Thursday, September 20, 2012

Arthur and Finnegan Part Two

                And now… back to the Arthur and Finnegan story. There is one more entry to this saga, and it may come across as sad or happy, depending on your feelings on the situation, but that will be relayed a little later…
                About a month ago, I embarked on the process of saving zucchini seeds from zucchinis I selected for their size and shape that will be used in future zucchini plantings. It is a somewhat difficult process. First one has to extract the seeds, which involves slicing the extremely large, and hard zucchinis and the spooning out of the entrails, that is, the seeds and pulp in the middle of the sliced open fruit. “Slicing” here is not easy, like it might be, say, slicing a tomato. Aged zucchini are very sturdy and a LOT of physical exertion is required, with a solid knife, to cut through their shells, if you will. But that is the beginning of the process. The next step stinks, literally. The pulp and seeds are scooped into a bowl that is then filled with water, where the mixture is left to ferment over a few days. And after a few days… man, but does it stink! It smells like a rotting corpse, and yes, I am familiar with that smell! The last step is to strain out the mixture, which only leaves the healthy seeds behind.
                I accomplished this task, then moved the seeds into the house, where my parents live, and turned a fan on to dry out the seeds. This process normally takes a day. About six hours after putting the seeds before the fan, I re-entered the house, only to be hit by the awful smell of a rotting corpse! To pause, this process is used for solanacae plants, such as tomatoes, as well as the cucurbiticae plants, such as cucumbers and… zucchini. Never before had the awful aroma of the fermenting process followed the cleaning situation to the drying of the seeds. Anyway, after my father asked if I knew what the awful smell was in his house, I realized the seeds needed to be dried out doors. And thus begins the next part of Arthur and Finnegan…
                For quite a few weeks, the scurrying of those damned chipmunks had ceased to be. Why? I have no idea. Nonetheless, without seeing, or hearing those damned critters, I knew they were around… somewhere. So I set up what I thought was a fairly well defended structure that would keep the chipmunks from feasting on the drying seeds. To explain, the situation was an old window screen propped up upon, first a five gallon bucket, then an old cardboard box, then the screen. The conglomeration was easily four feet in the air, including lots of climbing obstacles that I was relatively certain the chipmunks could not overcome…
                When I arrived at the farm the next day, those seeds, probably a thousand in number… were ALL gone! The set up had not worked at all, and those damned chipmunks did not leave a single seed behind! AAAHHHH, but I HATE chipmunks!!!
                Nonetheless, this is an ongoing story with Arthur and Finnegan! The zucchini seed story is only the latest stage of their brash attacks. First off, chipmunks absolutely DO NOT respect the efforts of an organic farmer when it comes to the results of the farmer’s efforts. They will do whatever they can to eat or store every bit of that effort! And with no remorse whatsoever! (It very much resembles how some other mammals on the planet approach such situations… insert humans here.)
                A few years ago, I went out to the fields to harvest tomatoes for the CSA share that next day. It was toward the end of the tomato season, and I just barely found enough tomatoes to divide amongst the share members. I brought the tomatoes up to the front porch of the old farm house in five gallon buckets. Setting the buckets down, I walked around to the back of the house to fetch something that I cannot remember at this much later date. Anyway, I was gone for about five minutes. Once I returned to the front porch, I reached into the five gallon buckets to pull out the tomatoes just harvested. And what did I find? Why I found the same wonderful heirloom tomatoes just harvested from the fields… only there was a bite taken out of every single one of them!!! Those damned chipmunks had taste tested the entire batch of tomatoes!!!
                Now I am sure that some people will laugh at that story, but I assure you it is anything but funny. We are talking business here, money! Whereas I should have been able to provide a few dollars worth of fresh, organic heirloom tomatoes for my customers, those damned chipmunks had despoiled the entire batch. HOW WRONG IS THAT? Where are the vegetable police when you need them? Those chipmunks need to be held accountable for their actions!
                But alas, there are no vegetable police… and there is no end to a chipmunk’s appetite. Alas again, anything left outside of protection is fair game for those damned creatures…
                A week or so ago, we harvested some watermelons from the fields. They were stored in the normal former plastic tulip crates as most of the produce is stored. I left for the evening not thinking much about the freshly harvested watermelon. When I arrived back at the farm, there was a hole dug into one of the watermelons! Damned chipmunks! They won’t even leave watermelons alone!
                I left the watermelon in the crate on the porch and started cleaning salad mix a few feet away. While ruminating over the lettuce leaves, I heard a soft scurry, if you will, and I knew one of those damned chipmunks was in the watermelon. Quickly, I jumped toward the watermelon tray which had been blocked from view by an old washing machine (long story…), and sure enough, a chipmunk was in the crate! It scurried beneath one of the watermelon… and this is what is so frustrating about those damned creatures… I could have… “off”ed it by slamming my boot into the watermelon… but I would have also “off”ed the watermelon! Helplessly I stood motionless as the chipmunk jumped out of the crate and darted away. DAMNED CHIPMUNKS!
                The truly frustrating part of the situation is that those damned chipmunks always seem to be lurking somewhere watching for the next feast to be brought to them. It is quite easy to forget that, especially when one’s mind is busy, say, attempting to figure out how to finish a harvest before the sun goes down. Last Friday, Stephanie harvested a few of the remaining tomatoes. After she brought them to the back porch in a five gallon bucket, and both of us went up front for a few minutes. Upon returning, I weighed the tomatoes for record keeping purposes. I noticed a few bites taken out of some of the tomatoes, causing me to contemplate on the cause. Perhaps a squirrel out in the front field…
                The next step was to clean the tomatoes. As Stephanie was wiping off the tomatoes, she saw the bites, which were not there when she harvested them. She spoke up from her task, “I think our friends got into the tomatoes…”

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