Published in the Rains County Leader on June 26, 2018:
One of the first things I learned about living in the country is that there is no shortage of critters – four-legged, winged, large, small, and in-between. Many of my columns have been devoted to my issues with gophers and moles, wild pigs, and bugs of all sorts.
During the years when I planted a garden, my most successful crop was garlic. My neighbor Dirk, who I long ago christened the Garlic King of Rains County, grows garlic that is both huge and delicious, and he generously shares bulbs for planting. With his expert advice, all my bulbs sprouted, grew tall, and put out buds that promised beautiful, orchid-like blooms. Unfortunately, in order to produce the healthiest crop, I had to clip off the buds, but the mild, tasty results were worth it.
The biggest misfortune, though, was that in spite of good beginnings, my harvest was usually a little disappointing. It seems that gophers like garlic, too. As the plants neared maturity, I noticed that a couple were leaning at an odd angle. I took hold of one of the stalks, gave a gentle tug, and it popped right up. There was nothing on the end! The roots and the complete bulb had been gnawed away by busy little teeth.
I lost a significant percentage of my first year’s crop. I tried several deterrents, but none of them worked. I didn’t have the heart to resort to the nasty-looking death traps I saw at the feed store, so I decided to use the method of planting enough to share with the gophers. On the third year, I lost 25% of what I planted, but 75% of 100 plants is still more than I could use or give away.
Since my job at the church and my writing both take up more time now, I finally gave up the fight against the gophers and the other critters that thought of my garden as the neighborhood buffet. It’s been several years since I planted any vegetables, but gopher mounds and mole trails are still the most prominent features of our landscape. We have to step carefully on the spongy ground, and during the spring rains, one of the wheels of our motor home sank up to the hub. David says it was the wet sand, but I’m convinced it was the catacombs of critter runs underneath the sixteen-ton vehicle. We haven’t retaliated yet, but we may have to take aggressive action if the house begins to sink.
Earlier in the year, I devoted several columns to the wild pigs who had been visiting us in the dark of night. I described the game camera, the trap, and the night vigils we had used to try and deter the destructive pests. In my last column on the subject, I mentioned the dead pig we found toward the back of the lot that may or may not have fallen victim of the one rifle shot David got off one night. Before we could order an autopsy, some night scavenger dragged away the corpse, but we were grateful there was one less invader.
The pig war cooled off a bit when we spent a week in Alba playing with our dog friend Spike while his people were on a cruise. Between our regular schedule, extra pet duties, and making sure Kitty was taken care of, there wasn’t time to worry much about what the pigs were up to. Then, one afternoon, David dropped me at the church after lunch and went over to the house to check the mail and Kitty’s bowls. My computer was still booting up when I got a text message from him: Three pigs in trap!
We notified the trapper, and he said he would come and get them later that evening. We had to head back to Alba before the big event, but the neighbors enjoyed watching him and his crew hog tie the creatures, load them in his truck, and carry them away. The next day was my day off, so I came to the house with David. Imagine our surprise when we saw three more pigs in the trap. The trapper commented that he hadn’t finished processing the first batch yet, but he came anyway.
Since then, the nightly visitations have dwindled, and we have had almost no sightings on the game camera. Hopefully, they have moved on for good and aren’t just lulling us into a false sense of security. Regardless, we have a freezer full of wild pork!
The most pervasive critters are the bugs. We live in a mobile home on a little over two acres, but apparently the bugs aren’t content with the great outdoors. Regardless of screens, double windows, and storm doors, I have found almost every kind of bug imaginable inside. They come in through vents, invisible spaces between doors and door frames, and I’m convinced they can also materialize through the walls.
I’ve become accustomed to sweeping them off the floors, window sills, and counter tops, and Kitty enjoys stalking and tormenting the larger ones. The ones I’ll never get used to, though, are the red wasps that love to build nests inside the eaves of the house right by where we park the car. Several years ago, one stung me on the wrist when I opened the trash barrel, and David went into a frenzy of wasp killing. As time passed, other chores took priority, and the wasps have gradually returned. A couple of weeks ago as I walked from the car to the house, I was on the receiving end of another sting, this time on the back of my hand. David went on another spree, spraying Bengal and tacking up treated ear tags in the favorite wasp hangouts. At this writing, there have been no further sting attacks.
One of the main attractions of living in the country is the peace and quiet. Little do city folks know about the wars that lurk just below the surface.