Country Living and Gopher Management
It may come as no surprise that I was not raised in Bodega. I’m a suburban girl who followed her heart to the country. I have reveled in the rural lifestyle for about 10 years now, and have watched myself transform with interest. My emotions in the early summer have shifted from surprise and delight in seeing hay bales suddenly dotting the pastures - to anxiety that we had not gotten the hay planted or baled on time - to smug, now that I think we finally did. I won’t go so far as to say I have arrived at pride yet, because I’m not sure the animals will eat it, but I do actually get a funny sort of enjoyment when someone points out that I have hayseeds sticking out of my blouse.
So in spite of, or perhaps because of, my fine, un-related education, I need to take classes on some of the basics. My first class was on potatoes. Having somehow found myself championing the cause of bringing back the historic Bodega Red Potato, I figured I needed to learn something about raising them. I attended a potato class at the Blankity Blank Farm in south Sebastopol, and was thrilled to hob nob with like-minded potato lovers. Denny, self-proclaimed Mr. Potato Head himself, Hunt aptly led the class and infused us with excitement and the potential for becoming solid, self-sufficient potato farmers. The main point I remembered was the importance of gopher management. This, apparently, is 80% of the potato farmer’s job.
So I took a class in gopher trapping. This class was taught by Denny’s mother Nancy, Grandma Gopher, Petersen Hunt. Now Nancy was raised in the country. She has been successfully trapping gophers for 70 years and proudly boasts that she started her career as a gopher bounty hunter at the age of six. Nancy amassed a kid-sized fortune getting five cents per gopher pelt from her Uncle Petersen, and ten cents for each on top of that from the City of Sebastopol. She showed us several sinister looking traps, and recommended the Black Box Trap for its ease of installation and lower tendency to snap fingers. Soon we were off to try them out.
Gophers are active in the morning, noon, and early evening, so this is when you have the best chance to catch them. We set our practice traps and went in for lunch. As the conversation deteriorated into the usual depressing topics of economics and politics, I looked out the window and saw Grandma Gopher, who had admitted her inability to sit still, on her hands and knees in the front yard, shoulder deep in a gopher hole. In a blink she popped up triumphantly waving a live gopher she had caught with her bare hands! To top that off, we followed her back to the traps and had caught gophers in five of the seven traps. This, in my mind, is the stuff of a living legend, and I am proud to be the scribe to immortalize it.
Readers will please submit their favorite gopher stew recipes. I think it should be especially good with those delicious Bodega Reds.
Potatoes, Parades and Parties
Denny has achieved honorary membership in the Bodega Red Potato Club by donating a beautiful painting (done by himself) of the Bodega Head, which will be raffled at the Bodega Big Event, August 7 and other important events. Proceeds will help pay for more virus-free Bodega Red Potatoes, the first of which may be ready to distribute in the fall. Anyone marching in the parade dressed as a potato will also receive honorary membership (starts at 10:30 am).
Bodega’s two big summer events are now three weeks apart, so revelers can heal their sunburns and be ready to party again at the Seafood, Art and Wine Festival on August 27 and 28. Keep an eye out for September’s BLTs with BLT (Bodega Land Trust). Our little neighborhood land trust has cause to celebrate the successful completion of a new conservation easement in Tannery Creek Canyon.
I complete this column on a sad note. Bodega mourns the sudden death of our well-loved coffee barista John Brady. All hearts go out with deep sympathy to his wife Kelly and daughter Vivian.