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The goat military industrial complex
Spoils of war
Back to school feels bittersweet. I can't believe my babies are already a year older; it all seems to go by too fast. But after dropping them off for the first day, I came home and drank a celebratory goat milk latte in silence. It's unclear if it was because of the apples and pears the goats have been snacking on lately or that I made it to the bottom of the mug without a single "MOM!!!," but the latte seemed sweeter in the quiet of the still kitchen.
Parenthood is full of contradictions - it's great to have kids home, but also lovely when they're gone part of the day.
When we arrived at school, we took all the obligatory pictures for the first day. After dropping off the newly-minted Pre-K and First Graders, my husband snapped one of me looking tired but joyful under the sign at school, ready for the routine to start anew.
Even though it still feels like summer, there are hints that fall is peeking around the corner. The fruit trees are starting to bend like elegant dancers under the weight of their ripening fruit. The apples and pears are shedding their green coats to transition to a deep red. These last few weeks are when the fruit will plump with juice, and as the cooler nights juxtapose with these last hot days, concentrate the sugars.
I'm not the only one looking forward to the ripening fruit, though. Around this time starts my annual fall war with the paper wasps. To be fair, I despise them all year round, but that intensifies into a burning fury when they start to eat my fruit.
As soon as the pears and apples are juuuuust underripe enough, the paper wasps will worry a little slit through the stretching skin with their devil-like mandibles. Once opened, the little bastards will assemble and feast on the flesh until the piece of fruit rots on the branch and falls to the ground. Then, they direct another attack on the next unsuspecting pear until they've wrecked the entire tree.
One year I didn't manage to get a single fruit ripened on the tree before the wasps destroyed it.
Paper wasps are not only needlessly mean; they're ruthless, effective, and destructive. They attack for no reason, and their bites and stings hurt. My beekeeper neighbors harbor a particular disdain for the paper wasps, as they can do incredible damage to the more docile and fragile honey bees.
Because of the bees in our neighborhood, I look for wasp mitigation techniques that don't do bee damage. Spraying is mostly out as an option unless it's a wasp spray aimed directly at a nest, so I resort mostly to traps designed to spare the bees and only trap wasps.
This year the war has escalated to such an extent that I am on a search-and-destroy mission. I will watch the wasps wreck a pear or apple, then try to follow them back to figure out where their homes are to destroy them. This level of viciousness might be extreme, but the damage they're doing to the fruit could ruin the whole crop. Again.
If you look out the window, now look as if I've completely lost it wandering around, looking at the sky in an attempt to chase single wasps across the yard to their nests. Some will travel up to 1,000 yards for food, so it's quite the scene. It might look like I've finally gone batty, but I swear there's a whole wasp whose family I'm stalking to kill - it's completely normal behavior.
Besides the new wasp-hunting approach, I'm trying to be more diligent in that as soon as I see fruit on the tree with any damage, I pick it immediately. I don't want the smell of delicious fruit or the siren song of those little buggers to attract more to the crime scene. So these days, I'm in the yard picking several times a day. Because the wasps have already wrecked the fruit, but I hate to waste, I feed the spoiled ones to my goats.
Like the caprine version of the military-industrial complex, the goats don't care who started the war - the wasps or me - as long as they continue to profit off the spoils (literally and figuratively) of our feud.
With all this conflict, I guess I'll have another silent, apple-sweet goat milk latte - as soon as I get back from chasing another wasp through the yard.