Sunday, 30 August 2009

Critters in the garden

We in Muskoka are pretty tough. Rain, snow, sleet or hail - all on one day. We gardeners are having a tough, too. Between the earwigs and the least the bugs have lessened. (No, they are not gone, either!)

Don't get me wrong, our Muskoka days have been pretty fair, with clouds in the a.m., sun in the p.m. then thunderstorms in the evenings. Can't ask for more than this. (This week end was a bit of a write-off, coold and rainy, but you win, you lose!)

The weather controls our garden, but not my life. My wildflowers are the most adaptable; there are lessons here. My touch-me-nots are flourishing.

I listened to a great Freshair show. An excellent interview on the 'novice gardener' topic. While I have grown veggies in gardens since the 70s, it is helpful to be reminded that the weather and Mother Nature control our efforts. The novice gardener need not give up!

I have chosen to plant squash in a large, hollow tree trunk. I thought it would put it higher, it would get hotter and have more sun. So far no fruit has set. The expert said it is the fault of low temperatures, but the vines look lovely! What else can hope for? I moved them yesterday into the full sun. I hope it is not too late!

I love the city folks with tales of raccoons, which was the complaint of the interviewer. Poor sods.

We have raccoons with fleas.

Plus, deer, foxes, muskrats, squirrels that dig up all bulbs, nocturnal flying squirrels, bears (who like the wild berries), and ducks that all like my garden. It is a challenge but I have learned to live with them.

Now one critter not plentiful around these here parts is the gopher.
Our house is built on 500,000 million year old Precambrian shield rock. It takes up 1/4 of the basement. There are not a lot of gophers, as our topsoil is rather shallow. Much to my dismay, I spotted my first gopher around here last month. There was a surprise.

My friend, Nancy Tapley, at Bondi Resort, has put 7' chicken wire fences arounnancy's gardend all of her gardens, including the veggie garden. A massive amount of work. But she is a serious gardener! She has wild and domesticated critters all over her 200 acres! We both have wild turkeys. I captured a YouTube video of a pair last Thanksgiving. (Honestly!)

Some advise putting out bags of human hair or hanging stockings on trees, or posts, with Irish Spring soap in it. There are sprays you can buy, too.

You do what you have to do!

We have Canada geese, too. They kept my clover trimmed - I gave up on grass. Eva came back Thursday afternoon for a visit. She brought the troops. I haven't seen her very often, nor her brood, for weeks! Since they began to fly, they have been (gratefully) absent. They nipped at my water hyacinth and I had very few blooms! I am glad, too, as they were nipping at my petunias!

My heron patrols the lily pond and keeps the sunfish in check. Scares the pants off the frogs, too. The heron alighted on my handy raft - which gets more use by critters than people these days! She bid us well as we were getting ready to go out to dinner!

I watched CBC's The National's special feature, "It's a Wild Life", while I was working out, I might add! (Mental pat-on-the-back!) They had a segment on how coyotes, bear and moose are facing habitat loss due to encroaching humans. For this reason, some in the suburbs are having troubles. With more people feeding the animals, and more food available in gardens, populations are booming. For example, vegetable gardens are ripe for the plucking in suburbia. :-)

Homeowners are advised to pick up old fruit, e.g., from crabapple trees, as animals are drawn to these previously wild locations and this luxurious food fest. But some two-legged ones feed the bears or the raccoons, much to the chagrin of MNR staff and neighbours. You really have to educate people around you!

Cougars are causing problems in South Alberta. Stanley Park, in B.C., offers education programs on coyotes.

As with bears, you are encouraged to be noisy and scare them away. The coyotes are unafraid of children, and one in the CBC show went after a toddler, even while having a full belly. After months of complaints another bit a child in a play ground. Removing the offending critter leaves a space in the habitat for another animal of the same species who will move in quite willingly. Humans sure have imbalanced nature.

Check my post on keeping pets safe at the cottage! They are at risk from fishers, and the like.

We are advised to drive safely and carefully, too. They lose 24 moose to car accidents at Algonquin Park each year. All in all, we really have to figure out how to live with them. They cannot be shipped out to reserves as the whites did to the Native Peoples. We've learned too much to go back in time.


Lorac said...

Good post. Always like to see educational material for travelers and cottagers. We had a ground hog, a huge boy, under my mom's cottage for awhile. I came up early one Friday and found him munching on the clover.

Azure Accessories said...

Interesting post...I don't have a veggie garden but I do love flowers and greenery. We have a great many deer in this area and they love my flowers and green hostas...they leave the variegated ones alone, I guess they don't taste as good, :0) ???

My mother & step father have a nice veggie garden and they use the soap trick and they have a very large colorful cloth type of wind chime that they have set in the garden and that seems to keep the deer away.

I'm technically in North Bay proper but I've seen big gophers around, we also have Canada Geese that come back year after year and spend at least a month in front of our house in the water or when the lake level is dropped they love the sand bars...(our home is lake side)they don't venture on to our property which I'm happy about as they leave an awful mess when they visit, we also used to have a heron in front but I haven't seen him/her for a couple of years now... but for this area the deer are what we have to watch for as there are many around and they tend to dart out on to the son hit a deer on our street two years ago coming around a slight corner and just couldn't stop in time to prevent hitting the fellow as he darted out on the road...

I do feel strongly though part of the reason we have such a huge deer population in our area is some residents think they are doing a good thing by feeding the deer...I don't agree with feeding of wild animals of any doesn't help them or us!!!


EG CameraGirl said...

Great information, Jenn. I wish more people understood that we humans are causing the increased problems we have with Mother Nature.

Jenn Jilks said...

Lorac, we had a groundhog in Ottawa when we lived in Nepean. It was a hoot, as he dug under the fence, when the fence only covered one side of our property! S/he could have gone around. The muskrat seem to be the rural equivalent. So funny, chopping down the bulrushes.

Jenn Jilks said...

Deer are a human-created problem, I agree, EG.
The poor deer. Just don't know the answer. People want to feed the critters and it only seems to cause more problems.
We have a bit of a mess from the geese, but I figure it is free fertilizer! :-)

Gaelyn said...

An excellent post Jenn. It's so true that WE have to learn to adapt. Having taken over so much wildlife habitat is causing problems for humans, and ultimately the wildlife also. I'm glad you at least have the right attitude about just dealing with what comes your way and enjoying the sightings.

DeniseinVA said...

What a wonderful post, great read and loved all the photographs. Thanks for sharing.

Grizz………… said...

Great critter and garden post, and nice photos.

I suppose as far back in history as we have a record, there have always been some problems of one sort or another whenever and wherever humans intersect with animals. Here in Ohio, it's not just encroaching suburban sprawl, but booming animal populations. We have a whitetail deer population at an all-time high after being extirpated a century ago; beaver and wild turkey are on the rebound. Coyotes in every country. Last year, for the first time in probably a hundred years, a black bear appeared in the county just southeast of me (they've been in the hill-country counties for a number of years.) We're also seeing more eagles. And even bobcats.

We don't have gophers, but we have plenty of groundhogs (woodchucks) to give gardeners fits. Along with rabbits galore, raccoons, and five species of squirrel (counting two ground squirrels); a friend of mine is waging war with muskrats eating his cabbages…so far the the muskrats are winning. Another nearly wrecked his tractor when the wheel dropped into a badger hole.

Thankfully, the ducks and geese along the river have left my flower plantings alone since spring.

However this always beats living in a city with muggers and rats and filth and noise.

Powell River Books said...

You have a greater variety of critters to content with than I do. I don't have an earwig problem, but slugs have gotten a strong slimy foothold in my floating garden, but I think using the crushed egg shells has helped on my strawberry patch. Next year I'll have more saved up to use. As you read, we just caught and relocated our first woodrat of the fall season. They are cute but can cut down my garden in a few days if not attended to. The one critter that we love is our squirrel. He comes on the deck daily to tend "his" strawberry patches in pots. He enjoys them so much how can I say no. On rare occasions we see a racoon, but they don't bother anything unless we leave picked produce outdoors in the winter.

When we lived in LA, we had city racoons. They were so bold they would come in pet doors. We found on in our kitchen one evening. Chasing him out was a bit dicey, so we cornered him back in the bedroom, opened the door to the outside and let him choose to leave on his own.

But I love to watch critters at the cabin. That's just one of the pleasures of remote living. - Margy

Unknown said...

Interesting reading about the wildlife inyour yard Jenn. Here on PEI we have no deer, no bear, as they were killed off many years ago. We do have a few coyotes and foxes. They would be the largest wild mammals on the island. Raccoons are present and I see the odd rabbit. I love the hummingbirds that visit my feeder but the crows are most numerous. They are interesting as I often find bits of their food, like a lobster shell or claw, in the bird bath. They like their food wet. The Northumberland Strait would be their nearest source, other than garbage, but the strait is about a kilometre away from the house. I often think of you when I see the numerous herons along the shore, especially when the tide is out.

Vagabonde said...

I enjoyed your interesting post. I guess it must be hard to have a garden with all these animals unless you persevere. We do not have a garden, we have some annuals in pots and some herbs. We also have 4 bird feeders and 1 squirrel feeder and we enjoy watching them. The chipmunks are getting so fat catching the seeds the squirrels shake out of the feeders.

Jenn Jilks said...

So interesting reading about the critters in other's gardens! I have fun watching our critters.
Thank you, all, for visiting!

Jenn Jilks said...

Thanks for your comments, I totally forgot about the slugs, Margy, and had to step over two long ones in an embrace!

Anonymous said...

Actually, that garden fence is over 7' high. Which didn't stop from dashing in front of one of the horses and sailing over it... I blogged about that.
We are currently entertaining a family of skunks, and the wild turkeys are roosting on top of the hill. No more sign of the bear, but with the apples ripening and the tourists decreasing, we expect he'll be back...
But if we do elect to live with wildlife, we should learn how, and respect them for who they are, too.

Thanks for the mention!