Oh-oh-oh, you lucky Gentle Readers, you. I have a long and complicated story in my head (as usual) but I’m going to try 🙂 to cut it down to manageable size so I can get it all in before this busy day is upon me. Plus, that way maybe you’ll actually have time to read it. It’s not easy, you know, for me to do that, but I love you guys and I don’t want to wear your eyeballs out with reading too-many-words!
Ready . . . set . . . go!! 🙂
I’ve got it all today: garden surprises, my Icelandic chickens’ part in them, rejuvenation in the hoop house, mini-anythings and how much fun they are, and a splendid new veg that I grew this summer: Mexican Sour Gherkins. There. That’s a lot, isn’t it? I got all that out of my system, so now I can just tell you a story!
Once upon a time . . . (cue music in an ominous key) there was a thick dark cloud of baby grasshoppers.
These ‘hoppers descended upon a certain dinky farm (actually, more of a farm-ette) which was unkempt, but productive, in a lovely green corner of Nebraska. They seemed cute (and bippy! and boppy!) at first, but the Farm Woman who noticed them–although she just adores mini-anythings–was not entranced by these mini grasshoppers. She was not fooled. Not even from the start. She had been through grasshopper years before, and she knew the Old Testament Plague-ish nature of these denizens of evil. She knew that they would grow up and eventually burrow into her beautiful heirloom tomatoes, and eat corn kernels off the cobs (underneath the shucks, secretly and unbidden), and decimate the green beans by taking big nasty bites out of them, and also ruin the beautiful big bell peppers, digging deep holes in them which would then ruin the entire pepper.
(Spoiler alert: She didn’t know that they would totally strip her beautiful potato plants of leaves and blossoms, while she was out of town. But grasshoppers don’t show their cards, no. They always have a trick or two up their proverbial and nonexistent sleeves, darn ’em.)
Since this Farm Woman had been around the block a time or two already, garden- and otherwise (cough), she felt a chill of foreboding when she saw the cute little ‘hoppers clustered on her zinnia plants in the hoop house, voraciously chomping away at the lovely petals. But, as there is nothing an organic gardener can do to fight these most formidable garden pests (beyond hitting them between two bricks, which is exhausting and time-prohibitive) she merely sighed heavily and went on with her day, thinking uncharitable and dark thoughts about grasshoppers, Adam and his folly, the day in general, and whatnot.
That Adam! *pshaw*
The summer progressed. The grasshoppers grew, in size, strength, voracious eating abilities, and numbers. In mandible size. They sucked. And the Farm Woman doesn’t use this type of crude language. But if she did? That’s what she would have said about them.
Meanwhile, in an unrelated development (so far it’s unrelated), the Farm Woman obtained some new chicks. Not ordinary chicks, mind you, but the much-coveted Icelandic chicks, special heritage birds descended from the Farm Woman’s own ancestors: the Vikings. She was beyond thrilled with the tiny beautiful chicks and spent more time in the garage watching them and bonding with the unique birds than was probably healthy. Her family grew pale and wan and felt quite sorry for themselves.
The chicks, on the other hand, flourished.
The sweet–yet rahther dependent and clueless-in-an-endearing-way–family wondered when their chick-besotted mother (and wife) would return to making regular meals and doing their laundry with any regularity. They brooded. They began, out of stark necessity, to make their own meals. Boxed pudding with whipped cream for breakfast. Potato chips and chocolate bars for lunch. Cans of condensed soup, eaten with plastic spoons (there was no clean silverware, nor bowls: who was there to wash them, without the Woman?) and stale crackers, for dinner. They found the “convenience foods” aisle at the local grocery store and bought some provisions there.
Meanwhile, somebody had the brilliant idea to start an ambitious remodeling project. Suddenly everything was a disaster. There were boxes, sheetrock dust, junk, splinters of 2x4s, shards of tiles, and whatnot all over the house.
Life was quite disappointing at the Miller house. Nobody was very happy about it.
Meanwhile, the chicks grew. And, coincidentally, so did the grasshoppers.
One day the Farm Woman deemed the chicks big enough to be moved outside, into the chicken tractor, the summer house, as it were, that her excellent gentleman-farmer husband, Mr. No-I-Don’t-Want-Any-Pigs-Thank-You-Very-Much. They grew slowly (the chicks, that is, because–as you know–there were no pigs), and showed their intelligence one by one by slipping out of the chicken tractor through hidden Icelandic-chicken-sized gaps, and they began to discover the delights of roaming the small farmette unsupervised.
One could, at a glance, spot their glee. Actually, it was contagious and amusing and dear to the Farm Woman, who spent probably more time than was healthy, also trying to flee her household responsibilities, watching these free-spirits. This free life was–one felt–what they were created to do. To be.(The chickens, and the woman.) The Farm Woman felt a kinship with the chickens, in that they would rather be free outside, than inside, say–working on a kitchen remodel during the golden hours of autumn. 🙁 blaaaaa
Their joy was complete–the joy of the chickens, and also the joy of the Farm Woman, herself. All was well.
Meanwhile, the grasshoppers on the farmette grew to large numbers and sizes. As expected, they decimated the pitiful Farm Woman’s crops, especially in the hoop house, where the favored heirloom tomatoes and peppers and teeny tiny miniature Mexican sour gherkins and other vegetables grew. The woman did see many garden spiders, spinning webs and catching grasshoppers, and she felt a miniscule amount of hope at this, but the number of spiders was not large enough to make a dent in the number of ‘hoppers.
She knew, with a heavy heart, that this was so, and that her lovely plants really were doomed.
There were not enough bricks on the place–nay, in the world–to kill all those voracious grasshoppers. The Farm Woman spent lots of time away, foraging for food to sell and to eat, away from the farmette. Such was her dismay.
The grasshoppers had become real pests, hitting her in the face and arms with juicy “splat!”s whenever she walked through the hoop house. Her beautiful vegetables were being destroyed, right and left, fore and aft. She pulled her hair and gnashed her teeth against them. But there was nothing else she could do. She noticed that her beautiful zinnias and piquant sour gherkin vines were now reduced to only sad broken stems, and she feared the worst.
But that’s not all. The Farm Woman was also distracted from the distressing state of her hoop house crops by her worries about the darling young Icelandic chickens, which roamed so freely now. She knew that any predator would relish one of them for dinner, but they were small and quick, and seemed more intelligent, in fact, than her traditional flock, so she was hopeful. And they grew. They went everywhere. She spotted them in the orchard, snapping up bugs among the windfall apples. She walked in on them many times as they quietly moved through the hoop house, eating, darting, looking very fit and satisfied and smug. She saw them working their way through her garden, digging in the dirt for bugs. They didn’t do any damage to her crops, and they were (admittedly) the new darlings on the place, so she let them be.
And since the lovely birds returned to the coop at the end of the day, she didn’t fret overmuch. Things seemed to be going well for them all. Many evenings they chose to roost in the tree next to the coop, but with the enthusiastic climbing Farm Boy at her side, the Woman was able to get them out of the tree and into the coop, night after night, until that was where they preferred to land at bedtime.
Life, after all, was good. If one could forget about the decimated crops and the sucky grasshoppers, that is.
Then one morning, bucket in hand, the Woman peeped into her hoop house, to pick tomatoes for her family’s dinner. She paused. Something seemed different. Her gaze brushed across the back corner of the structure, where a tangle of beautiful pink and orange zinnias was rising from the formerly-decimated greenery. Her zinnias were growing back! A quick glance to her left showed her that her lemon squash vines were rejuvenated and putting on tiny yellow squashes, and her cucumber vine lattice, which–incredibly!–again was covered with Mexican sour gherkin vines. Reborn. Recalled to life!
She hardly dared hope, but she couldn’t stop herself. Hope was, after all, her middle name. Well, not really, but it sounds good, doesn’t it? She walked, trembling, over to the vines and lifted them. This is what she found:
Against all the odds! Certainly against the grasshoppers’ intentions, there was fruit. Everywhere. The vines were loaded. The Farm Woman’s eyes grew larger still and she walked about the hoop house with an ebullient spirit. It was incredible. All the plants that had been eaten to their nubbins by the evil grasshoppers were growing back, even stronger than before, and the really amazing thing about it all?
There were no grasshoppers. None. Well, maybe one or two. Could it be that her darling Icelandic chickens ate all the grasshoppers? Or had they just miraculously disappeared, mid-summer, as had never happened before in the history of the world?
Curious, the Woman compared notes with other farmers in the area, asking if their grasshoppers were still a problem. She held her breath as she heard the answers, one by one: No, they are worse than ever! I hate them! They won’t be gone until a hard freeze! Still a problem?? I’ll say! What an awful year for grasshoppers! I’ve lost so much!
The Farm Woman counted her Icelandic chickens every night as she put them to bed, and she counted her blessings, as well. For they–these hardy, beautiful, free-spirited, energetic chickens–had saved the Farm. Or, at least, the garden crops in the hoop house.
It was a delightful irony, after all: the grasshoppers–such vigorous, able, destructive pests–had fed and fueled her Icelandic chickens–their able adversaries, and now they were gone. The thought of this delightful irony made the Farm Woman smile. Indeed.
It was a miracle. But in the garden, miracles happen every day, after all. This much is commonly known.
So they all lived happily ever after. The Farm Family. The Icelandic chickens. The Farm Woman.*
But not the grasshoppers.
(Did I say it would be short? Kidding!)
P.S. *In fact, the Excellent Gentleman-Farmer-Husband eventually saw the wisdom of his wife’s longings and gave in to adding a couple of handsome pigs to the mix. He never regretted it for a moment.
Gentle Reader! I’ll post the recipe next week for my Mexican sour gherkin refrigerator pickles. They were QUITE a hit at our Wednesday night supper club, last Thursday night (don’t ask). We all loved them. I believe you would love them, too!
Do you have a garden- or chicken-friend who would enjoy this story? Then share it, chickie. I’ll love you forever for it!
- Right here in the moment, looking at what I have
- Mexican Sour Gherkins Star in Refrigerator Pickles Recipe