License to kill gophers by the government of the United Nations. Man, free to kill gophers at will. To kill, you must know your enemy, and in this case my enemy is a varmint. And a varmint will never quit – ever. They’re like the Viet Cong – Varmint Cong. So you have to fall back on superior intelligence and superior firepower. And that’s all she wrote. Carl Spackler
I’m agitated. I’m feeling like I want to go all Carl Spackler and build exploding clay varmints. While current politicians and news events still send me to a very large glass of wine at night, that’s not what makes me struggle with thoughts of sharp or explosive objects and chemical warfare.
The back story
I don’t bother with manicured hands. I put a higher value on digging in the dirt than perfectly groomed nails and cuticles. While not a master gardener, I’ve been at it for a long time. My first gardening mishap occurred at age 3 when a swinging hoe collided with my head and I had my first introduction to emergency rooms and the word “stitches.” Most of my gardening concerns things I can put on the plate for dinner. There’s just something about picking produce from my labors and eating it. Furthermore, I’ve gardened in stressful climates—like either the Mojave Desert or the high deserts of New Mexico. From either environment I always grew enough of something to put up for a later time. The Mojave Desert gardens battled high heat and marginal soils. The New Mexico gardens combated lousy soil, wild weather, bears and snakes. Yet I’d canned hundreds of jars of pickles, sauces and jams, and dehydrated tons of apples, tomatoes and herbs.
My New Mexico garden rests while I soak up the ocean climate—which is a perfect Mediterranean climate.
Why I pleasure in violent thoughts
The small speck of dirt for my garden here is south-facing and is fairly healthy. I ratcheted up the soil with all the likely goods. Spouse turned the soil and dug in compost and fertilizer. It’s my front yard, so I positioned native plants and some of my fave non-native flowers and shrubs. So far, so good. The first planting of peas and lettuce was a raging success. Applause. Applause.
Off to the nursery for more adventures in beach-climate planting I ‘a went. Spent money I didn’t really have, but since I didn’t have to buy work clothes any longer, I rationalized the cost of artichoke, cauliflower, and cabbage plants, and organic seeds.
The artichokes were amazing—so amazing that I should have planted them further back from my other plantings–but I modeled this tiny-size garden in the French-intensive manner. In a few months I grated cabbages to slaw and dipped purple cauliflower in yogurt sauce. Bravissimo!
Round three planting included some herbs, a blueberry shrub and a seedless grape. I hummed the theme from Rocky….”feeling strong now…” until I noticed half of my artichoke plants were gone. Poof! Nowhere to be seen. Ditto on the acorn squash that was near to harvest. Half the leaves on my grape plant were pock-marked.
I didn’t scream WTF because my neighbors might have fainted, but I sure thought it. It’s been downhill since. Every artichoke plant disappeared, my grapevine struggles, I can’t get beans beyond a sprout, I gave up on squash—even zucchini—and now my tomato plants are disappearing, etc., etc. Every morning I hand-pick the snails and send them to their next incarnation, but between raccoons, gophers, deer and a heavy breeding crop of snails, I said, “Fine. I’ll just plant marigolds.”
So I did. On Sunday I put in a dozen plants for fall color. Today, two marigold plants remain. After posting my “Daily Good,” I posted “Death to the Gophers,” on my Facebook page. About 25 suggestions and comments smoked the page in minutes.
I avoid poisons—too many cats and dogs in the hood, plus I don’t wish to add more crud that will eventually land in the sea below me. Like falling snow, I sprinkled white diatomaceous earth on the grape leaves. I rationalized that the gophers were just turning the soil for me, until I realized their tunnels are like a freeway interchange in downtown Los Angeles, and the gophers sing, “I’m alright, what ‘cha gonna do about me….” At night the raccoons roam the neighborhood like gangsters, and the deer—well, they are just so darned cute.
But this doesn’t negate my violent thoughts. So if you drive by my place some day and I’m sitting in my garden with a hammer or a loaded BB gun, mumbling, “In the immortal words of Jean Paul Sartre, ‘Au revoir, gopher, ‘” I’ve not lost my mind, just another tomato plant.