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It was a bright and sunny day…

Not the usual way a tale of horror would start, but here we are. It was a beautiful October day, and I had errands to run. My folks had left to meet my sibling for lunch, and I needed to get my car inspected and a tire, that was getting light on the tread, replaced.

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The girls were loose, and the dogs were out in the yard with them. Everyone was getting along so well and it was such a fantastic day, I decided to leave them all out there together. What could go wrong?

What,  indeed.

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I come home, and go out back and check on everyone. Everything seemed fine, until I checked my plants.  One plant was bare, and another… and another… AND ANOTHER.  Four of the five pepper plants were stripped of all their fruits. A total of about 15 peppers missing.

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What happened? I go inside and ask my folks if they happened to harvest the plants. They looked at me like I had three heads. “No. Why would we mess with your plants? ”

Hmmmm…

So, I go back outside.

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Only one plant escaped the heist. Only 6 peppers of the nearly two dozen that were ripening  remain.

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Then I saw the blood trail. It started near my pepper plants, small drops looking like a dog foot, and ended with big, splashy splotches near the back door. All were spaced about three feet apart. The entry mat was covered in blood, but no fur, no body.

I checked Sampson. No blood anywhere or wounds. My folks checked their dog with the same results. I checked the girls. They were also unharmed.

My father was intrigued.  Checking his workshop for anything missing. We thought we found blood on the workshop floor. No tools missing, but this prompted a call to the local police.

I am going to add here that we would not have called the police but for the fact we thought someone had broken into the workshop. I am not one to waste law enforcement’ precious time for $40 worth of peppers.

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Once the officer arrived, he began to search the yard for clues. Cookie wasn’t having this strange human in her yard. She stalked him everywhere, cussing up a storm.  I had to carry her to keep her from harassing the poor man, who was just trying to solve the mystery of the missing peppers,and the bloody workshop.

Alas, there was no solution. The mystery remains unsolved. We find it strange that so many peppers went missing all at once. The officer also thought the “blood” on the workshop floor may have been another substance,like oil or tar.

I have had garden heists happen before. Once someone stole about 5 ten pound bags of pecans I had gathered from our trees. Another time someone stripped all my tomato plants of their ripe fruit during the night. Yet another time birds plucked all my plants of strawberries. Every time is a disappointment.  To work so hard to bring fresh produce to the table, only to have someone or something steal it away makes me a little frustrated.  This is one of the troubles of gardening, though. It happens.

The officer suggested it might have been a deer. Though it is not unheard of, a deer jumping a six-foot fence, it is unlikely.  That and if the dogs had chased the deer to the back porch,  I am certain it would have been and mess. There was nothing smashed or overturned.

The officer also suggested it could have been a raccoon.  In the middle of the day, though?  Also to steal that many peppers? Last I heard, racoons don’t have pockets.

Maybe it was squirrels.  A very concerted effort by a roving gang of hoodlum squirrels.  It would had to be very organized, as the dogs are very serious about the squirrel patrol. Many a squirrel has nearly lost their life setting foot on the fence.

As of this posting, the last plant has been nearly stripped. Only two peppers remain. I am pretty disappointed at this turn of events. It is too late in the season, now, to hope for more buds to develop. My husband suggested we wrap the remaining plant in chicken wire, and we may. Saving those last two peppers has become as point of honor!

This has given me thoughts of how to better protect my plants next year. I have been scouring Pinterest and the Internet for some good ideas on how to do just that.

Until then, I may just pout a bit over the poached peppers, and plot my revenge on the thief.

For now, the Curious Case of the Capsicum Caper will just remain a mystery.

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