The Latest Wildlife to Roam Out of the Forest and Into My Garden.

So I’m up at the garden and a mink runs past me.  I shit you not.  A mink. Runs past me.

That’s a reasonable facsimile drawing of the mink as done by a courthouse sketch artist on account of the fact that minks are fast and I couldn’t get a photo of it. Besides, the picture wouldn’t have turned out anyway; its coat was so shiny it would have been like photographing the sun covered in sequins.

This garden of mine is a place of insanity.  You just don’t know what’s going to appear out of the forest or sky on any given day. We have an extremely high fence around the garden with locked gates, but animals still manage to get in.  Raccoons can climb, bunnies can shrink themselves and voles? Well voles fit through just about anything except apparenty the door of a vole trap..

The community garden I’m a part of has been in existence, on the same plot of land for over 30 years.  It’s right smack dab in the middle of conservation land and more specifically turtle pods.  I don’t know what the areas that turtles mate in are called, but I’m going with pods because I think it sounds cool.

In the olden days there was no fence around the garden.  At that time, a day up at the garden could involve having a straight up fistfight with a pack of deer in the middle of your corn or discovering a snapping turtle had burrowed into your swiss chard patch and laid a whack of eggs.  Generally, one doesn’t engage in physical battles with a snapping turtle.  You ask them if they’re having a nice day, promise never to paint their shell and then you bow a few times and back away respectfully.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when a mink frolicked past me as I was taking a photo of my updated hinged hoop house.  (Yup,  with my phone in my hand and the camera app opened up, I still did not get a photo of the flying mink.)  It occurred to me at that moment that I should probably start making notes of everything I see at the garden because I’m bound to forget. Most of it is stuff you couldn’t even see just half a kilometre away from the garden.  Not even 50 feet away in some cases.

I did the same thing when I went to Los Angeles for a while with a celebrity friend after I graduated from University.  I made a list of every famous or interesting person I encountered or saw because I knew in years to come it would make interesting reading. And that in just months to come I’d probably already start forgetting who I saw.  It’s the sort of list I *should* have made while working in television because I spent several of my television years interviewing celebrities, most of which I’ve forgotten all about.  Except Harrison Ford.  ‘Cause you don’t forget Harrison Ford.  He’s like a communicable disease that way.  Except way better.

I’ve never seen Harrison Ford at my garden, but here are some of the things that I have run into up there.

 

As Seen in the Garden.

Killdeer

 

Northern Mockingbird

 

Mink

Eastern Milksnake

Dekay’s Brownsnake

 

Eastern Gartersnake

 

Raccoons

Goldfinch

 

Osprey

 

Not to mention the assorted toads, turtles, frogs, more birds,  rabbits,  mice, voles and assorted other rodents.

The rodents eat the garden plants, the toads eat the insect pests, the snakes eat the rodents, but they also eat the toads.  It’s a vicious cycle that I assume is in some sort of natural balance, but no matter what, it ends with me constantly trying to protect my vegetables and crowds of gardeners chasing rabbits out of our land with brooms held over our heads and curse words flying out of our mouths.  Daily.

Last year while working on protecting my corn from raccoons at the garden, I looked up when I heard a gardener across the way shout-barking some unintelligible words.  More guttural monster sounds than words actually.  He was hidden behind rows of beans and tomatoes so all I could make out was the top of a broom zipping around the maze of tomatoes.  That’s all I needed to see to know he was welcoming a rabbit to his plot.

I grabbed the nearest snake, hurled it into his garden and stood horrified as it barfed up 14 voles when it slammed to the ground.  The voles  immediately ate his entire strawberry patch.

That last part might not be true but it’s pretty much how things go up at that garden so it definitely could be true, if it had actually happened. I’m saying it’s a possibility, that’s all.

All this to say I saw a mink. It was very pretty, very shiny and welcome in my garden anytime.

You never know what’s going to come through the holes in our garden fence.  I plan to spend this long weekend, sitting by it, waiting patiently for the most elusive of all forest creatures; the black forest cake.

Have a good weekend and a great Canada Day to my fellow Canadians!

→Follow me on Instagram where I often show other garden creatures←

 

54 Comments

  1. Paula says:

    I love the ‘raccoon’ pic! You certainly get a lot of snakes.

  2. Ms Kat says:

    Normally, I don’t mind snakes but those you show–Oh Hell to the noes!

    • Monica says:

      Why none of them are venomous and they’re all quite small despite the extreme close-ups that Karen provided. Milksnakes are common in pet stores because they’re pretty docile. It’s pretty rare to get bit unless you try to pick it up. Bonus: that brownsnake loves to eat slugs so there’s that!

  3. TucsonPatty says:

    Trap a couple of mink (s?) and you can breed and sell, oh, never mind…
    Okay, I had also forgotten what a vole looked like, so after a short google lesson, I found out how you keep them out of your garden. ; ) You’re welcome. You just need to bury hardware cloth 30 inches deep around the garden and also leave 5-6 inches above ground! It did mention that might be only practical for a tiny garden and that it might be labor intensive. Ya think? Another tip was digging a trench 12 inches deep and wide enough so you can easily step over it. OMG! Just a little field mouse! Also mentioned that they might be protected in some areas? Why? Yeesh!
    Supposedly raccoons are a predator of the vole, also. It’s always something, yeah? Nice wildlife. I didn’t mind looking at the snake photos, but please don’t put up photos of any spiders you might find out there. Shudder. We all have our thing, don’t we?

  4. MrsChrisSA says:

    My garden would be abandoned at the first sighting of a snake!!!

  5. Marna says:

    Wow that’s interesting! When first married my husband and I had lots of pets, some of which were ferrets, similar to the minks. I have many of the same critters you show, including snakes, had a baby one in our house recently that kept biting one of my dogs, it sure was difficult trying to catch it. I went to pick it up to toss in the garden and it tried to strike at me, so I got my husband to grab it! We live in a city, but there are little wild areas including next door, plus a creek runs through our property. We get raccoons and possums in our yard at times. I like the squirrels but they do eat our fruit and vegetables. Use to have a bunny that visited every morning for years, guess it got old or left. Saw a fox running down the street one evening too.

    • Grammy says:

      “Use to have a bunny that visited every morning for years, guess it got old or left. Saw a fox running down the street one evening too.”

      Coincidence? I think not.

  6. Julie Jones says:

    Karen, I love, love, love reading your posts. You are so real through words, paint a beautiful and so funny story. You make note of the most simple things in life and they’re either informative or so damn funny! Thank you for sharing your creativity, skills, and knowledge with us.

  7. Wendy says:

    You can’t fool me! That’s a cantaloupe…not raccoons! My goodness, what expert carving skills they have…right down to the rind!

  8. Wink says:

    Your wit is tops!

  9. Shawna says:

    Enjoyed your photos and story, as always! The mental imagery of the snake barfing up the voles made me snort! 🙂

    Those mink will eat the voles AND the rabbits, but not your raccoons, sorry.

  10. Jack Barr says:

    The racoon’s defence:
    quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur (what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence). The burden of proof lies with those who make the positive assertion. You need the smoking gun.
    Didn’t know we had Dekay’s Brownsnake in this neck of the woods.
    Speaking of guns, I think I’ll oil my shotgun……. or throw more chicken poo pellets around.
    I’ve just finished replanting both veggie and flower garden; not a good year, it’s been a minefield. I blamed the chippies, squirrels, rabbits, grackles, racoons, skunks- you name em……. but they all subscribed to the racoon defence, as will the robins and cardinals in the strawberry patch. None of them heist the rhubarb, I think it fights back.
    Great post, as always.
    Enjoy Canada Day. In the shade. With a cool one.
    =======

    • Karen says:

      I too have replanted almost everything. And will be going up to do carrots and beets today. Same for most of the gardeners up at my allotments. :/ ~ karen!

  11. Heather says:

    Your story was a sort of zany Beatrix Potter. Very entertaining! Happy Canada Day, Karen. Hope you get to put up your feet while you enjoy your cake.

  12. Christine says:

    Heres what l thought when you said “mink”….coat.

    • MindyK says:

      Me too! I figured Karen was going to show us her trap and talk about curing mink pelt using the dried strawberry method, and then darn it into a bolster pillow.

  13. Christina B says:

    I’m sure glad we don’t have snakes or raccoons in Newfoundland! However, I did have a bear trash my camp last weekend, and the snow fall last week killed all the blossoms on my apple and pear trees…. actually can we trade please? (There are mink here I will throw in to sweeten the deal) Happy Canada Day Weekend!

    • Karen says:

      I didn’t know you didn’t have raccoons! I did however know you got snow (white rain) last week! ~ karen

  14. Jennifer says:

    My god Karen you are funny. Black Forest cake, I didn’t see that coming and THAT is what makes you such a great writer.

    Best,
    Jen

  15. Yyz says:

    Do you know why you’ll never see Harrison Ford in your garden?

    Snakes! He hates snakes

  16. Kate C says:

    Laughing out loud. Literally. Just laughing out loud.

  17. meredith says:

    Make sure you don’t accidentally give a ride to a mink back to your house. They chew the heads off of chickens and leave them to die. Minks and their cousins the Weasels are jerks.

  18. Jen says:

    The mink’s little face is so cute. The weirdly long body, not so much. *shiver*

  19. Leeuna says:

    Your garden sounds like it is never-ending fun. I’ve never seen a live mink before. They are so cute! I think the raccoons like cantaloupe as much as I do. Keeping my fingers crossed that you bag a couple of black forest cakes this weekend. Happy Canada Day.

  20. Diane says:

    Lol you are so funny!! I’m sitting here feeding my daughter and laughing out loud. Thank you for a great start to my day. Did you ever consider writing a book…you’ve got talent girl!

    • Karen says:

      I have indeed been given the opportunity to write a book, but nowadays there’s really no point to writing a book. That’s what the Internet is for! You make more money and reach more people. 🙂 ~ karen!

  21. Mark says:

    You are so lucky to have all those snakes in your garden!

  22. Tessa says:

    Minks look cute, but they are pretty vicious, so I’d give it a wide berth if I were you…

  23. Heather says:

    Snakes yuck, remember minks kill chickens for sport

  24. Meg says:

    You are so funny to read.

    I am a vfx artist (read: roots in traditional animation) and I just laughed so hard at the flying snake/ vole dispersion / strawberry massacre. I just wish I had the time to animate your story, it is so great. You are really a special kind of writer to inspire other artists.

    • Karen says:

      LOL, it would make a great animation! As you can see from my mink picture, you’re probably better suited to that part of the project. 😉 ~ karen!

  25. Lorrie Jamieson says:

    Hi Karen … I note that your goldfinch was attached to a very efficient-looking feeder of some kind that looks homemade … was that your design, and if it was have you ever told how you made it? I’d like to try making it myself!

    • Karen says:

      I’m afraid not Lorrie! That is a “free use” photo from the Internet. The snake pictures are all mine, but the birds are not. Birds are really difficult to photograph, lol. ~ karen!

  26. Sherrill says:

    Happy Canada day (almost). I have to tell you, right now I’m so glad I don’t live in Ontario. The three snakes kind of freaked me out a bit. I’m in southern New Brunswick (have to spell it out or people think Nebraska). Yes we have gartersnakes, but never seen one (yet)
    I have chickens, too and so far haven’t lost any to predators. I give the credit to a well built chicken coop and a very large Great Pyrenees chicken guardian, Heidi. She is on the job right now, snoozing why my flock walks around her stealing her food. We have lots of wildlife around here as well. Mostly nice, garden friendly ones. Funny, when we lived in the city, we had the worst time with deer eating everything. We had them even walk up on our deck so they could eat the ornamental corn off my front door. Let’s say not my favourite creature dispite Bambi’s reputation as a cutie. Now in the country, I never see one. Guess these ones know enough to stay away from humans. Lots of people hunt, so they learned. We do have black bears, coyotes, red fox, and moose. I have seen all but the bears in our field by the house. So I can see why you might be glad your in Ontario, even with the snakes.:) love your blog.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Sherrill. I remember seeing a moose in Quebec several years ago drinking from the Ottawa River. It was so amazing to see! ~ karen

    • Alena says:

      Small or not, they are snakes. I don’t do snakes.

    • Alena says:

      I live in s-w Ontario like Karen and I have never seen a snake in my garden. I would have probably put the house up for sale the next day.

  27. Nicole says:

    I grew up in a house that backed onto Mimico Creek in Etobicoke and there were minks in the creek most winters. They’re super interesting to watch, because, like otters, they’d go in and out of the water through the ice! Brr. I have no idea how they survived given the amount of pollution in that creek (higher, at that time, than the Don!).

  28. Thandi says:

    When I visit my mom we play “spot the wildlife”. But it’s a bit different to the way you play. Mostly because my mom lives on the coast next to a private game reserve. So last week I saw an enormous pod of dolphins, some zebras, and a kaleidoscope of giraffes (that’s the actual collective noun!). #notsmug #hahayesiam

    • Karen says:

      I hate you. I hate you I hate you I hate you. Your mother lives on the edge of a private game reserve??! WHY did you ever move out from your mother’s house, lol?? In fact, why am I not living with your mother. ~ karen!

      • Thandi says:

        Muhahahaha! I laugh evilly in your general direction! But you make an excellent point. Why did I move out… You should definitely just arrive at the gate with your suitcase and say “hi your daughter sent me” 😂 just bring your own gardening stuff.

  29. Rachel says:

    You have the same wildlife as we do here in SE Virginia, except we have water moccasins, copperheads and rattlesnakes. Our three venomous snakes in this area. Oh, and the rattlesnakes are protected. Seriously.

    • Grammy says:

      “Oh, and the rattlesnakes are protected. Seriously.”

      Why? Here in California, we are not strangers to rattlers, and I can’t imagine why they would be protected.

      • Rachel says:

        Canebrake rattlers are protected in Virginia because their population is diminishing. I’m serious. We’re supposed to call the Dept of Game & Inland Fisheries if we spot one.

  30. Robyn says:

    Loved this post! Thank you for making me smile! No chipmunks?
    Our neighbors Labrador retriever used to really enjoy killing raccoons and then burying them in MY garden. She was always very proud of the burial mounds she made not so carefully in between my tomato plants. She would eventually dig them up and eat them. Totally gross but she was a sweet dog!

  31. Hannah says:

    I have a horrible mouse problem in my greenhouse and I was genuinely looking for non-venomous snakes I could let loose in there. I snagged one from my terrified mother’s camper last year and it really seemed to do the trick for a while. Traps and poison are an issue because I have a very curious, idiotic golden lab. She gave up braincells for friendliness, for sure.

  32. Sabina says:

    Hahahahaaaaa!!!! Here’s my list so far: possum, grey squirrels, black squirrels, all kinds of birds I can’t identify except for the bald eagle, a really cute tuxedo kitty that just chased a squirrel up a tree for my entertainment pleasure and whom the BF says I cannot claim as “ours”, slugs (I will be making your slug bait today) mosquitoes, probably some ticks I haven’t come across yet thankfully, and deer. But the deer stay outside the fenced yard, they’re polite like that. Here is a picture I took this morning of my vicious deer-hunter, Petey. Happy Canada Day my friend to the west of me (cuz here in Western NY Canada is to our west…and north…but where I go it’s west)

  33. Benjamin says:

    Oh my, a sequin covered mink… now we’re talking my language. Hope you had a Happy Canada Day, from your temporarily deranged and dysfunctional neighbors to the south. Stay sane and pray for us…

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