Oh, Those Pesky Critters!

One thing I LOVE about living where we do is that there are animals. I’ll admit it – I am so not a city girl. When we first moved here, the pheasants charmed the socks off of yours truly. In the winter, we like walking to the school bus and seeing the different footprints in the snow. We like watching the deer in the woods and all the birds…

But critters can be pesky! Like when the raccoons get into the garbage. Or woodpeckers make you rise and shine at 5 a.m. on a Sunday. Or when the deer…and hang on, I might weep a bit…demolish your beautiful flower garden or carefully tended apple trees!

I grew up on an apple farm and my dad used to spray Hinder around the orchard in the winter. The smaller trees had plastic “mouseguards” to protect their trunks. The family dog looked after groundhogs. And the coyotes? Well, we just left them alone. So…here are a few “Natural” ways to enjoy wildlife and keep away the pesky critter part!

Deer: we’ve tried a few things, but the best we’ve found is moth balls along with bone and blood meal in old pieces of pantyhose. We hang them from every other apple tree and also put one in the spruce that stands in the middle of my perennial bed and that seems to do the trick. At least they stayed away from my lilac, lily and phlox blooms this past summer!

Slugs: Gross, yuck, ick. Did I mention the time one clung to someone’s shoe and came in the house and I stepped on it on the stairs in the dark? (GROSS!) I detest slugs. And they adore my hostas. The kids have great fun rinsing egg shells and then crushing them up to sprinkle around the hostas. I’ve heard coffee grounds work but we’ve never found them as effective as egg shells.

Mice: We had trouble one year and it seemed to be cured by finding the source. But we also have a tent trailer and so our MO for keeping them out of there in the winter is Irish Spring soap. We grate it and put the shavings in little cups all over the trailer and knock on wood- in 4 years we’ve never had a problem.

Woodpeckers: OMG, nesting season and the Northern Flickers thinking our eavestrough was a crucial warning system nearly drove me around the bend. We tried loud noises. We tried stuff on the end of the eaves. In the end…the only thing that had any sort of success was shiny wrapping paper – it was foil type with a swirly patter in silver and gold and we put it up in the windows nearest the corner.

Raccoons: I saw a really funny thing on tv the other day about using coyote urine and truthfully – I’d love to hear if someone has had success with this. The only thing we do? We keep our compost bin and garbage cans away from the house and lids securely on. We bungee the lids on, actually, so they can’t take them off – because they’re sneaky little devils!

What critters do you have around you that are pests? And how do you keep them at a pleasant distance?

On a happier note – I have a new book out this month. BREATHE is available from Samhain Publishing and it is blissfully pest free! A gorgeous winery setting is only topped by a sexy hero IMO…it was one of my favorite books to write. I have to admit this might be my favorite covers so far too!

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Award-winning author Donna Alward has the best job in the world: a combination of stay-at-home mom and romance novelist. In 2001 she penned her first novel and found herself hooked on writing romance. In 2006 she sold her first manuscript, and now writes heartwarming Romances from her home in Nova Scotia, Canada. Donna loves to hear from readers; you can contact her through her website at www.donnaalward.com or through her publisher.

Twitter: @DonnaAlward

22 thoughts on “Oh, Those Pesky Critters!”

  1. Our home backs up to park land. Even though we aren’t right next to the woods, those deer wander between houses to come and stand in our yard. They love our lirope for some reason and I haven’t found a way to keep them at bay. Even the spray ons don’t work.

    I discovered a mouse by accident as he snuck out of the bushes to get fallen bird seed. So this winter the feeders will go out further from the house!

    And we had paper wasps in the house last week when the cold weather set in. That doesn’t bode well for spring since we couldn’t figure out where they were coming from.

    Love the cover of your book too. Looking forward to reading it!

    Peace, Julie

  2. Our worst critters would be the squirrells,they are awful an we have a bunch,sometimes their actions are funny,but I wont harm them,I figure they get run over enought by cars,of course it doesnt help that I have a pear an walnut tree in my front yard,so they are very fat an happy

  3. Love your blog, Donna. My little suburban house has quails, doves and scores of other birds, which I love. Lots of mice in the ivy, but the neighborhood kitties keep the population down. My real plague is SNAILS! They’ll eat almost anything. Tried the natural remedies, but the only thing that seems to work is the bad stuff, which I sprinkle very carefully only in the places where I know they hide. I’ve heard that beer works, but haven’t tried it. Good luck with your slugs, I sympathize.

  4. Julie – the mouse problem we had was because we didn’t have our birdseed tightly secured in the garage, and from there they made their way to our basement. YUCK! We haven’t made that mistake again. Plus we’ve added Mr. Boy (our cat) to the family since then.

    Yuck on wasps too!

    Snails! Elizabeth, have you tried the egg shells that work for slugs?

    Vickie – I’m going to post my reply to yours in another comment…just a sec. 🙂

  5. Vickie – I have a squirrel story for you. The month before I got married, my mom was on holiday and I was staying at the house alone. My aunt came to talk about pictures and when she arrived I had a squirrel cornered in the kitchen. That year they kept getting in the house and squirrels are MESSY! Anyway she freaked, I chased him out the door.

    Fast forward to day before the wedding, and a squirrel had gotten into the church and had nibbled on many of the Thanksgiving decorations (we got married the week after and loved some of the harvest-type decos like indian corn etc.). We cleaned everything up, but let me tell you, I had nightmares about our wedding being a replay of the Mississippi Squirrel Revival a la Ray Stevens!

  6. Donna, sometimes I feel like I’m fighting for my very HOME.

    We lost almost all our sweet corn to raccoons this year. They just STRIPPED it overnight about the second day it was ripe, as if they’d been WAITING, testing it daily, then (in raccoon language) “HEY PARTY AT THE CONNEALY HOUSE!!! SWEET CORN FOR EVERYONE. BRING YOUR FRIENDS!”

    We used to have a dog and that solved everything. Good old Dingo, the austrailian shepherd has gone to the sweet corn patch in the sky though and now we’ve got a fight on our hands.

    I’ve caught mice, snakes and a yicky little MOLE in my basement this year. It’s like Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Freakin’ Kingdom down there.

    We know right where they come in…a…let’s say…VULNERABLE spot in the foundation that so far has defied patching. It’s not just the HOUSE that has settled, apparently the whole PLANET has settled under us.

    We think we’ve caught them all where they came in. Just leave me with my fantasies, okay???

  7. Hi Donna! We’ve got a herd of moles in the backyard, and they’re tunneling under the steps that go up the hill. Are natural pest control consists of our dog, who goes on nightly “mole patrols.” He barks. He digs. He barks. He digs as many holes as the moles! The moles were winning untl the weather turned cold. They seem to have gone away, at least for now.

    I definitely don’t like bugs or mice!

  8. For me it would have to be ground hogs and moles. The ground hogs get my tomatoes every year and the mole tunnel up my lawn. Just can’t seem to get rid of them.

  9. Donna, congratulations on the new book! What a great title and cover. Hope you sell a million copies.

    I understand totally about the pesky critters that plague you. We have field mice and rats here because I live next door to a cotton field. Prairie Dogs and gophers are also pests in this area along with opposums. Seems there are some no matter where you live. New York is battling a bedbug infestation.

  10. Mary – oh major hugs! And I will leave your fantasies alone!

    Victoria and Quilt Lady – my critique partner had major mole problems a few years ago, so I can sympathize. She was so frustrated!

    LINDA! Ok so thanks for the well wishes on the new book (hooray! and I hope it sells like hotcakes at a Stampede Breakfast too!) but YICK on the bedbugs! And Nationals are there this year….*shudders*

  11. We haven’t been bothered much by critters. A big part of that is we are surrounded by fields with not many trees. The groundhogs and starlings have gotten into the garden.
    A have-a-heart trap works well for the rabbits, opossum, and groundhogs that get into our garden. We aren’t too far from a National Forest, so they are let loose there.
    The starlings like to pull up and eat young shoots when the garden first sprouts. Other than yelling at them and helping them get the idea with 22 pellet shot, not much works other than replanting. We may try bird netting one year. I got some for our berry bushes, but haven’t tried it yet.
    Our biggest problem has been bean beetles and aphids. We don’t like to use pesticides, but the soap sprays haven’t worked very well. I read something about using a diluted hot sauce spray and will try it next year.
    The biggest damage done so far was a bear attacking our son in the back yard. He really hopes one comes back – he wants a bear rug and a bit of revenge.
    Our neighbor’s cows got loose once and we discovered they love begonias. They ripped all my planters apart and had a feast.
    Right now, our biggest problem is the mice. We were gone for 2 weeks and the weather turned cold. They got into my two pantry cupboards and chewed into everything, We caught 3 the first day we set traps, but the damage is done. I have to empty everything out and scrub it down. I will be trying your Irish Spring soap idea this week once everything is cleaned up.

  12. Donna,
    I have a squirrel story too–and it is one of those that you could imagine a comic telling if you can picture it. My parents did everything themselves all their lives, so when a squirrel got into their attic my dad had this plan that instead of calling an exterminator, he would climb up into the attic and shoo the squirrel down the vent opening over the stove. My mother was to be waiting under the vent opening with a large paper sack that the squirrel would drop into, and then she would carry it to the back door. During this time in their lives they were in their mid 70’s!All went according to plan until the squirrel dropped into the bag, and my mom of course folded the top down to get it to the back door. The squirrel bit her finger, but she managed to get it to the back door and turn it loose into the back yard. She didn’t tell anyone about it for a week, just doctored it and kept it clean. We were so mad at her when we found out, because of course we were worried the squirrel had rabies or something. Turns out it was just scared out of its wits. Both my parents are gone now, but I can just picture that scene in my mind, my dad up there trying to wrangle the squirrel and my mom waiting there, probably surprised as heck when the plan worked and the squirrel dropped into her bag. LOL
    Cheryl

  13. Patricia – many a Sunday morning started with a bang at our house as my Dad went at the starlings.

    Cheryl….LOL! You know I tried to save a chipmunk from a friend’s prowling cat once and got bit for my troubles. I haven’t really felt sorry for chipmunks or rodents since…

  14. Thank you Donna for all the stories. I have read all the above and am still laughing. But, these pests aren’t funny when you are dealing with them. First I have Raccoons! They are giant ones and will challenge you if you try to get them away from the garbage cans. Coyote urine??? How do you get a coyote to pee in a cup???
    Then we have many coveys of quail come through. They aren’t pests, but just fun to watch.
    We had so many moles that I gave up having a lawn. There were so many tunnels in the yard that if you stepped off the walkway you sank in up to your ankles. Not fun.
    My daughter had to contend with bears all summer at her job in Mammoth Lakes. That wasn’t fun either.
    Great blog. Didn’t realize so many of you lived out and not in the city.

  15. DEER!!! We use a spray called Liquid Fence. It is a mixture of eggs, garlic and other smelly things. It really smells awful—but it works.

  16. Donna, I live in Canada as well, but I am no where near a big city, I am apparently living in a fishing and hunting paradise, but it is lost on me! Deer walk down the street, I’ve seen foxes in our yard, and coyotes. I had a black bear one summer tear the garbage cans to bits. Sigh.

  17. Maybe it’s because we’re city folk,but we actually like to have the critters come around. Racoons often come to eat — and usually ask — we had a family of opossums living under our porch — they don’t smell particularly good, by the way.

    But I certainly wouldn’t want to have coyotes come around — we have cats and so we keep our home fenced in nicely — and the cats come in at night.

    Coyote urine… Goodness!

  18. Karen – I love watching them, but I just hate seeing my gardens get demolished. And my problem with raccoons is bacteria – leptospirosis which can be particularly nasty.

    I keep wondering if we’re going to see bears, because we have a ton of berries around our place. None yet, though. Our cat is an indoor kitty – not because of coyotes, but ospreys and eagles!

    And so yeah, while they’re pesky at times, it sure beats living in the city. 🙂

  19. What a great post, Donna. I am a surbanite but…I’m as rural as one can be in So.Cal. Some people say we are the bottom of the Central coast, not so-cal anymore. Anyway, we don’t get many critters on our little cul-de-sac. But last fall, we had a squirrel, and he’d show up for about six months. He was just my sweetheart. There is a batch of big raven-crow things that live in a nearby tree, and I think they would squawk at him, but my neighbor says she saw him recently. I miss him…once he came right up to the back door. Oh Im iss my Rocket J.

  20. I live in the suburbs and have to admit I love all critters. Since I feed strays and ferals that means other wildlife horns in on the cat food. I have the largest raccoons you’ve ever seen, and possums. I’ve only seen one skunk luckily lol. The cats will stand aside near the wildlife and when they haven eaten all their food, they beg for more, knowing they will get it (sigh).

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