Portrait by a Neighbour
Before she has her floor swept
It’s long after midnight
She digs in her garden
She walks up the walk
Her lawn looks like a meadow,
We are quite into the summer Harvest around here. Yesterday we put up Dill Pickles, Company Pickles, and Raspberry Jam. I made Zucchini bread from the Squash. Jim made us some steamed Chard ( Swiss Chard is so beautiful in its colors of gold, and beet and fuchsia) with Feta cheese to go along with the chicken that I fried for supper.
The Raspberries feel so soft to the fingers, after having picked the firmer strawberries for a while. But the strawberries stopped producing with out even so much as a sigh. And it is just as well because the raspberries are producing so well this year.
With the raspberries come the first bug battle of the season. Japanese Beetles! We do not use any sprays or chemicals on our place. I have a hard time understanding people who say that they just cannot grow apples, or peaches or whatever with out spraying. If I had to spray I would just go and buy food at the store, I can buy sprayed food there, I don't have to go to all the trouble to grow it. One of our main reasons for growing food so that we can grow it as pure as possible in a polluted world.
If I get worms in my apples, you know what I do? I do, what my grandmother did in her time, I cut the worms out and make applesauce from the good part of the apple. People are just too spoiled, they expect produce to be bug free, like as if it wasn't even grown outside. Lord behold, if they find a slug on the lettuce! Yes! slugs like Lettuce, that is why we wash it. Sometimes I think that most people think that food grows on grocery store shelves.
OH gee, got me started! O.K. Well anyhow about the Japanese beetles, we don't spray so our best line of defense is to use the beetles as food. Ah! Hah! I got ya scared now don't I! No, we don't eat the beetles, although I guess if there was ever a famine, they would be a good source of protein, you know you could fry them up and it wouldn't hurt you at all.
But we do use the beetles as food, for the chickens. The chickens love them, so every time I go Raspberry picken I take along a jar of water into which I catch the beetles and take to them and watch em fight over them. Or better yet I call to Mama chicken and her young ones as I am going to the berry bush so that they will scramble around my legs and catch all the beetles that I throw and shake down to them ..
Last year I had my Mama Chickens trained to meet me out there in the evening. A friend of mine was staying at our place for a time while we were away. She was tending to all the little things one has to do to keep the dog, the cat, the garden and the chickens going. But there was one thing I had forgotten to tell her.
Yep, I had forgotten to tell her about the Mamas and their chicks and our meeting at the raspberries bush. My friend was excited about picking the berries and preserving them to take home so she was keeping the vine clean for me. There was just one thing that she couldn't figure out, why were these chickens clucking around her and demanding something? She kept giving them berries and giving them berries but they never seemed to be happy. How she laughed and laughed when she found out that they had been wanting the beetles all that time that they chased her around the berry patch clucking at her in scorn when she threw them down berries.
Sometimes the beetles really get to me, they are so plentiful and they have scratchy legs and they can get in your hair, and down your shirt, and well it can be quite miserable with beetles crawling all over the place. And if any fall into your berry basket they will crawl right up into the hole of the raspberry and hide. Believe me I have had moments of hate for Japanese Beetles. But I have learned not to pick in the heat of the day, it is hot and sweaty and the beetles are the most active then. It is more joyful to go in the morning or the evening while it is cool and the beetles are drowsy and sleepy or having sex and you can tip your glass right beneath them and unawares they slip into it.
There is definitely an art to beetle picking , not just any half wit can do it right you know. One has to calculate just what the beetle is going to do. Is the beetle going to fly or is the beetle going to drop. Over the hills I have come to know my beetles pretty well and know that in the morning they are more likely to fly, and in the evening they are more likely to drop. Sometimes in the evening I will go by with a big bucket with a little water in it, I will then pull a branch over the bucket and give it a gentle shake, the beetles will then plink plink plink into the bucket. In the morning I have to hold my hand over them and catch them as they take off then swish them down into my container.