Groundhog Defense

No matter how many times I’ve tried to tell Denisa that the fates have decided we shouldn’t have a garden, she doesn’t seem to want to listen. I mean, the blackberry bushes keep trying to take over the spot she’s used since we moved here. We have a whole colony of groundhogs hellbent on eating anything that even sounds like a vegetable. We haven’t gotten much in the way of rain this season so far (more hard frosts than hard rains, really). And the fates even conspired to make this thing called a “grocery store,” where you can go and buy all the vegetables you want. No need to even lift up a shovel, and you *definitely* don’t need to roto-till anything. And even if you’re more into the whole organic thing, there’s always the wonderful arrangement where you can buy vegetables from other people who grow them for you.

What a world we live in!

But instead of doing any of that, she wants a garden. It boils down to something about “enjoying watching plants grow,” which doesn’t make any sense at all, seeing as how I subscribe to a ton of digital streaming services, which I’ve always found to be way more entertaining than watching plants. But in the end, what else am I supposed to do? If she wants a garden, she should have a garden. I’ve just made it very clear that I personally plan to have very little to do with the upkeep of said plant factory.

That said, every now and I recognize the importance of supporting my spouse in endeavors that might not be the ones I would choose to participate in, should the option be available to me. And when she’s been working on a garden for thirteen years and bemoaned the groundhog menace that has continued to eat any and all things that aren’t potatoes (they don’t like potatoes), then even I can see the need to do what I can to help.

A fence had to be built.

But before you can build a fence, you must buy a fence. That’s something that takes a good deal more time than you’d normally expect, speaking now from experience. There are a lot of different kinds of fences, for one thing, and you have to make up your mind about so many small details. What size do you want the fence to be? What will it be made out of? How big should it be? Do we need boiling oil added to the ramparts, or do you think the groundhogs will go gently into that good night?

After an hour or two online, we ordered the fence. Green vinyl coated wire, two feet tall. 100 feet long. It being the pandemic, it took some time for the stuff to arrive. When it did, it took even more time for me to decide I actually wasn’t going to be getting out of this fence building, no matter how much I wished it might spontaneously build itself.

When you have a task in front of you that you’re not crazy about doing, the knee-jerk reaction is to want to do it as quickly as possible. How hard did this have to be, after all? Pound some stakes into the ground, hook the fence to the stakes, and then dust your hands off and walk away. That’s what I wanted it to be like, at least. But Denisa had thought this through. She had analyzed the tactics of her enemy, and she knew groundhogs were big on digging holes in the ground. (It’s right there in their name, I know, but maybe we had lazy groundhogs.)

Instead of just pounding some stakes into the ground, a trench needed to be dug. We’re not talking a moat or anything, but this was quickly turning into Not an Easy Project. Especially when you consider that Maine fields are filled with so many rocks, you wonder if the groundhogs didn’t put them there on purpose. (Seriously. I would make a terrible groundhog. I’d start to dig a hole, find a rock, and give up.) To make matters worse, mosquitoes and black flies were out in force, and they look upon a Bryce as a rare delicacy. Something to be devoured as quickly as possible whenever he makes a rare outdoor appearance.

In the end, the fence was made. I’m not going to say it was made without me losing my temper, but I think the end result seems fairly groundhog averse. If the critter decides to dig down very far, he’s going to find a pretty easy go of it, but I’m just hoping for the best. (Just like I’m hoping he doesn’t figure out he can climb that fence with no real difficulty. It seems a tactical error, basing your entire defense system around a hope that your enemy is chronically stupid . . .)

There are less than a handful of people in the world I would build a groundhog fence for without being paid a ridiculous amount of money. Now having actually built one, I think that number is down to about one. Anyone else wants one built, and I’ll happily chip in some money toward a GoFundMe or something. So it’s high praise indeed when I say that I hope this fence is permanent, but that if it ever needs fixing, I love my wife enough to say I’m still open to going out to repair it.


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