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    The Days are Flying By

    Promised update:  so far, so good, using the Magic Potion (see the preceding article).  A Praying Mantis was accidentally sprayed while going over the Spider Flowers and he just turned his big-eyed head and looked at me.  No more munching grasshoppers as far as I can tell.  All God’s insects have their purpose and their place around the home and garden (I grudgingly suppose), but managing them is the key.  Just like adopting the “live and let live” policy with the various wildlife that inhabits our immediate vicinity.  And now, we think we have a skunk living under the porch (the odor always gives them away - never mind that we’ve seen him visiting with the cats).  So, groundhog family, visiting raccoons (one year we had several generations living in the attic - cute little bandit babies and all), opossum poachers (they love the cat food), garden snakes, brown snakes (one of which I picked up while pulling weeds - THAT is another story), various garden pests, moles (who have had their share of the garden bounty from the roots up)…

    I say we try to “live and let live”; but that is more GB than me, really.  I have been known to holler loud enough for the various backyard varmints to hear me, that I want them “dead, all dead!”  They can be destructive to the property (especially raccoons who have, more than once, destroyed screening and woodwork), make messes, eat huge holes in the just-about-to-be-picked cantaloupe, dig holes in the yard and garden, disrupt plantings, scare me to death, make my stomach turn (possums, you know who you are), smell up the place, and wreak general mayhem.  Raccoons are cute, so are the groundhogs (did you know groundhogs are just big ‘ol rodents?).  And their offspring.  (Raccoons have, over the past few years, placed themselves on my list of undesirables, though.  They can be very mean and are the most destructive of all our backyard visitors.)  I understand that ‘good’ insects have their place among my flowers, herbs, and vegetables.  I love honeybees.  Skunks and possums, well, they just cannot live in the backyard.  They really are not invited to visit anymore, either.  Skunks are prettier in person than they are in pictures, but fear of their noxious spray makes me antsy.  Snakes are the unmentionables, even though stories of their benefit to the gardens have been floating around since I was young.

    How do we manage?  Well, we trap those that are the most harmful and cart them off to the uninhabited locales around the lake.  Our wonderful, elderly neighbor told us once that we were just foisting off our problem onto someone else; and that comment still haunts me.  We called our city’s animal control office once to tell them we had captured a raccoon, but they said they would only take care of pests if they were trapped within their own live traps.  Hmmm, great management style.  If we ever see signs of marauding armadillos, well, I guess the war would be on.  Knowing that some of these creatures may carry disease makes them even less welcome.  Skunks can carry rabies, and armadillos, leprosy.

    Mostly, we try to deter.  We block up holes they’ve dug in the ground, shoo them away, use sprays, and find their dens and destroy them (to encourage them to move on).  GB hasn’t dispatched one in a long while.  He hates to kill any wildlife that we’re not going to eat.  I don’t always feel so lenient.  Maybe it’s  the mother part of me that wants to protect and take care of what we have worked so hard to achieve.  Management and stewardship sometimes means being a hard-liner.  Maybe?

    I guess we’ll just look at it this way:  we have a lovely, ‘wild’ property that is inviting.  Right in the middle of town.  Humans, as well as animals, love the yard and the proximity to flowing water.  We have horse pastures next door and a large Bed and Breakfast property across the creek.  We are fans of the wilderness and want parts of our property to exhibit that.  With a love of the wild comes — wildlife.  In addition, how can we begrudge them if they wander into a cultivated area with luscious fruits and vegetables?  Well, I may sometimes begrudge them; but they are only doing as their natures direct.  Therefore, we work to manage them, try not to curse them (sometimes unsuccessfully), and hope to adopt a happy coexistence attitude.

    With “try” being the operative word.


    Pesky pests. . .

    Do you see that?  In the picture.  Do you see that there are NO LEAVES on the upper half of those precious baby plants?  And how about the Echinacea bed - look at those poor, leafless stems.

    Doing my detective work, I have narrowed the suspect list down to two - the backyard groundhog or grasshoppers.  I’m leaning more toward grasshoppers, as they are hopping in abundance right now and there is no garden bed destruction.  We set out the live trap in hopes of catching the groundhog, but no luck.  (Before you PETA folks rise up in alarm, we release our destructive wildlife into the true wilderness…”no groundhogs were harmed in the building of the gardens.”  Hence the term live trap.)  The hot, dry days of middle summer usually see grasshopper populations skyrocket, so this invasion is not unusual.  However, the prolific chewing and decimating is not usual.  Lack of moisture is probably to blame - grasshoppers need a drink just as we do!  There are also high numbers of Praying Mantises in the gardens this year.  Hmmmm…

    The Purple Coneflower will survive - being a prairie plant it is used to abuse.  The Morning Glory plant, however, will need some tender loving care.  In our organic management quest, the yard and gardens never feel harsh chemicals or non-organic pest control methods.  Earlier this year, we defeated a flea beetle infestation on the eggplant by placing a live mint plant (growing in a container) right up next to it.  We also use diatomaceous earth to keep down other plant chewers; with insecticidal soap, deterrent interplanting, heavy mulch, and homemade plant sprays rounding out our arsenal of pest control.  Keeping your plants healthy and unattractive to pests is also accomplished with good soil - full of great organic compost, earthworms, and the right balance of nutrients.

    Anyway, I’ve had my fill of missing sections on the cantaloupe vine, bare flower stalks, and holey leaves.  Grasshoppers are hard to deter, but I’ve mixed a magic potion that I hope will do the trick.  After spraying down their favorite plants, maybe the grasshoppers will move on to the horse pasture next door.  I will keep you updated.  For now, here’s the Magic Potion recipe, which should be helpful in keeping all those munchers and crunchers at bay.

    What you will need:

    An inexpensive, plastic spray bottle (no qualms about using plastic in this case)
    Liquid dishwashing soap - Ivory is good
    Freshly peeled garlic, 1-2 cloves
    Fresh or dried hot peppers, 1-2 tablespoons dried or 2-4 fresh - cayenne is best, but any will work
    Peppermint essential oil or mint herb (fresh or dried, teabags are fine) to make a strong *tisane

    Pour 1-2 tablespoons dishwashing soap into the spray bottle, also adding the garlic and hot peppers (chunk them into smaller pieces first).  Use the larger ingredient amounts for a 24-32 oz bottle.  If using dried peppers (or ground hot peppers), add them at this time.  Fill the bottle with hot water and gently roll the bottle around to disperse the soap, garlic, and peppers.  Don’t shake it.  Leave the mixture to cool to room temperature, and then add 30 drops peppermint essential oil.  Gently shake before each use, as the essential oil will settle at the top of the bottle.  Mist the plants to lightly coat, reapplying after rain or heavy dew.  If there is no rain, it would still be a good idea to spray the plants twice a week.

    * If you don’t have the essential oil, then bring the water to a boil, add fresh mint, dried mint, or mint teabags, and steep until cool.  (Use 2 rounded teaspoons fresh mint, 1 rounded teaspoon dried mint, or one mint teabag per cup of water.)  This makes a tisane, which is an herbal concoction usually made to drink.  Herbal ‘tea’ is the common name, but tea is truly that - a beverage from leaves of the various tea bushes.

    Companion Article:

    Beginning Gardening


    Home on Sunday

    GB is on the road - driving back to TX to pick me up and take me home.  It’s been a grand week with my mother-in-law.  The to-do list has been pared down, and those items left can be taken care of next week.  She’s faced this first week without her husband with faith, grace, and resilience.  She’s had several sad, sad moments and she knows there will be more.  God will help her overcome, as will family and friends.  Her church family will continue to comfort and serve her, as Jesus comforted and served.

    I am happy to go back to my sweet Arkansas home.  Ready to work in the gardens, do some painting, and get back into the daily routine.  Which is really not a routine at all.  Each day is unique - my mornings start out the same on most days, but after breakfast there’s no telling what activity might peak my interest.  It is with thanksgiving that I face my days.  Glad to be home full-time (I am a homebody extraordinaire!), happy to spend time with my mother-in-law, thrilled that a large extended family is close so we can get together often, excited that my sister is off for the summer (maybe we can bowl with Mother and Daddy more often), joyful that I can spend time with nieces and nephews who are home for the summer (minus one)…I could go on and on.  But, more than all those blessings, I REALLY miss my dear husband!

    We’re all hoping for rain.  Which is just extraordinary considering our wild and wet spring.  My rain barrel and water buckets are low, so that means it really needs to rain soon.  If you’ve not read my post on water usage and conservation, here is the link.  And if you have, give it another read.  I like it.