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Hartselle Enquirer
Clif Knight

Varmints are taking over

By Clif Knight

Varmints are described as “troublesome and objectionable animals” in Webster’s New World College Dictionary. Without hesitation, I can add the word destructive to that description, based on several years of experience as a home gardener.

Four years ago, I stopped growing corn because raccoons found it and ate it before I had a chance to pick it for our own use. They would push down the stalks of the sweet corn as soon as the ears got ripe enough to pick and then attacked the field corn by climbing the stalks and riding them to the ground to get to their ears.

I decided we were better off buying corn for home use at farmers markets, rather than trying to grow it ourselves.

The problem was, we found it harder and harder to find the corn we wanted at the markets – so we took the chance of growing our own again this year.

Everything went according to plan until the corn reached the harvest stage.

We saw no sign of raccoons when we picked our first dozen ears. The next day, however, the corn looked like it had been hit by a tornado.

The corn on half the stalks was stripped clean.

The damage was done by squirrels, not raccoons.

What corn was left, we pulled and processed for the freezer.

Tomatoes, okra and cucumbers and green beans have also been victimized by varmints. Squirrels, birds and rodents have had their fill of ripe tomatoes, and the plants of okra and cucumbers have been decimated by a single deer that has adopted the backside of my five-acre wooded lot as his or her territory.

While I have never seen the deer, I can trace his movements by the imprints of his hoofs through the garden almost every day.

A rabbit or two are the latest unwelcome garden visitors. They are making hay of two rows of stuck green beans.

A pair of scarecrows can claim credit for saving two rows of late-planted field peas. Typically, they stand by and look on as peas are becoming plants, sprouting and breaking through the ground.

To view the tattered remains of damaged vegetable plants raises the question of why the gardener does so much of the work while the varmints sit back and watch until the harvest is ready?

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