OK…so I have lost it!
A couple days ago I walked into the garden and found that another big and strong tomato plant, more than 2 foot tall, had been dragged down from its habitat above earth into the dark dungeons below and consumed fully. The Gopher did a clean job here; you could only see a few left overs of the top most part of the branches peeping out of the earth, the rest had completely disappeared. Reminds me of the gopher type character in Artemis Fowl – who, for the record, I tremendously liked when I was reading that series.
These remnants of the plant were figuratively like the ‘empty hands’ that Alexander the great is supposed to have asked his associates to leave out of his coffin to show what was he was able to take away with him from this world. Thus, the two shiny red cages I had put around the tomatoes (Locked Up!) are now lonely sentinels in a desolate plant-less neighborhood (see picture 1).
To put it mildly, I was extremely upset! I picked up my narrow spade and dug furiously at the spot and was soon at about 8 inches deep and getting deeper. However, I could not see the ‘exit’ hole that the gopher had. While I was catching my breath and contemplated digging through to China to ferret him out, I recalled reading somewhere that Gophers actually don’t dig that deep. They have a long network of subterranean tunnels going to all points but they don’t go that deep. They are efficient in their method – go just deep enough to frustrate a casual gardener or blunt hoofed animal, and not any deeper.
I lowered myself to the crater I had just dug up and with gloved hands, pawed at the periphery, about 4 inches below the ground level. I followed the rim around while feeling the firmness of soil and presently came to a soft spot, pushing through it my hands opened up a cave about 4 inches in diameter! I figured that it would be a mathematical improbability that I would have heaved-ho at one spot in the garden and found myself peering at exactly the end of the tunnel. So I followed my scientific observation of the Gopher Habitat around the rim till I came to another soft spot. Poking through the spot, I found another similar sized passage going into the distance (see picture 2). I ran back to the garage to get a flashlight and shined that into the two holes. Who was I kidding? Was I expecting a smiling Gopher to say ‘you got me’ and climb out to shake hands with me? It was just a knee-jerk response to peer in. Part of me felt like a voyeur trespassing into another animal’s habitat. However the other part of me, let’s say my non-emotional, rational part that had seen my physical self buying the little tomato saplings and rearing them to adulthood over the course of two months looked at the two holes in ground with glee and ‘thunk thoughts’ that nature lovers don’t !
I put the dirt back into the crater hoping to ensure that the intruder didn’t realize that he had been intruded upon and marked the spot with a stone. Then I hurried down to the Home Depot to look for what arsenal the modern gardening store has to offer. I picked up two items that seemed left over from the chemical warfare invented during the Second World War (see picture 3). A bomb type device with a long fuse and some chemical pellets made from Castor Oil designed to ‘repel’ moles/gophers/rabbits.
On my return, I decided to first dig the garden in various places to find other such tunnels so if I were to put in these deterrent devices to use, I might as well leave no place for the rodents to hide. I quickly found another spot that had the tunnel running through it – this was spot where the zucchini (Houston, we have a problem…) plant has disappeared into. Also there was the spot under the new raised bed (Boxing Better Than Balboa). My first inclination was to put down some of those Castor Oil pellets in these tunnels and wait a few days to new activity hopefully showing that the animal was receding form the garden. However, I decided to roll in the artillery first – literally! I decided to drop the gas bomb! My little brother too was for that as he wanted to see how the ‘dynamite sticks’ work. These devices don’t actually cause an explosion; they just create a thick smoke with a nasty smell. I assume the smell is supposed to drive away the rodents. I am not sure if the smoke could actually suffocate them.
With the help of my kid brother, we lighted the fuses and pushed the sticks fuse-first into the tunnels and the quickly closed off the tunnel to seal them. Where there were two openings in the craters mentioned earlier one has to work briskly – lighting two sticks simultaneously and pushing them into the tunnels and sealing the crater quickly. I was half-expecting a muted explosion as in the Monsters, Inc. movie when a monster ends up having a child’s sock on his fur. But there was no sound to be heard.
When I woke up the next morning, the first item on the printed agenda was to conduct a survey of the last night’s battlefield for any signs of troop movements conducted by the opposition. There seemed to be no visible mounds of fresh soil that typically accompany gopher movements. It is quite possible that the opposition has resorted to trench warfare as he has spent a couple millennia perfecting that kind of battlefield technique.
Another day has now passed and I see no signs of opposition. Has the Gopher been wrestled into the mud this time or has he just dug himself another network of caves? Stay peeled to follow this battle, representative of the human struggle against nature to dominate the world!