Monday, November 21, 2016

Something Pretty, Something Putrid, and Something Pretty Putrid (2016)

Calendula, Calendula officinalis 'Erfurter Orangefarbig" 
Before I get into the putrid part of this post, I wanted to share something pretty. This morning I found this Calendula still blooming after two nights of 29-degree lows. What a pleasant surprise. Now onto the putrid part of my narrative.

About two months ago I went out to the garden in the morning and noticed about 25 holes, 12 inches round and 12 inches deep dug everywhere. There were no holes in the yard, they were all in the wet, loose plowed soil of my garden. None of the plants had been eaten but were laying in the dirt, dead from the destruction. This was something I had never seen before. We were in a drought so I assumed some animal was digging for water since I had used the sprinkler the night before. I put bowls of water out, pushed the dirt back over the holes and watered the spots to try and keep the damaged plants alive.

The next morning, it happened again. The bowls of water had not help. I hoed the dirt back over the holes and watered again. This time I spread a long sheet of netting over the most damaged area.

The next morning, it had happened again except this time "IT" had moved to another section of the garden. At least "IT" had avoided the netting; however, my garden is about 2,500 square feet. I don't have that much netting.

The next morning, it happened again. This time I sat down and cried. With a tearstained face, I marched into the house and I confronted my husband. "I have had it! No more garden! It wins. Just plow it all under. I quit! I will give up on my winter garden and just plant again in the spring." (Whenever I get upset, it is always his fault.)

He calmly said, "If we don't get rid of whatever it is, it will bring its' family and we can never have a garden again."

That sobered me. I thought, no more juicy watermelons, sun-ripened tomatoes, extra sweet strawberries, oh garden? Ever? And what about my flowers? My daylilies? My Iris? I love my petunias. It was time to fight!

So who is my enemy? Is it a squirrel? They do dig holes but usually, they are only big enough to bury a nut.

Is it a rabbit? We have rabbits in the yard. They do help themselves to the carrot tops and the kale, but I plant enough for them. I don't mind sharing a little.

Is it a groundhog? They will go down a row of cabbages and eat every plant within minutes. They will dig a deep den but not a large number of holes. If they come to the garden, it is usually in the late afternoon; we had been watching from the kitchen window and had seen nothing.

Is it an opossum? We have only seen them eating our chickens, never anything in the garden.

We were stumped so I asked the experts, my Amish farmer friends. I explained what was happening and in unison, they all replied, "Armadillo".

I asked, "What is it after?"

Amish men, "Ants and grub worms."

I queried them further, "How do I do to get rid of them?"

In unison, they replied, "Shotgun."

"What about using a humane live trap. I have one but what bait would I use to attract them?"

Amish men. Silence.

I waited.

Then the youngest said, "Donuts. I think they like donuts. I have heard they like donuts."

The rest of the Amish men - silence with the occasional shoulder shrug.

I pondered this knowledge - with or without sprinkles, cream-filled, maple, or chocolate glazed? Too many decisions. I needed help so I shared this information with Bill. He flatly stated, "If you don't buy donuts for me, you are not buying them for an armadillo."

Decision made. Shotgun it is.

That night Bill got out his trusted 12 gauge shotgun loaded it with birdshot and slipped out the back door. It squeaked loudly so we had to WD-40 the hinge. Then I stumbled over the porch rocking chair and had to slide it out of the way. Finally, we shone the flashlight out into the garden and something unknown scurried away. Something evil was out there. We would try again.

Two hours later we tried again, and again, and again....

We developed a choreographed dance that we would perform repeatedly during the night for over a month and a half.  It went like this:

We would first put on our ear noise protection, then Bill would load the gun. I would turn off all the inside house lights, get the flashlight ready then slowly, silently open the kitchen door. He would kneel on the back deck and place the gun on the rail to steady it. I would stand to his left while holding the flashlight in my left hand and placing my right hand on his shoulder. This way he knew where I was and I knew where he was in the dark. When he whispered "ready", I would shine the spotlight on the garden and we would watch the critters scamper.

Bill would say, "Deer, nope (can't shoot them after dark). Rabbits, nope. Neighbor's cat, nope."

Then he would stand up and together we would walk to the other side of the deck, me shining the light all over the backyard and him aiming the gun. We would then retrace our steps back across the deck to shine the light back onto the garden to catch whatever had tried to escape when the light was not shining on them. Yes, they are smart enough to figure that out.

Then late one night we saw "IT"!  Frozen and blinded by the spotlight glaring in his eyes, "IT" turned to sneer at us. Bill aimed carefully and pulled the trigger. Bang! He hit it! We had proof that would stand up in a court of law.

Your Honor, may I present evidence that the perpetrator was indeed hit with shotgun pellets? Observe exhibit A, the old garden shed which sets in the back of the garden.

Your Honor, upon closer inspection our forensics team discovered holes in the left side of the shed caused by the impact of the pellets. No one or no THING could have survived.

We were thrilled until a few days later, "IT" returned to the scene of the crime.  We resumed our evening waltz and once again, Bill shot it.

Your Honor, may I present Exhibit B. The right side of the garden shed which has also been hit by shotgun pellets. Surely this time it has expired.

Bill decided to change his tactics and use his scoped 22 rifle. "IT" stubbornly returned again to the garden. Bill kneeled, carefully aimed, and pulled the trigger. Click. Nothing happened! The back of the bullet casing ruptured. He has never seen that happen before.

We continued with our routine and a few days later Bill again had "IT" centered in his scope but the 22 bullet misfired! It just did not go off.  It happened twice. Once is possible but twice, no way. Something was amiss. Bill discovered he had bought a bad batch of 22 bullets so he opened a new box and tried again.

Once again we danced and Bill got another shot. This time we knew he hit it because Scooter sniffed and found a single drop of blood in the yard the next morning. We were ecstatic! "IT" had been hit and did not return... for about a week. How could one animal be so lucky? What were we missing?

At this point, we consulted the Oracle and discovered that the armor on an armor-dillo (they are called that for a reason) could withstand a 22 bullet and sometimes birdshot. As we continued researching we discovered they may carry leprosy. LEPROSY!  LEPROSY! I repeat!  THEY MAY CARRY LEPROSY!  And humans can catch it. This suddenly became serious. It was life or death.

No longer did we dance but instead became a well coordinated, deadly military team maneuvering stealthily in enemy territory. This was war.

Bill went back to the shotgun and loaded it with buckshot which is designed to take down a deer; hopefully, it would kill this monster. Finally three nights ago "IT" threw caution to the wind and decided to come close to the deck and check out the overflowing trash cans. Bill had stayed up late watching a movie and I was in bed sound asleep. He burst into the bedroom yelling "IT" is back. I jumped out of bed and flew out the backdoor still in my nightgown holding the flashlight as he took quick aim. BOOM! (The ground shook and lights began to come on in the distance houses. Oops.) He got it! This time "IT" flipped over on its back and died. I felt no remorse. Bill went out and poked it with a stick to make sure it was really dead. He is such a warrior! My hero!

The next morning at breakfast Reese asked, "Is Dad doing target practice off of the back deck in the middle of the night in the dark now?"

I replied, "We were being robbed and were fighting for our lives."

"Glad to see you are fine, Mom. So, can I have those last two bagels for breakfast?"

Life has returned to normal.


As to the amount of damage it did to my garden, I would guess about 40% was destroyed. I planted and replanted seeds. As I filled in holes, I would throw in more seeds. This is a picture of my collard greens bed. It should be solid green from all the plants but almost everything is gone, all you see is the dirt.  There are a few other areas completely untouched and are still thriving.

Will we starve this winter? I doubt it. My plans were to have a huge winter garden so what is left will still be large enough for us. The remaining plants are spreading out and taking up more room so they are happy. As for me, gardening is not for the faint of heart. I will push on.

Now, as for the EVIL MONSTER. Scroll on down if you want a glimpse.


UPDATE:  We thought this was the end of our problem, but sadly, it was not.  The horrors continued when "Mrs. Monster has Returned!!!!!!!"   Then it was finally (hopefully) solved when  "Santa Brought Me an Armadillo!"  Thank you, Santa.


  1. I loved your descriptions of the big hunt. OMG I don't think I have ever smiled this early in the morning, and before the coffee was ready. Thank goodness we don't have armadillos up here --YET. We have the usual deer, groundhogs, voles, chipmunks, ants, fire ants, japanese beetles, squirrels, cabbage worms, wasps that build in the soil, hornets, but nothing so exotic as an armadillo. All the deer are out taunting us, knowing that hunting season doesn't start until next Monday and then they'll all magically disappear. Time for coffee. Dorothy.

    1. Oh Dorothy, I had no idea what I was up against. They are fairly new to Tennessee and I had only seen them dead in the middle of the road (which is where they belong). We wondered if there was a family of them living in the woods behind our house and we were killing different ones. If that is so, there may be more to show up. Bill is still going out at night checking and if I see more holes in the garden, we will start back "dancing". We may have only won one battle not the war.

      As for the deer magically disappearing in hunting season, we discovered they text each other a warning.


  2. Can I just say again how happy I am that I found your blog!! My kids came in while I was reading this post asking me why I was laughing so much. I am so glad you got that crazy critter! Cheers to some future peaceful nights of sleep for you and your husband! :)

    1. Dawn, I do hope your children were not terrified by the picture of the monster. I would hate to cause them to have nightmares.
      Yes, last night I slept like a ROCK. Not Bill, he still went out and checked since we are not sure we have won the war. If any more appear, I will be sure to whine, I mean blog about it.

    2. No worries at all, my friend. There are cartoon characters that are much scarier looking and nightmare-inducing than your armadillo picture- haha. ;)

  3. Oh, wow, aren't you glad you live where you could shoot! I live in town...neighbors on every side of me. The guy behind us across the alley has an 'shed'...the floor is a few inches off the ground. There is a groundhog that has lived there for at least 3 years. Last year it tried to dig under our old garage, and had tried to dig under our big garage. It only dug a little bit at the back of the big garage, but on the side of the old garage, it really dug a hole. And came back this year and started, but nothing like last year. And I am saying 'it' but it is probably a totally different ground hog. There is another one lives across the street. And then one block east of us is the railroad. A neighbor owns a lot close to it, and was trying to raise a garden back there, but ground hogs and coons destroy everything he grows.

    1. We have had groundhogs also and they can eat a whole row of greens in minutes. Our garden is beside the woods so they can fly under the fence and be gone in an instant. They also have good eyesight and can see us in the kitchen windows when we are peeking out. Something has moved in under our old shed beside the garden and we don't know what it is. The garden has not been touched yet...but we are concerned.

      I have no advice to give you because they are horrible creatures! Be warned because they can dig under foundations and cause structural damage.