I’m back. As promised, if I won the contest, I would give a review of How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack—from the backcountry point of view. I won, so here goes.

This particular backcountry is the Sierra foothills in California. In my sparsely populated community (1,109 as of the 2000 census) where rattlesnakes far outnumber residents, garden gnomes are no threat. Most residents have a big dog and I would venture a guess that most own guns, although I have neither. I do own a feral cat that has killed a rat as big as she, as well as bats, birds and bunny rabbits, and countless gophers whose numbers never seem to decrease.

Nonetheless, according to the author, Chuck Sambuchino, I am at high risk of a gnome attack, having answered affirmative to five of six questions in the “Assessment” section about vulnerability. I was particularly interested to find that gnomes “taint” homegrown tomatoes as none of my 14 heirloom tomato plants, grown from seeds, produced a single tomato—which still has me steaming.

The second section is titled “Protect.” Mr. Sambuchino is probably directing his book at an East Coast audience as here in the arid West, building a two-foot deep by four-foot wide moat around one’s house (a good portion of which might be sitting on giant boulders) is simply not feasible, even if the little varmints can’t swim.

I did like the idea of Diatomaceous Earth, but more as an ant deterrent (from my annual August ant invasion), a product I had never heard of. It is the fossilized remains of microscopic shells created by one-celled plants called DIATOMS. Diatomaceous Earth kills by physical action, not chemical, by puncturing the insect’s exoskeleton and absorbing its body fluids, thus posing no harm to warm-blooded life.

Don’t ask organic gardeners to use synthetic fertilizer, and nobody should make quicksand—too costly and time consuming—plus, you know, if it could suck up a gnome, it could suck up a toddler, small dog or feral cat.

In the third section, “Defend,” I think it’s safe to say we in the backcountry keep weapons in every room. On my living room wall is a two-man saw and a large, rusted meat cleaver. The builder of this 135-year-old solid-wood house built the first sawmill up on the north fork of the river. I dug up the meat cleaver while digging out my garden. Both are “aesthetic as well as practical choices” per Mr. Sambuchino’s instructions. And using a garden hose at full pressure to “punch and knock a gnome clear out of its rabbit-skin boots” just sounds like fun. I once rolled a gopher a good 50 feet out of my yard that way.

 In part four, “Apply,” I think maybe it is Mr. Sambuchino who has gone round the bend. Not that we would not go to the ends of the earth to protect our homes, as Chuck has actually suggested.

So, Chuck, I know you will think it is part of their insidious plot for world domination,  but the many photos in your 104-page book published by the highly respected Ten Speed Press, out of Berkeley no less, of little gnomes in their blue tunics, pointy red hats and sporting white beards are just so cute, almost Christmassy…especially as holiday decorations. I confess I feel I must purchase a couple for my yard.

If you, dear reader, fear garden gnomes, this is the survival manual for which you have been searching. If you just like the idea of gnomes and are looking for stocking stuffers,  Christmas is coming soon.


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Filed under Gardening, On writing

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