Archive | May, 2008

Caterpillar Killers

May 31, 2008


That would be us.

And I thought it was going to be a relaxing Saturday.

I went out to get the mail this morning, and took a stroll to the other side of the yard (about 120 feet across). I had been working in the other garden beds so far and hadn’t attempted to weed/feed/re-mulch this one yet. I guess I should have looked a little sooner. I was shocked to come up to my beautiful pine tree and see that almost all of it had been exfoliated. What the?! What exfoliates a pine tree?

Poor Tree


This does.

Devil Bugs

My stomach literally churned. I drew back in sheer horror. The devilish little creatures sensed my movement and wriggled in unison as a response. Oh. my. God. Help! The tree was loaded with them. Thousands. Upon thousands.

I ran into the house to holler for the kids. They are very well-trained now. When we’ve had severe flooding in our yard and especially in our basement (up to three feet, on a regular basis), I would holler like that. In less than ten seconds, they would stampede down the stairs– ready for action. I told them to get their shoes on, girls tie back their long hair (shudder), and grab a bucket. Meet me by the hose.

Without asking any questions, they were there. What great kids. I broke the news to them. Yeah. They were as repulsed as I was. Since I had no pesticides on hand, and since these larvae were really too mature for pesticides to stop them, we would have to pick them off by hand.

Evil Bugs

The YUK Factor.

I filled the buckets with dish soap and water.

Filling Buckets

And away we went. My youngest, a bug person, actually enjoyed it after a while. I remained repulsed.

Picking Bugs

Bug Soap Soup

We found a sparrow’s nest in the pine, too. It had one little egg (had hatched) and was filled with about a dozen caterpillers.


I was very angry at the birds. I felt they had shirked their duty. Here was a literal feast and they had passed it up. My daughter had been putting out bird seed in another part of the yard; perhaps the birds were filling up too much on the seed and not on the insects. Well, no more seed for them! These birds have jobs to do!

We plucked for about three hours. We found more larvae in the other pine, too. Then we raked up all the mulch and leaves and burned it all. Muahahahhaahhahaha.

I did some research, because I had never seen such larvae that ate evergreen needles before. We have a huge pest problem with tent caterpillers in Upstate New York (I’ve already killed four web nests in my apple tree this year), but I’ve never seen anything like this. Apparently, this larvae is the European sawfly. It came, obviously, from Europe, and favors Scotch and Mugo pines trees. It exfoliates the old growth on the tree. The larvae develop into the sawfly, that then lays its eggs at the base of the tree for next year’s attack. The best defense is to hand-pick the little devils. Pesticides are ineffective when the larvae is too mature (mid- to late-May).

I think we got them all, but we are going to have to keep close watch the next few weeks. I smeared a thick layer of petroleum jelly at the base of all the pine trunks, and slathered the trunk of my neighboring Maple, as added protection. This way, if those little devils start crawling up the trunk, they’ll get stuck in the jelly. Muahahahahhahaha again.

But there’s always SOMETHING around here to beat back! Sheesh!

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God Made Rainy Days…

May 30, 2008


… so gardeners could get the housework done.

Ever heard that quote?

We’ve had a few sunny days, so my house is dirty, lol. But my gardens are growing. We’ve had frost warnings the past few days despite the daytime sunshine. Can you believe it?! Two days until June and we have FROST warnings! Argh! Temperatures are 20-25 degrees below normal for this time of year. :-p

Well, I’m tired of the frost warnings. I put out my seedlings that have been hardening off for… oh, only five weeks now! I planted them. Here they are:

Round Bed1

Round Bed2

Hmmmm. Maybe you can’t see them. They are those tiny little green specks in the vast brown, mulchy space. You can click on the photos for a larger view.

I enlarged this round bed. You can probably tell, because the more mature plants are a little crowded in the center there. I didn’t attend to the gardens very much last year. I was off my feet for six weeks about this time last year, and then the kids and I gutted and renovated our living room. It took us three months. It’s still not quite done.

I love gardening. I always say that I renovate because I have to, but I garden because I love to. It is instant satisfaction, you don’t have to “measure twice, cut once,” it’s inexpensive, and there is something so satisfying about watching something grow that you’ve planted.

This week, I also weeded the bed on the side of the vegetable garden and mulched it.

Veg Garden1

My Adirondack Red potatoes are doing beautifully. I cannot wait to sink my teeth into them.


The weed growth around here is phenomenal. I highly suspect there is a weed conspiracy against me. I sometimes hear a rustling in the back… when I look in that direction, all the weeds suddenly straighten up, as if they had been whispering their latest attack against me. They multiply worse than rabbits, even. Little devils.

So that’s what I’ve been up to right now. I have other yard projects going on and did take some pictures’ I’ll have those up later. I love spring/summer!

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Wordless Wednesday: Waiting

May 27, 2008


cartoon from

That cartoon expresses how I feel these days, lol. I’m complaining that I have a home renovation blog, and I’m not renovating! šŸ™

I wish I could say we are renovating right now… but I can’t. We’re in a lull, as rising cost-of-living prices and job problems have swallowed up my savings and burst my bubble. I’ve got some ideas in the works, though. šŸ˜€ More on that later.

Cartoon by

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What’s Old is New Again

May 26, 2008


Here’s an interesting story I found today; it echoes something I wrote here, and what I also blogged about here.

Energy fears looming, new survivalists prepare

Convinced the planet’s oil supply is dwindling and the world’s economies are heading for a crash, some people around the country are moving onto homesteads, learning to live off their land, conserving fuel and, in some cases, stocking up on guns they expect to use to defend themselves and their supplies from desperate crowds of people who didn’t prepare.

The exact number of people taking such steps is impossible to determine, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the movement has been gaining momentum in the last few years.

These energy survivalists are not leading some sort of green revolution meant to save the planet. Many of them believe it is too late for that, seeing signs in soaring fuel and food prices and a faltering U.S. economy, and are largely focused on saving themselves.

…”I was panic-stricken,” the 50-year-old recalled, her voice shaking. “Devastated. Depressed. Afraid. Vulnerable. Weak. Alone. Just terrible.”

Typical sensationalist journalist drivel. :-p Why do they have to make it sound like we’re wearing tin-foil hats or something?

The gist of the story is correct– more people are letting go of the consumerist mentality that is suffocating our society, and opting to live off the land. But the news story opts to paint such folks as either “terrified” or kooky. There is nothing wrong with tossing the television, learning to grow your own food, and having guns! If anything, people who are consumerists are the historical aberration!

Anyway, it’s an interesting story. I’m glad to see more folks willing to take responsibility for their living. Our excessively wasteful society is going through a change, absolutely. There may be a few difficult bumps along the way, but I personally am glad to see it. I think our nation will benefit from more and more people living off the land again– working hard– and taking more responsibility for their way of living. And we’re not a bunch of fuddy-duds, either like this journalist seems to imply (and by the way, reading “dusty” old books is really, really fun!).

I think the real meaning of the news story comes not from the bigoted vocabulary of the journalist, but of the lady he interviewed, who said that she, “hopes to someday band together with her neighbors to form a self-sufficient community.”

What’s wrong with that?

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For the Stylish Flopper

May 24, 2008


Well, ladies, summertime garb is upon us! I don’t know about you, but my 8-year old hiking boots and 5-year old leather sandals have seen a lot of action. Time to get a replacement. Believe it or not, my husband is always reminding me that I need to get new shoes! I have… three pairs of shoes. The boots, the sandals, and a pair of black pumps. Ugh. I guess I do need something nicer. I am fussy about my footwear. When it comes to shoes, I’m like Goldilocks; shoes need to fit *just right*. I prefer open toed shoes now, since I’m used to walking around the house barefoot all the time.

Here’s an adorable style of shoe– the Fit Flop! It’s offered by SweatyBetty (what a terrific name!!). These are not your boring, run-of-the mill, flat-footed WalMart flip-flop. These babies are specially molded for comfort (imagine that in a flip-flop!) and for building the muscle tone in your legs and “bum.” They are beautiful styles. I love the navy. These shoes are relatively new on the market– introduced last summer– and are extremely popular in the UK. They are made of micro wobbleboard technology and give you a workout while you wear them. Amazing! The website is really cute. If you’re interested in getting fit while wearing shoes, the Fit Flops are the way to go!

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Time to Resurrect Community Living

May 23, 2008


I’ve said it numerous times before and I’m still saying it– the economy in the United States as well as the rest of the industrialized world is undergoing a radical change. Our lifestyles of excessive waste and consumerism are rapidly going by the wayside. I think we are going to see a need for more frugal living.

For many years, I’ve watched the demographics of American communities change. Remember in the 1950s, there was this trend of expansion? This was the time of the automobile, the shopping malls, the suburban development, the “plastic” age. Our society was built on the production and consumption of affordable petroleum. It was a big artificial bubble built on a shaky kind of prosperity (foreign oil and foreign goodwill). Things have changed. Now that world governments are ruining the economies and the food supply, I think we will have to change our way of life to adapt.

For example, my nearest grocery store is two towns away. That’s over 3 miles, and I am one of the closer ones! Some people have to drive 30 miles– THIRTY MILES– to get groceries. I’ve heard of some people getting scooters or mules or horses for transportation, but here in the Northeast, it is impossible to go that far to get groceries without a vehicle and gasoline. What happens when owning a vehicle and buying gasoline is no longer affordable (and I believe this will happen)?

Our modern society has been built on the automobile. There once was a small mom-and-pop grocery store down the street, but they closed about ten years ago because they couldn’t compete with WalMart, (just 10 miles, but a whopping 25 minutes away). And my town has “sections” of development that were concocted in the 1960s– a section for shopping (and the traffic is crazy there!), a section for housing, a section for government offices, etc. American state and town governments have basically eliminated the community. Anyone remember when we used to have communities– you know, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, lol. You knew who your grocer was, your postman, your doctor, etc, and everyone was close by. You didn’t have to drive 20 miles to buy clothes or 15 miles to see the family doctor. Today everything is so far removed, and cold and antiseptic. I think we are going to see a huge change because this kind of lifestyle is no longer sustainable. I hate to admit it as much as anyone, but I really don’t think gasoline prices, energy prices, and taxes are going to go down.

What irks me is the mindset of so many “greenies.” It’s so very popular to live “green,” to do things the “green” way… but what good is it to recycle your plastics and still drive an SUV? You are canceling out any benefits you might offer. Going “green” is a lifestyle; it’s not a good deed you do once in a while to make yourself feel good or earn a gold star in school. And it’s not a laborless lifestyle, either; going green is HARD WORK.

Maybe I’m ranting a little… but I see an earth-shaking change coming and if we want to make it through, we need to realize that we need to change ourselves. We are going to have to build local communities again, just to be able to meet our basic needs. I think the time of excessive, individualistic living is over.

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Quick Tip: Chem-Free Bug Repellant?

May 22, 2008


Does this really work?! I read on a blog that Listerine will repel mosquitoes. A guy bought the spray-bottle kind of Listerine and sprayed his deck. Mosquitoes no more! If this really works, I think I will be ecstatic! I hate using the chemical pesticides. I wonder if Listerine would also repel the nasty blackflies that fill our New York summer skies? I am terribly allergic to their bites, and unfortunately the nasty devils ruin my outdoors. Also, would spraying Listerine on my young trees repel deer?? This could be the start of something completely amazing! If any of you have tried this, please leave a comment.

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May 22, 2008

Comments Off on Renovator-less

*sighhhhh* no renovating as yet… I’m still too discouraged to even browse through my latest home magazine. I could do housework, I guess… WAIT *GASP* WHAT DID I JUST SAY?!

Anyway, I’d just showed the kids how to use our “weed whapper,” the other day, so that they can now beat back the weeds while I take on larger gardening jobs… We Mecombers call the tool a “weed-whapper” because that is what my young son called it, not being able to pronounce “weed whacker” when he was little.

On that Weed-Whackin’ blog, in the sidebar, they have a cute little quiz. My curiosity got the best me, so I took it.

You Are Oregano

You have are charming, funny, witty, and smart.

You love to party – and people love to party with you.

You are always friendly and warm. You are able to help people get along.

What Spice Are You?

Well well. Oregano. Cute. But then I changed a few so-so things and this is what came up.

You Are Black Pepper

You may be considered ordinary by some, but you’re far from boring.

You elevate the mood of any discussion, and people miss you when you’re not around.

You are secretly very dominant and powerful. Most can only take you in small doses.

What Spice Are You?

Hm. Go figure.

OK that’s enough thrills for today. I can’t replace that lousy 1972 busted up kitchen flooring, but I can at least mop it…

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This is Crazy! Global Warming BAH

May 19, 2008


I do not “believe” that global warming is 1) a trend, and 2) caused by man’s activities. I think it is a short-term global climate change, if it is even warming at all. History seems to prove that the earth frequently goes through temperature “seasons” of periodic change.

Anyway, today in Upstate New York it is 40 DEGREES. It is FREEZING! I had to turn the heat on today. šŸ™ This is 20 to 25 degrees below normal for us at this time right now. In previous years, we’d be out catching some rays, man. Well, maybe not as extreme as swimsuits… but Memorial Day weekend is a week away and that is when we traditionally hit the beaches. This is crazy. We had to unpack our gloves and hats over the weekend. :-p

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Quick Tip: Weed Control Barrier

May 17, 2008

Comments Off on Quick Tip: Weed Control Barrier

I have a good-sized vegetable garden (600 square feet) plus scads and scads of flower beds. It is a CONSTANT battle against weeds around here. We live at the bottom of a wooded hill, and every weed in that durn forest floats down into my yard and roots itself firmly into my beds. I can’t even begin to count the hours spent pulling weeds.

I have laid mulch in my flower beds (every year the mulch floats away when the floods come, though) to try to deter the weeds. But I have come up with something more progressive– ground cover! I have some periwinkle (also known as creeping myrtle, or vinca minor) that grows under trees, and I have noticed that few weeds are able to sprout between the lush cover. So I have planted vinca minor in strategic places in the flower beds, and am in the process of planting it all around the perimeter of my vegetable garden. Hopefully, the weed seeds that try to infiltrate my yard will bounce off the ground cover, and DIE! Muahahahahahahah!

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