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Published August 29, 2013, 08:58 AM

Man, raccoon and garden

For me, the sweet corn in the garden is coming along nicely and it's pitting me against the raccoons.

By: Ryan Talyor, agweek

TOWNER, N.D. — I feel a little like Bill Murray’s character, Carl, the assistant groundskeeper in the movie Caddyshack. In the movie, Carl was up against a gopher on the golf course. Eventually, he resorted to plastic explosives.

For me, the sweet corn in the garden is coming along nicely and it’s pitting me against the raccoons. I haven’t quite resorted to plastic explosives. Yet.

Every year, we plant a few rows of sweet corn in the garden and almost every year, it seems like we planted it for the dining pleasure of a roving gang of ring-tailed bandits.

We often wonder what the “just-right” time is to pick the corn. We shouldn’t have to guess because we know it is nearing the height of perfection when the coons move in on it. We wait, and check an ear, and think the next day might be our day to harvest, then BAM! We walk out in the morning to utter destruction — broken down stalks, cleaned off cobs and lots of those little hand-like paw prints up and down the rows.

It’s been a longstanding feud. I remember Mom having the same struggle in her garden.

Mom tried some of the usual tricks you hear about. She plugged in a radio out in the garden and turned it up to keep them away. She claimed she looked out one morning and caught them dancing. It could have been a gateway to further raccoon reproduction, so she turned it off.

She got some human hair from the barber and sprinkled it around the perimeter to ward them off. Those coons were not afraid of humans or their hair or their music it turned out. Moth balls didn’t do much either, even for the moths.

We are not alone

I know we’re not the only ones fighting this battle. A friend told me about a neighbor who’d finally had it with the coons eating his corn. He parked his pickup next to the garden, sat in it with his rifle and vowed to stay up all night to guard against the bandits. If he caught them so much as setting a paw in his garden, he was going to shoot it up like the OK Corral.

Well, just like calving heifers, sometimes the need for sleep is just too powerful. At 2 a.m., this garden guardian dozed off, and woke up at 3 a.m. to find the corn had been stripped clean while he slept for one mere hour. The raccoons obviously had a lookout to wave his buddies in when the armed guard’s chin hit his chest.

I appreciate my sleep too much to try that, but I do have some expertise with electric fence, and I have a solar fencer not in use in a pasture at this moment to dedicate to garden duty. I’ve heard of people doing a couple three wires close to the ground, but I wanted more.

I found an electric varmint fence in a catalog with small squared netting a foot and a half high and its own attached posts to stick in the ground every 10 feet. I set it up around the garden, attached the fencer and gave it a test — 5,600 volts. That should bounce them back when they come a looking to mess with my maize.

Seven-year-old middle son inspected my fence and asked, “What if the raccoons set up a barrel or a bucket to get up on and jump down from, over the fence and into the garden?” Fair question. They do have those rather dexterous forepaws.

All I could say was, “Well, son, that’s when we bring out the plastic explosives.”

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