Saturday, August 22, 2009
I could blame it on the weather.
Heaven knows it’s rained more this summer than ever before, or so it would seem. Weekly storms have left the ground saturated. And cool temperatures have taken little of the moisture away. The tomato plants, lush and leggy, have barely held their fruit for the time it takes to ripen, many times dropping heavy, orange orbs onto the damp dirt to rot, hidden from view in the coiling, bushy branches wrapping within each metal cage.
I could blame it on the woodchucks--all ten, who fed handsomely on dinners seasoned with freshly snipped dill and cilantro, after ducking beneath the electric fence to gorge on green beans and decapitate the tender tops of sweet potato plants each time the roots sent fresh growth out from each hopeful hill.
Or, I could blame it on my life, that teases me into thinking I have time to devote to a garden, remembering the tending and doting one demands--then picks up and runs off laughing, never looking backward over its shoulder to see that I haven’t kept up.
Truth is, all three have come together this year to leave us with mountains of zucchini and cucumbers, a nice plot of basil and little else.
So, determined to rescue the remnants of what had been 2 rows of green beans, now lying mauled and muddied beneath a heavy blanket of vines creeping in from the edge, I set off toward the plot, clippers in hand. Julie had heard that a heavy pruning of the plants could produce a second crop and was giving it a try.
For me, any crop, this year, would be welcome.
Snipping along, nipping and tucking my way down each row, bean stems here, vine stems there, I amassed quite a pile—tangled and thrown onto the grass, the few old, woody beans sadly hanging. And marveled at my new creation—a barren, brown strip. The 2 rows of plants, nothing more than short stems.
And a teeny, tiny stripy one, that wasn’t an aphid at all.
I knew, even as I rose to look more closely at what was barely there, what moved slowly along the stem.
His fine black and yellow-striped body.
The delicate whiplashes on either end.
Yes, the monarch caterpillars I had hoped to find in the milkweed patch beside the pond, were feeding here, instead, on the Sand Vine--and I had just plowed through their nursery.
Gently, I inserted a new leaf beneath the silken attachments of their tiny feet, and in minutes, each inched forward onto their new climbing host plant.
In total, now seven.
No cilantro, no dill, no sweet potatoes, no beans—
but the garden’s just fine, if I might say so.
Some, in fact, say it's divine.