The first pieces of flair I added to the garden early last year was a collection of bird and bee houses that I affixed to the left front side of our ramshackle shed. Recently, high winds have been knocking them off and when putting them back up I happened to notice a few stray baby yellow garden spiders (Argiope aurantia) and a big egg case affixed to the back of one of the houses.
Since then I’ve been watching eagerly to see if there was any movement. And look what I discovered today…
I have so much to tell you about the Ecuadorian food store in my neighbourhood that it was difficult working out where to begin. I’ve travelled in Southern Mexico and I’ve perused many Latin American food stores, yet this store was a treasure trove of exciting food stuffs I had never seen before, primarily from Peru, Ecuador and Columbia. The packaging was delightful, too. But that’s a post in itself.
First up is huacatay, a dark sauce in a jar that had me perplexed. The label identified the main ingredient as “black mint”, but the illustration on the front looked nothing like the black peppermint I am familiar with. If I had to take a guess, I’d say it was a marigold, but even though I eat marigolds (particularly the gem series), I do so in small quantities and could not imagine devoting it to a sauce. Because that seemed illogical, I chalked the illustration up to the sort of packaging that just has any old plant stuck into the design.
Kangaroo apple (Solanum laciniatum) is one in a long line of marginally edible foods that I have been experimenting with in the garden. The fruits are considered poisonous when green and unripe, and edible when they turn orange.
That hasn’t stopped the squirrels. As I waited patiently for the fruit to ripen so I could have my first taste, the squirrels got there ahead of me and stole their fill while the fruit was still green, rock hard, and supposedly poisonous. Not only did it not kill them or give them so much as a tummy ache, they probably liked this plant more than any other treat in the garden. Proving once again that the squirrels are superior beings that will be roaming the earth harassing and poaching from some other more evolved humanoid-type creature in the distant future once the aliens have come in the name of interplanetary peace but then accidentally reveal their true intention to farm us for food, which leads to a terrible and epic battle for the lives of all humankind.
Spoiler: We do not win. Squirrels survive on the planet for another 50 million years.
The reality of leaving the garden during the growing season is that you will come home to some small or large disaster. You roll with the punches, accept the losses, or you never leave home. I love my garden, but since travel is a part of my job (and one that I enjoy), I have had to do some adept rolling as well as learn a bit of acceptance along the way. I also try to plan my trips for cooler parts of the season when my constant attention is unneccessary.
I have just returned from a trip to Georgia to an aphid infestation of epic proportions on two of my Spigarello plants. Of course, they are my favourite two. The prettiest two. The two I am allowing to bolt so I can harvest seed. Were this a Sophie’s Choice situation I would say without hesitation, “Take the ones at the back of the garden. Heck, take ALL OF the kale if you must. We’re pretty much sick of it anyways.”
But no. Alas, we gardeners do not get to choose which plants the pests will descend upon. And often times they want the very plants we want to keep most. That is how it goes. I have loads of nasturtiums in my garden right now (a known aphid attractant), and amazingly enough they are completely unscathed. Nary an aphid in sight.
On the bright side, none of the clothespins had been tampered with. The problem was that I had run out of foraged-from-the yard clothespins and figured I could just tuck the back in against the wall. I’m laughing at myself now as I write this. It’s as if I am new to this here gardening thing and didn’t just spend well over a decade trying to thwart the efforts of squirrels.
Tucking it in against the wall… PLEASE with that lazy, naive ridiculousness.
Lesson learned. Again. I’m now employing buffalo clips to hold down the remaining sides. Take THAT squirrels! I’m an adult human with opposable thumbs and even I have a difficult time operating buffalo clips. I’d like to see them work their way around that business.