The Barricades Are Up! Man The Barricades!
Is the cry that can be heard all along the allotments as carrot flies approach. This is their mid-summer fest, when they paint the town red. Late May, early June to be exact so I hope the worst is over but the thing about Chamaepsila Rosae, so named by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, is that they can devastate the root and the greenery will continue to look good. I say, I hope the worst is over, because I didn’t get my barricades up. My carrots were a bit young as I planted lateish and perhaps per chance will hopefully avoid the first onslaught. But I must be ready by late August-September for the second offensive. It does seem that physical barriers are the best defence.
But I didn’t get mine up as I was at the writers festival in Listowel. Now, whataweekend. A deadly cocktail of song; high brow Poetry; recitations by Cavan and Mayo men that would have you in a knot and whiskey at four o’ clock in the morning. Who needs rock’n’roll? And six hours of the same on Sunday in John B. Keanes pub. People didn’t eat. It was a marathon but magnificent. It was Paddy and Bridgid at their best. It would gladden the saddest heart and prepare one for battle against multiple legions of a hundred thousand carrot flies. But it didn’t do anything to prepare me for the devastation I encountered on my return. Before leaving I literally bust a gut to make it to the allotment through Friday-of-the-long-weekend-traffic because the sun was cracking the stones and our Meteorological Service was promising more of the same. I envisaged Spanish vineyard conditions, dry cracked ground and wilting greenery on my return if I neglected to water. It was probably the first time in my life I prayed for rain. I just wanted to get out of town as poetry waits for no man. But water I did and what happened, it rained the next day, contrary to the pranksters at the Met.
It hasn’t been a great summer to date and FATS (fathers at the school) now slag me when I don’t wear my sandals. Yesterday it was raining and I had to don the shoes and he was over straight away, “No sandals this morning, Tree Hugger, I see”, he said pulling up a trouser leg to display his blue rubber goulashes. The wussy short wellingtons with the white sole that those sailory types wear. Total overkill. It was only a drizzle really. Bully for You, I said to myself among other things and smiled.
However, watering did not prevent what lay in store. My onions, grown from seed with tender loving care, had been mercilessly plucked by their shoots and discarded. It was a scene of total destruction – carried out, it appeared, as an act of wanton vandalism as nothing was eaten; the fragile green shoots strewn recklessly about. It could only have been a pigeon. I’ve seen them around alright, strutting, big breasted, full and fat, not a bit hungry looking and now with time on their hands this is what they’re at. Just landing in, walking through my onion patch like Cock of the Walk, Lord Muck, Chief Buck Cat, plucking at will and randomly in a devil-may-care fashion those precious hi-tech green shoots which miraculously turn the sun into an onion.
But, alas my onions are no more, three-quarters of my crop devastated. Nobody told me about the pigeons. And what’s more I had planted carrots between the onions for their health, safety and welfare and now they will be exposed to the next onslaught of Chamaepsila Rosae, so named by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature.