How Much Wood Could A Woodchuck Chuck…

It must be the summer for varmints.

First the coon, then the bunnies, and now a wood chuck.

I remember reading that back in the depression hobos used to leave marks on fences and trees so other tramps would know the houses to avoid, which ones had good food and where the mean dogs were.

I’m thinking some varmint put a sign out in the back 40 saying, ” Try these humans – they’re an easy mark and worth a laugh!”

However he found us – a solitary woodchuck ambled into the yard a few weeks ago and decided to make a permanent home under the wood pile in the machine shed (the only outbuilding with a gravel floor.)

We did not realize his presence for awhile and by the time Pedro first noticed the large pile of dirt and gravel in the back of the shed – he had dug out quite a home for himself.

My husband was not happy.

At first I didn’t mind so much. He was kind of cute in a 4- legged varmint-y kind of way. Besides he stuck to himself and didn’t chase chickens or eat my edamame.

But then I discovered the partially eaten pumpkins and winter squash in the garden.

Cute little Chuckie had crossed the line.

Now – how does one remove an unwanted woodchuck from his burrow underneath a large pile of wood inside a machine shed?

Good question.  But – never fear – Google has the answer.

We set the live trap for him – right outside the front entrance of his domicile – and baited it with carrots just as the website said.

Within 4 hours little Chuckie was history and his home was blocked up so no other little varmint would move in.

Maybe I should add a “no vacancy” sign.

Or “vagrants not welcome”.

Take that you little varmints. These humans are getting smart.

Photo thanks to Matt Reinbold.

Show Down at Midnight

chicks
Remember our cute little peeps? Those little bundles of fluff have grown – a lot – and are now outside in a movable pen on grass.

The broilers are fat hunks of meat that are just a week away from the freezer and the layers are lively little buggers scratching and running all over.

They have done beautifully –  until Sunday night.

It was just another peaceful night in the country. We had the windows open to enjoy a light breeze when at midnight a ruckus in the pen woke me from a very sound sleep.  I then woke Jan and – being the good wife that I am – sent him out to investigate while I rolled over and went back to sleep. 🙂

He came in about 30 minutes later and reported a coon had run off from the chick’s pen but he didn’t get a shot at it. He said it was a little hard to hold both the gun and the flashlight – so if the coon comes back, I’d need to come out too.

<Gulp>

Thankfully the rest of the night passed without a return visit.

Round 1: Coon – 0 Us – 0. A Stand-off.

The next night we were ready. We had reinforced the pens and went to sleep confident that they were coon proof. Ha!

My peaceful slumber ended at 3:30 when the entire pen exploded with noise – including the frantic cry of  a chick.

Now – at this point – I should have been prepared. I’ve seen enough Little House on the Prairie to know that I needed to sit up and proclaim, “Oh no, Charles, they’ve got Matilda, my best laying hen!”

My husband would jump out of bed, pull on his pants throwing his suspenders over his shoulder as he grabs the gun from the mantle and avenges my hen.

But no – it didn’t look quite like that.

Instead – I jump out of bed, knock over Jan’s radio, run into the door, trip over my shoes and finally make it outside in my jammies with the flashlight.

Meanwhile, my husband pulls on his cowboy boots with his pajama shorts and heads out to grab the gun.

But we’re too late. Somehow that wily coon had attacked a poor defenseless layer through the fence. 😦

(Let’s interrupt this story for an object lesson – if that silly little chicken had stayed inside the plastic pen inside the fence she would still be alive today. How many times do we step out of God’s protection and do things our own way – only to get hurt!)

Okay – back to the chase.

We shine the flashlight all over – but can’t spot that varmint. Jan grabs the flashlight and heads off into the darkness.  It took just a few minutes before I realized that there I was – in the dark – in my jammies – with a blood thirsty coon on the loose.  I quickly ran after him and took back the flashlight.

We slowly circle the out-buildings – looking for the pesky critter.  It reminded me a little of playing Ghosts in the Graveyard when I was a kid – only the “ghost” hiding in the darkness was not a sibling, but a very alive and crafty coon.

My ankles felt very exposed.

After a thorough search of the area – we decided the coon was long gone – probably enjoying his chicken dinner and wouldn’t be back. So we went to bed.

Ha! It was 4:30 – just about the time that I had finally settled down and forgotten that there were such things as coons in the world – that the chicken pen exploded with frantic cries again.

We grab our shoes, the gun and the flashlight and rush to the pen. We see a fat old coon ambling off down the trail – but he’s too far away to get a shot. Grrr.

The next morning we surveyed the damage. All of the good little chickens who stayed inside the pen were safe, only one chick was lost.

Round 2: Coon – 1, Us – 0.

The next night we decided not to take any chances. We manually moved all of the chicks into the building and the next morning we manually moved them all back out.

Take that you pesky varmint!

It was wonderful to get a full night sleep’s – even if we did add an extra hour of work onto our day.

But this is just a temporary fix.

Somewhere out there is a crafty coon with a taste for young chicken and this farm ain’t big enough for the both of us.

Your days are numbered.

Just wait for round 3.

4 Legged Varmints

Spring! It looks like you are finally here!

The temperatures are warming up, there’s rain – not snow in the forecast, and the 4 legged varmints are back.

You know the ones – raccoons, ‘possums, skunks and the like.

Although none of these animals actually hibernates during the winter months, they sleep longer and don’t do as much stuff. Some call it a state of “tupor” – waking from time to time to search for food.

That sounds very familiar – much like my own winter pattern! 🙂

As the days get longer and the warmer, they venture out and become nuisances.

We counted 3 dead skunks on the way to church yesterday. (Bet those cars will remember that stretch of highway for a long time!)

One friend reported that a critter had gotten into their chicken coop and killed every chicken. The intruder didn’t eat them – just killed them.

Another friend had a similar occurrence – but they only lost half of their flock.

At lunch today – I  saw a big fat ‘possum walking across the farm yard as if he owned the place.  I was concerned that he might be diseased so I checked online.

The site I found was full of interesting information. I discovered that although opossums are nocturnal, to have them wandering around in daylight isn’t too unusual – just like cats.

They are also very immune to rabies, but you should still avoid getting a bite. (Now that’s good advise!)

I also found that possum tastes like chicken, but if you wish to eat them, you should first catch it and feed it table scraps and other good food for a while to work all the carrion out of its system.

Right… like I really want to look the critter in the face and ask when it ate it’s last meal of carrion?! I wonder how long it would take to remove the effects of a carrion diet anyway?

But this particular sight didn’t recommend the practice of eating opossums at all. It sited that “a small cadre of renegade opossums has been known to have sought out people who have eaten their compatriots and lay siege to their dwelling. Armed with crude but efficient crossbows, they may shoot arrows into the car tires or capture and hold hostage the pets of the offending citizens.

Wow! And since it’s online – you know it has to be true! I guess we’ll cross ‘possum off the menu this week.

I sent the boys out to take care of the offending critter.

Let’s just say it won’t be eating any of our chickens or eggs; nor will we be eating it.

Things will settle down here in a few weeks when the rest of our corner of the world wakes up and shakes off the winter doldrums.

But in the meantime we’ll keep the critter gun ready – and a close eye on the flock!

The Great Bunny Wars

Let me start here by saying that I like bunnies.

I think that bunnies are cute. They’re soft and very lovable. I have nothing against bunnies in general.

Except when they are in my garden!

They destroyed 2 rows of baby green bean plants and 2 rows of tiny peas before we discovered that they could get inside.

Now I’m not naive – we have the garden well fenced. We actually have TWO fences around it – but still – we watched those cute little varmints wriggle right through.

This means war.

My husband and sons added yet another fence around the already heavily fortressed garden. This time a bright orange snow fence with very small holes.

Now this is not exactly the landscape decor I was going for – but desperate times call for desperate measures!

All we need now is barbed wire across the top and machine guns at every corner…

Or maybe a moat around it filled with crocodiles…

Or armed sentries patrolling the ground…