Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bad Citrus Karma

I know, it's a bit tacky to be abusing that wonderful word "karma" for a seemingly trivial purpose, but it does seem like a bad year for our modest citrus crops...

Remember, I wrote some two weeks ago about the fate of the little lemon tree, on the street side of our house. We returned from a weekend away to find that its entire crop had been lopped off the tree--not picked, mind you, but hacked away, heedless of the shape of the tree, with shears. It felt like a violation.

Now, this Sunday, we returned late afternoon to discover that the kumquat tree on the balcony behind the house had suffered a similar fate. When we left on Friday, it had been blessed with a generous crop of fruit, all ripening nicely, ready to be plucked. We had in fact already picked a few--you can't pick too many at one time, unless you're planning to make kumquat marmalade--to add to our fruit salads and dinner salads. Now, Sunday, there were two little kumquats left on the branches. The rest had disappeared.

Well, our balcony is built high above the ground. The only access to it is through the glass doors from the living room--unless you want to shimmy up twenty feet or more of cold steel column from the garden, access to which also requires a key to open the sturdy gate that blocks the long side stairway. Besides, unlike the lemon tree, the branches themselves were left intact. Clearly, this was not the work of human vandals.

The solution to the mystery soon became apparent. Rats. They are common denizens of the hills around us, not frequently seen, in our experience, but present everywhere. They had left their nasty little turds on the balcony around the base of the big pot in which the kumquat tree is planted. And they had made off with literally dozens of the precious fruit that we had been looking forward to enjoying.

We have been blaming the local squirrels for the loss of other fruit on the balcony. Now they're off the hook. I offer them my apologies for the aspersions and imprecations I seem have mis-cast in their direction. Our fellow creatures need to survive, I guess, as we do. At least this four-footed kind had the decency to respect the integrity of the tree from which they stole, unlike their human counterparts. Still, I do resent their thieving habits, and am wondering how to protect the remaining lemons from their predatory habits...

Any ideas, out there?

9 comments:

roger said...

cats. and then dogs to control the cats. and then....

well, that leads to bigger disasters.

PeterAtLarge said...

Roger, remember that old piece about the fleas? "Little fleas have big fleas/upon their backs to bite 'em. Big fleas have bigger fleas/and so ad infinitum"! Wish we could have cats, but it's not practical with our shifting life style...

roger said...

i was thinking of a song..

"there was an old lady who swallowed a fly. i don't know why she swallowed a fly...."

she went on to swallow a chain of bigger and bigger critters.

the end of each refrain is

"perhaps she'll die."

citizen of the world said...

Chicken wire around the tree?

But thank you - I am taken with the idea of lemon tree karma as representing minor karmic events.

Nancy Youdelman said...

Hello,
Of course my immediate thought was "get a cat" but then I saw your comment about that.

There is a devise that you put into an outlet and it emits a frequency that keeps rodents away, I saw it in a catalogue once but I can't remember what company. Or you could get an electric fence to put around your balcony.

I also thought of my mother who would have said, "Rats gotta eat too". :-)

Gary said...

Rats can't climb a tree that has a sheet metal band that is 10 inches wide surrounding the trunk which is why you have seen these bands on palm trees throughout the city. As long as the tree is free standing and has no power lines running through for they can wire walk into them and out with the fruit in their teeth. Rats can easily get into trees that have limbs near roof eaves because the are good jumpers.

mandt said...

Gary 's info is good! Also try pepper oil on the trunks and limbs. Having lived for years in wine country we know these culprits well.

PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks for the advice, everyone. Gary, the tree is just under the eaves of the house... Nancy's idea is intriguing. And pepper oil may be the best suggestion of all. Will look for it at the local Nature Mart.

Gary said...

The French fix is was my grandma's solution:

cayenne pepper in olive oil smeared on the eaves
get ready for a midnight rat shriek but it won't kill them and they will eat elsewhere.

I have a sure fire fix for gophers as well if you need it!