Picture: GeorgeB2/Pixabay
Picture: GeorgeB2/Pixabay

Kindness begins with little garden creatures

By Terry van der Walt Time of article published Jan 22, 2021

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For more than 60 years Dorothy Struther volunteered to care for war veterans, even taking them by wheelchair to the local pub for a beer and sing-along, for which she received a Member of the British Empire award in 2011.

Her dedicated service to the Royal Star and Garter organisation from 1951 until a few years ago, is how ex-servicemen and women would like to remember. But for former Cape Town resident Diya Patel, it should be about the tiny little creatures she dearly wished we all took the trouble to avoid harming or killing.

They were once neighbours in Camps Bay and it was here that Struthers shared with Patel her compassion for garden creatures and her home remedies to keep them at bay.

“Dotty Dot, as she liked to be called, taught me that to live in this world is more than just to live in peace with other humans, it's to live in peace with all its inhabitants, big or small and to realise that all creatures in this world are only trying to survive like we all are.

Dorothy Struthers receives her MBE for the volunteer work she did for war veterans over many years, but her compassion also extended to the tiny creatures we encounter in our gardens each day. Picture: Supplied.

“They don't intentionally mean to harm us, so why do we intentionally harm them? She believed that if we teach our children to be kinder to little life forms, like insects, then we will develop a deeper sense of compassion within us and will be less likely to ever harm another human being,’ said Patel.

On her deathbed at the age of 89 late last year, Struthers asked Patel to spread the word to get people to adopt more humane ways of dealing with insects and other small creatures, rather than killing them.

Patel put pen to paper and documented more than a dozen tips on kindness to small creatures, including hanging banana skins on plants to shoo away aphids.

“I think of Dorothy every day, and I so wish that I could reach more people to tell them about her compassion for tiny creatures so that we can inspire a kinder society.

“Her teachings have changed me, I am kinder towards all the little insect life forms around me now and don't kill anything, and my life seems to be getting better, so perhaps it is the good karma that it brings,” said Patel.

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Patel said Struthers started her life in an orphanage and spent most of her working life as a cleaner, in between doing volunteer work. For 20 years she visited the Normansfield Hospital in Teddington every Wednesday evening to help patients with severe mental and physical disabilities, according to a Richmond and Twickenham Times report on her MBE in 2011.

It reported further: “And following her retirement in 1993 she became a committed volunteer at Star and Garter, volunteering three days a week with the clinical and domestic team.”

“Dot may not be here today, but her teachings on kindness to creatures is something that we can all learn from. All I can hope for is that I don’t disappoint her, and that I reach as many people as possible to care more for the little creatures that make this such a wonderful world.” she said.

Here are Dotty Dot’s Kindness to Creatures Tips:

1. The “shake of good karma”

Before bringing indoors your flowers and vegetables, turn them upside down and shake thoroughly, and save hundreds of tiny harmless lives living on them and you’ll get back good karma.

2. Ants

Sprinkle chalk powder, baby powder/black pepper or cinnamon powder to discourage ants. (try to avoid sprinkling it directly on them) You can also use cotton balls soaked in pure essential peppermint oil, it works just great, but use caution because it also irritates pets.

3. Mice/Rats/Snakes

Use kind live capture/release traps where you can capture the mice and then release them away from your home, in a park. These live capture traps are available online cheaply, or use white vinegar in empty bottle tops where mice/rats come and it will stop them kindly. If you use normal poison, it makes them suffer slowly in pain. Peppermint oil also works well.

4. Snails and slugs

Get pieces of copper mesh (available in hardware stores or online) and lay it around plants. You can also use big piles of crushed egg shells at the base of plants. Copper tape wrapped around the rims of plant pots or spiralled around plant stems also works well.

Scrunched up scouring pads cut up and placed around the base of plants will stop slugs and snails climbing up. Avoid beer and salt traps as new research shows slugs and snails feel a lot of pain before dying. To avoid stepping on them in poor light, use a torch or your mobile phone torch, and move them to safety on a leaf. Good karma.

5. Ear-wigs, centipedes, scorpions, woodlice, silverfish, bugs, etc

Sprinkle Cayenne pepper powder around where they come (but not directly on them) baby powder is great for this.

6. Spiders/Wasps/Hornets

Mix 50 drops of pure essential peppermint oil in 100ml of warm water and spray in areas where they come (but NOT directly on them!) and they won’t come back. It won’t kill them either, so its kind.

7. Cockroaches

Use garlic powder, bay leaves and lemon rind to stop cockroaches without harm. White vinegar left in empty bottle tops around places they come will stop them too. Top up regularly. You can also use cotton balls soaked in pure essential peppermint oil.

8. Moths/Fruit flies

Burn essential lavender oil in an oil burner and soak cotton balls in lavender oil and leave in cupboards. You can use cotton balls soaked in pure essential peppermint oil and put in drawers

9. General remedy for all pests (including those on leaves)

50/50 mix of powdered black pepper and flour on and around plants (but not directly on the little creatures). This tip stops pests eating plants without harming them.

10. Aphids

Hang ripe banana skins off branches to deter them kindly. Keep replacing skins if needed. Best to do this at the start of the season.

11. Caterpillars

Cover your plants in fine mesh at the start of spring to stop caterpillars developing without harming them.

12. Rabbits/Squirrels

Try dusting your plants with plain talcum powder. Since rabbits are great sniffers, powdered red pepper sprinkled around the garden or on targeted plants may keep them out. Also garlic cloves!

Also try vinegar soaked clothes on small saucers or trays and put enough vinegar just to soak the cloth, top up when necessary. It also. works for rats, mice, moles, squirrels, foxes and cats too!

13. Frogs

Leave empty bottle caps filled with white vinegar around where they come to stop them visiting without harming them.

14. Termites

Geranium, cedar and tea-tree essential oils all deter and keep termites away naturally in a cruelty-free and good-karma way. You can make a solution of any of these oils with 100ml of warm water and 50 drops of any of these amd spray on wood areas where you think they could be (but, as always, not directly on them as that is not good karma).

15. Mosquitoes and flies

Burn essential lemon oil in a candle burner and they will stop coming into your home. Burn lemon candles outdoors to stop visiting. And, yes, you heard the lady, be careful if you have pets as lemon oil can irritate them too.

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