We’re reopening the Jollyville Road farm stand next Wednesday, September 30th! We’ll open at 10 a.m. that day. A little farm story follows below, with this week’s produce list at the bottom. If you haven’t yet signed up to receive our blog via email, just click on the subscription link at the right of the page and follow the instructions. Thank you!

Through the years, we’ve had many a home gardener ask us what we “do” about squirrels. Nothing, we tell them. Although families of squirrels have called the farm home as long as we have (longer, actually) there haven’t been enough of them – or at least they’ve not been hungry enough – to cause us any real harm. I’m sure they nibbled a vegetable or three along the way, but we were usually too busy battling other horrors like grasshoppers or stink bugs to notice.

I wouldn’t say we feigned sympathy with the inquisitive gardeners, but it’s doubtful we empathized as much as someone who was dealing with the same problem. The discovery of ten squirrel-ruined tomatoes leads to way more consternation when a person has only five or six tomato plants in their garden, as compared to a farm brimming with three or four thousand. We just hadn’t experienced much loss due to the furry little mammals ourselves.

Until now. Ground squirrels have managed to substantially increase their population over the summer, with each new offspring setting up house here, as well, when old enough to move out of the nest. Why would they leave the farm, after all? We compliant farmers continue to grow a more than ample food supply for them. And to make matters all the more cushy, we run row upon row of drip irrigation tape alongside the bounty. All a thirsty squirrel need do is chew through the plastic and voila! Instant water fountain.

Before Farmer John and I left for our two-week vacation, John pulled out the pellet gun. Now, he had no intention of shooting the squirrels himself. He suffers too much post-murder guilt, even when his victim is a chicken-mauling raccoon. No, he was hoping either Dana or Davy would do the dirty work while we were away. (We knew Mary wouldn’t shoot a squirrel, being the most pacifistic of us all.)

Even as we enjoyed the beauty of Quebec, Canada, we were constantly reminded of the squirrel situation back home. In every park, at every public place, squirrels abounded. Old women stopped to toss them pieces of croissant…while behind their backs, I formed a “gun” with my thumb and forefinger, aimed it at the little rats with bushy tails and whispered, “Pow! Pow!”

One day, on a sidewalk in Montreal, we came upon a young man holding a baby squirrel in the palm of his hand. He’d apparently rescued it from high in a tree close to the street, and other people had stopped to admire the tiny creature. “Pow. Pow.” I said, once we’d passed by and were no longer within earshot.

And I used to think of myself as a live-and-let-live kind of person, at least where fluffy mammals were concerned.

While we were away, I became obsessed with the butternut squash. In more than one email, I asked Dana if they’d been able to begin picking it. I feared the squirrels were just waiting…waiting…to get at the fruit the moment it reached its tanned, ripened state. Granted, unlike a raccoon, a ground squirrel can’t totally consume a butternut squash – but squirrels can certainly ruin the harvest by nibbling holes into each one.

Dana’s cryptic answer assured me that the squirrels hadn’t gotten to the butternuts, but she’d leave it to Davy to tell us why not. All John and I could figure was that Davy had, after all, taken to shooting the furry culprits. We found out later, however, that holding off the squirrel attack wasn’t Davy’s doing. The one in charge of protecting the now powdery-mildew laden – and thus even more exposed – butternuts…

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…was a rattlesnake. No squirrel in its right mind is going to risk becoming a rattler’s lunch, no matter how tempting the butternut squash patch looks.

John has tried to flush out the snake several times since we’ve been home, but it appears the snake has slithered onward.

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Perhaps the six-plus-inch rains will subdue the ground squirrels for a bit. At the very least, with our creek once again full and flowing, there shouldn’t be a need for the little varmints to chew through our drip tape. And while we’ll keep an eye out for that rattlesnake – with plans to kill it at the first opportunity, rather than risk one of us becoming a rattler’s lunch – we’re secretly hoping it might snack on a few squirrels before we find it.

As the marvelous rains fell on the farm back here, we enjoyed sunny days with temperatures in the 70’s in Quebec. Our vacation was perfect in almost every way. There was just the one thing, on our last day in Montreal. We’d climbed the steps to the top of Mont Royal for a spectacular view of the city, and decided to check out the lovely old chalet there. Once inside, as I admired the enormous front room and visualized couples in 19th century garb circling the floor in dance, John stood spellbound, staring at the ceiling.

“Oh…my…gosh,” he muttered. I looked up.

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There’s simply no getting away from them…

**We’re looking forward to setting up the farm stand next Wednesday! Thanks to the rains, and to our excellent co-farmers who took such great care of everything while we were gone, we’ll be bringing:

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Four varieties of summer squash (zucchini, Zephyr, yellow squash and some pattypan); lots of okra; Asian greens; loads of arugula; bunches of Swiss chard; sweet basil; three varieties of eggplant (purple, heirloom Rosa Bianca and white Japanese eggplant); red bell peppers, yellow bell peppers, white bell peppers, Cubanelle peppers and jalapenos; a few Asian cucumbers; and whatever else we might run across. (The butternuts, now safely harvested, need to sit and cure for a couple more weeks or so to “sweeten up” before we bring them to market.)

**If you’re receiving this via email and have comments or questions, you can either use the Comment link at the bottom of the page, or you can just hit your “Reply” button to send a response directly to me.

Thanks!
Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm
http://www.angelvalleyfarms.com
Farm stands:
Saturdays in Jonestown, FM 1431 and Park Drive, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Wednesdays in Austin, Jollyville Road between Oak Knoll and Duval, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

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