Mail Call: Backyard Wildlife

Letters from our readers about their backyard wildlife, moose, pen pals, traveling by water, and squash bugs.

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by Larry Opperman

Backyard Wildlife

I’ve attached some wildlife pictures from our yard and around our house. We live in Soldotna, Alaska, and have a bounty of wildlife to view. Even in the city, wildlife is abundant. In our yard alone, we see moose, caribou, rabbits, squirrels, otters, ermine, porcupines, and birds. And while we haven’t seen them in our yard, our neighbors have bears around their house.

There’s a Steller’s jay at our kitchen window that appears every morning just after we wake up; we assume he can hear us moving around. Peanuts are a favorite of the jay, and if we don’t get them out soon enough to suit him, he’ll stare at us and peck on the window until we take his treat to the feeder.

The caribou that came through were apparently the first in the neighborhood in 25 years, and they were a treat to see. There were also two bald eagles in our driveway, and a large group of them in the trees just down the road from our house.

Moose are the most intriguing animals we see in the yard, and we can watch them for as long as they’ll hang around. The little calves were in the yard in May. They usually stay with the mother for two years, until she delivers her next calves. It’s common for moose to have twins, or even triplets, if conditions are right. Mother Nature will often take one, hence the multiple births. It’s always rewarding to see both calves survive.

Many years ago, I asked an Alaska gardener what the first thing we should plant was, and she said, “A fence!” The fence we have is 8 feet tall, and you can see how big the moose are when they stand next to it. An unprotected garden is an open invitation for a moose to sample every plant.

I do protect my garden area with the high fence, but not the other flower gardens around the house. We figure losing a few flowers is a small price to pay to have these magnificent animals in our yard.

Larry Opperman


Larry, we enjoyed getting a glimpse of your backyard wildlife, and regret not having room to show all the photos. Thank you for sharing them with us! — Grit Editors

 Well-Traveled on Water

I just read the story by Dana Benner in your great magazine (“Travel by Water,” January/February 2021). I have to say, right on! I’m 64, and all I do is kayak with a Hobie in camo. I live in the Florida Panhandle, and there are so many rivers and lakes with springs — it’s absolutely beautiful. I started using my “yak” two years ago, hunting in hard-to-reach spots. I’ve harvested two bucks so far! This beautiful eight-point was way back in the swamp, but my yak was the ticket. The fishing from my yak is phenomenal. Offshore, bays, lakes, rivers — all are possible with my Hobie! Keep up the good work.



Yellowed with Age

I’ve been a fan of Grit since I was in fourth grade in the 1950s. It was a newspaper back then! I subscribe to Grit now, and I enjoy it so much, especially the recipes.

I have a copy of Grit dated October 26, 1941. It’s yellowed quite a bit, but you can still read it. I don’t remember where it came from, but I’ve collected stuff all my life.

Thank you for publishing such a clean, beautiful magazine. Keep up the good work.

Jane Orser Cochran

A Fond Farewell to Gritty

We’re deeply saddened by the loss of Brad Anderson, the illustrator who lovingly brought Gritty to our pages for many years. Gritty’s final appearance was in the January/February 2021 issue.

— Grit Editors

‘Flights of Fancy’ Response

I read “Flights of Fancy” in the January/February 2021 issue. I’ve raised poultry off and on for quite a few years here in Iowa, and I suggest you consider bantam chickens. You can keep the more docile larger breeds, because they’re smaller than full-sized chickens. Their eggs are about half the size, or perhaps a little larger, than those of a Leghorn. Also, you can keep more of them, since they’re smaller. The problem you’ll run into is that most hatcheries only offer straight-run, which means you’ll also get roosters. There’s one hatchery in Missouri, Cackle Hatchery, that offers sexed chicks in some breeds. I know you can order Buff Brahmas as sexed chicks, and they would be a good fit for you. I’ve raised them; they’re beautiful, and they lay pretty well. Good luck with your selection.

Scott Rambo


Seeking Squash Bug Solutions

A yellow summer squash plant infested with squash bugs in a garden

What are the best organic and nonorganic solutions for killing squash bugs? I found one spray that works, but I’m concerned about toxicity. It will kill adults, whereas most sprays work at the larvae stage.



K.C., we’ve had success using diatomaceous earth. You can dust it on your plants and surrounding areas, but you’ll need to reapply after a rain. We’ve also had success with a spray made of soap and water (about 1 tablespoon liquid soap per 1 gallon water). For nonorganic methods, consider using insecticides made with permethrin, as they’re less ecologically damaging than other options.

Adult squash bugs have a hard shell, which, unfortunately, can make them resistant to all but the harshest of insecticides. Oftentimes, the best way to remove them is to handpick them and any egg groupings as often as possible. Squash bugs like to congregate under something at night, so consider placing a board or tarp near the infected plant, and then squashing the congregated bugs first thing in the morning, or dumping them into a bucket of soapy water. Covering your plants with floating row covers is another option.

A few preventative measures can help curb a squash bug infestation. During the growing season, remove plant debris regularly to reduce hiding spots for squash bugs. In fall, remove dead plant material and tidy up the growing area, which will reduce the bugs’ ability to overwinter.

— Grit Editors

Looking For Fabric

I would like some fabric. I was sick, I moved, and I got rid of my fabric. Now, I’m back to making gifts. Smallest block is 21⁄2 inches and up.

Vera Leach

4323 W. County Road 500 S.

Frankfort, IN 46041

Pen Pals

I’m looking for pen pals. I live in the small rural town of Reedley, California. Since 1946, Reedley has been known as the “world’s fruit basket,” because we lead the nation in shipping fresh fruit.

Elizabeth Koop

1776 12th Street, Unit 103

Reedley, CA 93654-3064

Comic Books and Stamps

I’m a retired vet who loves to read comic books. If anyone wants to dump some, I’d love to have them. I would also like used worldwide stamps, for churches and charities.

Bob Kantanick

170 Markle Street

Philadelphia, PA 19127

Pen Pals

I’m interested in pen pals via “the inky trail,” from all aspects of life. I enjoyed writing to pals during high school and learning about their hobbies, ways of life, and interests. I’m now a 65-year-old female, a retired nurse of many experiences. I’m a widow, and I love my four indoor cats.

Debra Smith

5212 Byrd Mill Road

Louisa, VA 23093

Share Your Thoughts

We welcome letters from our readers. If you’d like to comment on an article, share your opinions, or submit a “Looking For,” send us an email (with photos, if available) to, or send a letter to: Grit Mail Call, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609. Electronic submissions are more likely to receive a timely response.