lessons from the garden: caterpillars in my broccoli

Two weeks ago my broccoli looked like this:
IMG_4306lush, sturdy, vibrant green—the most successful broccoli I’ve ever grown.
All of that changed overnight:
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At first it was just a few worrisome holes in one or two leaves.  My first suspects were slugs—a few silvery trails were evident nearby, but then I spotted some mysterious green eggs that had also made an appearance waaaayyy across the yard on the Chinese cabbage.  I washed the eggs off, thinking I’d eliminated the problem.
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The next morning brought scenes of devastation: stubs and ragged shards in place of leaves, and, upon closer inspection, I finally noticed green caterpillars.
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Somehow I’d missed them the day before (or maybe they’d hatched overnight?).  But there they were, in all their camouflaged glory, looking for all the world like a natural part of the veins in the leaves.  The more closely I looked, the more I found–a rather humbling experience.  (Can you spot three caterpillars in the photo below?)
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I’ve been kind to the slugs this year—they haven’t bothered us much, so instead of the more violent measures I’ve used in the past I’ve been whispering them a threat or two before I hurl them into oblivion over the back fence.
The imported cabbage worms that I’m dealing with weren’t quite so lucky.  Apparently the word hasn’t got out yet to steer clear, because just this afternoon I saw a mature cabbage worm butterfly hovering over one of my broccoli plants—probably looking for a nice place to lay some eggs.  Ah, the cycle of life continues. 
Even though the whole situation is frustrating, it’s a good reminder of how many interesting and important little things are happening right in front of us all the time, if we’ll just take the time to observe and notice.

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