Greenwalks

Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Evidence of Things Unseen June 17, 2009

Filed under: fauna,my garden — greenwalks @ 10:54 am
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I will probably look back fondly on the days that the squirrels were my most formidable garden adversary. It seems the raccoon population of Seattle has rebounded from what may have been a temporary period of virus-related low population numbers (unverified rumor, so don’t quote me) and it seems that some of them have been up to a few tricks lately around my garden. Nothing too devastating yet, but they’re putting me on notice for when the raspberries and blueberries get closer to ripening.

First, I noticed a large piece of tree bark abandoned in a shady spot, on a clump of poppies. No trees with this kind of bark in my garden or even nearby that I can see. Where did it come from? Who left it there? What are they up to??

Strange bark piece left in garden

Just a few feet down the path, my potted ‘Heritage’ rose, the only rose I have ever seen, smelled, tracked down and bought on my own, had its single currently blooming stem broken off almost all the way, it was dangling by a thread but still flowering. Hm.

Heritage rose broken stem

Other people could suspect their dogs, or maybe their kids, but we don’t have any pets and my daughter is actually pretty careful in the garden, at least in this part of it.

The next clue that the masked bandits may have been responsible was the stones that had obviously been rearranged in our rockery. It’s a mess at the moment, I’m ripping out weeds and plants and haven’t got around to fixing up the defunct mini-pond yet, but they obviously needed to have a look-see for potential fishy snacks (sorry, guys, no help there) or maybe wanted to dip in some tasty morsel from our city food scrap/yard waste bin on trash night.

Rockery rearranged by raccoons?

Last clue – my faux Craftsman plastic solar light by the rockery was temporarily decapitated. Huh? When I mentioned my puzzlement to my mom, she said “Well, they like to be busy.” I guess I can admire their curiosity, as long as it doesn’t turn too destructive.

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My parents had to give up on their Italian plum tree, it was just stripped every year by the raccoons before my folks could get even a single ripe plum. They also got most of my parents’ corn last year, and I do think I need to study up on possible (benign) berry-defense methods.

Some people think these critters are too cute for words; others consider them a menace and a nuisance. Really, they’re just part of the natural world and, like crows, rats and a few other species, have proven remarkably adaptable to urban environments (possible viruses notwithstanding). I think that if they are here, I will just have to learn to deal with them. Their ancestors were certainly here before mine were, so they kind of have dibs on the land if they want it. I might not be so sanguine, however, if they take every last one of my berries this year! Do you have any raccoon stories to share?

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Raccoon image by Liza31337, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons. To see more images by this photographer, please click here.

Just as I was about to publish this post, I read a sort of frightening article by garden writer Ann Lovejoy about potential health hazards from raccoon droppings. Eek. I guess I need to keep my gloves on when I’m working in the yard, and make sure my kid doesn’t come into contact with any critter poop!

(I stole the title of this post from a record I used to listen to a lot, by avant-jazz pianist Don Pullen – brilliant genius, spiky music, died too young, common sad story in the music world). It’s also the name of a Marianne Wiggins novel – does anyone read her anymore, or was she an 80s phenom and more famous for being Salman Rushdie’s wife? That sounds really sexist, I don’t mean it that way. If you’re a fan, speak forth!)