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Critter Control


I had just finished an environmental talk to a local gardening group. It was the usual advice. Don’t do an oil change on your car and spread the spent lubricant on your trilliums. Adding cigarette butts to your compost pile won’t necessarily kill the pathogens, though it may get them addicted to nicotine. When you have a soil test, always check for Strontium-90 in your tomato patch. In short, we’re all going to heck in a handbasket and there’s little you can do about it. Feeling pretty proud of myself, I said I would entertain questions from the now wide-eyed and terrified gardeners.

A woman on my right (which is “stage right” and “audience left” for those of you whose misspent youths and early adulthoods didn’t include long delusional stretches when you thought you were going to make millions of dollars as actors) calmly raised her hand and demanded: “What do you spray to get rid of chipmunks?”

This, folks, is what we in the horticultural speaking trade call a “disconnect.”

Unfortunately, most of you reading this aren’t interested in the rhetorical implications of my situation. You’re sitting there wondering how I answered the question. You want to know HOW to get rid of chipmunks!

In a word: YOU CAN’T! IT’S IMPOSSIBLE! SPRAY? HAH!! DON’T YOU KNOW THAT CHIPMUNKS READ THE “HOW TO GET RID OF CHIPMUNKS” STORIES IN GARDENING MAGAZINES, TOO?? AND THEN THEY PASS THEM ON TO SQUIRRELS AND RABBITS AND VOLES AND DEER AND…AND…I…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to shout at you. I haven’t been sleeping well. Okay. Deep breath.

I’m better now.

So, before I have a relapse, I will pass along some tips about how to keep critters out of your garden. Disclaimer: these seem to work some of the time for a few gardeners in specific instances with particular plants under tightly controlled scientific parameters while you’re dressed in a pink Kimono, hopping on one foot and BAYING AT THE MOON!!

I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I haven’t been eating well. Breathe…breathe…I really am better now.

Let’s start with deer. Here’s how you keep them out of your garden. Ever seen the movie “The Great Escape,” where Steve McQueen tries to ride a motorcycle over two big, honkin’ fences in the German countryside? Barbed wire fences. That’s what I’m talking about. However, for those of you who have LCD projectors as part of your fancy-schmancy home entertainment systems, some researchers suggest projecting the first 15 minutes of “Bambi” on an outside wall to frighten the deer away. Personally, I’d opt for “Gigli.”

Now we move on to rabbits, which are a double threat: 1) they eat everything in sight and 2) they taunt you about it. Chase a rabbit and it will run a short distance ahead of you and then sit there, twitching its nose, not even looking at you, as if to say, “I wanted to hop over to this side of the yard anyway.” I HATE being dissed by rabbits! What’s the solution? I’m experimenting with spray painting fox gang symbols all around the garden. My theory is that they will be intimidated and move to safer territory. I’ll get back to you on that one.

Because raccoons are very sensitive creatures, you should set up a sensor attached to an audio system that will begin hurling insults at them when they cross a trip beam. Call them lumbering fatties (they hate that) or third-rate burglars (for some reason they’re very sensitive about the Watergate break-in). You might even program the tape to harangue them about their inability to obtain anti-bacterial soaps (they fancy themselves clean animals—ever notice how they constantly wash their hands? Now that’s an animal that could benefit from therapy.)

As for voles, mice and chipmunks, c’mon now! Don’t you see the pattern? The common size? They’re all the same animal! They simply put on whichever disguise they need at the moment! No human has actually seen a vole, so how do we know what they really look like? A mouse moves so fast that we think we see it out of the corner of our eye but was it really there? And, yes, we actually see chipmunks, but how do we know that they’re not just mice or voles or something completely unexplained by science in striped, padded suits designed to confuse us? How do we know that there aren’t two mice in that padded chipmunk suit? Huh? HUH???

Breathe. Breathe.

Um, I can’t breathe. I’m going to wash my hands and go out into the yard to insult some raccoons. If I’m not back in two days, tell the police to look in the vole tunnels.

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What is the green worm that eats my roses and columbine every year?

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