Author Archives: twentyacres

Katydid’s last song

Cicadia

We were walking out to make sure our culverts were clear, preparing for a potential storm this weekend, when we heard a katydid, or cicada, call from the ground. Walking over we saw this guy seeming to call out his last buzz of the summer, winding down after serenading us most of August. I didn’t realize they were quite so colorful.

Anyway, he buzzed a few times, then seemed to stop. We figured he had moved on to that great locust tree in the sky, a good omen for cooler autumn weather.

Then the dog came by and ate him.

Gorgeous garden spider

Garden Spider

I about bumped into this lady in the garden today, and scared both of us!

This female garden spider was about 2 inches long claw-to-claw. Garden spiders produce a venom that is harmless to humans but immobilizes insects that are caught in her web. The zig-zaggy web below her is called a stabilimentum. The purpose is not known, but some suspect it is a warning to birds not to fly into the web.

She may or may not be in the same place tomorrow. These spiders have been known to eat their web at the end of the day, and re-spin it the next day.

Isn’t it a fascinating world?

Snails?

Snail colony?

I’m not sure what is going on here. We walked up to the barn a couple mornings ago and saw this patch of tall grass with dozens of small snails clinging to the blades. Feeding? Escaping something? Looking for love in all the wrong places?

Squash bugs

.squash bug.jpeg

Each summer we are invaded by an evil creature: squash bugs. These damn things plant small eggs on zucchini, pumpkin, squash and similar plants. The eggs grow into nymphs, the nymphs into bugs that destroy plants. Last year we lost our entire pumpkin crop and most of the zucchini.

There doesn’t seem to be a good solution to controlling them. North Carolina State University posted an article on various methods – pesticides, predator bugs, co-planting repelling plants, but none seem to be very effective. Some of the more effective pesticides are also quite efficient at killing pollinators (bees) so we don’t want to use those at all.

Anyone have any home remedies?

Edamame

I processed this year’s harvest of edamame today. Edamame (or giant soybeans) are fairly easy to grow but here they seem to attract a lot of Japanese beetles in early July. This year we didn’t spray but ended up shaking the beetles into a bucket of soapy water in the early morning when they were still asleep. That worked pretty well.

We preserve edamame by freezing them. The process is to heat a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Place the washed, fresh edamame into the boiling water. Time for 3 minutes when they hit the water, not when it starts to re-boil. Immediately plunge them into ice water. After a minute or two, put them on a towel and dry as quickly as possible. We then put them by 1-pound amounts into vacuum-seal bags, remove the air, and seal. Then into the freezer they go.

They are a good source of protein. Steam for about 7 minutes, and shake with some sea salt. Eat the beans as an appetizer or in salads.

Praying mantis

This praying mantis was hunting on the leaves of a pumpkin plant. He (she?) was one of the bigger ones that I have seen, about four inches long. Harmless to humans, they are voracious carnivores of almost anything else that they can catch – other insects, smaller mantises, and so on. Wikipedia says mantises will even eat small lizards and birds if they can catch them.

The female is also known to eat the male after mating.

Elderberry harvest 2017It’s elderberry harvest time in North Carolina. This year we are a bit late cutting the berry clusters and our feathered friends have taken more than their fair share.

The berries are removed from the stems by ‘combing’ – running a fork down each stemlet and stripping off the small berries. It is not a fast process. After ‘combing’ the berries we ended up with enough for four of five pints of elderberry jelly.