GREENHOUSE GROWER NOTES: April 2007

January 18, 2008
Written by Graeme Murphy
Grimbles and the Gnad
by C.J. Dennis (1876-1938)

It was told me by a bushman, bald and bent, and very old,
Upon the road to Poolyerleg; and here’s the tale he told.
’Twould seem absurd to doubt his word, so honest he appeared.
And, as he spoke, the sou’-west wind toyed gently with his beard.

First it was the Grimble Grubs, Which they et his taters;
an’ all we buried in the end Was Martin’s boots and gaiters.
With this cryptic observation he began his anecdote;
And, when I sought particulars, he smiled and cleared his throat;
Then sat him down, and with his brown, rough hands about his knees
He told it all. And, as he spoke, his beard waved in the breeze.

First it was the Grimble Grubs As I sez at startin’
Which they et his tater crops Which it troubled Martin.
Now, this Martin was a farmer with a scientific mind –
(It was thus the bushman started, as his beard blew out behind)
He farmed the land and, understand, his luck was all tip-top,
Till them there little Grimble Grubs got in his tater crop.

P’raps you have heard of Grimble Grubs; more likely p’raps you’ve not;
When once they taste your taters you can look to lose the lot.
An’ poor Martin, he was worried till he met a feller who
Had read a book about the Swook, the which lives in Peru.
Now the Swook it is a beetle that inhabits Wuzzle Shrubs,
an’ it makes a steady diet of the little Grimble Grubs;
So Martin he imported some, at very great expense,
An’ turned ’em loose to play the dooce and teach the Grimbles sense.

Then he swore by Wuzzle Swooks, Friends of cultivators
Which they et the Grimble Grubs, Which they et his taters.
But when the Wuzzle Swooks had et the Grimble Grubs right up,
Then they had to change their habits for to find a bit an’ sup;
So they started on his turnips, which was summat to their taste,
Till Mister Martin’s turnip patch became a howlin’ waste.
Then he natural grew peevish, till one afternoon he heard,
From a Feller in the poultry line, about the Guffer Bird
Which is native of Mauritius and the woods of Tennessee,
An’ preys upon the Wuzzle Swooks for breakfast, lunch and tea.

So he got some Guffer Birds, Over from Mauritius,
Which the same by nature are Greedy an’ malicious,
Which they et the Wuzzle Swooks – Plague of cultivators – Which they et the Grimble Grubs, Which they et the taters.
Then Martin swore by Guffer Birds, until one day he found
They’d et up all the Wuzzle Swooks for miles an’ miles around,
An’, havin’ still some appetite, an’ bein’ mighty mean,
They perched upon his apple trees and stripped his orchard clean.

Here’s where Martin got excited; he was in an awful funk,
Until one day he read about the little Warty Swunk,
Which has his home in Mexico, an’ lives on Guffer Birds;
An’ Martin, bein’ desperate, imported him in herds.

Then he praised the Warty Swunks, Beady-eyed and vicious,
Which they et the Guffer Birds, Native of Mauritius,
Which they et the Wuzzle Swooks – Plague of cultivators – Which they et the Grimble Grubs, Which they et the taters.

Now them Swunks were simply wonders, an’ old Martin stopped his growls,
Till they et up all the Guffer Birds, an’ started on his fowls.
An’ the riots in his hen-house that occurred near every night
They robbed him of his beauty sleep an’ turned his whiskers white.
He was wearin’ to a shadder, till by accident he seen
a picture of the Boggle Dog in some old magazine.
And the same he was notorious for huntin’ Swunks an’ such,
And for livin’ on their livers which he fancied very much.
Now the Boggle Dog of Boffin’s Land is most extremely rare,
but Martin mortgaged house an’ home just to import a pair.
They was most ferocious animals; but Martin he was mad;
An’ he sooled ’em on the Warty Swunks with all the breath he had.
Oh, he loved the Boggle Dogs, Called ‘em “Dear” an’ “Darlin” –
Fierce, ferocious Boggle Dogs, With their savage snarlin’;
Which they et the Warty Swunks, Beady-eyed and vicious,
Which they et the Guffer Birds, Native of Mauritius,
Which they et the Wuzzle Swooks – Plague of cultivators –
Which they et the Grimble Grubs, Which they et the taters.
Then Martin he picked up a bit, an’ got his proper sleep,
Until he found the Boggle Dogs had taken to his sheep;
For Warty Swunks is hard to catch, and nimble on their feet,
An’ livers of merino lambs is just as nice to eat.
Now, I’m thinkin’ here that Martin must have gone a trifle mad,
Else he’d never have imported such a creature as the Gnad;
For the Gnad, though few folks know it, roams about the Boffin bogs
An’ he has a passin’ fancy for the flesh of Boggle Dogs.
But Martin he imported one with his last bit of cash,
An’ loosed him on the Boggle Dogs – an action worse than rash;
But the Boggles stayed in hidin’, for the Boggles were discreet,
And the Gnad he cast his eye around for something he could eat.
“Sool ’em, Towser!” shouted Martin dancin’ ’mid his ravaged crops
But the Gnad regarded Martin as he slowly licked his chops.
An’ the last we seen of Martin, far as I can call to mind,
He was tearin’ round his paddock with the Gnad just close behind.
First it was the Grimble Grubs, Which they et his taters,
Then it was the Wuzzle Swooks, Plague of cultivators
Then it was the Guffer Birds, Native of Mauritius,
Then it was the Warty Swunks, Beady-eyed an’ vicious,
Then it was the Boggle Dogs, With their snarls and snortin’,
Till the bad voracious Gnad Finished his importin’.
An’ all because the Grimble Grubs They got into his taters,
We never found a stitch of him, But blucher boots and gaiters.
Thus the bushman closed his story with a sympathetic sigh;
Then wrung my hand most heartily, and sadly said “Good-bye.”
And, as he went, ’twas evident that he was ill at ease:
He bowed his head, and, as I’ve said, his beard waved in the breeze.

By Graeme Murphy

I had forgotten about C.J. Dennis for many years until I found this (which I had never read before) on an IPM website, GreenMethods.com, which is maintained by Mike Cherim. C.J. Dennis was a prolific Australian poet who was (maybe still is) standard reading for young school children in that country. This poem is an agricultural version of “The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.” While it is almost 20 years since I left Australia, the bush slang still resonates deeply, so should anyone need any of this translated, please feel free to contact me.

Grimbles and Gnads are unlikely to emerge as the next great pest threats for our industry, but they are an important reminder of the dangers posed by new pests that are introduced on an all too regular basis. The poem also makes clear the interconnectedness of everything that is part of an agricultural ecosystem, and why we need to focus on the whole system and not just a single element of it. There have been historical hiccups in the evolution of biological control, (many in Dennis’s native land) as introduced natural enemies for one pest later become pests themselves. Thankfully, practitioners of biocontrol have taken heed of such past experiences and extensive regulations now govern the importation of natural enemies, so the chances of you finding a Gnad in your greenhouse are close to zero. Grimbles how-ever, are another matter….

Graeme Murphy is the greenhouse floriculture IPM specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs at Vineland. • 905-562-4141, ext. 106, or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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