No Salad Left Behind

I’m taking a break from blogging about dog training, neuroplasticity, and behaviorism to cross-post this article on the critical issue of lettuce rescue and rehabilitation, which is the work of the nonprofit group, No Salad Left Behind.

No Salad Left Behind is a rescue and sanctuary for lettuces that have been attacked — through no fault of their own — by roving gangs of predatory herbivores or even lone squirrel vigilantes. NSLB is located in a secret location in southern New England, home to a struggling effort to protect lettuces from the Bun-Bun Gang.

“We are considering taking in arugula and kale eventually, if we can raise the green,” said Heda Romaine, director of the sanctuary. “For now, we’ve decided to focus on tender, sweet lettuces because they are the most at risk. It’s hard because not everyone appreciates or is even aware of the problem.”

Here in rural New England, even in seemingly peaceful quiet towns, lettuce attacks are all too common. Every spring, a new gardener or farmer may face empty beds.

“Three days ago, my lettuce was doing great,” says Sharon Wachsler, a new member of NSLB. “Then, yesterday I went out to plant some basil, and where my lettuce used to be, it was just empty. It was just dirt. At first I didn’t even see the little pieces of stem where the lettuce used to be.”

Wachsler takes us on a tour of her “garden” and shows the place where once had thrived a young, vibrant community of red romaine.

“This is the only lettuce that survived unscathed,” Wachsler says. “I think it was because it was not near all the other lettuce. But how long will it survive if the rabbit or squirrel should come back?”

A very small romaine lettuce plant, green with red, about eight or ten leaves, surrounded by tiny basil seedlings.

This courageous young plant has survived with its leaves intact — but for how long?

“These weren’t bad seeds,” stresses Wachsler, gesturing to the desolate earth where once had stood her hopes for a decent crop. “They were organic, from the town’s seed saving library. I had great hopes for them passing on their seeds to the next generation of the library, but now, who knows?”

Who knows, indeed. Eight of Wachsler’s lettuces have been moved to the NSLB sanctuary. There, in large pots behind a chain link fence, Wachsler hopes the little roots and nubs of stems — cut down by a pair of cruel incisors in the prime of their youth — will eventually make a recovery. Hopes are not high.

“I used to have pet rabbits,” says Wachsler, ruefully. “They can squeeze through really small spaces. Their bodies are like Jell-O. If they want to get to the lettuce, they’re going to get to it.

“I’ve just started feeding my dog dehydrated rabbit,” Wachsler adds. “Do you think this could be retribution?”

Two big, clay-colored pots filled with dirt. The stumps of lettuce plants are barely visible.

Recently transplanted lettuce

When asked what the chances are for the new transplants, Ms. Romaine hedges. “These plants have been through an ordeal. After having all their leaves eaten, they’ve been uprooted from the only soil they knew and brought to these isolated pots in a gated community. They’re traumatized. We’re just playing a waiting game.”

While most in the community support the efforts of NSLB, the group’s name has stirred up some controversy.

“It’s offensive,” says Isa Bergh. “Lettuce is not just for salad. It has a lot of other possibilities. You can use it as a garnish, or in a sandwich, or in Caesar salad, or . . . Oh wait, that’s a salad. Um, I mean Waldorf sa– . . . well, you can use it for . . . OK, that’s not the point!” Bergh says. “Lettuce is not just for people to eat! It wants to soak up the sun, to flower, to bear seeds, just like any other plant.”

“This kind of attitude that lettuce is just, you know, ‘rabbit food’ is what makes it vulnerable to these kinds of attacks!” Insists Bergh, though critics point out that rabbits have never paid much attention to what people post on blogs. “At least animals can run or fight if someone is trying to eat them, but plants are defenseless,” says Bergh, who eats neither plants or animals, surviving on steam — nicknamed “the Hot Air Diet.”

“I don’t want to get into the politics,” Romaine deflects the question. “We’re here for the lettuces. That’s our position.”

The herbivorous assailant or assailants is still at large. While it’s possible a squirrel or chipmunk is behind the midnight snack-attack, NSLB says they suspect Fuzzy Lapin, who has been known to steal into gardens at night and eat tender young greens. Wachsler confirmed that she has seen “a suspicious rabbit” in her yard and supplied us with the photograph below.

Very cute wild brown rabbit with while tale, nibbling a blackberry vine on a bed of gravel.

Rogue rabbit, wanted for questioning, could be notorious salad eater, “Fuzzy” Lapin.

“I used to think the rabbits were cute!” Wachsler groans. “I even wrote a humorous blog post about this rabbit a few years ago. I’ll never do anything like that again!”


Comments

No Salad Left Behind — 12 Comments

  1. If only I were closer my dog could guard the crop. She will eat fuzzy woodland creatures but absolutely refuses to partake of lettuce. Never once has she veered from a walk to satisfy her prey drive for innocent vegetation. Good luck with your sanctuary. And thanks for the laughs. Glad to know your sense of humour & whimsy is alive and well.

    • Hi Jillie.
      Thanks for the comment. I didn’t know there were any comments! They didn’t show up in my email box, so I thought, “Huh, I guess nobody thought that post was funny but me.” But now I have stumbled across your comment and several others.
      Barnum is not at all a good wabbit catcher. Once I let him out at night, and I suddenly saw movement, and white, and him running after and tangling with this moving thing, and I thought, “Oh no, it’s a porcupine!”
      But no, it was a cottontail rabbit, and after he chased it and was upon it, he just stood there, confused, trying to figure out what to do with it, and it hopped away under the fence.
      If Gadget were still alive, that rabbit would be long dead. Ah well.
      I put blood meal around the remaining lettuces, on the advice of a farmer friend, and now Barnum, who has no interest in lettuce, keeps wandering into the garden and stomping on the plants. Ergh.

    • I wrote this in part with you in mind. I was sure you would enjoy it, and since I didn’t realize I had any comments, I was planning on sending you a link. But now I don’t have to. 🙂
      So far, the courageous young plant is still alive and now surrounded by blood meal, which hopefully will prevent future attacks. But what if it’s a flying squirrel? Then it could just fly in and attack from above.
      I’ll try to work a guinea pig into the next post. Wheek! Wheek!

      • It gets funnier each time I read it! I just noticed “Heda Romaine” and “raising the green.” Genius. Oh, and the possibility that it’s, you know, retribution. Wow. Fuzzy Lapin. So cute, and yet so … vengeful.
        Flying squirrels … yes, that is a definite danger. You cannot be too careful. And of course my beloved guinea pigs. Wheeeeeeek!

        • I just saw a flying squirrel for the first time the other night when walking the dog, so they’re on my mind.
          You missed Heda Romaine and Isa Bergh the first time?! I am shocked! Shocked!

  2. You know I commiserate with you. But my society is Decapitated Hostas Decorate the Yard. I no longer adore Bambis with their big beautiful eyes and monstrous appetites for my garden. This is summer, after all. So much greenery all around; why is mine special? However, after a walk in the neigborhood I have stopped being paranoid. There were headless hostas everywhere—

    • Yes, I can picture the deer in studded leather jackets with switchblades, roving the neighborhood and beheading Hostas for kicks. And where is the Obama administration while deer engage in this senseless anti-Hosta violence?

  3. Hello Sheryn; i was drawn in to the point that I read all the way to the bottom. thought it was a light hearted take on the never ending struggle between humans and nature. i smell a children’s book or maybe a short story or better yet an episode for a new animated show on bps or the cartoon network. 🙂 a fun read. thanks, max

  4. Oh boy! I’d better go check my lettuce patch…..whew! All safe. So far no “roving gangs of predatory herbivores or even lone squirrel vigilantes” have visited our little spot on Brady knoll. But I’ll keep my eyes out for them!

    • Yes, you should probably set up a neighborhood watch, just to be on the safe side. Perhaps you have a dog or two who would be willing to go on Squirrel Food, I mean Foot, Patrol for you? Although for future guide dogs, I guess you probably DON’T want Squirrel Patrol….

What say you? Leave a comment!