Practicing Patience and Waging War


I am tired of March. The weather has been properly capricious, with spring advancing, receding, advancing, and disappearing altogether. More than anything, it is the unvarying black and white landscape that is wearing me down. Gray skies, soggy snow, black trees, sleet, ice, fog–all color has been leached away.


We had a couple of days with brilliant blue skies and robin song.


I took a delightful, leisurely walk comparing birch and poplar bark and admiring pussy willows.


This birch bark had Frankenstein-like stitches


This birch’s bark looked like petroglyphs or Roman numerals


Delicate peels


Golden peels


The poplar looks like it’s bursting out of its bark

It seemed as if we might be on the brink of spring.






But another cold front moved in, coating everything in ice.


Ice-coated pussy willows


Pussy willow-cicles 


Apple buds




Queen Anne’s Lace


I should be grateful for all this precipitation after last summer’s drought, but I am starved for color and a few flowers.



While we tried to become resigned to out-waiting winter’s siege, we faced a sneak attack on another front. Some wily chipmunk decided to have a vacation under the hood of our car.  This was not the first time we have had rodents in our vehicles. It is a hazard of rural life in Maine. We don’t have a garage and our parking area is bounded by stone walls and a wood pile, which provide perfect cover for mice and chipmunks.


We have tried every kind of deterrent, from peppermint oil, to dryer sheets, to fox urine.
Our previous damage, including chewed wires for our car’s moon roof, was from mice. After setting some traps, we thought we had it under control.


The chipmunk was another story. Exactly one week ago, last Wednesday, our car’s heater fan started making an alarming noise. It is still cold and icy here, and we need that heater and defroster to get around. So, I brought the car in immediately and found that some little critter had torn out most of the cabin air filter for nesting material and the filter debris had been sucked into the heater fan. The mechanic cleared out the material and put in a new filter. All good, we thought.


The second destroyed filter.  One day’s damage.  There were maple seeds and pine needles stashed in it.  

Not so. By the next afternoon, same noise. Another trip to the mechanic on Friday, another eaten filter, and this time, there were bits of hood liner added to the mix. Another clean out, another new filter, more smelly deterrents, traps set. The mechanics all surmised that it was a chipmunk, not a mouse, that was the causing the damage.


Hood liner.  Lovely, soft nesting material.

Now, I hate to trap a chipmunk. They peg the adorable meter for rodents. Charming, fun to watch–I LOVE chipmunks. But this little rodent was costing us a lot of time and money. We had tried to peacefully coexist, but we cannot provide our car as chipmunk housing.


It burrowed under the hood liner here.  Again, one day’s damage.

The traps seemed to work. Not in actually catching anything, but they must have made the chipmunks wary. We saw no signs of them.


Until Monday. A third trip to the mechanic, a third filter destroyed, more hood liner gone. This time the mechanic installed wire screening across the entire opening for the heating ductwork. We have our fingers crossed that it will work. So far, so good. In the meantime, the car smells like a balsam-scented laundromat (we may add mothballs to the mix). We will move our woodpile and stop feeding the birds for a while in hopes that will clear out some of the chipmunks. The war continues.


Maybe we should have gotten Terriers


41 thoughts on “Practicing Patience and Waging War

  1. Well that chipmunk seems harder to move than an Australian possum! They can do so much damage, I feel for you. (you may be onto something there with the terriers, but don’t let your two cuties hear that one!)
    Your photos of the ice-clad twigs and flowers are amazing to me, as we would not see such severe weather… I can see how you would get tired of winter, and hope spring arrives very soon.

    • Last year, we had a fox raising its kits on our property and I suspect it cleared out most of the chipmunk population. The fox was back nosing around last month but wisely chose to den up somewhere else. The den area is less protected now because we expanded our orchard area and have two young dogs. Without the fox, our chipmunk and squirrel population has grown.
      The ice is beautiful, but hard on the plants. We are expecting more snow!

  2. Oh, my! Your poor car! March has been a bit bleak here in rural Maine. As we have shared before, winter is no problem. Cold no problem. Snow no problem. It is this gray and muddy hesitation to switch seasons that has us gloomy. We are feeling the needs of the nursery upon us and would really like to get a start in the gardens. As you’ve probably heard…more snow this weekend!

    • At least today is sunny and warm. I can finally open up my beehive and see if I can figure out what happened to it. I am not looking forward to this weekend’s snow. This weather must be really tough on you and your plants. Patience, right?

  3. I have never seen this time of year look more beautiful than in your icy photos! Even though I share your impatience for spring and color, I am really just blown away by the pictures! And I love the close-ups of the birch and the pussywillows. I had no idea a chipmunk could cause that kind of damage–red squirrels, yes, but chipmunks?! Our cats go outside so no chipmunks choose to live right near here and now I’m very glad about that!

    • Thank you Kerry. The ice is beautiful, but so unwelcome. It’s possible that a red squirrel is our culprit, but given the number of chipmunks near our parking area, we think it’s more likely to be one of them. We have thought about getting a cat! When I was young, our cat used to deliver perfect little chipmunk tails to us.

  4. What timing! On another blog I follow, I just wrote about how much I love chipmunks. But you are right—they are adorable until they start destroying your car. Fingers crossed that they have found other places, in nature, not in your car. As for March. Oh, sigh. It is a month all Mainers dread, so you are not alone. March marches on, that’s for sure. Finally, those dogs look like they have become such good buddies.

    • I have always loved them too. But, after this, they seem much less charming. So far, it’s clear the traps have them spooked. Maybe they will move down the street! One thing I’ve learned with all my time in the car repair waiting rooms this week, is that this is huge problem. The first day I was in, three out of four of us were there for rodent damage repair. The dogs are becoming inseparable. Now if we can just train them to chase chipmunks.

  5. Now that is definitely over the top – rodents can be annoyingly persistent! Our Maine coon cat was the one that kept chipmunks in check before he passed. We now live-trap chipmunks and take them for a long ride far away from houses to an oak grove complete with stone walls. We imagine that as a good life for a chipmunk.
    You may be tired of winter, but your photos show that you haven’t lost your sense of beauty. The Queen Anne’s lace is esp. lovely!

    • There aren’t many cats around here. I’ve been told that every year or so the coyotes come through and nab them. Not a pleasant thought. We also have a live trap and a place picked out for relocation. I understand that they often don’t live long when relocated, but at least they’ll have a chance. For now, though, they have avoided the traps. Perhaps we aren’t using the right food. What works for you?

      • Thanks Eliza. Good to know. We have been using rubber gloves and peanut butter with seeds and cheese. Maybe we’ll cut out the seeds because we have started catching chickadees, which happily hop around in the trap eating the bait until we release them. But no chipmunk takers yet. Patience.

  6. Good to hear from you. 🙂 Love the Queen Anne’s Lace in ice even if I am sick to death of winter, but not the rodent damage. We have enough chipmunks and squirrels for several plots of land. I don’t feed the birds because of the crowd mentality. Your pups look so happy together. It must make you smile because it sure did me. 🙂

    • There is something deeply appealing about Queen Anne’s Lace fractal structure, don’t you think? It must satisfy some need for order, symmetry, and beauty in us. I love it in all seasons but have to say it was a little ragged until the ice transformed it into lace again. I love watching the birds at my feeders, so was reluctant to cut out the sunflower seeds. I am continuing to feed suet, though, so will see how many hang around. As for the dogs, what can I say? We hit the doggy jackpot with these two.

  7. Omg….the freezing weather AND a chipmunk wreaking havoc???? You have the patience of a saint, three times, it must have cost a fortune!!! Hope that’s it!!! Your frozen pictures are just beautiful, although I get how a lack of colour is becoming old…’s to spring, no rodent damage and a spurt in growth. Just love your pups, how close they seem already. Ah bless

    • It was an interesting week. I never knew that rodents were such a problem in cars until this past year. Apparently, they wreak lots and lots of havoc. Maybe someone should start designing rodent-proof cars. There should be a big demand. This is our second good ice storm this spring. Needless to say, I enjoyed the first one more. The dogs bonded very quickly. It’s a good match.

  8. Oh, when I was still living at home with my parents, a brown and white field mouse took up residence in my glove box. One day, it dropped out onto the rubber mat on the passenger side of the car while I was on the highway. It took one look at me and darted under the seat. I checked the glove box and it was full of shredded road maps, a veritable mouse mansion. Have you thought about parking the car elsewhere? That’s what I did.

    • My fear this past week was that a chipmunk would suddenly appear at my feet while I was driving. You must have had a bit of a swerve on the highway when yours dropped out onto the passenger side. Startling, to say the least! We have two beautiful large stone walls near to any place that we can park. They are structurally integral to our whole parking, turn-around area. And, they appear to serve as chipmunk condominiums. We are going to move our woodpiles farther away, but that’s really the only change we can make to lessen chipmunk habitat. We could always switch to winter bike riding.

  9. I have at best an uneasy truce with all the members of the extended rodent clan — mice, chipmunks, squirrels, woodchucks. Happily, our fox den is active again, so I’m hoping for more excellent rodent control this year. I have had mice nesting in the cabin air filter of my car; but they’ve never actually destroyed the filter, just built elaborate structures of pine needles, hemlock cones, leaves and acorns on top of it.
    You got a lot more ice than we did from that Monday storm. I’m feeling grumpy about the promised April 1 snow, but realize that it will melt in a few days. I was cheered by having my first crocus bloom today.

    • I miss our fox. I really believe that her absence this year has resulted in the uptick of our chipmunk population. I was heartened tonight, though, because we saw a barred owl just down the street and heard a saw-whet owl out back as it grew dark. We haven’t seen owls here much before. Maybe they will pick up where the fox left off.
      From what the mechanics said, mice will stuff all kinds of things in the air filters and chew on them a bit. But chipmunks can engage in wholesale destruction of the filter. As we saw. It was amazing how fast it went to work.
      We really got a good coating of ice, but it’s all melted now. I’m hoping the snow storm will give us a miss. I envy you your first crocus bloom. None of my bulbs have even poked shoots out yet. Still too much snow. Soon… soon…

  10. Astonishing photographs; really wonderful. Good luck with the chipmunk – I thought I’d had a problem with mice chewing some vital wires, but it turned out to be VW trying to blame innocent rodents for a design fault.

    • Ha. The only design fault by Toyota is that there is such easy access for rodents! As for the photographs, thank you. The ice makes for some pretty stunning art. Photographs don’t really do it justice–I can’t capture the way the sun illuminates the ice.

  11. The ice looks so pretty but I can understand you being fed up with it (as I am with grey skies and rain). I also dread to think about the harm the ice must be doing to the plants. Your chipmunk story reminds me of the trouble we had with mice and garden machinery. They seemed to have developed a taste for petrol and would destroy any soft parts of the machinery to get at it. The bills soon mount up!

    • We are expecting more snow tonight. I just seems wrong! Although it’s not really uncommon. The ice has melted and, so far, the buds seem to be doing fine. We’ll see. We have had mice in the garden machinery, too. Someone needs to invent a coating for car and outdoor machinery wires and parts that tastes really nasty to rodents.

  12. Ha ha, those dogs! Obviously totally unconcerned about the chipmunk action going on. I hope the wire mesh solves the problem – that must be SO frustrating! And maybe you’ll have another predator move in to take up the reins from the fox. I’ve never seen ice on plants like this. Quite amazing and beautiful, although I’m sure you are thoroughly fed up of winter now. I hope the thaw comes soon and your spring starts in earnest with colour and warmer temperatures.

    • When we were looking for an adult dog to adopt, Chloe, a nine-year-old golden retriever was available. She apparently was a wonderful girl but had a propensity for catching rodents and other critters and had even taken down a fox. We thought long and hard about her, but decided that we really needed a younger dog to get along with Capp. Perhaps this is Chloe’s revenge.

  13. Your photos are beautiful and I could feel the cold! Hope you have conquered the chipmunks by now. We have a constant battle with mice chewing the wires in our boat. I don’t know how many times Henry has had to fix them. Wishing you warm weather very soon!

    • Thanks Beth. It’s been snowing all day here. I’m ready to garden but, with the softly falling snow, it feels more like Christmas is approaching. So far, the screen seems to be thwarting the chipmunks. Still, I will never look at them the same way.

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