Our garden is starting to produce abundant vegetables. It all started a few weeks ago when we were able to harvest our first peas, red cabbage, and broccoli. It was only able to produce enough peas for a few meals because the hot weather kicked in early and, combined with the excessive rainfall, it was too much for the plants to endure. However, we did take some broccoli, cabbage, some early yellow onions, and a few green (early) tomatoes and peppers to our first sale at the Grant County Farmers Market in the Petersburg City Park parking lot on Saturday, June 30. We set up along with several other early producers on another hot and steamy day. Despite the heat, our sales were much better than we expected, and we sold all our vegetables except for one red cabbage.
We complemented our produce with some of our homemade goat soap and Barb’s quilting products (lap quilts, table runners, pot holders, hot pads, and mug mats). These are items that set us apart from some of our colleagues at the market. We also set up at the farmers market on Saturday, July 7 with an expanded produce selection, which now includes bags of green and wax beans, cucumbers, and banana peppers. The weather on July 7 was perfect with abundant sunshine, temperatures in the low 70’s with very low humidity, and a gentle breeze. It felt like a glorious spring day in early summer, which was a greatly appreciated gift after days of hot and humid mid-summer weather. The number of producers at the market increased significantly, but our sales were not as good. That’s how it goes at a farmer’s market. You just can’t predict what combination of weather and produce selection will generate descent sales. We just hope our loyal readers will come and visit us at the Farmers Market. We will be selling our wares most Saturdays from 8 AM to noon at the parking lot adjacent to the Petersburg City Park on South Main Street, just before the South Branch River Bridge.
As a side note, an interesting incident occurred in our garage when I was loading our equipment and produce into our pick-up truck—which I affectionately refer to as our “flivver,”—when I noticed that one of the garbage bags we temporarily store our rubbish in until our next trip to the transfer station had been chewed by some animal searching for food scraps. I had found a groundhog in our garage last summer, but I didn’t feel that a vegetarian would be trying to chew its way into a garbage bag. My first thought was that it might be a field mouse, which can get rather large and wouldn’t hesitate to feed on any refuse it could scavenge. I decided I needed to keep a close watch on it to see what was after our rubbish.
A couple of days later, I discovered that the hole in the trash bag was larger and some rubbish had been pulled out. The mystery grew as it appeared that the trash bandit had taken up residence in the garage, because the doors had been shut tight for nearly 24 hours. Then I caught a glimpse of some movement along the front wall of the garage, and I called to Barb, who was also in the garage with me. She said she thought she saw a young opossum scamper behind the storage cabinet in the milking area. I peeked into the space between the wall and the cabinet and even tried to coax it out with a pry bar, but I didn’t see, hear, or feel anything.
I remembered back to the time we were living in Oxford, AL (1996-2004). We had a partially enclosed (on three sides) carport in which we parked our vehicles and stored our yard maintenance equipment. We used to leave some dry cat food and water in that carport for our two housecats when we would take a day trip away from the house so that the cats would have something to eat and drink while we were gone. However, we often discovered that the cats were eating far more dry cat food when we left it outdoors than they would when we fed them in the house. One day, we returned home just after dark and pulled into the garage. There, in the glow of the headlights, was an opossum that had been feeding on the dry cat food. We knew that opossums can be rather viscous and will hiss at you and bite to defend themselves. If you’re not properly equipped to deal with them, it’s best to scare them away rather than try to touch or capture them. So, we just left him alone until he left and then stopped filling the cat dish for a while.
After a few more daytime visits to check on the cat food supply in the carport bowl, the opossum became so accustomed to seeing us that it didn’t run away or hiss at us when we were present. It just ignored us and went about its business searching our home and carport for any dry cat food or spilled sunflower seeds beneath our front yard bird feeder. We eventually named him “Bandit” for his/her frequent raids and the dark bands around his/her eyes and it became just another outdoor wild pet that made our home part of its daily feeding range. I thought again of Bandit after Barb said she thought the scavenger that had taken up residence in our garage was another opossum.
When I opened the garage door this morning, before we left for church, I noticed even more trash had been removed from the bag. However, this time, I saw something moving in the bottom of the bag. I touched it with my hand, and it moved some more. I had caught our trash bandit in the act. I put on some heavy work gloves and called Barb to the garage, as I slowly opened the outer garbage back and removed the inner bag containing the trash. Sure enough, when I removed the inner bag, the opossum fought its way out of the outer bag and dashed out the garage door before I could capture it and hid under the wooden step adjacent to the barnyard porch.
We brought Calli outdoors to keep it occupied and trapped under the porch step. She made sure to keep her distance, but she managed to captivate its attention. After sealing off the porch to make sure it couldn’t hide there, I took out our animal trap and set it up on one side of the step, while I coaxed it out with a pry bar from the opposite side of the step. Luckily the opossum dashed into the trap, while I triggered the back door of the cage to drop. We had safely trapped the rascal! I carried it to the far end of our meadow and released it along the run. The opossum raced along the bank and disappeared into the woods. Now that it is on the opposite side of the stream from our house, I hope it will find more a more convenient and less risky food source than the household rubbish stored in our garage.
This incident also helped explain two recent injuries Calli had received, both of which required a visit to the local vet. In early June, she had been bitten at the base of her tail, as though she had been in a struggle with some unknown animal. About three weeks later, we discovered she had a laceration on the pad of her left front paw, as though she had tried to swat something that ended up cutting her. After I relocated bandit and let Calli outdoors again, I noticed she went directly into the garage to look around. That caught my attention, because I knew she was looking for that opossum, but she didn’t know we had chased it out of the garage. After a brief survey of the garage, she came out and continued her search around the back side of the building and on towards the ravine. She was obviously searching for the opossum and knew where it could be found. That was all the evidence I needed to conclude that she had been hunting for the opossum, which had bitten her twice previously.
Hopefully, this incident will be all the evidence you need to learn two important rural living lessons regarding wildlife. First, never leave household trash lying around where wildlife can get to it. If you have to store it as we do (because we have to make a special trip to deliver it to the transfer station), make sure that you rinse off any food containers and seal any food scraps in a zip-lock bag. We had not done that enough times. The second lesson is to take great care in dealing with wild animals, regardless how innocent or cute they may appear. Even the cutest little animal knows how to defend itself and does not understand any words of endearment you may use to make it feel safe in your presence. To them, you are merely another predator that it must guard against—especially if it feels threatened by you or is protecting its young. Rabies is one of the most common rural killers, even if the threatened animal is not. Such are the hard lessons that the cold realities of rural life teach us, whether you choose to live in the country or not. Never make the mistake of thinking that we are so intellectually superior to the wildlife around us that we don’t have to respect it. Sooner or later, you may end up paying for the cost of your own intellectual ignorance. That’s just another piece of advice we have learned and continue to learn from our life at Peeper Pond Farm.