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Baby killer



Yesterday in the garden, I wore my Angel of Infanticide hat. It’s orange, and caked with dried sweat, just like my everyday hat. I started my day in Patrice’s garden thinning some young radishes that I planted the week before last. I realize that nobody wins if the plants go unthinned and end up choking themselves to death, but I still hesitate when I’m faced with the choice of which healthy young plant to pluck from the live-giving soil. I look to pull up the weaker looking yougsters, but often times plant spacing dictates that I visit death upon strapping young specimens.

Later, I saw a tiny lizard wriggling thru the gravel. On a whim, I decided to catch him. After several failed grabs, I finally nabbed him along with a handful of gravel and grass. I could see him lying motionless in my hand. Motionless, except for the tip of his tail, which wriggled furiously. I relaxed my grip enough to extract some of the non-lizard material in my hand, and as I cleared away the blades of grass and tiny pebbles, I saw that the tail and the lizard no longer comprised a single, unified critter. The end of his tail had come away and wriggled to attract the predator’s attention, while the main body, which in time would grow a new tail, played it cool and waited for his chance to make a break for it. I set him down and resolved not to catch any more lizards.

Later, Patrice handed me a pair of scissors, and instructed me to cut the copious runners that the strawberry plants keep sending out. We’ve been cutting them for as long as I’ve worked in his garden. Earlier in the season, we would plant the tips in trays of potting soil for replanting or to sell, but now that we’ve planted all the new strawberry plants for which we have room and sold off all the flats of young plants that the locals seem to want to buy, we no longer take any care in our efforts to get the strawberries to cease their expansionist ambitions and save their resources for fruiting. I stuffed the severed runners back into the mulch, so that the nutrients the plants devoted to creating them will return to the soil and nourish the mother plants at their roots, but what mother wants to eat her own murdered children?

Best not to think in those terms, because I’ll continue my baby killing ways for as long as I work in the garden.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
uminthecoil
Aug. 28th, 2003 09:34 am (UTC)
"I set him down and resolved not to catch any more lizards"...:)
sgnp
Aug. 28th, 2003 04:02 pm (UTC)
"but what mother wants to eat her own murdered children?"

Hamsters, or so I was told when I was a kid.

"Don't startle the mama hamster! If you do, she will kill and eat the baby hamsters!"

This was, of course, followed by my sister Mary and I running into the room with the hamster cage later that evening, flipping on the lights and screaming at the tops of our lungs.

It didn't work.
mungojelly
Aug. 29th, 2003 07:06 pm (UTC)
heads or tails
lots of lizards do that! it's a brilliant trick, i think..

i've struggled a lot with the havoc & mayhem & destruction that i cause in the natural world. For instance, I'll spend a long time on the ground watching tiny insects crawl around on tiny plants, all the drama that goes on in every square inch -- and then I stand up and walk around on the ground! stomp! Suddenly i'm godzilla--

no matter how careful we are, we kill things with every step..

But everything's destroying something. I mean that's how nature works. & as long as you don't make dramatic, unreasonable changes, you're just shifting life from one place to another. You kill a plant, but you feed the bacteria, fungi, insects, etc that decompose it. You kill an animal, but you save the plants or other animals that it would have eaten.

It's a crazy world that we live in, where that's the system, that's how life works.. a world where everything dies, (& most things aren't shy about it either, not like we are, they live & die in blazes of glory...)

i believe though in making a serious effort towards minimum harm. So i place gardening food before buying it, eating wild foods before gardening.

I feel silly sometimes... Like, whenever I go into the backyard I think carefully about where I'm stepping. I step under or around vines that bend over the path, instead of snapping them. I'm very respectful when I pick leaves or fruits (sometimes to eat & sometimes to study). In general I'm very cautious. And then a few days ago, my landlord decided to mow the whole thing:

a whole big meadow of goldenrods & asters & wild blackberries & milkweed.. this guy comes with a truck & destroys it all in a few hours.

& i go out & i'm still careful. i commiserate with the survivors, stand up a few straggling bushes. i step carefully to harm as few things as possible. meanwhile every day i can hear the lawnmowers running, hacking up whole fields of plants for no discernable purpose..

o well, crazy world
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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