Thursday, June 28, 2012

My battles with Japanese beetles

I suspect they've been around for awhile, but I really didn't notice the Japanese beetles in our area until two years ago.  That was when I noticed the leaves at the top of the cherry tree seemed to be turning brown in the middle of summer.  I'd seen other trees suffer that fate, but since they weren't in my yard, I ignored whatever had caused the devastation.  When MY cherry tree seemed to get worse every day, I finally investigated.  I was horrified to find hundreds, perhaps thousands of beetles slowly eating the life out of my tree!

My research that year convinced me to spray the tree with Sevin, especially since all the cherries had been harvested weeks earlier.  It was satisfying to see all the bugs lying dead on the ground just days later, but I realized this war would probably have many battles over many years.

The next year, I noticed the beetles were attracted to several plants in our yard, specifically: the cherry tree, raspberry plants, only one of our three maple trees, and hops bines.  I sprayed all the affected plants except the maple with Sevin, and was generally pleased with the results, but something about spraying chemicals on food plants made me uncomfortable.

This year, I changed my strategy.  I'd seen my neighbors catching a lot of bugs in their traps, and after weighing the pros and cons, I decided to join them.  Of the two or three choices at Menards, I chose the Spectracide Bag-A-Bug Japanese Beetle Trap.  The bait contains a sex attractant and a floral lure that the folks at Spectracide assure me is hard for beetles to resist.

This is the way the product looks assembled and hung from the stairs at the back of our barn.  Notice the plumpness of the bag toward the bottom, indicating lots of beetles are congregating there stupefied and unable to escape.  Evidently these flying beetles are not successful at locating the opening at the top of the bag.  Oh well, that just makes the trapping job easier.

Every day I empty the bag into a 5-gallon bucket containing a gallon or less of soapy water.  This image shows one day's harvest from my one trap after soaking over night.  I haven't counted all of them in this image, but I estimate there are over 1,000 beetles visible, and who knows how many underneath this top layer.  The bugs secrete a brown, sticky liquid that makes the trap bag messy and turns soapy water brown. It also stinks with a potency that is hard to wash off your hands.  I made that mistake once.  Now I use gloves when I'm going to touch the bag so I don't spend the rest of the evening washing stink off my hands!

Because these traps attract Japanese beetles, they shouldn't be located right next to a plant you're trying to protect.  Spectracide recommends at least 30 feet separation, and our trap is about that distance from the cherry and raspberry plants.  Those seem to be protected pretty well this year, although I do occasionally find beetles on both plants.  I remove those bugs when I see them, which tends to prevent others from congregating there also.  One source I read claims the beetles can smell a leaf that is being eaten, so they tend to gather together on the same plants.  Recently, I noticed a few dozen beetles on our small basil plant, and once I removed them I haven't seen any others on the plant since.

Criticized for drawing more beetles to your property, I think this style trap comes out far ahead in removing pests from your plants.  The damage I see on our plants this year is probably comparable to what I saw last year when I sprayed with Sevin at the first sign of infestation.  I'll continue to monitor and empty the trap faithfully, as I'm interested to see if the trap continues to be effective through the rest of the summer.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Beans in the backyard 2012, weeks 6, 7 & 8

 June 10

The plants I examined had attained five trifoliolates fully emerged by June 10.  If you look closely, you can see spots on the leaves from the herbicide that was applied a few days earlier.  Some of the other plants are showing more severe reactions to the herbicide, but obviously all the weeds hadn't died yet.

 June 17

Six trifoliolates had emerged by June 17, and more of the weeds had surrendered to the herbicide.

 June 24

These pictures look a little different because they were taken in the evening instead of the normal morning shots.  I counted eight fully emerged trifoliolates this week.  One can also observe damage to many of the upper leaves caused by Japanese Beetles, which were also present for this photo on some of the upper leaves.

Probably more significant this week is the presence of these blossoms.  By my amateur estimation, it appears that the plant is now in the first reproductive stage.  Things are really getting exciting now!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Main bath remodel: conclusion

Finally, a few before-and-after photos to give you a sense of our remodeled main bath now that the work is complete.  I encourage you to click on the photos so you can see more detail in the enlarged versions.

After.  Now that I look at these photos, I'm a little startled that there is very little left in the room that has not been replaced.  The stained glass panel in the window, and the register on the forced-air vent in the floor are the only "old" items I can see in this view.


After.  I didn't expect to replace the toilet, but since its performance declined following re-installation in the new room, it found a new home in the landfill.


After. The new window seems larger than the old one even though it fit in the same hole in the wall.  The glass area is bigger since this window has a fixed pane instead of the double hung design we had previously.  Note: the ceiling light in the middle of the room is the same one we installed a few years ago, only mounted on a new ceiling!


After. Even though the mirror and the cabinets came from different sources, I think they match close enough for our purposes.  Both are quarter sawn oak with similar finishes.


After. A new door to match the other doors in the house that have been replaced since we moved in.  This shot also shows the new trim that matches the other trim in the house that was replaced before we moved in.


After.  Everything is new in this shot including the plumbing behind the walls.  We chose subway tile for the bottom courses, a chair rail, and harlequin tile for the top.  You can see the tile shape a little more clearly in the enlarged view of the photo.

Before.  Probably the most painful part of the project was throwing out this tile that we installed five years ago before we moved in.

After.  One last shot of the cabinets, sink, mirror, and window.  Call us what you like, we rather prefer the new bathroom to the old one.

(Previous posts on this project: part 1, part 2 and part 3).

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Beans in the backyard 2012, weeks 4 & 5

 May 27

 June 3

By the beginning of June we witnessed three fully developed trifoliolates and the fourth emerging.  My amateur analysis tells me this plant (and most of the field) is at the V3 stage, quickly approaching V4. There appears to be a small trifoliolate growing off the branch of one of the others, but we won't confuse that one with those on the main stem.  At this rate, I don't expect reproductive growth for another couple weeks, but we'll keep watching closely nonetheless.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

More than you wanted to know about a bicycle crash

Since it's still pretty fresh in my memory, allow me to tell you a bit about the results of my carelessness on my bicycle.  I was enjoying a delightful bit of exercise last Monday evening, riding pleasant roads with enough elevation change to be interesting and yet not overwhelming.  A little over half way through my ride, I started down the hill near the west end of Tullamore Road, and looked forward to the rest it would provide for at least the next half mile until the effect of its slope would disappear.

Although I knew there was a fairly sharp corner about halfway down the hill, I neglected to brake until much too late.  By the time I reached the beginning of the turn it was apparent that I would not be able to brake hard enough to stay on the road.  My odometer indicated I reached 36 mph, which was probably just before I began braking.  My path took me to the far side of the right turn where I rode along the guard rail on the left side of the road for a short distance before I was catapulted.  The view of the guard rail below is similar to the last view I had before I closed my eyes.

When I stopped moving and opened my eyes, I was about forty feet further down the road, about fifteen feet down a grassy slope on the other side of the guard rail.  I couldn't see my bike, my helmet was falling off my head, and my back felt stiff just below my shoulder blades.  I climbed up the grassy slope to the road and sat on the guard rail while I tried to stretch my back and push the broken pieces of my helmet together so it would fit on my head.  Since my bike wasn't on the road, I concluded it must be near where I landed in the ditch, so I climbed back down the slope and found it about ten feet further downslope from where I landed.  After I carried it back up to the road, I was surprised to find everything intact on the bike (except the chain which had simply jumped off the chainring) and no damage evident anywhere.  Equally amazing to me was my observation that my only apparent missing skin was on a few fingers of my right hand.  My legs and arms had no cuts or abrasions at all!  After thanking God for preserving my transportation home, I climbed aboard and started down the rest of the hill toward home.

After riding about a half mile, something unfamiliar about my vision made me realize I had lost my glasses in the fall.  As long as there was a small chance I might find them, I had to go back and look.  I knew the probability that I would find the glasses was very low, so I entreated the Lord to bless my efforts and bring me to them.  I searched about half of the area where I had come to rest for about five minutes before the glasses were visible to me again.  God was thanked again.  Now that I had all my possessions, I climbed back on the bike and started the ride home again.

I didn't know the source of the stiffness in my back while I was riding, but it was apparent that I could not comfortably expand my rib cage as far as normal, so my breathing was not as deep as I desired.  X-rays taken by my chiropractor the next day allowed him to diagnose a compression fracture of my T9 vertebra, which is identified by the yellow arrow in the image above.  You can see that vertebra is not as square as the others around it, and is tapered toward the front.  Fortunately, the damage to the bone is concentrated toward the front of my body and not toward the back, and I have no symptoms indicating any damage to my spinal cord.  Several sources indicate spinal cord damage at this location can lead to paralysis below the waist.  Again, I'm grateful for God's mercy in limiting my injury.

It wasn't until I looked in a mirror when I got home that I realized my head was bruised and scraped in this colorful manner.  This picture was taken less than two days after impact, so the color is more severe in some places while less severe in others, but I think you get the idea.  My left shoulder showed similar bruising, and my left ear was pretty beat up, so it was apparent I probably first made impact with earth on those parts of my body.

Since my leg and bicycle showed no indication of contact with the guard rail, I believe the front wheel of my bicycle was probably stopped by some object on the ground while my momentum carried my body over the guard rail in a half flip, ultimately landing on my head.  Since my shoes were clipped to my pedals, I think my flying body must have pulled the bicycle over the guard rail behind me, and as I hit the ground and rolled, the bike must have detached from my shoes and flown over my body down the slope of the ditch.  I don't think my left foot released from the bike pedal easily, as my shoe and its cleat are both damaged in a manner that would suggest a lot of force was required to separate them.  I wish I could have witnessed all the gyrations my body and bike went through, as I think it would have been very interesting to watch.  Again, I'm grateful that God mercifully spared me contact with the guard rail, as I believe my injuries would have been more severe had I hit it.

This view of the inside of my helmet shows the cracks in the front (right side of the image) that resulted when the full weight of my hurtling body forced the helmet into the earth.  I had no dirt or grass stains on the front of my body after the fall, but once I removed my jersey at home, I could see it was covered with dirt and grass stain skid marks on the back.  That evidence suggests I may have quickly rolled on to my back and/or slid down the slope of the ditch primarily on my back.  Given the type of damage to my vertebra, I believe it happened when I first made impact with my head.

Four days after the crash, I returned to the scene to look for more evidence of what happened.  The video below documents a good bit of what I found.

Looking over the scene made me even more aware of God's mercy through this incident as there are plenty of objects I could have contacted that would have caused much more damage than what I suffered.  My chiropractor informs me that my vertebra will require 8 to 12 weeks to heal completely, which should be enough time to remind myself that carelessness sometimes has painful consequences.