Grow your own – Rodent wars II

I like the idea of growing my own food.  I like getting my hands in the dirt and partnering with mother nature to produce something edible and slightly less gritty out of it.  The girls and I like to get in there and get the seeds and seedlings into the ground and check the garden on a regular basis to see how things are growing.  They are also quite enthusiastic about weeding – sometimes a little too enthusiastic and they pull some of the plants we have grown.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we have competition for the food we grow from our neighbourhood rodents.  I built a groundhog defence system this year to help defend our plants and produce and until now it has seemed to be working.  Yesterday morning when I was making breakfast I noticed that all the remaining leaves on our lettuce tree – thanks to all the rain and cool weather it really was becoming a tree – had been eaten.  Fortunately we had the opportunity to make a Canada Day salad with lots of the leaves and I have enjoyed being able to go out and grab a leaf now and then for burgers, sandwiches and the like.

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Upon closer inspection of the two garden plots I realized that something has been nibbling on a few of the plants here and there.  I haven’t seen any evidence of groundhogs getting in, and they seem to like the clover we planted in our lawn to help rebuild the lawn that mostly died off in last year’s drought and ensuing grub attack this spring. They have been quite helpful in keeping the lawn at a reasonable height since it has been tough to get out and cut the grass when it is dry or dryish.

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I have spotted a couple of baby groundhogs in the past couple of weeks and perhaps they are able to get in and out of the garden, but I am doubtful.  Perhaps it is squirrels.  I need to set up watch towers along the perimeters to figure out who the guilty animals are and how they are getting in.

We are lucky to have enough space to grow our own food, or at least make the attempt.  If we didn’t I would definitely be looking at getting a community garden plot.  In Ottawa there are community gardens throughout the city and even an organization to help establish new ones.  I didn’t grow up on a farm and while my mum is definitely into gardening, she wasn’t a food gardener – or at least that I can remember.  She has a small yard so there isn’t really space for things other than herbs and maybe tomatoes.  I don’t really remember when I started attempting to grow my own food, but I am not the only one.  Many of our friends have food gardens as well and even the Obamas are copying me with a garden at the White House.  I didn’t start doing it for economic reasons, but it certainly helps to be able to go into the backyard and just harvest what I want or need instead of having to buy it in the store.

The community garden people recognize this benefit too and they have a program where they encourage people to Plant a Row, Grow a Row, Donate a Row.  The purpose of this program is to encourage people to grow surplus food and donate it to their local food bank or food cupboard.  I also heard a story on the radio this evening about Partage Vanier – the Vanier Food Bank, which has their own garden to grow their own fresh produce. The Ottawa Food Bank has a number of innovative programs to help secure fresh produce for distribution to their partner agencies.

Through the community harvest program volunteers plant and ultimately harvest fresh produce on local farms in collaboration with the farm.  Currently it seems like they just do this with the Roots and Shoots Farm in Manotick Station in rural Ottawa. I imagine it takes a significant number of volunteers to run this program.

They also work with area farms to glean the food remaining in the fields following the commercial harvest.  For the non-gleaners out there, that means that teams of volunteers go out and harvest the leftover crops.

Finally, they collect donations of produce from area farmers and home gardeners.  This would be where the donate a row comes in and donations from the farmers and vendors at the Ottawa Farmers Market.

There is a great post here on the Earthward blog about these programs.  It is far more comprehensive than I could write at this stage since I have only really started thinking about food and for that matter learning about the work of the Food Bank in anything more than a cursory way.  I will get out and volunteer for them later this summer to learn more and help out by doing more than just writing about the Food Bank and encouraging you to donate to them.

Given the challenges I am facing with growing our food, it makes me wonder if farmers have to deal with Rodents of Unusual Size and what they do to prevent crop loss to roving hoards of rodents.  Perhaps scare dogs scattered throughout the fields.  Clearly I know very little about the ins and outs of farming.

I remember when I was younger, being at my grandparents’ cottage, which was surrounded by fields that they leased out to farmers to farm.  I think it was typically hay, but can’t remember for sure.  Those fields were rife with groundhogs and I remember on occasion these big dogs that would come bounding over from the place across the road.  They would make a beeline for a groundhog and often grab it in its mouth and take off with its prize.  I presume those ground hogs did not return to our side of the road, but I don’t know if the dogs were killing them for food.

Maybe I should get a scare dog to look after our garden since the indoor guard cats are not quite as effective…

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About DadGoesRound
I am a Canadian father of three girls and blog about Fatherhood, Kids and Current Affairs at www.dadgoesround.com

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