Friday, April 29, 2011

Rage Against the Woodchuck
Warning, violence against woodchucks is rampant through this post. I am no longer apologetic about this.

I. Hate. Woodchucks. Specifically, the ones that live near my garden and feel that it is their personal salad bar. For those of you unfamiliar with woodchucks, they’re also known as groundhogs and they’re rabbit sized, vegetable eating, dirt digging, territorial rodents. Very territorial, don’t go near one. My great-uncle lost half a toe because it was defending its (his) garden. True story.

Before this last summer, I didn’t really have a strong opinion about them. I knew that my father and all of my other gardening relatives have had bad woodchuck experiences in the past, but I had never been blessed with their presence. Our new house came with a gorgeous 10x20 raised bed, and a woodchuck. The war my adventures began.

You know how you’re hormonal when you’re pregnant? And you can get weepy, or angry, or just in general overly emotional? I was pretty even-keeled through my pregnancy. Truly, I didn’t really have any emotional outbursts that I wouldn’t have normally. Except: I had rage against woodchucks. Seriously.

Dramatic incident #1: I was talking on the phone with my mother when I saw one hiding in the neighbor’s bushes. I said some nasty things. Many four-lettered things. Then it started toward my garden (again). I don’t specifically remember this, but my mother assured me that I started yelling before I got outside, and all 8 months pregnant of me ran out the back door and then started yelling and stomping on the deck to try and scare away the woodchuck. (It was after this that I was told about the territorial thing – but frankly a woodchuck would be crazy to mess with a pissed-off pregnant lady.)

Dramatic incident #2: I was one week overdue, we were having a heat wave, and my husband and I were walking near our house to try and inspire the baby to come out. A woodchuck ran across the road in front of us. Apparently my husband had to grab both of my arms and hold me back as I launched myself after the woodchuck, screaming obscenities at it. I think he’s exaggerating.

I even had dreams about getting rid of woodchucks in increasingly wacky ways, and the woodchucks getting the better of me. Think Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote.

I tried live traps, but of course the woodchuck would go nowhere near it. Poison or lethal traps would be dangerous for the neighborhood cats, and obviously my foot stomping was doing nothing. (Nothing hissy-fit about it, I swear.) I called pest control etc. and they recommend shooting them. This is what my dad and grandfather, lifetime gardeners both, had been saying all along. So I let dad “remove” the woodchuck. And the one that moved in a week after. The third one escaped with a ding in its hide, and has not been seen since.

I lovingly planted the organic heirloom seedlings that my family helped me grow as my belly grew: beets, tomatoes, melons, peas, cucumbers, rainbow chard, eggplants, peppers, lettuce, and strawberries. I had dreams of making food from vegetables I had grown myself for my beautiful baby. Instead, I watched as those woodchucks mowed the beets, peas, lettuce, melons, and cucumbers down to the dirt. They ate half of the chard, and put holes in the eggplant and pepper leaves. I waited all summer for the strawberries to ripen, and as that first strawberry became red, I went out to pick it and saw the woodchuck delicately eating the ripe strawberry. I had another hissy-fit discussion with the woodchuck. (Dramatic incident #3. I do remember that one.)

I harvested a lot of tomatoes. Apparently woodchucks don’t like tomatoes.

Next summer I won’t have the flood of hormones, but I am determined to win against the woodchucks. I will harvest what I plant, and they will not eat it all on me. I have a plan involving chicken wire, a tomato hedge, and use of a community garden.

How do you deal with garden pests? Have any tips or funny stories to share?

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