Every year at this time, just as we’re enjoying favorite outdoor activities after having been bundled up, hunkered down or cooped up all winter, a Pandora’s Box of stinging, blood-sucking, destructive, disease-spreading insects...
A Fox in the Blueberries and Other Garden Surprises
When my wife returned from the garden the other day, somewhat breathless and empty-handed, she announced, “You’ll never believe what’s trapped in the blueberry enclosure.”
“Don’t tell me that blankety-blank catbird found an opening in the netting again,” I spluttered, preparing to grab a rake to shoo it out.
“A fox,” she replied.
“I knew it!” I cried. I had noticed a day or two earlier the berry crop seemed less abundant, and also spotted animal poop on a path that looked as if some critter had been feasting on – well, you get the picture.
Anyway, by the time I raced out to the garden the fox had escaped, which was good news since I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to extricate it.
I spent the next hour or so in a vain search for a slit in the netting that the fox could have slipped through, and reflected that its reputation for wiliness is well-deserved.
At least the fox wasn’t as dumb as the two warblers that somehow squeezed in a couple weeks earlier. I had been in a hurry, about to leave for a trip to Maine, when I made a last-minute check on the garden and discovered the interlopers.
After muttering a few choice phrases I entered the enclosure, rake in hand, and left the door open.
The hapless birds squawked and flapped crazily back and forth, flinging themselves repeatedly against the netting, while I chased them around with the rake.
“Look! There’s the door!” I shouted, and even demonstrated its purpose by marching in and out several times.
The dumb birds flew right past the opening about 47 times.
Finally, one got the message and rocketed out, but the other continued to thrash around and get tangled in the netting. I couldn’t go off to Maine and leave it there; when I returned a week later the bushes would be bare and the warbler would be as big as an emu.
After another 15 minutes of being chased, though, the warbler found a tiny slit – not the door, mind you – and flew off to join its mate. I hope the incident sufficiently terrorized them so they won’t try to break into the blueberries again, but that’s probably asking too much.
Animals aren’t the other uninvited guests to intrude in the garden – though I’m happy to report the 12-foot-tall deer fencing I toiled to install has been effective.
Weeds, of course, are the scourge of any gardener, but not all plant invaders are unwelcome – namely, the “volunteer” vegetables that are delightful surprises from the compost heap.
A couple weeks ago I saw a few mystery sprouts appear in the compost, and dutifully transplanted them to the garden. Soon, dozens more emerged, and I stuck them in the ground as well.
At first I glumly thought they were nothing but zucchini. I stopped planting zucchini years ago because it’s not one of my favorite vegetables, and because everybody and his sister plants it so by late summer, when they grow to the size of baseball bats, you can’t give them away.
The old joke is that in small towns the only time people lock their car doors is during the zucchini harvest.
Anyway, my mystery plants continued to flourish, sending out long vines and large yellow flowers.
Then, small green growths appeared at the base of the flowers, and I thought to myself – aha, watermelons!
But no, a couple days later I could see more clearly what was growing: acorn squash!
This is great news, since I love acorn squash, especially when baked with my homemade maple syrup. And unlike zucchini or tomatoes, they store well.
I now have dozens growing, and I didn’t even have to buy the seeds – they came from the remnants of one single squash buried last year in my compost heap.
If only the rest of gardening were that simple.
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