Animal road rescues

I am not used to taking pictures of everything I do (my phones have not been particularly “smart” until very recently, in spite of being very technologically savvy – just a rebel), so I missed an opportunity to make this a more interesting post with actual personal shots. I will try to remember in the future, but that omission also had a practical reason, as you will see.

That having been said, it has been unusually dry this year in our part of western New York State (which ordinarily rivals Seattle for cloudiness and rain). Great for sun tanning, I guess, but not so good for animals that live in water.

We recently drove to Medina, NY and on our way back we stopped to rescue (read: remove from the road) two turtles who had left their now-dry creek beds in search of water.

The first was a snapping turtle that only had hard caked mud on its back and not a trace of the usual green moss that grows on them. It was a medium to large-sized one (about a foot in diameter, much like this one) and I quickly went up to it, grabbed its tail and dragged it the rest of the way across the road, which obviously didn’t make it very happy, but better than dying by car. Taking a picture clearly wouldn’t have worked, and my husband is a tech newb.

I didn’t move mine that way. A little to big for this lady to try doing that.

I then tried to goad it into continuing on its way into the brush on that side. This time it was not surprised and had enough energy to tuck in its tail and try to snap at me. Good sign. I hope it found water and didn’t cross back over.

 

The second was a red-eared slider, also coming from the side of the road where the dried up creek was located.

This time I picked it up (it was so dry it didn’t even “wet,” as they usually do) and we drove to where the river was, up a few miles. I wish I could have done that for the snapper, but we don’t drive a pickup truck, which would have been the only way to do that!

Please be careful on the roads this summer. I breaks my heart to see any animal end up as road kill.

 

 

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Gardens and Grasshoppers or “A plague on those locusts!”

I was reading a post at Town and Country Gardening about drought and grasshoppers (http://survivalfarm.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/home-gardens-drougth-dry-winds-grasshoppers-whats-next/#comment-1513). He lives in Oklahoma and has my sympathy because the Great Plains have traditionally been a challenging place to garden/farm.

Oklahoma Dust Bowl – 1930’s

Some suggested “climate change” but I am a bit of a history geek, and the Dust Bowl of the 30′s is something most of us actually know very little about, but if you talk to some very old people they will tell you it  was pretty bad. Here are some places to start (all links are safe and secure – I went there myself and checked):

Observed precipitation in the great plains region of North America 30ªN to 50ªN, 95ªW to 105ªW (boxed area on maps) compared with precipitation calculated from an atmospheric general circulation model forced by observed sea-surface temperature data. The calculated precipitation has been smoothed to remove fluctuations with periods shorter than six years. The thin black lines are 14 different simulations. The variation shows some of the uncertainty of the calculated precipitation. The green line is the average of the 14 simulations. The maps show the anomaly of precipitation averaged from 1932 to 1938.

That being said, here are some helpful suggestions I gleaned from Garden’s Alive! (“Getting a Grip on Grasshoppers!”) about natural grasshoppers controls: http://www.gardensalive.com/article.asp?ai=775. Yes, it is a commercial site, but they have “environmentally responsible products that work,”  to use their own words. Here are a few suggestions with a few brief quotes from the page:

  1. Nosema locustae, “a microscopic protozoan parasite of grasshoppers. Often just called ‘Nosema’, it is currently available under a variety of brand names, including ‘Nolo Bait’ and ‘Semaspore.’ It’s a living organism with a relatively short shelf life, so it’s best to buy it just before you use it—which would be in the Spring, when you see the first baby hoppers in their “nymph” stage; a half-inch or smaller. (It doesn’t have much of an effect on adults). Your local county extension agent should be able to identify the right time for your specific region.”
  2. Fowl: Domestic – Guinea fowl (very effective!) and chickens. Native – attract them (specific suggestions in article).
  3. Spun polyester row covers. ‘Nuff said.
  4. Tilling: “Tilling your soil early in the Fall and again in Spring will expose many of those eggs to predators and desiccation.”
  5. Heavy mulch: Grasshoppers lay next year’s eggs later in summer and heavy mulch (at least 2 inches of old hay, straw, wood chips, shredded leaves, etc.) applied over the winter will prevent many of next year’s young from being able to emerge from the soil (I leave mine on year-round).
  6. Molasses is a favorite folk cure that may help right now. Back when I was editor of ORGANIC GARDENING, a Canadian reader reported great success from spraying the perimeter of her garden with a dilute mixture of molasses; apparently, it clogged the pores of hoppers hit by the spray and ones who ate the sprayed plants. Several other readers recommended molasses traps: Mix one part blackstrap molasses with ten parts water, fill wide-mouth jars and buckets a third of the way with this mix and place around the infested area; the hoppers hop in but they can’t hop out.”
  7. Neem – “Spraying those plants with neem—a natural pesticide made from the seed of a tropical tree—is virtually certain to protect them. In fact, our good buddy Bill Quarles, director of the BIRC—the Bio-Integral Resource Center in Berkeley, California—tells us that neem’s pesticidal properties were first investigated because neem trees were the only plants spared during locust attacks. Bill says that ‘grasshoppers would rather starve to death than eat a plant that’s been sprayed with neem.’ ”

A fistful of locusts – or lunch?

BTW, a little know fact: According to the Bible (Leviticus 11: 20-23), locusts are the only insect that may be eaten: “Every flying insect that uses four legs for walking shall be avoided by you. The only flying insects with four walking legs you may eat are those with knees extending above their feet, [using these longer legs] to hop on the ground. Among these you may only eat members of the red locust family, the yellow locust family, the spotted gray locust family and the white locust family. All other flying insects with four feet [for walking] must be avoided by you.”

Perhaps it was God’s way of giving the people something to eat (in addition to a little culinary vengeance) any time locusts ate their crops.

Anyone ever tried them and have any comments or recipes?

Mulch Garden Diary – Not much rain, but…

It’s been dry all over and most gardeners (and farmers) are concerned and watering regularly. Western New York has also been dry, although we have had a few days when small fronts have come in from Canada over the lakes bringing scattered pop-up showers which, although welcome, have only been a drop in the proverbial bucket.

I began gardening late this year – I do every year, but I have finally made my peace with it. As long as we homeschool, the ideal planting time of late April/early May falls close to the end of the school year with co-op lessons, end-of-the-year mandatory testing (NY…), reports and other required NY paperwork (blah, blah, blah…).

Anyhow, my usual routine depends on “volunteer” plants, select nurseries for specific plants, and seeds of some vegetables that don’t mind (or even prefer) starting later. So I thinned out and/or moved some volunteers, purchased and put in a few vegetables and dibbled a few holes for late-purchased seeds (Baker Creek). The mechanism is simple: I pull back mulch and plant, wait until the plants are large enough, then push it back. Because I was late, and it’s been hot and not raining my husband has been spot watering in the morning, but when I first started and pulled back the mulch the soil was still moist, and the worms were just at the surface of the soil under the mulch happily turning straw and hay into soil gold. On the other hand, own lawn doesn’t look as good as my neighbor’s lawn (you can see it in the back) because he waters his, but we haven’t watered ours.

Today I wandered about in the garden in my bare feet (I love the feel of the top layer of dry mulch). I pushed it back up to most plants, dropped some spare mulch on some thinner places and did some random checks in the open places between plants, causing worms to flee. All good. Other than my husband using a watering can to water of certain places and one good watering of the strawberry bed in the middle (it got quite thin there and was drier and I couldn’t re-mulch until the berries were done), the rest is fine. I pulled about 5 little weed upstarts and took some more pictures.

This is just the main vegetable garden as of today, I have five other narrow ones around the yard. This one has tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, corn, scarlet runner beans, eggplant, broccoli, collards, cilantro, Russian purple fingerling potatoes, bush zucchini, bush buttercup squash, cucumbers and okra (I also put in some asparagus seeds but don’t expect anything this soon). The “volunteers” in this garden are the strawberries, collards, cilantro and potatoes. In my other beds I have leeks (volunteer), garlic, basil, parsley, peppermint (volunteer), cilantro (volunteer), black raspberries (volunteer), dill, walking onions (volunteer), chives, more okra and strawberries (volunteer) and sunflowers.

I will try to post other pictures as it progresses, for I know it will fill in surprisingly.

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