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Garth Brown |

No, believe it or not pigs are not the topic today. My farm is rife with groundhogs. I don't have a major bone to pick with the rodents, but then I don't own very much farm machinery. The big hay makers in my valley hate them. It's hard to argue for the woodchucks when their rocky mounds can cause thousands of dollars of damage to a mower if caught just wrong. The custom operators who put up haylage for me told me to get out there and "shoot some woodchucks!" I do shoot them occasionally, but they always seem to repopulate. I think I'd need to put in a more concerted effort if I actually want to reduce the numbers in my fields.

In their favor, the burrow digging activity lifts soil and rock from deep in the ground and can, in theory, help to make subsoil minerals available to plants. Burrows also allow air to penetrate deep underground, and aerobic conditions promote plant growth in a way that anaerobic soil conditions do not. This is all well and good, but the timescale of getting significant benefit from the groundhog digging doesn't much synch with human farming needs. What I mean is it would take decades, no probably centuries, for ground hogs to work over a great enough percentage of my farm for their soil turning to make a difference in the amount of available minerals in the top soil. They're territorial beasts and don't build colonies in the manner of prairie dogs. The more effective and rapid means of getting the minerals I need is to buy lime and other rock dusts to spread. Another way is to spread seeds from tap-rooted plants like tillage radishes that will drill a powerful big root several feet deep (I'm doing this behind my pigs' rotation where they bare the soil).

So now the question you've all been waiting for. Have I eaten groundhog? Yes, but not this year. I ate two almost 15 years ago. I roasted one on a spit and the other went into a "G-Hog stew". After the fact I read about it further and apparently there a bunch of scent glands in the arm pits and around the groin of the little beasts. I did not know that at the time and the eating experience reflected it. It's probably been long enough that a properly cleaned groundhog carcass would be agree with my palate, but when I have lots of great pork and fantastic beef, why bother?


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