Our theme for the month of June is “older and wiser.” Writers were asked to write a response to one of their previous pieces. Today, Gabrielle responds to her September 2022 post, “Sluggard.”

I have now been a gardener for seven years.

And in all seven years, I have never had a successful harvest.

Year one, I lost everything to drought before I had my watering system set up. Year two, it was an aggressive tomato blight. Year three, I have no excuse other than my plants lost their will to live around August 11. Year four, it was me against one fat woodchuck.

The woodchuck won.

Year five was the year of the ant armageddon. Year six I lost everything to a late, unexpected frost. And this year…

The woodchuck is back.

I wrote about my garden after year five. I wrote about the failure, the heartbreak of having everything get overtaken. The piece was sweet—even a little nostalgic and sad. I wrote about it figuring I would like to commemorate the occasion, knowing next year I’d have buckets of beans and enough zucchini to be one of those gardeners who bring them around like thank you notes and sympathy cards.

But here we are. I am two months into planting and still have nothing to show for it because the woodchuck I didn’t manage to beat in year four is back, and now she has “Never Surrender” tattooed on her chest. She’s eaten everything, dear reader.

Everything.

I had walked down to the garden two weeks ago feeling full of the expectation waiting after a hard rain and new seedlings brings. And there she was, standing inside of the garden, face full of my baby plants.

No philosophizing this time. I ran at the woodchuck, shaking my fist and shouting. It’s fat body rippled as it squeezed through the fence and ran back into the woods surrounding my house. I turned in a tight circle, looked at the sky, squealed in rage, and then pushed my fists into my eye sockets to stop from crying.

All of my herbs were gone. My pea plants were eaten down to numbs. The woodchuck had eaten my kale, munched on my beets. It didn’t deserve my tears. This was war.

That day, my dad set a live trap full of lettuce. That night, we found the trap sprung and the lettuce eaten. But the woodchuck was nowhere in sight.

My dad ziptied the weaknesses in the trap together. More lettuce and an apple core for bait.

The next day was the same: trap sprung, food was gone, and the woodchuck had escaped again, this time significantly destroying the front half of the trap.

Third trap was set with another trap inside of it. A double trap. I made an extra plate worth of food for this seventh family member that seemed determined to eat all my vegetables.

“It’s my seventh year!” I yelled at the empty trap the next day. “What happened to ‘I shall also eliminate harmful beasts from the land!’ Why is my ground more cursed than everybody else’s!”

The garden story I wrote during year five had literary interest. It had meaningful biblical allusions. I even had the mature perspective to hear my cousin’s advice on pests as something to love, something that deserves to eat and live and work hard. Just like me.

This one isn’t written by that same gardener.

This story is written by a gardener who is older but isn’t wiser.

And still isn’t woodchuck-free.

Please send zucchini.

2 Comments

  1. Tom Eggebeen

    Delightful read … and, sorry, I have no zucchini to send. I look forward to next year’s report.

    Reply
  2. J Riberts

    Your writing is so visual, I felt like I was in the garden observing and yelling at your enemy myself, I hope to read more of your gardening endeavors!

    Reply

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