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anne_mikolay_120As fall overtakes my backyard with an abundance of autumn leaves, I am reminded of my commitment to help my backyard feathered friends survive the upcoming winter. The birdhouses must be cleaned; the nesting house must be turned upside down, and perches inserted for the winter roost; feeders must be filled with suet and appropriate seed for the winter birds, including the soon-to-arrive ground-feeding Juncos. You see, I am a backyard wildlife enthusiast, and enjoy watching birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and the occasional opossum make themselves comfortable in my little corner of nature. I also get a kick out of the antics of my husband's nemesis, the infamous Mr. Groundhog.

As you may remember, Mr. Groundhog is a thorn in my husband's green thumb, and a constant reminder that our backyard falls far short of my husband's HGTV-inspired vision. Our yard has more weeds and fallen twigs than these gardening shows recommend, not to mention the wild Virginia creeper that twists along the fence like a hopelessly knotted string of Christmas lights, but according to my husband it is the groundhog that is to blame for the yard's shortcomings. It is the groundhog's fault that the dirt is weak and full of holes; the groundhog's handiwork (or teeth work) that inhibits the growth of lush greenery.

Earlier this season, encouraged by HGTV's suggestion that Juicy Fruit and Ex-lax are reliable, harmless agents that force the relocation of unwanted groundhogs, my husband stuffed the ingredients into Mr. Groundhog's burrow beneath our kids' old toy playhouse. Though I question the experts' claim that groundhogs will run from the scent of gum and Ex-lax, I must admit that Mr. Groundhog made fewer appearances than usual this past summer. As weeds grew over the “front door” to the groundhog's burrow, it looked as though my husband had finally bested his furry, fat enemy.

No longer concerned with the groundhog, my husband tackled other backyard projects, like tearing down the old, dilapidated storage shed, and discarding its rusty contents. What's left of the shed now rests in a neat pile awaiting the dumpster. Without the wooden eyesore, we can now see my neighbor's lovely apple tree - and watch falling apples collect on our side of the fence.

Apparently, so can Mr. Groundhog.

This past weekend, I looked out the window into the yard, and saw our furry tenant emerge from a neat, new hole beneath the discarded wood of the storage shed, within easy access of the spoils of my neighbor's fruit tree. Mr. Groundhog waddled a few feet to the fence, snatched up an apple, and contentedly munched. Sated, he then squeezed his ample girth back into his new home. Thanks to Juicy Fruit and Ex-lax, the groundhog has changed his address, and now has an ample food supply well within his reach, and no longer has to waddle the entire length of the yard for nourishment.

Ah, the lessons Mother Nature teaches us!

Contentment, it seems, is a highly personal issue. My husband is content in knowing that his Juicy Fruit/Ex-lax campaign did, in fact, succeed in harmlessly relocating Mr. Groundhog from beneath the playhouse; I am content watching the wildlife from my window until spring returns; and Mr. Groundhog is quite content in his new, well protected burrow beneath the wood pile.