On The Light Side: War declared on chipmunk invading flower bed


This is my official declaration. I am at war. With a chipmunk.

It started about a month ago when the first sunny days of spring beckoned me to the greenhouse to buy flowers. I picked up a tray and filled it with yellow and purple violas to start the gardening season. I was so happy to finally be outside, without heavy outer garments to restrict my movements, that I sang as I planted and plunged my naked hands into the dirt.

The next day, I set off on my daily walk around the house to see how the flowers were doing. They looked happy and healthy in their new homes. At least the flowers that were still there. I stopped to examine a patch of garden with only two viola plants. I thought I had planted three. When I looked more closely, I found it, totally uprooted by something that was trying to tell me the yard wasn't solely my own.


It continued every week. I would buy flowers, plant them, then check the next day only to find that one or two had been upended. Since there were small chipmunk holes not too far away, I knew who the culprit was.

I have to say that I have never been closely acquainted with a chipmunk. Until I moved into this house, probably the nearest I got was watching Alvin and the gang in the cartoons when I was a kid. The first time I spotted a chipmunk in our yard, I marveled at the beauty of its coat. Now I despair over the holes he digs all over the property - in the asparagus bed, among the lettuce, and, of course, in the flowers.

The last time I bought flowers, I watched them even more carefully. This time, he chose only one, a sweet-smelling white alyssum that I planted outside of my office window. He dug it up. I replanted it. He dug it up again, I replanted it again. Then we went another round. The fourth time it happened, I pulled hair from my brush to put around it, hoping my smell would scare him away. I also watched for him so we could have a talk.

I do realize that it's possible he doesn't understand me, just thinks I'm some crazy human who thinks she can take over his yard. But my husband can communicate with cows, so I hold onto the possibility that, perhaps I can negotiate with Chippy. Yes, I have him a name.

Chippy usually runs away from me, but this time he sat and listened. Before I finished, he ran around the corner of the house. I followed. He had stopped there as if he knew he should give me at least a little bit more of his time. I asked him to please not dig up any more of my flowers.

The alyssum stayed.

I'm going to the greenhouse again today and perhaps it is a good omen that I've had the opportunity to talk with Chippy twice more. I asked him again, very nicely, not to dig up anymore flowers. Later I surprised him in the front yard. He scampered up a tree, then sat on a limb where I could see him, just waiting. This time I decided to take the conversation one step further, asking him to take responsibility for seeing that no other creatures dug up flowers either. At least he didn't scamper off before I finished my request.

So I'll make my trip to the greenhouse. I'll plant my flowers and check them a few hours later to see if any of them have been disturbed. If they have, I might have to call in Alvin for some advice.

Beth Dotson Brown lives in Lancaster.

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