Sunday, July 29, 2007

Critters that eat vegetables

I just checked our corn last night.

This is a field down the road where I planted enough corn for everyone to get 2-4 ears per person per share per week for two, maybe three weeks

A nice field of corn.

This is beside the planting of corn I planted down the hill from the house. Another week's worth of corn.

That means if everything went right, if everything went just hunky dory.

Right amount of nitrogen (corn loves nitrogen).

No field full of weeds to steal the corn plants nutrients, water and light.

Enough water.

No wild animals to steal it away.

Deer. Deer are usually the biggest culprits. They sneak into a field of corn and start eating the ears about a month before humans consider it ripe. If there are too many hungry deer (like this year) they have been known to completely pluck an entire corn field. Eating every single ear of corn.

Crows. Crows start on corn when the sprouts just peak out of the grown. The pull the tender spouts and eat the little seed kernel down below. I've seen crows walk down hundred foot rows pulling each sprout and every spout as they do, leaving the rows bare.

Raccoons. They come in and aren't tall enough or strong enough to rip the ears off of the stalks but what they they do is claw at the sheaves around the cobs and then eat the exposed kernels right off the cob.

Bears. One of the first years I was farming I had corn growing right out our front door and one morning I looked out the window and there was a little bear busy harvesting just like a human.

She had stacked a pile of ears on the ground and when I yelled she looked up, ran over to the pile, picked it up under one of her arms (or is that front legs?) and ran for all she was worth, down the hill where there used to be a barbed wire fence.

At the fence she hit the ground crawled underneath the bottom strand of wire and then on the other side got up again and took off into the forest. Corn in hand.

The next year, just the day before I planned to harvest the corn for the shares, I went down to check and there wasn't an ear in the field. Apparently both me and the bear had been checking to see when the corn would ripen and the bear decided a a day earlier than me it was time to harvest.

She harvested everything.

And down in the woods, maybe twenty yards, I found the location of the corn feast.

Not only had the bear eaten it all right off the cob but she had also had eaten a fair number of the cobs.

I knew it was a bear because she hadn't bothered to look for the toilet facilities. What's that quote they use when trying to convince you not to drink water out of the springs and streams in the forest. "A bears xxxx in the woods." Especially after eating a large meal of fresh corn.

So let's get back to this year's corn crop.

I went by the corn field last night and looked around.

But there wasn't much corn to see.

And the culprit wasn't the wild animals either.

It's the drought.

The corn hasn't grown. It's stunted and shriveled. No water. The corn field isn't irrigated. The drought has pretty much done the corn in. There was no need for a bear, or deer. No raccoon or crows. This record setting drought (I just heard most of Maryland is being declared an agriculture disaster area. I haven't heard about Virginia yet).

The drought has wiped out most of this year's corn.

(I have another planting down the hill that is getting some water. It is late but it seems to be doing fine).


And since I'm giving bad news let me lay some more on you.

Squash/zucchini. No, we will have plenty of squash and Zucchini. (I really haven't, in my mind, figured out the difference between the two) but a couple nights ago something (I suspect a deer) got in and ate much of the next planting. Eating the vines right down to the ground.

It makes me ill.

The cemetery field was full of young squash plants that we had put in just a week ago but 2/3 are ruined. Eaten to the nubs. This is the squash we would be getting in a couple weeks.

Good news?
it's not all bad. The cucumbers are coming on just fine and look better than they have in a number of years.

Eggplant? A number of plants were hurt during the great deer attack but we way over planted. You should be getting eggplant every other week for the next couple months.

Bell peppers. the deer ate a lot early on but maybe 600 plants weren't hit and they are starting to produce. Pretty soon you will be getting those every week and the ones that were damaged are coming back too. Bell peppers grow right up until frost.

Hot peppers. There are about 5 varieties out there. The Cayenne are starting to ripen.

Tomatoes? Yes, we lost most of the first planting in the deer attack but there should be plenty more. In fact we have some right now but they are suffering from bottom rot (this is caused by drought. Its a calcium transport disease that comes about from not enough water to move the nutrients up into the fruit. Tomatoes want that inch a week and if they don't get it there are always problems). We should have tomatoes regularly in a couple weeks and I'm still hoping for all you can eat during the last of August.

The garlic is in the barn and I'll be giving out a bulb every week for the season (I hope).
Basil should be all you can eat forever.
Tomatillos are doing fine.
Parsley is going to get a couple week's rest before harvesting it again.
Thai basil is coming on next week.
Ground cherry's are out there but looking slow.
We've planted lots of pumpkins and winter squash but they are several months off.
Enough potatoes for a month or so.
Okra and sunflowers look iffy because of the drought. I'm going to do another planting of both this afternoon.

And that's a rundown on the major summer crops. I've no doubt forgotten a dozen other summer crops (I'm not even starting to talk about the fall crops).

We did get an inch of rain this week. We need that every week. We used to get that much around here but at least in the short term we are having some sort of climate change.

Additionally I've almost got the bottom spring hooked up into the irrigation system (waiting for a few parts from the irrigation supply company) When that's done we should be able to withstand even a major drought like we're being hit with now.

The deer fence is up and working again. We're electrifying a strand around it today to further strengthen its repelling capability. Maybe keep the bears from running through it.

A reminder about the Summer Party.

Next Saturday. July 28th.

You and your friends are invited. Yes, you can bring friends.

It's a pot luck. Bring a main dish or a dessert. No need is RSVPing starts at PM. Hike up the mountain starts 3:30. I'll give tours of the farm starting around 4.

If its still going on late we'll have a bonfire.


--

Leigh Hauter

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