Rats, moles and yellow jackets, Yikes!

new Kiwi arbor and path to garden
new Kiwi arbor and path to garden

I hit a place this week, of feeling so discouraged by things happening in my garden and chicken coop that I had serious thoughts of quitting – giving up after more than 50 years! The rats figured out very quickly how to get into my new $100 treadle chicken feeder (it only takes two of them on the treadle to open it!). The moles have made a shambles of parts of the garden – undermining some plants and shoving mounds up on others. We were all ready for an amazing crop of gold raspberries this fall and the yellow jackets managed to suck them all into dry little nubs before they ripened. They did the same to the blackberries. The spider mites destroyed one of the best crops of beans I have ever had – and the aphids are working hard at taking out my baby kale! On top of all that I am sucking the well down trying to keep it all going until the fall rains start. Oh – and did I mention the rats ate my whole potato crop!

Then last Sunday I was sharing a picnic lunch with a friend and she brought up the concept of communicating with “critters” and plants – and I was a bit floored that I had managed to “forget” this most basic technique – something I learned back in the 70’s when I read my first book about Findhorn. I have had some significant successes with this technique over the years. And plenty of failures. I was never quite sure what factors created a successful effort but it seems silly that I haven’t made this my first go-to method for dealing with problems in my garden. Silly because I HAVE had success. Instead, I will try things I have never tried before – spend $100 on a chicken feeder for instance – before I try using a much simpler (and FREE) technique that has actually worked for me in the past.

Young Food Forest
Young Food Forest

Back in the 80’s after years of battling slugs – drowning hundreds of them in beer and soapy water – I stood in the garden and – out loud – told them that I truly did not want to kill any more of them – BUT they must stop eating my food and flowers. I showed them an area they were welcome to have, and asked that they leave my garden alone. Much to my surprise – they DID!  Up until then there were certain things I simply couldn’t plant because they were so quickly devoured by slugs! After that there was never a problem!

Native Plants Around Pond
Native plant garden around the Frog Pond

And a decade or so later in California at a garden plagued by gophers – I rescued one in the middle of a deluge. It was drowning in my flooded garden. I brought it into the house and put it in a box on an old towel and sat it on the oven door to warm and dry. The next day, when the weather cleared, I took it to a gopher hole I found about 50 feet from the house, and tipped it gently out of the box. It sat there looking up at me – and I told it that I would appreciate it if it and all its friends and relatives would leave my garden alone. It then turned and went quietly down the hole. I have never had another problem with gophers since!

As I am writing this I’m realizing that the thing these two profoundly successful experiences had in common – was my feelings of compassion and my strong desire to do them no harm – but to live together in harmony. Most of my other attempts have come in the form of angry threats or defeated pleas.  These were times when I was able to calmly express my needs but didn’t feel angry or powerless.

I truly believe that we communicate our feelings and thoughts to one another all the time – just like radio and TV signals. We just don’t realize it most of the time. And I believe that all sentient beings  – plant, insect and animal – are capable of this. Like many of you, I talk to my plants and pets and creatures I meet on my land and expect they understand at least my intent, if not my words.  I know many of you reading this feel the same.  It’s not something we talk about much because of the fear of being thought a bit unhinged, but I think gardeners are more apt to do this than any others – except perhaps animal lovers.

Grapes Mid-July
Grapes in mid summer – before the robins ate them…

After I wrote that – I took an early walk through the woods because I just needed to be out there. I found a stump in the sun and sat there with Fizzy on my lap, and had a little heart to heart chat with the over-seeing “nature spirits” of this land and of the creatures that share it with us.  I found myself putting out my very clear and strong desire to live together in harmony here. I truly don’t wish any of the creatures I am struggling with any harm.  I can’t help but realize that I don’t know what hidden benefits they bring to us and the garden.  So I do not wish them GONE (well maybe SOME of them…). I simply wish for balance. I expressed the fact that I am happy to share a portion of what I work so hard to grow – but it makes me really cranky having nearly all of it taken from me and my family – and my chickens.

I came back to the house with a sense of peace and a renewed feeling of love for this place and the work we are doing here and the desire to do it in a more harmonious way.

I will let you know how it goes…


  1. Thank you for sharing your experiences over the years. As you know, I also had had successes talking with–not to–the garden critters. Currently I’m having “conversations” with the deer, the yellow jackets, and an unknown critter who eats any small shoot that comes up in only one raised bed. I have heard that many people are disappointed with their gardens’ gifts this year so perhaps it’s a regional (or larger) phenomenon.

    On Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 4:25 PM, The Holistic Garden wrote:

    > Barb Allen posted: ” I hit a place this week, of feeling so discouraged by > things happening in my garden and chicken coop that I had serious thought > of quitting – giving up after more than 50 years! The rats figured out very > quickly how to get into my new $100 treadle chi” >


    • Thanks Pauline – and thanks for the reminder on Sunday… I hope it goes well for you with the deer, yellow jackets and the unknown critter… I suppose not having a long period of freezing in the winter and such a very long warm spring and summer gives lots more insects a chance to take hold… Perhaps that’s part of the problem for all of us.


  2. Hi, Barbara! This is a very moving article bringing to mind experiences I and a few other friends have had. I resonate with it totally, as well as also having experienced several incidences of great frustration regarding these situations. A friend of mine in the Lincoln (Nebraska) area had beavers on a creek on her property years ago that she didn’t want. She quietly addressed their spirit and asked them to leave, and they did.
    The most frustrating recurrent situation for me has been the occasional bully tom cat who decides to stay around and persecute my cats so that they can’t even enjoy their yard in safety. Over the years, there were several tom cats who were tame and friendly, and able to join the family. There were, however a few others that were either very wild or else aggressive to the point of even attacking me, meanwhile continuing to injure and terrorize our pets. Over the years, I had three of these killed, as much as I hated to do it. This is an occasional thing, but it has been distressing and disappointing to say the least. Such a cat recently began targeting my cats on a daily basis at our new place, and my quick fix has been to just keep them indoors for a while. Obviously his sole purpose was to pick on the “new kids on the block”, since I haven’t seen him once since I have been keeping them in. He obviously isn’t interested in me. There are a lot of strays around here, but only this one wouldn’t run from me. He and my younger cat were determined to fight each other. I have a neighbor who would shoot him for me, but I am hoping that we just won’t see him any more. My two kitties were two years in an apartment on Main St., unable to go out, and they have a beautiful place here.
    Perhaps this spiritual method would work better for me if I was more disciplined in other areas of my life. Thank you for sharing this wonderful account of your experiences in the soulful setting of boundaries.


  3. I’m sorry to hear you and your cats are being harassed by another cat. I’m actually dealing with the same thing here… a cat from the area that comes over here periodically and beats up poor Fizzy… She has ended up with numerous small wounds and it leaves her feeling very nervous when she’s outside. Perhaps I could use the same “technique” on him… worth a try…


    • I wish you the best, Barbara! You are probably getting very good at such things. From what you told me when Andrea and I visited you, Fizzy went through a lot before you adopted her. I tend to wonder why certain things happen to me, but “cat” issues seem to be pretty universal. It seemed that everywhere my parents and I lived, there were those trouble-making tom cats that came around sometimes, as well as conflicts among some of our pets. Dogs can be very helpful, but one doesn’t always want additional pets to solve a problem! Blessings on your beautiful place and gardens. Your place is a paradise!


  4. My son and I were talking today about how all these sorts of things begin on a very different “plane” of consciousness and that trying to deal with it on the material level often doesn’t work because the problem itself arises on a different “level”…
    Perhaps we need to meditate on the “cause” of the aggressive tom cat problems we are both having to find what it represents to us… or why it is in our lives… I know that may sound very strange – but everything that exists begins as an idea or dream or wish or fear – on the plane of “mind”… and given enough energy for long enough will ultimately manifest on the material plane… It seems if that is true – that is where we should begin to find the root cause… and lovingly clear it out or let it go or whatever is needed to heal the situation…
    Thanks for all your kind words…. I wish you well in all you do, and hope that you make it back here again one day. I hope you are happy in your new home…


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