Monday, January 14, 2013

Winter Lament, Continued

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....

8 comments :

  1. You'll have to plant deer resistant plants and bushes around your house otherwise you'll be forever fighting a losing battle. Good luck with the ermine. In a more equal world, he would only eat one chicken.

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    1. Irene, now I'm worried about next summer's vegetable garden. I can just imagine building a 10' high fence all around it. Our place will end up looking like a medieval castle, without the charm.

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  2. As I read about that poor rabbit I was thinking, what harm in eating leftover kale stems? And I was glad to see you saw no harm in that either. But I would be mad about the apricot tree.

    In other news: the deer population here has been hit by a wasting disease. Jake's dad shot only 2 this year, SAW only two this year. Perhaps it will migrate and leave us be but thin your herd...

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  3. Jake's dad must be quite a hunter, if he got the two deer he saw!

    Vermont hunters have also complained about not enough deer, but then they always complain....

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    1. Oh, he is quite the hunter. 61 years old and for the past 50 he has had 1 hobby.

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  4. I love these sneak peeks I get into your life, always so different from mine.

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  5. Oh, this is so familiar. My list in Pawlet included deer, woodchucks, chipmunks and rabbits. Then, of course, was the skunk mommy who had two babies in the garage...

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  6. Skunk babies in the garage! They must have been adorable....

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