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I’m not sure of how I managed to find myself in this position after 15 years of working in gardens and on farms, but until now, I’ve somehow escaped having to bear witness to the wrath of the woodchuck. For years, when customers asked for my advice about how to deal with the voracious vegetarians in their gardens, I’d stare at them blankly. I swear, visions of some wild and cartoony monster (not unlike the Warner Brothers’ Tasmanian devil) tearing up a garden would float through my head. When I have read farmers’ humorously epic accounts of increasingly desperate attempts to rid their farms of a woodchuck family, I’ve found myself feeling blessed to have worked on farms where I’d never encountered the endlessly hungry beasts. To be honest, until last year I’d never actually seen a woodchuck (besides in photos), and when I finally did, I had to laugh at the clumsy, large, wriggling thing that scampered across our office’s parking lot. How could that do so much damage?
Well, you can believe that I was humbled when I checked our really large planting of spring broccoli this week and found that 50% of the plants had been eaten down to what can only be described as broccoli nubbins. I scanned the fence, a three layer wall of mesh and lightly electrified wire that for the past three years has been impenetrable to our other least favorite large pest, deer, and saw no breaks. No deer prints around the plants either. My heart sank a little–we were dealing with something that we couldn’t stop with our magical deer fence. Or row cover. Or organic pesticide.
As it usually happens, feelings of pest-damage induced despair turned into an adrenaline rush within a minute or two. On the advice of another farmer, I immediately purchased a Havahart trap at the hardware store and grabbed the stinkiest cantaloupe at the grocery store. The idea is that the sweet stench of the cantaloupe is irresistible bait for the woodchuck.
I then sat at the computer at lunchtime and did some more research. According to the fourth listing that appeared in Google (when I searched for “how to trap a woodchuck with bait”) you shouldn’t use bait to trap woodchucks because they are too smart and will know something is up, and the best way to trap a woodchuck is this way. Oops. Their advice seems solid, and they are a pest management service. But then other sites suggest just shooting the thing with a gun (legal?) or throwing firecrackers or some kind of smoke bomb down in its den. And yet other sites suggest that I doing just the right thing. For me, firecrackers and guns are not options. Fireworks freak me out. And legal or not, who has time to sit with a gun and wait for a woodchuck? That said, these approaches might start to feel more like options if I don’t catch it soon…there are three more acres of delicious cabbage, kale, chard, fennel and more broccoli that are just waiting to be eaten!
Today, I am setting the trap and hoping that this will be the first and final attempt at catching the woodchuck. If it doesn’t work out that way, at least I will have my own fun woodchuck story to tell.
Spring is in full swing and summer is just around the corner! School fieldtrips and the Afterschool Gardener and Explorer Programs have commenced. This means that on any given day, Land’s Sake will probably be sprinkled with the faces of young people exploring our great farm! Like other creatures that dwell in the many ecological habitats within Land’s Sake’s borders, humans must rely on their senses to navigate and work with the multitude of flora and fauna present. Our five senses allow us to understand the relationships within these diverse communities and to connect to them on a personal level.
Here at Land’s Sake, youth are more than extra hands for garden work or feeding the chickens and are indeed more than participants of fun-filled eco-activities; they are young scientists, relying on the same five senses (smell, touch, taste, hearing, sight) that adult scientists use as the basis for their research. Land’s Sake is, in other words, teaming with ready scientists, naturalists and ecologists employing their senses to observe, predict, identify and understand the multitude of systems and cycles at the farm. From kindergartner to teenager, there are valuable discoveries happening here everyday.
The next time your little one or teen comes back from a trip or program at Land’s Sake, be sure to ask about his or her findings, and be ready for an informative, thoughtful and journal-worthy response!
Education Program Coordinator
P.S. – For a fun activity with your child, print and cut out the images and words to see if he/she can match the sense to the correct photograph taken at Land’s Sake! HINT: There may be more than one sense for each photo!
“I think it’s so cool that you make so much of what you use here. It’s just really cool.” This was just a piece of my conversation with a teen volunteer last week while repairing a compost bin in the Education Garden, and a sure sign that things are off to a great start!
As the new Education Program Coordinator, I have many tasks on my plate: developing curriculum for the Spring Afterschool programs, observing soil critters with 3rd graders from the Woodland School, planting in the Education Garden so there is a robust source of produce for our Green Power cooking program, and writing newsletter editorials, to name a few! There are many formal and quantitative ways to evaluate the successes of these tasks, however, I know things have gone well when I hear a young person tell me that something they’ve learned or done with me is “cool.” I reflect on the past two weeks working with our great volunteer and think of how much we accomplished together: roofed and predator-proofed the chicken coop, researched companion planting (for example: leeks and carrots grow well together because the leek helps repel carrot flies), seeded four garden beds with lettuce, beets, brussel sprouts and more, and sketched a preliminary map of the garden. And as I count and document it all, I can’t help but smile when I think of the intangible outcomes, such as building our own unique “companion relationships” here in Weston.
I am excited to be here and look forward to more of these great moments. There is always more to do! Call (781-893-1162) or send an email my way (email@example.com) if your favorite teen is looking for some volunteer opportunities or ways to get involved!
Sometimes photos say it best. A visual stroll through the past few months at the farm.