Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night
Last Thursday, due to the school holiday, I was fortunate enough to host five sweet little girls in our field (three of them were second-generation Chubeza). We took a stroll in the cucurbitaceae beds, beginning with the smaller family members (the cucumbers) and concluding with the larger ones (the big pumpkin). We loved figuring out who was hiding under the leaves in this bed or that one. When we reached the melon and watermelon beds, the girls noticed metal arcs spread the length of the bed like thin gates, under which the plants grow. I suggested maybe the gates are used as goals for soccer games between the melon and watermelon teams, but they didn’t seem to buy that, and requested the truth and nothing but the truth. I thought perhaps you’d like to know the reason as well.
We grow our vegetables in an open field, where they are less-protected from the surroundings. This is, of course, a wonderful advantage, as their natural integration in the outdoors creates a balance where useful carnivores insects devour harmful insects (the vegetarian kind), thus allowing the plants to withstand the hardships. The air is laden with all sorts of fluttering creatures who buzz in and out of the flowers to pollinate them, and the combination of different crops contributes to the fertility of the earth, to disease prevention, and to damage and affliction control. Best of all, the field is beautiful in its varied hues, sizes, colors and shapes.
And yet, our plants are still domesticated and human-cultivated. And just like us, with all our love for nature and the outdoors, they need protection from the great outdoors where there are always others interested in sharing them, taking a bite, stinging, inflicting or just landing on them and depositing a vegetable virus as a souvenir.
During wintertime, the onion fly is active and not at all put off by the pungent aroma of the onion family. On the contrary, the onion and leek are excellent beds for the female fly to lay her eggs, and for some years now we have been bitterly disappointed by the bulbs over the winter. This year we received good advice, and covered the young bulbs with thin agril cloth. There were fewer fly bites, and the light material enabled the crops to grow, so when they reached the thickness of a pencil we removed the veil and rejoiced at the fact that we would finally be able to enjoy the onions this year (hopefully you did too!).
Summertime is a lively, vigorous season, and the pace is fast and rhythmic. The insects do not rest for a moment. They want to woo, suck, and procreate, and do not notice if they drop off some hitch-hiking viruses on our tomatoes. The blackbirds in our field are smart, and they can figure out where we planted our watermelons. They wait patiently as the melons fill up with sweet nectar and then they pounce. In the past, we could tell which watermelons were ripe and sweet by the telltale blackbird pecking.
Which is why our watermelons were covered, exposed, and now will be covered once more under camouflage. When they were young, we covered them (along with their fellow squash, melons, cucumbers and fakuses) to protect them from the various flutterers who spread viruses and diseases that could bring them down. The arcs scattered along the bed held the thin cover over the young plants. Now that they have matured, we removed the cover in order to allow the pollinators to reach the beautiful yellow flowers and fertilize them. Now, when the green watermelons are already rounding out and filling up in the fields, it is time to cover them once again, hiding them from the greedy eyes and beaks of the blackbirds (though Alon maintains that the blackbirds are clever enough to still know exactly where they are.)
In defense of those crows, I really must say that somehow, probably unintentionally, they help us to face other pestering, dangerous birds, the mynas. The common myna is an intruding bird who was first brought to Israel for research and display, but escaped from captivity and quickly spread out all across the central part of the country. They cause tremendous damage to orchards and vineyards. When Hilaf, the Karmei Yossef fruit farmer, sees the mynas in our field he is horrified. And yet, we haven’t been hurt by them (tfu tfu tfu), perhaps thanks to their competitors the crows, who keep them mellow by devouring their eggs and chasing them away from food sources.
Here are the two: to the left, Mr. Crow, to the right, Ms. Myna.
Together with you, we wish our lovely watermelons the wherewithal to reach full maturity and sweetness, and hope the blackbirds find a nice piece of cheese to stick their beaks into and forget about us….
May we have a good week, bereft of pecking and annoyances,
Alon, Bat Ami, Ya’ara and the Chubeza team
WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?
Monday: Lettuce, beets, parsley, tomatoes, scallions/chives, garlic, cabbage, cucumbers/fakus, Swiss chard/spinach, potatoes, zucchini, dill
In the large box, in addition: carrots, leeks, coriander
In the large box, in addition: