Summer’s end

Farm Forum

The autumnal equinox is nearly upon us, which leads to a very important question: where the heck did summer go?

I tried to make the most of every wonderful moment that summer tarried with us. I sang in the sunshine (only when alone; I didn’t want to scare anyone), I laughed every day (well, almost every day), and now summertime has gone on her way.

Certainly we will have more warm weather before the Big Bad Wolf of winter takes up residence outside our doors. I can see him already, a lupine grin on his lips, murmuring in a velvety tone, “Come outside and play, it’s not that cold! My, your toes are looking particularly succulent this morning!”

Autumn will bring us days when we’ll need to fire up the furnace in the morning and have the air conditioner chugging by noon. Jackets will be put on, taken off, left somewhere and forgotten. The HVAC folks and “lost and found” departments will enjoy boom times.

Unlike the fabled grasshopper who frittered summer away, I have been working, ant-like, to pile up provender for the winter. Part of this is because of ants. Specifically, carpenter ants are responsible for the house-size pile of firewood that now sits near our house.

Early this summer, an ancient and humongous ash tree fell onto our home. No real damage was done other than to my faith in trees. That ash tree had sheltered four generations of my family! Seeing it take a tumble was like learning that Santa’s reindeer are, in fact, corgis that have twigs tied to their heads.

But it wasn’t the tree’s fault. Carpenter ants had chewed out the core of the tree, making it as hollow as a politician’s promise. The tree can’t really be blamed for its failure, much as you can’t fault a voter for wishing there was a choice labeled “none of the above.”

Some of the now-homeless ants have been trying to move into our home. A few of the ants that I’ve seen skulking around the house looked large enough to be roped and saddled and forced to give rides to small children at birthday parties.

Bugs have been a bane at our place all summer long. It began in early spring when I noticed some problems with the pumpkin and gourd seedlings that were sprouting in our garden. Many of the seedlings’ leaves were peppered with tiny holes, as if they had been caught in a shootout between the police and a gang of teensy bank robbers who were armed with itty-bitty shotguns.

I espied a number of quarter-inch-long striped insects hanging around near the seedlings. The bugs actually looked quite dapper, their nifty stripes making me think that perhaps they belonged to a barbershop quartet.

The insects swiftly lost their charm when an internet search proved them to be cucumber beetles who, despite their moniker, also like to dine on pumpkin and gourd plants. I didn’t have any problems with any of their dietary choices until they chose to chomp on my stuff.

As my erstwhile county agent guy Mel would say, “Better living through modern chemistry.” In the case of my cucurbits – a new vocabulary word is the only benefit I managed to glean from this whole hullabaloo – modern chemistry was the difference between life and death for my vulnerable veggies. I used chemical weapons to carpet bomb the snot out those cursed cucumber beetles.

It appeared that my sad little seedlings might not survive the beetle battle. In a panic, I drove to a nearby greenhouse and purchased fistfuls of random gourd and pumpkin seeds, telling the proprietors that my only requirement was that they be as weird as possible. The seeds, not the folks who operated the greenhouse.

A good part of the growing season was already gone, so I hastily sowed the new seeds using a system that might best be described as “willy-nilly.” Weeks later, the garden was still as bare as a stovetop, albeit one where someone had spilled an occasional random clump of unidentifiable green gunk. It wasn’t looking good for the home gardening team.

Then came timely summer rains and hot weather. Almost overnight the garden was transformed into an impenetrable jungle of tangled vines, with leaves the size of garbage can lids. Saffron blossoms poked their heads through the canopy, an indicator of a roaring plant sex life. Cucurbits have a reputation for being quite promiscuous.

Now that summer is nearly gone, I can’t wait until fall arrives so I get to see what’s beneath those leaves. I hope that it’s something weird. And wonderful.

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