Thursday, July 12, 2012

Arthur and Finnegan (Part One)

                This entry is part one of a series to follow. I have meant to address this issue over the years, but alas, time elapses so quickly I have not been able to keep up with it! However, as things have developed in 2012, the issue has arisen, once again, and it seems appropriate to address it now…
                To begin, Nev-R-Dun Farm’s base is an old plot of land on which resides a pre-20th century house, along with a barn and many other “out” buildings, such as a “summer kitchen” and a “wagon shed” to mention a few. While my farming efforts stretch back only over a decade or so, the buildings relay a much longer tenure than I can even really envision. That said, the indigenous creatures, especially those of diminutive size, have long foraged in the immediate area, and whereas the house is relatively vermin free, the outside area around the house is seemingly a plush resort for some of those aforementioned critters. After countless years of furrowing and foraging, there are tunnels just about everywhere around the outside buildings, and that leads to this entry…
                Most of the cleaning of the produce is currently accomplished on the back porch of the old farm house. It is outside, albeit shaded by the house addition above. It is a great place to spend a hot afternoon in the middle of summer, washing lettuce mix, for example. I have mentioned the cleaning of lettuce mix many years ago in these Tales, and it is not the issue to be addressed here, so the description of the process shall be brief.
                The cleaning of lettuce mix is a laborious process whereby lettuce leaves, which have been cut from lettuce plantings in whichever of the over one hundred rows of produce we grow, are brought to the back porch in five gallon buckets and submerged in water. Then, each leaf is sifted through in a three stage process to pick out weeds, bad leaves, etc. As the lettuce proceeds through the process, each stage has a fresh water bath, so that the leaves are at least triple washed by the time the mix is spun dry and bagged for the eventual consumer.
                This process takes hours, and during this time, many, many, many creatures hail their existence to the somewhat stationary salad washer. There are a horde of insects, from bees to beetles to flies that constantly flitter about the concentrated worker. Birds twitter and tweet and sing from nearby tree branches. Occasionally a deer snort can be heard, which immediately makes this salad washer determine the deer’s location, to make sure it is not in any field with, for example, salad mix growing in it! And then there is the general scurrying about of such small creatures as those that are the focus of this entry… chipmunks!
                Earlier this year, I was showing Stephanie the process of cleaning the salad, and those pesky chipmunks started darting about in their frenetic fashion causing me to react in my normal fashion… “Damned chipmunks!”… and Stephanie reacted with, “Aww, they’re so cute!!!” A description will follow of these “pests”. But to start, while some people might view certain creatures as “cute”, they are all out for… something, usually in the form of food, and whereby they may appear as “cute”, as in their movements, etc., the reality of the situation… over years… that is, to a frustrated farmer… they are nothing close to “cute”! Before moving on, however, as Stephanie watched the chipmunks scurry about, she became quickly endeared to them, and promptly named the two that currently seem to “own” the place. The two chipmunk’s names from here forth in this entry shall be “Arthur and Finnegan”, or as Stephanie has truncated their name’s, “Artie and Finnie”. But enough of that!
                As for the chipmunks’ actions thus far this year, they have not been incredibly harmful. Since they are so familiar with the back porch area, they scurry about at their frenetic pace like humans do on highways, only they do not adhere to lanes and such. They scamper wherever they want and whenever. As we wash the lettuce mix, those small, reddish-brown furry creatures with black and white stripes scurry on ground level all around the varying obstacles on the porch, from our cleaning station to the numerous rack trays to whatever else is standing about… including out feet! (Once, and this is absolutely true, while standing up and sorting lettuce mix, I shifted my right foot and stepped on one mid-scurry. If I had known I would step on a chipmunk… Alas, it got away unharmed…) But these rapid movements are part of what endeared Stephanie to those foul creatures. They were seemingly at play as they chased each other around the porch area. “They’re sooo cute!” Egad, it is time to relay one of their past sordid escapades to escape from these “cute” ramblings, and the fact, that the scurrying is most probably less due to play than… foreplay… which only leads to more chipmunks… egads, again…
                It was in 2010 that I finally recognized chipmunks for the malevolent miscreants that they are. Please forgive the human analysis of this, but I am, after all, attempting to earn enough off of my labors to make a living in the human world, as absurd as all that is, but I digress. Anyway, I have been attempting to save seeds from the crops that I grow for many years in order to, first, control the source, and second, to improve upon its regionality genetics. (I will not attempt to explain that here.) So, in 2010, I harvested a few pounds of pea seeds for seed saving. This entails allowing the pea plants to “dry up”, then picking the dried pea pods. I did this and put the dried pods in a five gallon bucket. The next step is to shell the pods to extract the dried pea seeds. There are many ways of accomplishing this task that are easier than the way I approached, but I chose the more difficult path in order to learn from it. (I always seem to choose the more difficult path in order to learn from it… and I am not sure that I have learned anything… I have digressed again.)
                Over a week or so, I worked through the bucket of dried pea pods and seeds, and put the shelled peas into a round plastic container that fit inside the five gallon bucket on the front porch of the farmhouse. I normally worked on this while eating a sandwich for lunch, so the process was in stages. About a pound or two of seeds had been extracted from the pods and placed in the plastic container, then the container was placed in the five gallon bucket on top of the remaining “to be shelled” dried pea pods. Once again, it was a slow process, but the effort was for next season anyway.
                Then, one day shortly thereafter, I walked by the five gallon bucket and looked inside to view my efforts of pea seed saving… AND THERE WERE NO PEA SEEDS IN THE PLASTIC CONTAINER! WHAT THE…? Oh, I know what the… “WHAT THE…?” was!!! It was those damned chipmunks!!! Every time you leave something out in the open for just a minute too long… (or a week)… those little, nefarious, “cute”, furry creatures will disparage ALL of your efforts! ARRGH!!! How frustrating they can be!!!
                I was not immediately aware of this at the time, BUT, I had that creature surrounded, if you will. You see, that furry culprit was actually still inside the five gallon bucket scavenging seeds from beneath the plastic container inside the bucket. Again, I was not aware of this immediately. I was so angered by the loss of my efforts that I did not analyze the situation clearly. It was only when I thought about moving the plastic container to see how many pea pods were left that I realized the culprit was… in the cookie jar, so to speak.
                What clued me in was that the empty plastic container actually moved, as in, something beneath it moved. And so, brilliantly, and quickly, I devised my attack. With my right hand, I reached into the bucket and snatched the plastic container, then, I attempted to thrust my size 11 boot into the five gallon bucket in order to smash the culprit. Unfortunately for me, and fortunately for the chipmunk, a size 11 boot does not fit very squarely into a five gallon bucket, or even roundly. After I had jammed my boot into the bucket, I had no idea as to whether I had harmed the culprit or not. There was only one way to find out. I removed my boot encased foot from the bucket.
                Perhaps a second elapsed, perhaps two… And I have to pause here. Have you ever heard the squeak of a chipmunk? It is more like an “eek”.  Years ago, I intended to write my first chipmunk entry entitled, “Eek, a human!” But that never happened, and as whereby I have digressed greatly once again… A very loud “EEK!!!” was let out by the trapped chipmunk, as it propelled itself like a rocket out of the five gallon bucket… And I mean this literally! I removed my boot… Then there was a loud “EEK!!!”… Then, a chipmunk shot out of the bucket as if propelled by a rocket engine! It landed a foot or so away from my side of the bucket and scurried off the front porch in extreme rapid fashion.
                Whether that chipmunk was Arthur or Finnegan, or even some past relative is not the issue. As mentioned above, there are more entries to follow on these “foul” creatures. As cute as they may appear to some, their actions quite resemble, at least in my opinion, the pernicious greed so prevalent in our current stage of global consumption in the United States of America. I know, I know, it is quite ludicrous to equate the “natural” activities of such cute, furry mammals to the activities of our voraciously idiotic furless species, but, once again, this is only part one of these chipmunk stories…  

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