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Verde Valley Good Eats
By Lu Parker, Cottonwood, AZ
Cover the how-to's to backyard poultry, gardening, putting the food by and where to find good eats that are all natural, Verde Valley grown. Tips on preparing all natural food, particularly meats that have not been injected with water or dripping in fat. Pickling, canning, a few recipes here and there and a general discussion on growing and eating it here.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012

ARGHH! GOPHERS

 Lu Parker

ARGHHH GOPHERS!!! January 25,2012 Lu Parker

'Tis the season to start battling one of Mother Nature's most ingenious little burrowers. Gophers, and yes there are all kinds of scientific names and such, but we'll just call them gophers. Even if you never see one, you will see their mounds of fresh dirt in all the places you don't want to see them, like your freshly tilled garden, your lawn, under your fruit trees, and along the roadsides right up to gas meters.

Gophers like soft dirt. Gardeners like soft dirt. Folks with pastures like soft dirt. And like mice, gophers reproduce fairly well and apparently quite successfully. If you have one you have two.

Some lore about control that does not work. You can't drown them in their burrows. They have many tunnels and dead ends. All you'll do is waste water and make their underground digging easier. Putting rocks down the hole you found does not work. They will tunnel around or push the rocks back out. Once, as a newbie fighting gophers I thought putting a concrete block over the little hole would work. Nope....the little pesk dug right around so I had two holes and dirt piles instead of one.

Shooting them is not a good approach. First you need to catch him poking his head up which could take all day. Second, they like being around people and homes, so shooting is out. Concrete powder in the holes only makes for compacted concrete underground. They go around it. As to pouring all kinds of chemicals into the ground, and I've heard of some pretty scary combinations, NO. Whatever you pour in will stay in and poison your ground.

So what DOES work? To kill them, trapping seems to be the best. Victor traps are easy to set, and available at all of our hardware and home improvement stores. At about four bucks each, the traps are cheap enough and they last. Where the dirt pile is will be a "dead end" closed hole. Poke around, walk around the dirt and you'll find the main tunnel. Cowboy boots really help here. Your heal will sink. Open the tunnel just wide enough to set the trap in. The jaws go into the tunnel with the flat plate facing outward. Sounds funny, but it is easy to put the trap in backwards. Make sure you put a wire or string on the trap or the gopher can pull in back into his tunnel. I found one 8 months later when I was tilling my garden!

Gopher Repel, castor oil base pellets readily available, is safe, a little expensive, but will repel the little diggers. This is good to get them out of the garden or lawn, but it won't kill them. They'll keep moving and you may not make your neighbor very happy.

Gophers will eat anything. Your asparagus beds, roses, fruit tree roots (I lost 9 trees my first year here), onion sets...in fact they LIKE them... anything with roots. Now is the time to get rid of them for the season. They can decimate a garden in no time flat.

The duck eggs I set in early January must have frozen before I collected them to set. No ducklings, but the hens are laying well so I will try again. Duck eggs are fabulous for baking and eating, so I'm debating the best use! We had duck egg frittatas the other night and they were absolutely the best. The yolks and whites are a little firmer than chicken eggs.

Lastly, keep an eye out on 89A for Fresh Start Farms, just north of Denny's in Cottonwood. These folks have a great plan going. And right now they are looking for leaves and manure. Just drop it off to them. I'll be doing a column on them soon.

Eat Good, Eat Well. Lu Parker Hens Nest Farm Bridgeport

parkerlu@cableone.net




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