Monday, August 23, 2010

Slugs With Drinking Problems

For the most part, our vegetable garden has remained predator-free this summer. Although it is surrounded by two-foot-high chicken-wire-style fencing, I do not doubt that any deer, squirrel, or rabbit that wanted to munch our lettuce, tomatoes, squash, or berries, could certainly step or hop right over the barrier. But, so far, the garden has remained more or less undisturbed. Japanese beetles did attack one basil plant, but one carefully placed beetle trap 40 feet from the garden seems to have mitigated that problem.

There is one pest that, until recently, we couldn't seem to defend against: slugs. When our plants were young, slugs would eat the plants. Once they bore fruit or veggies, these slugs and snails would crawl onto the veggie, leave their slimy trails, and munch away. And there was really nothing we could do.

Until I left a mostly empty beer can in the garden. The next morning, it was covered with slugs. Could it be? Were these slimy gastropod molluscs actually alcoholic?

Answer: yes they are. I started leaving 2-inch-tall cups of old beer in the garden. Every morning, the cups would be full of slugs who had drunk themselves blind and then drowned! First, I used an old Coors Light that had been in the garage (hot then cold then hot then cold). They loved it. But I wondered, are all slugs lager-lovers? In the back of my refrigerator, there has been a Long Trail Blackbeary wheat beer for some months. I am not a big "fruity" beer drinker, so I decided to give it a go. Up I filled the little cups and then I came to check it out next morning. Sure enough, there are plenty of slugs with more discerning palates; all the cups were full.

Here is what I have surmised. Slugs are drunks. If you want to rid your garden of them, beer is the answer. If you feel sad for them, perhaps suggest some sort of program, but remember, you can't help them if they don't want to help themselves. However, do pass along that I don't want them eating food in the garden. Otherwise, I will be there -- with beer, that lethal toxin to which they can't say no.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Article Covers Triathlon Camp

Check out my latest article in Vermont Sports about Maria Cimonetti's triathlon camp. An awesome coach teaches an awesome sport!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Man Lost In Garden

(RICHMOND) A northern Vermont man disappeared late Wednesday. He was last seen harvesting sun-gold tomatoes in his vegetable garden.

The man, identified as Mark Aiken, never claimed to be a good gardener, although his agricultural endeavors have improved from 4 years ago when his only production was a single red tomato that fell off the vine and rolled down his driveway only to rot between two rocks. This year, he has actually overseen a 20x50 foot plot that is bursting with peas, squash, tomatoes, greens, berries, and cucumbers.

The garden, in fact, was jungle-like -- particularly where 5-foot tall tomato plants have been over-run by chest-high zucchini plants. The last Alison Aiken saw, her husband was reaching into the wall of overlapping plants. She heard a muffled yell and some sounds of a struggle. When she looked back, the man was gone, the only clue that anything had passed: two manhole-sized zucchini leaves rustling slightly in the breeze. No sign of her husband remained.

Despite the man's disappearance, Mrs. Aiken is quite pleased about the strawberries, tomatoes, and squash that continue to grow. The cucumbers -- which have proved to be the most prolific growers of 2010 -- she can take or leave. "My husband ate most of these," she said, "in salads, plain, or with dip."

The only witness was an owl (see photo), whose services were retained by the Aikens for security issues in the garden. He declined to comment on the case, saying that this particular situation was beyond his jurisdiction. When pressed as to what, exactly, his jurisdiction did include, he answered with one word: "Birds."

If you have any information regarding the whereabouts of this individual, please contact the appropriate authorities.