Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Real Humdinger

I'm back! MISSED YOU ALL!!!

We finally dumped Crappy Internet Nonprovider and signed up for Hughes Net. We're paying more, and they bolted an ugly dish to my roof, but we can at least connect.

And now that I'm here, I can't figure out where to start. To follow up on the dodder issue in the last post, it's worse than we hoped. New sprigs have shown up where the first tangle was found, and The Hubby ran into some new areas in the woods at the opposite end of the property. He's fighting the good fight, digging and burning and burning and digging, but it looks like the stuff is here to stay. What're ya gonna do.

On a happier note, I have finally found the perfect hummingbird feeder. It's called The Jewel Box. It attaches to a window - and mine stayed stuck through a hellacious storm that reduced my canvas gazebo to tatters. The part that actually mounts is an ant moat. the center is a removable lidded box, easy to clean and fill, that offers an unobstructed view. It looks like this:

I started feeding hummers with a four-sided, plastic, window-mounted affair with a clear container at the top that snapped into a red base. The base's seams leaked constantly. Afraid that glue would hurt the birds, I spent a lot of time dripping hot wax onto the thing, which sort of worked and mostly didn't.

Plan B was a clear round saucer with an inverted red saucer on top that hung from a hook on the deck. It never hung straight, so one side had no liquid and the other leaked all over. It couldn't be mounted on the window, either. All of which became moot when the raccoons discovered it and chewed off all the little yellow flower-shaped ports. After that, the wasps took it over.

Plan C: Little plastic tubes with screw-on red bases that could be hung in places raccoons couldn't reach. Turns out raccoons can reach those places after all. So could ants, which was really, really gross.

I gave up at that point until The Hubby presented me with the little test-tube affair in the photo below.

It's cute, in a Rube Goldberg way, but it only holds about two hours worth of syrup.

It came with a separate, twisted wire thingy that slipped onto the tube and served as a perch. The perch was quickly commandeered by a particularly aggressive little fellow that chased away all the other birds. (We dubbed him Arnold, AKA "The Humminator".)

Hubby then showed me the catalog where he got the test tube feeder and pointed out The Jewel Box. It's pricey, but it's worth it. It even comes in a sturdy, attractive box, which will be nice for winter storage.

Don't you just love stuff that works?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Attack of the Vampires

Picture this: You're strolling around a peaceful little pond. Suddenly, you encounter mutant yellow spaghetti.

It has no leaves. It has no roots. It does have lots of inquisitive little tendrils.


A quick web search reveals the name of the beast: This is dodder, also known by such names as devil's guts, devil's hair, strangle weed, and hell bind. It is a parasite. It is fascinating. And it is a nightmare.

Dodder flowers, and when the dodder seed sprouts it has about a week to find a host plant before it dies. If it finds one, it sinks its fangs into the victim and starts sucking its blood. Then it starts spreading, growing at the rate of about six inches a day. Unchecked, it forms dense mats over everything in sight.

Here's the fascinating part: Dodder can smell its prey.

Scientists gave it a choice of nearby wheat, which it doesn't like, and tomatoes, which it does. The dodder exhibited a disturbingly animal-like ability to zero in on its target and to propel itself toward the goal.

"It's probably one of the creepiest plants I know," says professor Colin Purrington of Swarthmore College.

Here's a time lapse of the critter in action:

Once dodder attaches to a plant, there's no getting rid of it. Pull it off and it grows back from the broken part remaining inside the host. Break up the vines, and the pieces become new plants. (Wish I had known about that before I started poking at it.) And if it goes to seed, all is lost.

So what's a pond owner to do?

Clearly, this means war. And with this bloodsucker, a stake through the heart is useless.

Web suggestions for fighting back include toxic chemicals, acid, and flame throwers. Chemicals and acid are out because civilian casualties would include frogs, birds, turtles, and dragonflies. And nobody seems to want to rent me a flame thrower. (I may now be on a Homeland Security watch list.)

Time to haul out my secret weapon: The Hubby. Once briefed on the mission, The Hubby pulled up his Wellies, armed himself with a shovel, and waded into battle. He uprooted every doomed plant that had fallen to the enemy, and there were a lot of them. He burned what would burn and packed the rest into garbage bags. Mission accomplished ... maybe.

We caught the infestation early, and that patch seems to have been the only affected area, but I'm sure it's still in there somewhere. So my duties now include The Daily Dodder Patrol. It seems the price of freedom will be eternal vigilance.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Nature Notes: For the Beauty

Thought I'd do something a little different. Though it's been a long time since I attended a church made of bricks and boards, I often find myself quietly singing this old hymn in the cathedral of the woods. Do you know it?


For the Beauty of the Earth

For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour,
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale and tree and flower,
Sun and moon and stars of light,
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of ear and eye,
For the heart and mind’s delight,
For the mystic harmony
Linking sense to sound and sight,
Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

Click here to see more Nature Notes.