Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Footprints in the Dirt

So, my title this week is a little misleading, but I wanted to do a play on the phrase "footprints in the sand". Whatever the original context of this phrase, I have come to associate it with a metaphor used in Christianity, in which Jesus is walking alongside all of us. This idea, however, is not specific to Christianity, nor is the concept exclusively religious. To me, it represents the idea that no matter how alone we might feel at times, there are other people with us in spirit at all times. Due to my second job, I'm not able to be in the garden as much as I would like to be, and often when I am there I am all by myself, save for a few squirrels who run and hide when I show up. This last Monday, however, I  saw traces of human (and animal) activity that inspired this title: Footprints in the Dirt.

The first footprint I encountered
Upon doing a quick scan of the garden and setting out a list of tasks that I wanted to accomplish during the day, I noticed that someone had chopped the five heads of lettuce that I had salvaged when taking out the rest of the greens. Having already bolted and sent out flowers, most of the greens were hardly usable, so I planted potatoes in their stead, but something told me that I should leave those heads of lettuce that were still good. I'm glad I did, as it appears that someone came through the garden and took the leaves for their dinner. Knowing that someone had a good meal because of that decision makes it all worth it!

The second footprint
After noticing that the lettuce had been taken by someone in the St. Martin's community, I continued to scan the garden, until I came to rest my eyes upon the beets. I had already been worried about how the beets were doing, some had already gone to seed, and none had really sized up the way I was hoping for them too. Altogether, I thought that this beet crop was going to suffer from hot days, not enough direct sunlight, and the kale infringing on their space. While I still have those fears to some extent, I noticed this Monday that someone had also taken a few beet leaves home with them as well, another success in my book! The other possibility I had considered was that there had been some curious deer nibbling, but the the lettuce and the beets were too uniformly and cleanly cut to have been the work of a munching deer.

A set of footprints, and some wings, resting on a leaf. A ladybug! (Apologies for the poor photo quality)

Though it may be hard to see in the photo (the lens on my phone camera was quite dusty, unbeknownst to me at the time), there is a lady bug resting on the leaf closest to the lens. To its right is the start of a bean blossom, happily climbing up the trellis system and getting ready to send out beans. Ladybugs are always a welcome sight in a garden, especially in gardens that don't use pesticides. Though deemed predators, we tend to look at ladybugs as cute little bugs that bring good luck with them. For gardeners, this might not be far from reality since they eat aphids, mites, and a variety of other insects that can damage plants.

The fourth footprint, a little less expected than the first three

The fourth footprint I found in the strawberry patch, and it didn't make me quite as happy as the other footprints. When I first took a glance at the bed, I was so focused on examining the leaves that had been bitten off of plants (likely by deer) that I didn't notice this gift of fecal matter that something left me until my hand was almost on top of it. Jumping back a bit, and trying to hold my breath at the same time, I tried to figure out what sort of living creature had produced something of that size. I was strongly hoping that it wasn't human, but it also isn't deer, and I tend to doubt that a raccoon can produce a log of that size. It was almost six inches long, and too thick to seem human. If there are any experts in fecal material identification, I would be happy to have a second or third opinion on what could have produced this.

Other footprints in the dirt
Though it is likely obvious, my own footprints are all over the Learning Garden by this point. Though I am not there frequently, I try to keep it looking good and put in a lot of work when I do get out there to maximize the efficiency of those trips and give the garden the love that it deserves. It has certainly paid off! This week there were a few patty pan zucchinis and round zucchinis that were ready to be harvested, as well as a big pile of kale, a couple cucumbers, some red scallions, one medium sized beet and a few blueberries with much more food to be ready for harvest by next week. Please stop by and take whatever you want to use! 

If that load of veggies coming home with me wasn't enough gratification for the week, my supervisor informed me that pictures of the garden had popped up in her facebook newsfeed, with praise for the garden to go with them. After all of these reminders, I could see clear as cucumbers that I was not alone in the garden, though I might have been the only one there at that particular moment. My footprints in the dirt were not the only ones.

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