Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Birds and the Bees

Our farm is alive! Not simply with plants (and weeds), but positively overflowing with animals and insects as well. Admittedly, some of the denizens of our farm are less than welcome--the baby fawn that was lounging in our melon bed the other morning, the Japanese beetles that fall like grapes from the leaves of our fig trees, the squash bugs, or the Colorado potato beetles. Two days ago, as Turtle worked to make our perimeter fence deerproof, she encountered the greater part of nature's fury in the form of 2 bee stings, 5 ticks, and a near miss with a scorpion. But even the presence of pests reminds us of the health of our system. Our beneficial species need something to eat, after all, so it balances out in the end. You could say that we tip the balance in our favor, I suppose, when we go on bug squooshing rampages that leave our hands faintly yellow and smelling of paint, but we're running a farm here, not an all-you-can-eat bug buffet.

Yesterday Paige and Turtle discovered an insect in the cherry tomatoes that neither of them had seen before. It looked, they related as we scoured the green beans for Mexican bean beetles, like solid gold nugget and was so stunning that neither of them had any desire to kill it. While I've not had the privilege of encountering such an exotic creature, I'm every day delighted by the grasshoppers fleeing crazily as I mow a field, by the turtles and frogs and slick little lizards that hide in the shade, the hum of our honeybees, or the crane that was poking around our back fields today.

We could have weed-free, Round-Up Ready beds and a bug-less farm if we grew on a conventional monoculture farm. But by removing the countless other pieces of a natural pest control system (the worms, the ladybugs, the bats that eat their weight in bugs each night) we would, in my opinion, over-burden ourselves and drastically reduce the beauty of our farm. What hubris, to think that I could manage everything on my own with only the assistance of some chemicals and genetically modified seed! I am no farming goddess, presciently aware of the precise needs of every plant--we use the lifecycles of the farm's other inhabitants to guide us in our daily decisions and help us grow a stronger farm.

Our farm is by no means Paradise (weeding 5 beds of tomatoes proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt), but there are moments and even days when the overabundance of sheer life brings to mind the Eden of Milton's Paradise Lost.
About them frisking playd
All Beasts of th' Earth, since wilde, and of all chase
In Wood or Wilderness, Forrest or Den;
Sporting the Lion rampd, and in his paw
Dandl'd the Kid; Bears, Tygers, Ounces, Pards
Gambold before them, th' unwieldy Elephant
To make them mirth us'd all his might, & wreathd
His Lithe Proboscis; close the Serpent sly
Insinuating, wove with Gordian twine
His breaded train, and of his fatal guile
Gave proof unheeded; others on the grass
Coucht, and now fild with pasture gazing sat,
Or Bedward ruminating: for the Sun
Declin'd was hasting now with prone carreer
To th' Ocean Iles, and in th' ascending Scale
Of Heav'n the Starrs that usher Evening rose:

To which in Serenbe I would add, "Greeted by the flickering light of one thousand fireflies"

No comments: