Of plants and poop

Part of the process of growing anything is monitoring the health of your plants. In my case, I’m always on the lookout for critters bent on destroying the hard work we’ve put in here. Deer and bunnies? Fencing. Other things require more work just to find them: chewed, holey leaves, dying stems, holes bored into the base of a plant, and most especially: poop. Yep, that’s right – any time I’m working in the plants, whether that’s to weed, harvest, or run line for trellises, I’m on the watch for the telltale signs of bug incursion, primarily by watching for poop. Today I went on a worm hunt, although I did manage to bag some stinkbugs along the way, as I found poop and chewed leaves throughout the tomatoes. The newly hatched worms are so small as to barely be visible even on a thoroughly chewed leaf. As they mature, via their constant chowing down on my plants, they get bigger and fatter, and easier to spot, but if they’re larger, that means they’ve been eating longer, so there’s the tradeoff. If I’m lucky, I spot them before they fully mature.

Worms June 2013

If I’m super lucky, I find them when they’re very young, or even just hatched. If I’m incredibly lucky, I’ll find a bunch of babies all at once, making the killing much more efficient.

Worms June 2013

If I hit the jackpot, as I did today, I will find one with the eggs on its back, and be able to take out not just the current generation, but the next as well.

Worms and eggs June 2013

First harvest of the season

June 1st this year is not just the start of hurricane season, but the official start of our harvest season here. Sure, I collected a bunch of shelling peas the other day, and we’ve had romaine for almost a month, but now the heavy hitters start coming in.

Squash, zuke, and cukes June 2013

This afternoon, while picking, I was interrupted by yet another swarm. Which is crazy, and I swear this hive must be possessed, as this was the same hive that swarmed previously. Unfortunately, I saw them as they were getting themselves together to move on to whatever location the scouts found, rather than at the point they were finding a handy branch to settle on while the scouts were out. I heard a low buzzing noise while I was up to my shoulders in some plants, looked up, and the cloud of bees was on the move – I hadn’t even noticed the swarm hanging off the pine tree not twenty feet from the rear garden, and they’d apparently gotten themselves there while I had been inside having my usual lunch. They flew into the pool area, which is fenced in, and by the time I had grabbed my phone and walked out the back, they had vanished. I walked around the western edge of the property, and no bees, anywhere: they were gone. That royally sucks, as the hive had plenty of food and plenty of room to store brood, pollen, and honey. I’m thinking of ordering a queen from the place we get our bees, finding the queen in this hive and beheading her, and introducing a new queen to see if that will help.

On with our harvest totals today:
Yellow squash: 8 pounds, 1 1/2 oz
Zucchini: 7 pounds
Cukes, adam gherkin: 8 pounds
Cukes, homemade pickles: 12 oz
Snap beans, provider: 12 3/4 oz

Green beans June 2013

My sister is leaving to return north for a month before coming back down to visit again, and will taking the squash and zucchini with her. The gherkin cukes are in the brine, the first step of a three day process that will end with them being sweet relish. And despite the frogs croaking like there would be rain, despite the forecast, and despite the clouds that suggested it, there was no rain today. We really do live in the bermuda triangle of weather here at the ranch.

Cukes brining June 2013