Gardener’s book offers laughable lines; waging war against ‘SuperChuck’


I have had quite a few good laughs as I have turned the pages of The $64 Tomato by William Alexander. Gardening, for many, has become as ludicrous as the title of this book implies.
I was dumbfounded as I heard a friend tell about her wealthy neighbors who decided they wanted to try their hand at gardening. The newly-initiated gardener cried on her neighbor’s shoulder, saying the crop was a total failure.
A few days later, the woman, in despair, decided to dig up the garden and plant the area with flowers instead.
“You are not going to believe what I found!” the woman told my friend. “When I started digging, there were potatoes everywhere!”
After we finished laughing, we had to wonder how many people out there are really in this same boat. Could it be, we asked, that there really are people who just don’t know any better?
Just one bite. Alexander tells, in his new book, that he spent so much money fighting off groundhogs on his 3-acre lot in New York, because he was infuriated that “SuperChuck” kept sneaking in to his garden and taking one bite – just one bite – out of about a dozen of his very best heirloom Brandywine tomatoes, day after day.
He said he would not have minded one bit sharing one tomato with the groundhog and his furry family. But why must the nuisance creature take one bite out of 12 different perfectly beautiful, juicy tomatoes? Is he taking a bite and deciding that maybe the next one on the vine is better suited to a groundhog of his particular stature?
The war starts. So this determined gardener strung electric wire (after sending away for the top-of-the-line electric fence charger … not just any old electrical device would do, it seems) and began his war against SuperChuck.
He kept adding more and more strings of wire, and still that amazingly adept groundhog continued to get in to his garden.
One morning, as he watched from his kitchen window, Alexander said he realized that the cunning woodchuck was actually timing his jump through the wires between pulses of current.
Could a groundhog really be that intelligent? I am a bit skeptical, but then again, maybe so! I guess the groundhog was smart enough to go after the very best tomatoes that this nice man had cultivated so tenderly just for his dining pleasure!
Tired of it. After years of working to cultivate his own fresh fruits and vegetables, suddenly Alexander realizes that he and his wife are tiring of the work, and while their two children are enjoying the fruits of their parents’ labor, they are too busy with other things to chip in and help with the work very much.
Alexander had become so successful in his war against deer, chipmunk, squirrel, SuperChuck and all of his kin, even birds in his orchard, that suddenly there was such an abundant crop they could barely keep up with it all.
Sometimes you really do get what you wish for. And, in the case of zucchini and tomatoes, we all know that a fellow can practically drown in the bumper crop that he planted, tilled, watered and wished for!


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.