Corn · Fun · Gardening · Musings · Wildlife

Stealth Mama

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Remember our corn with the pink hair?  Part of the 3 Sisters gardens?  Yeah.

Well, we picked a couple of ears a little while ago and though they looked fully matured on the outside, the kernels were still small and flavorless.

Ah well, lesson learned.

So we waited a bit longer, and watched, happily, as more ears grew to full size.

Earlier this week, on one of our morning meanderings through the yard, Bill decided to check an ear to see if the kernels were mature enough (you know, they cleaned their rooms without being asked, didn’t roll their eyes when we said stuff, made sound financial decisions) to be harvested.  He peeled back the husk and pressed against one of the kernels with his thumb nail.  It was not milky yet – the innards of the kernel – so the corn wasn’t ready.  Oh well, what’s another day or two?

And then he noticed this:

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Someone has been eating our corn!

We stared, horrified, at the destruction.

This ear is about 3 feet off the ground.

What could have done it?

We have only seen one deer in the neighborhood in all the years we’ve been here (and we didn’t even see it.  Bill’s brother saw it one morning when he was here for a visit.  He got a quick picture with his phone and then it was gone.) but still, it was possible.  But…it didn’t seem likely.

We looked at the rest of the corn…and found more destruction.  All at about the 3’ mark or so.

Including this:

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Something had tried to get at the corn but had been interrupted or had decided our immature corn wasn’t worth the effort.

Either way, we looked at the husk…it looked like something had been gnawing.

We figured if it had been something big, like a raccoon, the whole stalk would have been pulled over, just due to the animal’s weight.

So something smaller…

Rabbits?  They just eat the clover.  And they aren’t built to climb.  Plus, they’re so cute.  They couldn’t possibly be eating our corn.  It’s a rule.

Squirrels!

Squirrels like corn, too!  You can buy those bags of dried ears of corn to feed to your squirrels so that they will leave the bird food alone, right?  (Not that it works, in my opinion.  The squirrels just have a larger variety at the buffet…)   

So…how to thwart them? 

We picked 3 ears of corn that hadn’t been chewed upon, just as a sort of So there! to the thieving varmints.  Fully mature or not, those ears were ours.

And we tried to think of a way to protect the other as yet uneaten ears.

The next day – more carnage…

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So frustrating…but we didn’t know what to do. 

Last evening, after dinner out on the deck with the kids (homemade sausage, homemade tomatillo salsa with home grown tomatillos, chili peppers, onion, and a tomato, and tortilla chips (from the store – can’t do everything ourselves all the time), Bill and I lingered in our chairs after the kids had gone inside.

It was a lovely night – comfortable temperature, mostly clear sky with a few pretty cloud formations to marvel at, and assorted birds flitting here and there.

We sat, relaxing, finishing the last of the salsa and chips.  Summer vacation is drawing to a close – this is the last full week Bill and the kids will have before the school year starts up again.

Bill was talking, and I was listening and looking around our glorious jungle of a yard.  Earlier we’d watched a male cardinal hunt a cicada through the air and down onto our lawn.  I never thought of cardinals as birds of prey, but this one certainly was.

We’ve seen robins and bluejays and sparrows and starlings and cardinals and tufted titmice and chickadees and carolina wrens and goldfinches this summer.  There have probably been hummingbirds as well – there usually are – we just haven’t caught a glimpse of them.

As Bill talked, I noticed one of the cornstalks sway back and forth a bit – like a bird had landed on it and set it to rocking.

I watched and waited, trying to see what kind of bird it was…and then…it occurred to me…that it wasn’t really swaying like a bird had landed.

It was more like

something

was climbing it!

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Instantly I was on alert.

Yes, if I was a dog or a cat, my ears would have pricked up. 

I stood and hissed at Bill – who was still talking – to stay there…that I saw…something.

I crept – silently on my little barefoot kitchen witch feet (perfect for stalking)…

across the deck…

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down the steps…

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and up

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the

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driveway

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barely breathing

soundless

eyes on that swaying stalk

closer

balanced on the balls of my feet

closer

still silent

closer

bill said something and i flicked my hand at him because if I said “shhhhh” it might scare the whatever-it-was away

almost there

al

most

there

and then I saw it

clinging to the stalk and chewing on ONE OF OUR EARS OF CORN!

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it was gray

it had short fur

and

I realized what it was and I shrieked like a little girly-girl:

IT’S A RAT!”

and I scampered (again, like a girly-girl) back to the deck.

And felt immediately embarrassed at my cowardly display.

But yes, that’s what’s been eating our corn.

A rat.

Or rats.

Ugh.

So Bill put out two rat traps last night.  One at the base of that stalk, and one near the further back raised bed.  Why there?  Because of the dug-up dirt outside the railroad ties that form the garden’s walls.  Some little creature had been digging a hole or a tunnel. 

We’d thought it was a chipmunk, because we’ve spotted some chipmunks frolicking on the wood piles in the driveway.

But I guess we were wrong.

Bill praised my observation skills (and I pointed out my superior stalking ability as well) in solving the mystery, and he filled the kids in as well.

“Mommy figured it out!”  “Good job Mom!” 

It’s nice to be a super hero occasionally.  And they weren’t witness to the shrieking.

Anyway…

Bill baited the traps with peanutbutter and some fresh corn kernels.

And we went to bed.

This morning, we checked the traps.

The one in the corn garden was untouched.

But the other one?

Dead rat.

Ugh.

Bill held it up and asked if I could identify it as the rat I’d witnessed eating our corn. 

Um…well…it’s gray.

Next, before disposing of the rat, Bill went inside (not carrying the rat!) and yelled up the stairs to Alex.

“Alex!  Wanna see a dead rat?”

“Yeah!”

Both kids trooped down the stairs, in their pajamas, and outside to look at the corpse.

They’ve seen a dead rat or two in their lifetimes, so this wasn’t cause for a whole lot of animated response.  They just stared for a moment, and then went back inside. 

The rat was soon disposed of, and the traps put back in the garage until tonight, when we will set them again. 

Just in case there are more.

Ick.

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One thought on “Stealth Mama

  1. Congratulations! Hubby had a rat out in the garage one evening and thought it was a pet belonging to a neighbor. VERY bold rat to be roaming around in the garage while he was out there. But then hubby had probably been talking to it sweetly… silly city boy. It was getting fat and sassy on the bird feed we had in the corner.

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