Our crocuses have arrived! I almost missed them because my focus has been on other things, but yesterday was unseasonably warm and sunny - perfect for checking in on going's on in the garden. The daffodils have been shooting up for a few weeks now, and today they obliged us with their first blooms.
These are at the side of the barn, in view of Molly and Ambrose. I wonder if they appreciate the sight as much as we do? Not likely, but that's okay.
While the flowers are a welcome harbinger of Spring, we've also had some unwelcome activity from the local groundhogs and at least one... skunk. The skunk problem started a few weeks ago. At first we thought that maybe a skunk had been hit by a car on the road in front of our house. But the smell kept going away, then returning on different nights. Then we thought that perhaps a skunk had tried to help itself to our cat's food, and there had been a tussle followed by a spraying outside our kitchen door. But the smell outside went away fairly quickly, while inside the house, and especially in the cellar, the smell remained fairly strong. Then, one night around 3 am, we got hit with a renewed blast of skunk that was so strong, it woke me - gagging - from a sound sleep.
What to do?
Keith did a little research and discovered that skunks move from one den to another fairly often. They like to use burrows created by groundhogs, and we definitely have more than one entrance, and maybe even more than one burrow under the 90 feet of porch that wraps around two sides of the house. The Humane Society suggests persuading the tenants of these burrows to vacate by tossing ammonia-soaked rags into the holes, then semi-blockading the entrances so that we can tell if there is any new traffic. If the hole remains unused for a few days, it is safe to close it up without worrying about trapping anything inside.
Keith went looking for burrow entrances this morning, so we could plan our campaign. At the far end of the porch, near the outside entrance to the cellar, is a retaining wall. Last year, a new burrow entrance was dug into the top of the hill on the other side of the retaining wall. This morning, when Keith peeked inside the hole - a groundhog peered back up at him!
"It was cute." Keith said to me later, as he described the incident.
Cute?! The groundhogs are our sworn enemies. Their extensive digging can ruin buildings, create a misstep that can break a donkey's (or a person's) leg, and do untold damage to a garden. We're supposed to be vanquishing the vermin!
Later this afternoon, I went out to snap a quick photo of the groundhog hole for this post. If I stand on tip-toe and lean over the edge of the retaining wall, I can just see inside the hole. I stood. I leaned over. A groundhog - the groundhog - peered back at me, about 18 inches from my face.
Gahhh! What in the world was it still doing there? Shouldn't it have hightailed it the heck out of there this morning? I quickly held the camera above my head, pointed it at the hole and snapped, hoping for a decent shot.
It's not easy to see, but there it is.
Our first thought was to put a Hav-a-Heart trap near the opening, baited with something yummy, but we don't want to risk trapping a skunk instead of the groundhog. After all, how would you go about releasing a skunk? I keep imagining something to do with Marlin Perkins and tranquilizer guns.
And now I can't shake the thought that, if the groundhog had held its...er, ground since this morning, maybe it couldn't readily retreat or move to another burrow. Maybe it was protecting something. Maybe that something was a new batch of baby groundhogs.