Maine Observer: How the battle over strawberries was won

When we first built our home I decided that I was going to grow strawberries. I cleared a patch of earth, surrounded it with a 2-foot fence and planted a large group of seedlings. The next year I added a few more plants, and the result was a fledgling strawberry patch.

Annually, I would wait with great anticipation for the plants to bloom, and like magic the fruit would appear. Hidden beneath the wavy green leaves were the beautiful crimson prizes. I then picked what little fruit ripened and we would have them with our dinner.

Last year my plants had covered the entire enclosed bed, flowered and turned to fruit. It was truly one of the most beautiful and rewarding sights I had ever seen. Well, at least I thought so. My wife is the gardener and usually pokes fun at my wilder endeavors, until I am successful, and then she quietly gives her approval.

Each day I watched with baited breath anticipating the exact day I would harvest my banner crop of berries. The day arrived and with my basket I headed jubilantly out to the bed. To my chagrin I found that my fruit was gone!

Who had stolen my beautiful fruit? As I was standing there in dismay, out of the woods came a baby chipmunk with a large ripe strawberry clenched between its teeth. The battle had begun!

I headed to a nearby garden center to enlist their help. The sales staff told me that coyote urine would deter wildlife. Yee gads! I don’t even want to know how they get that stuff. But sure enough, they sold it in plastic bottles directly from “out west.” I then questioned how to use the urine and they directed me to plastic bottles you fill and hang around your garden. I gladly bought the supplies and headed home.

I spent a very smelly afternoon pouring coyote urine into the bottles and hanging them around the garden fence.

The very next day I went out to observe my success. There, two small chipmunks were busy in the garden. Both looked at me and seemingly chuckled. They each grabbed a berry, ran right around the bottles and headed into the woods. I was enraged!

I began asking friends who gardened about pests and one guaranteed a cure. He said to spread some mothballs around the outside of my garden. I ran to the store, bought the mothballs and went back to work. I carefully laid the mothballs around the garden perimeter and said a prayer.

The next morning I beat my chest declaring victory. And then, out of the corner of my eye I saw a chipmunk about to enter my garden. He looked at me, smiled and stepped over the mothballs, walked around the urine, grabbed a strawberry and headed back to the woods. I had lost the battle.

This year I did my research and found that netting was the only solution to my wildlife invasion. Two days before harvest I covered my garden. That very day I saw a chipmunk climb to the top of my fence, look at the netting in defeat and run back to the woods empty-handed. Victory was mine! I collected my fruit, made my preserves, and took off the netting, sharing the remainder of my bounty with those chuckling chipmunks.