This story shows Kwang’s, my husband, tenacious efforts to get rid of groundhogs in our back yard and win over their territory that they had before we moved in.
On August 13, 2001 we moved into our new house at the Northville Golf Course, Northville, Michigan, that is located between Five and Six Mile Roads. It has high ceilings and several big windows facing south, providing us with the warm sunshine in the winter. Our back yard ends up at the bump with huge pine trees to separate the empty lots to Five Mile Road. This lot will be the future home of Northville Technology Park.
A couple of months after we moved in, we could hear an unidentifiable noise similar to birds chirping inside of our house. I told Kwang with an uneasy feeling, “Birds are somewhere inside the house. There is no way that any animal or bird can get inside the house, probably in the chimney,” Kwang told me, showing that it was not an interesting subject. “But we hear birds chirping,” I told him bluntly with anger. “Since the builder put the net on top of the chimney, no birds could be inside the chimney,” he commented.
I was quiet, wondering if he might be deaf. “This cannot be, because the builder already put the net on the top of the chimney to prevent any animals from going into the chimney.” I repeated his comment. But the noises got louder and louder every day and especially at night. Even the scratching sounds in the wall came from the chimney, almost as if something fell down inside of it. Finally Kwang built a fire in the fireplace and the noise disappeared. This was the beginning of a seesaw game between Kwang and the animals in our back yard to win control of the territory.
“Kwang, our house is surrounded by many different species of animals like the zoo,” I told him, anticipating an exciting answer, but he was quiet and did not show any interest.
For a while we enjoyed watching several species of birds on our deck, gray pigeons, red robins, sparrows, black crows and others. They showed us their tricks and talents; chirping at each others’ beaks, and showing us their affection and caring for each other. Sometimes they just landed like shooting stars from the sky to find worms on the ground.
The more we enjoyed watching the birds, the more the mess piled up on our deck from the birds. On the top of the picnic table, chairs and rails. One afternoon Kwang and I tried to clean it up with just rags and laundry detergent. It did not work. The mess was coated on the wooden surface like white paint. I scrubbed the surface with a steel brush with Ajax until my arms were getting numb. Now Kwang’s tolerance level for the mess did not exist anymore.
Sami and Mike, our next-door neighbors, told us the best method to chase the birds away is to put an owl on the deck. From fear of the owl’s big shiny eyes they never come back. Initially I thought they meant a real live owl, then for a moment, not a real one. What can you do with a live owl? It would maybe give you even more headaches.
I rushed to Meijer, where Mike bought his plastic owl. The old gentleman at the entrance who gave me a shopping cart said with a routine greeting “Welcome to Meijer”. Before his sentence was over, I asked him “Where are the owls?” I should have asked, “Where is the location of the section for the owls for gardens?” He did not understand me at all. He came close to me and listened carefully to what I pronounced. He could not guess that I was looking for a plastic owl. I could not wait for his assistance and went straight to the garden shop leaving him behind. In the garden section there are many animated animals, turtles with stones and plastic, rabbits, owls and two young children, carved in stone, who are reading a book affectionately together on the bench and many more plastic and stone sculptures for gardens.
Finally I found two owls, one was a dark brown and the other is a lighter brown color. I chose the darker one because the owl’s eyes are brighter and shinier. It is hollow and lightweight, like paper and we had to put weight inside. Kwang fixed it on the rail with a bolt and nut in the middle of the deck. For a while we did not see any birds sitting on the deck and we were extremely happy without having any more mess. One Saturday when Kwang and I had lunch in the kitchen, a small gray pigeon was on the guardrail of the deck, and then later one more came and they played by flapping their wings for a few minutes and flew away. Even if the owl’s eyes were shining, the smart pigeons knew it was a fake. We were speechless with our huge disappointment and I just looked at Kwang’s stormy face.
A couple weeks went by again without paying attention to our owl or the birds. One day we saw a small blackbird go inside the barbecue grill on the east side of the deck, through the space between top cover, in and out. Later she came back with a small straw in her mouth. She built a large nest inside the grill even though the owl was standing about three feet away. The plastic owl totally lost its power and authority to chase the birds away.
One early warm winter day, Kwang and I had a cup of coffee at the kitchen table and saw a gray pigeon sat on the owl’s head. “Wow! Unbelievable!” I screamed, “A bird is on the owl’s head”. She stayed there about ten or fifteen seconds and flew away. Seesaw games with birds and us seemed never ending. Again the mess on the deck was all over.
Along with these bird issues, Kwang had another game in our back yard with groundhogs. With less than one acre of land we had so many episodes with animals. “Kwang, if we live on huge land with heavily wooded area, we will have extremely unexpected and maybe interesting activities with animals.” I meant deer, wild turkey, rabbits, and other animals.
Kwang told me a groundhog was living under the rocks in our flowerbed. Our flowerbed has several large rocks on a slanted smallhill. The holes were everywhere. Kwang’s first strategy was to totally seal the entrance with rocks and he hoped the groundhogs wouldn’t leave the hole and would die trapped inside. Kwang was so pleased at not seeing any new holes for about a week. I saw his face reflecting his feeling of triumphant victory over them.
A couple of days later Kwang asked me for mothballs. He hates mothballs because of the awful smell and he also believes it causes cancer. Kwang does not allow me to use mothballs in our closets. I had to ask him “why?” with surprise.
His answer was short … “To kill the groundhogs.” Kwang poured about a half box of mothballs, about one pound, into the hole. He did not tell me the results of the mothballs with the groundhogs.
On the weekend he was in front of the computer for hours, and his face was reddish purple with anger. He started to search for information on how to kill groundhogs, after failures at blocking the entrance holes with rocks and mothballs.
Meanwhile the groundhogs moved their home to under the pine trees over the bump in the wide open field about thirty feet away from the flowerbed. “The groundhogs made two new holes,” Kwang told me in a grumpy voice. I do not know if they are connected or separate holes in the bump, Kwang mumbled to himself.
Late afternoon I came back from Indiana. It was getting dark but not pitch black yet. Kwang told me that he had to show me something in the yard before dinner. I was hungry and a bit tired from the long drive, but as soon as I put down my bags on the kitchen floor we went out to my rock garden. What do you expect? In the middle of the rock garden I saw a windmill. The pole was about six foot tall and two inches diameter. It was spinning at 180 miles per hour. The blades were about one and one-half foot long and four inches in diameter. The wind was strong, you could not see the fan blades. Just one circular one was turning round and round. I lost all the words in the world. I was speechless, Crazy Kwang, I told myself. He explained to me that he saw on the Internet that with a windmill you can chase away groundhogs by the vibrations and noise of underground. He showed me one more windmill on the bump. I could not see well but saw the fan was moving fast. He thought it was all set and the groundhogs would not come again. He was extremely confident about this device. The vibration and noise analysis are using pump wear and failure analysis at the manufacturing plant, but in the green fields to kill groundhogs with this technique, I could not understand him. But he is usually a much better engineer than I am for application of theory. Also, he has great common sense. I had to accept his practice this time.
Immediately my thoughts attached to this windmill, to the development of bearing lubricant for a windmill which is demanding industry for the alternative energy. What a good opportunity for me to test the lubricant in our back yard with our own two windmills. I hid my smile inside and went into the kitchen and had dinner.
Every evening Kwang asked me “How are the windmills?” He got a monotonous answer from me, “It is working.” The November winds in Michigan were getting stronger and stronger and the blades of the windmill were falling one by one. Now, a couple of weeks later, only the bare pole was left in my rock garden. The blades of the windmills were gone before performing my lubricant experiment and the groundhogs ran away.
One afternoon Kwang asked me to come up to the bump. Kwang ran the water to fill the hole for four or five hours. He hoped filling the hole with water would drown the groundhogs. I only saw dark deep holes and could not see any water which soaked into the soil. Several groundhog holes in the back yard made it hard for him to cut the grass with the tractor and two pine trees were already dead because the groundhogs ate the roots.
Now Kwang did not tell me his plan about the groundhogs. He just stuck to the computer for many hours. A couple of days later we received a trap (cage) by mail. Kwang still did not tell me what his plan with the cage was. There was no way he could win the battle. A week later another trap came but I never heard that he caught anything. No activities and no comments from Kwang about the groundhogs for three or four weeks.
The Post Office delivered a large package to our front door. It was twice the size of the previous traps. It was huge. Now Kwang was getting confidence that he could catch anything in the world. Kwang asked me for slices of apples. For several days there was no news from Kwang and I saw the huge trap was in our garage for several months. Later he told friends that he caught a raccoon instead of groundhogs.
Kwang’s battles against the groundhogs lasted about two years. Kwang could not get any new knowledge from the Internet and he started to ask friends for wise and practical advice. He thought now was the time to share his anger and frustration with friends. Some people gave advice to Kwang casually with common sense and others simply did not have any similar experience.
One idea from a friend was to put fireworks in the holes and let them choke from the smoke. Friends suggested that the plan should be done at night when all groundhogs are inside their holes. With a flashlight Kwang and I went to the holes. Kwang put fireworks in the holes and sealed the holes with dirt as quickly as possible.
A couple weeks later Kwang said the groundhogs did not come anymore and did not make any new holes. This is the method that people used to get rid of them and Kwang even recommended it to Mike, who is our neighbor. Kwang was so happy and he was just like a marching soldier of victory and regretted that he did not use this method a long time ago. I agreed, too, that this was the best idea and it would work with toxic chemicals, smoking fireworks, but the feeling of victory did not last long, soon there were two new holes at different locations under the pine tree on the hill. I did not have any concern or anxiety at this time, like he had unless the holes were not under my flowerbed.
Kwang was digging out more information from the Internet. One day I found a one-gallon jug half filled with yellow liquid in the garage. I thought maybe it was floor cleaner from our plant to clean the garage. We have not cleaned the garage for almost one year. Now it was early spring and just the right time to clean out the garage.
“Is that floor cleaner in the garage? There is no label,” I asked Kwang. He did not answer me and I did not ask him why there was no label, but later after we finished dinner I told him again, “If you take a product without a label, it is not good practice. Our employees may have made a mistake and put the wrong label on the container and without any Material Safety Data Sheet.”
He had a light smile on his lips and said, “It is my urine.” This is another device to chase away groundhogs from the Internet and he showed me an Internet article. I thought this time Kwang was going insane. Maybe he has to go into a mental hospital. I did not say anything. I just thought how stupid I was asking him questions about groundhogs. He had practiced this quite a while without results. Again a couple of months were gone.
This time he found out that groundhogs like vegetables, especially cabbage, and they only come out of their holes in the daytime to eat vegetables. As I mentioned before, Kwang lost more confidence fighting with the groundhogs. Even though we have three traps, he never caught a single one. Will vegetables make a big difference, I wondered. Kwang took several pieces of cabbage from me and put them into the biggest trap of the three. On May 30, 2007, one groundhog was inside the trap. His eyes were wide open looking for escape methods. Kwang was so exultant he almost jumped into the sky. It seemed to tell us, “See it does work with vegetables.” Kwang showed it to Mike and they went together to Northville Park near the women’s correction facility to release the groundhog in the park.
On May 31, 2007, he caught another one. This time Kwang told me it was bigger than yesterday. Kwang asked me to go together to release it in the park. I said no. The groundhog might bite me when Kwang released it. On June 1, 2007 and June 2, 2007, he caught two more groundhogs. We caught a total of four. Kwang finally won on the battlefield. I told Kwang the groundhogs did not communicate with each other about the traps on the hill. They are foolish to be caught in Kwang’s trap.
In my mind, I should learn from Kwang his tenacious attitude to solve issues.