Monday, July 25, 2016

Midnight Marauder

Lily bloom gone!
Sometime between bedtime and get-up, the blooms of several choice plants have been disappearing -- actually not completely disappearing.  Chewed parts of blooms are evident each time the marauder attacks.

The first instance of evening evil was the missing white lily blooms – yes, that white lily that pleasantly surprised us last season. We found the stem of the lily broken over and all of the six blooms gone.  Strewn across our sitting bench, were bits and pieces, stamens and pistils and fragments of the petals of those perfect blooms.  To my mind, a singularly heinous crime.

A few days (nights) later, the pink lily was broken over at ground level and once again the flower buds were gone.  Soon to follow was the bloom of a liatris,  and just this morning three stems of the purple coneflower, the totally ravaged parts strewn near the plants.

A geranium from one of my pots and the eggplant seedling from another pot have also disappeared.  The geranium disappeared in stages.  First went the blooms and then, bit by bit, the whole plant.  The eggplant did not go without a fight. It was dug out by the midnight marauder and replanted by me several times until one morning the plant had completely disappeared. 
The culprit could be the new batch of squirrels (young squirrels are so inquisitive), or it might be the chipmunk family. I’m guessing the dirty deeds were not done by the skunk nor the raccoons; neither of those two of those critters are bloomivores.  I’m putting my money on the chipmunks because I know for a fact that it was chipmunks that ate the roots of my Bloodroot under the cover of snow last winter.  On the basis of that deduction,  I am declaring outright war on chipmunks.  They are now persona non grata in my garden.  The problem is how to communicate the message.

UPDATE/April 2017:  A rabbit has been spotted in our yard several times by my grandaughter.  This year tulip leaves have been nipped and crocuses dug out.  Our marauder may be a rabbit.  it is a known fact that the Easter Bunny has a taste for buds.

Monday, May 23, 2016

No Tent Caterpillars!

The flowering crab in bloom
The flowering crab in our front yard is one of the favourite foods of tent caterpillars,  We planted that caterpillar magnet in the front yard over 30 years ago.  For the first 20 or so years, tent caterpillar nests in our tree was a spring event.  Always one caterpillar tent, sometimes two and in bad years three or more webbed homes were occupied by a horde of caterpillars ready to defoliate the tree, the tent growing in size as its occupants grew. 

We controlled the caterpillars and the damage they can do by burning the ever-growing nests.   Waiting 'til dusk to ensure that most of the caterpillars had returned to the nest after their day of foraging, we cut off the branch the nest was on, and burned the nest with its load of caterpillars inside. This yearly "cutting of the tents" was part of the annual pruning regimen of the flowering crab.

Then came the chickadees.  They arrived one summer and stayed to nest.  My son-in-law began feeding them, so the family soon stayed all winter.  The chickadees supplemented their winter diet of  black sunflower seeds courtesy of my son-in-law with the protein stored in the crab tree in the form of hibernating insects and tent caterpillar egg cases.

Now, during fall, winter and early spring, the unquenchable little chickadees clean every inch of  the tree searching out eggs and egg cases hidden in the bark. They are diligent in their work; no protein source is missed. 

And so, thanks to the chickadee family (and the nuthatches and the little downy woodpecker, too) there are no tent caterpillar egg cases in the tree come spring.  AND that means no tent caterpillars. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Echo Farms

Opuntia cochinellifera == variegated Prickly Pear

While in Florida this year, Mike and I visited Echo Farms.  This is an organization that researches sustainable farming practices and then teaches small farmers in Africa and Southeast Asia how to be more successful on their small farms by using the ideas the farm has developed.

We saw water conservation sites, hill farming, and many other techniques for the small farmer to use on a small bit of land.  There was even an ethanol-producing device capturing the gas made from compost to use for cooking.

Most of the site was for tropical farmers but the ideas were universal -- an interesting day. You can visit the site and learn more about the organization at this site:

Oh, and one of the tropical plants we saw was the variegated prickly pear cactus pictured above.  Absolutely no prickles.  Leaf and fruit both edible.