Last week in the garden we were stymied by excess rain (yet again). Beasties were eating our crops. I caught two groundhogs already, snacking on our kale. In the process of trapping groundhogs in a live trap, I accidentally caught a skunk. This happened last year and I wrote about it on my blog, SustainableMarketFarming.com. It could even have been the same silly skunk - it had a lot of white and not much black to its fur.
So, how to let the skunk out of the trap without arousing its ire? We brainstormed a bit and I told the crew what I did last year, using sticks to open the trap and a plastic sack to screen myself. One of the crew came up with a better idea, which I'm passing on, in case you ever need to know! She got a large piece of cloth, draped it over the trap and then delicately opened the trap by hand, through the fabric. It worked like a charm. The skunk ambled out. But then it turned round and went back in, back to sleep. Skunks are nocturnal, so I suppose it thought better of setting out in bright daylight to find a new place to sleep. We left the trap open all night, and in the morning it had gone.
The fabric was so perfect we are now keeping it in the garden shed in case we need it again. It was a large piece of knit polyester - thick, drapeable, washable, and not the sort of thing anyone would have wanted to make clothes out of!
Meanwhile, we have also had a burrowing animal biting off our broccoli seedlings from flats in the cold frame. It isn't eating them, just cutting them down and stashing them in piles. My prime suspects are moles. Although carnivores, they apparently use leaves to line their nests. We tried hot pepper on the seedlings, the rain washed it off. We set the flats on landscape fabric. Now they chew through the landscape fabric. The tunnels are too big for voles or mice. We tried to fob them off with old lettuce, and spare kale seedlings. On my blog, I asked anyone who had ideas to please leave a comment.
I got a great response to my post from Joanna Reuter, who farms at Chert Hollow Farm in Missouri. She and her partner Eric run an inspiring website, and what sounds like an inspiring farm too, although I've never been there. Joanna suggested I could line the coldframe with hardware cloth. She also shared that they have had similar experiences with skunks in traps. Once when the trap was in a busy work area, they draped a sheet over the trap, tied a rope to it, and dragged it to a less busy area to release the skunk. She said she had read that skunks can't spray from within a trap because the trap isn’t big enough for them to adopt the spraying posture. But they didn't want to test that theory! Nor do we!
Joanna also told me that according to the Missouri mammal book, skunks eat moles. So she suggested if we caught another one, we could release it near the coldframe…. That gave me a chuckle. I value skunks for eating ticks, but I can't quite see them eating a mole. Maybe Missouri skunks are really big. . .
Meanwhile, back to thinking about the moles. Lining the coldframe with hardware cloth would probably work, but would be expensive and inconvenient. We’re thinking next year we should get rid of the moles somehow before we put any flats in the frame. In the winter we grow spinach in our cold frames. We could try trapping and/or planting Mole Plant there. Then line the coldframe really thoroughly and fully with the landscape fabric, making sure there are no gaps. Part of the problem might have been that we cleared the spinach and lined the coldframe in sections, so the critters found the broccoli. Maybe if we had been more thorough they would never have thought it worthwhile to chew through the landscape fabric. Photo credits: Wikipedia.org; Grainger.com
Since 1991, Pam has been living in central Virginia, at Twin Oaks Community, an egalitarian, secular, income-sharing, work-sharing ecovillage established in 1967. There she helps grow food for around 100 people on three and a half acres and provides training in sustainable vegetable production for community members, practicing farming with awareness of ecology, finite resources and the future of the planet.