April 23, 2009

The gardens have been busy transitioning between seasons for a few weeks now. I don’t think we exactly have spring/summer/fall/winter here…we seem to jump abruptly between Sort of Cold and Overly Warm. We have seen violent fluctuations between these two recently….highs ranging from 72 to 95, all in a 10 day period.

The direct result of the weather is that all those vegetables like lettuce, spinach, kale, etc that we hoped to hang onto for some weeks yet are facing an imminent demise. All manner of summer vegetable transplants are in the ground, but the race is on to see if they will successfully overlap while leaving our customers with something to eat. It usually works out just fine, since we insure ourselves by growing an awful lot of different crops, but it would be silly not to worry about it constantly. Nature always has the upper hand, and we just hope we can dodge most of her whims.

One thing that seems to help is the natural balance in our rows. Crops are jumbled together endlessly, so there usually isn’t a strong focus point for insect damage. Good bugs like ladybugs and lacewing are prolific….but they need to be, since the aphids have gone bonkers. We use diatomaceous earth or soapy water to slow the aphids down a little, and for the most part the crops do allright. My fondness of natural balance was challenged somewhat today, as I toured one of my gardens with my farming partner. We’re in planting mode, there are corn and bean and pumpkin and other seeds yet to go into the ground and cleanup from previous crops needs to be finished. There was, as is typical for this time of year, a plague of gopher mounds dotting the landscape. And for the other side of nature’s balancing act, there are the snakes. Not just any snake, but the rattlesnake. It took me awhile to finally see it, gliding under a cast off pile of plywood boards, blending so perfectly with the dirt and stones, and lying in wait for some hapless gopher. It feels a little odd to think of sharing my garden with one of these…everyone is taught to fear them (and not without justification). Like the black widow spiders that are ubiquitous here, nothing good will come of being bitten. While not the death sentence most people imagine them to be, a bite from snake or spider will result in a significant and grotesque injury. Neither snake or spider will bite unless provoked, but that’s small consolation if a moment of inattention results in a surprised snake. It’s a strange thing in this area, that there is a geographical barrier in the form of our County Line Road. North of this road, no rattlesnakes. South of the road, they are legion. Readers may be thinking, "why didn’t you kill the snake?!?" Well, that is an option, but not always the best one. Snakes in general maintain a limited territory. If one is a "resident", there is at least the opportunity to know its whereabouts. Kill it, and nature abhors a vacuum…another one comes along, that may not be noticed until later. We’ll see how it goes, and from here on out I doubt I’ll be listening to music while harvesting beets. Hopefully the snake will at least eat the gopher…..

Our first chicks and poults have arrived for the year in the past two weeks. It’s always miraculous to see eggs yield fluffy chicks that grow so quickly into turkeys and chickens. If nothing else, it is an affirmation that life marches on.


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