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Posts Tagged ‘garden pests’

I was sure he was gone. I mean I did everything short of calling out the National Guard to make sure the beast and his kind were eliminated from our little piece of the burb.  Ok, I didn’t call in a priest either, but I considered it, so that has to count for something.  I set out traps. I flooded the dens. I even used poison.  I picked up carcass after carcass. In early March, my garden area looked like ratmageddon.  The battle was over and the human spirit had prevailed. Hail to the victor.

Could I have been more wrong?  Yesterday, when I went to water the garden, I noticed that something had nibbled on many of my green bean plants. I thought that was odd, because we’ve never had that happen until later in the season.  Bugs will be bugs, I thought. Or, I mused, it could be rabbits.

Tonight I learned the bitter truth. The Zilla was not dead; not dead by a long shot. He has returned and he is not alone.

I stepped into the garden, picked up my garden hose and turned towards the beans.  Something was amiss. The plants looked…shorter. Some even appeared to be missing.

As I pondered the mystery, the chilling truth revealed itself, first as a rustle in the bean patch, then as a full scale stampede. Rats ran in every direction. There were ten or maybe a dozen.  My heart sank.

It was in that moment, when I thought the terror was at it’s peak, he showed himself in all his demonic splendor. He raised himself up to his full height, then turned in his blood lust to face me down.

It couldn’t be, but there he stood, in full battle array, gore and venom dripping off his gruesome fangs as he snarled his warning. I blinked and he was gone. Did he vanish? Are his reflexes that fast? Is this some kind on Ninja rodent king?

Though our encounter was brief, much was communicated in that single instant. We both understood the terms. This time, there can be only one.  This time there will be resolution.  This time, I’m getting a bloody shotgun.  That freaking rat has got to die.  There will be no prisoners.  There will be no mercy.  There will be no quarter. I am the human.  I am the apex species. It’s my garden, darn it.  And that stupid Disney character ate ALL my beans.  There will be no early bean harvest this year.  I have to start over.  But I will start over knowing that the RATZILLA lies cold beneath my compost heap, even as his soul burns in the darkest, hottest corner of hell.

Was that over the top?  Nah, I think I nailed it.

 

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Got ‘im!

Mothers, it’s safe to let you children play outside again.  Home owners, you my unload your weapons.  The SWAT team may stand down.  Ratzilla has been subdued.

Tonight, as I was harvesting tomatoes and peppers, an object that looked like a piece of wood, but lying in what was recently our green bean bed, caught my eye.  As I approached the object, I suddenly recognized it as our missing trap.  It’s location was approximately 20 feet from where it had been set.  It was hidden in the remnants of the green bean plants.  I tentatively approached it and turned it over.  It was sprung and empty, except for about 3 inches of rat tail.

Disappointed and afraid, I picked it up and turned to take it back and reset it, when my eyes fell on the corpse.  Fully six feet away from the trap, lay in all his glory, 9 full inches of slate grey rodent.  His teeth were a half an inch long and his claws were equally as large as the teeth.

Land O Goshen, it really was a monster.  It appears that he was caught by his tail (BTW, these rats have surprisingly small ones.  I’m used to those long tail white rats you see in pet stores.  These beasties appendages are only three or 4 inches at the most.) and ran away dragging the Victor trap behind him.  Somehow, it got tangled in the bean vines and he was stuck.  At some point he broke free, leaving his tail behind.  He either died of dehydration, shock or blood loss.  Frankly, I don’t care much.  I’m not a big fan of rats, as you may have figured.

The burb is safe again….for now.  But the Zilla has offspring and a bride still at large.  It is my duty, my responsibility to hunt them down.  I am the last line of defense for humanity.  I am The Rat Slayer.

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We’ll assume you are aware of the rats eating the tomato problem.  Let’s not review.  It’ s the sequel that has me creeped out.

I decided to set traps for them.  B and I went to Tractor Supply and I bought 4 of those big Victor brand spring loaded traps.  I’m talking old school here.  Even I’m afraid of these things. The rats were going to tremble in fear.  They might even pack up and move to Idaho.

I’m a cheese for traps guy, but people often talk about peanut butter as a great bait, so I decided to try it.  I start baiting and setting the traps.  I have three of them ready and sitting on a work table out in the garden.  As I’m setting the fourth one, it goes off, pops out of my hand, and as fate would have it, lands on one of the other traps.  That trap goes off, jumps to the next, it jumps to the next, and before I can say “Boy Howdy”, there are traps and peanut butter all over the garden.  I mean, peanut butter flew to the next county.  Must have been a sight to see.

Eventually, I got the traps reset and into place in and around the tomato bed.  I went to sleep content that Roland Rat and his horde were in for a rude awakening.

During the night, a furious storm blew in and the rain set off the traps.  Oh well, not an auspicious start, but I set them again.  Last evening, I went out to water the veggies and as I checked the traps, two were sprung and the peanut butter cleaned off.  One contained a rat.  Good deal.  The fourth is…..MISSING.  I’m talking, G O N E!  This trap it six inches by three or 4 inches.  It could catch El Chupacabra.  Yikes.  Somewhere out there, a wererat is changing back into its human form with an enormous rat trap on his butt.  What walks off with a trap that big?  I’m packing heat next time I go near the compost bin.

Anyway, one rat down, a half dozen more and one creature of darkness to go.  Anybody got a silver bullet and some Holy Water?

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If you are a regular reader of this space, you know that we’ve had a mysterious beast(s) eating our Roma tomatoes.  Over half the harvest has been consumed already.  I blamed birds, rabbits and mice.  I even thought the squash bugs might have migrated over to escape the diatomaceous earth I’ve been using to dust the squash plants.  I was wrong on every count.

This morning, I went out to water the garden a bit later than normal since it’s a Holiday.  As I approached the Roma bed, I heard shuffling and saw the plants rustling like something in a Jurassic Park flick.  Then all at once, they broke cover and made a run for the protection of the compost bin.    I  stood in disbelief as not one, not two, not 4, but half a dozen rats raced together across my garden.  About 6 seconds later, a second wave of smaller, younger rodents followed in the wake of their parents.  It was like a scene from Willard (if anyone out their is old enough to remember that movie).

Armed with actual knowledge of what I’m up against, B and I made a trip to tractor supply for some traps.  I don’t want to poison them, because I don’t want to risk dogs, cats or birds getting into the stuff or eating a poisoned rat.

Tonight, I planned on setting up a half dozen traps in the garden, but a rather serious rain storm has thwarted my mission.  No worries, though, I’ll take care of mining the garden before I go to work in the morning.  Perhaps we can save some of the toms after all.  And, I plan to take some cuttings and try a second season of them in an attempt salvage something of our harvest.

What a year.  What an adventure.  What a pain in the tootie.

 

 

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Sometimes, not so well.

This has been a tough year here in the burb.  I’m already working on next year’s plan, because this one is all but shot.

Our broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts bolted.  That was our fault.  We waited too long to transplant them.  Our winter squash got hit by boreres and our first batch of summer squash did not get pollinated.

Now I find that something has ruined our crop of Roma tomatoes.  This is especially bad, because Roma’s are our most important crop.  We can and freeze gallons and gallons of it.  Brittan makes ketchup and pasta sauce.  I make barbecue sauce.  All of a sudden we have a problem.  And I don’t know what it is.

At first I thought it was birds, but no longer believe so, because our slicing tomatoes are pretty much untouched.  I then considered rabbits, but now believe it is an insect of some kind.  The tomatoes are all half eaten and now the plants are drying up.  I am absolutely devastated this morning.  I refuse to take a ‘nuclear’ option with chemical pesticides.  That violates everything we’re trying to do.

I think my plan is to get, or make, some insecticidal soap.  I will enlist the assistance of my Bride and pick all the partially eaten fruit, then spray with the soap.  I will also take cuttings from healthy plants and start some earthboxes to see if I can get at least a small harvest from that.

Folks, these are the consequences of natural farming.  We don’t rely on pharmaceuticals to keep our crops productive, so occasionally we have problems.  On the other side, we also don’t ingest or sell toxic residue into the human population who consume our products.  On the whole, the trade is worth it.  Today it doesn’t feel like it.

There have been successes, too.  Our potatoes are looking great.  Our asparagus bed is coming along nicely and we would have some nice produce from that next spring.  We’ve enjoyed some nice squash and had an early abundance of bell and jalapeno peppers.  Our experiment with beets went well enough that they will be our primary fall crop.  We did great with green beans and so far, our slicing tomatoes look like they will be fine.  Oh, and we did great with cherry tomatoes.

The biggest success has been our herb bed.  The basil, oregano, thyme and parsley are phenomenal.  We have had fair luck with rosemary, too, though most of it is in the sun room.

The fight goes on.  We feel good about our choices and wins outnumber losses.  It’s just that with these Roma tomatoes, it’s a heartbreaking loss.  It’s like Kentucky losing to Duke.  Totally unacceptable.  Stay tuned, we may yet snatch victory from the jaws of…. whatever is eating my stupid tomatoes!

 

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This is our third year having a garden in Georgia.  I have yet to see a honey bee.  Bumble bees, yes, but no honey bees.  Zero.  Nunca.  None.

A simple google search will bring up an abundance of articles, websites and youtube clips, decrying and pondering the rapid disappearance of honey bees in the USA.  In many places up to 30 percent of the population has vanished, in others it is claimed the number is perhaps 70 percent.  I don’t know the actual percentage, but the phenomenon is real.

I remember going out on recess at Clays Mill Elementary School in Lexington, KY when I was a kid and seeing bees everywhere.  We would sit in the clover and catch them.  We would see who could catch the most or hold onto one the longest without getting stung.  Honey bees were as much a part of spring as the flower blossoms themselves.

The disappearance of the honey bee is a complex issue, with as many twists and turns as a horror novel.  Only this story is terrifyingly true.

First, the honey bee is politically incorrect.  The once beloved garden companion and producer of honey is a pariah in many parts of the country because some people are allergic to them.  So they are exterminated in many places.  Granted, no one wants to see a neighbor or classmate rushed to hospital unable to breathe for any reason, but the overall benefits to society (pollination of food crops and honey), counterbalance the risks.  What happens when the bees are gone?  Albert Einstein is famously quoted as saying that if the bee population disappeared, the human race would follow in four years!

Without bees we would be hard pressed to have most fruits, nuts and many vegetables.  Birds, butterflies and the like could never keep up.  For example, both the California almond industry and the Florida citrus industry truck bees in to pollinate their orchards.  You owe that morning orange juice and the nuts in your bowl of cereal to the honey bee.

Viruses and mites, among other things, are decimating the bees.  Buy why?  Bees have been oppressed by both adversaries for millennia, why are they now losing the fight?  I would like to offer a hypothesis that the human commitment to the weed free lawn is a major contributor to weakening the constitution of the North American Honey Bee.

We saturate our lawns and flower beds with chemicals to kill the weeds and grow the flowers.  The harsh chemicals affect more than just the dandelions and crabgrass.  The birds, bees, rabbits and other wildlife are constantly ingesting the toxins.  Can anything good come of that?  Think about it, when the lawn service leaves a location, they put a little flag in the yard in part as a warning for the home owner to take care of their pets and children until the chemicals neutralize.  But who keeps out the bees (or the bunnies for that matter)?

When the exterminator sprays around our houses to eliminate the creepy crawlies, the good insects are also vulnerable.  In our drive to win the ‘yard of the month’, we may inadvertently be killing our future.

B and I cancelled our lawn service over a year ago.  It shows.  We have a lot more weeds and need to mow more often that our neighbors to keep the front lawn looking civilized.  I know some of our neighbors look at our yard in disgust.  It doesn’t look bad, but it’s not as lush as it used to be.  We have planted bee balm and other bee, butterfly and hummingbird attractants, but we are also attracting a whole bunch of weeds.

In my opinion, a handful of chickens and a couple sheep or goats would do just as well as the big expensive lawn services and would provide food for the table as well.  But our Home Owners Association would have a fit.  I guarantee that a few chickens would control the bugs without creating a bio hazard and a goat would work wonders on the weed population.  Together they would provide natural fertilization as well.  But the Beverly Hillbillies are not allowed in our neighborhood.

Conventional farmers contribute to the problem as well, in my opinion, with their tons of pesticides.  They don’t intend harm, it’s a by-product of our industrial farm system and in needs to be fixed.  I know most farmers agree.

The honey bee is nearing endangered status.  The problem can be reversed if we moderate our chemical use.  Let’s welcome the honey bee back into society.  Our very future may depend on it.

Finally, those who can, should set up a box or two and take an active role in regenerating the bee population.  Brittan and I will add bees to our operation next spring.  We will put them out on the farm since the poor creatures are not welcome in the burb.   Home Owners Associations of the world……..REPENT!

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The last two seasons, B and I have battled squash bugs (aka ‘stink bugs’) incessantly.  Year before last, they ruined our pumpkin and butternut squash.  Last year, they found our straight neck squash and zucchini. I think I went through gallons of insecticidal soap and picked off hundreds of the little invaders by hand.  I’m pretty sure the fight ended in a draw.  We never eliminated them, but we managed a decent harvest.

This year, I intend to engage the beasts on two fronts.  First, I’m going to grow some of my squash hydroponically.  Squash bugs can’t live in vermiculite (‘Take that, stink bugs of the universe’).

But my secret weapon in the main garden will be the lovely, nasturtium.  All my reading tells me that nasturtium is particularly repulsive to squash bugs.  And since squash bugs are particularly repulsive to me, I shall plant nasturtiums liberally in my garden beds.  Besides…. they are edible…and pretty, too.

Weird, huh?  It’s still December and I’m already talking about fighting bugs.

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