Anyone else ready to throw in the towel sometimes?

weeper_11(2b SK)June 11, 2014

In a lot of ways, I adore our yard. We live on a large acreage up on a hill. From our house we have a beautiful view of rolling hills and farmland. It is a really exceptional view. We didn't pay much for the yard because the house is old, small, and not in very good shape. The yard, besides the shelterbelt, was basically a blank canvas. So we've spent the past 5 years putting in a big wrap-around flowerbed by the house, my husband built a huge 8 ft deer fence(metal game fence) around our veggie garden and orchard area, I've planted countless trees and fruit trees, and we've dug by hand a number of raised vegetable beds(with more in the works)

So the idea of moving makes me absolutely CRINGE. I can't imagine doing all this work all over again in a different yard.

But in some ways, the yard gets worse every year, and is getting harder to "deal with" every year. A few of the issues:

- for some reason, we have a MAJOR rodent problem. I've never encountered so many rodents. We have oodles of Franklin, 13-lined, and Richardson ground squirrels. I've tried shooting them and trapping them. They are difficult to trap, and shooting them just doesn't seem to stay ahead of how fast they reproduce. Basically we have more every year. Which means our lawn gets rougher every year. And I mean rough! We also have tons of voles and mice. I had to learn what pocket gophers are, and I have to trap them every spring and fall when more move into our yard.

- Some sort of rodent(likely a mouse or vole?) has been causing me so much frustration in the vegetable garden. I've planted my peas 5 times. Yes, you read that right. Something keeps digging each seed up, overnight, even when I tried putting shade cloth over it to keep birds out. This last time I tried pouring diatomaceous earth over top of the line of seeds, hoping to discourage pests. We'll see if it works. I just checked on my kale which was nicely coming up a few days ago. It looks like it has been mowed. Guess I'll have to reseed that too. How much time have I wasted reseeding, rewatering, etc.? How futile is it?

- Our awful, heavy clay soil. It is so heavy that if the rodents don't get the plants, rot will. I've lost many perennials that are definitely hardy here, because they can't handle the soggy soil, even though I have tried to amend it and everything is in raised beds. I don't even want to think of how much money I've wasted trying to replace dead perennials.

- Every time something DOES do really well in my garden, it is only a matter of time before something comes along and ruins it. For example: I had a terrible vole problem in my flower bed last year. They dug up and ate about 2/3 of the lily bulbs in my garden. In a couple of cases, they wiped out entire patches of lilies that were 6 years old. Starting from square one again...

- The first couple of years we lived here, we lost a number of newly planted, $120-180 shade trees to deer. They girdled them..sometimes they actually stripped the bark and ate it, other times I think they just rubbed their horns on them. Since then, we've replaced everything, and every tree we plant now has to have a little fence constructed of chicken wire and rebar around them. I don't know how many years that'll have to stay up. Until the trees are mature, maybe. They look bad, shaggy grass grows up in them, and it is something else to mow around. But what else can I do? We had a couple of mule deer come into our yard last winter for ONE DAY, and they chose to pick on my prize weeping norway spruce, which I planted the first year we were married. They didn't eat it, but they bit off basically the entire skirt of the tree. All that is left is the top half, and the naked bottom half. Then they ate out the center of one of my nest spruces nearby, which definitely won't ever recover. I'll have to dig it out. I put up a deer fence after that for the rest of the winter, but they never came back.

Honestly, sometimes I wonder if this is worth it. I spend so many hours trying to make things healthy and look nice, and in one evening or one day, so much is ruined. And this happens over and over again! I love our view, I love our privacy, I love our church congregation...but I'm seriously wondering if I should just move away from this hell hole. :(
/pity party

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lucille(Houston)

Because I was getting older and things were harder to manage, I moved 3 years ago, from a house with a very large yard, to a small house with a little yard.
I had spent lots of time and money at the old yard, where I lived for 30 years. Truckloads of soil, a beautiful privacy fence for the entire huge yard. Roses. Fig trees. Grapes.
I now have a tiny veggie garden and some flowers here and am much happier. Gardening is a joy, and at the old place it was becoming a chore.
What I have written is in no way a persuasion, only you can know what is best for you.
Are you happy, or no?

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 4:35PM
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wayne

In a lot of ways I wish that my place was more rural, there would be more shooting going on, more meat in the freezer. Usually you can get ahead of the gophers if you keep shooting or find someone that likes doing that. A good dog goes a long way for anything that you don't want around but you must spend some time to teach them. I consider the voles worse than deer or horses because they girdle plants or totally eat them. Some things I just will not grow.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 6:46PM
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Ginny McLean_Petite_Garden

I wish I could offer you some wise advice or at least be there to give you a hug, Katie. I feel your frustration and discouragement!

The trials and tribulations of living in the country and gardening in nature can so often become survival of the fittest so to speak. I remember living on the acreage and my ex is still battling the same problems in the country. That said, my first thought is to fight fire with fire. By that I mean something on the level of the pests or pets. :) Get yourself a bigger, badder, pet or a couple of them. A dog is a natural guardian and will usually chase anything and everything from the property. Depending on the breed, of course, as some are just more natural hunters. A really fast cat also does wonders in the vermin department. I live in the city now but that was not always the case. I have very little damage here thanks to my 'bird dog' shelties and the adopted garage cat.......They chase the squirrels, rabbits, mice, and even the birds who like to eat my baby peas. Their favorite sport is 'debirding' the yard.

I agree with Wayne on this one and you must be willing to be a good pet owner as they are working family members and we are their bosses. :)

Ginny

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 7:51PM
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myfrozenlittlepond(3)

I have to agree with the above responses and suggest a dog. One Jack Russel Terrier or Border Collie will make short work of your rodents and even chase deer and larger critters away. These are sturdy, hardy breeds, with strong prey drives. You have to look at it this way: Your beautiful trees, flowers and veggies have created a haven for yourselves, and the wild critters just happen to agree! You have made a walk-up diner that they just can't resist! So use fences and barriers where you can, and get some four-legged help for the rest. It seems worth a try to be able to stay where you are. You can always throw in the towel if it just doesn't work out. You might be pleasantly surprised!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 9:46PM
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luckygal(3b)

I empathize completely with you weeper and plan to move as I no longer want to spend so much time, effort, and money to maintain my rural garden. There is a time for everything and I want to do more than be a slave to my garden.

I have squirrels, chipmunks, mice, pack rats, marmots, deer, and the neighbors horses - all are destructive in some way. I was away for 2 days and came home to find something had eaten the verbena in my containers to the ground! Probably marmots. Not much point replacing them so I plan to get something different that tastes bad, wonder what that might be. I had deer fencing installed but the deer have jumped thru it necessitating repairs, and the horses destroyed it so it now needs replacing completely.

I do enjoy so much about living in the country but there are difficulties one doesn't have in the city.

Hope you can make the right decision or find some way to cope with the problems.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 12:19AM
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weeper_11(2b SK)

Thanks for all the advice, guys. *virtual hug*

I do love being out here, and I've always been a farm girl so I can't imagine moving to the city..but we almost never had deer in our yard growing up, and only the very occasional gopher, so I am still struggling to wrap my head around our rodent haven! We have weasels, too, I've found headless mice piled up laying outside of their hole, so I am definitely not interested in resorting to poison!

But..yeah. It always seems that I finally get something growing well, coach and coax it along, and then in one fell swoop something comes and does away with it!

As far as getting a dog: we have certainly considered this! One concern for us is that we don't have anyone close by to look after him/her, so we'd essentially have to kennel the dog each and every time we went away. Which can get expensive, we go away fairly frequently(for short trips, but still) in the summer. But maybe we'll just have to commit if we don't want to go crazy with all our vermin. Training a dog to stay out of flower beds, etc., is such a huge job, I kind of cringe to think of that, too. I'm sure I'd have quite a few smooshed or dug up plants for awhile...

I think I have to resign myself to growing what does best here. I've always wanted lots of flowers, but the hard truth is that shrubs and confiers are much more reliable and vigorous in my soil. I think as my perennials die out, I should probably be replacing them with shrubs, and I'll save myself a lot of headache. I'm just kind of tired of so many plants struggling along and never really looking as good as they should(or getting as big, etc.)!

Luckygal - I hear ya! We're trying to start a family, and I have no clue as to how I would manage everything with a baby when I can't handle it without one! I love gardening, but I love having time to ENJOY my garden, too!

Thanks again for commiserating with me, all of you. It just feels good to get that rant off my chest...

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 10:32AM
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nutsaboutflowers(2b/3a)

Hi Katie. Don't move. It sounds like there's too many reasons not to.

I would start with about 3 farm cats. They don't need to be kenneled, and they would take care of a lot of your problems. Then maybe the rest would seem more manageable.

Could your husband rig you some type of chicken wire cover for your peas?

Lynn

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 10:50AM
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TanlineTracey

We have three dogs. Two are still young, but they all love to dig in the dirt after I have. I've found big deer legs and stuffed animals buried in there. And they kept laying on everything, that's when I started planting the odd rose to help prevent that (doesn't feel so good) but I think they are worth it, I love the dogs and we have no deer in the yard. But the cats... They can really make me mad cause they crap in all the flower beds. And there are still mice! (Lazy cats). Just a warning. So some plants will not survive in their litter boxes lol. But good luck to you, it's frustrating I know.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 10:53AM
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Slimy_Okra(2b)

I hate those rodents too! Although I haven't (YET!) experienced the scale of destruction you have, I regularly lose plants to rodent attacks - and instead of eating a few plants, they munch on and partially eat every plant in the bed! I can't get a dog because I go away for a month every year. Any other suggestions? Would barn cats fend for themselves? We have Great Horned Owls and coyotes around - would they attack the cats?

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 11:20AM
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don555(3a)

Sorry for your garden problems and I hope you get them sorted out. On the plus side, maybe my small lot in the city, with neighbours who sometimes block my driveway, sometimes even park in my driveway without asking, and next-door neighbours who haven't yet cut their lawn this year (now approaching 2 feet high), isn't so annoying afterall. At least deer are no issue, and the neighbourhood cats keep the mice and voles in check...

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 2:24AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I appreciate your post, because I've always had that 'dream' in my head, of living in the country, which I've never done and this is a reminder of the reality of how challenging it is.

I don't know how you do it.

I just wanted to share that we have a dog and it has not been a problem in the garden at all. This dog is not a digger at all, She enjoys the garden. I have a shrub border edged by grass on 2 sides of the back that she can wander through and look out the back post and rail fence at the next yard. And we have a 30ft mixed border with perennials that has a rock edge, that she was very easy to train to stay out of. She will chase squirrels when she sees them, and that has cut down on their mischief. So the right dog can be a workable solution and a joy as well. Maybe you have friends or family that might consider taking the dog when you go away? You might have to drive to them before your trip, but on the plus side, you might see them more often. :-) Maybe you have a friend with a dog that you could borrow for a weekend to test out how it would work out?

We have never had outdoor cats, we have allergies in the family. But if I had rodent problems like you do, I would definitely get some cats right away. There are so many cats in shelters. But you might want to speak to someone about how you judge whether a cat is a good mouser.

You said you have raised beds, I wonder if you added hardware cloth to the bottom of them? I would look into that. We just finished building new beds and added 1/4 inch hardware cloth to the bottom. I've been told that makes a big difference. I haven't had a lot of problems. I definitely have a mole in the yard, but not sure about the voles. So I did it as a precaution. It was expensive. I've also had it suggested to me to plant my bulbs in little baskets made of hardware cloth. On the Hosta forum, there was a suggestion to plant Hostas in wire wastebaskets that you can get at the dollar store. I've also seen people build chicken wire tops for their raised beds to keep animals out, although I haven't heard how successful that is.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 3:12AM
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wayne

I grew up on a farm and still go there often, cats, cats like to eat birds, they must taste better. I think cats also get flees from rodents so they avoid them if possible. Owls, foxes and coyotes definitely will kill cats and so will some dogs. Weeper, if you could keep those weasels around they are better than a dog or cat combined, foxes are also good, I had a mound of dirt in this yard that they had a den in and had a good chance to watch them for a few years before I removed it. People were worried about rabies and they were loosing cats. If you get a cat it must be on the wild or unsociable side, a lot of times those tend to just show up and all they need is a place to hang out safely. Best wishes.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 10:16AM
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rosecavalier(3 AB)

Gardening in the idyllic countryside may not be so idyllic as you have experienced...but may I commend you on the Herculean effort .

Some really practical suggestions being posted also...a good read for people moving out to acreages...and this migration from urban to rural comes with challenges. In my area, deer, moose and mice cause a lot of damage each year.

I know what you are talking about when you describe clay soils that prevent drainage thus drowning plants...that was the case on the acreage I used to live on...find it much, much easier to garden in my urban environment now.

Personally, I wouldn't hesitate to move...one only has so much energy and patience and time in life...and I think you have sure given it an honest try. I've noticed in this area that 5 - 10 miles can make a huge difference in growing conditions...and with your experience, you will know what to look for in a new site.

This last winter part of a row of my roses located outside of the city got nailed by mice...that was with lots of traps and bait blocks...thought I had that issue figured out...frustrating but most of them are coming from the base.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 11:02AM
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