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A Few Notes on Gophers

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A Few Notes on Gophers

Because if you build it, they will come

There’s simply a downside to everything; look at MTV if you want a good example! But seein’s how it’s almost summer, my thoughts this month turn to the topsoil inside what I’ve cleverly nicknamed ‘a garden fence’ but soil around here is a very loose term; what ours actually is could more closely be described as North Idaho loam, or even more simply put... decomposed granite with some pine needled worked in for a little aeration and texture. It grows daisies, lupine, sage and many other groovy things, just not garden vegetables. At least, not anything you’d recognize or wanna eat, ‘cepting morels of course.

Our tiller ran away from home ten years ago but I found it halfway to Bayview and out of gas. It might’ve made it too, but it was dragging the rear bumper of an old Volkswagen in its mouth. I had to bring it back ‘cause I’ve got so many fond memories of trying to hang onto it, not to mention that I’m still waitin’ for it to pay for itself. I’m thinkin’ one more fence line inadvertently ripped out of the ground ought to put me over the top. I discovered early on that ‘PTO’ stands for ‘Power to Outwit’ (regarding machinery behavior).

Anyway, what’s any of that got to do with gophers? Well, just this: “Build it and they will come.” I love this phrase as it describes gardening so well. Bugs, moles, voles, rabbits, gophers, bears, moose, deer, elk, turkeys and even feral Pomeranians all greatly appreciate anything you might introduce to the neighborhood in the form of food, shelter or entertainment. They’ve been here since time out of mind and here we come expecting to merge our plan with theirs without rubbing bumpers or tossin’ insults at each other.

Ever since I was a little crumb grabber able to pick out a decent rock and try to match my older brothers’ incredible marksmanship, I’ve associated gophers with target practice. As my arsenal graduated from one thing to the next, so did the death toll. I actually harbor a few guilty feelings for the pain and suffering I’ve caused the species in so many decades, but that pretty much goes away when I till it in with garden soil.
Out here where that elusive substance is firm enough to bend a Pulaski and make a tiller act like a horse’s ass, seeing your carrots pulled under is akin to watching one of yer own kids go through the ice! The first time you experience this, you may just stand (or kneel) there, with jaws agape and noodle wonderin’ if it’s a cartoon flashback pulled out of your childhood memory vault.

The second time around, you’ll notice your hand and forearm go in after it before your brain gives any consent to do so. You may find your carrot or you could also draw back a rabies infection and a bloody finger. So I’ll never do that again.

You can try stuffin’ a signal flare down the hole but what that’ll do for your topsoil shouldn’t be confused with soil augmentation. Same with running one’s tiller exhaust down their holes and you’ll also be surprised how fast you can melt a perfectly good garden hose that way... I assure you.

And if you have any fireworks layin’ around that you can’t fire off above grade... here’s yer chance to make your garden smell like Garfield Bay on the Fourth of July!

Or you could try, and this is one I haven’t, piping obnoxious music (such as Barry Manilow) into their burrows but there again you’ll just end up with severely fouled soil and gophers wearin’ ear plugs.

So what’s a gardener to do? Move? Ha! This is not an endangered species we’re talkin’ about here. They are simply everywhere! They survived Mt. Saint Helens blowin’ her nose on ‘em, they will certainly outwit your meager attempts to control their habits. Unless...

Unless you get a mouser and not just any ol’ furball either, but one that delights in ‘gophering’.

We had a spell of a few years where we were ‘between cats’ and in that time the gopher population went beserk, prompting raised beds with metal bottoms ($). Althoug this has worked out well for the lower back(s) factor, to do this on a scale adequate to supply a family’s needs would require some serious investment!
Cats are far cheaper than lumber and labor and often more entertaining as well, like when you drop a tree on the greenhouse they’re takin’ a nap in and you get to witness just how fast a cat can move when the notion strikes their fancy (so to speak).

So far we’ve only had three cats in 27 years of ‘gardening with gophers,’ all free, female and spayed and most of all talented. Our current mousetrap, Kirby (who will probably never again go inside a greenhouse for the rest of her nine lives), was named and bequeathed to me by Jerry Luther after it vacuumed up a dozen of his pet “golden mantles,” one of which I have a picture of on my Mac extracting peanuts from Jerry’s ears. (Until he managed to train replacements, his understanding and mighty thoughtful wife, Becky, has had to perform this important and life-saving function.)

Well, I was just takin’ a break from all this penmanship and lookin’ up words ‘n stuff and went down to my neighbor’s for a brew and our weekly think tank, humor fest and burp festival. Asked what I’d been up to, I replayed that paragraph on raised beds with particular emphasis on the ($) part. Pat, Mark, Rio, Guy, Lowell and Festus (just over half a tank!) simultaneously (a rarity given their IQ spread) pointed at the pickup bed we were yackin’ over. “Here’s the perfect raised bed! Cheap, portable and eclectic!” There’s just no tellin’ how far this group could go. We oughta be on radio.

And talk about the ultimate raised bed! Last year about this time, I wrote about using my big red van for a tomato hothouse, as well as a way to get to work and it occurred to me I could grow a crop, take it to Farmin Park and sell U-Pick toms at curbside. Would almost pay for the gas to go to town!

When it comes to gardening, as in most of live, all we can do is what we can do... which is usually a lot more’n we actually do do. Thank God.

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Scott Clawson Scott Clawson No, he's not the electrician, he's the OTHER Scott Clawson, who's a quality builder when he's not busy busting a gut while writing his humor column for the first issue of each month, or drawing his Acres n' Pains cartoons.

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humor, gophers, gardening

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