by germinatrix | September 12th, 2009
Has anybody who used to read my old Domino blog noticed that I haven’t been posting pictures of my vegetable garden this year? There is a very good reason – one that my followers on Twitter have been privvy to (much to their chagrin – my shrill ‘tweets’ must have been a touch grating!) … I have been HORRIBLY beset by critters. Actually, ‘critters’ is too cute a word. MONSTERS is more like it. My lovely vegetable beds were no match for the gophers/possums/moles/voles/rats/squirrels that descended on my crops and turned my organic garden into their private Farmer’s Market.
It wouldn’t have been so bad if it was just the voracious ratfink – I’m used to him … we did battle last year, and at a certain point we settled into an uneasy kind of ‘detante’ … he didn’t do too much damage, and as long as I tossed the bad veg his way, the impact was fairly minimal. But this year it was more than the gnawing of a rat. There was the work of a squirrel, too – who picks the desired tomato or strawberry and takes it with him, so you don’t even see a half eaten fruit as evidence! You just look for the nearly ripe vegetable you were about to pick and think “Am I crazy? Wasn’t it here yesterday?”. And then there was the worst, the varmint that drove me out of my gourd … that made me come face-to-face with my choice to have an organic ‘no-kill’ garden, what that means to me, and where that becomes impossible. The gopher.
I thought it was a vole – but then I saw him. A classic, dorky looking buck-toothed gopher. And I have to say, he was so close I could have beheaded him with my trusty hori knife – but he was so cute and so timid.He kept trying to get to the artichoke that he’d recently felled, and he just couldn’t … he was scared. I let him live. My twitter posse told me I was a fool – and I KNEW they were right, but somehow I thought that we’d made a non verbal promise – I won’t behead you, and you stop fucking with my precious garden! Stupid, stupid human. The gopher obviously wasn’t on the same page. The next day, he ate all my lettuce.
The solution was obvious – take all the soil out of the beds and line the bottom with chicken wire. I guess I should’ve done it during the building of the beds – but we’d NEVER had gopher issues in this neighborhood! I never even thought about it! So most of this summer was about retro-fitting the beds rather than growing fabulous organic produce. And once the beds were done, I breathed a large sigh of relief.
Stupid, stupid human.
Organic vegetables aren’t the only things gophers love to eat. Among their favorite snacks are phormiums, grasses, and – aloes. Yes. I saw them fall, one by one, as the tunneling demon made his way to my gravel seating area, which is ringed by some very prized specimen aloes. First, three beautiful aloe barbadensis, all flowering – toppled over, roots and crown gnawed into oblivion. Then the phormiums, two 5ft tall Phormium tenax bronze came apart in my hands as I inspected them to figure out why they were flopping. Then a beautiful Phormium ‘Red Dark Green’ I’d put in three years ago. An aloe plicatilis was the next victim, and then I realized where this devil from hell was going – to Willard – my Aloe marlothii!!! (everybody who reads this KNOWS how I feel about HIM!). What a feast THAT would be! The blood froze in my veins. That was IT. I had been pushed over the line. No more flooding tunnels, no more smoke bombs, no more granulated castor oil, no more sonic thumpers (USELESS!) – and for the record – he ate Euphorbia martinii (which could be considered Gopher Spurge) for breakfast. I WILL NOT lose my ALOES! You have pushed me THIS far – NO FURTHER!!!
I called The Gopher Patrol.
I didn’t want to know what they were going to do. I will be in denial over this. Over this, I am no longer strictly organic. I understand that some awful gas was pumped into the tunnels. The attacks have stopped. The gopher is dead. My big aloes are alive.
… but I feel bad. Really, really bad. Damned gopher. Rest in peace.