Out, standing in my field

I suppose I could gloat. While all my gardening friends are still waiting for delivery of the stuff they ordered last month as they drooled over seed catalogs, I’m about to harvest corn. No, not sweet corn, which would surely deliver more pleasure than a mortal soul could handle this early in the season. But corn nonetheless.

Hydroponic popcorn, to be exact: seven scrumptious (albeit very small) ears of it.

And peas (or, at least, pea blossoms). Which brings me to the latest hurdle in my ongoing baptism by hydro: pollinating the peas.

Inseminating the corn was relatively easy, because corn dumps buckets of pollen that collects on lower leaves in the absence of wind (which is generally in short supply inside my condo). From there, it can be scooped onto the waiting silk (see “Hydroponists: Don’t Try This at Home,” March 24 Xpress).

But pea flowers require a pollinator species that can force its way between the blossoms’ pouty lips to collect and accidentally deposit pollen from flower to flower to flower. I have to admit, I’m highly tempted to throw open the window some balmy afternoon and invite early-spring insects in to do the job.

Unfortunately, however pleasant the weather, the heavy lifters among the pollinating species — bees, flies, moths and butterflies — don’t occur in large numbers until wild plants are in bloom. As a winter hydroponist, I’m engaged in fooling Mother Nature, but bugs don’t fool easily. Species that routinely arrive before their dinner is spread on nature’s picnic blanket tend to go extinct.

So one of these afternoons, I’ll settle in with a damp cotton swab and play honeybee stud.


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About Cecil Bothwell
A writer for Mountain Xpress since three years before there WAS an MX--back in the days of GreenLine. Former managing editor of the paper, founding editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal, Heartstone, member of the national editorial board of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, publisher of Brave Ulysses Books, radio host of "Blows Against the Empire" on WPVM-LP 103.5 FM, co-author of the best selling guide Finding your way in Asheville. Lives with three cats, macs and cacti. His other car is a canoe. Paints, plays music and for the past five years has been researching and soon to publish a critical biography--Billy Graham: Prince of War:

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