Musing with Max

Musing with Max

August 17, 2011

A Thief in the Night

When we bought our house in South Orange and came to do the home inspection the guy who did the termite and infestation inspection called me over very gravely and said "You have a groundhog living under your porch". I just looked at him and smiled; he then said " You can call a trapper and have him trapped and removed". Well, I thought, why on earth would I do something like that? Groundhogs are cute and harmless and can earn you bucks like Punxsutaweny Phil. Hell, I could have my very own South Orange Sam. Then I planted my vegetable garden and I wished I would have heeded termite man's advice. My prized tomatoes went missing and there were strange little paw prints in the vegetable patch. To top it all off, they were usually the big juicy tomatoes almost completely ripened. One day he came walking down the sidewalk, turned onto our walk and walked right under the porch, in broad daylight no less. The nerve of the animal. Sometimes I would see him scampering through the back yard and over the fence and I noticed something interesting as the Summer wore on; he kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. While my tomato crop kept getting smaller and smaller and smaller. Well this was unacceptable. So to quote one of my childhood (OK adult too) heroes "I hope you realize this means war". I really wasn't sure how I would wage this battle so I devised a plan.
1. I would make sure TJ (Max's older brother) was outside as much as possible.
2. I would chase around after him anytime I saw him yelling something like "Get the Hell out of my house you *##&%+$#!!!!" 
He eventually figured out that TJ could care less since it meant he had to chase a much faster animal and after all he was a Chow and chasing was not part of his vocabulary or realm of activities. And when I chased around after him thrashing my arms and yelling obscenities he'd just stop and stare and, I swear, a couple of times I'm sure he pointed and laughed. Then one day, he was gone.
We rejoiced! For years we were groundhog free.

Then this year, I came out one morning and found this
and these
on the floor and all the ripened Roma tomatoes were gone...aaargh! The varmint is back! What is my plan of attack? Well not this

cause I'd hate to bother him from doing this

So unless I sit outside at night to scare him off, we're resigned to picking them early like this
and buying them at the store so we can make stuff like this
Hot Summer Tomato Jam adapted from The New Basics Cookbook
6 allspice berries
6 whole cloves
1/2 tsp crushed dried red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1 1/2 lbs ripe plum tomatoes
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine allspice, cloves, red pepper flakes and mustard seeds in a piece of cheesecloth and tie securely with a long piece of string.
2. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Drop the tomatoes in the water and cook until the skins split, 1 to 2 minutes. Plunge them in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking, peel and cut into 1/4 inch dice.
3. Place the tomatoes and remaining ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Add the spice bag, letting the string hang out of the pan. Slowly bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Remove from heat and let cool, discard the spice bag and refrigerate.

So imagine my surprise when I came out this afternoon to find this running out from the tomato patch? That changes everything!

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