Monday, May 5, 2008

Love Bites - Everybody Eats

It has been interesting watching the activity in our back yard this past week. As we head into a season of plenty, fueled to some extent by the unusually high rainfall totals last year, we are experiencing something of a population explosion.

The two cardinals we've watched year after year are now four, and it appears they are  in the midst of settling some territorial uneasiness as they establish nest sites.  The Carolina wren nest on the front porch is already empty. Mom, Dad and at least one young wren are busy playing a call and response hunter gathering game all around us.

The squirrels this year are enjoying an abundance of loquats - we are still uncertain if they are eating the fruit pulp or going for the seeds.  They drop many to the ground with the seeds still inside.  Other dropped fruits have a tunnel gnawed in with the seeds neatly removed.  It could be they are careless in the midst of so many other easy food choices.  They wouldn't be alone in that behavior, certainly.  
Speaking of easy food choices, it is no wonder the birds are happy.  We have loads of bugs this year. As we are attempting to get organic vegetables to our table I've been made aware of how shockingly uninformed I am about the various six legged companions I have out in the garden.  I have found a few sites to try and help identify bugs, but most of those are focused on insects discovered indoors.   I suppose farmers know from experience.  Helpful predator or potential crop destroyer?  Mostly I watch and guess. 

I had other chastening reminders this week of how the natural "everything eats" train can so easily get shoved off the rails.

My husband and I are enjoying weekly baskets of locally grown organic produce from Tecolote Farms this Spring.  It has been a challenge (in a good way) to respond to the surprise of what was in each week's basket, to plan menus and find recipes and preparation techniques for vegetables we had not tried before.  

We are not alone in finding this a challenge.  One of the other members of the "baskegation" as purveyors Katie and David Pitre refer to us, wrote in, wondering if Tecolote Farm would tell folks further ahead of time what to expect for planning purposes?

Katie and David responded with a reminder that the surprise of what was ready to harvest was not a result of their being coy, but rather a reflection of the quickly changing conditions of the vegetables and fruits they grow in response to weather and infestations.  Quoting from their response: "We will try to do a better job guessing what's coming up, but all we can do it try.  It's harder to predict exactly because of the nature of this farming game.  Many crops are super-sensitive to the weather, and Texas weather is no genteel dame.  Arugula for example, was beautiful last week. We had some heat, it bolted, and now it's too hot and peppery."

The Pitres had written previously about some of the hazards of organic farming in the newsletter they send out with our baskets each week. They'd tried corn again this year and were promptly reminded of why they'd previously vowed "never!" to try to grow organic corn again. Corn, as a prevalent agribusiness crop, has become so entirely dependent upon chemical support to overcome the large number of pests targeting it, that organic farmers are finding it impossible to grow any longer. It is simply too vulnerable in light of the large numbers of infestations that will attack any unprotected source.

We were also reminded to think, if we were to notice holes in the collard greens, of the 90 percent that were discarded as unsuitable for market due to the high numbers of harlequin beetles this year. 90 percent discarded. That is a huge margin for a small family farm.

I am finding it daunting to try and get a few plants going organically in our back yard this year. If my family were dependent upon those crops for their own dinners, and further for the financial support to make house payments and buy gas? We'd be in desperate times, that is for certain.There is a saying, "just because you do not take an interest in politics, doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you.". A stark reminder that political policies that would promote outdated agricultural price supports, ignore climate impact and fuel costs, will eventually hurt everybody except for the very, very, rich among us. Everybody eats, or at least NEEDS to....

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About Me

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Rollingwood, Central Texas
Family historian by default. Oldest surviving matriarch on my branch of the Family Tree. Story teller, photo taker, gardener, cook, blabbermouth.