Grow tomatoes, they said

Back when we first moved into our house, and I was trying to build a garden that wouldn’t be raided by wildlife, people told me: “Plant tomatoes. The animals won’t touch them.” I didn’t plant tomatoes. I don’t like tomatoes. I like lots of things made from tomatoes: pizza sauce, tomato soup, marinara, but an actual tomato has just the right texture to make me flinch when I bite into it. I’m a freak, I know, but there’s just something about the feel of a tomato that makes my tongue want to retreat down my throat.

Instead, I spent lots of time fortifying my garden. The effort paid off. I made my garden impervious to rabbits and groundhogs, etc., just in time to abandon gardening in order to take up the hobby of raising children. Through all the years my garden lay fallow, I took pride in knowing herbivores could not get at the various weeds filling the space.

This year, my wife took an interest in gardening. Men familiar with wives will understand this means she did a lot of pointing while I did an equal amount of digging around in dirt. The pointing was crucial; without it, I may not have understood which dirt I was to play in.

In our refurbished garden, we kept it simple, planting only cucumbers and peas. The cucumbers went wild, overrunning the peas as well as the garden fence. It’s a good thing we didn’t plant tomatoes in there; they wouldn’t have stood a chance against the invading cucumber hordes.

Cucumber plants going over the wall to carry their conquest into the back yard proper.

My wife likes tomatoes. She likes them a lot. So, we planted some tomatoes in a pot on our deck. They prospered well, until the fruit started to turn red. Then we began to find bites taken out of them. The Internet cast the blame at squirrels. The Internet casts blame for a lot of things at squirrels. I’m sure some of it is justified, but I bet some of it is thrown at them based solely upon reputation. Squirrels have a PR problem.

I wrapped chicken wire (or as the chickens prefer: flightless bird wire) around the pot. The depredations continued unabated. A friend suggested it must be birds attacking our tomatoes, but I’ve seen the mouths on the birds around our place and I doubt they’d leave teeth marks.

One day I noticed movement inside the wire. As I came closer, the movement noticed me. Up the wire scampered a dirty little red-faced chip monk. He leapt from the wire to the deck railing and was gone before I could do more than stomp my foot and yell at him to get a job.

What a nice chap. He left half of the only ripe one for us.

We slid the pot away from the railing and removed the accommodating wire. The thievery continues unabated.

To date, the tomato arithmetic has worked itself to a ratio of one tomato for us, one tomato for Chip. I guess that makes us Nature’s perfect socialists.

The three words that best describe you are Stink, Stank, Stunk

Conventional wisdom says wildlife is the innocent victim when people move into the swamps. The animals in our neck of the swamp couldn’t be happier that such a generous species came and built houses for them to live under.

Here comes trouble

Doesn’t matter the season, these guys are always ready to drop in.

The deer love our gardens. Our bird feeders save the squirrels untold time and effort finding 18 square meals per day. The “Little Man who lives under the porch” (probably a woodchuck, though ethnic origins shouldn’t matter) burrows himself into our hospitality often. Field Mice have bunked with our accommodating cat.

life in the suburbs

Then there was this guy, who took a four-hour nap in our back yard last fall.

In February, a skunk set up housekeeping under our deck. We’ve entertained skunks before, but this one was special. Every night it would light up our house with the tangiest batch of squeezin’s we’d ever breathed.

Having repelled its kind before with ammonia-soaked rags, this was our first defense. But when it is 0°F (-18°C) outside, ammonia does more freezing than stinking. Skunks stink grandly at any temperature.

It got so bad it kept us up all night, and some of us puked. My wife claimed it was making her uterus contract, which seemed a stretch, but maybe not.

Animal Control would attempt to trap the skunk for many bags of gold, but for some reason they didn’t feel confident of success. They said it was probably a female, attracting a mate.

That tore it.

It’s one thing to be smoked out of your home by some poor creature protecting herself, but we run a respectable household. She could do her whorin’ elsewhere. We weren’t about to stand idle while Pepina Le Pew advertised booty calls with her Love Potion Number Noxious.

le pew

Get your girl, Pepe, or you’re gonna find your brood a little larger than you bargained for. (Warner Bros.)

My wife had the first whack. “I went out with a baseball bat, but she wasn’t there,” she said.

“You realize you could have got sprayed?” I asked.

Her voice was monotone, the cold, murderous voice of exhaustion. “Yeah, but she’d be dead. It’d be so worth it.”

I bought stuff skunks dislike and air freshener. Lots of air freshener. All the different brands.

I tied dryer bags of Stank Skank’s least favorite things all around the deck. (The air freshener was for us.) My fingers were good and numb by the end, but that was a small price. We put as much noise and light on the area as we could.

It seemed to get her out from under the deck, but lonely boys with time on their hands still came looking for a little stinking tenderness at night. Periodic whiffs of her jilted lovers’ agonies sent us spiraling into Post Traumatic Skunk Disorder.

We built a snow berm around the deck to make it harder to use as a kiosk for their scented love notes. With the help of used kitty litter we seem to be making progress. The attacks are fewer, but I won’t declare victory until we can invite company into our house again.

snow fortress

The arrival of March means our snow fortress is melting. I hope this doesn’t mean a pick up in business for the brothel.

And my wife’s uterus? Someone explained it this way: She was smelling the pheromones of the dominant female in heat. Her body was syncing itself to that lead.

I was a little surprised at how easily my wife rolled over for a skunk. But I felt better when I recalled that she was about to go get her Alpha crown back with a baseball bat. Now that’s my girl.