About 7 years ago a female groundhog moved into the area between my house and my mother-in-law’s house.
She had babies.
And after that the groundhog population around my hay fields, farmyard, outbuildings, gardens and orchard began to spiral out of control.
By the summer of 2011 the damage to my 110 year-old concord grape arbor, apple orchard and vegetable gardens was extensive.
They were killing the grapes.
An entire row of cabbage had been feasted on.
A row of broccoli had been destroyed. Half eaten tomatoes and apples with teeth marks were scattered throughout the gardens and orchard.
Groundhogs were even eating young sunflowers in the garden.
Seemed they just couldn’t get enough to eat.
Deep holes in the apple orchard and in the hay fields were becoming a broken leg waiting to happen. Many a horse, sheep or cow has had to be shot for stepping into one.
It seemed no matter what we tried we couldn’t find a way to exterminate them.
We set traps for them.
We turned our meanest cattle dogs loose on them. I took to wearing a pistol while I mowed the grass hoping to get a shot.
We blew diesel exhaust from the tractors into their holes hoping to poison them.
I never went on the front porch to hang clothes or to knit that I didn’t have a rifle with a scope by my side waiting for the opportunity to pop one.
My husband and I were so desperate to be rid of the groundhogs that we even tried to blow them up in their holes with black powder charges.
We managed to kill a few of them now and then but we always seemed to be out numbered.
The damage to our orchard, gardens and crops was serious.
And I was growing worried.
Then one day during tomato season the winds of Fickle Fortune changed.
It happened one afternoon while my husband and I were sitting on the front porch processing tomatoes for tomato juice.
I spied a groundhog grazing in the apple orchard out of the corner of my eye. The groundhog was slowly moving through the orchard munching on a windfall apple.
“Look!” I cried. “He’s just standing there!”
And our eyes met in mutual understanding: Groundhog!
We wasted no time.
My husband and I both pushed away from the work table simultaneously. We ditched the tomatoes and scramble into action as our chairs fell backwards.
I quickly tossed my husband the rifle that I always brought with me to the front porch because he’s a much better shot than I am. We couldn’t take a chance that I’d miss. We might not ever get a second shot and I wanted that particular groundhog dead.
My husband took aim and fired and from the porch and it looked like a direct hit. We quickly headed to the orchard to make sure that it was a good clean kill.
It was a good shot.
Varmints have to be killed. But they should never have to suffer.
When we arrived to the top of the hill the groundhog had been killed instantly with an apple still in his front paws.
He died the way he had lived. Continually eating his way through the gardens, grape arbor and apple orchard.
We seemed to have a whole lot less trouble after we killed the orchard groundhog.
Maybe the rest of them took notice and moved up the road to the neighbor’s.