Monday, October 18, 2010

This weekend I realized that the "regular visitors" to my garden--observed during the warmer months--have been absent for a bit, indicating that either hibernation has begun or they are spending lots of time at Costco, stocking up for the winter. Here is a column that appeared last spring as a result of the ongoing rivalry between me and well, you'll see....
The Thrill of the Game

The scene of the crime:  My front steps.

The perpetrators:  A family of groundhogs.
The victims:  My petunias, morning glories and lilies.
Earlier  that  day: I stand, in the warmth of the afternoon, admiring my flowers. Finally my morning glories are budding up. Soon I will enjoy a much anticipated summer sight—the brilliant blue of my favorite flowers, the sun shining through their petals, lifting my spirits on even the dreariest  of  days. I lean down to caress a bud, promising to return in less than an hour to spray them with pest repellant to keep away the predators.
Forty-five minutes later: I re-emerge. In hand, a  spray bottle containing enough liquid stink to disgust a herd of deer plus a ground-assault of voracious rodents but WHAT DO I FIND?????? They have beaten me to it. Every last morning glory bud is clipped off, their stems waving sadly in the hot breeze, my every hope for a heavenly blue bloom dashed to hell. My petunias and lilies have also been decimated. I stand on the top step, shake my fist at the disinterested heavens and howl my frustration, “DAMN YOU, PORK CHOP!!  DAMN YOU!!!”
Pork Chop, you see, is the patriarch of the groundhog family that has dug a condo under my front steps. He has fathered more than one generation of fuzzy brown babies who fan out across my yard to nibble my grass and try to outsmart me every summer. They have been very quiet lately and I thought they had moved on to another yard but the evidence—my mutilated flowers, proves only that they have managed to outsmart me yet again.
A few years ago, I realized that Pork Chop, along with his slutty common-law wife French Toast, had begun excavating a home for themselves when I stepped out  one morning and was nearly thrown onto the grass by the rocking of the newly unanchored front  steps. I bellowed for Seth who came running  and, together, we declared war on Pork Chop and French Toast, vowing to rid our yard of them at any cost. When Seth realized, however, that successful eviction meant being a little bit mean to them, all plans were aborted. Seth is secretly an animal lover in extremis and, I am learning, prefers the company of four-leggeds to those with only two. He wouldn’t even help me put used cat litter (a solution offered by a neighbor)into their hole because they might not like that.
On some level, I totally get this. They have a right to be here too. And they are cute. Plus, we’re  from the city so, therefore, react very strongly when spotting wildlife. My sons are grown-up galoots but if I shout “I see a bunny!!!” they come tearing over and we all cluster by the widow to admire Mr. Hoppy until he gets bored with our besotted comments on his soft fur and fluffy tail.
Years ago, on a college visit with Charlie, I observed some big tough young men in muscle shirts go insane over a chipmunk. As I suspected, when asked where they were from, the answer was Brooklyn.  It can’t be helped, we’re starved for nature in the city. All we see from our windows there are take-out delivery men relieving themselves on our front steps. I wish I were kidding.
So, it’s become a battle of wills and strategy between Pork Chop and me. While I regret the loss of my flowers, they will grow back and I will simply try harder to get the better of him and his voracious family. Between the groundhogs, deer and moles, I am not sure why I plant anything. It may be the thrill of the battle. Round One goes to you, Pork Chop and I salute you. But don’t get too comfortable. I’m smarter than I look.


  1. I should feel comforted that I'm not alone in the groundhog challenge, but sadly, it doesn't help much. I can beat you on alarming internet news: Charlie is a mutual friend of Richard Nixon - it must be true - facebook says so.

  2. When the voles wanted to chomp on our tomato plants and impatients we found powdered fox urine on line. Totally safe! All they translate it to is "hey, what ever's been around, I don't want it to eat me!" We're thinking of getting the coyote version for the racoons who keep trying take down our fence!