After the boys go to sleep, I slip out the back door, grab my watering can and head for my garden. There is still plenty of light to visit my green world and oversee its green inhabitants. My green place is just a few feet wide by about six feet long, held together by boards and nails, and filled with bags of rich earth from Lowes.
I do not think I spend much time out there, but it is hard to keep track of the minutes with the bees buzzing in and out of their hive and the birds calling overhead.
When I come in at night, Daddy Longlegs asks, “Are you done, yet?”
I explain that this patch of ground is surprisingly needy, always wanting more water.
Water, water, water.
Every day, I water the broad leaves and stalks of corn, the leafy tendrils of peas and the newly sprouted squash leaves. I squat down to inspect for ants and worms. I lift the protective net to pluck the intruders off by hand and spray a non-toxic chemical to discourage their return. Weed sprouts are pinched and pulled from the earth, I shake off the clinging dirt back into the box.
I feel proud when I look at my crop of vegetable plants, so strong and healthy, patiently waiting for the long, cool drink that sustains them through the day.
Last year, cutworms felled my tomatoes and bell pepper plants like trees, snipped at the base and left them behind to rot in a wasteful display of their power. This year, I know to look for the creeping and crawling of my tiny enemy. I spray after rains and dust with another kind of chemical in between treatments. I have learned from my past mistakes and remain extra vigilant in protecting what is mine.
One day last week, I followed the usual routine.
I slipped out the back door, grabbed the watering can and visited my green place.
On this day, things are different. I arrive to find devastation.
Only the stems and baby squash leaves remain. The tender leaves of the corn are gone. The delicate tendrils and leaves of the pea plants are gone. The net is left mashed in and torn open, inviting any other predator to come and dig up the remaining fruit of my labor.
I was so focused on defeating the cutters that I missed the bigger threat, the herd of deer that live in the woods on the edge of our property.
The hungry, hungry deer.
I want to scream and cry and kick the ground that gives and takes. Instead of throwing a full-on adult tantrum, I take a deep breath and re-evaluate the situation.
I will replant. I will not be defeated by things that crawl or walk on hooved feet. I will put up a fence and sprinkle cayenne and coffee grounds and anything else that might deter the predators of my leafy greens.
I will not let them win. I declare a war of the vegetables.