July 3, 2013
Summer: At least that is what the calendar says, that it’s summer. Time to clean up the grill, assemble the neighbors and enjoy extended daylight hours and fresh vegetables from the garden.
Only this year there are no vegetables.
We have had so much rain, so little sun that beans have yellowed on the vine, and tomatoes, well the ones planted at my house aren’t even blooming. Growing yes, blooming, no. This time last year I was in a summertime frenzy of picking, chopping, slicing, stirring, canning and dehydrating. I was blessed with an abundance, Billy was also. He had “the best garden ever.”
But that was last year. We’ve had rain and very little sun. This year no tomatoes, beans, chickens or corn. The last two have been systematically murdered and eaten by a legion of raccoons that we can not capture, despite having traps set.
Last week a friend traveled from Cartersville to Roswell, equipped the farm with a camera. But I also found tracks. Coon tracks.
If Billy could afford critter eradication, trust me, he would. You see, recently a developer began removing trees from a large piece of property just down the road from Billy. The coons have two places to go: Target Supercenter Shopping Center, and Billy’s Albertson’s farm. What we need is a truckload of Good-ole-boys with a couple coon dogs. But coon dogs aren’t quite as popular in Roswell, Georgia as a Pomeranian or a Bulldog. The critters have taken over. The garden has fed them, not humans.
Those who haven’t liked his FB page missed the news, last week a raccoon killed all of Billy’s hens, save two or three.
We are done my friends. Even the Outside Man himself is done, said, “I’ve give up. I’ve been farming all my life and I’ve never seen it so bad. It’s just terrible. I don’t have anything no more.”
The critters have taken what little God did provide. Eighty-year-old Billy just isn’t able to keep up with the varmints that see his farm as an all you can eat buffet. We can’t keep putting effort and energy into the saturated soil. Most-likely Billy will not open his vegetable stand this year. If he does the harvest will be a scant handful of vegetables. Kelle and her boys as well as many other volunteers have helped. We have planted, replanted and fretted along with Billy. We have prayed while dropping beans into the ground only to see those beans again after three more inches of rain washed the soil away, or worse never see a single sprout because the seeds rot in the ground.
This makes me sad; it makes the helpers sad. Billy is deeply frustrated.
Below are shots from the garden. As Billy Albertson once said, “A farmer is the biggest gambler there is.”
This year we gambled and lost.
Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. In 2012 she released Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release of In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is currently working on her first novel. She would love to hear from you. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com