Sunday, 15 June 2014

It's Groundhog Day

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When we moved in to this house oh-so-many years ago we thought these guys: a Mom and baby, hanging out on the deck were very very cute. They stood on two legs, ``hung out" with their fore arms on the lower railing of the deck and looked very much like a pair southern cowboys, in one of those action movies, before all the action broke loose!

Flash forward a year, and my dormant interest in gardening returned. I already knew that there were deer all around my home. In fact, we always woke to a herd that was munching away on something or the other not 20 feet from the bedroom window. It was the most relaxing way to wake up everyday.

I also knew what deer can do to a garden from my childhood when the deer and the gardeners (my parents) were almost always at loggerheads. If you did not latch the gate before going off to bed, you can guarantee that the deer would have decimated all the blood, sweat and toil in a single feeding frenzy. So, we struck an accord with the deer. The garden was off limits, but the trees on our street leading to the main road was all theirs. And they loved those trees, often standing up on their hind feet to munch on the lower hanging leaves. In fact, when we saw a pregnant doe who could no longer stand on her hind feet to get at the leaves, we used to knock out large branches for her with a long stick.  She would patiently wait for us the leaves to fall on the ground and then she would eat to her heart's content. We even named her Radha!

But I digress!

The point was, I knew what damage deer could so, and so I spent hours researching deer resistant plants for my front garden. My garden looked lovely with shasta daisies and lavender and roses (oops! blooper with the research), lupines and delphiniums, even a hibiscus called Baltimore sun (oops! again a deer candy). This lasted a couple of years and all on a sudden I woke up one morning to see the garden decimated! Where there stood tall delphiniums blooming in shades of pink to lavender there was trampled ground, where the star shaped pretty lupine leaves with the their lovely flowers there were empty stumps, standing two inches above the ground. Where there was shasta daisy, there was simply, nothing!

Then one summer afternoon I saw the oh-so-cute,-may-have-been-a-cowboy-in-a-western dude happily munching away on my prized garden. The battle was on! I looked to the all powerful Internet for guidance and it mostly said "trap 'em and relocate em" or , "smoke them out" or "pour cat pee into their holes" or "get a dog" and finally and most damningly, "kill 'em dead"  and so on. I started with the "get a dog". Well turned out, my Diva and Doofus were not made to kill. They mostly got all excited by the visitors and just wanted to say "hello" to their new friend. In fact, Doofus, who was way faster and more agile than Diva (and who could also see very well) was the first to get real close to these dudes. For his troubles he was bitten on his nose and that ended in an emergency vet trip with a very confused dog bleeding profusely from his snout, undergoing a bunch of tests to check for rabies!

Then I tried the "pour cat pee" suggestion. My version was to just wash the kitty litter boxes and generously dump the wash water into their doorway. Well, there was on entrance right under the deck, one in the far end of the property, in a wooded lot. That year, the resident bachelor decided to relocate and my plants, which were by now mostly peonies, lilies (inside the fenced areas) and few others, survived. That peace of mind lasted an year, when yet another bachelor set up his pad right under the deck. The hunger games continued: him playing "can I eat this?" and me playing, "should I buy this".

Well, that battle finally came to a head yesterday. It all started with me returning from a 10 days hiatus from home to see my stonecrop, yarrows and another pink flowering, deer resistant plant whose name I don't even know were gnawed to within an inch of their lives. The Russian sages were dead and he had even eaten up one whole chipotle pepper plant and the damage done to the other is so severe, that it does not look good.

Yesterday, this n-th generation settler of the Marmota Monax kind, was trapped.

In broad daylight. The back-stabbing, ever commiserating critters came out to check what all the noise was about.

The bravest of them, Polisamiyaar, went straight up to the groundhog and sat looking at him face to face. 

The intimacy that these cats were displaying towards the Great Marauder left me in no doubt that they had happily co-existed for years. In fact, my husband found this dude grazing right behind Polisamiyaar, right by the deck, when the house was wide open and we were sitting right there. Obviously, our specimen had no fear whatsoever!

I have to admit, though, that he did look very cute looking at us with an expression that seemed to say, "so when are you going to open this thing?" Got to love that attitude. Anyway, he has been safely relocated with 15 minutes of his capture, so I am fairly certain that he has set up shop where he wont be a complete nuisance to anyone's garden.

Dare I dream of Shasta Daisies and Black-eyed Susans and Echinacea purpureas and lupines and delphiniums and ...

Well let's not count our flowers too early!

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