After losing my sweet corn crop, last year, to a pair of two-legged thieves and the year before that to a hoard of starlings, I was so happy to actually harvest a crop this year that I didn’t begrudge the two dozen or so ears I lost to a four legged critter.
And yes I do know that starlings have two legs but unless they wore size 9 and size 12 hiking shoes they were not the thieves who robbed me of some 1,500 ears. The thieves who got me last year left tracks and the imprints measured out to the shoe sizes or at least a reasonable approximation thereof. I still get angry just thinking about it.
The critter or critters that got to me this year did pull the ears off the stalks, then pulled the shucks back and chewed the corn off the cobs in much the same way most humans do it and then left the residue lying at the edge of our yard and around the perimeter of the corn patch. I’d bet a lot of money that it was raccoons.
I suspect it was more than one because the first night they struck they left eight cobs/shucks-attached in the aforementioned places. I doubt that one coon would have eaten all eight ears.
The corn was not quite as filled out as we like it so I left the porch light on for a few nights and they didn’t come back. Believe me, I checked the patch every day and did not find any new evidence of thievery.
After leaving the porch light burning for five or six days, we deemed the corn to be fit and table ready and I picked a few dozen ears late one afternoon.
That night the critters apparently overcame their fear of the porch light, or maybe they saw me harvesting the crop and decided they’d better be getting while the getting was good. In any event they struck again and this time they left behind the residue of more than a dozen ears.
That afternoon I finished picking everything except a few ears that were still not ready, mostly on stalks that were a week behind the others because I’d planted them in random spots where the first seeds had not sprouted. The critters and I shared, pretty much equally, what was left over the next 10 days or so.
That was nearly a month ago. Now fast forward to current events.
I had not seen hide nor hair of the garden pests until last Saturday. In the meantime, we had been enjoying both ripe and/or fried green tomatoes or both every day and sharing them with family and friends. I have 20 tomato plants made up of 6 varieties in the main garden as well as half a dozen in big containers several hundred feet from the garden and isolated so that they can’t cross pollinate because I want to save seeds.
Thanks to a few hours of hard work performed by my brother, Andy, the garden plants are all caged so that they stand erect and most of the fruit is at least 20 inches above ground. A lot of it is more than 30 inches.
I say “is,” but I should say “was,” because when I went out, last Sunday, to check on the progress of several dozen tomatoes that had been in various stages of ripeness on Friday, I discovered, much to my dismay, that the critters had struck again. I counted 43 stems and shoulders still attached to the vines but the bottom 3/4s had been gnawed off. In addition, more than 20 mostly-eaten fruits were scattered about where the culprits had pulled them off the vine and eaten whatever portion they deemed ripe enough.
So there went my carefully laid plans to set up a roadside tomato stand in downtown Paint Lick and earn enough money to buy a new battery put a set of new tires on my old pickup.
I may yet be able to get enough produce off the container plants to pay for the battery, but I am not holding my breath.
Even though I have them located almost directly under our booger light as folks on Blair Branch used to refer the security lights mounted on utility poles, the raccoons may decide that the Giant Syrians I have growing there are worth whatever risks they have to take to get at them.
I know, for sure, that if was a coon, I’d be taking my chances, even in broad daylight, to get my paws on a giant Syrian because they are, in fact, the best tasting tomato I have ever eaten.
Reach longtime Enterprise columnist Ike Adams at [email protected] or on Facebook or 249 Charlie Brown Road, Paint Lick, KY 40461.