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AT THE HELM: WEEDS AND GOPHERS

By Scott Graves

Pilot staff writer

It's officially spring – I've gone from not mowing the lawn for months to doing it twice in the past two weeks.

Other signs of spring can also be found in my lawn – gopher holes. They're appearing as fast as I can fill them up.

Also, the dog has returned to his favorite spring pastime – digging holes. I think he's chasing the gophers, but he might be looking for worms. I once saw him pull a worm from a hole and eat it in one gulp. I'd rather he eat the gophers.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking. Why not get rid of the gophers permanently? Like with poison?

It sounds good in theory. But in practice, using poison may end up hurting more than gophers – particularly my dog and 5-year-old daughter, who also likes to dig holes.

So, no poison at our house. (Something of which the local gopher community is obviously aware.)

Another sign of spring? Weeds growing everywhere.

My wife is not a fan of using herbicides (again the danger to the dog and kid). So using weed killer on the offending plants is not an option. That leaves good old-fashioned elbow grease, which is fine with me.

I actually enjoy gardening, although my wife thinks I mostly like the cutting, hacking and slashing part. She's right. I have a habit of cutting trees, bushes and other vegetation back more than she likes. I can't help it; it's hereditary. I remember a time, in my teens, when my dad went out to trim the bouganvilla, a huge vine-like bush in the front yard. There wasn't much left when he was done – picture a long-haired hippy getting a buzz cut. Mom was furious. We still tease Dad to this day.

I've haven't pulled a doozy like that in my landscaping efforts – but I've come close. With blackberry vines, I'm ruthless. Not only do I freely hack away at these thorn-encrusted menaces, I happily use up all my elbow grease to yank, pull and drag them out of the ground by the roots. I also take much glee at chopping off blackberry sprouts with the lawnmower.

I guess you might say, as my wife does, that I approach yard work much like a soldier in combat. It's me versus the enemy. And once I get worked up, it's hard to stop (sound familiar, dad?).

For example, I was out until after dark Wednesday mowing and weedeating the lawn. Then I realized it might not be all that smart to operate equipment with sharp blades when I can't see well.

Besides, the gophers were all waiting for me to go inside before beginning their rampage.

Gophers are nocturnal. That's something I learned while doing a little Internet research on the critters. It's all part of Knowing Thy Enemy.

In fact, when it comes to gophers, truer words were never spoken than in the movie "Caddyshack" by demented greenskeeper Carl Spackler (played by Bill Murray): "To kill, you must know your enemy. And in this case, my enemy is a varmint."

Of course I don't have the option, as Spackler did, of blowing up the lawn to get rid of the creatures. Or do I?

Perhaps another sign of spring at my house will be the sweet sound of explosives.

Perhaps I can get my dad to help.

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