Wednesday, August 29

the General returns

Why did I eat my oatmeal plain yesterday morning? Because I was too tired to get the brown sugar down off the top shelf. And we're out of raisins. And somebody better quick engineer strawberries that will cut and de-mold themselves. I was too tired to put things on my oatmeal because my garden had once again kicked my ass.
Surprise squash.
It was an epic battle, and the war is nowhere near won.

I had decided I better handle the squash. We've actually had a lot of monsoon rain this year, and the squash is doing what squash does in response to rain (which is similar to its response to, you know, being alive) which is to say it has gone forth and multiplied. It's covered the cucumbers, buried the beans, smothered the strawberries, and is presently taking on the tomatoes. So for more than half an hour yesterday, I pruned the squash. During the course of all this pruning, I discovered, among other things, two actual squashes and twenty hornworms.

It seems the General has returned. With reinforcements.

Last week I removed two 3 1/2" long hornworms from one of the plants. At the time, I didn't see anyone else. It now seems obvious that these two behemoths were merely scouts or those guys who get sent out to act as a distraction so that the soldiers in the tunnels can finish wiring up the explosives without having to worry about fending off guards. There's always those guys. I don't know where they get them.

In the case of my garden, the "soldiers" are hornworms. The "tunnels" are my tomato plants. And the "explosives" are represented by hornworm mastication. Look. I didn't say it was a perfect metaphor.

The General or one of his men? 
The "guards", obviously, are me. But whoever hired me is probably nursing some misgivings. Frankly, I've been pretty ineffectual at preventing the enemy from blowing up the tunnels. In my defense, I've been distracted by a number of other threats, as we're being assaulted from several flanks at once here.

Having finally hacked my way through the jungle of squash yesterday morning, I was able to  make contact with four tomato plants who've maintained inexplicable radio silence for weeks. (And by "radio silence", I mean "I haven't waded back in there to have a look at them in awhile on account of the squash. Also there's clouds of mosquitoes.") I've been a little worried about what's going on back in there.

Raphael: Don't worry. I'm sure they're fine. They're just laying low.

Jenny: They're dead. I know it. They're dead.

Raphael: They're fine, do you hear me? They're fine! Pull yourself together!

Jenny (takes a deep breath): I'm okay.

Raphael: You have to trust them. They know what they're doing. They know how to keep themselves safe.

Jenny: You're right, of course.

Raphael: Just relax...What are you doing?

Jenny (with a steely eye-glint): I'm going in.

I found them alright, and they were in bad shape from what I assume is a combination of too much desert summer sun, too little water, and the overrun of their position by the General's troops. Not too mention strangulation via squash vine, and also one of them has been inundated by clusters of tiny, creepy mushrooms.

Jenny: We've got to get you guys back to headquarters!

Tomato Plants: (Stoic silence.)

Jenny: ...Okay. Don't worry. I'll handle everything.

"Handle" here means "cut everything back in an attempt to reverse as much damage as possible". I don't know if that's the best plan, but it's the direction I took.

I cut off all the hornworm-defoliated stems and a lot of the dead stuff, did a thorough watering, freed them gently from those insidious squash tendrils, tied them up to the trellis where possible, and rid them of hornworm enemy soldiers as best as I could. The sun is the sun. There's no help for it. The creepy mushrooms I simply ignored. And we'll deal with the PTSD later, if symptoms develop. But for now... there is nothing more to do than wait for whatever comes next.
Prisoners of war.

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