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Great Balls of Fire Ants

If you live in the muggy buggy South, you soon learn that insect repellant is as vital to survival as holy water is to Catholics. But, I have yet to find anything that repels wasps, hornets, bumblebees, and Satan’s Spawn…the mighty fire ant (Solenopsis xyloni).fireants These demons are native to South America, and they can have them back. This is another reason we need immigration laws, but that is a topic for those who like to write political rants.

For the uneducated, mainly those lucky enough to live in Northern stars, fire ants build huge dinner plate sized, 10-inch high mounds over night. These mounds house at a minimum, 8 zillion biting, stinging demons who hate everybody and everything. If it moves, they sting it.

Having co-existed with these demons for 17 years, I know that  woringk in my yard in anything less than a suit of armor is asking for trouble, but, but this week I ventured  into the broiling 90 plus degree heat to pull weeds and trim back dying plants in my swimsuit and sandals.  My reasoning was: This skimpy garb will allow me to take frequent dips in our pool which might spare me heat exhaustion, which by the way I have had twice this summer.

I was focused on cutting back dead plants, not where I was walking and my nearly bare foot stomped on a fire ant hill.  In a flash hundreds of ants were on my feet and legs. These ants can’t be brushed off your body because they have pinchers in the front that hold on to your skin while their business end, the back end, injects a powerful venom into your body.ant bites They also can’t be drowned.  When they attack, your skin feels as if it has been burned. Within seconds your skin is  red, inflamed and covered with pus filled pockets of venom. Yes, I know this is too much information, but I want you to feel my pain.

For minutes I was a screaming whirling dervish, swatting my legs, diving into the pool, and cursing all insects.

Solutions for the pain: benedryl, vinegar, and strong adult beverages. None work for very long.

Solutions for the ants: Flame throwers, napalm, agent Orange, DDT, and better insect immigration laws.

 

If you have had an encounter with Fire ants, post your experience. Share the pain.

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Garden Algebra

yalebra-gardenSince age 6, I have worked in a vegetable garden each summer, with the exception of the four years when I attended college. The years I lived in Nebraska and Colorado, I never had a crop failure, except for one year when I never picked any fresh peas, because rabbits ate them all before I could pick them. I had bountiful tomato crops, so many I made tomato sauce and salsa. I froze beans, prepared eggplant in new unheard of ways, enjoyed raspberries and strawberries, and fresh lettuce. I was proud of my skill; considered myself a master gardener, and then I moved to south Louisiana.

My years of gardening expertise are useless here. For 15 years, I have less than successful gardens. I’ve reduced my gardening experience to several formulas.

  1. $Y = money spent on seeds and plants
  2. X = unknown factor
  3. I = Insects
  4. P =  Pain inflicted by insects on me
  5. D = destruction of plants by insects
  6. $RX -money spent on insect repellents and anti-itch medicine
  7. T = time

My best years have been:  $y + X +T = 1
My worst years have been: 3$Y + 4X + T + 3I = 0 + 3P + $RX.
Most years are: $2Y + 2X + 2DI + 3PI +T =  -0 + 3$RX   Yes, it is possible to have less than 0 produce. I ought to know, it has happened to me several times.

These equations have endless permutations and combinations. (All you math geeks don’t need to write and tell me that what I am proposing is impossible, because my gardens are living proof there is an infinite number of ways my garden can fail despite my efforts.)

floodOne year X was 19 inches of rain in one week which caused my entire tomato crop to swell and burst, as the plants died of soggy roots.

Another year X was a germination rate of about 1%, this after planting 3 packages of beans. With the money I spent on seeds could have bought a bushel of green beans at the farmers market from someone having better luck than I.

bugs-xed-outEvery year bugs are an issue. Sometimes they attack the plants, other time I’m the hapless victim. Currently I’m doped up on Benedryl trying to recover from an attack of fire ants. I read on the Internet that these stinging, biting ants were imported in the US in the 1930s. I must ask why, and where are they indigenous? bug-sprayingI’m ready to send them back to whatever level of hell they came from. (I do not expect the ants to pay for their return trip, I’ll be more than happy to buy them a one-way ticket.) My yard should be registered with the EPA, and still these demons continue to build 12 inch high mounds overnight.

This year 50% of my apple crop was eaten by the raccoons. Okay, I only had two apples on my tree, but it sounds better to say 50% was destroyed by raccoons. The other 50% succumbed to worms.

okraThis years crop was: 6 warty eggplants, a dozen small tomatoes,( I did not plant cherry tomatoes) scraggly bean plants, and vulgar pale okra pods. I know okra needs to be picked daily, but with few blooms, there was nothing to pick. Yesterday the Sicilian picked our entire okra crop. He made obscene gestures with the pods. I told him where to put them: in the garbage.

Friday I am attending an LSU one-day conference titled September, the Second Spring, where experts will explain what to plant in your winter garden.  Great, now I can have crop failure twice a year.

Toxins: For the Yard and the Sicilian

poisons

Just bought these items today. Does this look like over kill? Not if you live in the deep South. No self-respecting southern gardener or person who has a severe allergic reaction to wasps and fire ants stings, would ever let their supply of toxic chemicals be depleted. As for the 20 pounds of fungus killer, in case your TV has been turned off the last two weeks so you could be spared the political fecal tossing, you might not be aware that south Louisiana received 6-24 inches of rain depending on where you live. Thankfully we were in the 6 inch area and did not flood, but our lawn is now a mass of dead grass. Fungus.

dead lawnThis morning I noticed spots of green in the huge brown areas in our lawn. Silly me, I thought the grass was recovering. Nope, just the impossible to kill button weeds and chamberbitter staking their claim to my dying lawn.  If the rain falls on the just and the unjust, then it seems logical to me that this fungus should kill the weeds as well as the grass.  But that is not the case.  So another round of toxins will be necessary to salvage our lawn. And yes, I have registered our lawn as a biohazard with the EPA, but when it comes to reducing bugs per square inch, more is more. There is no such thing as moderation. You slack off, they attack.

walt's foodAs for this stockpile of junk food I bought this morning, that is for the Sicilian. I’m escaping this 95 degree heat which has equal humidity to visit a friend in the Pacific Northwest soon. Spot and the Sicilian have to fend for themselves. Spot eats the same diet of dry kibble every day, so, no problem there, and the Sicilian is capable of cooking; he did it for many years while raising his son. But, now they both have high cholesterol as every item he cooked required a stick of butter because he subscribed to the comment a favorite chef of his made: ” If you put enough cream or butter on it, people will eat tires and beg for more.”

I on the other hand believe all things in moderation, with the exception of the aforementioned bugs. To save the Sicilian a trip to the grocery while I am gone, which might result in an astronomical charge on the credit card for junk food, I bought him a reasonable supply of high cholesterol, high sugar, and high sodium food. These toxins should keep him happy while I am gone.  As for the bugs and fungus, I’m not so sure.

Final thought: I’ve heard as golfer age, they try to shoot their age. Today the Sicilian and his friend played a round of golf  and their score was the same as the temperature, 93.  I wonder if they will do as well when it is 74 outside?