Thursday, September 21, 2006

attack of the walking stick

I was attacked, not once, but every day last week by, get this, a walking stick.

It wouldn’t leave me alone.

Everyday, as I drove the van full of vegetables and apples to the pick up spot a walking stick would appear.

Maybe on the inside of the windshield.

Or maybe up on the inside of the van’s roof.

One time it crept along the side of the van, I saw it, coming from somewhere in the back, passing just beyond my reach on the passenger side, shortly disappearing, and then suddenly dropping down and landing on top of my head.

Needless to say, I was quite disturbed.

I’m assuming, of course, that you know what a walking stick is. I did relay the events leading up to the attack to several shareholders and they looked at me knowingly and started to give me serious lectures about how it was a voracious predator.
But before I get too far afield, let’s go through the week’s farm news.

1. As you’ve probably noticed, we’ve been picking green tomatoes this week. The reason why is the temperature. I scarcely need noting that its been getting progressively colder outside, (today it’s not supposed to get out of the 60’s). And tomatoes, quite naturally, don’t do well in cold weather. In fact, tomatoes for them to grow and be healthy really like the soil temperature to average above 70 degrees. So, with the cold weather the tomatoes have stopped growing, stopped turning red, meaning there is no reason to leave tomatoes on the vine. With temperatures like these they are just not going to ripen up.

2. Cheese. A number of people have asked if we are going to put in another cheese order. OK. Do you want me to order you a five pound block of sharp organic cheddar cheese? This cheese comes from Farmstead in PA. Their cows are pastured, are not fed grain.
(did you know that cows do not naturally eat grain, that they actually get sick when fed corn for long periods of time? Additionally, there is a study out there which find that the special type of e-coli recently discovered on the bagged spinach mostly comes from cows that were fed grain instead of grass?)

Farmstead Fresh gives all sorts of reasons why their cheese is healthy and tasty but all’s I have to say is that in my humble opinion it really does taste great! Some of the best cheddar out there. A five pound block costs $40.
The url to their webpage is farmsteadfresh.com

3. We are finishing week 16 of the 20 week season. The last week of deliveries will be the week of October 16th through October 21st unless, of course, we get a killing frost before then. If there is an early frost the season ends with the sad demise of our vegetables.

Vegetables from here on out.
Starting now and running until the end of the season we will have sweet potatoes. These sweet potatoes were grown by Quail Haven Farm all the way down at the end of the Eastern shore (prime sweet potato country). They are certified organic sweet potatoes. They were harvested last weekend and driven up to the farm on Tuesday. These are great tasting sweet potatoes. We also have sweet potatoes growing on our farm but only a few hundred pounds that I will let people dig up when we glean the fields.

Regular vegetables that will continue to the end: Basil, bell peppers, hot peppers, and eggplant.

Summer vegetables that we might have a week or two more of: garlic, potatoes and tomatoes.

Fall greens. We have planted several types of lettuces, as well as arugula, mizuna, tatsoi, tokyo bekana, mustard greens and spinach. We’ll probably start harvesting these next week and they should run to the end of the season.

Other possibilities: radishes (we’ve planted a lot of radishes).
pac choi. We started enough seedlings for two weeks and put them in the ground several weeks ago however I’m not sure if they will be ready by the end of the season.
Okra. there is almost half an acre of okra plants. As long as it stays reasonably warm we’ll be getting okra.

Garlic -- one more week left
Winter squash. Maybe two weeks worth. I’ll probably give them out the last two weeks.

Honey. I’ll write more about it later but we will probably have honey in the share on the second to last week.

And of course, sorrel. The sorrel is picking up again. I could probably pick three more weeks of it.

Potential problems.
Of course there is the cold weather. A frost ends the season. Even a light frost kills the basil, peppers, tomatoes, squash, okra, pac choi. Greens can take a slight freeze.

The biggest pest I see out there right now are the harlequin bugs. This is a bad year for harlequin bugs. And they like, unfortunately, green leafy plants. So far they are only real bad on the radishes and who cares if the radish green are ruined. However, if they move to the salad greens they will make them look very ugly and unappetizing. There is really no organic great method for satisfactorily dealing with them outside of picking them individually off each plant and squishing them with your fingers. Yuck!

One solution that has been mentioned are predator insects. Wouldn’t be great to find an insect that loves the taste of harlequin bugs?

Walking sticks are alleged to be a predator insect. At least that’s what I’ve been told a dozen times since relaying the story of the foot long stick that has been attacking me in the van.

After all, a walking stick does look sort of like a praying mantis, (only it doesn’t have those long, heavy duty arms with the big snappers on the end). And everyone knows a praying mantis gets its name because it looks like it spends its leisure time between meals praying for the next insect to pass its way. An insect that it grabs and quickly crushes with its ‘snappers’.

Only, only when I looked up walking sticks in my book of beneficial insects it wasn’t there.

And when I looked it up in Wikipedia there wasn’t an entre either but there was a reference to ‘stick insect’.

And when I Googled ‘stick insects’ I found that there was a foundation known at the “British Stick Insect Foundation” (Which unfortunately turned out to be a spoof site) that does however, have a great recipe beginning:

It’s a sad day when a Stick Insect dies. We are apt to be lost in our grief, and to wonder aloud at the futility of life. At such times, it is naturally difficult to see beyond the here and now. Nevertheless, it is while the little corpse is fresh that we must seize the moment. In a few hours, the deliciously nutty flavour that we love will start to disappear, and the beautiful, crunchy texture will be gone.

If you don’t have time in your mourning to cook your insect, why not put it in the fast freeze compartment for later?

Of course, if an autopsy is going to be necessary, then sadly all is lost.
Recipes, British Stick Insect Foundation

And since my interest in the walking stick that seemed to be attacking me wasn’t in finding a meal I looked further and finally found out that most walking sticks (there are apparently close to 3000 varieties out there) most walking sticks are native to Australia, however not one of the 3000 is known to eat other insects.

Infact, the Amateur Entomologist Society reports that walking sticks mostly eat the leaves off of brambles. You know, blackberry bushes and the like.

So It looks like I’m safe. I wasn’t being attacked.

In fact, as I read more of the Amateur Entomologist Society page I learned that walking sticks make fine pets. Instead of attacking me, walking sticks, for some reason like to sit on the shoulders and hair of humans. The society goes further in claiming that because of this and other characteristics walking sticks the most popular insect pet in the entire world.

So if anyone is interested in a new companion...

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