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

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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?


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.

IMG_1045 (1)I found this worm with rice all over it on my tomatoes this morning. It’s a fascinating lesson in nature – a tomato worm with a parasite: wasp eggs.

The white rice structures are the pupating eggs of the Cotesia congregatus wasp, of the Braconidae wasp family. These wasps are deadly to a wide variety of garden pests like hornworms, caterpillars, beetles, squash bugs, and stink bugs. They generally will not sting a human unless handled.

The female wasp lays eggs just under the skin of the tomato worm. As the eggs hatch, they eat the worm alive.

In general you should kill any tomato hornworms you see. But, when they are covered with eggs like this guy, let them live, as they will provide food for very beneficial wasps!

This is what happens when you sit in one place too long in North Carolina – the turkey buzzards come! These large birds clean up anything that has started to rot, and we appreciate them for keeping the landscape clear of dead animals. This trio, a male, female, and chick, were chewing on a raccoon carcass by the pond. Magnificent while soaring the thermal updrafts in flight, they are really pretty clumsy (and a bit ugly) and bad-tempered when on the ground. At least one pair live in our woods. You can hear them crashing through the trees when they decide to next for the night.