The Wide Angle: Hero of the vine

Published 4:54 pm Friday, September 30, 2022

Standing in the face of a shearing north wind, which simultaneously announced the end of summer as well as blowing his long, lovely brown locks behind him, our hero stared meaningfully into the tangle of vines impeding his efforts lying before him.

To the west dark, steel-gray clouds spoke of cold rain as they shrouded the earlier setting sun, which in turn cast sharp shades of yellows, oranges and pinks against the contrasting blue sky.

Brows furrowed, the skies reflected the challenge before him. Around this singular point, his job had been completed. The bounty of his efforts rested in a bowl on the steps of a stoic-looking castle, perched opposite the angular buildings standing guard against an encroachment of trees to the south.

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Finally, brow clear of concern and determination, he strode forward and in a move of sweeping gratefulness, swiped the raspberry before the wasp could sting his fingers.

No, no the ghost of J.R.R. Tolkien did not possess me … just in case you were, uh … wondering (clears throat).

Yes, fall approaches and with it comes the end of another year of growing things intentionally, which is, dare I say, starkly different from being lazy and letting plants grow on their own.

I was, to say the least, pleasantly surprised and pleased with how things came out this year, if you dear reader are at all curious. Strangely enough, more than a few are interested in how things go and I’m happy to say that this year things show improvement over last year’s meager attempts.

Sure, the cucumbers underperformed, but the potatoes and tomatoes both did well and best of all, the peppers did very well and I was reasonably sure I couldn’t grow a pepper to save my life.

Toward the front of the house — or the stoic side if you are now confused — my strawberries came out of nowhere to thrive and while the raspberries took a little while, they also did well.

By now you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this.

“Is this just another attempt to impress Sue Grove?” you might be asking, as you throw your newspaper down in disgust, angrily swiping strawberry-jalapeño jam across the slightly burned edges of your toast.

“NO!” I say. It takes much more effort to impress Sue, now pick up this paper and keep reading. I have a point. An honest to goodness point that I will get to as soon as I’m done writing this sentence that will come to a point in a matter of …

My point is this, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the garden this year, along with my berry collection, but I now have competition. While I eagerly welcome bees and butterflies to my little sugary paradise, I have also had to come to share the space with an increasing number of wasps and yellow jackets.

Not enough to indicate that there is a hive anywhere near, aside from the one that I have to evict from the garage every summer, but enough to warrant a certain amount of caution when reaching for berries.

Last year I thought I was forging a bond with the wasps. No matter how much I dug around in the vines, reaching for berries, they never seemed worried. “I am one with the wasps!” I would think very loudly to myself to avoid sidelong stares of people walking by.

And yet, toward the end of summer last year, one wasp that had crawled on a berry I had picked decided I was being a little too handsy and it stabbed me with its butt knife. It hurts physically, naturally, but it also hurts emotionally. I thought we had an understanding.

We have, however,  come to another understanding this year. I’ve had both wasps and yellow jackets crawling on and in my hand while picking and so far they’ve kept their butt knives to themselves. In a way only a non-expert can look upon such a scenario, they seem to understand that I’m not there to hurt them, I just want the berry. We’ve learned to enjoy a symbiotic relationship.

I’ve even lifted a couple into the bushes after they fell off the vines during these cooler temperatures.

Of course the challenge is coming this Saturday (the day you’re reading this) when I crush apples for my apple ceyser mead. Both the wasps and yellow jackets helped me with the chore last year — when the sting came — and I’m legitimately looking forward to them hanging out with me this year.

Yes, I know I’m strange, but the way I see it these two species of butt-knife wielders have been good around me.

Now, if any of those psychopath hornets show up, then we will have a problem and you’ll see my brown locks waving once again behind me as I run down the street screaming, “Don’t murder me with your butt-knives!”