Be prepared for a visit from Pep Le Pew

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By Cheryl Steenerson

I know Valentine’s Day is over but love is in the air. You can literally smell it, although, the aroma is not very pleasant.

Pepe’ Le Pew is looking for love now, and that means we need to be alert.

Here on the farm we have to be very alert. Since we currently have eight dogs that roam the hill, we have eight times the chances of getting up close and personal with the all too recognizable skunk.

This very evening, as I typed, we had a too close encounter. Luckily, I got all eight inside in time.

Since skunks are nocturnal, incidents will usually take place right about bedtime or later. Skunks are mating now through March. Warm weather brings them out.

The babies (one to seven per litter) will be born this April through June — something to keep in mind when you go for a little late night harvesting in your garden.

One individual skunk has a territory of about 40 acres and usually den within a couple of miles from a water source.

Watch for dens in shallow holes, mini caves, hollow logs and under out buildings.

Skunks do have their purpose here on earth. Though they eat both plants and animals, the meat usually comes in the form of rodents.

That’s a good thing. I strongly dislike mice.

Skunks also have an incredible set of fingernails. Scratch marks in your lawn may be your first sign. They’re looking for the grubs. Corn meal gluten can be bought at some feed stores and using the spreader is the best way to put it down on your lawn. This stuff kills the grubs and fertilizes your yard at the same time. Do it for three years in a row and you won’t even have any dandelions.

The little weasel (same family) also likes to steal bulbs. A layer of small gravel tossed on top of your bulbs and then topped with soil will help a lot. Cayenne pepper can be sprinkled on top of the surrounding soil to prevent digging.

That digging does do some good because they also eat beetles, larvae and black widow spiders.

So let’s be nice.

An estimated 70 percent of a skunk’s diet consists of insects that are harmful to humans. Plus, if you run over them, your car will stink.

Skunks are also very nearsighted. That’s an important tip to remember. When they get scared, they spray.

One good thing is limited ammunition. Since they do have a limited supply of spray, they usually stomp their front feet first. That’s your clue to run fast and hard.

The spray can reach out 15 feet. They won’t chase you — they’re gentle creatures, for the most part.

If you get sprayed, I have a rather weird store-bought remedy. Wash your body and then rinse with Masingill vinegar douche. The homemade version is to water down some white vinegar and rinse your body in it.

Be careful. It’ll sting a little or a lot on open sores.

Washing clothes will include adding white vinegar (1 to 2 cups) to the wash water and washing multiple times.

Now for those fun-loving furballs.

If you are a dog owner and you don’t already have the following items, go right out and get them. You need 3 percent peroxide, baking soda and Joy liquid dish soap (not the antibacterial). When you need the skunk

spray, mix up 1 quart of peroxide with a quarter cup of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of Joy.

Shampoo your dog with this mixture, keeping it out of the eyes, ears and mouth and leaving it on them for five minutes.

You may want to repeat it the next day if the dog caught a good dose of the spray.

If you can’t take the smell, put a glob of Vics Vapo Rub under each of your nostrils. This little trick works for all kinds of bad smells.

Now get out there and see what needs to be done as soon as it’s dry.

Start some seeds in the house. Wash your houseplants. Spring is in the air.

OK, so a little snow will also be there for a while, but it’ll be here before you know it. Happy growing.

E-mail Cheryl Steenerson at Cheryl@theandersonnews.com.