Thursday, July 10, 2003

I don't like to kill things. Let me revise that, I don't feel all that bad about pulling up bamboo grass and weeds that invade the garden, but I prefer to leave other things alone, if possible. Edna takes care of rodents - and with an old house they can be a significant issue - and I chalk it up to nature and feel relieved. Rudy usually will nail all annoying flies (Sophie watches bugs with a wrinkly forehead as if she isn't quite sure what is required) but lately he has allowed the problem to get out of control. This could be because I have scolded him to prevent him from going after bees, since I don't want him to get stung, so maybe he sees no difference and is just being obedient.

Anyway, there were numerous of those metallic blue/green flies in the kitchen windows, and since they weren't buzzing around much, I ignored them (Bob said he thought I was keeping them as pets). But the population was growing rapidly, and finally, on Tuesday, I couldn't stand it another moment, so I dispatched them with a rolled up Biography Magazine (I subscribed because of a kid's fundraiser, and it was the only publication of interest that I didn't already's OK, not great, kind of like a slightly elavated version of Entertainment Weekly. It has a few historical biographies thrown in with the Hollywood fawning, and those are the only worthwhile content). Once they were gone, I found the Webster, and knocked down a few webs, just to eliminate the competition. Since then, any time I even just suspect a fly is nearby, I grab the nearest paper, roll it up, and swing wildly. I'm hooked, and I'm good at it.

I like to work in the garden in the morning, because it is cool, shady, and unlike the evening, the mosquitoes aren't out. Today I put up more strings for the pole beans to climb. Slugs are always a problem, especially when there is a lot of rain in the spring, and seedlings are vulnerable. Using organic methods often requires more hands-on intervention than the chemical model's approach of simply whipping out the sprayer, but in the case of slugs, it isn't all that up close and personal. Pans of beer do the trick; the slugs drown themselves, and at arm's length I dump the contents in the weeds across the road. This morning, I checked the cucumbers and zucchini, since both have blossoms, and discovered that nemesis of curcurbits, cucumber beetles! Despite the name, they weren't on the cukes, but on the zukes. I even rotated my planting this year to avoid them, sprinkled beneficial nematodes, and still they are infesting the zucchini. I do have row covers, but at this stage, they would keep the bees from pollinating, also. Often, handpicking bugs is the only solution.

Earlier this year, the tomatoes had flea beetles - a challenge to capture, since they jump, as the name implies. But I put some water in a coffee can, held it under the leaves, and got the beetles to go for a swim. Within a few days, the infestation was gone - and the seedlings had grown enough for it not to matter as much, anyway.

So, I retrieved my handy coffee can, filled it with water and a touch of dishwashing liquid, and got my special tweezers (a pair I use only to remove ticks from the animals), hiked down to one patch of zucchini - and discovered the cucumber beetles had retreated. I'm sure it's temporary, and they'll be back.

So will I.

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