This is the second part of Gardening With Kids and a Groundhog.
Click here to read Part 1.
New growth came from the healthy young plants trying their best, and then they were snipped to the ground again. I blamed bunnies, tried to match footprints and searched online for answers. We finally saw him: a lumbering, well-fed, brownish-reddish groundhog. We didn’t know where his home was so we needed another solution (since them, we’ve discovered his abode seen in the image to the left).
I got a Havahart trap and filled it with all the greens and lettuce a groundhog loves. Soon after, we spotted the trap door closed. “We got him!” I thought, but no, we got a possum. We let him free and filled the trap again. A day later, we caught a possum, we let him free again. In the pecking order of smarts, it appears groundhogs are smarter than possum. On and on it went, we had no success through the fall and then it was hibernation time.
The groundhog had won round one.
I mourned the loss of my garden, I truly felt sad each time I wandered to my fruitless garden beds. [On a side note, groundhogs (or maybe it’s just our groundhog) don’t like peppers and despite the disappointing season, I was grateful to at least have gotten something out of our garden.]
Growing new shoots from tiny seeds and watching them sprout then flourish into real plants makes me happy. Gardening with kids makes it even better. We chat while we work, about school or friends, and things spill out as we work the dirt. They also ask questions about each plant and begin to learn to identify them by their leaves, picking between a weed and a “real” plant. They learn basic biology, and about Turgor pressure and plant divisions, about bulbs, tubers and roots.
One of our favorite family lore stories is “The Cucumber Story.” I gathered my first cucumbers of the season and peeled them with more giddiness than anyone should have over some home-grown cucumbers. I sliced them into a white ceramic bowl, sprinkled in some apple cider vinegar, a spoonful of sour cream, sea salt and some fresh dill. Proudly, I served my family my first cucumbers, from garden to table in less than 15 minutes. Anna bit in to hers and thinking she was paying me the biggest compliment she praised: “Mom, these are delicious! They taste just like you bought them in the store!”
In between the laughter, we were able to deliver another great lesson of gardening: the value and benefits of homegrown foods versus store-bought. It spurred wonderful discussion on how we get our foods, where they come from and about how the nutrition is better the fresher it is.
Michael had become my trapper engineer and he’d reset the trap as soon as I guessed that hibernation was over. The very first thing we caught – would you believe – was a possum! We sent him on his way and added new lettuce for our groundhog.
Soon after, the neighborhood kids playing at our house spotted our winter-slim brownish-reddish groundhog scooting around. I waited and hoped to get him before I had to put our fledgling plants into the ground. Every day, the trap lay empty. The kids teased me for buying special lettuce for the groundhog but I wanted this guy. I wanted my garden.
The beds were ready and tossed with new organic soil, the young plants were ready and outgrowing their small peat pots. My first growth of sugar snap peas had been eaten to the ground, a painful flashback. Still, the groundhog remained at large.
Last week, I was watering and I bent over to pull a weed. As I looked up, I saw him. His little eyes and his smirking face peering under the fence at me, lurking, motionless, waiting. I responded by making eye contact and before I knew it, words flew out of me. I shouted, “YOU STINKER!!!!”
So what lessons are there to learn from gardening with our groundhog? Perseverance in the face of frustration. Determination with an eye on the goal. Creative problem solving. Not letting a hurdle get in the way. Expressing your emotions instead of burying them!
I was aching to get the garden planted, I had exhausted various Internet-researched groundhog options, all to no avail. I was becoming more crazed than Bill Murray by the day. So my dear, sweet Nick, either to save himself or to save me, I’m not entirely sure, quickly made simple chicken-wire fences around each bed.
It’s been four days now since we placed our green treasures in the ground. The trap remains empty, but our precious new plants remain untouched, free to grow strong.