Thursday, November 17, 2011

I've Been Through Worse

                A couple of years ago, at the end of the 2009 Downtown Westminster Farmer’s Market, I remember hearing two of our farmers tell each other that if you could survive that growing season, you could survive any growing season. You see, 2009 was a year without a summer, which occasionally happens. While it is odd, it does happen. Nonetheless, when I heard that brief discussion, I was struck by it. That year was not especially horrible, at least in my experience. But then I realized how new to market farming the two talking actually were. And while I did not interject into their banter, I do remember hoping that they did not just jinx 2010. Because it could be worse… Oh, it could be MUCH worse!
                For many years now, I have learned to take a particular growing season into perspective by comparing it to previous years. After about twelve years of experience now, I have, well, over 1/10th of a century’s worth of knowledge on seasonal weather patterns at Nev-R-Dun Farm. That really is not a very long a span of time at all, but nonetheless, that is the length of experience I have at my disposal. So, if I were to analyze the 2009 growing season as I did back in 2009, my reaction would be… I’ve been through worse. Indeed, over the years of my experience I can remember another “summer-less” year… where it rained and rained and rained… I cannot remember if it ever stopped raining, but that year was definitely worse. In fact the spring and fall crops in 2009 grew outstandingly well! There were some very good things about 2009. Yes, definitely, I’ve been through worse.
                And so, during the last half of my tenure as an organic farmer whatever strange weather situation that has arisen on the farm has been analyzed with such a result… I’ve been through worse. In fact, as the years have passed, that thought has been what has propelled me forward through all of the unfortunate ordeals the weather can cause on the farm… I’ve been through worse. It is rather akin to Nietzsche’s statement, “What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.” In fact, in “Twilight of the Idols”, that line is preceded by, “Out of life’s school of war”. Where is the best school of war? Why on an organic farm of course! Bellum omnium contra omnes! (Have I written that entry yet? I’ll have to do that soon, but as for now I have digressed greatly!)Anyway, as my efforts continue to trudge forward through each growing season, I always end up analyzing any unfortunate occurrence with… I’ve been through worse.
                And then came 2011. The especially cold spring followed by a month of no rain was a bad start to the year, no doubt, but… I’ve been through worse. The 115 degree Fahrenheit heat index day was a first for me for sure, but, considering it was but one day… I’ve been through worse. Hurricane Irene only dropped 3 ½ inches of rain on the farm and blew over all the tomato trellises… Actually, I had to think about that one. I have experienced more rain, but not the tomato trellises being blown over… But no time to dwell on that now, here comes Tropical Storm Lee. 11 ½ inches of rain fell in three days. And it was right there when I definitely realized… I have NOT been through worse! Add in the 6 inches of snow in October…  I have DEFINITELY NOT been through worse!!!
                Yes, indeed, 2011 was BY FAR the worst growing season I have ever farmed through. But I did not stop there in my analysis. First off, the 6 inches of snow fall in October… out of the four other times in recorded history that snow fell in October, the most was 2.5 inches in 1925. Throw in a hurricane which happens on average about once every ten years, a deluge of 11 ½ inches, which was last beat by 14 inches in 1972, 39 years ago, a 115 degree heat index day, which I am not sure has ever happened, and that cold spring followed by a short drought… 2011 was very probably the worst growing season EVER!!! And if you follow that reasoning, now that the 2011 growing season is all but over, and the plans for 2012 are being organized, for the 2012 growing season there is now a 99.?% chance that with whatever comes our way during the course of that entire year… I’ve been through worse.
                All throughout this past 2011 growing season, my neighbor Kirk of R&R Farm has witnessed all of the abnormal weather extremes fall upon my farm, as well as his. The difference is that most of his animals survived all those extremes while most of my plants did not. Anyway, throughout the year, we discussed solutions, or ways to remedy some of the situations. Take for an example the tomato trellises. The tomato trellis system I have used for the past ten years is top heavy, and that is what brought them down from the strong winds of Hurricane Irene. We have now designed a new system that is much stronger and evens the weight throughout the system. This is too difficult to describe, but nonetheless, we are fairly certain that will, for the most part, remedy the situation.
                About a third of the way through the growing season, Kirk and his wife, Jen, decided to partner their farming operation with mine starting in 2012. This is a complicated situation and there are many, many reasons involved. An example here, as I revealed in an earlier “Tales of Idyllia” entry this year, R&R Farm’s pigs LOVE the weeds from my vegetable fields. They also love marred vegetables! What to my farm would be at best eventual compost turns into immediate pig feed. And the pigs have a way of turning that feed into compost… eventually!
                That is but one example, one small example of how partnering our operations should aid us greatly in the future. Another is that we have rented another property that is almost ideal for our immediate future plans, that is, elevated, slightly sloped tillable land with a well right next to it. It also has pasture land and more. So, we are expanding despite all of the 2011 hardships. We have been extremely excited about our possibilities ever since.  At the time the decision to lease the land was made, we did not realize it, but once 2012 arrives… we’ve been through worse.
                And then, on October 29 six inches of snow fell. Ugh.
                I received a cell phone call from Kirk. “Tom, we’ve got to be the dumbest” [people]” on the planet to go through all this crazy weather and still look forward to 2012 enthusiastically!” First off, Kirk did not say “people”. He used two other words that added special emphasis that I will not repeat here.
               Euphemistically moving on, what Kirk expressed was of particular poignance. As six inches of heavy snow lie on our farms and still having three more weeks left in the growing season, theoretically, we still looked upon that future year of 2012 with great enthusiasm. And still do! For sure Mother Nature and Mr. Murphy teamed up this year, indeed, they were the same power… and to the extreme! What can go wrong definitely did. And what cannot go wrong did as well! What, for example, cannot go wrong? It cannot snow six inches in October! And it did!!!
                But that was in 2011. We are long past that! 2012 wears the crown of importance now. And as for that upcoming year, no matter what hardships are thrown our way, by Mother Nature or Mr. Murphy, we are well aware that there is a 99.?% chance that… we’ve been through worse!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Theatrical Performance

                For many years now, I have stated that a farming season is very similar to a theatrical performance. First there is the script, or the farm plan; then the stage preparation, or tilling, planting, cultivating, etc.; then, the play begins! Now, to pause here, not all farms operate the same and they by no means use the same script. My script is very complex. As an example, let’s say… the play is based on The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. What an extremely complex novel that is! So, perhaps my farm plan is not that complex…yet. Anyway, in order to act out such a complex script, many acts are needed. My farm plan requires six acts, one each for the months of June, July, August, September, October, and November. Many scene changes occur throughout the play’s activity, and many diverse characters come and go along the way. Then, once December hits, the play is over. Very few cheers are heard from the audience at that point, but there are a few. Then, it’s off to plan the next script.
                After thinking about this a bit, I kind of like that comparison. In fact the more I think about it, the more it seems to truly reflect a farming season, that is, a theatrical performance, inside a theater, with the actors, those behind the scenes, as well as the audience and random stragglers popping in from seemingly out of nowhere. So, in order to analyze this comparison a little better, let’s see how 2011’s script worked out!
                From the very beginning things did not start off well. The doors leading into the theater are set up to a timed unlock mechanism. In late February/early March, the doors are automatically unlocked and all the workers for the theater come and get busy working on backdrops, scenery, etc.  For the farm, the first step is to till the fields. Unfortunately, MN came by and re-locked all the doors and did not allow them to be unlocked until April! From the very start of the season, we were behind in our preparations by approximately one month!
                Before I continue, it seems apparent that a little should be said about MN. You will have to determine who that is, but suffice it to say, that she gets her way whenever and wherever she wants in the theater/farm. Oh, and she can get quite unruly!
                But back to the growing season! So, we got a very late start setting up for this year’s performance, but that was okay. Through our many years of experience, we were able to work “around the clock” as the cliché goes and catch up. However, MN, for some reason turned on the air conditioning in April, and left it on all month long! This mostly affected the rehearsals, where all the actors and actresses had to wear heavy coats due to the cold air. Then, on April 16, a tornado descended a couple of blocks away from the theater. While this did not affect the theater, still, a tornado! Man, but MN was in some type of mood! Nonetheless, as professionals, we fought through the diversions, rehearsed, built the back drops, etc., it was time for the performance!
                By June, the air conditioner had been turned off, right when it would be most enjoyable! But the theater is what it is, and that means “hot”, at least during the first few acts of the play. Now the first act went fairly well, but MN turned off the water right at the start of the performance. She tends to do that at least once every year, but it is still a hassle, nonetheless, for if you think of the reasons a theater requires running water, well, I will stop there.
                So June, the first act went very well, and the audience seemed quite pleased. By July, the second act, it was hot, but that happens every year. MN turned the water back on early in the second act which was quite a surprise. Why? Who knows? MN is, in general, extremely moody. And as a perfect example of extreme mood swings, on July 22, she turned on the heat… as high as it could go! She also closed the doors and windows so that the theater turned instantly into a sauna! The effect of that high heat dazed the actors and stunned the crowd. The performance literally stopped! And also as a result of that extreme heat, some of the actors never recovered and eventually had to be removed from the stage. Oh what a tragedy that was, no pun intended! Something had to be done to the script now that those performers had been removed, but what? The answer to that question was a call to the backup performers, and this was done in August. But before I move completely into the third act, it seems necessary to stress, that none of the performers that endured that extreme heat performed as they should from that point on.
                The third act, August, started out dreadfully. As mentioned above, ALL of the actors were greatly affected by that extreme heat, some forgot lines, some just stood in the same place without moving, and some actually died, yes, DIED! Holes developed in the script where the departed could not be replaced, but we trudged along. The first three weeks of August were typical for a normal year, but alas, the initial cast of actors was still dazed and some departed, while the replacements were too new to their roles to make an impact at that point. But we trudged along…
                On August 23, MN pulled a prank on us that NONE of us expected, and I mean NONE! I am convinced that she had been drinking at that point, and by that time of the performance she was getting downright nasty, because… an EARTHQUAKE shook the theater. This theater is on the east coast where there are no earthquakes. What the…? Nonetheless, the only damage from the storm was a beam fell in the attic of the theater, an unimportant beam, so, all in all that was taken merely as a prank.
                What we were not aware of at the time was that that was just a precursor for what MN was to do in the very near future. By this time, I am convinced beyond any doubt that MN was downright drunk… and we were not even midway through the performance! First up… Hurricane Irene. Tremendous winds and a heavy downpour knocked out the power in the theater for six days! What a fiasco! At one point, MN opened the doors and a fierce gust of wind tore into the theater twisting some of the props and knocking others completely down. How could we go on after that? But we did! There is no other choice!
                Act 4. The power was restored on September 2, and on September 5, the first drops of Tropical Storm Lee were felt. MN had turned on the overhead sprinkler system! We finally got power, and now this! The unfortunate part of the situation is that she refused to turn the sprinkler system off… for five days! What an awful mess! Almost everything was ruined, and beyond merely drenched actors and sopping wet scenery, but the very theater itself suffered significant damage from that unfortunate situation. It took weeks to get some of the stuff to dry. The actors were incensed. Some refused to perform after that for weeks, and others actually quit entirely, and that is not to mention those that drowned! Ugh! And it was only the beginning of Act 4!
                But then… MN disappeared. Perhaps she passed out from drunkenness. Who knows? The remainder of September went smoothly, albeit without the intended prop and sceneries and a significantly distorted acting core. And, as mentioned above, we trudged along…
                MN did not remain passed out for long. As soon as the fifth act, October, began she cranked up the air conditioning. Once again, the actors were stunned by that extreme temperature… this time cold. Luckily that only lasted a couple of days, but still, it had quite an effect on the actors. As October went along, it seemed to get back to “normal”… but where was MN? We had not seen or heard of her for virtually the entire month!  In the meantime, some of the surviving replacement actors had begun to deliver their performances and things were looking somewhat optimistic for a powerful end of the entire performance.
                But then… MN reappeared. How she managed what happened next is truly beyond me. On what little remained standing in the theater, on October 29, she dumped six inches of snow! October!!! Six inches!!! This was historically unprecedented!!! For two days we dug through that awful mess, only to find all of the props and scenery destroyed, and all of the actors dead or dying except for only a few. Oh how horribly MN had treated us up to that point. That said, WHAT NEXT?!!!
                As for the sixth act, November, MN finally settled down, perhaps she finally passed out from her drunken spree, but it was too late to really salvage anything through all the destruction. But the audience had paid for their admission, so we trudged along. Nothing out of the ordinary happened for the rest of the performance. And as the silence settles on another theatrical performance, it is time to start writing the next script…

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Day in Idyllia

                On October 9, few clouds spotted the clear blue autumn sky, as the sun warmly toasted the farm to a high of 79.5 degrees Fahrenheit. After a month and four days of horrific weather, fall had descended upon the farm in a delightful fashion. Birds flittered from the tree branches, scurrying around with spring like glee. And the intoxicating aroma of German White garlic consumed that autumn day of continued farm activity.
                I was sitting on top of the two steps that lead to the back porch of the farm house. The activity for the day was to plant the German White garlic cloves for next July’s harvest. The first task was to break apart the large bulbs of garlic into the individual cloves. Ah, what a refreshing task! There is something about the scent of garlic that greatly enhances one’s mood, and as each one of those multiple bulbs that I had saved for specifically the reason to plant as seeds were broken apart, a sense of relaxation enveloped me as that warm fall sun continued to illuminate the farm.
                The next step was to plant the cloves. I drove over to Kirk and Jen Robertson’s R&R Farm with the garlic planting stock. Their farm is .7 miles away from Nev-R-Dun Farm, up the dirt road of Hughes Shop, then around the corner on Murkle. When I arrived there was plenty of activity going on; Kirk and his father in law were installing irrigation line, Jen was helping, and their kids were running around like little kids do.
We quickly set upon the task of planting the cloves. The row that we had designated for the garlic planting had been tilled earlier, the one up against the fence to the cow and chicken pasture. Jen helped in the process, where we took the cloves and pressed them three to four inches into the loose soil down theoretically straight rows. There is not much involved in the process of planting garlic, but as the aroma of those delicious cloves waft in the air, the task is oh so pleasant!
In that one row, which is about five feet wide, four strips of garlic were planted about a foot apart. While I was planting the first strip, with my back literally up against the cow/chicken pasture fence, chickens constantly neared my activity out of curiosity. And the sun still shone brightly in the sky.
Garlic is such a wonderful, and somewhat unique plant. It is one of the few that gets seeded in the fall for a summer harvest. Theoretically, after seeding the cloves, in a week or two, green sprouts will break through the soil and grow until the hard frosts and full on freeze, but the growth of the plant has been started! Once the soil thaws and warms in the spring, the garlic plants revive and quickly grow into quite beautiful plants. While almost nothing else in the early spring garden shows sign of life, a green stand of garlic promises a wonderful July!
But of course, we are in the land of Idyllia, which means whatever can go wrong will. In our case, for that particularly warm day, nothing did go wrong. However, garlic, which is such a delicacy to humans, is also quite desired by other creatures that infiltrate the farm, especially groundhogs! Oh, how I hate those despicable creatures! And that was precisely why a row of German White garlic was being planted next to the cow/chicken pasture on R&R Farm. The chance of a groundhog attack is slim in that vicinity, but I have probably just jinxed that situation…
As my back was against the fence, slowly moving down the row sticking garlic cloves in the ground, I felt a presence behind me. I was squatted down in a baseball catcher’s position, and as I turned my head to investigate the presence, I found myself face to face with one of their larger cows, separated by a couple of inches… and a fence. What a startling site to see! The cow’s head was bent down toward the black crate I had the garlic in, apparently sniffing that powerful aroma. Do cows like garlic? Hmm. Perhaps groundhogs aren’t the only mammals to be worried about! But that is for a later day to investigate. (Kirk has assured me he will reinforce the fencing there to make sure he doesn’t wake up one day to his cows in the middle of the row chomping on fresh garlic!)
So, the day proceeded in quite a peaceful fashion. There was a time when the young kids, I believe the oldest of the two is seven, the other possibly three, decided that they wanted to help Mr. Tom plant the garlic. Kids really don’t know how to help, but the day was peaceful, the weather serene, so the “new helpers” did not get in the way… too much.
After planting the row, I drove back to Nev-R-Dun Farm to plant another garlic row there. The sun was descending in the sky at that point, and the temperature was falling as well. As birds skirted about the fringes of the field that should have been mowed months ago, and others sang from tall trees that surrounded the scene, the rest of the cloves were planted. The work was done.
It is sometimes strange when a day as peaceful and uneventful as that befalls the farm, for so many of the other days involve… an earthquake, hurricanes, tropical storms, groundhogs, rabbits, etc. But then the thought of having to leave the farm to find employment arises… No, I will take Idyllia, with all the hardships and unforeseen disasters. And on such an extremely peaceful, warm and sunny day in fall for planting garlic, I will drink up that day like the finest of wine. Some of the days in Idyllia ain’t half bad.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What's This?

                The other day, I was over at my neighbor’s, R&R Farm, helping to clear some feed corn stalks from their vegetable garden. The intention was to till up the row nearest the cow and chicken pasture, then replant it in German White garlic for next year’s crop. It was somewhat cool, but the ground was dry enough, finally, to be able to till.
                Before continuing, it seems more description will help here. The area of their vegetable garden is a little over a hundred feet long, and it is bordered on one side by the aforementioned cow and chicken pasture, which is separated by metal fencing that keeps both the cows and the chickens on the other side of the fence, that is, in the pasture. Now, throughout the year, Jen and Kirk, the owners of R&R Farm, toss random vegetables and weeds into the pasture, where the cows or chickens eat up those scraps. As a result, when they see human activity in the vegetable garden they mosey on over to see if any goodies will be acomin’ their way.
                And mosey they do… at least the cows. The chickens tend to sprint. While I was pulling out those confounded dead corn stalks, in what seemed like only a couple of minutes, there were two cows up against the fence watching my activity. One minute there were none, then, multiple spectators. And not to forget the chickens, they were there too. They are always near. But anyway, there I was with dead corn stalks in my hand and animals looking for a treat only feet away. Surely they wouldn’t want a corn stalk, would they? On one of the stalks there was an ear of dried corn still attached, so I pulled it off, and thus my experiment began…
                The vast majority of beef cattle in this country are raised, at least the last portion of their lives, on CAFOs or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. These operations have as many as a thousand cattle that are penned in cramped lots of concrete, where they are fed mostly a diet of corn, (genetically modified, of course), so as to fatten them up as quickly as possible for slaughter. (If you would like to see how they operate, watch Food, Inc.) The situation of CAFOs is both cruel and very unusual punishment for the cattle, where they are fed an unnatural diet, in cramped and disgustingly unsanitary conditions. But without getting too much into that topic, suffice it to say, that that type of farming is completely opposite to the type of cattle raising on R&R Farm, where the cattle are raised on… grass!
                The reason I bring this up, is that on CAFOs, corn is the main, if not only, source of nourishment for the cattle. The thing is, corn is not part of a cow’s natural diet. Grasses are there natural diet. Some genius figured out that since corn growing is subsidized by the government, and is endless in supply, why waste land for cattle to pasture, when you can pen a thousand of them up and feed them all the wonderful subsidized corn they can eat, which does fatten them up, and since they are sold by the pound…  more cashola! And the cattle form of factory farming was born! Agriculture became more about money than health, for humans or the cattle…
                But enough on that. The issue for that particular day on R&R Farm, was that I was standing near a couple of cows patiently awaiting a treat, and I had an ear of feed corn, albeit not genetically modified, in my hand. So, I pulled back the husk to reveal the golden kernels and stuck it over the fence toward one of the cows. The cow did not seem to be too interested in what I had to offer. After a minute, I dropped it on the ground near it to return to work.
                After the ear of corn was on the ground, the cow bent and sniffed.  “What’s this?” was what it seemed to question. It brushed it with its nose, then stared at it for a while,… then slowly mosied away. I was actually stunned to witness that. For some reason, I thought the cow might actually lick the ear of corn, if not nibble on it. But no! Nothing doing! It had absolutely zero interest in that product which is almost exclusively fed to CAFO cattle. (Of course, the CAFO corn is genetically modified…)
                Before the cow had mosied too far away, I felt guilty about my experiment. The cow had anticipated some treat and all it was offered was junk food, that is, food to it that is junk. I saw a lambsquarter weed that was only about three feet tall, (they don’t grow the eight foot weed variety I produce on my farm), and pulled it from the ground. The cow saw my activity and paused. As I walked to the fence with the greenery, the cow approached. It sniffed what I offered, and promptly bit into it! Cows like lambsquarter!
                I am simply amazed to watch the different animals on R&R Farm when offered the different types of vegetation. If their senses tell them it is good, they devour it quickly. If the senses deem the food not desirable, they leave it alone. In a similar way that is how I grow my vegetables. Instead of concocting some formula for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to add to the soil for a certain crop, I add lots of organic compost, which has all kinds of healthy minerals in it… and let the plants decide what to eat!
                Over the year, I have watched and learned some of the animal’s dietary preferences. While pigs love wild chicory, especially the root, they will not touch bell peppers. And while cows like pig weed and lambsquarter, they won’t touch corn, unless, of course, they are confined in tight quarters with corn as the only option for food!
                And as for that lonely ear of corn abandoned on the grass of the pasture… fear not, for there were chickens on the pasture as well. Chickens love grain, especially corn!


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Watch Where You...

…land, stink bug! Those were the words I verbally spoke when a Brown Marmorated stink bug alighted on my t-shirt by my left shoulder over a month ago. It was not the first or only stink bug to land on one of my shoulders, nor the only type of bug, but, nonetheless, they all met the same fate.
                Now that it is October, and after experiencing an earthquake, hurricane and tropical storm, not that those natural occurrences have anything to do with the topic, it seems to be an appropriate time to report on the state of stink bugs on the farm, and in particular the Brown Marmorated stink bug.
                First off, there are many, many types of stink bugs in our region, and this year in particular, the rainbow display of varying types made their appearance in full force. From the normal brown variety, to the Southern green, to the Rough stink bug, to the vibrantly colored Harlequin stink bugs all made a solid appearance in 2011. They feasted on… everything! This year the populations were larger than normal, but it was by no means in epidemic proportions.
                Second, as for the Brown Marmorated variety, the non-native, Asian species, that was feared to defoliate the east coast… Okay, maybe that is going a bit far, but nonetheless, they were feared to appear in incredible numbers this year. I am only speaking of Nev-R-Dun Farm at this point, which has quite a healthy bird population, and bird’s love stink bugs… to eat that is, but while there were noticeable numbers of those beasts, those numbers were not significantly higher than in past years. In doors, now that is another situation entirely.
                So, after 20 weeks of harvest, the assessment is that stink bugs are relatively in check at the farm. For the most part, they thrive amongst weeds that act as protection from prey, such as birds, or me. Once weeds are removed, the numbers are significantly lower. In other words, weed removal needs to be improved. But that will have to wait until next year.
                But now back to the beginning of the entry. “Watch where you land, stink bug!” I have witnessed a couple of new things this year about stink bugs. The first I will come back to in a minute, but the second reflects upon the title of this entry. At least a half a dozen times this summer, I heard the familiar “buzz” sound of a stink bug draw near, and then witness that creature land on my shoulder! It did not happen only once. Through my scientific approach to all things natural, if events or situations repeat themselves, those events or situations are most likely not random. But why do they land on my shoulder? It is quite strange.
                Before I continue, at least a half a dozen other times this year, I witnessed the same situation with squash bugs. They too landed on my shoulder. Squash bugs are closely related to stink bugs, so, deduction would state that something with those particular type of bugs are attracted to a human’s shoulder. But perhaps it is only my shoulder that attracts them. (Don’t tell any of the Extension Office people. They’ll start wheeling me through every orchard on the East Coast hoping for a new means of extermination. Ugh, what a thought!) Perhaps also, it could have something to do with my wardrobe, which for the entire summer consists of a white t-shirt. Are they attracted to white?
                Oh so many questions arise, with little hope of drawing a significant conclusion at this time. Nonetheless, this strange trait of theirs has been noted. Perhaps in the future more conclusions will be drawn. As for now, I will return to the first new situation I witnessed about stink bugs this year. All but one of the stink bugs and squash bugs that landed on my t-shirt met a quick death through the use of TFF. (For those unfamiliar with TFF, that stands for “thumb and forefinger”, which is completely acceptable by organic standards.) The first stink bug to land on my shoulder this year met a different fate. Allow me to explain a little first.
                I have researched stink bugs many, many times over the years, and on more than a few occasions I read that a person should wear gloves when dealing with those creatures because they can burn a human’s skin. Preposterous! I have squished countless thousands of those things, and countless thousands of their kin the squash bugs. Burn the skin? Never! Whoever wrote that obviously does not know what they were talking about!
                Those were my thoughts before this year. In fact, to back up those thoughts, stink bugs are considered a delicacy in different areas of the earth… that is, a HUMAN delicacy. They are a bird delicacy everywhere! If dealing with those bugs caused irritation… how would the activity of eating them work? Something like hot peppers?… Ah… perhaps something just like that, but back to that first stink bug.
                Let’s say it was late July. It was hot, the sun was “beating” down, and the sound of a stink bug in flight neared. My activity was that of weeding a row of beets, those delicious red and gold beets, that… Where was I? Oh yeah. Thoughts were aflutter as a stink bug landed just below my left shoulder on the white t-shirt I was wearing. Damn stink bugs, I thought, and without a moment’s hesitation, my right hand smashed the bug against my t-shirt, thus killing it instantly as its carcass fell to the dirt as future fertilizer. One less stink bug in the world. Hurrah! And then, a minute or so later, I felt a slight burning sensation just below the top of my left shoulder. Why that was exactly where I smashed that stink bug! I lifted my T-shirt to look under it, but saw nothing. However, later that night, as that slight burning sensation still lingered, there was a noticeable red spot on my skin, sort of like a grave stone for that dead stink bug. And that red spot remained visible for over a week!
                Could it be? Could it really be true that squashed stink bugs can cause skin irritation? Perhaps all those I scoffed at were correct in their assessment of stink bug goo. It burns! I would love to concretely deposit a law about stink bug innards causing skin irritation, but, alas, I only smashed one on my more delicate skin areas. I learned my lesson too quickly! But nonetheless, it does make sense about the skin irritation. And the reason why the TFF approach, that is the smashing of stink bugs between one’s fingers, does not cause skin irritation would be along the same line as chile peppers. They do not burn my fingers. Either through calluses or something else, I can pick and squish chile peppers without any sense of burning as a result. Others merely touch them and they feel their burn. So, perhaps, just perhaps it is true, stink bug innards can cause skin irritation. (If anyone wishes to do a test on themselves with this, please let me know your results.)
                But now back to the beginning again. After all, this entire entry to this point is completely superfluous to my initial intention. That intention was to alert the stink bugs, and squash bugs for that matter, that all landing zones in a garden are not necessarily safe places to alight, such as my t-shirt. Really, the whole point of this entry was to alert those damned stink bugs, “Hey, watch where you land!”