Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Gopher Wars

They have begun.

The gopher problem is nothing new. When we first got to The Ranch 3 years ago, I saw little earth mounds here and there and wondered what that was all about. City girls don't know much about anything!

And in my blissful ignorance, even after I found out what those mounds were, I didn't worry much about gophers.
Not when crops began disappearing from the veggie garden.
Not when some beautiful plants disappeared from our garden.
Not even when we discovered that the smallest cherry tree in our orchard was not sickly or dehydrated but a victim of the gophers.

"It's like Elmer Fudd!" Big Dog would tell his friends in amazement. "You'd be sitting out there, enjoying the view, when you'd see a plant move. As you look closer, you see the plant disappear into the ground, inches at a time and go, 'What the...'"

It was still sort of amusing.

Glass Guy and his girlfriend put in a giant vegetable garden last year and that's when the Gopher Wars started simmering. First he tried Macabee Traps. They work but are a gruesome thing to deal with when they do. Then, he tried flooding them out of the tunnels but the gophers were faster. Next, he tried pumping butane into the ground and igniting it. We got some singed fur smells and a call from a neighbor who was freaked out about our possibly doing fireworks during a bone-dry summer. ("The ground lifted up in a wave!" Big Dog said excitedly -- I was not there for the WMD show -- as he sang John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom Boom" to himself.) The gophers just dug new tunnels, so he got one of those black box traps and caught a few. I have no idea how many gophers live here, but I am sure our efforts amounted to less than a drop in the bucket.

This year, I have enlisted in the Anti-Gopher Campaign. I still believe they have as much right to be here as we do, if not more, and if there were a way to just send them packing, I would do it. I am tired, though, of plants being destroyed randomly and I am sick of our 30-hole rough course that was once a lawn. (I am going to turn the former lawn into a nice landscaped garden with everything gophers hate to eat!) And I am concerned that they are burrowing from the yard to the ground under the house and will soon make the whole house list.

In addition to the Glass Guy's failed methods, I can tell you what else doesn't work:
1) Those gopher repellent pegs sold in garden supply catalogs. A friend who visited last summer took pity on us and bought me a pack. Since it was close to the end of the season, I didn't try them out until this spring. They are smelly pegs filled with castor oil or something, but it's not Gopher Kryptonite! They'll just dig them out of their tunnels like we get rid of the trash. I am thinking of sending this photo to the manufacturers.(the peg is that thing in the lower left corner)

2) Garlic. I had read that garlic also works as a repellent so I bought a huge bag at Costco and began dropping them into the gopher tunnels, making sure to mash them a bit for extra odor. I think it was only a nuisance for the gophers, but it's become an afternoon ritual for me to go around poking garlic in the many gopher holes around our house.

I am on Item Number Three at the moment: a solar-powered Chattering Stake driven into the ground. The noise is supposed to mimic their "danger" signal. We'll see if it works, but I have my doubts.

Poisons are out for us. We don't want anything polluting our water source. Traps do work, but it was horrible when I actually caught one by its leg in a Macabee trap and had to ask Big Dog to deal to it. All choices, including letting it go, were terrible.

Big Dog who "battles" nature in the European tradition has taken to shooting them with his rifle, but they are quick and fearless.

"I was so close! Mere inches away..." he mutters. "My god, he's coming back out again!"
BD aims and shoots. He misses, again, but the flying bullet doesn't seem to scare the gopher one bit. It keeps on shoveling dirt out of its hole.
"Wait til I get my hands on Dad's shotgun!"

The gophers have turned us into that Bill Murray character in Caddyshack!

I don't want a gopher massacre nor do I want lead all around our house, so I am secretly hoping that his dad's shotgun is long gone. More openly, I am hoping that the Chattering Stake actually works!

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