Sow There!: Making a tally of things that went right, Oct. 5, 2018

Harlequin bugs float at the surface of soapy water. The pesky invaders devastated the kale in the garden. (Heather Hacking — Contributed photo)
PUBLISHED: October 5, 2018 

Fall is a time of deep (and sometimes trivial) reflection. These days I have formed the habit of mulling things over each and every day. After seven hours as a new teacher, I spend my evenings thinking about what worked, what I should teach anew and what I have no business ever talking about again?

One of my many mentors at school, Autumn, reminds me to accept grace while realizing that I will make many mistakes. Accepting this deeply will help me to share the same attitude with my students, she advised.

She’s right about a lot of things, and she’s right about this.

I tend to make a tally of my missteps. Letting this load up on your shoulders can leave you hunched over in pain after a long day.

A new habit is to compile a nightly list of everything that went right. After a few weeks of framing things this way, I realize that most things were OK and some things were downright amazing.

It’s easy to use this same focus of the lens when looking back on my year of gardening.

My biggest green thumb victory was to allow several ratty kales plant to remain in the garden.

Before I went on vacation in mid-summer, I had been marveling at some amazing, and yet-to-be identified eggs on the underside of the kale leaves. They were like shiny jewels glimmering in the sun, I mused, before I knew better.

After my time out of town I returned and the beauties had hatched into harlequin bugs. Not just a few, but hundreds.

Some of the kale plants were already on their way out, ushered into the state of decline thanks to the unscrupulous leaf sucking of the harlequins. When I saw so many greedy bugs, I grabbed a bucket of soapy water. The tub looked like a huge vat of harlequin bug soup.

Cool-weather kale plants don’t look pretty in mid-summer, and they didn’t look pretty with bugs crawling here and there. I tore most of the plants from the ground.

But here’s where I did something right!

I read that harlequins not only love kale, they’ll take tomatoes as a second-favorite snack. With some semblance of (almost accidental) wisdom, I allowed a few kale plants to remain.

Let me tell you — I was a harlequin bug smashing fool for the remainder of the summer. I can’t begin to tell you how many adult bugs and egg clusters I smashed between my bare fingers. Thousands would not be an exaggeration. They love kale. They gathered on kale plants. I knew where to find them.

Hardly a day would go by that I would not find something to kill. The kale plants became more and more devastated, the leaves like ancient papyrus found in a secret cave. However, by having the kale as the plant to lure them, my tomatoes remained intact.

Recently, I was out in the garden at my school with the kids and the adult volunteers.

The children marveled at the joys of nature, and saw a bug on one of the plants.

I instinctively reached for it – yanking my hand away just in time to allow the children to enjoy the beautiful red and black colors. One volunteer and I winked at each other. I knew she would have also smashed that bug if she had spotted it on her plants at home.

I guess this experience counts as two victories – knowing when to hold them and knowing when to fold them (between your fingers).

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