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Gardening with Critters

September 13, 2010

It was the end of the day, just before the eggs are gathered and the hens secured for the night, when I began watering the potted plants around the outside of the house. Ralphie was with me, sniffing the bushes and the air. The faucet, and hose with an adjustable nozzle on the end is next to marigolds in a tall, wrought iron wall stand, so I water them first. Feeling the fall air against my back, I was in deep thought about fall annuals when a vole suddenly ran up the wall and under the fascia board. I quickly turned the nozzle to ‘jet’ to flush out the vole. For some reason, I thought I was fast enough to drop the hose (should he reappear), grab the nearby shovel, and whack him flat. I aimed the jet spray into the narrow crack along the length of the fascia board. Coming to the end of a small opening, he flew out and landed on the porch wall, several feet away.

That was when I thought, “Hey, voles don’t have wings. Bats do!”

Ralphie was at my side by then; his head tilted wondering why I was moving so fast. I put the hose down and ran for the camera. As I tried to get a good photo, some distance away (I need a better camera for long-range photography), the poor bat was desperately searching for a crack between the ceiling and the wall, for another safe haven. Once I clicked the camera, I let the bat alone, and watered the large ivy topiaries a couple of feet away. It takes a few minutes for the water to run out of the bottom of the pots, so I sat on the bench when out jumped a dozen tiny frogs. They congregated around my shoes—also looking for a safe haven. Not a bad idea.

I’m not afraid of frogs, voles, or bats. They’re harmless, especially the frogs who in their own way are adorable. I just don’t like to openly engage in the company of voles and bats. Gardening is more pleasurable when critters of certain types remain concealed underground, or tucked beneath a bush. They can live on my land, in the gardens and potted plants as long as they stay out-of-sight and leave my plants and me alone.

I’m grateful for the benefits critters bring to nature and the garden. Nevertheless, there is something edgy about gardening beside visible voles and bats. This isn’t a child’s storybook with talking animals. With the bat overhead, frogs at my feet, and a vole playing hide-and-seek, it was time to tend to the hens, and then call it a day. The watering could wait until morning.

Bats Facts:

  • Bats are mammals. They have hair and are warm-blooded. Their pups are fed milk.
  • Bats have only one or two young per year and often live 10 years or more.
  • Their wings are made of thin layers of skin supported by bones like those in our arms and hands. The bones are long and thin, especially the hand and finger bones that support the end of the wing.
  • Bats are beneficial to gardens. Their favorite foods include garden pests such as beetles, mosquitoes, caterpillars, gnats, moths, and midges. (They also eat fruit.)
  • They consume 50 to 100 percent of their body weight each day.
  • Bat waste material, called guano, is high in nitrogen, and is an excellent organic fertilizer.

 Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

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4 comments

  1. I am a friend of the “critters” as long as they nest in someone else’s yard and stay away from the “fruit of my labor.” They can eat all the pests in the garden. Tall order!

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  2. Cute article…even the bat!

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  3. I live in Lockeford. I was sitting on my couch in the evening and thought I had a bird in my house. Then it started swooping. I put an afghan over my head and yelled at my husband who was upstairs. He came down and at that time the “bird” was “glommed” on to the side of my wall (quite high up). Then we realized it was a bat. I hightailed it outside and finally Jim got it outside with the use of our broom and off it flew.

    Good thing it vacated my house, or I would have had to move.

    Also, when we lived in Rio Vista the bats would fly by at dusk to go down to the Sacramento River to get their fill of mosquitos. We had one in our house their too. They would tap, tap on my son’s bedroom window and had him scared to death. I know they have their purpose in the scheme of things, just aren’t my favorite mammal to have around the house!!!!!

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  4. A few days ago I was hosing off the front porch and also washed the toad (or frog) droppings off our siding and noticed that a toad had popped out from behind my “Welcome to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house, Memories are made here” sign and was sitting right on top of it peeking at me. They do make me jump if they surprise me, but this one I just had to talk to!!! It was so cute.

    To stick to the topic, maybe I am going “batty”. Neighbors may think I am talking to the wall!!!!

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