Category Archives: Haiku

Regrowth

We came home from a long weekend and discovered something miraculous.

The kiwi had started to heal and regrow.

It had been ravaged by angry beetles for weeks, but it was coming back. Leaves were sprouting out, healing vines and kicking out the crunchy brown leaves.

The Japanese beetle’s 8-week reign of terror ended. Finally.

We were relieved that the pests had not done any lasting damage to the roots of the kiwi. It would have been depressing to have to cut out all that dead kiwi and start over again.

The grapes and hops are coming back as well, but it is the kiwi I am most impressed with. It had truly suffered and I had my doubts as to whether or not it would survive into next season.

I’ve never been more happy to be wrong.

The kiwi is coming back and we have a plan of attack for next year. A plan that will, with any luck, insure that the Japanese beetles lose the war.

The kiwi returns
To the homestead so bright, green
Leaves dance in the breeze

The Next Wave

Just when the Japanese beetle population starts to dwindle, the next wave of garden pests show up laying eggs on almost every available squash leaf.

Squash bugs.

While I detest squash bugs, I absolutely loathe Japanese beetles. In comparison…these aren’t so bad.

Every day, I eagerly go out to the garden to squish the eggs and vacuum the bugs that have emerged.

The process is more satisfying than drowning beetles. I think it is because I can squish all the eggs on a plant and vacuum most of the bugs.

This year, I am going to try applying neem oil to the leaves in order to deter more egg layers.

I have to be careful not to hit the squash flowers though. I want the bees to continue pollinating so we can have a good crop of watermelon, butternut and pattypan this year.

Squash bugs aren’t the worst
But are really annoying
Squish, vacuum, squish-squash

Operation JBE: Status

Operation Japanese Beetle Eradication (JBE)
Date: June 30, 2017

Subject of Study:
Japanese beetles aka Revolting Beasts

Entomoligists:
– Joseph the Bug Hunter (JBH)
– Jacob the Bug Whacker (JBW)
– Issabella the Scout
– Cheyenne the Soldier
– Melissa (Mom)

Report:
Experiment #1: The beetles in the bug house were not as destructive as I thought they would be.
Status: Failed.

Experiment #2: The containers with dead beetles were slightly effective, but by the time we installed them around the perimeter, there were just too many beetles to combat.
Status: Failed.

Experiment #3: We tried a homemade essential oil spray: cedarwood oil with water. We sprayed one row of kiwi and, while there were fewer beetles the next day, there were again too many to combat.
Status: Failed.

Experiment #4: After seeing that they were leaving the chocolate mint completely alone, my niece had the idea of making a “potion” of mint and water. We pulled a bunch of mint and blended it up with water, strained it and loaded up a couple of spray bottles.

The troops were deployed. This time, we sprayed two of the rose bushes, leaving the third as our control.

Again, it worked slightly, but there were just too many to combat.
Status: Failed.

What do we do now? I’m at a loss. Further research will be needed to determine our next steps. Stay tuned.

The Final Experiment

Operation Japanese Beetle Eradication (JBE)
Date: July 2, 2017

Subject of Study:
Japanese beetles aka &#%!@?s

Entomoligists:
– Joseph the Bug Hunter (JBH)
– Jacob the Bug Whacker (JBW)
– Melissa (Mom)

The Final Experiment

While I believe that one or all of the natural methods we tried would have worked to manage the onslaught of the beetles, I also believe that, by the time we tried them, it was too late and there were just too many to combat.

So, I am going to try organic Neem Oil in an effort to stop them from completely obliterating what is left of the vineyard, fedge and our young fruit trees in the swales.

We are also going to spread milky spore over the lawn to kill as many grubs as we can in the hope of hatching fewer beetles next year.

The potential problem with both of these methods is the cost.

Beetles are laying their eggs all over the 5 acres we own for the entire 8 weeks they are here. That means that next year Japanese beetle grubs will be waiting to emerge from the soil as a full-grown army of maniacal demons.   

If we wanted to cover the entire property, we would need a ton of milky spore to have a chance against such an enemy. 

Does this mean we won’t try it? Absolutely not. I will try everything withing my power to destroy my insect enemy, but we need to be vigilant and prepared with the other methods we have tried in order to stop–or at least better manage this blight.

They may have defeated us this year, but my team of entomologists will be back to fight the battle anew next year…armed with new knowledge and better weaponry.

Down but not yet out
We learn from all our failures
And come back swinging

Survivors

When we moved in 5 years ago, we brought a blueberry bush from Michigan.

This very sad shrub sat on our deck in Michigan for 3 months. Then, it lived at my mom’s for a month or so while we waited to close on the house.

Then, it sat on our deck for another 9 months.

In all, it was neglected and forgotten for a little over a year.

Yet, still it survived. So…we planted it along with a few more in our new fedge.

None of the blueberries did well that first year, or every year after for that matter. In fact, we didn’t even know we still had blueberries until we started removing cages from the fedge.

We were certain that the cages were just protecting dead plants, so when we pulled them and saw live plants with actual tiny blueberries on them, we were amazed.

The Wonder Plant – Survived a winter in Michigan, a winter in Illinois and 3 years of neglect.

Another neglected plant we put in the fedge in 2013…it lives!

We ended up pulling three bedraggled but very much alive blueberry plants from the fedge. We potted them up and fed them acidic fertilizer and now we’ve only to wait to see if they will finally produce to their full potential.

I’m hoping that placing them next to the thriving one I bought at a bargain will encourage them to grow.

Bedraggled berries
Tired, worn out but not beaten
Forgive my neglect

Vigilant

This year, I won’t get angry.

I won’t throw a fit and stomp my feet.

I won’t let the Japanese beetles get the best of the homestead.

We’ve learned from our mistakes.

1). Using a “trap” to attract the beetles away from the plants ends up doing more harm than good.

Sure, the traps work as advertised, but they draw even more beetles to the property than would otherwise be there.

Last year, we filled several 5 gallon buckets due to the traps, but it made little to no difference in the damage they did.

2). Waiting until the beetles have overtaken every tree, bush and shrub means having and overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and frustration.

Last year at this time they were horrible. So far, they haven’t been as bad.

We are staying ahead of them this year. Every beetle we drown is a beetle that won’t reproduce.

Each morning and evening we go out on patrol. It is a family chore. We work together as a team.

Ray and I are armed with buckets of soapy water.

Joe and Jake are the spotters.

We are ahead of the game, at least for now.

Looking at pictures from last year, they are not as bad. There are fewer beetles and the damage done has been minimal…so far.

We will be vigilant.

We will stay the course.

We will win.

Back to the battle
Japanese beetles invade
We will win this fight

Under Construction

In January, we said YES! to helping the neighbors move a greenhouse over their pool to our backyard.

We made it this year’s big project.

In March, I wandered over and labeled the parts and then sketched the layout to match the labels. We thought it was going to be difficult to take apart and even more difficult to put back together.

All those pavers! All that dirt! All those posts!

In April, we pulled up, scraped off and stacked the pavers on pallets and used the skid steer to get them to our backyard.

And finally, at the end of May and into June, we transported the dirt and moved all of the pieces of the greenhouse over…not piece by piece, but section by section.

Now, the bones of the greenhouse are in our yard and our neighbor is ready to turn the pool back into a…pool.

It was over a week of heavy lifting, scraping and transferring to move the pavers.

Then, a week of hard work in sweltering temperatures to get the dirt out.

When it came time to move the rest of it, it took two days and a few friends to help carry the light but unwieldy parts.

Operation Greenhouse has come a long way since the beginning of the year, and now we are only a weekend or two of work away from using our very own greenhouse.

A greenhouse out back
Filled with produce of all kinds
A garden all year

The Raised Beds

We shoveled, wheelbarrowed and transported dirt this weekend from the greenhouse at the neighbors to our yard.

Because the greenhouse is, well, a greenhouse, the crew had to work early mornings and at dusk when the temperatures were not so high and the air was not so still.

Midday on Saturday, before quittin’ time, they brought the raised beds over.

I watched the skid steer lumber over the yard, that first bed in its metal arms and felt giddy.

Even with all the garden space we have, I’m excited about these raised beds. Most of them will go in the greenhouse when it is up, but a few will stay out along the deck holding lettuce, spinach and all the leafy greens.

Once we set up the first bed, I started preparing the soil. I raked in egg shells and vegetable fertilizer and watered it thoroughly.

Once the bed was ready, I planted:

  • 2 rows of kale
  • 1 row of spinach
  • 6 rows of four different varieties of lettuce
  • 1/2 row of lavender
  • 1/2 row of rosemary
  • 1/2 row of basil

I labeled everything, but as I don’t have much luck with labels staying in one spot (ahem…cats and kids), I also drew a map.

The “MG” stands for marigolds. I planted 3 rather sad looking specimens down the center and plan to get a few more to add this week.

I might be a little “off-schedule” with some of the varieties I planted, but it is definitely not too late to start a garden.

Most garden centers have a seed starting schedule specific to your area/zone that is based on the average last frost date.

All those greens, broccolis, cabbages, beans, brussels sprouts and other cool season crops can continue to go in the ground from now through mid-August.

So don’t give up if you think it’s too late to start a garden! Plant now and you’ll have fresh garden veggies for the fall.

Fall gardens are best
For yummy sides and salads
And the taste of sun

Day of Dirt

Yesterday was a day of dirt.

Digging.

Shoveling.

Crushing.

Ray and a team over at the neighbors started transporting dirt from the greenhouse to our yard.

Joe and Jake helped by stomping and crushing the pile.

Meanwhile, I dug holes and transplanted raspberries and seaberries out in the swales.

There are seaberries coming up everywhere in our fedge. They run under the ground and pop up in, around and between other rows.

The root system runs wild under the ground from plant to plant. This means that when you dig one plant up, you usually end up with two or three all strung together.

It wasn’t until I’d dug up the third plant that I’d noticed the nodules.

All of those bumpy white nodes that look like a cluster of eggs are packed with nitrogen. They are just waiting to spread and feed the plants and trees around them. Pretty cool!

After all the raspberries and seaberries were in their new homes, I mixed water with some Superthrive, a liquid multivitamin for plants, and gave them a good soaking.

By the end of the day, I’d transplanted 10 raspberries and 8 seaberries and we had a large chunk of dirt in our backyard.

Playing in the dirt
In the hot summer sunshine
Gives me a warm glow

Life Skills

For the past couple of weeks, Joe has been asking if he could learn how to start a fire. My first reaction was to say “maybe when you are a bit older”.

But I then I thought, he’s curious and interested so why not now?

He’ll learn more and retain the information better. And, he’ll learn the safe and correct way to start a campfire. 

Away from buildings, with water handy and the safe guidance of daddy.

Last night, Ray gave Joe and Jake their first lesson in building a fire.

He explained the why and patiently answered questions.

He guided them and he reinforced being safe at every turn.

He quizzed them throughout the process to make sure they had listened and understood both the dangers and reasons behind the safety guidelines.

He also explained what a fire needs. Air, heat and fuel.

I enjoyed watching him teach a lesson. The boys might have learned how to build and create fire from me or someone else, but watching them work with Ray and listening carefully to every word was amazing.

He was patient and the boys had fun.

They learn by doing and they were so proud of the end result of the lesson.

“Look at the fire we built!”

When the fire was roaring and ready, we all sat around the fire while the boys roasted marshmallows for us.

The boys could not stop smiling.

Fire play is so fun
With Daddy to guide the boys
Eyes bright and amazed