Tag Archives: pests

Garden end days

(I’m sick over this election bullshit and low maddening hum of misogyny like a high voltage wire stretching over the continent here, so let’s stick with some light “lunching ladies” garden talk for now…)

The garden broke me this year – there wasn’t a single plant (except the hot peppers) that wasn’t hit with disease, multiple diseases, and pests – even the fresh dirt in the new raised beds now harbors various evils.


There was some balance – some of the new pests attracted some new predators – but not enough, and/or not in time and I’m going to have to be even more proactive next year with using more or other organic interventions.


The fall crops mostly failed from no rain and continued heat through September, but a few sprouts are gamely hanging on, and the poor embattled (nearly zombie) tomatoes are desperately trying to ripen their very last fruit.


We had a few more butternuts than last year, but not enough for the work we put into them to keep them alive, and my experiments with letting some volunteer plants grow failed miserably since they were a month or more behind and maturing at the height of pest season.


Google took new satellite images of our town and our garden can be seen from space! Near space, that is, and luckily it was captured after a fresh batch of straw in the aisles and before the plants got big, so there’s good contrast.


The new garlic is now in, and the old garlic is already half consumed – unfortunately we’re definitely not going to make it until next year’s crop.


And the canning is finally wrapped up – just tomatoes in various consistencies, jalapeno salsa, and a tiny batch of overly sweet hot pepper jelly. The rest of the bounty is tucked away in the new chest freezer. I experimented with blanching or not with a few things, so we’ll see what worked best, and anything too mushy to eat is heartily consumed by the canine, so it’s not a total loss.

Now starts the month or two of raking and shredding leaves…

(And a heads up that I agreed to put “a subtle message” urging Americans to register to vote in my posts, so if you see it, it should be there, and please vote unless you like Trump or any of the other election-throwing candidates, then please stay home.)




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Beat it, beetles!

All wool aficionados know to fear the moth.

But do you also fear the Carpet Beetle?


When we first moved into the house, though I cleaned it well, the cracks in the floorboards and between the window woodwork still harbored who knows what. The bedroom was about halfway down the lists of rooms to tackle, so a few months went by with it being clean, but not the deep-clean blasting that comes with major home improvement. I innocently left a wicker laundry basket on the floor and tossed in my favorite (and expensive) merino wool underwear. Since I only do full loads of laundry, the laundry basket remained undisturbed but slowly filling until a week or so later when hanging all the freshly laundered things up to dry, I found serious, nauseating damage.

I thought the new-to-us washing machine tore them up, but that was impossible because it doesn’t have an agitator.

I thought a mouse chewed them up so I set out my sick but humane and effective electrocuting trap, but didn’t catch anyone.

Then I realized I’d seen a few dead beetle bodies on the windowsills when we first moved in…

…beetles that turned out to be of the dermestid variety – yep, corpse as well as all kinds of protein eaters, apparently very common in the area. (I haven’t encountered them before so perhaps the colder winters and higher elevation of my old city kept them at bay? Or else I was just lucky, or maybe they prefer semi-rural to urban areas…). So preventing them and their evil wool/fur/hair/silk massacres is similar to keeping out and dealing with moths – after cleaning the hell outta the place and sanding and re-finishing all the window woodwork and floors (and all the vacuuming that entails) and partially dismantling  and thoroughly cleaning the radiators and painting all the walls and ceilings I thought I’d kicked any beetle left in the house to the curb, and I’m pretty sure I did then but…

knitting project I haven’t touched since the spring threw my cavalier attitude out the window.


Luckily, it seemed to have only hit one yarn cake seen at the top of the post and not the project itself, but I really dogged a bullet because I did everything wrong: I left the project and yarn exposed in a loosely woven basket on a table a few inches beside a window with several flowering shrubs just beneath it outside, I occasionally put said basket on the floor underneath the window when it was in the way, I never plunked the whole thing in another kind of enclosure, plastic bag, etc., while it sat for months, I never tossed in a lavender sachet or anything odoriferous for masking purposes, and most importantly, I didn’t check on it.


(And ahem, note to dumbass self: naturally dyed yarn often fades when you put it in direct sunlight… this is supposed to be yellow-green, but the exposed section lost its green and the best of the yellow.)

So I shouldn’t have been surprised to find the damage when I finally picked up the project again in September. But I am lucky this time – the damage is minimal and even the faded cake was mostly okay after a few yards, though I’m going to have to be very careful with the final sweater which I’m not too happy about – the lovely woad-dyed blue is very colorfast but this other stuff I’m adding in as stripes sucks… And the rest of my projects and stash are fine – unlike this WIP, I keep everything else in at least one, if not more, tightly sealed containers.

Treating for carpet beetles is the same for moths – clean the hell out of the area – then empty and wash out the filter and dust chamber of the vacuum immediately. Take anything suspected of being infested outside and shake it well – undo and re-skein it loosely, then seal up in plastic bags and freeze for a couple of weeks. Let thaw for a week and refreeze (this freeze/thaw cycle kills moth eggs and might be a bit more than necessary for carpet beetles – I think one freeze might be enough, but overkill won’t hurt anything). Then wash it all especially if moths were your munchers – moths are very messy with their webbing and copious poop, but beetles generally make clean breaks and sometimes leave bits of body behind.

(And I always leave thrifted woolens in the trunk of a hot car or outside in freezing temps for a bit before I can wash them immediately).

One of the few things that we didn’t have to fix on our house was the windows – all had been replaced in 2007. They aren’t the top-of-the-line by any means, but they aren’t the worst either (yes, there are “better” and worse vinyl options) so it was one of the few home improvement things I was happy to not have to worry about immediately. But the screens are only for half of the window. When we replaced the windows in our old house, we got the full screens (and also put in window boxes which made it nearly impossible to water them or use air conditioners while still having the top part screened to prevents bats in the bedroom – yes, I know about this from experience). And though the half screens better accommodate our new need for air conditioners, they have a maddening gap where they don’t quite meet up with the window that lets in both flying and crawling things which I hadn’t realized…

…plugging or sealing up this gap will now be a project at the top of my list… or else full-sized screen shopping?

Oh, and never use mothballs and pesticides – those do more damage than the crawly/flying fucks themselves – prevent them and then you don’t have to deal with them.

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Oh garden, my garden

The garden has continued to exceed my expectations for first year dirt.


Don’t get me wrong, it’s got many problems, but we’re at the point where we can eat something from it every day, and I’ve been able to freeze a few things too.

garden-stuffed peppers

(I’ve got my fingers crossed for a big tomato canning session soon if all goes well).

And it is immensely satisfying – both in eating something homegrown and not having to shop for veg of unknown origins.

garden-green stuff

But I’m still learning a great deal and battling far more pests than I’d expected – my former urban gardens didn’t have half the critters that live in or near the country like we do now, and the bone-dry spring followed by a swampy June has messed things up a bit…

Three lined potato beetles went to town on the tomatillos, followed by a minor invasion of cucumber beetles on the squashes that I thought were just baby three lined potato beetles, but weren’t and are much worse… (Thanks K for catching that one!). Powdery mildew is making sad stuff of the zucchini and I found end rot on one of the precious tomatoes. The cauliflower went ricey early (but I put that in too late and didn’t expect much), leaf miners have been selectively browsing, the cilantro bolts practically the second I put it in the ground, some things are misshapen likely due to soil deficiencies or the wacky rainfall, flea beetles have made lace of the eggplants and I’ve given up on them entirely, and there is something that I fear to be leaf spot on some of the peppers (though the actual peppers haven’t been afflicted).

And some fucker is nibbling on the tiny watermelons.


So I’ve been spraying concoctions of soaps and oils and baking powders of dubious efficacy, though still organic, and squishing everything evil in site, but it’s also been a joy to watch the area become even more populated with daddy long legs, lady bugs, praying mantis (though those can be a bit evil too – I had no idea that they ate hummingbirds – hummingbirds for chrissakes!) and birds, though we’ll have to address keeping them out of some parts when we put in berries.

But we’ve had some glorious tomatoes by the first week in July, and…


an early panzanella…


and caprese salad…


makes it all worthwhile…

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