A beaver ate one of my vines, then he ate four more

Two years ago I planted a vineyard in East Texas, about an hour’s drive from my house. Cultivating a vineyard is hard work (basic agriculture), but it’s cathartic. Next year I’ll harvest Blanc du Bois, Tempranillo, and Black Spanish grapes.

Grapevines are vulnerable to many things—insects, disease, mold, mildew, aphids, small animals, and birds—but I had not considered the havoc a beaver can wreak on a vineyard. Birds and small animals eat the grapes but ignore the plant. But in less than a minute, a beaver can chew through the trunk of the vine (about six inches from the ground) and everything above the chew-point dies. The plant lives (because the roots remain intact) but it’s back to ground zero relative to growth and grape production.

One weekend I went to the vineyard and noticed that one vine had been compromised by the local beaver. The first solution I considered involved lead, but then I’d be arrested by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. 

I came back two weeks later and Mr. Beaver had chewed through four more vines. Now he’s compromised five vines, about ten percent of the vineyard. That weekend I installed plastic grow-tubes on all the vines, which took care of the problem.

But what I’ve been thinking about is this: after I noticed the first beaver-eaten vine, why didn’t I realize he would inevitably eat more and why didn’t I take preventive measures that very day? Why did I wait two weeks before I took action? What character flaw in me caused the problem, how did it develop, what other areas of my life has it affected, and how can I change so that it doesn’t plague me the rest of my life?

So, this minor life-event has become a learning opportunity. 

It didn’t take me much thought to notice how this weakness has played out in other areas of my life. Several years ago my car was running rough but instead of taking it immediately to a mechanic, I put it off several months and, of course, the problem got worse. My house needs to be painted but I’ve put it off for so long that now some of the wood trim is rotting. 

The first thing I considered was, procrastination. But I don’t think that’s the prime issue because I’m basically a get-it-done person and pride myself on doing things sooner rather than later. I don’t think procrastination is the core problem.

I’ve thought about this for about two months, prior to writing this post. So far, here is my analysis.

The issue of not dealing with the car running rough and my house needing to be painted, I traced to a downside to being frugal. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I grew up in a very poor family and frugality was a necessary survival technique. Through the years it has served me well—I’m a good money-manager—but it also has its downsides—postponing needed repairs because I’m reluctant to spend the money. [Note to self: change that inclination.]

But that diagnosis doesn’t explain my slowness in protecting the vines from beavers. I already had the grow-tubes so money wasn’t an issue and it only took two hours to install them, so time wasn’t a factor.

I’m still searching for the core reason I allowed Mr. Beaver to get the best of me.

The purpose of this post is not to bore you with the details of my vineyard or the idiosyncrasies of my struggles. What I want to illuminate is this: becoming self-aware is a life-long quest. I’m 67 years old and I’m just now gaining clarity on this nuance of my life; I wish I had seen it sooner.

Know this: there are behaviors and patterns in your life that you are unaware of. Some of your idiosyncrasies are positive, others affect you negatively. The key is to identify them and give them their proper place. 

When you do something odd or unproductive in life or when someone else comments on an unattractive behavior in your life, take time to analyze the situation and try to resolve it. 

Constantly pursue self-awareness. 

[reminder]What are your thoughts about this essay?[/reminder]

11 Replies to “A beaver ate one of my vines, then he ate four more”

  1. When the learned the beavers killed your vine you began your five stage of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Of course you cannot bargain with a beaver and it is out of human character to bargain with God or the universe about a dead vine, so you skipped that and went to depression and then acceptance. You got busy with life and pretty much forgot about it, then when you say more dead crops it dawned on you suddenly, that acceptance meant doing something about it in real world and so you did. In your case you can add “out of sight, out of mind” between depression and acceptance.

    1. Joda, this is a very interesting analysis. Another reader suggested that sometimes events are one-offs. There is no pattern or trend.
      Thanks for writing.

  2. As always, Don, your posts are profound and contemplative. I think we have beavers that show up at different seasons of our lives without warning– and in spite of the pests we’ve warded off in the past. There are always new revelations of self-awareness. Thanks for your vulnerability.

  3. This is so very well expressed! I totally agree, I also am 67 years old and just now realizing many things I wish I’d known 30 years ago. You are absolutely right –self awareness is the key. I appreciate your continued messages. I can use all the help I can get! Chuck’s incredible teachings, our church, the music your direct — along with meditation and prayer –it all keeps me living in the present moment, in awe of how God keeps on reaching out through people like you. I do so wish everyone could be touched with this basic knowledge to help them change their lives for the better. It starts with an honest assessment and an openness to hear what people are telling us. Thank-you!

  4. Don, this reminds me of myself. I sometimes put off doing things, ostensibly for the reasons you mentioned, but probably for a deeper reason (yet to be determined). Maybe it’s wishful thinking, that problems which are avoided long enough will somehow go away. (In real life, this is only true for friends and bargains.?) Thanks for your helpful insights!

  5. Dear Don,
    This is such a great posting. Our son has about an acre around his house in Nashville, some of which is covered by lots of trees. Last fall (2018) some interested squirrels ventured from the woods into Christopher’s carport and began eating the gas line on his new car. Evidently, the newer model cars now use soy in the building of the gas line from the tank all the way to the engine. Well, you would think the gas in the line would poison the squirrels, but no I guess they like it. So, about $1500.00 later, my son had replaced his gas line in his car. This fall, he had purchased a newer car, and the same thing happened. Another $1500.00 repair bill. In the meantime, he and his wife had to go out of town, so they had a house sitter. Guess what, they had to give the sitter $500.00 to repair his car from the squirrels. So, true story, yesterday, my son sent me a video showing his carport is now enclosed, and a large two car garage door installed. Take that squirrels!! Hopefully he has taken care of the problem. The woods are beautiful to own (like a Vineyard), but present their own set of problems. Long story I know, but I guess somehow, he thought the squirrels would not come back for more after the first time, but they did – Just like the critters on your vineyard. Those critters are everywhere in our lives, and yes, sometimes by choice we turn our backs hoping luck or good fortune is on our side. Keep growing the grapes for sure. Lesson learned.

    1. Garry, very interesting story. Ouch…three times. I think it’s time to invest in a shotgun. Thanks for our friendship. Don

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