Sunday, July 4, 2010

Metamorphosis for Pre-schoolers

We started a garden in the late spring so my daughter could experience the cyclical nature of things. Earth, seedling, sun, water, air, fruit, food. It's lovely isn't it? Except I started getting attached to the 'runt' of the garden. A tiny seedling of a crookneck squash, barely getting by. After months, the tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, bell peppers, and strawberries shot up, but this little guy although perky, didn't seem to grow at all. Finally, I noticed a bud; then, a little bump at the base of the now withering flower; and then, some semblance of a tiny, yellow gourd, a miniature version of its adult counterpart. Mmmm, I could taste it's creamy crispness in olive oil and garlic or in a salad. So, I tended to that garden which, surprisingly enough, was thriving in the Arizona heat and under the care of my very, very non-green thumb.

One morning, my daughter and I checked on the garden (I was really checking on my little squash. I could care less about the rest. They seemed just fine.)
I had my back turned away, picking dry leaves off the tomatoes when I heard Shorty say, "Look mommy. Whassat?" I turned and saw her holding up the one baby squash. I was so upset that I, a thirty-five year old mother, asked my two-year-old, "What'dyou do that for? It was a baby, now it will never grow," I said taking the guilt route. Yes, I went there. She smiled as if saying 'Big deal,' which made me start to fume a little. I dialed my husband at work (I know, I know,) and didn't bother to say hello when he picked up. "She picked the squash off the vine and now that baby squash won't grow. Here, tell Daddy what you did," She took the phone and said, "I picked it. Now won't grow," she reported and they both had a good laugh at my expense.

The plant died after that. Perhaps because, discouraged, I didn't care for it anymore, or all its energy went into that one casualty of a squash. So, I turned my attention on the tomatoes which were strangely losing leaves. My husband found fat green worms feasting on the plant and fruit. They had peculiar horns at their ends. "I see caterpillars," my daughter said, ecstatic. We just started reading Eric Carle's classic. Meanwhile, I just thought, 'Wow, these are the size of my husband's fingers; if they turn into butterflies, those suckers are going to be huge.'

I googled it; turns out they were Tomato Hornworms, parasites evolved to feed on tomatoes and occasionally, peppers (uh-oh.) They do turn into winged creatures, the Hawkmoth. They are the size of hummingbirds. I got rid of the rest of them and stuck two in a jar and Shorty's been feeding her 'caterpillars' lettuce or 'salad' as she calls it, everyday. Guess who's laughing now?

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