Archive for July, 2007

Garden Insurgents

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

Every few years a word rises up and takes its place at the front of everyday banter. As a kid there was “fink.” Later it was “groovy, far out, stoked.” The current administration has delivered “insurgent.” Even though the word has been around since before Daniel Webster’s dictionary project, “insurgent” has suddenly become a resident in daily conversations.
For a beautiful Saturday morning, “insurgent” seems too violent a word to give much time. But minutes ago I prevented an insurgent pocket gopher from doing further damage to the rows of potatoes that I have been tending. I had set the trap last night in the unseen tunnel works that snaked beneath my Yukon Gold spuds. Yet how is that my success felt so yucky?
As I set the trap yesterday, I recalled all my youthful trapping experience and knowledge. As I scooped handfuls of dirt to widen the gopher tunnel I was mumbling curses at the garden insurgent. I recalled that midsummer gophers are more difficult to catch than in spring and fall. I also recalled how I have had years where half of my potato crop was consumed or carved by gopher incisors. Recalling those feeble harvests only made me more determined.
I slowly walked up to the house in the sunlight feeling a genuine remorse for the dead gopher. This was an innocent animal that was simply doing what it was programmed to do: feed on roots of plants. I had inadvertently provided it with a bountiful spread of growing potato tubers. The gopher was only guilty of . . . . being a gopher.
Why is it that I have absolutely no remorse for yanking young tender insurgent stems of lambs quarters or ragweed from their nursery soils that infiltrate my rows of vegetables?  Or how is that I shed no tears when I crush a potato beetle between my fingers and then spray my plants with an organic treatment of Bacillus concentrate in order to kill scores of baby beetle larvae?
My surge in tending the garden has resulted in scores of deaths and ultimately my own nourishment will be assured by the killing of crops. In my act of picking beans or peas, am I not aborting future lives? Where are the billboards with smiling peas stating, “Do you know that when I was 4 days old I was a baby pea?”
I suspect my mourning the death of the insurgent rodent might have something to do with our mammalian bond to gophers. It has soft fur, tiny, beady eyes and ears and even incisors. These are characteristics that befit the canine and feline pets we snuggle and cuddle. Perhaps the violent act of murder is too close to my own hominid lineage. And if the gopher killing was so easy it becomes clearer how easy it is to kill a label, such as an insurgent.