clothes and all, before I could even consider heading inside for the shower.
By the next day, most things were completed in the yard for the wedding, except folks stopping by kept enquiring as to my health, because there was still a distinctive pale blue pallor on my skin. Fortunately another day of further sweating and scrubbing left me fine as a fiddle for the wedding, much to Ginny’s relief.
As for the vegetable garden, we’ve increased its size because of the addition of sweet corn. In past years we planted the sweet corn separately from the garden in a nice, isolated space behind our tool shed that I proudly called the “corn patch”. It worked great for a couple years. Then I can remember telling Ginny the corn needed just one more day before harvesting it. However, I wasn’t the only one keeping tabs on it.
The next day when we rounded the corner of the tool shed fully prepared to harvest our long awaited sweet corn, we were shocked to discover it all torn up and twisted in heaps almost as if a cyclone had hit it. It didn’t take me long to figure out raccoons were the culprits, and they had a great party while gorging themselves. What was really annoying was the fact that the ringtails didn’t just eat a whole ear of corn, but took major bites out of everything. We were actually left with nothing at all.
Then the following summer the cottontail rabbits quickly browsed off all of the corn when it was four inches high. I went from nicely growing rows to a razed piece of ground overnight. The rabbits also took care of most of our string beans and all of our lettuce, again overnight, in our vegetable garden. This all made me ponder some cures for the situation and I could see a proper ruse was in order for bluffing out the local wildlife. I ordered a 3D life-sized coyote (including a fuzzy tail) that is suspended on a stake and readily turns in the wind, just like a turkey decoy, for added animation (basically the old scarecrow technique with a more threatening predatory aspect thrown in).
The key is to move the “coyote” around the garden every two days so possible garden-raiding wildlife (including geese) don’t acclimate to it after realizing it is just a ruse (the coyote is in an aggressive and ready to pounce pose and realistic enough that I also use it as a decoy when predator calling during the winter). I didn’t move the coyote for a full week one time and discovered a cottontail rabbit using it for shade, so it must be moved frequently to be effective.
When I first received it in the mail, I decided to test out how realistic the “garden coyote” was on our Labrador retriever Ebony and terrier Skippy. I took the dogs for a walk and headed near the garden and both dogs saw the “garden coyote” at the same instant and went into a growling alert mode. Then I said “sic ‘em” and both dogs charged snarling out after the intruder in their yard with Ebony flanking left and Skippy flanking right. For a second there I thought I might have to order another “coyote”, but as the dogs closed they seemed to notice something was amiss, and of course my laughter in the background clued them in that they both had just been had. Ebony has a good sense of humor and gave me a sheepish lop-eared and wagging tail look. Being a terrier, Skippy however saw no mirth at all in my ploy. He stared long and hard at me for a few seconds and twitched his nose. Then he trotted up to the “coyote”, sniffed it, and then lifted his leg on it to let me know his real thoughts on the issue.
I must admit when I’ve rounded a corner and spotted the garden coyote I’ve been given a sudden start before I remembered that I put it there. We’ve used this system on our garden to thwart wildlife (including deer) for a couple summers now and it does seem to work if I do my part in moving it around in or close to the garden to offer realistic animation. Thus far, other than a few nibbles here and there, our garden (which is bordered by wildlife habitat) has been making it through to harvest time, including the sweet corn.
However, whenever I go out to move the garden coyote around, which is frequently enough, Ginny always suggests that I take a hoe with me. I guess it is her way of having me hold my end up in this “sharing” the gardening experience. She is a wise lady for sure, and doesn’t believe in any of the “hoe allergies” that I complain about.
For more information on the 3D coyote (there is also a fox available, as well as many other types of wildlife deterrents including special repellents and electronics) go to www.birdx.com
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