Posts Tagged ‘lawns’

Being Handy

The ‘Peel and Eat’ Buffet

While much human labor involves manipulating tools, most wild creatures depend solely on their hands to do the work for them. Imagine how finger numbing it would be to peel back a lawn using only your hands?  The raccoon whose handiwork this is must have been peeling for some time before he made such a mess of my lawn.

Maybe I’d be in a peeling frenzy too if I shared his appetite for worms.  Considering all the worms I found under the sod, it’s no wonder he keeps coming back for more.

Some of the worms that managed to not get eaten by the raccoon (yet)

Besides their awesome dexterity, raccoons’ compulsive hand washing is also a source of fascination.  One popular theory suggests that these ‘Little Washing Bears’ simply wash their food prior to eating it.  However, researchers Rasmusson and Turnbull discovered that wetting actually enhances the sensitivity of raccoons’ hand nerves (Sensory innervation of the raccoon forepaw: 2. Response properties and classification of slowly adapting fibers’ ).  This wetting process would certainly give raccoons more information regarding the edibility of their food and make it easier for them to catch food underwater.

If women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.
~ Red Green

Raccoons have managed to use their dexterity to repeatedly lift off my garbage can lid, pluck tomatoes from my garden and abscond with the suet balls I thought I had carefully tied to tree branches.

Considering how much their survival is linked to their handiwork, I wonder to what extent a raccoon’s handiness is considered in the choice of mates.

For more about raccoons see:
The Lawn Ripper and When Bandits Strike

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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Many creatures rip up lawns.  In Nova Scotia, moles, voles, birds, skunks and raccoons are often the culprits.  Though you might have some suspicions as to what is doing the ripping, the only way to be sure is to catch the lawn ripper in action.  This morning I was lucky.

Though usually nocturnal, this raccoon was still looking for a meal as the sun was rising.  Raccoons have the manual dexterity to peel back the grass and moss to reveal tasty grubs and worms living beneath the surface.  Their ripping actions can leave large enough areas bare that a lawn is damaged.

Moles and voles, being smaller creatures, do smaller damage.  They also typically make trails or furrows in the grass.

Northern Flickers are birds that will also make holes in the lawn by digging  for ants with their beaks.  Their holes are made by a digging action rather than a peeling back.

This little darling gave me a good look before deciding to head for cover in the woods.  It was probably also tired after a long night of foraging.

A former neighbor told me much of her beautiful lawn was peeled back by raccoons some years ago.  After many attempts to deter them, she ended up live-trapping the critters.  They were then re-located by the Ministry of Natural Resources.

I don’t take the appearance of my lawn too seriously, so the lawn ripper is welcome to the insects in my yard.  I just wish it would have the courtesy to replace the divots.

For more information on dealing with nuisance raccoons in Nova Scotia, visit Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources.

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moss 1

Moss brings an enchanted appearance to forests.  Several varieties grow around Flandrum Hill, on the ground, on stones and more than just the north side of tree trunks. 

moss on tree

In recent years, some innovative horticulturalists have suggested that it might be ecologically beneficial for homeowners to consider growing lawns of moss instead of grass.   Here are some reasons why:

  • It grows fast,
  • prevents erosion,
  • repels weeds,
  • doesn’t require fertilizer,
  • doesn’t require watering and 
  • doesn’t require mowing.

That last reason should be enough by itself to convince people to look into the moss option.  Imagine all the labour that would be saved in lawn maintenance!

moss 5

Though mosses thrive in moist, acidic soil, all they really need is a bit of shade.  They’re able to absorb enough moisture from rainfall to allow them to survive without extra watering.



The sphagnum moss shown above is a marvel of nature.  It can absorb several times its own weight in water or oil.  It has many uses in gardening, ie. as a seed starter, and dried, is an excellent insulator, firestarter and dressing for wounds.  

Mosses are often used by scientists as bioindicators, species used to monitor the health of an environment, to identify the presence of heavy metals and other pollutants in an ecosystem.  Their presence here doesn’t just make the woods seem more magical, they reveal the good health of the environment as well.

For more information on moss lawns, see

Moss Makes a Lush, No-care Lawn

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