Eaten out of House and Home

We must not think that the Turk[ey] is so unskillful
To leave that latest which concerns him first...

~Othello, Act 1, scene 3

Yesterday we spent the first day of summer vacation having family fun in Boston. Little did we know that while we were living it up, the same was happening in our garden:

This used to be our nicest, biggest head of broccoli. It was about a day or two from picking.

Here's another, which has a few nubs of broccoli left ungnawed. How thoughtful. Broccoli eaten whole: 19. Broccoli eaten partially: 4. Broccoli left unscathed: 4. 

Also, a whole cabbage here was mowed down. The bright side on this one is that we still have at least a dozen left, unharmed. The leftover leaves on this one went right to the chickens, so I suppose that's another glimmer of a silver lining as well.

Carrot tops: chewed. I don't think this will spell the end of the carrots. Lots of leaves are left, so they will likely be slowed down as they sprout new ones, but should be ok. 

Romaine lettuce heads that were ready to be eaten starting this weekend? All chewed. The damage doesn't look that bad on these until you look closely — and until you remember how nice and big and full they were yesterday morning. This sets us back a week or two in the salad department. Sure, we still have our overgrown cold frame lettuces, but they are old and getting bitter in our record-breaking heat.

Chewed on but not pictured: parsley, a few peas, other lettuces, and parsnip tops.

Earmuffs, kids: What the fuck?

This is a ton of damage in a very short time: between noon and sundown in just one day. And the broccoli shows that this had to be something big: definitely too high off the ground to be a chipmunk, and we can't figure squirrels to be much interested in any of these things (although it's possible that we've driven them to it by protecting all our fruit by wrapping it in netting). Still, it sure looks like something big came lumbering through, because it ate a lot. With the broccoli, the bites are several feet off the ground, but lower leaves and stalks are intact — as if something reached down from above.

Our first thought was groundhogs. They suck, and we know it from experience, but we've seen zero evidence of them so far this year. And they aren't that tall, either.

And then we saw these in the lawn:

That is a wild turkey feather. Aha! I think we have our culprit. They forage for lots of things, and I read that they will occasionally eat from people's gardens. 

Well, damn. That's just terrible luck. They don't come around too often, and if we were home, they would have skipped our yard, or we could have scared them away (I'm envisioning a soaking with the garden hose on full blast). But the one night we're out, bam

Still, we need to step up our animal defenses. Today Kirk got some more chicken wire to use with these stakes that came with the house:

We should probably have this level of protection around everything, but we just don't have the materials. We decided to use it around the cabbage, which is mostly still in good shape. The broccoli will be left unprotected, but perhaps we'll get some side shoots in a few weeks.

For the salad greens and carrots, I used stakes and netting, just like we did last fall when our beans were getting chewed on. In the past it has been just enough to frustrate the predator into moving on to something easier. It's also kind of invisible, unless you look pretty closely: 

This is less sturdy than the chicken wire, but we already own the stakes and lots of netting. To cover the two salad beds, I used the stakes that were previously holding the row cover cloth over the sunflowers. This seems to have worked in keeping the chipmunks away so far, and now that the plants are bigger, I went with something different:

I cut the bottoms off of Solo cups and set them around the seedlings, pressed into the dirt to create a barrier. I am hoping that these will protect the seedlings from any chipmunk that still wants to dig — and hopefully the edges go down far enough into the soil to frustrate them. 

Finally, Kirk fixed the gate latch by the driveway, so we have a secure perimeter. This might keep the turkeys out. Again, I know they can jump over it if they want, but we're counting on having lazy and/or stupid animals in our neighborhood. 


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