Let me know if you're getting tired of hearing about my victimization at the paws of non-hibernating creatures, but in the meantime, here's the latest.
Taking advantage of the time-honored January thaw, I went outside to take stock of the depredations and implement defensive measures. My most depressing discovery: the baby apricot that I espaliered against the side of the house last spring is probably dead. I had wrapped a spiral plastic protector around its skinny little trunk to keep the rabbit away, but I did this after the heavy snow of Christmas week, and I did not realize that with the milder temperatures the snow next to the house had melted. This exposed a couple of inches of bare trunk between the protector and the earth, and the rabbit had chewed almost, but not quite, all the way around. It had also started working on the lowest branches. In the hope that that little bit of intact bark will enable the apricot to survive, my spouse built a wire cage around it. We'll find out its fate in the spring.
That same rabbit has been making tunnels under the snow all over the chicken yard, which is covered in his poop. I finally figured out what he's been after: the long, twisted stems of kale that were left when the chickens ate all the leaves. He's been systematically denuding them of their green outer layer, leaving only the yellow, fibrous insides. (I am not a monster--I do not begrudge him the kale stems.)
Next, I cut lengths of burlap and wrapped them around the deer-eaten cypresses, and the Master of the Knot secured them with old baling string. Then I made another upsetting discovery: not only have the deer been eating
our cypresses, but they have also attacked the low-growing
evergreen bushes that I planted in front of the house foundation. There was no way I could cover those earth-hugging bushes with burlap, so in a fit of pique I dumped a bucketful of woodstove ashes on them. The ashes may repel the deer, or they may kill the bushes. We'll find out in the spring.
The Seventh Squirrel has been caught and deported by the Master of the Trap, with a stroke of red paint on its tail so we can greet him by name when he returns. The ermine remains elusive. The Master of the T baited the trap with a freshly-caught (dead) mouse from our basement, and put a dab of peanut butter on his back to make him more attractive. The next day the mouse was gone, but the trap was unsprung. Everybody who hears about our ermine warns me of the impending murder of my hens if we don't catch him.
The birds are the only creatures with whom I'm not at war right now. They go through a lot of seed and suet, and the ground beneath the feeder is covered in guano, but they haven't tried to kill anything yet. Though who knows what they'll have gotten up to by spring....