by Guest Blogger, Laura Evans
Not too much harvest to worry about this year—alas. Something—maybe moles? Or voles?—found even onions tasty, munching on them from underneath. The onion would look nice and plump with its papery gold-brown top showing above ground, waiting for its stalks to flop over, indicating readiness for pulling. Then when you'd pull it, it would seem to fly out of the ground with no effort on your part, and you realized it was a trick: no roots and no onion left at all. As for other things, some never germinated or were devoured in infancy. Some seedlings were eaten early by rabbits, which we'd never had before in our 35 years of hillside gardening.
Birds, as always, loved the red “razzles,” but many got moldy before quite ripening. Chipmunks enjoyed the cherry tomatoes. I watched a squirrel delighting in our plump blackberries. The deer greatly appreciated our kale and the tops of tomato plants. Blight and tomato hornworms also joined in the tomato decimation. Weeks of rain were part of the picture too. So, we got little or no cukes, cabbage, broccoli, or squash (summer or winter).
Then there are (were) the apples. Doug comes in the door with deep red ones from the biggest tree—all five held easily in his cupped hands. I look up from chopping store-bought veggies as he announces, “Well, here's the Jonathan crop for this year.” He sets the gnarled knobby little things on the counter. Horrified at first, I grew fond of them over a few days, finding them humorous and cute—like the shrunken little old heads of apple dolls—no drying needed.
Last year, the apples did okay, and a year or two before that, even though we don't spray them, the branches were groaning under the weight of big flawless fruit. Pears too, that year; same thing. And peaches.
This year, the small seckel pears were plentiful and coming along until, after a few days away, we came back to find them just not there. Along with the hordes of squirrels, we think a gray fox participated in the feast. We saw it soon after, apparently looking through the grass below the tree for any it might have missed. (Unlike their red fox cousins, they can climb trees.)
I love seckel pears best of all, but the glimpses of that gray fox almost made up for the losses.
Laura Evans is memoir writer and an early childhood educator who lives with her gardening husband in Vermont.