During the last few weeks, the Glass Gem corn—my summer experiment—has begun to dry out and turn brown.
I picked a few test ears and determined that it was time to harvest. But first I needed to fight my way through a wildlife gauntlet to claim my jewel-toned treasure. First, a black widow protected the garden entry, tucked up inside her cinderblock lair.
Not only was she guarding the garden, she was also guarding a few egg sacks. Mother and young were slayed with scissors and wasp spray.
Then I re-engaged a known enemy. A couple of weeks ago, while harvesting my test ears, I was stung on the right wrist by a wasp. Turns out it was one of a gang that had built a little fortress hidden on the underside of one of the corn leaves.
With throbbing wrist I had hastily retreated to ice packs and antihistamines, conceeding round one to the wasps. My entire arm ached for a week, feeling like it was broken deep inside.
But now I was back and better prepared. Before the wasps could mount a defense, I shot them all with a strong stream of wasp spray. They fell to the ground, writhing. A quick perimeter check found no more wasp nests, and the coast was clear for me to begin my plunder.
Harvesting corn is no fun. Between the fear of more hidden stinging creatures, and the claustrophobic feeling induced by threading myself amongst the close-spaced cornstalks, I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. I wrenched the ears off the stalks, and cut the ones that didn’t come away easily with my pruners. I tossed them all in a pile to be sorted later.
Just when I was about done and feeling like I was home free, I encountered my final challenger. I reached into the stand of cornstalks and as I did felt a burning, stinging sensation travel up my arm from wrist to elbow. I screamed and flipped over a leaf to see this guy, just before I ran to the outside hose to douse my arm in cold water.
Meet my Cerberus, a saddleback caterpillar, its spiked protrusions covered with urticating hairs that had just set my arm on fire. A fitting final foe for what had been a hellish harvest.
But now came the fun part: opening each ear to see the multicolored surprises held within…