So you long-time readers might remember the great Chickalanche of the winter of 2014. All the snow off the barn roof came down with a swoosh onto our chicken pen and destroyed it. (And one of us got to say I TOLD YOU SO but we won’t go there.)
And then one of us insisted that we needed once more to offer our well-fed hens to whatever creatures get a hankering for some chicken–and they all do, every one of God’s creatures wants it some chicken, the list now including H5N1 bird flu spread by migrating birds. Oy.
But that’s a problem for spring, when (I speak as if I had any element of influence on the decision) we will get chicks and offer them up for dinner–to such creatures as this Coopers Hawk. Bring us your tired, your poor, your huddled wildlife longing for a drumstick.
We are, this week, in charge of a neighbor’s small flock, and Mr. Cooper here was perched yesterday morning not far from their little plot, looking hungrily towards the four hens. That’s 8 drumsticks. All survived their free-range daylight hours, thankfully.
It’s one thing to lose your own hens, and another to have to report that the coyotes or the roving dogs or the raccoons or the rat snakes or the chicken hawks or a crazed, ravenous mob of field mice ate what you were supposed to be protecting from becoming dinner.
And yet, things could be worse. Think how much more of a problem this would be if the wildlife chicken-eaters discovered gravy!
As a matter of fact, dinner is almost done for the eggs embedded with great accuracy and intention by the mother wasp into this otherwise invisible garden pest–the tomato (also called the tobacco) horn worm. See the horn up top?
She found and then injected the host caterpillar many times with her hypodermic ovipositor (at least as many times as you see white cocoons of eggs-turned-to-pupae). Those eggs have hatched, turned to tiny larvae who have eaten caterpillar juices and tissues, and emerged to the exterior to spin an external cottony capsule attached temporarily to the host.
Each of these wasp pupae will fall to the ground, hatch this season or next year into more tiny braconid wasps, who will patrol my garden for more tomato horn worms. They can find them before they do too much damage. The human eye, not so much.
I mean, lookit: Compare the color to the tomato leaves in the background. BAM! A perfect match. Compare the striations and diagonal lines on the caterpillar to those of the veins of the tomato leaves: BAM! Remarkable! Horrifying!
This sucker, got to hand it to him, is a marvel of camouflage, so I am indebted to the chemical tracking (I suppose) that makes easier wasp targets of such as this that would defoliate our ‘maters in no time at all.
While the cat’s away…but it wasn’t mice in the garden while we were out of town. It was beetles, weeds, and from the outside, deer browsing on the beans along the fence. Oh well. All that hard work to make pretty gone to seed.
Point is, there is an incredible amount of catching up to do. The good news is: I am prepared and able to do it. Three days ago, not at all.
I’ve never been so disabled by pain as I was Thursday night. After 4-5 dozen back muscle spasms (following a 14 hour drive home from MO) I was beginning to envision a future for myself very different from the one I’d imagined as more or less certain. I could not blink without having my cage rattled by waves of spasm.
Come Friday morning, oral steroids and another pain pill or two turned the corner. And today, I’m feeling pert. Heading out in a few minutes to gather more beans to top out the canner–our first 7 quarts coming out later today.
So while I have accumulated mounds of stuff that is blog-worthy (I’m less and less a good judge of that, it seems) I will let this blog-about-nothing do for now. Here I post an image of yet another botanical unknown–from a pond margin in southwestern Missouri.
Based on the flower-form (inflorescence) of a “scorpoid” or “helicoid cyme” I’m guessing it is in the Borage Family. Anybody have an ID, please offer it up.
Another few weeks and Ann will be threatening me with my life if I bring in another five gallon bucket of tomatoes or beans or squash.
This is a statement of faith, as anything can happen in love, war or summer gardens.
Today, I’m going to anchor down the tomato cages, having learned from freak windstorms in years past that five foot tall fruit-laden plants are quite top-heavy. There’s nothing quite so sickening as to go out after the storm has passed and find a dozen wire cages on their sides, the soil littered with a hundred green tomatoes.
What I’ll do first though, before any gardening this morning, is take this aggravating dog out and run some of the mischief out of her. She won’t leave me alone, and has resorted to fetching undergarments from the washroom and trash from the waste baskets to get my attention. She’s got it.
Having my daughter’s equal-sized pup over the weekend of the 4th, I now know what level of play-energy Gandy is capable of sustaining–for hours at a time–and my puny rope toss and tugging matches don’t touch her reserve capacity for play.
Gardening pests this year: not so bad. Cucumber beetles and squash bugs seem to be controlled by kaolin spray (a kind of clay–imagine chalk dust) and I got ahead of the bean beetles (fingers crossed) and the Japanese beetles (pictured here on a totally ravaged ornamental cherry taken while I was waiting on a tire repair in Christiansburg yesterday) have only nibbled my beans.
I hear the whining: Fragments has become all gardening all of the time. Trust me–there is much more going on in my life just now, but the garden does not generate stress, require agendas or have committee meetings, so it is my wilderness refugium of choice.