July 19, 2008


Over the past few days, The Wife and I have noticed several caterpillars feasting upon the leaves of our tomato plants. Now, I've just begun to enjoy the fruit; the pear tomatoes are sweet like candy. I haven't had the Romas yet but The Wife says they're really good. So to see these little pests killing our plants is most disturbing to me.

I've also found something of an irrational fear of them. They're harmless, I know. They won't bite me and even if they do, so what? Their bite will not hurt me. But something about them is unsettling and odd and I don't want to have to handle them. Some people have similarly irrational fears of spiders or snakes or other kinds of bugs; turns out, I have a similar fear of caterpillars.

Of course, I do have to handle them or else they'll eat the plants and our very expensive but sweet tomatoes will all die. So I did it, and tried to pick the offensive thing off the plant. It was surprisingly strong and held on like glue with its icky little claw feet to the plant. The first one, I broke off a piece of the dead stem of the plant and transferred the whole group to the willow tree. If the caterpillar eats leaves off the willow tree, I won't care.

But the next day, he was back. And he was much bigger. Not quite as big as the one that kid is handling in the picture above. But big. And so I had to pick him off the plant with my fingers. Internal organs and things moved around and flexed under my fingers and it creeped me out so much I had to drop the disgusting pre-moth on the ground. Then I got a stick and flung him over the masonry wall and onto the street where I hope a cement truck turned him into road slime or a crow's feast.

Today, no caterpillars. But about a third of the leaves of both tomato plants are gone. They look like they're recovering, and new leaves will start to grow where the icky bug didn't get to them. I hope so.

In other gardening news, it looks like we were right to stick with the pepper plant even after the first pepper crapped out on us. We have at least six peppers coming in all at once! Hopefully whatever got to the first one won't happen to these new guys and we can enjoy fresh peppers in our fajitas in a few weeks. Also, the cucumber vines got decimated by something (I think the caterpillar) and are totally dead. One cucumber we got out of that thing.

So far the only things that are growing really well are the rosemary, chives, and parsley. But the marginal cost of garden fruit has come down to something like a dollar per pear tomato now, so that's getting better.

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