Hello, Summer! Goodbye, Peas… & Other Tales

first coneflower (echinacea) of the season

Well, it gave it a valiant effort – summer tried to stay away.  It tried with all its might to dig in its heels, shake its head in defiance, and refuse to go any further north than about midway up the Pacific Coast.  “No, thank you,” Summer said, on June 20th, as she twirled her golden hair and adjusted her Prada sunglasses.  “I’ve decided not to visit the Pacific Northwest this year.  I hear it rains a lot up there, which makes my hair frizzy.  It just won’t do.  Besides, I’ve got this year-round gig in places like Hawaii and Phoenix, which is very tiring.  I think I need a break.  Anybody know where I can get a good G&T around here?”

But just when we thought all was lost, good old Mother Nature came storming into the room, all business.  “Summer, you overly-primped, overly-tanned, overly-drunken cow!  It seems you have forgotten about a little date I like to call, ‘June twenty-first.'”  She glared at Summer over the tops of her frame-less reading glasses and held up a stack of white papers.  “It states right here in your contract that you are legally obligated to take up residence in the entire northern hemisphere no later than June 21st until Earth ceases to exist.”

Summer shifted uncomfortably in her lounge chair and tried not to look Mother Nature in the eye, but said nothing.

“HAS EARTH CEASED TO EXIST?!?!?!”

Silence.  Summer’s perfectly-coiffed hair began to visibly deflate.

“HAS IT?!?!”

Summer cringed.  “Um, well… no…. not exactly… but…”  her voice started to tremble.  “I don’t want to go.  Can’t I just skip the Pacific Northwest?  It’s just one little area… they probably won’t even miss me… they simply love the rain.  I’m quite sure of it.”

Summer glanced at her reflection in the glassy surface of her infinity-edged swimming pool and let out a small gasp.

“Oh no!  You’ve made my hair go flat!”  She sobbed.  “Why do you have to yell at me like that?  You know what it does to my complexion.  It’s not like I haven’t been working.  It was 108 in Phoenix yesterday!  Don’t I get any credit for that?”

But Mother Nature had already turned around and was striding toward the door.  “I don’t have time for this,” she said without looking back.  “I have to go see Spring and ask her what the hell she was thinking this year.  83 degrees, breeding snakes, and leafed-out hydrangeas in February, and frost warnings in May??  You girls really need to cut back on the drinking.”

Summer jumped at the sound of the slamming door, spilling her pink cocktail on her white Gucci bikini, starting her sobs anew.  It would surely stain.  She looked up when she heard the door open again.

“You will be there.  Tomorrow.  Or else.” <slam>

same flower, as color creeps into the petals

That was a true story.  That’s exactly how it happened, verbatim.  Don’t ask me where I get my info.  I’ll never reveal my sources.**

Of course, though summer did eventually begrudgingly show up here, she wasn’t exactly on time.  On June 21st, the summer solstice, while all my favorite bloggers were saying hello to summer with bright, sunny posts, I was here, as usual, staring out my window at the gray rain.  I guess she had to get that bikini to the dry-cleaners before the stain set in.  But, just when I had accepted the fact that we really were just going to have winter, spring, fall this year… it cleared up.  Monday evening, June 21st, just as the sun was getting low in the sky, the clouds broke and the atmosphere came alive with hope.

When Life Gives You Rain… Take Pretty Pictures?

Sharifa Asma rose, with rain drops on the summer solstice

It really felt like a marked change.  The air was different.  Somehow it felt like it was finally going to stick.  Summer had arrived – breathless, a little tipsy, and with blisters on her feet from running in Jimmy Choos – but she had arrived nonetheless, just barely in time not to breach contract.  And so I timidly headed out the door, armed with my camera.  Why not make the most of it, I thought.  I was still uncertain that it wasn’t all a trick, but I’d take my chances.  I was rewarded with some pretty cool pictures.

jewel-toned nasturtium

The raindrops clung to every surface for dear life, like they knew it was their last hurrah.

dwarf gray sugar pea blossoms

dill

And as the clouds started to give way, the sun was setting, and it made for a pretty magical sky (click on the pictures to get the full size, for best effect).

the sun breaks through, June 21st

evening sky, June 21st

And that was that.  The next day was brilliant, clear and 80 and the day after that got up to at least 87 and the a/c even kicked on in the house (I promptly turn it off, because I felt like it was jumping the gun, but still).  Every day since has been lovely and summery, filled with shorts, slip-flops, sunscreen, happiness and joy.

Goodbye, Peas, We Will Miss You

golden snow peas on the vine

Fast forward to yesterday.  All of this summer-ness has been rather agreeing with the garden and things are really starting to take off.  Better late than never, right?  I mean, sure, last year I had been eating bowls full of Mara Des Bois strawberries and all kinds of peas for weeks already by now.  Bygones. I’m hardly bitter at all, really.  Anyway, back to the topic at hand, all week the pea plants were growing by leaps and bounds and were setting peas by the bushel.  I had peas set of every variety – Progress #9 shelling peas that were plumping nicely in their pods, jillions of darf gray sugar snow peas that were finally getting sweet (the few early ones were hard and green-tasting with no sugar content at all due to lack of sun), young sugar snaps, golden snows, and blue-podded blauwschokkers.  It was a rainbow of peas in a a giant forest of vines, far taller than me.

Then a couple of days ago, I started noticing tiny orange bug eggs on some of my pea pods.  No biggie.  If I saw one with eggs, I just picked it and chucked it into the grass for the chickens.

can you see the eggs?

But then, yesterday.  Yesterday was the day it all came crashing down.  Yesterday I was looking to pick a few peas for a snack, but one after the other had eggs.  Then  I stepped back and looked – every single one I could see had eggs.  I started to walk around.  They were on the goldens, too… and the purples… and the shelling… ALL of them.  Every.  Single.  Pea.

eggs on the blauwschokkers too :(

and the shelling peas

Dismayed, I headed inside and googled “tiny orange insect eggs on pea pods.”  Nothing helpful.  After a few more failed attempts, I found a reference to a site that supposedly had pictures of different bug eggs and their corresponding insects to help you identify your eggs.  Problem was, I knew that site would have lots of moth eggs and pictures of moths and caterpillars.  And if you know me, or if you follow this site, then you know that site was off-limits for my eyes.  So, I enlisted Brian, my trusty bug-picture looker-upper (this was not the first time).  In no time he had my solution, though he didn’t find it on the bug-egg picture site.  Pea weevils.  I have pea weevils.  I’ve never even freakin’ heard of pea weevils.

Pea weevils.

In a nutshell, the are from Asia but are now present on all continents.  They are a small beetle that overwinters inside dried peas or in the soil or in wood or under your house or pretty much anywhere, and then wakes up when temperatures hit about 63 degrees F.  They immediately seek out pea plants and feed on pea pollen, get fat, have sex, and lay a bunch of eggs – about a dozen per pod.  On every single pod, apparently.  And here’s the real kicker – once the eggs are laid, there is literally nothing you can do.  Insecticides – organic or not – do nothing.  The larvae hatch and burrow directly through the pod and into the developing peas, where they make nice little homes and eat the peas from the insides out until there is nothing left but empty shells and a bunch of fat, white grubs.  BARF.

The only way to control them is to kill the adults before they lay the eggs, which means you would have to know the adults are there… which you usually don’t.  They apparently are not a problem every year in every place, and a lot has to do with timing.  This year, the Pacific Northwest is having a terrible problem with them because the pea crops are so delayed.  Normally, they get going before it’s warm enough for the bugs to wake up and so only late crops are susceptible.  But this year, it was SO COLD and SO DARK and SO RAINY that even peas were delayed, and that’s saying something.

So, what does one do about this lovely little pest?  One destroys her crop.  The whole thing.  They say to burn the plants, actually.  There is nothing else to be done.  So this evening, I headed out with my gloves and my clippers and I systematically murdered my pea plants.  It about killed me to do it.

the roosters check out the mountain of pea vines

I figured feeding them to the chickens would be as effective as burning them, only less wasteful.  The girls were already in bed for the night, but the boys came to check them out and took a few nibbles.  We’ll see if they really like them tomorrow.

Luke tries a bite

Pippin, Shelly, Daisy Mae, and Lady B check out the peas from the high perch

The girls shuffled sleepily out to look down at the mountain of plants, but decided to wait until the morning, despite the frantic calls from the boys, “I found it!  I found it!!  No one knew these plants were here until I found them!!!”  <same rooster walks 1 foot to the left and looks at the same pile from another angle, astonished> “HEY!!  LOOK WHAT I FOUND!!  Plants!!  I found plants!!  LOOOOOK!!”  And so on and so forth.

Now I will share with you a little secret.  I couldn’t quite do it.  I couldn’t completely murder them.  So, I really only mostly murdered them.  I cut them all offan inch or two from the ground.  No pea left, no flowers left, no buds left.  But I figure… they might come back.  They were chopped before and they returned full-force… and since it’s a timing thing with these bugs… maybe I’ll have a second flush and the life cycle will already be past the egg-laying stage?  I really love peas.  And I got to eat none (save for one or two a day for a few days).  If they die, they die, but if they come back, I’ll just look for eggs again, and if I see them, I’ll just go through the whole murdering process again.

chopped pea plants

I’ll keep you posted.

The Rest of the Garden

young Pork Chop tomato

So, like I said, the garden has been quite pleased with the weather.  The peas were pleased too, don’t get me wrong.  It was just that the pea weevils were really, really pleased.  Anyway, I now have tomatoes set on three different plants, at least.  The Sungold cherries were the first that I showed you, and now I have at least one Pork Chop and at least one Sweet Carneros Pink.  This is so much earlier than the last two years.  In light of the traumatic (to say the least) spring we had, I think it’s pretty incredible.  I give all the credit to the soil blocks and grow lights.

young Sungold cherry tomatoes

young Sweet Carneros Pink tomato

My Bright Lights chard is looking beauteous maximus.

My Red Cabeza cabbages are huge and flourishing, like always.

My corn, pumpkins, and beans are doing well in the Three Sisters garden.

Though the mysterious plant choppers still seem to be around.  Yesterday, I found one corn and two beans chopped to about 2-inch sticks.  The other corn and beans in the same mound were untouched.  The chopped parts were missing this, time, though, so I guess they were eaten?  Still clean cuts.  I took the picture today, and in 24 hours the corn as already started to grow back, which is pretty incredible.

foreground, chopped plants, background, untouched plants.

Pretty Flowers

Darlow's Enigma rose

I will leave you tonight with a couple of pretty flower pictures.  This Darlow’s Enigma rose is climbing up the pillar on my front porch, where in only gets late afternoon sun.  It is happy as a clam and growing like a weed… healthy, abundant, fragrant flowers.  Pretty cool.

April in Paris sweet peas

And sweet peas, my loves.  This year I had so many projects going and the weather was so depressing that I actually forewent planting any sweet peas.  I know, I know!  How could I do that?  It too an amazing amount of willpower, trust me.  But I guess they love me as much as I love them, because I have found that my Aprils in Paris have decided to volunteer by my front door, and while they sat there, like most plants this year, tiny, droopy, and insect-ridden for months this spring, the recent sunshine has brought them to life and they have taken off like rockets and have just started to bloom, and their perfume wafts trough the front yard in heaven-scented clouds.  Um, YAY!

** Spring.  It was Spring who told me.  Like I would really protect her after she murdered my pear trees this year.

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One thought on “Hello, Summer! Goodbye, Peas… & Other Tales

  1. Oh wow! Your peas with the purty flowers! I’ve never heard of pea weevils either! How traumatic. I plan to inspect mine this afternoon to see if they reached the south Oregon coast. I love the rainy flower pictures too.

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