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Keeping an eye on critters during the dog days

By Allen Norwood
Allen Norwood
Allen Norwood writes on Home design, do-it-yourself and real estate for The Charlotte Observer. His column appears each Saturday.

Even ants get lazy in August.

They usually blitz our house in the spring and drive my wife to distraction for a couple of weeks. They’re still around this time of year but don’t seem to have any more energy than the rest of us.

There’s only one home chore that’s truly important right now. But before I get to that, a few observations about the other residents at our place.

The lizards on the front steps don’t even bother to move over when we come and go.

The youngster from next door and I were sitting on the steps, enjoying a couple of juice boxes on a steamy afternoon, when he spied a lizard beside him. It eyed him lackadaisically but didn’t budge. I told him the lizard didn’t mind sharing its step. “It’s not his step!” the 4-year-old said.

“He thinks it is,” I said, “and it’s too hot to debate with a lizard.”

Rabbits have been eating the leaves off our Asian lilies as far up as they can reach. The lilies look like miniature palm trees. Bare stalks, topped by clusters of green leaves. I cut most of the lilies back – but, I confess, I bent a few over so the cottontails could reach the leaves at top.

I figured that if I offered the lilies in sacrifice, rabbits might not nibble the sweet potato vines or variegated monkey grass all the way to the nub.

Wrong. Rabbits may be cute, but they can also be unreasonable.

The Japanese beetles show up every now and then, but only a dozen at a time. They don’t savage the crepe myrtles. There are so few, and they’ve done such little damage, that I’ve only sprayed the crepe myrtles once this summer. And that was weeks ago.

I spotted a few beetles on the driveway – on their backs, deathly still – but they might just have dozed off and tumbled from the crepe myrtle.

An adolescent hawk arrived about a week ago and hung around for a few days.

It wasn’t full grown, but it was already magnificent. It spread its wings as it fought to maintain its balance atop the bird feeder post. Ungainly on the ground, but in the air? Mesmerizing.

The place became perfectly still when it surveyed the back yard with its icy glare.

Absolutely nothing moved.

They’re beautiful to look at – and terrorize squirrels. One of nature’s great creations.

Oh, that chore I mentioned? Check your gutters to make sure they’re not clogged. Even a single leaf can block a downspout and cause gutters to overflow during downpours like we’ve endured.

Area home inspectors say the No. 1 problem they see is crawlspace moisture. No. 2? Clogged gutters – and the two are related. When gutters overflow, the water can find its way under your house.

Moisture can lead to all sorts of problems – like more ants.

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