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(Wo)man vs. beast(s)

by Karen Fucito
by Karen Fucito

As I’ve said previously, I love to be in my garden, both the flower beds and the vegetable garden. The problem is, so do my ‘neighbors:’ the deer, the groundhogs, the chipmunks, the foxes and sometimes, even the bears. It’s a challenge keeping plants alive and blooming. And this being spring, the battle between the critters and me has begun. The evidence is there. Little green sprouts peeking through the dark brown dirt should be shaped like pointy spears. Instead, they’ve been gnawed on as if a dull lawnmower blade ran them over.

This war between the species has been raging at its current location for almost 14 years now. And although I have the superior brain—I am the one sitting at this computer, using my opposable thumbs—I am losing, mostly because I’m outnumbered and because I sleep at night. Just when I think I’ve won a battle, I’ll wake up one morning to find another plant munched to the ground. You’d think being on the top of the food chain would give me the advantage. You’d think the next species down the line would keep things in order. You’d be wrong.

So let’s start with the bears, the species next in the buffet line. Not too many around anymore thanks to the annual hunt but they never really ate a lot; mostly they just sat on things. They did however, keep the other critters out of the yard. One recent summer I had two living in the woods, just on the other side of the chain link fence. The yard never looked better.

Then we have the foxes. Their den was in the woods, in the base of a very large tree that fell about two years ago. I haven’t seen them since the tree went down. They were responsible for keeping the smaller critter population under control. By the number of chipmunks I see sharing space with the groundhogs I can only guess the foxes have relocated to a new neighborhood.

But the ongoing, never-ending battle is between me and the multitude of deer that meander through the yard and the groundhogs who live in a condominium of boulders just to the left on my house. They eat everything. I am diligent in what I plant and where I plant. I spray, I spray and I spray. I yell at them. I chase them while banging shovels together. I let my dog bark at them. And yet they come back, day and night. Night and day. I’m battle-weary.

I can claim one small victory, however; my vegetable garden, which is located at the sunniest spot in the backyard. Triple-fencing seems to have done the trick, at least against the groundhogs. Now, broccoli, you are free to bloom into lovely, tight, bright green shrubs with no worry of being nibbled away the day before you get picked for my dinner table. But tomatoes, well, it seems you’re in a bit of trouble. Those darn little chipmunks can squeeze through the smallest of holes and they’ve discovered you and all your deliciousness. Where’s a good red-tailed hawk when you need one?

Columnist Esther Poulsen (Life in Lakelandia) has her own tale to tell about gardening in the Garden State, somewhat different than mine but, alas, almost the same outcome. I feel your pain, Esther.

We’re having a lovely stretch of weather, and I’m feeling confident, as I always do on days like today, that I will win this battle and I will see a beautiful spring bloom that will lead into a luscious summer.

I’m heading out into the garden again.

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