By LYNNE IRONS
I loathe raccoons. Nothing will wipe out the entire flock of chickens quite like them. I am positively religious about closing the hen house at dusk against them. However, the other day I must have inadvertently left a two-inch opening on the top of my meat-bird pen. Sometime around 4 a.m., I heard a ruckus outside — as luck would have it, my bedroom window was open. Clad in my nightgown and untied workboots, I must have been a sight. Sure enough, a teenaged coon was inside the pen trying to kill some breakfast. I encouraged the dog to “sic ‘em” and tried to do the raccoon in with a shovel. Being younger and much more agile than either the dog or me, he made an escape.
In the garden, never believe you will eat an ear of corn. A coon will pick every one at the moment of perfect ripeness. Over the years I have trapped and killed over 30 raccoons, but they just keep on coming. Once, one climbed up the outside of my house to my second-story deck and tried to open the sliding-glass door. Fortunately, it was locked or I would have had a late-night intruder. I know it was capable with those little fingers.
This is turning into my second annual varmints-in-the-garden column.
Skunks do not enjoy the same level of hatred as raccoons, but they can be pesky. I have not known them to kill full-grown chickens, but they are fond of eggs. They love to dig up grubs in the lawn, creating enormous brown patches. They will also search under the hay mulch, displacing it and smothering seedlings. I had to remulch two entire rows of beets last week. I would love to leave the dog outside at night to serve and protect, but he is becoming elderly and actually does chase away skunks at his olfactory peril.
My parents have a beautiful horse chestnut tree at the end of their drive. Mom reported that a bear lounging in it broke a huge limb. For years, we had bears in the apple trees, not to mention them destroying bee hives.
Mice and moles are problematic, especially on properties with stone walls. They live in the walls and wreak havoc underground. The little tunnels crisscross lawns at an alarming rate. Having several cats helps, but they use the flower beds as a litter box.
Deer, of course, are the nemesis of all who attempt gardening. I have a seven-foot fence around the vegetables as well as a cable (well, actually a clothesline) two feet above the fence. Honestly, I have seen them jump a six-foot fence from a standstill. Aside from cuteness, do they have any redeeming qualities?
Crows also are a problem. I do like the fact they keep hawks away from the chickens, but the early morning cacophony can be irritating at best. They will eat every single emerging pea and bean sprout and put a beak-hole in all the tomatoes. I believe young Native American children were stationed on platforms in the cornfields to chase off crows. I have had them perch on the heads of scarecrows.
Last column, I mentioned the beautiful Gorden Rain Tree in North Tisbury, but because it was so hot last week it had fried and was done blooming by the time the paper hit the newsstands. I hate when that happens.
Nothing is quite like the roses in bloom. I was driving around and jotting down particular beauties, but the list became too long, so, make your own list.
I was interested in the great white shark sightings up-Island a couple of weeks ago. I couldn’t help remembering living on the Vineyard during the filming of Jaws. It ruined my ocean swimming forever, especially at night. I am a mountain girl by birth. We swam in lakes, limestone quarries and pools. I love the beach but have had my own shadow instigate a mini-heart attack.
My friend Sharlee critiques all my movies. I cannot deal with certain cinematic plots. I have been known to leave the theatre as soon as cars begin exploding, guns start blazing, or worse, man’s inhumanity to man becomes apparent. I was thinking about acceptable viewing for me: The Princess Bride, Racing Stripes, Legally Blonde, Sleeper, and my personal favorite, My Cousin Vinnie. Why do we need weirdo, psychological, scary or mentally ill subject matter? I have that in my real life.