Pests, knaves, and varmints


Summer is almost over, and though I regret the waning of the light, I am glad that the reign of the varmints is coming to an end.

Always have I been a lover of wildlife. Never have I wished harm to my winged or my four legged neighbors. I understand the need of deer to forage and grit my teeth when they devour shrubs and flowers. I tolerate the rabbits that eye my impatiens with delight.  But I confess that this summer I have been sorely tempted to wreak vengeance on those pestiferous and rascally varmints, the squirrels.

Take our tomatoes—well, you might have taken some, my friends, but the squirrels have eaten them all. Clambering up the garden fence and somehow managing to leap onto our once sturdy plants, those bushy-tailed rodents have proceeded to decimate every tomato in sight. Oh, they were crafty. They waited until those love apples were round and almost ready to be picked before taking a bite out of each one! Surveying my squirrel-bitten garden I could almost hear the rapscallions say, “Um. Not what I expected. Not nice at all, actually. Let me try that one over there…”

Squirrels are not choosy about what they want to vandalize. They made off with all the fruit on the apricot tree while they were still green. They uprooted my tulips and begonia in order to bury their acorns. They even had the audacity to steal figs while we watched! And now they raid the bird feeders after which they sit on the tree nearest the window and chitter at me. I am not sure what they are saying, but I suspect that they are being sarcastic and vulgar.

There are other and more spiteful pests, I grant you. Voles are one of those insidious and sneaky varmints with which I have no patience—but this year they have not manifested themselves. For this I am grateful, just as I rejoice that we are free of woodchucks in our back yard. Those waddling miscreants used to torment me when we lived up north, and many is the time that I almost wept at their thievery. Once I found a very large woodchuck ensconced amongst my lettuce, chomping away. How it managed to get over the fence I have no idea, but there it was. When I charged out waving my arms and shouting, it looked at me with disgust and contempt and continued eating. Only when I was practically upon it did it sulkily and very slowly saunter off.

I wasn’t the only one afflicted by woodchucks, to be sure. Many of our friends and neighbors were reduced to employing have-a-heart traps to catch whistle pigs after which they carried them off to some spot far away from home. In fact, a dear friend once told me that she had helped in the capture of a particularly pernicious woodchuck.

“My neighbor asked me to help her dispose of it,” she related, “so we got in the car with the have-a-heart cage and the woodchuck and started driving. After a while we passed a nice wooded area, but that wouldn’t do. ‘Keep going,’ said she, so on we went.”

“Did you ever get rid of the thing?” I asked.

My friend chuckled. “Finally we came to a suburban neighborhood, and I was instructed to stop at a house. ‘Surely,’ I protested, ‘you aren’t going to leave the woodchuck here?’  ‘Oh, yes, I am,’ replied my neighbor, calmly. ‘This is my ex-husband’s house.’”

I suppose that on rare occasions even woodchucks can be of use.

This ruined garden

Once was full of tasty food…

Not for us, alas.



About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: My blog is here: Or friend me on Facebook!

8 responses »

  1. Revenge can be sweet! That woodchuck/whistle pig/ground hog didn’t climb Over your fence, she burrowed under.
    Our pests of the year are fire ants. Dale comes in muttering every other day about their having just moved from where he spread the poison.
    The good news is the abundance of dragonflies seems to have kept down the mosquito population.
    I do hope you get one or two of your tomatoes, otherwise you’ll have to acquire a taste for fried green tomatoes.

  2. Maureen,
    A friend told me that squirrels ate their blueberries this summer. I didn’t know they cared for them. After reading your post, I’m learning more about their ways. I do know they gnaw on my sister’s front porch columns. Ouch, that hurts the pocketbook!

    One summer, turtles bit big bites out of our tomatoes. I now buy from those who have more skills and or less varmints.

    This is a story we can all relate to. Keep ’em coming. Sorry to hear you haven’t been able to enjoy the fruit of your labor.

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