April 21st, 2012

Yelp and Howl

They’re back.  Under the greenhouse, through the barn, into the woodpile.  Scraping and plundering about, eating all that’s new and green, making passionate, squealing woodchuck love in the middle of the night.

I was even jolted out of bed last week at two in the morning to what sounded like a chicken meeting the toothy  end of a fox or raccoon.  After a blind and bewildered stumble out to the coop, pellet rifle in hand, I made a quick tally, and all wattles were accounted for.  Then it sounded again, from underneath the barn floorboards: The horrible yelp and howl of woodchuck sex.

what, me worry?

What, me worry?

If this springtime ritual is that painful for them (truly a little death) why don’t they just stop breeding, or adopt a one-pup policy like the Chinese?   Works for me.

They actually tunneled under the greenhouse foundation and up into beds of March-planted seedlings recently.  Of course, they took out the much-coveted kale first; hopeful young shoots, barely into first leaf, gone.  Then the tender loose-leaf lolla rossa lettuce, about to be hardened off, gone. And, of course, my faltering humanity, gone.

I have to admit, I was impressed by their determination and insight.  How did they know the farm season begins in the greenhouse?  That this was nursery of wonders where seed was maturing into soft chloro-filled bites?

After finding their tunnel, I blocked it’s entrance with old bricks and rocks, which they handily excavated around.  I laid down wire and heavy terra cotta pots, which they gingerly pushed aside, with a varmint snicker.  Finally, I mixed two sixty pound bags on concrete, and poured the hole shut at both ends.  I’m just waiting to hear something from inside their cement tomb, like a Tell-Tail heart, or – God forbid – squeals of woodchuck ecstasy.

SGF 5-11-1220

Seedlings in the newly-fortified greenhouse, ready to fend off another pillage.

Woodchucks are as perennial and unflappable as weeds.  The more burrows you empty out each year, the more vacancy signs dance in their furry little heads.  Like sub-prime speculators, their waiting for the market to open up so they can settle in. Sprees like these can only send agricultural economies South, as a band hungry, ravenous woodchucks can easily undo you as a farmer.

For now, the greenhouse appears to be protected, and seedlings are thriving again, standing tall and brave in their refortified world.  In a few weeks, they’ll move out to live under an open sky of sun, wind and rain, safe behind fencing, as objects of insatiable, four-legged desire.    –Mb

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