In the past I have mentioned that The Havens is a Certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat. If you search the blog for “Habitat” you will find several posts on the subject.
I made a pretty comprehensive post about the vegetable garden a while back. Things have not changed a lot back there since that post, although we are in the process of removing the perimeter of grass that surrounds the beds. Right now this involves covering the area with carpet in an attempt to smother the grass. This is varyingly successful depending on the quality of the carpet used. But at least it is being discouraged. Eventually we will remove some dirt and put in weed barrier and something to walk on. Bark seems to work pretty well, as does pea gravel. This is still to be decided.
I am excited to report that we have a screech owl hunting here. I have not figured out where it sleeps yet, but there are lots of trees with holes on the place so I’m sure it has a nice bedroom. However, it likes to sit on top of the frame that holds the swing out by the pond. I found one of its pellets the other day, all full of mouse fur and beautiful green beetle wing covers. The latter surprised me a bit, as I was not aware the screech owls eat beetles. But I did a little research and found out that not only do they eat baby rabbits (Yay!), they also eat other mammals, crayfish, insects, earth worms, small birds, and a whole lot of other stuff that you wouldn’t necessarily think that an owl eats.
In other news, we have been blessed (and I use that term advisedly) with another new addition to the habitat. Apparently The Havens has been certified habitable by the local groundhogs (Marmota monax). This species has colonized the yard more than once. The last time there was a ground hog living here the garden fence got another layer of security added, so I’m not too upset that we have a new colonist in residence. So far she has stayed out of the vegetable garden. Honestly, there is PLENTY for her and her family to eat around here without decimating the garden. I noticed that she seems to like sweet cicely pretty well.
Anyway, I mentioned the extra level of security for the vegetable garden fence. The previous ground hog had discovered that it could tunnel under the fence and access all that succulent produce within. We acquired a live trap, and placed it strategically in front of the hole.
“Fools!” the groundhog muttered, as it dug a new hole a few feet down the fence.
We got another live trap and stationed it by the second hole. It was just as easy to dig a third access hole…
We cogitated about the situation for a while, did a little on-line research, and then Jim went off to the farm supply emporium and acquired some chicken wire. Attaching it securely to the outside of the fence about 18 inches up, at ground level he bent it outward and allowed it to extend out along the ground so that there was a strip of chicken wire about 18″ out onto the grass. He got some landscape “staples” and secured the wire to the ground.
The groundhog thought about the situation for about 30 seconds and found a spot where the wire wasn’t really tight to the ground and wiggled its way under the chicken wire to its favorite hole under the fence. This is where it made its strategic error.
Apparently beguiled and distracted by the crunching of my fine lettuce, it did not notice us approaching the garden until the gate opened.
“Yaaaaaah!” is a pretty good approximation of its reaction to our sudden advent, especially since we happened to have Ruby with us. Ruby chased the groundhog to its hole and then sped around through the gate to behind the fence to continue the pursuit. The panicked rodent did not leave the same way it entered and found that the chicken wire was a lot more secure than it had seemed at first blush. Tangled up in the chicken wire, it was having a huge groundhog heart attack since Ruby was bouncing around as it flailed its way out from under the wire. Off it went to its tunnel, with Ruby in hot pursuit.
Jim addressed the loose wire situation, tightening it up and adding several more anchors. The groundhog crouched in its burrow, apparently a victim of PTSD. During the night, it moved away, never to return. I guess the neighborhood was just too stressful for it.
Anyway, the new groundhog doesn’t care about the garden (so far). It has lovely accommodations on the root cellar mound, and one of its progeny or its mate is busy digging an extensive burrow inside the barn. We are not really too happy about the barn situation, as it is tunneling under the slab of concrete that makes Jim’s shop floor, and making a hell of a mess inside the rest of the barn with its dirt pile. I have visions of the barn falling into the hole it is digging down there.
Anyway, neither of our tenants is going to be all that happy about their living situations, because we have plans for both areas. We are planning to improve the barn substantially. When that happens I sincerely hope that no groundhogs get entombed beneath the new concrete slab floor that is going to be poured. But if they are, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.
Also, we have acquired solar panels, and we are going to install them this summer. This is a long involved project that begins with the moving of the dirt pile that we have established back near the root cellar. That root cellar never had enough dirt on it, and because of that it has never been stable in temperature, being too cold in the winter and too warm in the summer. So we intend to have a dirt worker come along with equipment and move our dirt pile onto the root cellar. Unfortunately, this is going to seriously discommode the groundhogs living there but they are not an endangered species and I can live with that.
Pretty enterprising mammal, though. I was investigating the burrow the other day, and I discovered that the ground had found a piece of reflectix insulation that was in the barn and had hauled it all the way out to the root cellar and was attempting to drag the whole sheet down into its burrow. I guess even groundhogs know the value of insulating their home!
So, there you are. The Havens wildlife habitat is still a destination.