Maxed Out 

Opportunity moos

By G.D. Maxwell

"I’ve got blisters on my fingers!"

— John Lennon

Me too. And thumbs, and palms and a few other places I’d rather not mention.

Springtime at Smilin’ Dog B&B – trying a new tack this year – is a continuing lesson in patience, logistics and futility. It’s also a lesson in the kinesthetic dynamics of sport. Whatever muscles got worked this winter skiing are definitely not the same muscles needed for the arduous manual labour needed to beat back the Cariboo wilderness or keep up with the proud Cariboo tradition of cocktail hour. My blisters are joined by a raging case of drinking elbow lest my neighbours consider me some kind of wimp. Sip through the pain, big boy.

Spring’s early, ahead of schedule. Mayflies have almost played out, their numbers reduced to several billion. They no longer blot out the sun and cast the land in perpetual twilight. Weeds banished last autumn have returned to reclaim garden beds awaiting cultivation and seeding. Raspberry canes are leafing and next year’s shoots are popping up all around them. And the rhubarb’s back with a vengeance.

As are the gophers.

The first thing I saw when we arrived wasn’t the field of grass that already needed mowing. It wasn’t the budding maple tree that survived the mild winter or the tatters of last summer’s greenhouse.

It was the hole.

"Exploratory," I muttered to myself, ever hopeful. Convinced no self-respecting gopher would want to live in a crumbly, walled bed, I’d spent days last fall dismantling the mound of dirt that was their condo and replaced it with a gopher-proof marvel of engineering: Strawberry Fields Forever.

A small fortune in strawberry plants will soon arrive and with the help of an active imagination, I can already taste the jam and shortcake and pilfered, warm treats they’ll hopefully become. As long as the gophers don’t return to destroy them.

I’ve brought with me a new, humane, catch and release trap to do battle with the gophers. It’s a fascinating device, all wire and pressed metal and ingenuity. So far all it has caught is a squirrel, lured by the twin delights of peanut butter and oats. It would have caught Zippy the Dog but he couldn’t squeeze through the opening.

The gophers seem wary of it but I’m determined. Maybe they’ve heard my plan is to release their trapped, furry little asses into the depths of Sulphuric Lake.

But I’m having second thoughts about this whole garden thing. It’s not the back-breaking work that’s got me down. It’s not the short growing season, the stubborn clay soil or the need for a greenhouse to grow any heat-loving veggie. It’s not even the gophers.

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