When you have hens, a dog and some cats (people who say they have "some" cats are those who are ashamed to admit to more than two), your options for pest control are limited.
With a dog that eats compost, blood and bone, fertiliser and a number of other unsavoury substances, the usual baits and poisons are not even a possibility.
Even if I didn't have domestic animals, I probably wouldn't want to kill anything anyway.
I've never really considered larger pests a problem since a gardening friend who encourages free-range rabbits, chickens and ducks to her property told me that once my plants were established, wildlife would leave them alone.
I've found this to be largely true of non-domestic animals, but it still means that young plants need to be protected, which poses the problem of how to dissuade the resident squatters from helping themselves.
Something has recently decimated about four successive plantings of parsley, which sent me scurrying to the internet to find out what it was likely to be and how to discourage it. Most of the sites that came up had a conservation focus and recommended full-scale war, which didn't suit my philosophical or spiritual leanings, and posed the residual problem of what to do with the corpses of 150 possums, rabbits, hares and the neighbours' cats, dogs, goats and children.
If wildlife is a problem in your garden but gruesome solutions are out of the question, a humane and holistic approach is to figure out how to coexist with wildlife.
Start by making your garden less attractive to wildlife. Eliminate hiding or nesting areas, such as brush piles and tall grass. Minimise other food sources, such as compost bins.
Try to identify what is eating your parsley and then learn a bit about the animal so you can find a solution that doesn't involve an AK-47.
Scent repellents, such as garlic, castor oil and predator urine can be effective temporary solutions but they need to be applied frequently to remain effective. (Predator urine is a tricky one, especially since the possum's main predator is probably the hunter from DoC.) Products made with hot peppers can deter nibbling rabbits. Some types of plants, such as castor bean are said to discourage rodents.
Mothballs are often recommended, but they can be poisonous to pets and kids.
Scare devices, such as motion-activated water sprayers, noise makers, reflective tape and faux predators can work for a while (and they're funny if you have a slightly mean streak), but your wildlife will probably get used to them over time. You need the element of surprise, so you have to be prepared to ramp up your strategies on a regular basis.
I have problems with live traps because i hate to see anything distressed, but if you have a persistent possum eating your parsley, this may be the way to go.
It's dead simple: get a steel mesh trap with a spring-loaded door, put the appropriate food at the far end (apparently just about everything likes cat food, except cats), and the door will close on your possum. Or not, depending on how smart he is.
The next step - what to do with whatever you've caught - is far more of a dilemma. You can hardly rehome it to your neighbour's garden and it's pretty mean to drive it miles away and let it go in an area far away from friends and family.
Some animals get completely disoriented when they're relocated and have huge difficulty adapting to the new habitat.
This type of exclusion is probably the most effective, long-term solution.
If you don't actually want a permanent fence, you can put up a temporary, seasonal solution and take it down when it's no longer needed.
But before you race off to the farm store, be clear about exactly what you want to exclude, and build accordingly.
Exclude rabbits with a 600mm high chicken wire fence with 2cm holes. Curve the bottom of the fence 90 degrees to create an apron about 300mm wide and bury it to prevent the bunnies digging their way in.
Possums dig and climb, so go for a 1200mm fence and leave the top 400mm unattached and floppy. It'll look like you've done a sloppy building job but the unattached top section will fall back on the possum as he reaches it, and, unless you're serving champagne and truffles on the other side, he probably won't persevere. Add an apron as for rabbits (as above) and, as an extra precaution, drape bird netting on the ground outside the fence - possums don't like materials that cling to their feet.
Sadly, having fences where you don't want them can seriously detract from the pleasure you take in your garden, so whatever you decide is going to be a compromise.
I'm covering my parsley with bird netting, surrounding tender young plants with circles of skewers (which stops the cats from fertilising in newly dug ground, too) and walking the dog around the perimeter of the property 10 times a day to leave a strong predator scent for the resident hare. Now if I could just get the man from DoC to come with me. ..