Today was, by far, the worst day I've had in La Mesa ever. My neighbor's landlord did something irresponsible that could have resulted in the sickness or death of one of our pets or even the members of our family.

We are avid gardeners. We have a small lot in an urban part of town. Some of our neighbors told us they nicknamed us "the farmers." At left, you can see our potatoes. To the right, you can see our beets, onions, beans, lettuce, radishes, and chard. We grow our own food for a variety of reasons. First, because we enjoy the fresh, healthy, organic food we can produce ourselves without having to pay top dollar for them at the store. Perhaps more importantly, because we want my roommate's children (who I love dearly too) to grow up experiencing nature and gardening so they understand that real, healthy food comes from the earth, and not from a factory. We love the lessons they learn about science in the garden. We've noticed that sometimes they are more willing to try a new vegetable if they've grown it themselves. And lord knows that it's easier to get them to eat and enjoy vegetables if the vegetables taste good. We can choose the varieties we like best to grow, and we can pick them fresh to eat.

We rent our home, and so do our neighbors on both sides. Yesterday, our neighbor to the west trapped and killed a rodent and a small snake in his yard. It was the first rodent I've seen since I've lived here, and the second snake. I accept that we might share our space with other critters, but I rarely see anything larger than a bug. One of my cats likes to go outside, and I've seen her kill two lizards recently, and a snake in the past. Despite the abundance of food growing in our yard, plus the food scraps in our compost bin, I haven't seen any other mammals or reptiles around, nor have I seen evidence of them eating the food from our garden.

Today I woke up and went outside to put our food scraps in our compost pile (pictured below, left, contained within the small wooden structure). I noticed some odd blue pellets (right) on our fence, near the compost, right where our property borders the neighbors to the west. Then I went on my way. Later, I got a call from my roommate. Our neighbor's landlord had gotten complaints about rodents from her tenants and she was upset. She was going to complain to the city about us, and she refused to leave us her phone number so we could discuss it with her further. I'm the gardener in our family, so my roommate really didn't have much to say to her. If she had spoken to me, I could have (would have) most certainly offered to build a compost structure that was better protected from rodents, so that it could not possibly attract them. Honestly, I hadn't done so yet because, as I mentioned above, I haven't seen any problems with rodents or other pests. And surely, if they were here, I would have noticed them too. If nothing else, my cat Molly would have caught them and brought them home as trophies or presents, or whatever cats intend when they bring their humans dead animals they've caught. But, if the compost is a concern, the neighbor's landlord could have spoken to me, and I'd be willing to better protect the compost from rodents.

It was at that moment I realized what the blue pellets were. I rushed home and checked the compost bin. Sure enough, it was full of the blue pellets. Rat poison, I am sure. This is a serious matter for us. If I hadn't noticed the blue pellets, they could have dissolved in our compost. We would have used the compost in our garden and then eaten the produce we grew. It could have poisoned us - or the children. More immediately, our dog could eat the pellets, or a rodent could eat them and then - since a dying mouse wouldn't be too hard to catch - my cat could have eaten it and gotten sick. In fact, that still might happen. I've got the cats locked up indoors, and I've been keeping a close eye on the dog. I've cleaned up some of the blue pellets but I need to clean up the rest, and throw out all of the compost. That's a major setback for us, since we don't have the budget to purchase lots of compost or fertilizer for our garden. We rely on the compost we can produce ourselves, and now we need to throw this batch away. And I'm worried that one of our pets might have consumed the poison before I noticed it. Who knows. I'll be watching them closely for symptoms.

I asked the neighbors about the blue pellets. It was the landlord, they said. I asked for the landlord's phone number. So far they haven't given it to me, but I will keep asking. This landlord could have killed our pets - or worse! She did not ask permission to put a toxic substance on our property. She did not even alert us that she did it. If she spoke to her tenants about it first, she might have learned that I've asked them to NOT use pesticides because they could find their way into our garden (via bugs) or my cats (who might catch bugs or small animals and eat them). There are live traps you can buy that don't utilize poison. And I have asked the neighbors again and again to let me know if anything in our garden bothers them so I can find a way to adjust so that we are not a nuisance to them.


Please, let's be neighborly to one another. Communication is key. Think twice before you use a chemical pesticide about who you might harm. Poison intended to kill pests on your side of the fence could kill your next door neighbor's pet instead. Nature doesn't respect property lines.

Views: 112

Tags: Gardening, Pesticides


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Comment by Teresa Miranda on May 22, 2011 at 3:01pm

It's sad to hear some people seem afraid to be direct about their concerns. Don't we want to teach our children it's okay to interrelate and compromise with our neighbors about certain issues thatmay  have an effect on us?  The sad part is, some kids are more impressionable than others, leaving them with an obscure view of handling such situations. Communicating helps create peace.

Glad to hear no one was damaged by the poison. I agree with Chris Shea, that is a scary.


Comment by Jill Richardson on May 15, 2011 at 5:10pm
Got in touch w the landlord today. She lied to me. I spoke w the neighbors first so they let me know the situation. Their landlord's been mean and nasty to them, and was mean and nasty to my roommate yesterday. On the phone with me she seemed sweet but was clearly lying to me, telling me that the neighbors, not her, were the ones who didn't like our garden, and w) that she put the rat poison in the compost. The neighbors have said repeatedly they like the garden, and I give them food we grow that they like. They don't mind the compost. It doesn't smell (I would know) and the landlord said it smells. This woman is toxic. I feel bad for the neighbors that she's their landlord.
Comment by chris shea on May 15, 2011 at 4:59pm

That's a very scary thing to have happen.  I agree with you that communication is the key.  Always.

Hoping that your kitties and dog and kids are all fine.  And of course you and your roommate too.

Thank you for sharing your experience.  


Comment by Tiffany Shepherd on May 15, 2011 at 7:34am
Thank you for sharing.  This is a great lesson to those in our community.  Best of luck in your future gardening!

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