Category Archives: garden

Dang, I’ve Developed the Bloodlust

The skunks traps have remained empty for days. Perhaps our noise, lights and activity helped the wise skunk mama realize it was time to find a new home for her family and she left our property before we brought in the animal control folks. Oh, and the family of Robins flew the nest once the babies had could fly (they grow up so quickly!). The angry, watchful, highly territorial red-winged blackbird remains, however.

Last week I took a walk inthe neighborhood near my parents’ house and almost got dive bombed by a red-winged blackbird. For the space about five houses (but seemed like a long block) it was hopping from tree-to-tree chirping loudly and angrily at me. And at least three times it swooped down within a few feet of me. I took off my hat and flapped it wildly in the air, yelling at the bird to keep it away. I considered turning away and running, but did not want to take my eyes off the bird.

Which makes me fear what might go down in my backyard as summer winds on. I don’t want anyone getting hurt by the bird. And if they are, I hope our homeowner’s insurance covers it. But really, it’s a safety thing.

So when I called the animal control guy about the  empty skunks traps, I not-so-innocently inquired about our “bird problem.” But it turns out the songbirds (which do have an admirable trill) are a protected species under the Federal Migratory Bird Act.

Lets hope the birds consider my friends and family protected, too.

This Stinks

Skunks! We have a family of skunks living under our front stoop. More than a week ago I noticedhow to trap a skunk an odd pile of dirt and, later, a fuzzy black and white blur that quickly disappeared after I spotted it. And I realized we suddenly had pets. Now, they never made a stink around our place, but apparently they would head out at night at make their presence known to some of our neighbors. Still, with all their burrowing, they could do damage to our already crumbling front stoop. How do I get rid of skunks?

Devra from Parentopia suggested using mothballs to stink up their den. Ironic, huh? Also illegal, at least in Illinois. “Though shalt not scatter mothballs throughout the land.” Or something like that.

Debi from  SA Busy Kids suggested shining a light on their home and filling it in whilst the skunks were out foraging, but I never saw them head out for the night and who wants to surprise a skunk with something like that? Or anything, really.

Debi also sent me a link with info about how to choose the right wildlife professional for the job. It should be noted I asked almost none of these questions, but instead, relied on my Angie’s List membership and price points of the various service providers.

I was hoping to bring in a catch and release service (we’d fill in the empty den to keep the skunks them away). But then I learned that mothballs weren’t the only legal concern. According to Illinois law, captured skunks must be killed. Okay, euthanized, as the pros say, but they’re just trying to be polite.

I feel bad that they’ll need to be put down. The skunks are just doing their thing. They didn’t do us any much harm (she said prior to learning it would cost $3,000 to rebuild her front porch*), but apparently skunks carry and transmit rabies and other diseases.

As bad as I feel about being responsible for the murder of these little guys (and their mother. sniff.), it gets worse. In addition to paying for the traps (Note to self:  I just realized they put down two traps, not one. Cha-ching! I’m making a phone call later today.), each skunk has a price on its head: $55 per adult and $25 per baby, though some firms define adult as being able to leave the den and walk around.

It’s possible for a mama skunk to have up to 8 babies, (Cha-ching!) though 3-5 would be a more common litter size.

It gets worse.

The trappers kill them on my lawn.

“The technicians’ wives don’t like it when they come home all stinky. And caged, wild skunks generally do not appreciate being taken for rides in strange vehicles.”

Ugh. I mean, I get it, but, ugh.

This whole situation just really stinks.

You ever have a critter problem? How did you resolve it?


*This did not happen.  I’m just imagining that it might.

We’ve Been Hacked!

For the most part, we’re putting off the landscape and gardening issues until the fall, but this overgrown evergreen was a problem. It spread out into our narrow driveway producing an effect somewhat like keying the side of my car when I drove by it the first time.


You know what they say, “Scratch my car once, shame on you. Scratch my car twice, shame on me.”

Which is why the bush now looks like this.


Eventually, we will put the poor plant out of its misery. We also intend to replace this bush’s friends that line the front of our house, but if we pulled them all now, what would we plant where would the skunk family hide?



How to Create a Wildlife Habitat in Your Backyard

The National Wildlife Federation encourages families to turn their backyards into certified wildlife habitats. The checklist for creating a backyard (or even a balcony) habitat includes things like ensuring access to food and water, providing some type of cover for hiding or protection from the elements and making sure there are safe places for birds and other creatures to raise their young.

You don’t need to work hard to create such an environment.


Yes, it seems all you need to do is vacate your property for several months and let nature run its course. Which is the only reason I can think of to explain the presence, on our property, of several wasp nests, a robin’s nest with adorable babies peeking out and a nesting red-winged blackbird, not to mention a skunk family living under our front stoop! All this on a lot that is less than .25 acre.

The poor robin gets extremely wary when us loud, busy humans are doing our thing. We’re trying not to cause the family too much stress, and I like to think the parents are beginning to recognize me and understand I mean no harm. But that’s kind of a leap, no?

The red-winged blackbird has a lovely trill, but these birds can be nasty. I know they’re really just trying to protect their territory and their young, but they can be very aggressive in doing so. They will attack people. Their nest is at the back of the yard and I don’t think we can do much but take care this season, and then figure out how to get them to relocate next year. (Note to self, have my boys click that link so they can learn to distinguish the bird’s mating call from the “tsk” or “tink” warning sound of an angry bird.)

As for the skunk family. Oh, the skunk family! I only discovered them yesterday. The skunks will get a post or perhaps a series of their own. Sigh.

Which is all a long-winded way of saying that between the skunk family and the birds, we’re taking our Great American Backyard Campout inside this year. Lame? Well, yes.


But I may go so far as to set up the tent indoors. And due to a crack in the sanitary stack, we have limited toilet flushing abilities. And we don’t have any beds in the new place yet, so we’ll be roughing it.

Kind of.

I’ll actually be sleeping on a Kelty Sleep Eazy Air Mattress, which the good Kelty folks sent me for the occasion.  (Though let’s be real, when carpet padding is 30 – 40  years old, it doesn’t provide much cushion. My arthritic body can’t handle the hard ground, err, floor.)

I’ll be back after June 25th with my thoughts on the Kelty air mattress and the chance for you to win one for your next campout or sleepover. (And stop back next week for a chance to win a Serta iComfort sleep system, which will not fit into a tent.)

The Edible Front Yard: One Book, One Idea

Though I don’t think it will happen in 2011, I continue to be intrigued by the concept of replacing the Edible_front_yard_Solerfront lawn with something more functional. Ivette Soler’s The Edible Front Yard: The mow-less grow-more plan for a beautiful bountiful garden is yet another book that fuels my desire.

The book opens with inspirational words, planning tips and ideas for plants (great section on ornamental edibles balancing both the looks of plants as well as the food they produce) in addition to overall design, but the “reality check” is not provided until chapter 6.

Seems to me that that section should come earlier in the book, Soler raised concerns that I hadn’t considered like, what will the neighbors think? and do local codes codes prohibit gardens or structures like fences in front yards?

If we decide to make a front yard garden, we’ll be digging deeper into this handy book.

Do you or your neighbors have a edible estate?

Shopping Haul: Garage Sale Version

I don’t understand the popularity of shopping haul videos, but then again, I’m not much garage sale shopping haulof a shopper. I break out in hives if I’m forced to go to the mall. God forbid I head there on a weekend or holiday, I’d better have an epi-pen or who knows what would happen to me. For my kindred spirits and those who don’t spend as much time online as I do, shopping haul videos typically involve a shopper highlighting her fabulous finds and great deals from a shopping trip. Some haulers get tens of thousands of YouTube views as they show off what’s in their bag, which translates into good money from ads on those videos as well as lucrative deals with brands.

Are you interested in Reluctant Renovator shopping haul videos? If so, I’ll make you some, but know they will be more likely to feature Lowes and hardware than Loehmann’s and handbags.

As you’re pondering my question, take a look at what I picked up last week at local garage sales- something for nearly every room in the house.

Yes, that one. The house that we do not yet own.

My friend Cindy* kindly reminded me that people buy stuff for babies long before they arrive, why not buy a few things for the house?

I threw caution to the wind and went on a $32 shopping spree. Let me tell you about my haul:

  • A brand-new bread machine that makes 2 lb. loaves (on our “to buy” list)
  • Two brand-new tarps (handy for lawn work and so much more)
  • Two large plastic planters for the garden (good since we may only have a container garden this year)
  • Cigar boxes (pure awesome) + their contents (not cigars, but items the boys will use in the workshop)
  • Records including U2’s Joshua Tree and Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits Volumes 1 and 2 (wait for more news about this and hope Hubs doesn’t have these same titles tucked away in his parents’ basement)
  • Closet accessory for hanging shoes or sorting out winter gear like hats and mittens
  • Nearly two dozen old glass spice jars (great with our retro kitchen!)
  • (Then I remembered we’re gutting the kitchen….)

DH likes to remind me that low-priced crap is still crap, but I think we will get our $32worth out of this haul, especially if the boys make a cigar box guitar and I figure out how to repurpose the lovely glass jars (which might work even in the new kitchen).

What do you think? More shopping updates?

* Click the link. She is a fabulous writer.