Friday, September 11, 2015

In defense of nature—Carolyn R. Wilker

I look out my office window and see the cup plants (silphium perfoliatum) with sunflower-like flower heads and whorled leaves that give it that name. The plants now stand higher than my husband’s workshop, otherwise known as our garage. I’ve also seen, from time to time, those yellow birds with a dark wing—either goldfinches or orioles—pecking away at the flower heads, petals falling to the ground below. Sometimes it looks like a flurry of yellow petals. Other birds land there too or sit nearby on the edge of the workshop roof. At this point in late summer, the flower heads are looking rather bare, the last petals pecked on the tops of the plants.

Cup Plant- silphium perfoliatum

My garden boxes have what now looks like a twisted bunch of plants and vines, mostly green with only a few blossoms remaining. The zucchini plants have shrivelled up and some of the remaining leaves droop down one side. We’ve eaten or shared a lot of those yellow zucchini but the last few didn’t grow enough to harvest, leaving tiny green and yellow fingers of growth that would have been a zucchini, if only... That’s the way it is at the end of a growing season.
The tomato plants stretched as high as the netting covering the garden, so I cut a hole in the covering, and the plants kept on growing. Those tall ones still bear blossoms and some tomatoes, so there’ll be a few more to pick, and more for my granddaughters to taste as we gather the last fruits of the plants.

Days ago, in cleaning up the bean plants, and thinning the carrots, I uncovered a smooth striped caterpillar hanging from one of the carrot plants. The caterpillar, being heavy compared to the fluffy top, leaned to the side of the garden bed. I had a good look at it. I’d just read the book The Art of Butterfly Gardening, written by Matthew Tekulsky, so I had more than a passing interest in the butterflies that might be hiding out in my garden, particularly caterpillars, even if I hadn’t the desire to bring them indoors. I thought, My granddaughters would like to see this little guy.

I hurried into the house for my camera and when I returned and got nearer to the creature to take its picture, I swear it was looking up at me.  Looking it up on Google, I compared my picture with caterpillars shown online and figured out that it could be the Swallowtail butterfly in its earlier state. I posted the photo and link on my Facebook page and it drew in a few comments. Not everyone likes caterpillars and I don’t particularly either, but reference it to a butterfly that it morphs into and you’ve got my interest.

I decided to keep an eye on this little guy and watch what happened, but next day there was no sign of him in the place among the carrot plants or anywhere nearby. Maybe he went into hiding after I uncovered him… or maybe, in spite of the bird netting over my garden, he got eaten. I still don’t know the answer to that question. But I will be able to identify the next caterpillar like him. I’ll still keep a lookout for him, although we do have holes in the netting for the plants to grow out and plenty of birds perching in the nearby cedars who’d like such a tasty meal.

That’s the way nature in creation works, the higher order feasting on the one below, some making it to adulthood to grace our gardens in spring and summer. God made it all when he took the chaos and created order. 

Carolyn R. Wilker edits and writes from her home in southwestern Ontario. She is the author of Once Upon a Sandbox, a narrative in prose and poetry about growing up on a family farm in the 50s and 60s.


Peter Black said...

Carolyn, thanks for taking me on this engaging late-summer trip into your garden. I can understand how your granddaughters like to spend time with their grandma, for you evidently have a strong zest for life and learning and a fascination for nature! ~~+~~

David Kitz said...

I love gardening, so this post was particularly appealing to me. Thanks, Carolyn.

Glynis said...

I am always a little sad at the end of the gardening cycle, but as I collect the last of the harvest I actually love to think of how perfect God has made everything. How could we possibly think that the life cycle of anything (caterpillar or cucumber) could be random spurts? Thanks God for the beauty of life. And thanks Caroline for sharing and reminding me again to be grateful. Lovely post and photos. And my one cup plant survived. I am waiting for the seed now! Hopefully the birds won't beat me to it!

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