NOTE: You can send gardening questions to LittleBird Stephanie by putting them in a Comment to this column.
THIS IS my 12th column about the damn raccoon.
The first was in September of 2017, when the loathsome marauder eviscerated the fat, juicy pond frog on the white porch sofa cushions, leaving filthy pawprints among the entrails. The Prince and I sometimes sit on that sofa when dining outside, too. It is most comfy.
For a while this spring the raccoon seemed to be gone. Our little fishy friends frolicked in the pond.
It may not be the same raccoon. How long do they live, anyway? Ah, says Wikipedia: “Captive raccoons have been known to live for more than 20 years. However, the species’ life expectancy in the wild is only 1.8 to 3.1 years.” Are there white sofas in the wild? And how precise these life-expectancy measurements are—wonderful, isn’t it?
Let’s assume this is the same miscreant, and let’s call him Rocky, what else? (Given his rude disposition, let’s also assume he is male.)
Did you know that raccoons are the largest of the procyonids (yeah, never heard of them either) and can weigh up to 57 pounds? Ponder that: 57 pounds.
They’re also sometimes called Trash Pandas.
Nocturnal (which is why we never catch the wily bastard), they ‘ll eat anything but have a particular taste for invertebrates, meaning fish, which—as you will see—is why there have been 12 columns, more than any column about any single plant or flower in this ostensible gardening column, though the wisteria might be close.
The fish are My Prince’s pets. They are not fancy, as Rocky finished off the koi early on and replacing them was a pricey proposition. These are what are crudely called “feeder fish.” If you go into Petco or whatnot and ask for feeder fish, they’ll take you to a crowded tank full of a motley assortment of what look like puny goldfish but somehow aren’t, though many are gold. Someone decided that these little fish are good for nothing but feeding your pet snakes, and they’re sold for about a buck for 10 or a dozen.
The Prince interrupts to say the price has gone up to 15 cents per. Okay.
My Prince loves them, despite their lack of refined provenance. He sits by the pond each evening with a glass of Merlot, tossing them crumbs of the finest fish food. They scurry up to the surface, swishing their little tails and hoovering up dinner. Sometimes they make it through the summer, getting fatter, dashing this way and that, glinting in the bits of late-day sun.
More often, there’s a tragedy or several. Morning comes and the border stones rimming the pond are in disarray; there may be bits of fern afloat—the salad course—and the fish are gone, or mostly.
There have been various attempts at foiling the beast. These were underwater at first, therefore not offensive to the eye: ledges and crags and nooks for the fish to escape to. In fact, the ledges hid the filter, which is not very attractive. As each scheme failed, more elaborate—and unattractive—foils were devised.
By last September, when we left this story, The Prince had layered window screens over the pond weighted down with rocks, an unsightly heap that resembled “his” garage. Each evening he’d remove the barriers and settle in, happy and bloated with heroic pride, to feed his fish.
Try as he might, Rocky couldn’t budge the fortress, and after some months of peace it appeared he’d departed for happier hunting grounds. Figuring he’d finally won this war (there are many little battles being fought around here—see also mice, ants and postal persons), My Prince disassembled his battlements and settled down to enjoy the pretty pond. My, how the ferns have grown, the moss so greenly bright on the base of the artfully broken statue that serves as a fountain. A tiny sylvan setting. Sigh.
Then Rocky returned. What a nose he has; or was he just lurking, watching, laughing. Raccoons, says Wikipedia again, “are noted for their intelligence.”
Fish. Ferns. Eat. Prince. Laugh.
Yet again the fish were gone. Gone.
Now we have the penultimate barrier in place: a lattice screen, weighted all around, and lifted during the day like a pup tent to give the fish a few paltry rays of light. Most of the time, you know there’s a pond only because the statue continues to pour water through one of the gaps in the lattice.
It’s more attractive than the rubbish barrier, I suppose.
The ultimate, of course, would be for My Prince to fill in the damn pond and thumb his fine, slender Irish nose at Rocky.
I‘m not sure who the winner would be in that case.
Fish. Ferns. Eat. Prince. Laugh.
LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” likes dogs, cats, birds and fish. She does NOT like this raccoon.