Could be worse.
Years ago, when I was visiting the nature center at the Audubon Society of
Western Pennsylvania, I ran across their semi-tame groundhog named
The Executive Director said: "You seem interested. Never seen a ground hog
"No," I said. "We don't have them in my part of Texas. We DO, however, have
"Heh," the director replied, "pretty much the same thing, I think."
"Tell ya what I'll do," I offered, "I'll trade you an armadillo for a ground
"GOOD GOD NO!," exclaimed the director. "No way, no how!"
"Uh, why not?"
"Can you even IMAGINE what would happen if a pair of our granny ladies,
walking our nature trails, encountered an ARMADILLO?"
The director of public safety for Tennessee put out a press release not long
ago telling motorists that the Texas Nine-Banded Armadillo had made its way
into their state. The director cautioned motorists in Tennessee, if they see
one on the highway, not to honk at it.
Armadillos, it seems, when startled, will jump straight up in the air about
four feet. The motorist will then encounter the equivalent of a 16-pound
bowling ball right at windshield level.
Those groundhogs LOVE mulberry leaves. A young one got into
the veggie garden once under the fence (since reinforced). What
did it eat first? The leaves from the mulberry shoots growing up
amidst the daylilies that run along the fence line. (It did not live
to see the next sundown.)
Pollan: Nutrition 'Science' Has Hijacked Our Meals -- and Our Health
Like a lot of Americans, my understanding of nature and our relationship
to it was shaped by Emerson and Thoreau and Melville and Whitman. When I
actually started to garden, I realized all those ideas about the romance
of nature were distinctly unhelpful. Thoreau's love of wilderness and
worship of the wild really doesn't equip you when the pests come and
destroy your crops, when the woodchuck attacks your broccoli.
I got into trouble following their philosophy. I didn't have a fence,
for example. I thought a fence was too alienating from the natural
world. I got into a war with a woodchuck -- just like Bill Murray in
Caddyshack -- until I was defoliating my property and pouring gasoline
down a woodchuck burrow. I was like William Westmoreland in Vietnam,
willing to destroy the village to save it.
I realized then that the garden was a very interesting place to examine
our relationship to the natural world. Traditionally when Americans want
to think about nature, we picture the wilderness, we go camping, we go
to Yosemite. But nature is happening in our homes, in our gardens, in
our lawns, and on our plates.
There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few who
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