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Chipmunk 3, Silence 0. May 18, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, gardening, homesteading.
Tags: , , ,

Silence Dogood here. You may recall our friend Ben and I posting about how we’d attempted to foil a groundhog who was after our Swiss chard by draping bird netting over our row of alternating Swiss chard and spinach plants. The groundhog, which I actually saw racing from our back bed (having decimated all our kale plants), had only eaten the Swiss chard, leaving the spinach untouched. (Hmmmm.) We’d never had animal damage to our garden before, and were determined to try to save our crops.

Unfortunately, as I discovered to my horror a couple of days ago, whatever the groundhog may have done to our kale, it was a tiny chipmunk who’d leveled our Swiss chard. I know this because, as I inspected the garden beds, I saw a completely destroyed—as in eaten to the ground—Swiss chard plant and, horrifyingly, a chipmunk completely entangled in the bird netting.

How such a small creature could have eaten such a large plant in a single sitting was a mystery to me. But more to the point, I needed to free the chipmunk from its deadly trap. Grabbing my pruners in one hand and the enmeshed chipmunk in the other, I began snipping away. To my great relief (since I was bare-handed at the time), the chipmunk seemed to realize that I was trying to free it, not eat it. It didn’t try to bite me, struggle, or attempt to get away, which would only have tightened the mesh noose around its neck and body. At last, after many scary snips, I was able to free the chipmunk, who made a very hasty exit.

Looking at the wreckage of the Swiss chard, I concluded that protecting the plants wasn’t worth taking a life. Another tactic was called for. I opted for hot sauce. I figured the burn would deter chipmunks and even groundhogs from turning our greens into a free all-you-can-eat buffet. With OFB in tow, I headed to the local grocery and bought the cheapest hot sauce I could find. Then, I splashed it liberally on the Swiss chard, and the spinach too, for good measure.

The next morning, an unusually diffident OFB returned from taking our beloved black German shepherd, Shiloh, on garden inspection. “Uh, Silence, have you looked at the garden beds lately?” he asked, trying for a neutral tone.

“Not since yesterday. Why do you ask?”


“Uh, what? What’s going on back there?!”

“Well, remember those plants you put the hot sauce on…”

“Of course I remember! What happened? Did the chipmunks eat them anyway?”

“Well, no.”

“Then maybe it worked!”


“Uh, what?!!!”

“They’re all white.”

“What’s all white?”

“The spinach and Swiss chard. All the leaves have turned white.”

OFB was right, as I quickly saw for myself. How putting hot sauce on leaves could seemingly suck the chlorophyll out of them overnight I’ll never know, but it did. Our crop was ruined. Even the chipmunk(s) hadn’t had such a devastating effect.

Maybe I should have put a splash of hot sauce in a gallon of water and applied it that way. Now OFB is suggesting that we pull the unsightly plants and start over. I’m leaning toward leaving them, hoping new leaves regenerate from the crowns while the pepper-laden older leaves provide some protection from chipmunks. One thing’s for sure: So far, the chipmunks have beaten us at every turn. Thank goodness they don’t have a taste for tomato and pepper plants!

          ‘Til next time,




1. Karen - May 18, 2012

There are Havahart traps for chipmunks and groundhogs. You could also buy a large jar of ground cayenne pepper to sprinkle on your vegetables.

Thanks, Karen! No doubt the cayenne would be a lot kinder to our plants than hot sauce!

2. Becca - May 21, 2012

Silence, I imagine that cheap hot sauce was mostly vinegar!

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