My husband is not the sort of man to encourage feminine frailty. From the time we met, when I was but an eyelash-batting little girl, his line has always been, "You're a big girl. Figure it out yourself. Do it yourself." And I credit this attitude for making me the formidable/borderline scary person I am today.
That's not to say that there is no sex-linked dependency in our marriage. I do all the grocery shopping and cooking in the household, and my husband feigns helplessness when he has to so much as fix the kids lunch. On the other hand, I rely on him to remove from my view the few things that make me really anxious: bills, letters from the IRS, warning lights on car dashboards, and rodents dead or alive.
I'll spare you the details of the only truly disgusting rodent episode in our marriage--the rat that died under the dishwasher in a 200 year-old house we used to own. Suffice it to say, that's the deal. I cook. He takes care of all the unpleasantness of life, including rats that turn into slop under the dishwasher.
So, it was with shock and horror and a sense of violated contract that I received this verdict from him last week: "If you want to trap groundhogs, you're going to have to deal with them."
What, I say? What!
The issue only arose because I have a groundhog problem in my vegetable garden, a source of misery as great as any in my otherwise comfortable and happy life. Thanks to the groundhogs, I harvest only things that don't appeal to rodent palates. Hot peppers, potatoes, leeks, and arugula are about it. Forget about parsley, cilantro, any crucifer--or, make me weep, the celeriac I babied in a windowsill from February on, only to lose it as soon as I planted it.
So, I finally took the bull by the horns, or the rodent by the short hairs, and consulted with the great Ernie last week. Ernie mows our lawn in the country and has been mowing for us for a dozen years. He knows everything yard-wise, including exactly the right moment to ride over the peonies, to keep the foliage from overwintering any blight.
I asked him whether I could hire his crew to sink wire underneath the picket fence that surrounds my vegetable garden, in order to keep the groundhogs from digging in. He said he'd wired up vegetable gardens before. "But I won't guarantee that it will keep the groundhogs out. I will guarantee the rabbits, but I won't guarantee the groundhogs."
Groundhogs, apparently, can tunnel too deeply for any such easy answer. Instead, he recommended trapping them. "It really works," he said. "Especially if you set a trap now with something tasty, when their favorite foods are dying off."
He told me to buy big havaheart traps, catch them, and then drive them ten miles away to some garden-free spot. He had only one word of caution: "They are vicious. Do not let any of your kids poke a finger into the trap. Don't do it yourself, either."
No worries, I assured him. My husband would deal with the enraged groundhogs.
But Jeff has other ideas, on the theory that it's my garden, and to be a gardener in full, I should learn how to deal with angry groundhogs. I am a gardener in full, and wasn't the rodent thing in the articles of marriage? Doesn't he have to return my dowry and spend the rest of his life trying to make amends to my family for abandoning me to my fears?
My lawyer says no.
The upshot? I confess that I still have not bought any traps. But I do intend to. Life has taught me that Nietzsche and Jeff are generally right. If the groundhog doesn't lop off your damned hand, it will make you stronger.