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Quote of the Day: Josh Kilmer-Purcell

March 3rd, 2013

I’d been selfish. I hadn’t yet realized that the true goal of organic farming wasn’t harvesting crops in spite of bugs, pests and predators. It was about harvesting crops alongside of them. It was about planting more than the amount we need. And it was about making sure there was enough extra to go around for everything that made it’s home on the farm. For every sparrow I’d killed in the netting on my cherry tree, there would be millions of fewer seeds spread over the fields from their droppings and millions of uneaten bugs, which would in turn attack our vegetable garden. We’d be paying for our unblemished cherries in some way or another for the rest of the season. Sure, we hadn’t sprayed chemicals all over the cherries. But we’d been just as deadly.

Josh Kilmer-Purcell (The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers)

When I read this book, this quote really resonated with me because of my stance on dealing with insects in the garden. You can read more about my methods and ideals for “pest” control in the post titled: Empty Shelves. I’d like to encourage you this gardening season to be proactive rather reactive when it comes to controlling pests.
birds 2
birds in the garden 1
Put up a bird feeder, add a garden pond or small water feature, plant lots of plants that attract pollinators, add a few extra plants to share with nature. Realize that every action you take in the garden will have far reaching consequences, generally the opposite of what you were hoping for.
pond garden 2
birds in the garden 1 (1)
chickens and clarington forge
hummingbird on a line
Birds will be one of your greatest allies in the garden, anything you can do to attract and keep them will be of great benefit to your garden. Hummingbirds eat thousands of mosquitos, chickens eat loads of insects as do ducks. If you can have chickens and ducks, consider adding them. If not, put up a birdfeeder and a birdbath, plant things for our feathered friends and watch in amazement at how important of a garden partner they can be. I wrote and entire series on attracting birds to the garden for the Your Day Blog: For Our Feathered Friends.

In what ways do you think you are proactive instead of reactive when it comes to garden pests/problems?

9 Comments to “Quote of the Day: Josh Kilmer-Purcell”
  1. Robin on March 3, 2013 at 7:55 am

    Bat houses and bird nesting boxes invite bats and birds to move in and raise their young. I learned to make bluebird boxes at BOW’s Intro Skills weekend last fall. I’m going to use the nest box I made as a pattern to make more. The bluebirds pass through but don’t stay. I’m hoping to change that this year!

    Reply to Robin's comment

    • Susy on March 3, 2013 at 7:56 am

      I need to get some blue bird boxes going as well.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  2. Jennifer Fisk on March 3, 2013 at 8:40 am

    I’m afraid I will remain reactive to slugs and Japanese Beetles. I’m considering garden ducks.

    Reply to Jennifer Fisk's comment

  3. Grannie M on March 3, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Susy, I will be interested in how you handle your ducks and chickens through the summer gardening season. I give my hens free range until I am ready to start planting in the ground, but then they are allowed only the coop of their pen. I hope to make a mobile corral for them this year. When I let them free range in the planting/harvesting months they scratch the mulch out of the beds, pick young seedlings out of the ground, peck holes in the tomatoes etc.even though we have acres here for them to roam. They can damage a lot in a little time. I have had chickens that can roost in the trees, but the coyotes and coons eventually get them. Good Luck! I hope to hear some new ideas to use.

    Reply to Grannie M's comment

    • Susy on March 3, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      You’re right they do like to scratch around the garden. I do have an electric net fence that I’ll either use around the edible gardens to keep the chickens out, or I’ll make a moveable coop and move it around the lawn areas with the electric fence so that the chickens end up foraging on the entire lawn. We’ll see what happens.

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  4. Lexa on March 3, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    I too have tried to be a partner with nature in my gardening. We have put up 7 swallow houses and most years they are full. That’s a lot of wonderful mosquito munching! We also have two hummingbird feeders. The Anna’s stay all year so we keep them full all year around. We have had one pair of bluebirds pass through the last two years. We put up a bluebird house last Summer. Fingers are crossed that they move in this year. The only defense that I use against the birds are remay tunnels when my plants are young. The little finches and sparrows will pull up all of my tender greens things if I don’t. Once the plants are well established, the remay comes off and then I can share a bite here and there.

    I also have a 8 foot deer fence. I guess that is pro active and re-active both. But there just wouldn’t be any garden to harvest without it.

    I smiled when I read your quote of the day. The Bucolic Plague is one of my favorite books. It was just plain laugh out loud in some points!

    Reply to Lexa's comment

  5. KimH on March 3, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    That sounds like a good book to read.. I’ll have to check it out..

    I’ve always been a bit proactive in the garden.. I have always tried to make sure that my soil was healthy in the first place more than anything else, and then I’ve also looked for plants that have good resistance to certain things that plague my garden such as late blight.. but I dont always choose plants based on that, especially with heritage plants.

    I’ve always planted more than I needed to share with nature.. Its just the way I thought was right and I’ve been doing that for at least 25 years. I dont get too wigged out by most nature visits to my garden.. I expect them..
    However, when the deer ate my okra seed last fall I really wasnt happy.. If it had been just regular okra from the local garden store, I wouldnt have cared so much, but it wasnt. This year, I have a deer fence I’ll put up.. (insert sad face here)

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  6. EL on March 10, 2013 at 1:29 am

    I’ve never used many chemicals in my garden and absolutely never to kill things. But I’ve also never really had a pest problem. I guess the closest that I come to a pest problem is swallowtail butterflies laying eggs on my fennel. Since I like swallowtails, that makes up for the fennel.

    I used to have large slugs (I called them leopard slugs because they had brown spots, and then later found out that other people called them the same thing). They seemed to like the dandelions better than the garden plants, although they could eat my italian tomatoes and sometimes did. One time a friend of mine came over and on her way out stepped on one of my slugs. The next day she called me asking what I might have in the garden that made such a mess on her shoe that she couldn’t get it off with solvent. My reply? “You stepped on one of my slugs!! How could you?!!!”

    I think the worst pests are the red squirrels which are invasive in my area. They are awful and eat the baby birds in addition to noshing on the garden. The first two years that I lived in this neighborhood I never saw any birds. Then last year we had two young male cats in the neighborhood who caught squirrels like crazy. This year I have birds. I am always willing to share my berries with the birds.

    Anyway, I guess I don’t really believe in pest control. . .

    Reply to EL's comment

  7. Sheila Nielsen Rocky Top Farm on March 17, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    great quote! will be adding this book to the library. thank you for the post!

    Reply to Sheila Nielsen Rocky Top Farm's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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