Saturday, May 01, 2010

Beady Eyes Are Watching

Oh, the illusion of privacy. When my husband and I bought our house twenty years ago, it felt remarkably secluded, considering that it’s located in the middle of a housing development.

There’s a steep, roughly two-story-high slope behind the house, leveled into tiers that allow for gardening. At the top, large bushes screen the house behind and above us. Around the sides, rampaging pepper trees blocked the view of our other neighbors.

Our homeowners’ association maintains all the slopes in the development. Some are in public view, but even private ones like ours have to be carefully tended to avoid over watering that could cause slope collapse, bringing houses from the street behind us tumbling down. Yes, that happens in Southern California. And you thought we only had to worry about earthquakes and brush fires!

Recently, the sprinkler system on the slopes needed replacing. Also, much of the vegetation had become overgrown. So, after consulting with the homeowners, the development’s gardeners went to work.

Down came the pepper trees, along with most of the bushes. Suddenly, we could see our neighbors’ decks and balconies, and they could see us.

Removing so much shrubbery revealed that there are other eyes upon us as well.

The other day, around noon, my husband and I were out working in our vegetable garden when we spotted movement in a neighbor’s Asian fruit tree. The branches shook, and down came a raccoon. Giving us a disdainful glance, it waddled under the mesh fence dividing the properties, ran along the top of our slope, and climbed into another neighbor’s yard, where a tempting fig tree awaited.

Soon afterward, a squirrel came out near the first fruit tree, probably picking up what the raccoon had shaken down. Suddenly a lot of things made sense: the leaves eaten off my eggplants (squirrels love those). The gallon milk jug, pierced by a needle and filled with water, that I’d left overnight to deep-soak a tomato plant and found in the morning empty, crumpled and twisted (I’m guessing the raccoon discovered that it could squeeze the jug to shoot the water out faster, giving it a nice drink).

I grabbed the pepper shaker and gave my garden a liberal sprinkling to discourage the squirrels, and I’ve temporarily given up on the whole milk-jug watering scheme, although I may employ it during very hot days this summer. But once the tomatoes come in, I have no doubt beady eyes will be watching and waiting.

As for our human neighbors, the new plants around the property will grow tall after a while. Then I look forward to regaining the illusion of privacy.


Estella said...

Oh, the joys of gardening with wildlife!

Victoria Chancellor said...

Hi, Jackie. I also have lots of raccoon, oppossum and squirrel visitors to my yard. I usually like them all, but I dread the early summer when the raccoon mothers start bringing their babies around. They get into everything! They are the most curious animals ever. They overturn anything, climb on everything, and generally create chaos wherever they go. However, they are just about the cutest things I've seen. They come into my garage through the cat door and they are either producing havoc or they are sound asleep on the floor. I hope your bushes grow back soon so you can get back the illusion of privacy. Best wishes, Victoria.

Linda Henderson said...

My mother lives outside a small town and she is all the time having deer and other animals eating in her garden. She has some outside cats that people have dumped and she puts food out for them that the possums and raccoons eat all the time. She has huge possums and raccoons.

Victoria said...

Linda, that's what happens to me also. All the stray cats know they can come to my yard for food, so the wild animals do also. Personally, I think there are invisible signs that only cats and wild mammals can see that tells them the way to my house. They also eat all my leftovers. Between the animals, the compost heap, and the recycling, I have very little trash.