Q: I have noticed that the goldenrod is more prolific this year everywhere I look. And it also seems taller. I am wondering why. Also, I notice it may be causing worse allergies.

— Tom D., Pittsfield

A: Before we get to answering the question, let me preface with the truth about all goldenrod species: These conspicuous yellow flowering plants do NOT cause hay fever! If you have a runny nose and itchy eyes, please do not blame goldenrod, but rather the real culprit is easily airborne ragweed pollen (Ambrosia artemisiifolia). However, there may be other flowers that may cause your hay fever, just not goldenrod.

Rain has contributed to its growth, but that is a suspicion on my part, so I ran this question by two gentlemen I respect:

Ron Kujawski, with whom I share this weekend page, explained, "I think part of the reason for the preponderance of goldenrod is its ability to tolerate the dry conditions of last year and then thrive in the often wet soils this year. It simply outcompetes other species with less tolerance. Another reason for its apparent abundance is that it is rhizomatous, spreading easily and forming large clumps. Add to that the fact that it produces large amounts of seed. As such, goldenrod can be quite aggressive and in some situations is considered invasive, despite being a native plant."

And Timothy Zelazo, retired district manager, West Region of Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation and faithful reader of this column (and my neighbor), emailed me an interesting internet site that addresses this: owensholes.com/2021/04/08/goldenrods-and-water/. And he adds, I can not remember the exact saying, but I think it went something like "the taller the goldenrods, the worst winter will be." 

Q: We were storing birdseed in the garage on a sturdy workbench but found small animals have been getting into it. So, we brought it down to the basement. Now, something else is getting into the here. Do you have any suggestions about how we can keep things out of the seed? Our house was built in the early '40s.

— Reader, Clarksburg

A: Small mice are probably the culprits in the basement. And keeping mice out is not as easy as doing them in, especially if you live in an older home. But age does not always keep these pests from doing damage in a home; ours is around 20 years old, and although we have yet to have critters in the finished basement, they do get into the garage when the door is open (mostly deer mice and chipmunks). Then they begin excavating a way out if we close the doors before they leave. Mice are made evident by their nasty droppings and chipmunks by their verbal response to the sound of someone entering their grocery store. I am never successful at shooing them out, even when their signs are annoying, without the help of snap traps. There are so many ways that small rodents can get in and out of any home, especially the older structure. My suggestion is to discourage the rodents by not overwhelming them with feeding opportunities. In short, invest in one or more galvanized trash cans and store your feathered friend's food in them.

One of the excitements of living in the country is learning to live with the animals your house displaced. I recall "sharing accommodations" some years ago, when I lived on the road leading to Pleasant Valley Sanctuary in Lenox. The house we lived in, was at the time, poorly winterized. Wildlife came and went as quickly through cracks and openings as we did through an open door. Flying squirrels lived in the attic and freely roamed between the house's framework. Bats, deer mice and chipmunks were also tolerated. And, although I never determined what animal it was, something persisted in storing cherry pits in my sock drawer. Although, I suspect it was a family of flying squirrels that kept cherry pits in the back of my sock drawer. Through the years, I would blame deer mice but was never sure.

Another problem that can be even more perplexing when storing birdseed through the warm weather or in a heated space is attracting pantry moths to seed, flower, and the like. I have had problems with our seeds, even with a metal trash can, after discovering the cover was not securely closed once. My source for the perfect solution is found at drkilligans.com, where I found pantry pheromone moth traps. They work! Other moth traps for pantry moths may be stocked at local hardware stores.


World Cleanup Day is Saturday, Sept. 18. Earthday.org has partnered with World Cleanup Day to encourage individuals around the world to get outside and clean up their communities from now through the end of September. This is a global effort in conjunction with Let's Do It World, nationalcleanupday.org and Keep America Beautiful.

You can make a difference by cleaning up your favorite park, trail or space in your community. Gather your family, group of friends or coworkers and register a cleanup to show that you're participating in World Cleanup Day at earthday.org/actions/post-a-cleanup.

One of the many opinions on climate change, reported in April, was one issued by Pope Francis as he reflected on the commemoration of the 51st Earth Day. In his message he said, "The challenges we are experiencing with the pandemic, which are also manifesting in climate change, must drive us toward innovation and invention and to seek new paths." He added, "We become more resilient when we all work together instead of doing it alone."