I feel like I'm walking across a recently abandoned battlefield, where the only remnants of life are a few greedy scavengers trying to find pieces of gold in dead soldiers' pockets. Something like that. We're checking for any last survivors of zucchini and summer squash in our greenhouse beds. They had a great run-- about six weeks right at the beginning of harvest season-- but they're crashing faster than I'd imagined. Leaves are flopped over and sticking to the black plastic underneath from the thick juices of aphids and squash bugs. We find a handful of stunted, deformed fruit from both entire beds, deposit it half-heartedly in a crate, and quickly move on.
Once we're in the nearby cucurbit patch outdoors, Sophie wails, crouched close to the ground. She's examining one of the first plants. It's fully coated in robotic squash bug nymphs and a smattering of mating adults. I try to deny it, ignore it, just harvest and forget they're there, but in the back of mind, a tape is running over and over again:
I think immediately of our winter squash, which was transplanted just 7-10 days ago. For the past two years, these bugs have slowly overtaken all the delicious varieties: Delicata, Red Kuri, Sweet Meat, Table King, Waltham Butternut, Small Sugar and Cinderella pumpkins... Last year they decimated all but the butternut. This year, we're planning on covering them with row cover to keep the bugs at bay, as well as spraying more often with an organic clay-based pesticide to keep them from burrowing their disgusting little proboscises into our plants. There's a sliver of hope.
But today, seeing the zucchini dripping in those babies, so early in their harvest window, I lose any optimism I was harboring. I'm resigned to it. If we end up with store-able winter squash this year, I might have to start believing in miracles.