Boy, I almost goofed. No, really! Thank Heaven that I didn’t act rashly. I would have been really ashamed of myself. It all began a morning or two ago near my potted eggplants out on the back deck.
I may not have mentioned how most Saturdays, on my way to the Chatterbox, I pass this one house where the residents have this wonderful garden in their back yard. This year was no exception, and they look to be well on their way to an abundant crop. The garden itself must measure oh say, thirty feet by maybe forty feet or so. The cool thing is that they don’t need a rake, a hoe, or even a rototiller. The whole garden is above ground. That’s right, above ground. Every plant sits in a flower pot. These folks must have five hundred or more flower pots that make up the entire garden. I love it.
So, I figured that I’d start the same thing on our back deck. I’m new at this kind of thing so, I don’t have that many clay pots. Well, I got nine pots. It’s a start. The nice thing is that if a plant looks like it needs more sun, I move the pot to the sunny side of the deck. A two gallon watering can is really all I need to tend to my crops. With that much water I can soak the potted plants just fine and have water left over for the giant pumpkin out in the front yard. It’s like I’m a gentleman farmer. The plants weren’t much money either. I used a rotten potato to seed the potato pots. That’s all become a regular rain forest of spuds. The tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings were bought for a grand total of two bucks for everything. The Acme had a remnant sale. The plants were looking a little yellow so, I put them in Miracle Grow and now, look out mama.
I did have a bit of a problem tying up the potato vines after they started to spread. You know, I’m not sure if that’s what you call a potato plant branch. All I know is that the plants were growing way too wild. They were beginning to look like hippies. The branches were crawling all over the deck. I got some string and tied the branches in a way that sort of makes them look like Bart Simpsons hair. Now, instead of it being yellow it’s green. That made the leaves wilt for a day or two but, now all is forgiven. The potatoes are doing better than ever. All this from a rotten potato I found in the potato bin back in spring.
Today, when the sun came up I went out to the deck with my big green water bucket to survey my vast land holdings. The sun was quite low on the horizon and very bright. I looked for Matilda the spider that’s been guarding the crops. Usually, in the low angle morning light I can see her web clear as day. She makes a circular web that’s about ten to twelve inches across. It sags in the middle kind of like a radar antenna. Matilda likes to hang upside down right in the webs center. That brings it down about an inch. She’s a big girl. Parking herself there gives her a good shot at the suns warmth in the morning. With a little heat, she’s on to her chores. Her web sits about five inches above the very tops of the eggplants. I’m always careful to not soak her when I put water into the first eggplant pot. She just watches me go about my work. I doubt she’s very harmful. Of course, I’m not a fly and, she’s not crawling up my pant leg.
Most days her web is in a different location when the sun comes up. I guess things happen and, new webs are constructed overnight. This morning though, I was having trouble spotting the new location. So, I moved the water bucket slower than normal and kept my eyes open. Nothing in the potatoes. She must be around somewhere. The tomatoes are clear. Eggplants are……wait a minute, wait a minute! There was some kind of growth on my eggplant leaves. At first glance, it looked like the leaves had hives or, little tiny warts. My eggplants had measles!! Now, I was ticked. They were doing so well too. Darn. Eggplant Measles. Oh man! What a drag. Then I saw one of the measles move just a tiny bit. Crud, those spots aren’t eggplant measles. I got aphids. Eggplant Aphids at that. They’re the worst. My plants are doomed. Soon, the leaves will look like Alpine Lace Swiss Cheese. I could feel that Eggplant Parmesan Sandy was going to make me, once the crops were in, slide right through my fingers and on to my lap.
I went and got a magnifying glass and took a look at my new enemy. I don’t have a clue what aphids look like but these little stinkers sure looked like they were aphids all right. I went and got a fine haired whisk broom and tried to brush them off the leaves. Not many fell off the leaf. In fact none of them fell off the leaf. Just a few used my brush strokes to sail through the air onto my tomato plants. That made me even madder because that meant I had tomato aphids now too. Just one word came to mind….Epidemic. Tomato sandwiches stuffed with red ripe tomatoes and mayonnaise just dissolved right in front of my eyes.
I finally, saw Matilda. She was down in the middle of a curled up eggplant leaf. I don’t know, she just looked at me. She had nothing to say. There were a few aphid pieces around her but, not that many. She’d never get to eat all those critters. Heck, they might eat her first. There was enough of them that’s for sure. For crying out loud.
I realized that I was late for work. So, I left the deck and got into the van. At least maybe I could find some Aphid spray at the Acme. During my whole shift at the dairy aisle, I could just imagine what was happening to my poor eggplants. I pictured armies of Aphids invading my deck then kidnapping my poor eggplants and taking them down to the river for some kind of cruel sadistic ceremony. Then, with one blood curdling squeak, they’d pounce on my eggplants and well, soon the screams of agony would just be a gurgle, then, silence. There’d just be a crowd of overstuffed aphids lounging on the shore line picking their snarly teeth.
On my way home, I decided to take a bath the minute I got in. I do my best thinking in the tub and, I needed a brainstorm. In the tub, I realized that I should get to know my enemy. I needed to know how aphids operate. You know, what makes them tick. So, I hopped out of my tub and ran to the computer. I lit up the screen and searched for images of tiny bugs. You’d be surprised how many tiny bugs there are. I’m not very good with computers but, I searched as best as I could.
Mug files appeared. I scrolled through a mess of data. Suddenly, I saw the stinkers that were on my eggplants. Bulbous butts, little short legs. Two legs in front. Kind of whitish beige. That’s them. That’s them. So what are they, and how do I kill them? I hit identify and my jaw dropped. Then, I smiled.
It turns out that the curled up eggplant leaves weren’t a killing field at all. No, quite the contrary, they were instead, a nursery. It seems that last night Matilda, had babies, about a thousand of them. Gosh, and I thought they were aphids. Her kids actually are kind of cute under the magnifying glass. I don’t know how I’ll come up with a name for every one of them but, I guess I can try. I looked on the web for good spider names.
Then, I read something that suggests that I may only have to come up with just maybe one name or perhaps two. Remember all those crusty bug pieces under Matilda? I think I mentioned them. Well, it turns out that spiders like to eat most of their kids. Evidently, when you pop out of your egg shell as a spider, it’s a great idea to beat feet. All that crusty stuff under Matilda was all that was left of about two hundred of her kids.
Bigger spiders like Tarantulas will care for their young till they get to be the spider equivalent of teenagers. Then, even for Tarantulas, all bets are off. Now that I think about it, when I was a kid, especially a teenager, my parents had moments when my head on a platter probably crossed their minds and seemed like a good idea.
Anyway the eggplants are looking pretty good I guess. So, out on my back deck, it’s dog eat dog. Speaking of dogs, out in the front yard, Millie the Hound has taken a liking for all our blackberries. Now I’ve got to go have a talk with her.