I have had it with those goddamn gophers! I did no more than shovel dirt back in their holes when they burrowed up under the floor in the storage shed. I only flooded their tunnels with water when they started digging up my grass. But now that they’re eating the roots of my fruit-trees, I’m going to exterminate the little buggers.
The four trees that died in my front yard might have been victims of underwatering, or the neighbor’s carelessness with weed-killer (read Roundup), but now that my original 3-year-old fig tree is dying of obvious causes, I’m not so sure about those four. There were gopher-holes around them, after all.
That Turkey Brown fig tree was perfectly healthy at the start of the month, budding plenty of fruit, thick with leaves. Then the leaves mysteriously began turning yellow and falling off. I applied plenty of fertilizer and minerals and water, but all that happened was that the remaining leaves withered without even turning yellow first. It also became very loose in the ground. ‘Twas Sharan who figured it out – and found the gopher tunnel that led to that tree. “It has no roots,” she pronounced. The damned gophers had eaten the nice succulent roots of my fig tree.
So we spent yesterday afternoon hunting up gopher-holes, digging them out, finding which ones led to actual tunnels and which ones were shallow little one-night gopher motels (about one to three), stuffing gopher-bombs down the tunnels and sealing the holes with dirt after them. The way a gopher-bomb works is that it burns phosphorus (which won’t harm the plant roots; it’s an ingredient in common fertilizer) in the tunnel, thereby sucking up all the oxygen in the tunnel and replacing it with animal-fatal phosphorus smoke. A small road-flare will do the same thing. The problem is making sure you’ve found all the tunnels.
So, tomorrow we’ll go down to the hardware store and get a bunch of gopher-bombs, or road-flares if they’re cheaper, and after that the search-and-destroy mission begins. We’ll tramp up and down both our yards – which is no small feat, given the size of those yards – looking for gopher-holes and digging them up. Wherever we find a tunnel, in goes a lit flare. I’m also looking for a mail-order house where I can get Gopher-Purge seeds, and in every hole where we don’t find a tunnel I’ll plant those seeds.
I expect I’ll also go out with the pickaxe and root up those weeds that Roderick missed, and plant Gopher-Purge there, too. Of course, if I could have found anybody in the state of Arizona who sells live Gopher Snakes, this problem could have been solved a lot easier; poke some hungry snakes down the tunnels, and let them do their thing. Alas, no available snakes. Damn.
I have reason to be anxious about the other trees, too. The new almond tree hasn’t budded, and looks dead; it’ll be expensive to replace. The same with the one chestnut that I’ve got planted – but then again, the two that are still in pots haven’t budded either; I may have to order new, older, chestnut trees from that same nursery, which won’t be cheap. The new Scarlet fig looks healthy, but who knows when it’ll be attacked. The little black Eight-Ball pomegranate is losing its leaves and dying, and I can’t get a new black Arisia pomegranate until September. I’ve gotten a new Pakistani mulberry tree, but it’ll have to stay in the pot until the weather cools in autumn – the nurseryman recommended planting it in October. Ditto with the apricot, macademia and avocado trees – and the avacados will need special planting to keep salt in the soil away from them (dig a hole at least four feet deep and eight feet wide, fill it with mulch and potting soil, mound it up in the center, plant the tree at the top of the mound, and then water from the top of the mound only so that the water will always flow away from the tree, flooding away the salt).
All this is going to cost us, and we’re pinched for income. The one thing we can’t afford is to keep replacing trees because the goddamn gophers eat their roots! The Neem oil has done a fine job of protecting the trees from molds and bugs, but it’ll take serious war to get rid of the gophers. So I’m appealing for donations again, to help us buy armaments as well as replacements. Anyone who thinks that a war of extermination is always an Unthinkable Evil has never owned an orchard attacked by gophers. Kill ‘em all, kill ‘em all: no mercy. Maybe I should print up personal War Bonds.