Winter Breeze Makes Me Feel Not So Fine

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I’m used to the cold. I’m used to snow. I was a kid in Wisconsin in the 70s and 80s, and would be woken up by my mom early mornings to scrape ice inches thick off the car windows. I reveled in snow days and more than once thought about wearing snowshoes to get from the front door to the school bus waiting at the end of our drive. Winter doesn’t bother me. Snow and ice do not frighten me. As a teenager, in the snowiest months my sister and I would try to find a semi-truck to drive behind both to save on gas (less driving against the wind) and to clear the road ahead of us as we drove away from our home out in the country for a big night out on the town (in the nearby metropolis which boasted about 35,000 residents – a Mecca to us then). As uncomfortable as some of those winter-life adjustments may have been, they were normal and nearly painfully predictable.

So what has me and others calling this the winter of our discontent should come as no surprise. It’s the fact (no longer question or issue) of climate *change*. I wondered as I watched the State of the Union address last week whether it was the first time a President has referred to climate change in such a nonchalant way, like talking about oil and gas prices, education, unemployment, and other standard areas of common concern. My worry is that now that it’s a given, there seems to be a resigned acceptance. It’s like those fighting the battle to stem the tide of global warming had the wind taken out of their sails defending its existence and what they called it (global warming vs. climate change as if that makes any difference to the birds and seas, or to you and me). So wrapped up in the political fight(s), they got little done in time. And no one, it seems, really knows if it’s too late. And if it’s not, how to reverse the damage.

Here we are with summer in January in the should-be coldest parts of the world and winter sitting in the lap of the normally mildest. In January, it got colder in Chicago than in the South Pole. In Juneau, Alaska, flowers bloomed out of season. Water in the North Pacific is up to seven degrees warmer than most years. Meanwhile, more than 36,000 flights were cancelled due to extreme weather conditions, three times more than in the past two Januarys. An early count shows more than a thousand local records were set for snowfall in January in the United States, while California is shutting down ski resorts for lack of snow. A recent survey found that the water content of California’s snowpack is at just 12% of average, the lowest it’s been since record-keeping of the measure began in 1960. As a result, the state has announced it will not distribute state water supplies to its 25 million customers and nearly a million acres of irrigated farmland unless there is an abundance of wet weather by May 1. These cities and farms that normally rely on state supplied water will have to look elsewhere. They will have to tap underground reservoirs, if they have any, and ask other districts to buy or borrow some. No doubt there will be significant costs involved, something municipalities in cash-strapped California and already facing the economic blows of drought can ill afford. Mandatory rationing of water has already commenced in some areas. If one thing is predictable, it’s that the painful effects of California’s drought, and I’m sure other consequences of aberrant weather, will be far reaching this year.

Welcome, I’m afraid, to the new normal.

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About My Neighbor

They made the space around them seem bigger than it was. Then it was big enough to encompass everyone who touched their path. Because their apartment was small, the sidewalk became their living room. The kids turned that living room into museums of another man’s treasure, and space centers where ships would launch, the home base of superheroes where they would take off with their super-kid capes swirling behind them, the starting point of a million races, most still unfinished. The dad was the mayor of that stretch of block. The boys were endless entertainment and incessant quizzing of strangers. They were free, one of the few free families I’ve ever seen. No tv, no Internet, no cell phones. Every day it was trips to the park where the boys became expert explorers. I would trust myself in a true Armageddon with those boys, only aged 4 and 6, than I would most adults.  The other member of their family was my very most favorite neighbor.

And then, suddenly, two Novembers ago they moved away. And those wise old boys took their mom with them. She was my gardening buddy, writing friend, and frequent confidante. We exchanged notes on everything from native plants to self-watering systems to writing our life’s stories. She plunked a big gray tub in my front yard to try out a homemade contraption to help plants wick up the water on their own, then we watched as her green beans shot up much quicker and with more grace than my feeble plants struggling alongside in the Brooklyn clay. That same tub with the same contraption overwintered here and now is home to a couple of the heirloom tomatoes that have populated my backyard.

I’ve mentioned her move only in passing even though I frequently recounted our friend-neighbor-gardening adventures before that. I think, possibly, I feared that speaking it made it more real or significant. The gifts of native plants she had rescued from abandonment at the local community garden where she and her family rented a plot felt just a little lonelier without her fellow admiring eyes to note how much they’ve grown, and to measure with our observations. I’ve commented before about gardening often being a solitary endeavor, and have shared my mother’s observation (who does not identify herself as a gardener) that those who do it seem to like it because it is their one time away from the rest of the world.  For awhile, I liked it precisely for the opposite reason.

For a time, gardening was one time I wanted could literally share that little corner of my world. We worked out agreements about where her tub would sit in the yard, making sure each of our plants got to share in the good sun and soil.  Her husband, the mayor, would come over and help turn the soil in my big compost bin, while their boys ran roughshod over the rest of the yard, stopping only to pick a worm out of the newly freed black-brown soil.  We split the cost of books on foraging for wild edibles and how to maximize use of container plants.  With her, my garden was not my hermitage.  Just like her little apartment down the street, she made my yard-garden seem bigger, the closer in we inspected and worked it.  Every nuance in leaf color or soil consistency was the source of great discovery and possibly the basis of greater extrapolation.  We were going to put in a rooftop garden the summer following the November that she left.  At least that’s what we said before they moved.  While I love working my little yard, I still don’t know that I’d have actually had the time, patience or resources for something of that scale.  And in a way I’m grateful that we can still believe in our minds it would have happened, that we would have remained very most favorites with each other without interruption and taken on super-gardening prowess and powers.  As far away as she is, she’s still my neighbor, and every bit the inspiration she ever was.

Occasionally, she reads here. By this post, I’m sending a message of fond remembrance as well as an invitation to return some afternoon to launch a ship, finish a race, become superheroes. Or just to embrace a moment in our shared corner of Earth.

How Facebook Became My Landline

I used to go on WordPress more than I did Facebook. I was happier then. I appreciate being in touch with old friends, but there is something overly exposed and in some ways debilitating about it. I guess, if you’ve been around as long as me and remember a time before there was voicemail or even answering machines, and consider how you responded when the phone would ring, this is much likely a predictor of your Facebook habits. If you would rush to pick up the phone, slamming the big brown paper bag of groceries onto the Formica, even risking crushing the Little Debbies or big bag of cheese puffs just so you could get to the ringing phone before it became nothing but a lonely dial tone, you likely have the same Facebook habits I have today.

I remember once breaking my toe in my mad dash down the hall and into the next room to answer the phone. I told people later I had broken it doing tae kwon do. (I was in both martial arts and dance classes at the time – I figured I deserved to have broken my toe in some respectable way, even though it was from nothing more than embarrassing eagerness and lack of grace, but no one would be the wiser).

So now my computer has a silent ring audible just to me, and I respond like a dog hearing a whistle just outside of human range.  On my way to the closet to hang a jacket, I lean over and tap the keyboard to wake up my laptop, and we proceed to speak our secret language.

“Hey,” I say silently. “Were you ringing?”

“Uh, no,” he says, wondering why I’m bothering him again. “I didn’t mean to be. Maybe I was snoring.”

“No, really. I swear I heard someone say something in there.”

“Well sure. Someone’s always got something to say in there. Doesn’t mean it’s all worth hearing.”

“But, yeah,” I reply. “If they bothered, might be worth checking out. And, besides, what if it’s a direct message meant for me. Don’t you think I should check it out ?”

By now, I have touched his buttons and I am full on waking him up as he grumbles slowly, ignoring my additional clicking of the keyboard while he yawns and rubs his eyes, oblivious to my incessant pressing. I tell myself this is different from the eager, embarrassing, anxious mad dash to get the phone.  This is just me wanting to check quickly (in case it’s important, I tell myself) and get back to the dutiful path I was on, picking up and putting away kids’ clothes, and washing dishes that never change or tell you the news or post pictures of dreaming kitties, or…

Finally he is fully awake. And I’m on, leaning over my desk — not sitting at it so I can quickly get back to the very important work of the day — but then as I scroll down there is something that catches my eye.  And then another something, and a group of somethings, and then an onslaught of somethings.  They may be posts about Monsanto, or an increase in crime in my neighborhood, or a picture of a new baby of a distant relative, or my high school frenemy posting pics of a new house of car or lover or shoes.  As insignificant as all this is, something about it becomes impressively important for me to know or see or sign or share or like or…  Next thing I know I am full-butt planted in my chair, clicking away, while my legs stay draped sideways behind me so I know I can escape this at any time — this barrage of truly unneeded “news,” of minutiae of really near strangers, of saccharine sweet platitudes I couldn’t bear in person, of heavy, depressing tales of woe and kids getting accidentally shot or maimed, of “friends” sparring over politics and religion and sports and things a third party has said or written (probably secretly on the Facebook payroll), of an incessant string of instructions of how to be a better parent, lover, friend, sister/mother, father/brother, human being as if all we are is a bundle of failure in endless need of improvement. Cleaning the house is less exhausting.

But instead of returning to my soulless chores, I now have one leg tucked beneath me and I am snug in my Facebook mind-numbing buzz.  Footsteps up the stairs are the only thing that snap me out if it.  My partner, admirably, must never have had my Pavlovian response to the phone ringing and can pass by the computer umpteen times a day without even a glance toward it.  So I don’t like too often to get caught in the act.  I quickly switch to anything without the recognizable blue lines and boxes.  I’m now on Google and wondering where to go next.  There’s no screeching news here reminding me of the banality of people and the pervasive pain – physical, emotional, personal, political, philosophical – of being human, or the escapades of friends of friends, or the cheering and jeering of Packers fans, and articles about whose city is best, and quizzes to show just how alike or not you are from Dr. Phil and Oprah and others, and so much more to show you just how far you have to go.  Just a plain white background and a few options – the boxes beneath the search window showing recent visits – reminding me where I’ve been.  There’s Yahoo, WordPress, and reliably Facebook.  I rise above it all and return to my busy work, till I hear my laptop ring again.

Mouse Time

It’s that time of year, when mice go rooting around for greener pastures indoors.  After doing a couple of quick searches and my own recon, I’ve found the following as a winning combination of non-toxic (at least not the toxic-est of toxics) for keeping the mice at bay.

1) Repel vs. Kill – I go for repel.  It’s better to keep the mice away than just kill them off because where there was one, there will be others.  Mice aren’t like people in this regard.  If we repeatedly see our own kind slain in the same spot repeatedly, we typically will steer clear.  Mice, on the other hand, will just swoop right in where their brethren met their demise.  So, instead of focusing your efforts on a losing battle, I suggest trying to make your abode the least inviting one around.  Send the mice to your neighbors; hopefully they’re doing the same thing and eventually the little creatures will get the hint and check out some other blocks in your hood.

2) How to Repel – Mice do not like the following scents, and will steer clear if you keep these scents fresh and plenty:

a.  Cloves & Cayenne.  I first tried the cayenne, straight out of the shaker and into a small porcelain bowl (more of a ramekin), and set it under the sink near the dog food (which I transferred into an airtight container instead of just a pretty tight container) and the compost scraps (if you can handle keeping them in your freezer, that’s best but it’s pretty valuable real estate so we opt for a plastic container with tight sealing lid placed under the sink – no wonder mice had found their wonderland, right?).  After I had wiped down and bleached this cupboard, and removed or transferred anything that might be seen as trappings of a mouse hotel, I went to the store (Foodtown) and bought my other artillery (see below).  When I came back, the white Ikea fiberboard (nothing but fancy for me) that I had scrubbed spotless was now dotted with a trail of perfectly nuggety mouse turds.  So, cayenne alone does not work.  I then remembered what exactly you are supposed to do if you want to make spice fragrant so I threw some cayenne in a pan, along with the cloves I’d just got at Foodtown (returning the tiny bottle at $4.25 for the bigger bottle at $2.50 as soon as I came across it – lucky for us Thanksgiving is around the corner, and you should be able to find these mouse repelling spices on a tacky rack display at the end of any given aisle at your local grocer).  I put the newly fragrant whole cloves and cayenne in a couple of ramekins and placed each in a corner of the cupboard where the mice were most likely to be making their entrance.  This seemed, or truly has been, a success – at least in combination with a few other efforts listed below.

b.  Bounce Fabric Sheets.  Here is where the mice and I have something in common.  I can’t stand them either but I went to Foodtown yesterday and took advantage of the special (two boxes for $5.00, which means I probably could have gotten just one for $2.50, but now I have one to spare to keep the critters away).  I stuck these in various crevices where I thought mice might be making their way in – between gaps in cupboards and between the stove and underneath the microwave, etc.  I don’t know if it needs to be Bounce per se or the generic will do – just make sure you don’t get anything fragrance free, of course.  I went ahead and got Bounce because I don’t use fabric dryer sheets and if they didn’t work because they’re generic then I’d be SOL because I certainly wouldn’t be using them for anything else.  Buying fabric dryer sheets is, to me, like buying Hallmark cards on one of the many “holidays” Hallmark created.  It’s spending money on a fabricated (yes, intended) problem.  When I got together with my current partner who doesn’t use fabric dryer sheets and never has, I was reminded why I got together with my current partner and followed suit.

c.  Peppermint (maybe).  I haven’t tried this one yet (since my neighborhood is gentrifying but not so gentrified that the nearest grocery store carries Dr. Bronner’s – it doesn’t).  But given my aversion to Bounce and ammonia, this will likely be added to my cache of tricks and treats for the little critters.  Or not.  Just did a quick search and found mixed reviews about the efficacy of peppermint oil – some are saying use oil and not the extract, which is likely a la Dr. Bronner’s.

d.  Ammonia.   Word on the street is that ammonia to mice smells like the pee of their predators.  Mice love the stove top, which really is the creepiest thing to me about them.  I got a Home and Garden Sprayer bought cheap and made by mentally and physically challenged people in Michigan (seriously – they’re by Sprayco in Detroit, MI – support them and you’re supporting real work for the seriously marginalized in a locale that needs the dollars, also it’s a U.S. based family owned company that’s been around since the 1980s and its parent corp. started over 100 years ago – this is the kind of company I like).  I filled it half full with ammonia, the rest with water, and I’m keeping it near the stove to spray frequently and liberally.  Now, back to (or still on) toxicity, I’m really not sure which is more toxic – ammonia or Bounce.  I’m seriously skeptic about what is going in processed/manufactured products — foodstuffs and others — these days.  Yesterday in Foodtown, I couldn’t find good old fashioned steel wool pads, Brillo or otherwise, without them being doused in soap and bragging from box to box about how each had more soap than the other.  Seriously, there were about five different styles, none of them soap free.  (This is a different soap box topic – yes, intended – but I think sabon is way overrated, and the world would be a better place without it – and I’m no hippy dippy, free love, tree hugging, dirty hippy type although I probably admittedly have put my arms around a tree or two when no one was looking).  All of which brings me to my last suggestion…

e.  Steel Wool.  This is a variation on scent/rodent repellant.  It’s a barrier – mice cannot (or at least are not supposed to be able to) chew through steel wool.  If you find that your little critters are chewing through this barrier, you may want to check out whether you’ve got mice or their more notorious cousin with the long tail.  And if that’s your issue, you’ll need to check out a different site, one from a blogger who’s braver than me because if that were the problem, my list would be short and sweet, and consist only of a number for pest control.  Other barriers that should work are aluminum foil (some say if mice step on this and hear it, it freaks them out because they think it’s the sound of another predator – Brooklyn mice are way too wizened for that, I suspect).  Also, aluminum foil ain’t cheap, so it’s not really high on my list of recommendations.

3) And, in case repelling doesn’t work…

Good luck getting rid of the little beasties.  I did set up a couple traps just as back-up.  Animal cruelty?  Maybe.  But I also stomp any indoor centipede I meet, and don’t have the patience to shoo a mosquito or fly out the door.  Since I am just as willing to hurt any other unwanted visitor to my house, I don’t feel too bad about it.

Benefits of Weird Weather

Thanks to unseasonably warm weather, I’ve been harvesting much later than usual. My table doesn’t mind, although I was certain when I sad these volunteers mid summer that they’d never make it to their prime. Climate change proved me wrong.

Question: anyone else out there reaping a later than usual harvest? Do you think it’s linked to climate change, late planting, a combination, or something else entirely? Have you revised your planting schedule as the growing season changes? Go ahead, gimme the dirt.

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Bees & Butterflies by the Numbers

Unfortunately, the numbers are decreasing in alarming degrees. I’ve been meaning to write about the disturbing disappearance of honeybees for quite some time but never seemed to find the time. Now I’m afraid time is running out.

I’ve noticed fewer bees and butterflies, particularly this summer. There seemed to be no fewer yellow jackets than the occasional visitor I’m used to, but I don’t recall spotting a honeybee once all summer. Likewise, butterflies were sadly absent. There was one moth like white butterfly that sometimes flitted by by but from the looks it was just one regular guest, not a flock by a long shot. Also, I think I only saw this butterfly – if that’s even what it was – on its own, never in the company of others.

This past weekend I went to a free event in my neighborhood. It was kid-focused, a puppet parade held in the playground behind one of the public schools. It was swarming with hungry, hyped and rowdy kids. I was ready to leave when, at the last minute, I was persuaded to stay. Staying meant, as it turned out, that I heard Jennifer Hopkins, known as the Butterfly Lady, speak about what we can do to help bring back the butterflies. She recommends planting the following flowers:

Asters
Bee balm
Butterfly bush
Butterfly weed
Coreopsis
Lantana
Milkweed
Parsley
Purple coneflower
Sunflowers
Wild geranium

Check out more at http://www.brooklynbutterflyproject.org

And more to come on bees by the numbers.

Climate Change Hits $60 Trillion. Bring on The News.

Go back home, fall.  It’s still just July.  What’s that you say?  You’re not a change of the seasons, you’re climate change and there’s no stopping you now?  Oh, in that case, I’m going back to Facebook.

I’ve never been a big fan of a/c.  We have one unit in our living room window, despite the recent heatwave.  We don’t run it all day.  I turn it on a few minutes before my partner gets home.  If I’m spending more time in the living room than where I usually am in my office (with a fan and windows open), I’ll turn it on for awhile.  So there’s no real schedule of its use.  We do experiment with how well the unit works in conjunction with the ceiling fan, and have mixed reviews.  It was some time yesterday that I wondered if I had turned the thing or left it on too long, or whether having all the windows in the house open was making it suddenly feel cold.  And if it was the latter, why that would be after weeks of having all the windows in the house open.  It seemed odd that the cold air could be coming from outside but indeed it was.  By the time I went to sleep last night, it felt downright like fall.  Waking up this morning, the birds are quieter than they were yesterday.  Fewer of them almost it seems.  The sky is gray.  The street does not having the usual bustly feel of summer.  And something just seems wrong.  I almost expect to see leaves falling to the ground (and not like the leaves on my hosta plants that wilted and singed yellow and brown at the edges from all the unbearable heat we’ve had lately).

Last night before going to bed, I checked online.  I looked around Facebook (there’s a page about m neighborhood that’s become somewhat addictive, and I like to watch the number of comments ring up after a comment I or someone else has made about something that only neighbors can be annoyed about — overcharging at a particular grocery store, the removal of waste cans on major corners because the sanitation department says they’re causing too much mess — or just the history of a building or person who’s been a fixture on these streets).  I didn’t do the full stroll and check in to LinkedIn and Twitter.

It seems anymore we don’t have to go looking for the news.  If we’re engaging in the usual social media rounds that most of our ethernet neighbors are, then the news comes to us.  I think there is the sometimes-false sense that we therefore know what’s going on.  Actual, true-life media outlets I’m sure are suffering from this hubris we have.  But in a way they seem to be chasing their tails too, sniffing out scoops online, and allowing the democratization of the news unfold without too much protestation.  If enough people are interested in it online, it must be news.  I’ve been seeing on morning television shows with increasing frequency (so now it’s just “regular” news) videos that have gone viral – a wild animal jumping into someone’s car because it was being chased by a cheetah or some other beast, Beyonce’s hair getting caught in a fan, a puppeteer who can make his puppets dance better than they do on Dancing With the Stars, you get the drift.

So what happens to the little articles that got lost in the swirl because maybe they’re a little boring, or because they’re not written simply enough for the regular reader to get their significance, or because it’s not a beast or Beyonce or a dancing puppet.  What if it’s just the Arctic taking its final swan song?  Before I went to bed, I happened upon a blog post or news article – dangerously, I can barely tell them apart these days – noting July 22, 2013 as the day to put down in the history books for when the North Pole became a lake.  I noticed it was the only article I saw like this, and even looking back now I can’t find the same article/post.  I wasn’t surprised.  If a poll were taken, I’d bet more people on FB preferred puppies and kitties and stars getting their hair stuck to the uncomfortable and downright painful truth of climate change.  I woke this morning thinking about it, wondering in my unscientific way if the air is carrying the last of the polar cap.  I wondered, too, about how that article was just a blip amid more enticing videos of stars’ hair getting stuck in fans and wildebeasts jumping in and out of Jeeps.

But then I woke up this morning and in searching for the blip on the screen last night, I found countless articles, most marked “22 minutes ago,” or “2 hours ago.”  Lots of them, too!  Turns out the arctic melting is gonna cost somebodies some big money.  Bring on the media.  This is not longer just enviro-blogger worthy.  Now it’s real news.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-24/arctic-ice-melt-cost-seen-equal-to-year-of-world-economic-output.html

http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/24/world/climate-arctic-methane/index.html

http://www.scotsman.com/news/environment/arctic-melt-gases-may-cost-world-60-trillion-1-3015046

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/methane-meltdown-the-arctic-timebomb-that-could-cost-us-60trn-8730408.html

Security v. Freedom. the Case of the Millenium

This may well be one of the most pressing conflicts of our generation.  How do we let loose the reins enough to ensure freedom, yet pull them in enough to protect the citizenry from threats to our health and safety?

Our fellow reveler Ralph posted a thought-provoking comment recently, noting a post on another website.  The host of that site (which could be described by some as a preppers site) was sharing an email received from a reader who had purchased seeds from e-Bay and was visited by a federal agent who seized their seeds, stating it was because of the risk of disease.  Here is what Ralph said about it.  I think his contemplation well reflects the mixed feelings many of us have about the tension between the need for privacy/freedom and the desire for protection and safety/security.

from Reveler Ralph…

I just read a story at:
http://www.preparednesspro.com/usda-agents-drive-4-hours-confiscate-10-seeds-purchased-ebay/
that I received an email about. Having just read the title and brief description from the email I thought I was going to read yet another story about our rights being taken away. After reading the story I am not so sure my initial thoughts were correct. Ignoring the feelings (mine included) about possible govt invasion into our lives, I was reminded of a question on one of the shows I listen to asking why certain plants and seeds were regulated and not allowed to be sent to certain states. Outwardly it seemed, even to me, that some of the regulations were put in place to prevent competition with commercial producers. Some plants were simply invasive and would cause all kinds of damage if let loose in the wrong places.

In spite of searching for the actual explanation I haven’t been able to locate it among the hundreds of shows on the site, so until I can locate it here’s what I can remember. Basically it boiled down to plant diseases and virus infected plants. While it seems that prohibiting certain grape seeds into California or orange seeds into Florida are giving large producers a monopoly on their markets, the real reason is that bringing a plant disease into these areas by infected plants or seeds could destroy commercial crops possibly ruining commercial producers and cause economic problems. Reading seed catalogs you can see notes that a particular seed resists some disease or virus. Seeds, somewhat like people may be immune to certain illnesses, but if a ‘foreign’ illness is brought in it will often spread ‘like wildfire’.

As for the corn in the story, corn can be pollinated by other corn miles away, so a contaminated field can spread disease far and wide. We have already seen this with GMO corn. While no fan of needless regulation, it is possible the seeds in question should not have been allowed to grow. That being the case, I would have to ask why e-Bay was selling them.

Here’s the link to the USDA site which I am going to look through when I have more time:
http://www.aphis.usda.gov/import_export/plants/plant_imports/smalllots_seed.shtml

 

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Thanks, Ralph, for this thought-provoking comment.  I am curious to know what readers are thinking about recent news about the National Security Administration’s data collection efforts and former CIA employee, Edward Snowden’s leaking the U.S. government’s mass surveillance practices.  I’m also wondering what others are thinking about the Illinois Deparment of Agriculture’s seizure of honeybees resistant to Monsanto’s RoundUp which were subsequently reportedly destroyed, the passing of the bill now known as the “Monsanto Protection Act,” and a slow but sure shift in farming legislation to acknowledge food and farming going on in the east coast.  There’s lots going on these days.  I’m wondering how everyone else is processing it all.

So, you know the deal.  Go ahead … gimme the dirt!

Dead Flies on Flowers

So I’ve been noticing, upon up-close inspection of several plants, that some have a bevy of flies. At first I was impressed that they stayed so still when I was looking at them so up close, then I wondered if they were doing something gross like mating since they seemed so totally oblivious to me. Then the horrible truth that they were dead dawned on me. It’s strange that I work so hard on slaughtering any beady eyed flyer who frequents my home space but upon spying one dead on a flower stem seized from me a gasp of compassion. It was sad, disturbing, intriguing.

It happened the first time several days, maybe a week ago. I’d noticed my rose bush in the ground out front wasn’t doing so great. So I went out there to give it some extra care: a little compost littering, removing some yellowed leaves, and the like. That’s when I saw a fly very near where a flower once was. The fly was very still. The fly, I realized, was dead.

A few days later, I was out back paying some attention to a potted lavender plant when I saw several of them, then some more. Again, at first I thought they were live flies, just hanging out enjoying some sun. Then I realized they were dead. All of them, dead as door nails (why is it door nails would be deader than any other nail, I wonder). And after a wave of nausea and the creeps, it just made me very sad. They were clinging toward the top of the stem, just as the rose-loving flower had been. Then I also found them on the rosemary. It was a garden invasion of dead flies. Day of the dead … flies. Zombies of the insect world.

I didn’t know whether to try to remove them or just let them be. Then I wondered if they were doing the plants any harm. So then I did what any other earth loving naturalist would do – I left the great outdoors for the glowing screen of my smartphone and looked it up online. This is what I found out.

Seedcorn maggot flies or delia platura may sometimes be found dead on twigs or stems of flowers, typically toward the top of the stem, close to the flower. Their larvae may damage vegetables but typically don’t have a negative effect on flowers, trees, or vines. According to the research (and now that I’m not there I cannot personally confirm this), if you look closely you likely will see a pink stripe around the flies’ abdomens. The pink stripe is why the fly died. It’s the spores of entomophthera fungus. Once infected, the fly’s coordination is affected. They land on a leaf, vine, twig, or plant and die. It seems they are unable to fly away but it wasn’t clear to me if they sense the end is near. Maybe not, since they get all coordination-confused. This usually happens in the spring but can appear throughout the summer since the flies can breed five generations in one year.

What confuses me is why I’ve never noticed this before. Anyone else seeing this? Anything else strange and kinda gross and not totally wonderful happening in the garden? As for the dead flies, they don’t easily flick off. Should they stay or should they go? Go ahead…gimme the dirt.

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