Friday, June 22, 2007

Compost and Gophers

This blog starts out as a story about compost, but it is really about gophers. Well, it is about more than gophers and compost, but you have to read it to find the inner meaning.
Awhile back, when I was a young gardener, I started composting. I would dump my green waste and vegetable trimmings in a pile and watch it rot. Then I got sophisticated and got an old ComposTumbler from my husband's sister. She said it wasn't very good and they were getting rid of it. They had had it two years. It had a poorly designed lid system and would fall open with only about 5 pounds of stuff in the tumbler. It was still under warranty, so I called the company and they replaced the Tumbler assembly. It had been redesigned within those two years. I also started reading about composting. There are the greens and the browns. There is hot and not. There is the stir, tumble or stare method. But what a compost pile really needs most is Nitrogen. The little bacteria need nitrogen to do their job. Then the bacteria die and the nitrogen returns to the soil. This is one of the reasons that compost is so good for your plants.
One article I read suggested putting lawn fertilizer into the compost. Another suggested a balance of greens and browns and grass clippings (which are full of lawn fertilizer). One article said household ammonia is really good. And one guy said, "Just pee into the compost." I read this one to my husband and his son. My stepson immediately said, "This was obviously not written for squatters." We howled with laughter, and to this day, I still tear up thinking about it. But I was never very successful at getting the boys to regularly assist in Compost Production. Ultimately, I went to worm composting which didn't require additional nitrogen.
So, this brings us to the squirrels. Oh, no. Not the gophers. Not yet. Squirrels, we have a bunch. They sneak over/under/and around the fence and go for the bird seed scattered by the birds at the feeder. Then they attack the trees and strip the fruit. When I was an idealistic young gardener, I thought they were kind of cute, but when I watched them stripping the trees I became enraged. I went to the garden store and sought out some environmentally correct method of squirrel disposal. Poison. Oh, no. Not poison. It kills more than squirrels. It kills hawks and dogs and fish and maybe me. So I found Coyote Pee. Apparently, if you spread the scent of predator animals around your yard, the squirrels will keep away. I bought it and sprinkled a circle around the yard. It was pretty expensive and you don't really get all that much. And it washed away with the rain and you get to sprinkle again, and again, and again. The squirrels didn't seem to notice much, either. They continued eating birdseed and fruit. They came up on the porch. They ate my tomatoes. When all of my parents are dead I will write a book, but for now let us just say that my mother in law loaned us a bb gun. We named it Squirrel Spanker. It actually scares the squirrels enough to train them to not come in our yard, but it isn't strong enough to kill them. And it works on Ravens, too.
I know, you are still waiting for the gophers. So, we didn't really ever have a gopher problem until this year. And it is not just us. The neighbors are growing gophers also. The first one killed a fig tree by eating its roots while I was unaware. Then it headed for my Apple tree. I was in a panic. I dug up its trails, flooded with water and headed for the garden store again. We bought traps and poison. After an intensive week of flooding, poisoning and trapping, we finally caught the pest. It was as big as a squirrel and died in a trap after running from the water. But it didn't eat the poison. It would push the poison up to the surface ground with a bunch of dirt. I would come out in the morning and find gopher poison (think rat poison) all over the fresh soil. After we killed that one, all was quiet for awhile. Now I have some chickens. They are just two months old. And I let them run all over the yard eating slugs and bugs and grass and just about everything. And just about the time I had forgotten about the gophers, a new one showed up. It was using some of the old gopher's runs and was headed for the Apple tree. I can't use poison. The chickens will eat it when it gets pushed up to the top. I have only traps and water now, so I started the flooding process. The next day there was a new hole that was open, no dirt plug. And strangely enough, it started me thinking about Coyote Pee and Compost.
Needless to say, there is no predator as terrifying as a human, so I sprinkled a little in the hole. The next day, there was no new evidence of gopher activity. I sprinkle again, and still no activity. I was so relieved.
Well, the story doesn't end here. The next day we found a small gopher hole in the garden by the tomatoes. It is too far back for a squatter, so I think this is a job for a man. I will let you know how it turns out, later.

1 comment:

Pray said...

Dear Fluffy Stuff,

I am not a gardener. I am however a writer...and a urinator - and I found your article on gophers to be excellently written.

I live in Los Angeles in the Hollywood Hills and, while we do not have chickens... we do have coyotes, deer, and a little dog named Mia. She's a Yorkie-Poo. Oh, yeah - and we have gophers. They killed our little lawn in the back yard and I have sat lookin' at that dead thing for nearly a year now. Alas, I got fed up and began lookin online tonight for answers. Your article was as charming as it was informative. Perhaps I'm twisted but I can't wait for all your parents to die so that you might one day write a book. :)

I'd write more, but I must go pee on my lawn.

Cheers,
Pray Harper