Someone in my yard likes my compost more than I do

“There’s something getting in the trash again,” said my neighbor, Tom, not long ago.

“Really?” I answered, half-heartedly. The last time this happened, I spent way too much of my life picking up trash strewn across the yard. I define “way too much of my life,” in this instance, as any more than five minutes a year. We seemed to have solved the problem the last time by making sure we surrounded the full trash can with empty ones, creating enough of a barrier that we thwarted the rodent busting into our trash.

Compost bin, lidlessA few days before Tom mentioned this about the trash situation, I had walked out into the back yard in the morning to find the lid of my compost container on the lawn. This puzzled me, since I generally only open the door in the lid long enough to dump whatever kitchen scraps I’m ditching in the hole, then slam it shut. Maybe a neighbor thought the compost needed more air?

I didn’t put Tom’s comment and the compost bin incident together until the following night, when I was sitting out on the back porch.

Thunk.

It was the unmistakeable sound, coming from the pitch black 30 yards away from me, of the compost bin lid hitting the ground.

I shot out of my chair, heart pounding. “Hey,” I shouted across the yard. “Who’s out there?”

No one answered, so I went inside for a flashlight. The light beam I sent across the yard caught the again-open compost bin, and the lid lying on the lawn again. There was no one in sight.

I decided to leave the lid there until morning, and sat back down at the table I keep on my porch. All stayed quiet in the yard for maybe 10 minutes.

Thwock-chocka-chocka-chocka.

This time the sound came from 30 feet away, just to the left of the porch. A trash can taking a tumble.

Barefoot, which occurred to me only later as a stupid idea, I grabbed the flashlight and sprinted around the corner. The trash can lay on its side, its lid strewn to the side, and obvious claw marks in the trash bag.

I checked to make sure a rabid raccoon wasn’t about to bite my toe before setting it upright again and returning to the porch. I swung the light around the whole area, but located nothing resembling a nocturnal rodent.

FootprintsI returned to the porch. Two minutes later, thwock-chocka-chocka-chocka.

“Dude!” I yelled, as if the raccoon was my long-lost, highly annoying buddy. “Stop it!”

I returned to the scene of the crime, uprighted the trash can once more, and this time, remembered the old trick of surrounding it with the empties.

In the morning, the can was still upright, but the lid was up and the bags inside were shredded. Across the lawn, a few English muffins I’d tossed in the compost bin lay half-chewed and crumbly. And everywhere, smeared up the side of the compost bin, on the bin’s lid, and along the trash can lids, were little muddy pawprints. A raccoon. No question about it.

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9 Responses to “Someone in my yard likes my compost more than I do”


  1. 1 steven July 11, 2007 at 8:42 am

    Bungie cords on the can lids seem to thwart the raccoons around here. I have more problems with crows tearing into the bags on trash day than anything else.

  2. 2 Heather July 11, 2007 at 10:54 am

    We used to bungee cord the lids to the can and then to the fence, around a tree trunk, and put a cinder block on top of the can. The raccoon still got in. I finally sucked it up and bought the big 50 gallon Rubbermaid cans (and recently found out our town will only pick up 45 gallon cans, thank God they’ve been taking ours anyway). They’re tall enough that the raccoon can’t get on top and heavy enough that the raccoon can’t knock it over.

    Do not put your recycling bin right next to the cans though, I learned the hard way that it is just a step ladder for the ‘coon. Heard a noise, opened the front door and 15 feet away the raccoon popped up from inside the can. I screamed and shut the door. I was really scared the following morning when I had to check and see if the racoon was still in the can, so I sent my husband instead.

    My favorite was the period of time when my husband got tired of battling the raccoon and started storing the garbage in bags in the back of his car to bring to his office dumpster in the morning. One night he left his windows cracked about 6 inches (seafood for dinner that night) and the freaking raccoon got into the car, tore open the bags, and left lovely footprints on everything including the ceiling. Husband never left his windows open again.

    Do you see why I’m astonished that the raccoons haven’t been eating my veggies?

  3. 3 Jenny July 11, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    Interesting that you were worried about having your toe bitten…

  4. 4 bright July 11, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    i have no insights… but that is awesome. i have those moments too, the “wait, should i really go running for the phone with this cup of coffee?”, “shouldn’t i have shoes on?” moments. fortunately, i can’t remember having one of those in conjunction with chasing wild animals…

  5. 5 Robin (bumblebee) July 11, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    My son laughs at me because I currently refuse to take our kitchen waste to the compost bins. (We have three side-by-side.) I have developed a horrible fear that something will jump out at me when I open the lid. Nothing has happend. But I know that it CAN.

    –Robin (Bumblebee)

  6. 7 inadvertentgardener July 13, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    Steven, when I was in high school, my Dad used to use bungee cords and then cinderblocks on top of them. That worked…most of the time.

    Heather, that’s quite an amazing system — I’m glad the garbagemen will pick up your extra five gallons! And that story about your husband’s car made me laugh out loud.

    Jenny, ha! The toe! Hey…I’m always worried about karma…

    Bright, I advocate for avoiding those moments whenever possible.

    Robin, at least you have kids to put into service on carring the waste out! If I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done…

    Cole, alrighty! I’ll be getting to that very shortly…

  7. 8 Heather July 16, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    I’m sure you know this already, but I came accross it while I was doing some research on composting and I thought of you:

    Avoid all parts of the black walnut tree as they contain a plant poison that survives composting.

  8. 9 inadvertentgardener July 16, 2007 at 11:07 pm

    Egads, Heather…I probably knew that, but I didn’t ever think about it. Scary!


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