This is the second summer that cherry tomatoes have self-sown in the packed earth next to the carport. Surprisingly, they bore more fruit than the store-bought plants in the raised beds. I built on last year's success by preparing more of a bed for them and adding several loads of compost, a ring of rocks and fencing to keep the chickens out. In the spring, seedlings again sprouted and the four I kept did splendidly (they are as tall as I am) until the rodent army descended. After the voles and gophers had destroyed everything else farther from the house, this bed has become the last battleground. It's easier to guard because it's got the concrete pad of the carport on one side plus the back door is glass and looks right to it. However, the enemy is sneaky and patient...
Voles adore almost-ripe tomatoes. They scamper up, down and through the plants as they search for the largest fruit -- the same fruit that I've been keeping my own eyes on because I also adore tomatoes. They also break and bend branches as they fill their bellies.
|BV (Before Voles)|
|AV (After Voles)|
Yesterday afternoon when I returned home from visiting Dorothea, the plants looked fine. When I came back outside a few hours later, the plants had been ravaged -- branches bent down, bare stems where larger tomatoes had been and a scattering of small green ones thrown about the carport.
I stood there and felt the same helplessness and resignation that always comes over me when confronted by this destruction. Then I noticed fresh digging at an old gopher hole on the edge of the carport and suddenly something in me snapped. I got a shovel and stuck the hose down that hole and turned on the water. Then I waited above the hole with the shovel head pointed down. When that first vole stuck his wet snout out of the water, he never knew what hit him. Ditto with the second vole that popped up a little farther down. I have always shied away from killing, but yesterday something shifted inside myself -- I had no squeamishness or hesitation with that shovel. And I felt absolutely elated afterwards.
This morning there was no vole damage. Feeling incredibly competent and proud of myself, I went over to congratulate the tomato plants...and discovered the just hatched baby tomato horn worms.
The ones I could find have been picked off and dispatched with my foot.
I'm curious to see what plague the universe has next in store for my last remnant of a garden.