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Declaring total war on your garden variety terrorists – gophers

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POSTED January 24, 2009 11:35 p.m.
Gophers don’t have a thing on me.

I spent the better part of Saturday making pre-emptive strikes.

It involved taking out another large chunk of the grass in my front yard preparing to bury another 25 feet of poultry wire fencing cut into pieces to shape baskets to place below everything from roses and camellias to bare root shrubs.

My neighbors probably think I’m crazy since I’ve now ripped out about a third of the lawn with no intention to stop until it’s all gone. Why? It’s because I hate two things – cutting grass and gophers.

I never saw a gopher face to face until I moved to Manteca. And that didn’t happen until they ripped out the almond orchard at Spreckels Sugar and sent the blind varmints scurrying toward the all-they-could-eat gopher buffet smorgasbord I had planted at the previous house. They pigged out on the better part of six flats of gazinas I had planted, killed a mature almond tree, dined on a hundred or so daffodils and tulips, wiped out two 6-year-old California pepper trees, munched on seven of my 150 roses, and made heads of lettuce disappear overnight.

I went into overdrive trying to kill gophers. I used traps, gopher bombs, water, shovels, pitch forks, gopher plants, underground sound devices, Juicy Fruit Gum, broken glass, and even placed dog droppings in the holes on the suggestion of a reader.

An exterminator came over and was surprised to find out there were 45 tunnels on the side street alone. I was obviously outnumbered.

So I did what anyone driven insane by gophers would do – I bought poultry fencing. By the time I finished, I had buried over 500 feet of poultry wire fencing.

It actually is quite effective. It makes it impossible for them to burrow through. If you do the basket right, they may get some roots but not enough to kill the shrub or tree. The blind rodents smell dinner but can do nothing but get frustrated.

One of the first thing I noticed when I looked at the yard while house hunting last February was a tell-tale dirt mound near the back gate. It was a sign that I had found the right place as obviously the ground was fertile enough to grow the five basic gopher food groups – trees, plants, vegetables, roses, and shrubs.

The first gopher sighting was two months after I moved in. It was at the base of a fig tree that I was trying to figure out was dead or struggling to survive. After cutting it down, it was clear that the neighborhood gophers had used it as a lunch spot. The same held true for an almond tree.

It was clear that stock in the firm that produces poultry fencing was going to soar.

And even though I don’t like cutting grass, there is only one thing worse – a mound of dirt in the middle of a sea of green. By getting rid of the grass, when the gophers surface after becoming frustrated by not being able to get to the fresh appetizers I planted thanks to the poultry fencing converted into gopher barriers, it would be less irritating. Eventually I plan to replace open areas with various ground covers careful to select those that spread so when gophers surface down the road, I won’t even know.

Making life even sweeter is the brother-sister Dalmatian team that adopted me – Cruella and DeVil. Just like my last Dalmatian Dottie, the two have a tremendous amount of patience when they smell a gopher underground. When a small mound started developing last week by where the fig tree was, they were on it like a gopher on lettuce. They stayed there for hours and could be seen after that going back and laying down and working their paws into the hole.

The bottom line is I haven’t had any other gopher sightings except outside the back gate on the alley while some of my neighbors’ yards look like a lunar landscape.
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