Jacques Report

Yes, Jacques has been digging. It’s okay: the mice have found the kitchen garden. This is war!

In general the garden is doing pretty well. We are eating all the tomatoes we can stand and reducing the rest to sauce, which we are freezing for winter.
Sometimes things grow where I wish they wouldn’t. You see morning glories burying my nonblooming jasmine. I hope when it clears out I will find the anemones I planted this spring.
To get back to my little wild man, I was prowling the potager, wishing Julien had taken maybe twice as many tomatoes home with him when, underneath the plastic sheeting, I could hear the pitter patter of little feet. I had noticed that something was actually eating a tomato — not a bird or a worm or snail, no, actually eating it. And now here, on the opposite side of the garden, was an actual culprit. No no no: I’ll share, but this was getting out of control. I had no choice but to say the magic words: “Jacques, come here!”

Now, Jacques comes when he figures there is something in it for him. The rest of the time, forget it. Maybe he heard the scratching too. He was there in a flash, pouncing on the little moving bump. Yes!, though I think the bump got away. Since then Jacques has been on permanent mouse patrol. He actually goes through the plants, nudging leaves aside so he can sniff and peer through the foliage.

Sometimes he digs. Yesterday I decided to harvest some potatoes. The tomatoes and squash are fighting for space and the potatoes were looking a little peaked anyway, so why not pull them out. It turns out those little shit rodents were eating the potatoes, too, but only from one plant. Go figure. So of the half dozen plants I pulled out, with a little canine assistance, only that one hole held any real interest for him. I’d pull up a plant, he’d sniff, then look at me. “So why are we here?” Then he’d return to this spot, where he spent a good hour, pretty much the way you see him.

I think he wore himself out. He’s been pretty sedentary for the last 12 hours or so. But I’ll head back out there this afternoon, it being tomato time. I’m sure he’ll be right there with me.

13 thoughts on “Jacques Report

    1. Yeah. In only six years… I’d think I should have started this garden sooner, but what really got him going was the concierge in Paris taking him through the building on rat patrol. He’d always been interested in the dank corners of old buildings and all. The concierge taught him that this was a real thing.

    1. That was yesterday. You should see him today, Helen. He is one sore dog. Even so, when I head out tonight I bet he’ll be right behind me.

  1. I feel your pain! I, too, have suffered from the depredations of rodents and I would recommend to you a veggie cage except your property is far too large for this solution. Once they get a taste of fresh veggies, the mice and their larger relatives take over and start reproducing like, well, rabbits but that’s another story altogether. Soon you start hearing Barry White CDs and wanton mouse giggles, the clink of champagne flutes and then…poof! there goes the crop, lost to small, wild and licentious creatures. So I say, “Go for it, M. Jacques!” Dig them out, pounce on their burrows, render them limb from limb and…OK, it’s getting too graphic but we are talking tomatoes so…The veggies look great, the ‘mater sauce will brighten a dark winter day and washing that dog’s paws will keep you out of trouble for some time to come.

    1. Definitely, paws washed. Face, too. It’s a good thing this makes Jacques happy because Barry White has been serenading those critters for quite some time. The meadow is loaded with mice and the owls may be stepping up, but not nearly enough. A cage would be futile. These guys burrow, thus the gnawed potatoes. I’m thinking maybe a border of marigolds or stinky herbs, then lining the kitchen garden itself with chicken wire. They seem to stay pretty close to the surface. Maybe a foot or so down would do it? Do you think I should continue it up, so I also have a chicken wire fence? Seriously, I can hear their squeaky voices now. “Never Gonna Give You Up…”

      1. Chicken wire doesn’t cut it. The mice can squeeze through even the 3/4″ holes. I learned that the hard way and I ended up lining my cages with aluminum screening, hence the need for hand pollination.I’d recommend “hardware cloth” with 1/4″ holes and a foot deep should be fine unless you have gophers. How high up you go depends on your other pests but remember rodents are good climbers, bunnies are not, hedgehogs I have no idea and little white dogs can’t be bothered to climb. I guess it comes down to how much to want to defeat these guys. It becomes personal after awhile but for people who are better balanced mentally than me there’s a clear trade off between the cost of the defense and the value of the product defended.

        1. Yeah, ¼ ” wire mesh is probably the way to go. Over here they probably call it 2 mm mesh, but whatever. We’ll spot it. No gophers or rabbits. Maybe lean the wire out? Can they climb upside down? What actually worries me is an invasion, a whole mouse tribe going over the wall and settling into the promised land. One or two mice can’t eat all that much. Can they?

          I lose a lot to weather and other issues. So if I lose a little more to the mice, no big deal. It’s a big garden, after all. I am definitely getting a lesson in why the pros go with hydroponic. Pretty fruit, no pests, no flavor either, but no mice.

          1. The annoying thing with mice is that they like to take a bite or two from one tomato and then move to the next and do the same. I wouldn’t have minded so much if they confined their meals to a single fruit. Can’t say for sure but it seems to me that if you go up maybe 18″ the mice don’t think the climb is worth the effort so they move on to easier targets.

          2. We’ll see. The lesson this year is that the garden can crank out a whole lot of food. So no question it will be worth a try. I’ll toss the rotten ones over the fence to my little soil aerators, fatten them up for the owls.

    1. Yes, they do. I have fairly ordinary varieties — coeur de boeuf, that kind of thing. My San Marzanos got off to a rocky start but they are doing fine, now, though still green, not ready for harvest. So even though I am dealing with what, strictly speaking, are not sauce tomatoes, I have terrific salads and very good sauce. My previous experience with a tomato-filled kitchen garden was while visiting friends in Cortona. I thought it was all that Italian sun but no, apparently any sun will do. I made a list of the plants I want to grow next year. It’s pretty long, but I don’t want to give up any of the space I have for my tomatoes. I may have to enlarge the garden.

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