Round and Round the Mulberry Bush
May 30, 2010
As my last post suggested, it’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks; and they’re just getting going.
The latest stressor has become…silkworms.
Some homeschooling friends of ours were doing a science observation with their fourth grader and had ordered some silkworms. They had an abundance of the little guys, so they offered a few to Bridget, who loves all things creepy crawly. Such a gracious overture! We gladly accepted.
Bridget received her plastic container of two silkworms with quiet, solemn delight. She gazed at them, kept them by her bed that first night so she could watch them as she fell asleep, and woke early the next morning to spend extra time observing her silkworms as they methodically devoured the mulberry leaves in their container.
Ah! There’s the rub. Silkworms exclusively eat mulberry leaves. And the ones our friends provided were quickly disappearing. “No problem,” I thought. I’ll find some mulberry leaves near our house that can source our new little pets’ diet. I did a quick internet search to see what the leaves look like. I’m no botanist, but I thought it shouldn’t be too difficult; just looks like a normal plant to me! There must be tons around here!
Bridget and I went to the local nursery. I asked if they had Mulberry bushes. Remember the song, “Round and round the mulberry bush, the monkey chased the weasel!” Turns out that song is a deception. Mulberries grow on trees. The woman showed us her selection: two measly bare root trees with enough leaves on them to last our silkworms about two days. She gave me a few leaves to tide them over until we found a more prolific source, and we were on our way, now with a clearer sense at least of what we were looking for.
Well, after driving slowly around, trying to ascertain from the car what shape and texture were the leaves of the trees I was passing, I realized it wouldn’t be so easy as I thought. (I also realized how many trees exist in the world, and how very different they all are, and how woefully ignorant I am about trees in general.)
Meanwhile, Bridget continued to enjoy her new pets. She brought them to her gymnastics class, proudly explaining about them to the cluster of little girls in her class, each of whom “oohed and awwwed” and starting begging to hold one. She brought them to share with her preschool class and continued to enjoy the attention and the sudden regard that she was given by her classmates as she stood clutching her box of silkworms and pointing out interesting facts about the little larva.
We went to the botanical gardens, hoping to find that they had a few mulberry trees that they were just pruning, and would we like some branches to take home? (At the very least, I planned to discreetly slip a few leaves in my pocket if there was no one around.) But, alas! There are no mulberry trees at the botanical gardens. (There is a lovely lily pad pond, complete with frogs and algae. On this particular excursion, Bridget and I went to check out the pond after we realized our mulberry leaf quest would be fruitless, and what do you know? My cell phone slid down the rock, straight into the pond, settled at the bottom with a flourish of underwater pluming of mud and algae.)
I remembered that there is a street called Mulberry Drive in our city so I went there, hoping that it was so named because of rows of mulberry trees lining the roads. Not so. (I did find out later that our city had ambitions to have a major silk production factory back in the 1920s but the industry shut during the Great Depression.) However, the city did plant some mulberry trees near the Civic Center and Library! So, off I went. I drove to the library, parked, and self-consciously strolled around, looking carefully at all the trees. Sure enough, a few leaves fit my description. Bingo! Unfortunately, these trees were all so beautifully pruned and manicured that the lowest hanging branch was far too high for me to reach. The area was crowded, and I felt a bit awkward about attempting to climb a tree and pick some leaves. I found a couple leaves that I could reach, cautiously snapped them from the tree, and fled the scene.
I called my friend who had given us these cursed worms. “Where are you getting your mulberry leaves?” I demanded. She explained about an old gnarled mulberry tree she had discovered in a big field, not too close to any houses, that she could comfortably take leaves from without feeling too intrusive. We’ll be stopping by there this morning. Our worms are hungry. Bridget is worried about them and adamant that we must supply their food soon.