While I worked in the garden yesterday, thumb and forefinger stained yellow by squished potato bugs and their larvae, I thought about flying elephants. Well, not just flying elephants-I thought about hornworms
too. (I had some tomato starts to set out after the potato patrol-the hornworms will be here next month.) ... and flea beetles-so prolific in our garden spot that eggplant cannot be successfully begun.
Then I weeded the corn, noticed that the crows had only picked off a scattering of sprouts (less than will necessarily be thinned in due course), and followed the hoof prints of a deer between the rows.
Something ate most of our first two plantings of tomatoes this year. A rabbit, maybe, or a deer-a new experience after more than two decades of organic gardening. Cutworms have sometimes snipped off our tomatoes, but the felled trunks are always left behind, whereas these were clean gone. It must not have been a woodchuck (thank heaven!), else the broccoli, cabbage, beans, lettuce, and sunflowers would have vanished as well.
But what led me to thinking about flying elephants was the yellow stain on my fingers, and my slowly changing relationship to the fauna that share our garden. I have long maintained a non-aggression pact with Ma Nature, but the policy details are in constant negotiation. As a general rule I do not use poison, and the rare qualifier to this rule is: at least never on food crops.
There was a time, not many years back, when my approach to insect pests was to pick-em and fling-em. This is pretty effective on slow pokes like the hornworms, which will probably not crawl back through a hundred feet of dense weeds to relocate the tomatoes. It is clearly useless with the winged fleet of potato, bean, asparagus, cucumber-you name it-beetles, or with grasshoppers. And then there are thrips, which you can barely see, much less pick and toss.
Of course, there is a good measure of pretense in such efforts at ahimsa-the Buddhist ideal of harmlessness. Flung hornworms very likely starve to death for lack of a suitable host plant. (Their mothers stuck their eggs to my tomato plants for a good reason.) The very act of planting a garden which has first been cleared of native species preferentially nurtures and dooms whole hosts of creatures.
Fifteen years ago I worked at embracing veganism-that is, strict vegetarianism. I tried to rid my life of animal products, to root out the chains of cause and effect that implicated me in animal death. The effort may be exhilarative, but it is inescapably futile. (Try driving without killing bugs, for starters. Or making paper; ginning cotton; even eating an unsprayed, wormy apple without killing the worms inside...) The only honest vegan is a dead vegan.
In no way does this admission of futility eliminate the major quantitative differences between eating beef and eating beans-heavy reliance on bovine protein has created an ecologic holocaust-but the qualitative difference is pretty thin. Simply choosing to grow soy beans instead of pasture grass is to make life and death decisions of which we are mostly unaware. The real issues are not at the macro level of animal mortality, rather they tend to be micro and diverse: inefficient conversion factors of energy into meat, soil erosion and soil chemistry, biotic diversity, watershed despoliation and global warming (the cow-fart factor in methane production).
So I have climbed down from my vegan pulpit and tried to look pretense squarely in the eye. I squish bugs I don't want on my potatoes, but carefully avoid squishing the ones I do. (There were numerous ladybug larvae prowling the potato stems as well. And ladybugs are my buddies-because they eat aphids -the enemy of my enemy is my friend, etc.) I still fling hornworms, but only because it is more pleasant than mooshing a thumb-sized green sausage. I have even taken to spraying rose and gladiolus buds with pesticide to control thrips-weary of producing misshapen brown balls of rot instead of blooms on tall stems.
All the while I am thinking about flying elephants. Ahimsa is harder in Africa, I suspect, where an elephant herd works far larger magic than disappearing a few tomato sprouts.
Elephants, unlike hornworms, are pretty darn hard to fling.
Nice shooting, Tex
Gun-toting pinheads of the NRA often link these two amendments so they can smugly argue the limp-wristed media are inconsistent in their support of civil liberties.
But linking the first and second amendments makes as much sense as putting the first amendment together with the third or the tenth. Each amendment is a distinct, salient issue. Waffling on whether soldiers should be quartered in private homes hardly influences a stand on free speech.
It seemed acutely moronic to ask Larry Flynt this dumbass question given that an assassin's bullet put him in a wheelchair.
Flynt said while he supports the right of a citizen to carry a gun, he endorsed restricting assault weapons and other excessive-force firearms.
In our humble opinion, Flynt should have had his interrogator sit in his lap and then think about asking the question again.
Speaking of Nudie Mags...
In preparation for the release of the Perfect Storm (June 30), Kentucky native (and ACE pinup) George Clooney is adorning the covers of several periodicals this month. Vogue warranted the largest number of phone calls and emails to the ACE office, but it was an alert staffer who - in the name of investigative journalism- unearthed an extensive Clooney interview in the July issue of Playboy. Of course, he was only reading it for the articles (story begins on p. 67 for those of you who don't want to wade through all those tiresome photo ... spreads). In the interview, Clooney reveals his voting choice for 2000 is Al Gore, observing, "it's a tough thing when the best speaker in a race is fucking Pat Buchanan..." Hmm. One question: does he mean "fucking" as a verb or as an adjective? If it's the former, uhhhh... which candidate is fucking Pat Buchanan? We'll vote against them too.
And speaking of Kentucky natives...
Smoke 'em if you got 'em
Asked if he was smoking a Cuban cigar, Friedman said, "Yes, but I'm not supporting their economy; I'm burning their fields."
Take that, Castro.
Strike, not strife
The union will give 48 hours notice before striking and will call its membership to return to work if a tornado or some other natural disaster strikes, Garkovich said.
A decision to strike is pending the tabulation of the membership's vote. Exit polling from that last group of members to be counted suggests strong support for a strike, Garkovich said.