Magnetic North: Groundhogs’ Day

Wanted. Cute critter. Soon to be seen in the back of some unsuspecting tourists RV? Nahhhhhh!
Wanted. Cute critter. Soon to be seen in the back of some unsuspecting tourists RV? Nahhhhhh!

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Welcome back to Magnetic North, where the neon yellow marsh marigolds embellish every pond and puddle, of which there are many after a week of incessant showers. Ah, May! These naturally formed nosegays simply shout to be picked. And yet, doing so reminds me to leave well enough alone. Because the blossoms wilt no matter how fast I plunge them into a watery vase. Some things simply won’t thrive in captivity.

A cautionary tale- totally wasted on this gatherer, I might add. Even though I learned about sustainable gathering as a Girl Scout. The one lesson on that score I absorbed, the hard way is that if I greedily snap off EVERY asparagus spear in the bed, there is nothing left to go to seed. Ergo, no tasty stalks next year. And still, that urge to best Mother Nature at her own game burns within. I’d settle for a draw. Just once.

Big Mama, it seems, cares not a whit about my pathetic human urges. For example, just when I put up a pricey electric fence between my voracious goats and my new rose bush, herbs and perennials, the Old Girl throws me a curve. Oh, it’s a darling, pudgy curve. My newest garden nemeses are wildly photographable, even more so than a goat. They have roly-poly bodies, itty-bitty legs, precious paws, beady black eyes, sweet little half-moon ears and begging-to-be patted reddish tummies. And the tails. Well, they are just too cute.

have here your basic groundhogs. Or woodchucks. Same thing. These are, to most civilized humans, nuisance creatures. True, there’s that coven of latter-day witches in Pennsylvania. The ones who believe that winter is truly over when a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil sticks his nose out of the ground. Baloney!

Groundhogs don’t give a toenail about temperature. All they need to bolt into action is to wake up and smell the first finger of day lily or strawberry blossom pushing through the freshly thawed earth. I know this, because lucky, lucky me, I am landlord to two of these critters. One under my chicken coop and one under my tool shed. And, frankly, I loved seeing the little fatsos puddling around their burrows until just last month. Only then did I realize that the day lilies next to the coop are still disappearing despite the goats being fenced up. Even worse, the toolshed floor is about to cave in on the root cellar below. Cute suddenly doesn’t cut it.

Searching for answers online, I found out how to catch the little criminals in my largest Hav-a-heart trap. Strange as it sounds, if the instructions I copied are correct, groundhogs are dumb as a box of rocks. Supposedly, all that’s needed is to block all exits except the one where the trap is placed. Even without a morsel of food inside, the groundhogs should crawl obligingly inside. We’ll just see about that.

Only one thing is keeping me from carrying out the plan. I can’t shoot them. After all these years, it would be like shooting my kitty, And, after all, they haven’t gnawed the head off a duck. Or sprayed me or my dog with stinky stuff. Plant burglary is bad, but hardly a capitol offense. No, relocation is the only sentence befitting the crime, But where to take them? Or, more to the point, to what poor sap’s property? I realize that announcing that I am about to dump a groundhog - or two - on some unsuspecting soul could land me in a world of hurt. Except for one thing.

In small towns like ours, trying to keep anything a secret is the best way to spread whatever one wants hidden broadcast all over town within an hour. It simply can’t be done. No, if you really want to keep something hush-hush, I suggest you blab about it all over town. The Blue Water Cafe, or standing in the checkout line at Johnson’s grocery store are good places to start. Something like this: “Hey, I just did something wild. You know those groundhogs that were wrecking my garden and outbuildings? Well, I caught them and dumped them in the back of a big white and black RV parked in the rec park. Hope nobody saw me!”

Believe it or not, no one will pay a bit of attention. Especially if you talk loud, like you are on a cell phone. It’s like being a mother of teenagers. You find that not only have you achieved invisibility, but your voice cannot be heard by the human ear.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s why the constant carping by Mother Nature has gone over my head all these years. Despite Her threats, punishments and outright bribes, I keep on doing exactly what She doesn’t want. I am sorry, truly I am, dear Mama, And, as usual, I count on your forgiveness. It is, after all, so much easier to get than permission. Am I right?

Oh, and by the by, groundhogs won’t give it up unless bribed with strawberries. Lots of strawberries.

This is Vicki Biggs-Anderson for WTIP with Magnetic North.

Airdate: May 30, 2012


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