A case of mistaken identity

Forgive me, Internet, for I have sinned. I have leapt to conclusions and impugned the good name of an innocent. In short: I am a monster.

Remember when I told you that Licorice has been eating my tomatoes? Tomatoes were ripped in half, still dangling from the vine, and never in all of our years with her has Licorice bothered my garden boxes, but here she was, strolling inside with tomato guts hanging from her muzzle. Of course I took this evidence to be indisputable. Clearly, she had become a rotten, rotten tomato-stealer. FOR SHAME. At first it was just a single tomato, here or there. Then a couple of days ago, my garden turned into a veritable wasteland.

We went from the occasional appearance of something like this…

tomato-carnage-1

… to multiple casualties. Behold:

tomato-carnage-2

tomato-carnage-3

I would go out to pick in the morning and there would be more tomatoes either ripped from the vines entirely or dangling, eviscerated, than whole, ripe ones ready to pick. Because I am an eloquent wordsmith, this left me coming inside and declaring things like “WHAT THE HELL??” and “STUPID DOG!” and so on.

We stopped allowing Licorice to venture outside unsupervised. If she went out, we went out. She would head out to her run, then come back inside the pool area and head for the garden boxes while one of us screamed at her to STOP RIGHT THERE. With a guilty look and a tucked tail, she’d turn back around and come up the stairs to go inside, duly chastened.

Yesterday when I followed Licorice out for her fourth or fifth “pretend I need to pee but actually just wander around for a while” adventure, I discovered this:

tomato-gate

In case it’s unclear, that’s half a tomato sitting right on top of the gate out to the dog run. That was weird. I mean, Licorice doesn’t have thumbs, and also, that’s a 6-foot gate, and she’s a 12-pound dog. What’s more, that’s… reaaaaaally kind of far from the garden boxes.

wandering-tomato

See? That gate is about 25 feet from the boxes.

So I came inside and laughed at Otto, asking him why he’d taken one of my precious, destroyed tomatoes and left it on the gate. “Is that like putting the heads of your enemies on stakes at the entrance to the castle? Are you hoping it’ll deter her from further thievery?”

Otto looked at me like I’d lost my fool mind. “What are you talking about?”

Oh. Oh, no. NOOOOOOOOO.

I called the children downstairs, desperation mounting.

“Did either of you put half a tomato on the gate out to the run?” I demanded, while they exchanged glances of “well, Mom’s finally lost it.”

They denied it, but then wanted to know why I thought they’d do such a thing.

I went back outside. I scoped out the entire scene. There was a this half-tomato on the gate, and another hunk on the fence across the way. Upon closer examination of my plants, I found hunks missing from fruits much higher up than Licorice could possibly reach. Yes, there were tomato shards squashed on the ground BETWEEN the boxes, and those, undoubtedly, had been serving as Licorice snacks. But she was just cleaning up. Being helpful. She wasn’t attacking the plants. She never had been.

licorice-vindicated

“I told you it wasn’t me! Fucking squirrels.”

[EDITED TO ADD: A friend on Twitter has suggested a raccoon rather than squirrels, which seems reasonable. I have NEVER seen a squirrel in my boxes. Guess we go on stake-out after dark tonight!]

19 Responses to “A case of mistaken identity”

  1. 1
    Laura July 15, 2015 at 9:43 am #

    Darn squirrels!

    Perhaps you’ll end up having an experience like Amy’s: http://www.amalah.com/amalah/2015/05/me-vs-nature-part-four-million-and-three.html

    Good luck!

  2. 2
    Sarah G. July 15, 2015 at 9:58 am #

    Same problem with my deck garden. I ended up wrapping my tomato plants with an old badminton net. So classy, but effective.

  3. 3
    Nelson's Mama July 15, 2015 at 10:06 am #

    Poor Licorice! Missed that post too…this old country girl could have outed those fucking squirrels in a heartbeat!

  4. 4
    Chris G July 15, 2015 at 10:06 am #

    Those dastardly squirrels ……I love Licorice!!!

  5. 5
    Diane July 15, 2015 at 10:21 am #

    Time to put hot sauce on the tomatoes? Ring tailed rats will probably *like* it…

    Poor Licorice. Extra pets for her.

    • 5.1
      Brigitte July 15, 2015 at 5:30 pm #

      Ha! Once had a groundhog eat my whole garden . . except the jalapeno plant. I only lost one pepper, lying on the ground with a single bite out of it. I wish I had video of THAT discovery! :-D

  6. 6
    Meri July 15, 2015 at 10:28 am #

    I swear I had feral cats snacking on mine when I lived in the city.

  7. 7
    StephLove July 15, 2015 at 10:37 am #

    We have a family of rabbits living in our yard this year. My daughter had fallen in love with them and they’ve destroyed all my bachelor buttons and are also snacking on the sunflowers and zinnia. Oddly, they are leaving the vegetables alone.

  8. 8
    Mary K. in Rockport July 15, 2015 at 11:54 am #

    Yeah, well raccoons are notoriously hard to dissuade, so hope it’s squirrels.

  9. 9
    Mary July 15, 2015 at 12:38 pm #

    Raccoons are very crafty creatures. It took many months of trial and error placement, not too close to trees or fences, while we thought it was squirrels (even though we had a squirrel baffle), to figure out how my bird feeder was under seige. One night, during this time of sneak attacks, I looked out late one evening, after dark, and my eight foot wrought feeder pole was swaying. Switched on the outside light and there they were, three juvenile raccoons clinging tenaciously to the stand and gorging themselves on my bird feed. That weekend we got the raccoon baffle and now only the birds get to gorge themselves.

  10. 10
    Karen July 15, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

    She’s just too adorable.

    And aren’t those zero gravity chairs the most awesome ever outdoor chair? We have four also.

  11. 11
    Jeanie July 15, 2015 at 5:49 pm #

    Poor Licorice, getting blamed for something she didn’t do. I hope she got an apology, hugs and treats. Sounds like it’s time to install a surveillance camera.

  12. 12
    Katherine July 16, 2015 at 8:47 am #

    Squirrels. We leave in NC and the squirrels do it. Frequently just as they are starting to ripen. Maddening. They never eat the whole thing, just chunks. They don’t bother cherry tomatoes as much.

  13. 13
    Zilla July 16, 2015 at 9:20 am #

    We have lots of garden pests…squirrels, rabbits, and deer (even though we live in a city). I have used, with some success, a spray called Liquid Fence. Smells AWFUL but seems to work. Some years the squirrels are worse than others for us. I’d like to think that this year, they are exhausted after planting 1,000 baby trees in my yard with their acorn antics.

  14. 14
    Holly Gault July 16, 2015 at 11:13 am #

    Motion detecting surveillance cameras.

  15. 15
    Kate July 16, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

    If it’s raccoons, harvest the tomatoes as soon as you see a blush of red on the blossom end, and then bring them in to ripen on the counter. I know there’s all that crap about vine-ripened, but it’s nonsense. I worked at a veggie farm that grew the most gorgeous, ridiculously delicious $6 per pound heirloom tomatoes, and they were pulled off the vine the day they had color and ripened the rest of the way indoors.

    I once gardened near a stream, and only our lower tomatoes got eaten. I was confused for years until I finally caught a turtle in the act, standing on its hind legs (slowly) eating tomato! I didn’t have the heart to try to keep it away. :)

    • 15.1
      Brigitte July 17, 2015 at 12:23 pm #

      Awww, I wouldn’t have either!

  16. 16
    Cran July 17, 2015 at 4:50 pm #

    After having our garbage raided several times over the years, I can tell you with certainty that raccoons will eat most anything but not so much acidic foods like lemon, tomato, etc. squirrels are a pain in the ass.

  17. 17
    Chris July 24, 2015 at 1:39 pm #

    The squirrels are crazy where we live. Similar thing happened to peach tree every year (we ended up just taking it down because we never could save any peaches), strawberries, pumpkins – learned very quickly you couldn’t put out a carved pumpkin until late in the day on Halloween and you couldn’t even keep a pumpkin outside until you carved it.

    My favorite was when my daughter left out her pink and white soccer ball for a few days in the yard. When i went to put it away, it had about 30 bites out of the pink parts. I figure they took a bite, said yuck, went away and forgot about it with their small squirrel brains and then started again. It was unbelievable.

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