Archive for the ‘Gophers’ Category

Autumnal Return

I’d like to say that it was a long hot summer that kept me away from writing but to do so would not exactly be the truth.  This first summer on the farm was a busy one with a long learning curve.  Projects everywhere… growing fruit and vegetables is one thing but finding time to do something with the harvest is another.  I lost the war with gopher control and realize that living with these rodents will be very much like living with the demonic deer in Twain Harte.

I did manage to resurrect my skills in the art of canning… pickled beets, strawberry preserves, pickled peppers, and tomato sauce.  During the long winter, all of these will be reminders of the glorious feeling of warm sun on my back and the joy of walking into the garden each morning to see what had ripened overnight.  What I’ve learned is that overplanting can be intimidating when one only has a limited amount of time to deal with a prolific crop.  How many eggplants can I eat in a week??  So my fall and winter garden is much more reasonable for a family of one.

As I became comfortable with caring for chickens, I increased their ability to roam and allowed them to truly be free range.  Unfortunately, they quickly learned how to scurry under the pasture gate and my vertical sunflower garden became horizontal overnight.   The demand for farm fresh eggs has increased so much that I brought four more hens into the fold a month ago.  That was an experience!  Each flock kept to itself, refused to blend, and claimed its own area of the henyard.  Literally lots of henpecking going on as they jockeyed for position within the fold but eventually they became one.  Now, when I walk into the pasture, ten hens start their half-run/half-fly/half-waddle toward me and I feel like a nursery school teacher entering a school yard!

Ironically, as the demands of my farm increased this summer so did my business.  I expressed my creative energy in the form of gardening, planning, and summer living; writing took a backseat.  However, now that the shorter days of Autumn are here and the outdoor work begins to decline, I long for the opportunity to write again…  to sit in the quiet bubble where the words just flow like water.

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At first I really didn’t think they would be much of an issue.  I mean, they have to live somewhere, don’t they?  A few mounds of dirt here and there… nothing much to worry about.  Until the day I realized that mowing the weeds in the orchard was just a few steps short of starting my own private Dust Bowl!  And to make matters worse, my sweet little Corgi has figured out that there are critters living below the surface so walking through the orchard was like walking through a minefield.  A gopher mound here, a doggie hole there… you get the picture?

And then there was the morning I woke up to find a trail of dirt mounds on my garden lawn… and it became all out war.  I started my gopher research and found that the most effective thing to use was a rather frightening little piece of hardware called a Macabee trap that looks like it was invented by none other than the Marquis de Sade himself!  Fortunately, a sweet young clerk was willing to teach me the tricks of setting the thing without losing half of my hand.  After heading back to the front lines, I set the trap, tied it to a string, tied the other end to a metal stake, and made a mental note to put Caddyshack on my Netflix list.

Next morning I peek out the back door to see if my trap had any action during the night.  Success!  Yes (the Macabee did the trick) and No (the rodent was alive).  When reasoning fails, I defer to my gut reaction:  stick a flower pot over its head and wait for it to die.  Next morning, it’s still breathing and flies are starting to gather.  And that’s when the metal stake became a lethal weapon.

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