From the BlogSubscribe Now

Elroy, Chip, & Dale

There is not much positive we can say about the pandemic that has impacted our lives so much over the past few months.  But there is one thing that has caught the attention of environmentalists and nature lovers.  With business closed and “stay at home” orders in place, people have not been out very much.  As a result, air pollution is down and wild animals have been spotted all over the place….including at Hemlock Inn.

As many of you know, our property covers 57 wooded acres just a little over a mile away from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  It is not unusual for us to see squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, deer, turkey and even an occasional bear or fox.  Birds are filling the trees with their melodious cries and chirps. Mr Shell loves birds, so we put up several bird feeders on the deck right outside his window. 

But my attention has been turned to other “critters” lately. 

Elroy is my name for our local ground hog.  He, or his father, has been around for a few years.  We first saw him stick his head out of his burrow in our field a couple of winters ago when the grass was low and he was noticeable.  We would occasionally see him amble around the property and thought it was an amusing site. He even had a mention in an earlier blog I wrote about sitting on the inn’s front porch admiring a beautiful spring day. He nonchalantly ambled right in front of Lainey, Mr Shell, and me. We thought he was the symbol of a lazy spring day and just laughed at him.   

I’m not laughing anymore. Turns out, groundhogs like to eat flowers, at least Elroy does.  He has been know to eat everyone of the blooms off a gardenia bush and lay in the middle of our butterfly garden resulting in a large area of destruction.  Recently, he  ate the only bloom of a peony flower  and romped among a whole batch of ferns we had just bought to hand around the inn.   Elroy has become a pest.  I decided it was time to use my large live trap, catch him, and humanly release him far far away.  I researched just enough to find out that if I used cantaloupe as bait, I could lure him into the trap.  I put the plan into motion and set the trap in a location we often see him.  A few hours later, I check it and was disappointed to see it had not sprung.  But upon closer inspection, I also noticed the bait was gone.  I put out more bait and moved it to a location where I had just seen him.  A few hours later, the same result…no Elroy, trap not sprung, and no bait. Since I knew Elroy was too big to get to the bait without springing the trap, I knew something else was afoot. 

That brings me to Chip and Dale.  As you probably already guessed by their names, they are chipmunks. They are cute little critters always running around. In some ways, they are like watching a cat or a goldfish.  Peaceful, relaxing, comforting. … and mischievous. It didn’t take me too long to figure out these very light and nimble critters were able to get the cantaloupe out of the trap without setting it off.  Just like the cartoon characters they are named for; Chip and Dale were fouling my master plan to catch the nuisance Elroy.  To be fair, I had warning. Remember the bird feeders we put out?  They were specifically designed so squirrels wouldn’t be a problem.  One was a finch feeder the other was filled Safflower seed, which squirrels won’t eat. But apparently Chipmunks DO!   It didn’t take me long to discover Chip and Dale hanging from the feeder enjoying a feast.  They were consuming a full 7 pound bag every week. 

So, I still have Elroy, eating and destroying flowers and flower beds, and Chip and Dale eating the bait to prevent me from luring Elroy into a trap, as well as emptying our bird feeders at an alarming rate. As I sat pondering my next move, I felt I had only one option.  I went back inside my house where I felt safe and put on my mask.