Report from Reginald Montgomery “Chuckie” Hogbottom, Order of the Woodchuck, Recipient of the medal of honor “Marmota Monax” September 2019 Knighted as Groundhog of the Realm, May 2022
This season I took up the challenge of life in the main vegetable garden of Green Hope Farm, a quaint little outfit in the hills of the ‘shire (New Hampshire to those of you from distant parts).
Until I did my own sleuthing, I was not confident in the advisability of this garden choice as I had heard the people on the property preferred Flowers to vegetables and had a dog that liked to bark at rodents.
Arriving at the property in early July, after a bit of a lettuce binge at an old stomping ground, I was quick to discover the dog was half my size and preferred chasing my brethren, the squirrels, to chasing woodchucks. While we never became closely acquainted, I could always count on this canine to provide an afternoon’s entertainment as she unsuccessfully pursued every squirrel to cross her path and many that didn’t.
As far as the Flower to Vegetable ratio, it was no problem. The gardener seemed to plant a lot of everything.
As you know I am famous for my books, “Low Hanging Fruit” and “How to Ravage a Vegetable Garden Without Even Trying” in which I share my tricks as a fearless gourmand and Woodchuck influencer. Given the popularity of these and my other books, I knew you, my loyal readers, would expect me to try some new antics this season to create fodder for my next effort in print. Additionally my agent and publisher are after me for a sequel. With these pressures in mind, I had no choice but to up my game.
My first daring and original move was to dig my den in the center of the farm’s vegetable garden. Yes, the headgerow beckoned as a safer alternative but I was determined to set the bar high. The silly gardener made this possible because she had a sort of dome like structure in the middle of the garden. I learned it was a fort for grandchildren as climbing vines covered the dome each season making it a nice retreat for little people on the loose. What is it with gardeners and the way they waste space?
But back to my story, I tucked the entrance to my den under Artichoke leaves and various vine leaves and as close as possible to the arching poles that created the dome. This clever camouflage job meant my hole evaded notice for several weeks. I got remarkably cozy in my new den and had a chance to catch up on some correspondence. The WiFi signal from the farm house worked fine for my tablet.
Of course, I left my den for frequent snacks. I am known for my restraint in eating only three meals a day with snacks, but still, this does impact a vegetable garden. I could only wonder who she thought was “thinning the beet greens.”
Even though I heard the gardener refer to the garden as a “vegetable garden,” she did waste some space on Flowers. Fortunately Borage is one of my favorite greens second only to Nasturtium leaves. The denuded plants looked sort of sad without their leaves or Flowers, but what’s a woodchuck to do but keep eating?
Later in the season I would, by necessity, have to branch out and try other Flowers. Tuberose are a true delicacy. I can’t recommend them too highly. There is nothing quite like polishing off all the Tuberose buds the night before they open their perfume laden blossoms. The long months of attentive care by the gardener really made these a treat worth waiting for.
As we all know from my autobiography, “How Much Wood Can a Wood Chuck Chuck?” the real turn in a garden season comes when the clueless human finally notices that something is eating the crops. When this happened this season, the gardener found my hole and filled it in. I could feel her angst that first time she filled in the hole as she worried needlessly about trapping me in my den. Of course I dug myself out without any problems. Once she saw I could do this, she filled in the hole every day. Rather aggressively I thought. And why she pursued this futile course I do not know. It certainly didn’t slow me down.
In fact, I appreciated the opportunity to start my evening feasts with a little warm up digging. This bountiful garden could have made me just a little bit too plump if I hadn’t had the daily routine of a dig out. Maybe it’s time for a workout video about this? What do you think?
In any case, I needed the exercise because this gardener followed some tasty trends. It’s always fascinating to watch trends in the vegetable garden. I know you’ve enjoyed my “Market Reports” on Woodchuck TV as much as I have. Frankly every new trend is good news for us woodchucks. Do you remember how our community chuckled when Kale became so popular among humans? It’s simply wonderful how often humans veer towards crops we too revere for accessibility and onsite munchability. (That’s a trademarked phrase by the way, so write me for permission to use it).
You may wonder how I knew this garden was going to be a good one full of trendy vegetables? Because I did my preseason homework, OF COURSE!
As you will recall from Podcast episode 320 on “How to Pick a Gourmet Gardener and thus Live a Gourmet Lifestyle,” it all comes down to preseason scouting. The past few years while I lived down the street, I checked all the recycling bins in the neighborhood before choosing a shift in location and a new gardener to terrorize. Large numbers of seed catalogs in the recycle bin as well as a small number of processed food packets often indicate you have identified a good target. Green Hope Farm met this criteria.
Compost heap analysis was another vital piece of the puzzle. On Instagram you will find my posts on CHA aka compost heap analysis. I share some examples of compost piles and then discuss what they tell us about their humans. DM me with any questions. This kind of analysis can change your life as well as your diet. After all, as my Grandfather Wilfred Otis Hogbottom always said, “The better the peelings the better the dealings”
One last giveaway that a garden will be ripe for the pickings is a fence. In fact, I‘d go so far as to say the taller the fence the better, and the Green Hope Farm vegetable garden has a whopping 8 foot one all around its perimeter. I know this sounds like a paradox but hear me out. A fence like that guarantees no competition with deer but allows me to easily worm my way under its bottom. Perfecto!
Because of our annual “Woodchuck Nation” convention in late June during which I gave the keynote speech, “The Vegan Lifestyle,” I arrived at my garden of choice after the pea harvest. This was a bit of a bummer as a large portion of the garden had been planted in peas and from what I heard the humans say, a good harvest had been had by all but me. However I was not too worried about my long term prospects as this gardener had chosen my favorite plant to make the focus of her garden season.
Yes, the particular pleasure of rampaging through the Green Hope Farm vegetable garden this summer was that the gardener had gotten very interested in growing bush beans, shelling beans and a massive number of pole beans for drying. She even built rather professional looking bean pole rows and gathered heirloom seeds from all over the country. As I sat in the doorway of my den each night surveying my larder, I waited with some impatience for these bean crops to ripen.
You know I am a social creature. How else could I have 7.6 million followers on Instagram? So when the first bush beans ripened (rows and rows of beans including such treats as Red Swan, Roma II and the incomparable Empress), I called in a coterie of neighborhood woodchucks to take the whole crop down in a single night. As we ate and danced in the moonlight, I could only laugh as I noticed deer outside our fenced-in garden joining the fun by eating the entire adjoining field of potato plants. Oh what a night!
Then there was a lull while I only ate the arugula, zucchini, summer squash, lettuce, spinach, borage, beet greens, parsley and broccoli. The foolish gardener somehow thought the poles would keep the pole beans safe from me, but I knew to hold our annual “Woodchuck Love Fest” on site when the pole beans grew abundant and tender. I will reveal how we ate beans growing four, five even six feet off the ground in my next book, “Bean Bonanza.”
And now the season comes to a close. I have eaten everything and therefore put on the necessary fat layer all successful woodchucks sport come fall. As I sit by my den surveying the damage, I know all is right with the world. I am not even worried about the gardener’s muttered threats about getting a “Have a Heart” trap to capture and move me. If only she kept track of the Woodchuck best seller list on Amazon she would notice that I wrote everyone’s favorite, “Have a Care and Outsmart that Have a Heart Trap”.
So thank you for reading my report and be sure and catch me on Instagram, FB, Tik Tok, Snapchat, on my podcast, on TV and of course in the gardens where it all happens.
Reginald Montgomery “Chuckie” Hogbottom