Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How do you get rid of a raccoon that moves in for the winter?

Roxy started barking about 2AM Tuesday night - I made repeated trips out to have stern words with the dogs - they looked properly remorseful - but as soon as I returned to bed the barking began again. Finally I went to sleep about 3:30 - the barking continued keeping Judy awake until dawn. All Wednesday the dogs were skiterish all day -making frequent trips to the garage as if they were searching for something. Faced with another sleepless night we joined the dogs in their search., Judy spotted the familiar black eyes of a large raccoon staring back at her from the rafters. That wild animal seemed to have settled in and was in no mood to move - especially with two hyperactive dogs barking and jumping down below. Judy took the dogs into the house and the raccoon and I stared at each other. Finally in desperation I attached a loop of wire to a long pole and cautiously reached up into the rafters. Without much difficulty I slipped the wire over the animal's neck. Now it got exciting! I gently pulled and "encouraged" the raccoon to "climb" down the wall of the garage - jumping from stud to stud. Once on the floor his full displeasure became apparent - hissing and snarling at me - this was definitely a very angry and defensive animal! I escorted him out doors. Now I suddenly realized that my new problem was how to remove the wire from the animals neck. I yelled to Judy - she came running - but didn't shut the door completely - so the dogs were back... they turned form gentle little house dogs into wild noisy fierce hunters - They were trying their best to get a good hold on the raccoon with their teeth, and the raccoon was attempting to defend itself - and I was trying to prevent damage to them or to the animal. Judy finally got the dogs back in the house - and I grabbed a pair of wire cutters and walked the raccoon over to the edge of the yard and pulling the wire tight, I cut the loop free. The raccoon bounded away - hopefully never to be seen again. My neighbor Bill said - "Oh he will be back - Raccoons always return again..." We can only hope he is gone for good.

Finally - Rain! Well, at least a little...

Quarry Lakes Regional Park - Behind our house

The usual implications of "seasons" don’t have much meaning in Northern California. With our first rain we have moved from the dry season to the green season. Grasses and seasonal plants are emerging from their summer dormancy and the hills show signs of green. We have had only about ¾ inch of rain since June but its enough. Bulbs are emerging; perennial plants are starting to stir… This season of growth will be a long protracted unfolding of one plant variety after another when conditions of moisture, temperature, and light give the required stimulus for grow and flowering. We will have a few days with freezing in January – and that will certainly limit the growth of some plants...but is all part of the expected growth pattern for plants found in the Mediterranean growth biome. The trick is to only plant what grows naturally in these conditions.

Vertical gardens

Tanzanian sack garden - July is mid winter in Tanzania -
so this sack garden was not fully grown out at the time of this photo

While Judy and I were in Tanzania this summer we saw family farmers growing amazing vertical gardens in large synthetic fiber grain bags. First they insert a pipe in the center and filled it with coarse gravel, then added around the outside a mixture of top soil, animal manure, green manure, ashes, compost… The pipe is removed, and water can be added through the gravel to travel evenly throughout the mass. Kitchen gray water is often used with good results. Then holes were made in the side of the bag and garden vegetables were planted --- mostly salad greens and cooking greens, onions, etc. A system like this is good for 3-4 years before it needs to be redone. More compost and manure and soil can be added as needed to maintain the full sack as the mass settles. Adding earthworms also helps to add nitrogen and to keep the soil open.

My Northern California vertical garden

I returned home and built my version of the system: I started by using heavy gauge fencing material (about 3 ft. diameter) with 2” x 6” spacing. The inside is lined with soil weed guard cloth. I purchased a length of 4” plastic pipe for the center, which I filled with gravel… and then proceeded to mix top soil, my back yard compost, green waste, a sack of steer manure … and placed the mixture between the weed guard cloth and the central pipe.

Once filled, I removed the pipe and watered the soil mixture. Judging by the internal temperature, it took a few days for the system to “mellow” – the effect of the steer manure. Then I make holes in the sides of the system adding salad greens, kale, Italian parsley, and onions, mustard greens… Even during hot spells I found that I only needed to water about once every 3-4 days. During rainy times the mass avoids becoming soggy.

I have since created a second garden and planted strawberries.

This system seems to me to be ideal for many California home and apartment dwellers with small back yards. It can be set up in the location with the most sun. Even then the system does have different microclimates depending on where in the system the plants are placed.