Tuesday, August 30, 2016

This Week (Memoirs, Mantises, and Caterpillar Slaughter)

Meet Harold, the resident praying mantis. My phone's camera wouldn't focus on him, but he's cute!

This is my last full week of summer break before I start teaching classes again, and I feel like I’ve been making good use of it. I’ve been baking, working in the yard, and reading a ton. Also, I’ve been working steadily on my PCT memoir, although it’s still a challenge for me to focus on the most important parts. I feel like there’s no continuity if I just hit up individual stories that happened several days apart, but I have to tie them together somehow, because I can’t tell everything (that’s what the blog is for!). As usual, writing a short version is much harder than a long version.
Pictured: garden-fresh basil,
before it was made into pesto. 

Dramatic, thoroughly-housewifey event of the week: I addressed the first big insect infestation I’ve had in my garden. I’d noticed holes in my kale, but it wasn’t until I walked outside and happened to see a wasp wrestling a green caterpillar to death that I realized the source of the holes. These little green inchworms were everywhere on my kale, and my first guess was correct— they were cabbage worms. Like the good organic gardener that I am, I spent the next hour and a half hand-picking the caterpillars off my plants, aggressively spraying the plants with water in between to shake them off. 

As I was spraying the kale, a praying mantis (who I had found in the lawn last week and placed in my garden), clambered to the top of the plants, looking startled. I held out my hand and he quickly climbed on, and I moved him out of harm’s way. He’s a cute little guy! I named him Harold. 

In my caterpillar hunting, I killed at least a hundred of these cabbage worms, plus several who had already built chrysalises. Doing so oddly unsettled me. H.C. Flores of Food Not Lawns describes weeding as “playing God,” and this was a similar feeling. Who was I to decide that all these caterpillars should die so that the kale might live? Why were my needs and desires the only factor I considered before killing all these tiny creatures? How did I fit into the cycle of life and death that plays out on a small scale in my garden? The whole experience was more thought-provoking, and more disturbing, than I expected. The emotional response fits into a larger internal conversation I’ve been having about my consumption of meat, although that’s a post for another time.
I picked these guys off the kale even after I thoroughly washed it.

On a more positive note, I planted a bunch of seeds last week— spinach, carrots (fifth time’s the charm!), and peas. I’m hoping that the scorching sun doesn’t kill the seeds before they get started. We’ll see how it goes!

At any rate, I hope you guys are having a good week!


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