Gimme’ Shelter!-Getting Rid of Uninvited Guests

By Cynthia Brian 

“Regardless of your lot in life,

build something beautiful on it.”~Zig Ziglar

I was working in my orchard when I heard the screams. Never in my life had I seen four grown men run so quickly. “Are you okay?” I yelled. “What’s the commotion?” The men had been dismantling an old hot tub in a deck when their saws had unsettled a family of skunks who had made the warm, dark environment their cozy home. If you’ve had your dog sprayed by a skunk, you’ll understand.

With winter on the horizon, the wild things are looking for shelter. Rats, skunks, mice, raccoons, possums, and other critters may decide that “su casa es me casa”.

Although we do want to attract birds and pollinators to our gardens by providing food, water, and habitats, but we don’t want to invite the vermin into our territory.

Rodents carry several diseases harmful to humans including salmonellosis, leptospirosis, haniavirus, and arenavirus.  They are not known to have rabies, but skunks can be carriers of rabies.

For prevention and control I consulted with vector control inspector, Joe Cleope, at the Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control District.  After a few hours of discussions and inspections, I came away with effective methods of management and control to share with you.

Here’s a short list of advice. 

Eliminate the following plants that are considered “rat condos”:

  • ⎫ Ivy
  • ⎫ Bamboo
  • ⎫ Blackberries
  • ⎫ Juniper
  • ⎫ Honeysuckle
  • ⎫ Pampas grass
  • ⎫ Yucca
  • ⎫ Star Jasmine

Trim shrubbery and trees:

  • ⎫ Keep palm tree fronds pruned or rats will nest in them.
  • ⎫ Prune climbing vegetation on your house to discourage roof rats.
  • ⎫ Store wood and lumber a foot away from structures and at least 18 inches above ground.
  • ⎫ Install rodent barriers as a prevention to climbing.

Eliminate food and water sources that attract rodents:

  • ⎫ Harvest your fruit and vegetables as they ripen.
  • ⎫ Pick up any fruit or nuts that have fallen on the ground.
  • ⎫ Fill pet bowls only with enough food that can be quickly consumed.
  • ⎫ Rid your garden of “escargot “ aka snails, a favorite meal for vermin.
  • ⎫ Keep birdseed and pet food in metal containers.
  • ⎫ Repair leaky faucets.
  • ⎫ Empty containers of standing water.
  • ⎫ Secure garbage cans. Unfortunately rats will gnaw through bins and raccoons will open lids.

Rodent Proof your house:

  • ⎫ Check for openings larger than ¼ inch in vents, screens, and foundation cracks. Patch the holes with 1/4inch galvanized hardware cloth.
  • ⎫ Use sheet metal collars around pipe entrances on wooden walls and use cement patch around pipes in brick, stucco, or stone.
  • ⎫ Seal all gaps around electrical conduit.

Where the Wild Things Are!

  • Varmint Control: The Merriam Webster Dictionary considers “varmint” to be any animal that is considered problematic-rats, mice, skunks, raccoons, prairie dogs, etc.
  • Skunks: Besides doing everything above to keep the varmint out of your home, if skunks are visiting your property you can buy skunk traps, which are specially made so that once a skunk has entered, it cannot spray. Docile skunks are great destroyers of yellow jacket nests and therefore helpful to your garden if not rabid. If rabid, Vector Control will come to euthanize the skunk. Once skunks have been to your property, they may return. Scatter mothballs in the area and add a radio playing music to deter them.
  • Rats and mice: Don’t use the old fashioned wooden snap traps. They are too dangerous to humans and small pets. Available at hardware stores, power spring traps or easy/quick set traps work best.  A great way to assure that only the rodents get trapped is to set the trap with a dab of peanut butter placed under a larger plastic container. Cut a small hole in the container. I use a recycled flower pot. Place the container over the trap. Add a brick or rock to the top to keep it from toppling. You will catch the vermin.
  • ⎫ Raccoons: Follow all the instructions above. Add netting to ponds where raccoons will fish.
  • For unwanted animals, don’t use poisons as they will kill beneficial critters and harm the environment.

Cleaning the Mess:

The smells associated with skunks, mice, and rats are nauseating. Their feces and nests could be a danger to your health. When we see droppings our first impulse is to grab a broom or vacuum. DON’T! 

Sweeping and vacuuming releases virus particles into the air.  Inhalation can result in infecting the person with the viruses.  Here’s how to clean the feces, nesting areas, and dead animals.

  • ⎫ Wear gloves, a mask, and goggles.
  • ⎫ Spray the area with Lysol or a disinfectant made with a strong solution of bleach.
  • ⎫ After five or minutes, wipe up the area with paper towels or rags you will toss.
  • ⎫ Pick up a dead rodent with a shovel.
  • ⎫ Spray more of the bleach solution to sanitize the area.
  • ⎫ Put all of the waste materials, rags, dead rodents, and paper towels in a plastic bag.
  • ⎫ Seal the bag in another plastic bag and put in the outside garbage can.
  • ⎫ Wash your gloved hands thoroughly.
  • ⎫ Remove the gloves and mask, put in a plastic bag, seal, and put in the outside garbage can.
  • ⎫ Wash your un-gloved hands and your goggles with soap and warm water.
  • ⎫ NEVER vacuum, sweep, or blow out areas that harbor contaminates that could become airborne.

Getting Help:

If you have a problem with rodents or skunks, contact Vector Control at 925-771-6142. The service is free and you’ll be able to troubleshoot your issues.  They will also pick up skunks that have been trapped.

Also remember that encouraging owls and cats to scout your property will keep life in harmony.

There is nothing beautiful about pests finding shelter in our homes and gardens but this month does bring beauty to our doorsteps.

Sheltering the Beautiful

  • ⎫ With the rainfall our lawns and hillsides are green and growing.
  • ⎫ Cyclamen abounds at nurseries and garden centers in an abundance of stunning colors-red, pink, white, burgundy. Plant these perennials to add glamour to the winter beds.
  • ⎫ Sunflower seeds can be scattered for next summer’s glory.
  • ⎫ A cover crop blend will choke out weeds, protect soil structure, and increase soil fertility. Sow seeds to over-winter for spring growth.
  • ⎫ Cotoneaster, holly, and pyrancantha showcase red pomes or berries that are perfect for holiday décor.
  • ⎫ Watch for the unexpected growing in your garden. Perhaps a prickly pear has taken root next to a pine tree!
  • ⎫ A variety of mushrooms are sprouting throughout our landscapes. Unless you are an expert in mycotoxicology, enjoy these fairy houses, but don’t eat them!
  • ⎫ The sounds and sights of fountains flowing are stress reducing and healing.

Wishing you a very healthy, happy, and beautiful December where the wild things aren’t!

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

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Cynthia Brian

The Goddess Gardener

StarStyle® Productions, llc


Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at

I am available as a speaker, designer, and consultant.

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Writer’s Primer with Roland Allnach, Skin Secrets, Sowing Wildflowers

Are you interested in writing, or seeing your written work published? Do you want to add the words ‘published author’ to your list of accomplishments? If so, listen in as multi-award winning author Roland Allnach guides you through the tricky landscape of the publishing world. As an author of six published books, Roland has worked with small press, self-publishing, short story publication, and marketing. Based on his critically acclaimed book “The Writer’s Primer: A Practical Guide for Aspiring Authors Seeking Publication”, you won’t want to miss out on valuable, real world insights from a working author, Roland Allnach.

Enjoy a healthy, glowing, happy face with Heather Brittany in Health Matters as she shares simple secrets to fleshing out any skin troubles.

Fall is the best time to sow wildflower seeds because the earth is warm, the nights are cool, and the rains are coming to help the seeds sprout. Garden Goddess Cynthia Brian helps you create a wildflower meadow in any space.


Bio: Roland Allnach’s books have received unanimous critical praise, have been featured on national and local television as well as terrestrial and Internet radio, and have been honored with more than a dozen national book awards. When not immersed in his imagination, Roland can be found at his website,, along with a wealth of information about his stories and experiences as an author. Writing aside, his joy in life is the time he spends with his family.

December 3: I will return to Brookwood Hall, 10am, for a Holiday Book Fair

December 18: Holiday Book Fair, along with seventeen other local

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The award winning positive talk radio program, StarStyle®-Be the Star You Are!® broadcasts on the Voice America Empowerment Channel LIVE every Wednesday from 4-5pm Pt/7-8pm ET.  Cynthia Brian and Heather Brittany are the Mother/Daughter dynamic duo who have been co-hosting this program live weekly since 1998 bringing upbeat, life enhancing conversation to the world. With Cynthia’s expertise in interviewing the trailblazers, authors, and experts and Heather’s healthy living segments, these Goddess Gals are your personal growth coaches helping you to jumpstart your life while igniting your flame of greatness. Brought to the airwaves under the auspices of the literacy and positive media charity, Be the Star You Are!®, ( each program will pump your energy to help you live, love, laugh, learn, and lead.

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What do you do when rats, skunks, and ot

What do you do when rats, skunks, and other varmint take residence in your home? Cynthia Brian offers helpful tips

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Want to get published-don’t know how to

Want to get published-don’t know how to begin? Roland Allnach joins Cynthia Brian with his Writer’s Primer 4-5pm PT.

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Music Magic

Teens talk and the world listens every Tuesday NOON PT on the Voice America Kids Network. Produced by StarStyler® Productions, LLC and Cynthia Brian, these young adults know how to rock and express their unique views. Join the fun!


Did you know that music heals body, mind, and spirit? Health Rap reporter Alex Pawlakos talks with hosts Zahra and Brigitte about studies that show that music is more effective than drugs. Reporter Courtney Cheng’s chapter, The Gift of Music, from Be the Star You Are!® for Teens. Seo Young Kim, our newest reporter on Express Yourself!™ begins a segment called Music Magic. Seo Young believes that music tells stories, relives memories, creates special moments in our lives.  Did you know that it is known that by 4000 BCE the Egyptians had created harps and flutes, and by 3500 BC lyres and double-reeded clarinets were made? Asya Gonzalez is obsessed with music. The hosts and Asya have a lively conversation about their favorite artists and genres. Aim to Shoot Reporter Katie Choo provides a wide variety of careers available to everyone, ranging from singers and music producers to radio DJs and music directors. Turn on the music, grab your earbuds, sing, dance, and rock out. Music is a healthy exercise!


SeoYoung Kim is a freshman in high school. She was born in Incheon, South Korea, and moved to

America when she was in third grade. She is greatly passionate to learn more about different types of music from all over the

world. She plays the violin, piano, the vibraphone, and occasionally sings. Her favorite subjects in school are history and orchestra,

because she is always curious about learning about the past and predicting the future. She loves getting involved in the

orchestra because she greatly values the lessons learned through teamwork and music.

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Review of Roland Allnach’s “Vessels”

If you are a fan of the TV series, WestWorld, you’ll definitely fall in love with Roland Allnach’s latest installment in his realm of the strange and surreal. With Vessels, Roland pushes the boundaries of most anyone’s comfort zone. The second book in his Oddities and Entities series, you’ll discover a landscape of nine stories spanning the speculative, the horrific, the supernatural, and the just plain over-the-top creepy.

His characters are well-developed, peculiar people that any sane person wouldn’t want to encounter, yet, his eloquent writing style keeps the reader glued to the page, anticipating the next sentence. Vessels ventures into the dark sensual nature of humanness where characters engage in disturbing, eerie relationships shaped by their pasts, presents, and potential futures. Allnach’s characters are alienated and isolated, although many appear to be walking in mainstream society.  They look normal, they talk rationally, but what’s rattling around in their twisted brains is what builds the extreme foundation for Vessels.

The back story to the cover art for Vessels fascinated me. I had the pleasure of interviewing Allnach on my radio broadcast, StarStyle®-Be the Star You Are!® when he divulged how this was an art project from high school.  Using watercolors, he had let the paint bleed onto the page by turning and tipping the paper. When he was satisfied with his drips and drops, he drew images in ink. Afterwards he decided that one day this would be the cover of a book he would write.  The purple tones and the peculiar creatures are the perfect representation of the bizarre stories that abide inside the pages.

The Vessel’s narratives are mesmerizing and nightmarish. He pounces past boundaries, pushes the envelope, and makes us squirm. Obviously Allnach indulges his more eccentric, weird imagination in the style of Stephen King when writing his horror, strange, and surreal stories. He can then easily switch confidently and competently to writing other genres, such as his highly instructional practical guide for authors, The Writer’s Primer.

Articulate and thoroughly robust, Roland’s books are penned with perfection.  Having won numerous, well-deserved writing awards, Roland Allnach is an author that commands attention. And you don’t have to turn on your TV to participate in his spine-chilling world!

Cynthia Brian is Producer/Host of StarStyle®-Be the Star You Are!® Radio and a New York Times best selling author.

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Shop online through 11/29 with more disc

Shop online through 11/29 with more discounts & double donations to Be the STar You Are! 2000 stores Win, win, win

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