Sunday, June 12, 2016

doing what is needful

I found a wopse trying to hibernate in the firewood the other day (no idea which variety of wasp other than the stingy sort which probably means non-native). Unfortunately I found it the hard way as it was in the middle of a bundle of scraps at the bottom of the log bag that we bring firewood in from the woodshed, and I'd grabbed that handful to throw on the fire. I assumed at the time it had headed for a swift cremation along with the leaves and bits of bark, but when I later went to put a large log on the fire to bank it up overnight there was a rather dozy and somewhat crumpled specimen on it's back buzzing half-heartedly. This time it really did get toasted, me mitigating my sense of guilt against the knowledge that it was probably kinder to put it out of its misery.

I don't like wopses, especially not the imported sort that make short work of some of our more vulnerable native, and endemic, species. Luckily swift application of cream and taking an extra antihistamine meant I came off no worse from the rather closer than preferred encounter, I react badly to such stings and as it was the finger with Granny's wedding ring on that had been stung I wasn't about to risk it swelling up like a balloon (again...). But despite the damage they cause to endangered wildlife, and to me, it still goes against the grain to kill a wopse.

It's the same with snails. Finally I have conceded defeat and accepted that chemical warfare (aka slug bait) alone isn't going to be enough. It is the iron based sort, kind to birds and animals which at least reduces the chances of collateral damage. But given the snails at least seem to specialize in a high ropes course style negotiation of the garden without touching the ground where said bait lies, advanced tactics have become required if we're to feed ourselves rather than a rapidly multiplying snail population from the veg patch this winter. So tucked under the outdoor shelves with the empty plant pots and bits of concrete blocks left over from a long gone patio (where the sun room is), there is now an old jar with very strong brine in it and a growing population of dead snails.

What tipped the balance for me wasn't the loss of kale and sprouting broccoli, but the huge number of snails on the swan plants which are food for the monarch caterpillars. The caterpillars are struggling enough to survive as it is without such competition for food, so my extermination efforts stepped up a gear. I don't feel very comfortable about such genocide, but that's the thing with pacifistic tendencies, they aren't easy things to live with.

Ages ago a non-Quaker friend lent me Friendly Persuasion (1956 film version) to watch as she couldn't believe I'd never seen it, being me it sat on the shelf untouched until she asked for it back which prompted viewing that night! (I don't get round to watching films very often...). In case anyone else hasn't seen it I'll steer clear of any spoilers, but it tackles the challenges a Quaker community faces when the American Civil War reaches their doorstep. Sticking to your principles isn't easy at the best of times, and civil war doesn't really fall under that heading. Deciding whether to fight or not may be a far cry from deciding whether to kill a wopse or snail, but it all boils down to the same thing, as Jess Birdwell puts it, you do what you have to do, whatever that might be. A reminder about trusting your conscience, that still small voice.

There are so many things in life where there are implications for life and death no matter what you choose, or not to do. What might be right for one cause, such as protecting our native and/or endangered species, can have fatal consequences for other creatures. The only good possum here is a dead one as they threaten the survival of huge swathes of our native ecosystem. So I'll keep up my my extermination of snails, bump off any more dozy wopses I find in the woodshed, and enjoy my possum & merino gloves as the weather gets colder... for as long as I can.

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