Living in the open chaparral has its high and low points. There is something timeless yet awe-inspiring to see how life adapts to this rather extreme environment. It’s a dry, stoic life in the scrub community, but there are also points of intricate delicacy and amazing moments of blazing beauty.
In all parts of the world it is important for human development to work in tandem with nature. Whenever we get too arrogant with our demands, nature seems to set us back into humility with earthquakes, floods, storms, disease or some other form of rebalancing. Personally, I think this is exactly how it should be as the human ego tends to become way too selfish if not kept in bounds. I don’t think people are the only valuable beings on this planet. All life and non-life are inextricably interconnected.
On the other hand, sometimes living with nature’s other denizens can be severely trying to a person. Rodent pests in the chaparral garden is one case in point.
Perhaps it’s because of the increase in human population or maybe it’s a result of the long term drought but the life that seems to be thriving best in my part of the chaparral are the rodents. These creatures have adapted well to human civilization becoming well fed and comfortably housed. Many of their predators, on the other hand, are being reduced in number by human expansion.
Have you ever tried keeping mice, rats and ground squirrels out of the vegetable garden? With their flexible skull structures, these critters can fit through anything their heads can penetrate and often that means the tiniest of holes.
There are a number of poisons on the market that will help control rodents, but they are very toxic to pets and other wildlife as well as humans. There was a product called ‘Rode-Trol’ out a few years ago that was safe and actually worked well, but for some reason — I was told the EPA wouldn’t approve it — the company was denied production. Banning easy, safe products really worries me if that’s what happened. But for the most part it seems to me the only way left, especially to use around edibles, is a physical barrier. And creating an open-air space with something like small gauge chicken wire or hardware cloth that will be impenetrable by these wily rodents is a very tall order.
I’d be willing to share, but most rodents will collect anything — plant, fruit or seed — that they don’t eat on the spot. Worse, I haven’t gotten a single thank you note after my garden has been raided and stripped bare.
I will continue the war with my local chaparral rodent pests. I will carefully ration out the last of my Rode-Trol, build enclosures and do my best to control these critters. And I’ve found if I start the most pest-attracting seeds indoors and allow the plants to reach a reasonable size before introducing them to my vegetable garden, at least some of them withstand the ravenous onslaught.
I’d love to let my accomplished hunter-cat, Nori, out to patrol the garden, but nighttime is when the rodents are most active and the little feline would be more likely to become prey to coyotes or owls rather than predator. So he’ll keep his job guarding the garage instead. Has anyone had any success with a pet bobcat? Maybe that’s what I should try next.