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PostPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2009 11:11 pm 
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Meanwhile, the mustang grape jelly has turned out spectacularly. Not so many grapes on the vines this year as last, and I got to them earlier, so it is a little lighter in color because I was able to get a few more green grapes to add to the recipe (this is desirable.) Here are the half-pint jars:

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The tomatoes have been prolific, but after a friend brought over a steam juicer yesterday it makes me want to quadruple the output of tomatoes next year just for a big supply of this marvelous juice! Home grown tomatoes yield a rich juice and the solids are separated to the skin and seeds (keep these: dry/powdered they are a great seasoning and nutritional additive) and a rich pulp for sauce. I canned a bunch of seasoned tomato sauce yesterday.

This is what my refrigerator looked like before we started, and it doesn't count the dozens of tomatoes on the counter and windowsill that came in over the last couple of days:

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Wonderful!

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 10:47 pm 
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Just a note on this week's Creature Feature, the Flannel Moth. http://www.dirtdoctor.com/organic/garden/view_question/id/2716/
I learned it was called the "asp" when I was stung on the thumb by one over 21 years ago. I've never felt anything so painful in my life as that sting, and it took a long time to go away. It left a mark, but it didn't blister. I was pregnant at the time and even worried for a while that it might make me sick, it hurt so much (and I have a high pain threshold--I went through childbirth twice with only a pudendal block, no other painkillers, and was fine). I guess what I'm trying to say is that while the pain of childbirth has long since faded, I never want to brush up against one of those nasty little creatures again.

My daughter was about five or six when she brushed against one--she practically pleaded that we cut her arm off. The pediatrician couldn't offer any help. She still remembers that pain vividly.

I can tell the difference between a praying mantis egg cluster and an asp, but I always look closely, just to be sure. If you're not sure what it is, stay way far away from it.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2009 1:03 pm 
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It took me a couple of weeks to trim and polish a blog entry about my dogs' encounter with a possum in the back yard in early August. Since I was writing a testimonial describing how this possum was lucky to get into the zone between the dogs' Invisible Fence collars and the actual stockade fence, I decided I'd cover all of the bases to describe how the system works for those considering the installation, and post a couple of photos. I not only described how it worked, but why it worked (regular dog training).

The blog entry is http://lilybarthes.wordpress.com/2009/08/12/invisible-fence-possum/. "Mr. Possum Thanks His Lucky Stars for Invisible Fence."

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A search in Google on "possum" and "Invisible Fence" brings my entry and a few other wildlife/dog encounters. Clearly Invisible Fences aren't totally accepted, for a number of reasons ranging from reasonable to silly. In general, the criticisms center around the fact that they don't keep other animals or people OUT of the yard and they rely on the owner following through to reinforce the pets' training (they have these collars for animals as small as cats and as large as horses.) Depending on the accounts, the "silly" reasons for opposing these systems center around unreasonable expectations or low-owner compliance with the traning requirements to remind the dog of the right behavior if they touch the boundary.

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I had to set down this possum at the back gate while I opened the lock, and it lay "dead" as I stood nearby. I carried it over to an open area and left it, backing off to watch. Five minutes passed and then he got up and walked into the woods.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 25, 2009 7:10 pm 
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I visited my favorite feed store and picked up a syringe and needle for injecting BT into the hollow stems of my remaining squash. They got short shrift this summer; I was busy with several things and didn't start treating for those boring caterpillars soon enough.

Photos added 9-10-2009

I was busy this summer, I planted the zucchini late, and I didn't pay much attention to it. Much of it looked like this by the time I got over to Marshall Grain to pick up the syringe I needed to attempt to kill off the boring caterpillar that turns the stem to pulp. This one is too far gone.

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Syringes for agricultural uses like this can be purchased over the counter. I got a large gauge needle in case anything in the BT mix might clog the needle. The only clog came from stabbing the needle through the stem and ending up with a core of the stem up inside the needle.

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This is my first time at trying this treatment. I'll start the plants earlier next year and stay on top of their growth. Once they reach a point where large hollow stems are present, I'll try regularly injecting BT to keep the plants free of such destructive worms.

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Last edited by northwesterner on Thu Sep 10, 2009 10:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2009 10:29 pm 
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The squash died without yielding a single meal. The syringe works, but upon insertion through big stems the needle works like an increment borer (used in forestry to take core samples to determine the age of trees) and fills with a core of plant cells that clog the operation. Perhaps this is best used in conjunction with a knife to pierce or make a slice and serve as guide for the needle.

Onto other things:

Great minds think alike. On last week's show the guest from the Discovery Garden discussed my old friend the tomato hornworm. I generally transplant them out of the yard, while the radio show guest has a non-producing plant he transplants them to. Hornworms are the caterpillar for the important pollinator the Sphinx moth, and if you can stand that destructive adolescence, you'll have a wonderful adult visitor to the yard later on. They mimic hummingbirds in their pollinating behavior, and are similar in size.

One of these guys turned up on a datura (Jimson weed) on my front porch, a volunteer that appeared in an unused pot. I'm letting this one stay and and am following it's growth.

The evidence is easy: big bites out of leaves, or leaves going missing altogether.

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The color of this insect is identical to the host plant, so finding it even when it is in plain sight is a challenge until your eyes adjust to the shape and pattern. Getting photos is sometimes quite a juggling feat. You have to hold the ruler with one hand, hold the leaves out of the way with the other hand, and hold the camera with the third hand. . .

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Two days later and this little guy is getting a bit fatter.

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We had rain tonight, so this plant should stay happy with little attention from me. More photos will follow. I wonder if the pupa will bury itself in the dirt of my pot for the winter?

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 03, 2009 11:10 am 
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My treatise on Tobacco Hornworms and going through the garden slowly, by hand, to see just what is out there, is up. http://lilybarthes.wordpress.com/ . I was busy so didn't finish it as soon as I would have liked, but the goddess of Hornworms has given me several new varieties to study next to my front porch. :)

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 07, 2009 4:23 pm 
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I've been using a cat littler that I liked but seemed to be discontinued. I was able to track it down--the "version" I was buying was renamed and packaged for Wal-Mart, until WallyWorld discontinued it. It is actually a Nature's Miracle product. I put a blog up about finding it, and my main reason for mentioning it here is that I hadn't been composting it because I wasn't sure of the contents. But I spoke with someone at the company and it is ground up corn cobs and enzymes to deal with the odors. So into the compost it goes!

My blog (The Poop on Cat Litter) http://lilybarthes.wordpress.com/2009/10/07/poop-litter/

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 11, 2009 3:55 am 
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As a followup to all of the Tobacco hornworm activity on the front porch, with all of the rain I didn't put BT in the garden and a couple turned up there, including one that had been targeted by a Braconid parasitic wasp. It lays eggs on the caterpillar and they burrow into the worm, emerging later in the pupa state (here, I believe).

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I pulled the larvae off to take a close look at the worm. I transplanted it to the front porch and it didn't live more than a day. I have a photo of a snail making a meal out of it. Nothing goes to waste out there in the gardens and flowerpots.

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I also blogged about it: http://lilybarthes.wordpress.com/2009/10/11/the-fly/

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Last edited by northwesterner on Mon Apr 18, 2016 4:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 11:47 pm 
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All of this rain has been the setup for a lot of insect activity out in the yard. Today there was a lovely blue sky and bright sun for a few hours that were irresistible. And I found some great stuff going on while I was out.

Somehow when I dried my laundry on the line on Saturday (last Saturday, SIX days ago!) I managed to forget three wash cloths on the line. As I approached to see if they were mildewed from so much exposure to the elements, I noticed what looked like crinkled shredded paper on the ground all around under the clothesline area. Closer examination revealed many clusters of what appear to be flying ants, shaking out their bright white wings. Every time there was a gust of wind a bunch of them would launch.

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The white specks in the air (mostly visible because of the shadow in the background) are the ants launching themselves. I told a neighbor about this and when we came back 30 minutes later there wasn't a sign that any of this had taken place. No ants or flying insects like this in sight.

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I stepped to the back of the yard and noticed on the kind of spindly Japanese flowering quince at least a dozen asp or "puss" caterpillars. I can't describe with sufficient emphasis just how much these things hurt if you brush up against them. This is truly the sting from hell.

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This bush had quite a few golden colored asps, but there were also some darker and less conspicuous ones. And even though I could tell they were there and the branches were relatively bare for looking, these are still difficult to spot. I wore kitchen rubber gloves and brought out my needle nose pliers and a plastic bag and picked them off and disposed of them. They might come from a moth that is a fabulous pollinator, but I don't want them in my yard.

Now here is a trick question, but getting the answer correct is vital. One of these next two photos is of an asp, and one of these photos is of the egg case of the extremely beneficial praying mantis:

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If you tap (with something other than flesh!) this object on the baldcypress twig, it is a resinous casing for a very important and protected insect.

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And this is the caterpillar from Hell. You can take a blow torch to it, for all I care. (Sorry, even naturalists sometimes don't have the time of day for a few of these critters). I like Malcolm's remarks about "blonde" and "brunette" hairstyles--this one almost seems to have a caterpillar cowlick!

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 28, 2009 8:30 am 
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Here's another view of one of the asps, looking straight down at it, with a different camera. This is with my little Nikon Coolpix 5600, and it does a great job with close-ups as long as you're not shooting at a tiny subject suspended so that there is a distant background for the autofocus to figure out.

For scale, this is next to the needlenose pliers I used to pluck this bad customer off of my quince.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 04, 2009 1:14 pm 
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Snails are out big time, what with all of the rain. I put up a couple of photos and a description of the running battle in my garden over at my blog.

http://lilybarthes.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/snails-beer/

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 1:50 pm 
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New blog entry: http://lilybarthes.wordpress.com/

Getting ready for the holidays.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2009 4:31 pm 
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Here's a bit of silliness. The last of the tomatoes came in to ripen right around Thanksgiving. I dragged the whole plants into the garage for a little while, then gradually picked the green fruit and it lived on my kitchen counter to ripen. I'm down to the last 4 or 5 pounds that are pink now. The plants were hauled back to the compost, but I seem to have missed quite a few fruits. And the dogs saw an opportunity. They have developed a taste for green tomatoes, but they also like to play fetch, and what better toy than a tennis-ball sized fruit pulled out of the compost? You can eat it when you're finished playing with it.

The funny part of this photo is that I actually captured part of my pit bull's newest trick, a full-fledged smile. If you see the dog, as she is curling her lips and showing her teeth and snorting, you'll also see her in a full-body wag, leaving no doubt that the grimace is one of pleasure, mimicking the humans she loves. I caught part of a smile in this photo, right before I threw the tomato to fetch it. :)

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2010 12:20 pm 
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Thanks to the regular caller on the Sunday show this morning about keeping the water
warm for the birds. I'm not set to put a warmer under a ceramic plate, but since it is warm
enough that the dogs will lie in the grass and soak up the rays, I figure putting a plastic plant
saucer on the ground will make do and stay liquid until the ice in my bird feeder and the creek
out back thaw. I've never seen this creek freeze before, but it did this time.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2010 9:13 pm 
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If you're checking in to see if I've posted more photos, the answer is "no, not for a while." I've been busy over the last couple of months working with my son on college applications, setting up supplemental tests (SAT, ACT) to turn in scores, and doing the financial aid and scholarship forms. He won an important award in October, when he was nominated by his teachers for the the Hispanic Scholar Program (on a par with a National Merit Scholar). We're working from that position to see what is the best and most highly funded education we can wrangle for this talented young man.

A couple of very good state universities in the southwest have offered full scholarships. If you ever watch the Antiques Road Show, and have heard the appraisers ask the antique owner "have you had this appraised before?" and then tell them "that was a little low," we're using these offers as a starting point and testing the waters for the BIG schools. If two very good schools offer full scholarships based upon this award alone is that the best we can do, or can we get more value from his hard work and this important award? What will Stanford or Yale or Princeton say? Fingers crossed!

I haven't given up the garden, even with this cold yucky weather. I put in some garlic a neighbor gave me from his garden that I should have planted a while back, and I started working the soil. There are several bird feeders up and we enjoy a variety of visitors. And on occasion I have taken out the camera. The photo here is from a pond a few blocks from my home. I live on the creek, and it froze, but the owners of this pond feed the ducks, so there is a higher density for photos. As interesting as the ducks are, I also like the texture of the ice. This is a cropped feature from a larger photo.

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