Vegetable farmers that grow a wide variety of produce with intensive methods are constantly adding important information to a broad base. There seems to be something new to learn or gain greater understanding of with every passing week. So much of the learning comes from the practice of vegetable growing but customers and kids teach me more. My family helped in the field the other day harvesting tomatoes. “I hate picking tomatoes”, my youngest exclaimed. My response was a typical, “The sooner we get done the sooner we can get home and you can go swimming.” Picking tomatoes is a bit of a chore. They require care; stems have to be removed, packed in container stem side down, not smashed together, blah, blah blah…They leave an interesting green stain and there is the occasional bad tomato. Overwhelming for those with limited experience and I realized, NOT FUN! Details I take for granted. Teaching others how they can be of help and enjoy their time in the field is part of my work. I had a chance to gently overcome her “hate” of her contribution of picking tomatoes. A lost opportunity…she left the tomato row for the green beans and satisfied a gnawing hunger for something fresh and green. I let her go…and await another opportunity.
Learning the details of growing great food is something I constantly do but I also enjoy learning about the intersection of the natural world that occurs on the farm. Last post I went on about the Praying Mantis. Well this week I spent time looking into Squash Bees. I co-habit the field with Bumblebees and not looking to close, always thought the bees in the squash blossoms were the same guys. Kind of look the same…then I was petting a bumble on the sunflower and realized the differences!!! Whoa, big differences. Both these bees are super helpful on the farm. Bumbles are amazing as they work through the bean row and do their valued jobs. I can be picking and they never bother me. Maybe I almost grab one as the beans are harvested but these busy bees keep on. They are a bit of a clumsy flier often crashing into leaves and stems but carry on. They can be petted when working and I’ve never been stung. Squash bees seem to have a similar temperament. They might get a bit testy when the blossom they are comatose in gets bumped in the way to harvesting a zucchini but they just fly off somewhere and leave all as it was. Sometimes the bees are so busy they can create a huge racket in the squash row. No matter, they don’t bother when I visit. Well, I finally noticed the difference!!!
A large bird winged through the field next to the ditch. I mean large. Much bigger than a crow…big as a Red-tailed Hawk, but different. Swooping low to the ground, and along the fencerow. Yep, a Harrier. And so I’ve seen the Harrier the last several times to the field. It’s a male, with an almost pure white underside. The other day it sat atop a post. Its dark colored back was to me as I gazed past the barn and compost piles. It swiveled its head to keep me in sight as I approached from behind. I stopped 50’ away and watched a bit. Must have made it a bit nervous to be watched. Off it flew in an initial swoop to the ground, then a couple of powerful wing beats away and a gentle arc up to a limb on a dead ash next to the ditch 150’away. Took a moment to fold and settle his wings, kind of like a person easing into a comfortable chair, then roosted and kept an eye on me. I went back to my work. Soon it started a series of calls and I heard them answered from high in the sky. Squinty eyed I watched till the answering bird came into focus. The mate…!!