“Marmot Farm” – Humor by Shirley Swift – June 2013
Jason, a city-slicker, admired stories of country life and self-sufficiency. When he retired, he almost emptied his savings account to purchase a small re-modeled house on a three-acre, partially-wooded lot. It was ideal for him. He was pleased to have a hand water pump outside and a wood stove inside.
After working up the ground and planting $200 worth of seedlings and seeds, he settled into a warm Spring. He would create a fabulous garden. That would have been the scenario if it weren’t for all the ground hogs that ruled the back acreage and woods.
The enthusiastic “farmer” took his shiny new hoe down from the garage wall in anticipation of killing the weeds before they choked out the vegetable plants. Jason was sure that things were greening up, but as he neared the garden plot it appeared that something awful had happened. Every one of his plants had been gnawed on, or were gone completely. He counted four large ground hogs eyeing him from the edge of the woods. How could he be so naïve?
It cost an additional $300 for chicken-wire fencing and posts. The hardware owner told him to dig a trench and bury the chicken-wire down at least six inches.
“It’ll keep those varmints out of your garden.” However, that was only part of the solution.
Two days later the garden area was surrounded with the silvery guard and Jason made another trip to the nursery for bedding plants. He only purchased $100 worth of plants because the seeds he planted were starting to emerge.
That night, Jason sat on the patio and looked at his fenced-in garden with great satisfaction. $600 was a lot to spend just to enjoy fresh peppers, tomatoes and squash – but he justified the expense to be “living off the land.”
In the early morning, Jason brewed some strong coffee and looked out the window toward the garden. Several ground hogs were having breakfast inside the perimeter of the fence. Jason grabbed his hoe and ran out the door. He shouted at them, threatened them with waving hoe, and they made a bee line toward the area where the fence had been smashed down. He counted at least eight critters of various sizes. They must have just started marauding as only a few plants had been touched. Jason felt a miserable failure.
Then, he realized that the fence was lacking. He called the lumber company and ordered wooden fencing that would support the chicken-wire. He sighed deeply. He was hoping the additional $400 would be worth it. Jason filled a bowl with shredded wheat and took his coffee and cell phone out to the garden site. He would sit there, a live scare-crow, or scare-marmot to speak, to protect his investment until the lumber arrived. He called two of his retired buddies and asked if they had the afternoon free.
By six p.m. the four-foot high picket fencing was completed and it held up the chicken-wire. The men sat outside enjoying beer and pizza.
A few weeks later Jason accidentally left the gate open at night. In the morning his coffee tasted bitter. He planned to tend his garden that day and when he looked out he noticed the open gate. The garden area filled with ground hogs. Jason wanted to rush out and beat on them, but an idea popped into his head, and he sneaked out and slammed the gate shut without the critters knowing they were trapped.
Over the summer, Jason rummaged through grocery stores’ and restaurants’ dumpsters and came up with old lettuce and other greens. With his grass clippings, it kept his captives well-fed. He made sure the ground hogs had aluminum shelters and water. Hot dang! The fence they couldn’t get into became the fence they couldn’t escape.
By mid summer, the 11 babies were fully grown and they and the eight adults made quite a sight. Jason found a free-lance butcher and by Fall he had perfected making marmot jerky. What he didn’t sell, he used himself. He also had the processor save the two large front teeth for his winter scrimshaw project. The marmot teeth would make unique pendants at the swap meets. Jason learned there are ways to be self-sufficient other than endless gardening.
The next Spring Jason saw several large ground hogs sunning themselves at the edge of the woods. An open gate and a few dollars worth of seedlings would be sufficient to stock this year’s herd and re-stock his larder.
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