(Horrifying) Realization Of The Day:
The very first bite of the very first ripe strawberry of the season was not taken by me. Damn turtles!
Okay, so here's the deal with my strawberries. I actually have two strawberry beds right now. The photo above shows the older bed--it's on the right side of the photo. Yes, that's it--where that super tall, lush, if-this-were-in-my-fields-I'd-be-farmer-of-the-year orchard grass is flourishing, and you can't for the life of you see a single strawberry plant. Pathetic, I know. On the left are the strawberry plants that jumped out of bed and are attempting to grow in the hard, unfertilized, black plastic and wood chip covered pathway. There was no way I was going to pull them up. I take my strawberries wherever I can get them. This is where the first ripe berry of the season was found.
This is the strawberry bed I planted last year with 24 locally grown "Super Strawberry" plants I bought at the spring Garden Club Plant Sale for $3.00. I had high hopes for them, but I obviously did something wrong (I believe it had to do with neglect and weeds) because as you can see, there is probably more volunteer dill growing in it than there are strawberry plants. (Do note my happy spring garlic sprouting up along the left edge of the bed. I stuck those cloves everywhere.) At least I like dill. Though, as I mentioned the other day, I don't have a single cucumber plant in the ground yet. But that happens every year so I am used to it.
Okay, back to the berries. You may have read that I have a problem with voracious, strawberry-loving turtles coming from (what I am sure is) miles around to feast on my prized, luscious red bounty. Actually, it's usually luscious, half-red bounty, and that is part of the problem--the turtles don't care if the berries aren't quite ripe. It wouldn't be so bad if they just stole a berry or two, but no, they take a bite out of one, move on to the next and take a bite out of it, and the next, and just keep going until they are so stuffed they cannot move. Then they nap, digest, and wake up hungrier than ever.
Turtles are sly creatures, and I rarely catch them in the act. But I have on occasion, and that is how I know they are the culprits. (Although last year I came upon a red-mouthed, full grown possum plopped down in the middle of my strawberry bed during broad daylight. My mind still refuses to completely believe that experience.) Anyway, I think the turtles have gone one step further toward total occupation of my strawberry territory. Because, you see, last year I didn't do a single thing differently in that strawberry bed than I had done in previous years. There was absolutely no reason for that orchard grass to show up and take over like it did.
The other evening Joe and I were out in the garden and as we walked by the grassy strawberry bed, he made some comment, and I said "I bet there's a turtle hiding in that grass right now." I mean, my dog can lay in there unseen. And then it hit me. "I bet the turtles planted that grass so they'd have a place to hide!" Joe laughed and gave me that "Okay, honey, whatever you say" look. But really, think about it. Birds build entire complicated nests by carrying around bits of grass and twigs in their beaks. How hard would it have been for a turtle to pull out a hunk of orchard grass last summer, carry it in his mouth over to my strawberry bed, and shake the seeds around? Voila! Come spring--instant, shaded hiding place right next to the berry buffet.
I know. You are probably rolling your eyes and wondering if there is something strange in our water. Or that maybe I've been getting too much fresh air and sunshine, as I have obviously lost it. But that is the curse of the dedicated foodie gardener. We'll do anything to hold onto our harvest, and we'll make extraordinary excuses to explain things--even if it means losing our minds in the process. Or perhaps it's just me.
I did manage to nab and devour two fully ripened strawberries out in the garden this morning. They were absolutely divine, and I plan to enjoy many more--whatever it takes. (Oh my. I just caught myself about to let out an evil-sounding laugh.)