Monday, September 7, 2009

Defensive Gardening and Freebees

Let me be clear: I am eating wonderful dinners these days and have as many raspberries on my breakfast as I like. I really shouldn't complain. But being human, I will. I have the feeling that if I work hard to "raise" food in my backyard (with lots of help from Nature and God), then I should be able to decide who eats it, or most of it. I have long known that slugs, aphids, and grackles will take some, but they generally are moderate in their appetites.

This year's woodchucks are something else. They are hungry, destructive, and clever. I just about think I've outwitted them, and they bring me down to size. Last email I was pleased that using old onion bags over eggplants kept them away. Then one morning I got up to see all four of the bags on the eggplant plot next to the driveway were empty! Two of them were on the grass; the others were still hanging. Actually "empty" is an overstatement in two cases. The eggplants were chewed and eviscertated. In the other two cases the bags had been opened (!), and the contents removed. As I mourned, I noticed two other eggplants that I hadn't covered with the bags and they were still there. Apparently, I only had been bringing some to the attention of my adversary.

This will be the first winter I enter in over 25 years with no peas or brocolli in the freezer. Sob, sob. I don't know why I'm rebelling at the unfairness of it all; I know better. My kids remember my telling them repeatedly when they were children, "Life is not fair." Yet, I keep trying to make it so.

Anyway, my next strategy for ridding my garden of woodchucks will be an attack on their home. This year they have been digging through our 84-year-old cement garage floor. When we fill one hole, they dig another. My daughter pointed out that a floor that weak might be a hazard for humans; we might step through it with ill effects. So we hope to have a new garage floor before the Open Garden (on Saturday, Sept. 19, from 2-4 PM). Maybe I can get back to catching them in their entrances outside the garage, even thought I expect they will still live under it.

The goal of the next few days, of coures, is to clean out that garage so what's left of the current floor can be removed. I've put a LARGE shovel, larger than any senior citizen can use, to the left of my front door at 56 Gordonhurst Avenue, Montclair, for anyone who wants it. It may be joined by other goodies I unearth tomorrow. Please don't take my house plants that sit next to the steps!

Also on the porch are a stack of lawn refuse bags in which I picked up grass clippings to mulch my garden. Some may be from leaves, but most are from grass clippings. Since paper bags for lawn refuse came into fashion, I have tossed the left-overs into the back of the garage for future use. I use them for the dead raspberry bushes that I remove in July. (Composting raspberry bushes takes more finger-tip courage than I have.) This year's abundant growth meant that I used nine bags for that purpose! However, there are now more than a dozen bags on the porch to be picked up. Please don't take the weight that keeps them there.

Inside the garage I still have two wooden trellises. Prior arrangements will need to be made for these, since they are too big to put in the front yard for random pickup. They are each two feet wide, and six feet high with 28" wooden spikes below, apparently to go into the ground. If you are interested in these, let me know and we'll make arrangements for you to get them. Taking them away is a bit of a challenge, of course. I don't remember what their past life was, but I do have vague 30-year-old memories of thinking I might use them some time. It's not likely now.

Cleaning out one's garage has merit even if it doesn't improve my odds against woodchucks. Here's hoping!


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