Saturday, August 27, 2016

Tomatoes, Hornworms, Braconids, and Robert Burns

To a Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With a Plough - Robert Burns

Wee, sleekit, cowran, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murd'ring pattle!

I'm truly sorry Man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An' fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave 'S a sma' request:
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
An' never miss't!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It's silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's winds ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an' wast,
An' weary Winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell.

That wee-bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turn'd out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald.
To thole the Winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Still, thou art blest, compar'd wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

For the first time since my son was born, I planted a garden. We decided, together, to plant pumpkins, peppers, beans, and tomatoes. My pumpkins fared well enough. The peppers never produced. The beans did ... poorly. However, my tomatoes took off. I was able to eat my fill this summer, can for this winter, and am still getting viable tomatoes even though the vines appear dead. This has made me rather happy and I am anticipating doing more next summer. 

However, as I was examining the garden this evening, I found hornworms - the bane of tomato growers everywhere. Or, at least, gardeners who do not use pesticides. The hornworms will eat the leaves and stems and weaken the plants. 

My photo is horrible.

But when you see a hornworm that looks like this - leave it alone. The white "spikes" are cocoons of the braconid wasp - a natural enemy of the hornworm. By keeping this worm here, in my overgrown and tired garden, the wasp will ensure I have fewer hornworms next year. Yay!

It was through this image, though, that I thought of Robert Burns and his poem. You can see, I still have a tomato waiting to ripen, while two that were damaged by, probably our groundhog, hanging and rotting behind it. I had a prolific crop. Why worry about the few that were sampled by the groundhog, or damaged by the hornworm, when I have enough for myself? I love Burns' lines: 
I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve; 
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live! 
A daimen-icker in a thrave 'S a sma' request: 
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave, 
An' never miss't!

"I doubt not that you may thieve;
What then? Poor beast, you must live!

Words to live by. It drives home the fact that, in teaching my son that he needs to distinguish between what he needs and what he wants, I am asked to consider that on a daily basis, as well. We should all consider it more. Share more. Love more. And don't sweat the small things like a solitary hornworm on your tomato plants.