Written by: MARIA DAVIES
We share our island world with many creatures of both the two and four-footed variety. To what degree the human islanders share depends on their particular tolerance level and general approach to critters. Hubby and I fall into the quite tolerant camp – but we do have our limits.
Though we are the ones doing all the work in the garden, we will allow some of our fellow creatures to share in the fruits of our labor – the operative word here being “share”. We don’t believe in using pesticides, herbicides, or any other “cides”. For the most part, this has worked in our favor, however, we have had to devise a few additional methods to discourage overzealous foragers. After all, there is a big difference between sharing and pillaging.
Some of our island gardening precautions include:
- Spraying everything with a solution of dish soap and water
- Cutting up plastic bags and tying them on stakes around tomatoes and other taller plants
- Putting a wire basket around beans until they are strong enough to start climbing the poles (by which time, they are not so tasty to chew on), and
- Attaching sticky strips we found in the hardware store (like the old-fashioned fly strips – anyone remember those?)
And yet in spite of all these precautions, we recently found ourselves out foxed by what we came to call, The Mysterious Night Marauder. Every night, something was mowing down just about all the leafy vegetables we had planted. And by “mowing down”, I mean all the way down to the ground. Cabbages gone, bok choy gone. There during the day, gone by the next morning. We were stumped as to what could possibly be doing this. All we knew is that it had to be something pretty hungry – and pretty big. For weeks we kept our guard, but were never able to spot the culprit.
Then, early one evening, Hubby was about to work the compost into the ground and happened to look up at just the right moment. Seated on the top of the chain link fence was an opossum (or a manicou, as they’re called here on my rock), looking impatient and not at all amused. He stared at Hubby smugly as if to say, “Are you done yet, Human? I want my dinner early tonight.”
Culprit found! Mystery solved! But now what?
Short of setting out a trap – which we were NOT going to do – the only thing we could come up with was to stop planting the things he preferred, all of which were in the Brassica family. Annoying? Yes. But if we’ve learned anything at all in our time on-island, it’s that sometimes (ok, more than sometimes) life doesn’t go as planned and you must be flexible.
So we waited a couple of weeks, gave up on our leafy green dreams, and decided to re-plant the beans. This time, we put wire cages around the seedlings and congratulated ourselves on our forward thinking. They grew beautifully, and we saw no sign of the Night Marauder. It seemed he got tired of seeing nothing to his liking, and moved on. Big sigh of relief and victory dance!
After the bean plants got about a foot high and started climbing up the poles, we stuck them in the ground and took off the wire cages. First day: beautiful, healthy beans. Second day: same thing. Third day: demolished. Everything was gone except for the stalks.
AAARRRGGHH!! Frustration City.
Gardening on a rock is no small feat. Between getting the necessary supplies and putting in the hours tending it in the heat, it’s already a labor of love. But to not be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor because some creature decides to destroy your efforts in one fell swoop? Well that’s about where we’ve had it.
We were seriously reconsidering trapping the critter, though it was weighing heavily on our conscience. While mulling this over, I was hanging laundry outside to dry, and saw a bright green streak zip past me. After it came to a stop, I could see that it was the most gorgeous, bright emerald green iguana. It sat there staring back at me for a few moments, then ran through the vegetables and disappeared.
As it turned out, we were trying our Night Marauder for two crimes he seemed to be only partially responsible for. The opossum was merely one of two (or potentially more) thieves.
Once we realized it was not just one creature, but two, we felt on the verge of being out-numbered. A serious re-evaluation of our gardening efforts is taking place. Is this all worth the trouble? Are we willing to engage in further battle?
We’ve tabled the garden pursuits for the moment. We finally have our home and will be moving shortly, so continuing the war here at this place seems worthless. All we can do at this point is hope fervently that there will be no masked night marauders or emerald green thieves in our new neighborhood… however foolish that dream may be.