The Tomato Eaters/Strawberry Stealers

My yard is full of chipmunk condos (stone walls, wood piles and stone walks). This means that on occasion, I am praying for a resident fox to come along and “clean me out” or for the hawk pair that nests a few doors down to come over for a few days and have whatever their equivalent of a Thanksgiving feast of chipmunks might be!

It may sound callous and inhumane but there are times when I cannot even walk outside without stepping on one, it seems. I have two big planters on either side of my steps. In warmer weather, they get watered daily. One summer, the chipmunk population was so prolific that as I turned on the hose and started to water the planters, a chipmunk leaped out of one and landed on my foot with a little “squeak.”

It disappeared into one of the crevices of my steps, but not before I gave a little shriek myself. I’m no fan of critters leaping out of pots!

When the population gets too high, I also never get to harvest any cherry tomatoes. They run up the plants and steal them all before I get there. I know they are doing this because I see the telltale signs of tomatoes–and seeds–disappearing into my stone walls. Who knew they liked tomatoes?

They also adore alpine strawberries. I can almost forgive them for this. As fast as they eat the strawberries, they seem to plant more plants for me. I have strawberry plants in places I never would have planted them–coming out of those stone wall crevices, in cracks of my driveway, in planters where I never put them–you name it and there is a strawberry plant there. There are now almost enough plants for me and the “chippers,” as I call them, to share.

The yard is riddled with chipmunk holes as well. These holes are small–about the size of a ping pong ball–so there isn’t too much danger of harming yourself, although the dogs seem to get their feet tangled up in them occasionally.

But of course, chipmunks aren’t the only ones using these, I fear. The voles will also use these, and that’s something I have no desire to encourage. For a little more information on life cycle and their burrowing habits, here’s one of those ubiquitous fact sheets.

I guess I have an uneasy relationship with the chipmunks. So long as they leave the tomatoes alone–and don’t leap out of the flower pots at me–they’re fine. Otherwise, I’m calling in the hawks!

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