Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Cooler Heads Prevail

And all other body parts too!

Hurray!  Much more seasonal Wisconsin weather has arrived.

'Queen Red Lime' Zinnia and a butterfly for your viewing enjoyment.

Though I still will keep on the lookout for wasps, I feel more at ease working in the garden again.  

Why can't all my winged visitors be beautiful?  (And not sting me.)
The hot weather did come in handy for some things, though.  This past weekend found me yanking down all the curtains and tablecloths in the house and stuffing them into my Maytag wringer washer for a good bath followed by sunbathing on the washlines.  In just a few hours, they were ready to rehang again, all fresh and clean.  

Ain't she a beauty?  I bought this antique lace tablecloth for a few dollars at a rummage sale a few years ago.  (I didn't stuff this one into the washing machine; I treat it gently.)
 There is one thing I dread washing every year, though, the biggest item of laundry in the entire house: 
Our Bedspread!!
   Mom crocheted the spread for us when we were first married.  I don't know how long it took her to complete, but she said she was at it for months. Every time I would drop in unannounced for a visit, she told me she would have to grab it and run to keep it hidden from me.

Unbeknownst to me, Carl knew all about her project, but kept it a secret as it was to be a Christmas present.

Mom had originally planned to make the bedspread to simply fit the top of our queen-sized waterbed
mattress (yes, we still have the waterbed) but without draping over the sides.

But then Carl got involved and told her it would be nicer if she made it large enough to reach the floor all the way around. So, going back to the drawing board, Mom had to figure out how to add on to the width.  I never learned to crochet, but Mom always said how much work it was to remodel the bedspread into the gargantuan beast it then became.

This is one of the few times I wish Carl hadn't gotten involved in a project.  Truth be told, I would have much preferred a smaller bedspread especially when it comes time for washing.  Mom said she had her doubts about enlarging it, too, but she did as Carl asked.

When I opened my gift on Christmas Day, even before I had it totally unwrapped, the first thing Mom blurted out was, "I'm sorry it is so big, but that's what Carl wanted.  I don't know how you will ever wash it."

Well, way to go, Carl.

And yes, every time I wash it, he hears about it all over again.  (The gift that keeps on giving......ha.)

Mom needn't have worried; I loved the bedspread and it is has kept us warm for almost forty years now.

Mom, age 95, in the garden for the last time in 2016, helping with fall cleanup.  I had to be sneaky when I took her picture as she was always camera-shy.
The bedspread is just one more lovely, loving reminder of my dear mother.  

Mom at her home, January 2017
 I will cherish it always.



Monday, September 25, 2017

Killers of Bees

The gazebo sporting our 'Spring' stained glass window in late afternoon. 

 Well, here we are going into the first week of autumn but you'd never know it.  I haven't checked any almanacs to be sure, but we must be breaking records of some sort since we were close to ninety for the last few days.  Looking at the forecast, we have one more day of the heat wave and then back down to the upper 60's again.  


All of this heat has made the wasps and hornets all the more feisty and me all the more jumpy.  The swelling from the stings a week ago has finally gone down in my hands, but I'm still itchy at times. 

The 'Autumn Joy' sedums are crawling with bees. 
 In a normal fall, wasps are pesky enough, but add high heat to the equation and they are even more of a threatening nuisance.  They only have a few weeks left to live, so they're in full-out 'Livin' la vida loca' mode right now whereas I'm doing my best to keep on Stayin' Alive.

 Please, please, do NOT sting me again.  

This morning there was a hornet on the chicken coop door which fell into my hair when I let the Girls out for the day. Thank goodness he/she was groggy and didn't let me have it.  Then there was a yellow jacket on my watering can handle, the same watering can I just put down a few seconds before.  Luckily, I spotted that one before I grabbed it, too.  

Reading about the wasp life cycle, the experts say the worker bees are almost starving and can become punch drunk this time of year, feasting on fallen fruit and anything else they can get their waspy little selves into.   I wouldn't dream of eating outside right now, there's far too much winged competition.  

  Wasps and hornets are crawling on the house siding, windows, they're in the trees, gads, they're everywhere.   One more sting this year and I will have a full-blown case of Spheksophobia.  We cannot let that happen.  

I grumbled to Carl this morning that between the heat and humidity and the stinging bugs, I'm far better off in January because our normal cold weather doesn't bother me.  At least I can cross-country ski with no fear of being stung.  

Yes, this is why I choose to live in a part of the country where the wind hurts my face six months out of the year:   
There's no wasps or mosquitoes in January.

This past week of sting recovery left me miserable and kept me indoors.  With too much time on my hands, I began to binge watch endless YouTube videos on wasp nest removal techniques.  Apparently I'm not the only one who dislikes their antisocial personalities.  I know wasps and hornets fulfill a very important niche in the world and they do have a purpose; I just wish they didn't have such attitudes about it.

I've seen videos of people trying to kill nests of yellow jackets with everything from soup to nuts....ok, I guess there wasn't any soup, but there were plenty of nuts trying the following: A squirt gun, a flame thrower (the tree the nest was in did not fare very well)  bottle rockets, shotguns, driving a drone into a nest, gasoline, fire, detergent and water, elaborate electrified contraptions, handheld tennis racket style bug zappers laid on top of the nest entrance (if the batteries last long enough, it might work, but I pity the fool who has to replace the battery.)


My YouTube experience was like watching a horror movie; you know what's going to happen when the heroes/heroines go outside alone....I found myself yelling at the screen, "Don't do it!" every time a wannabe intrepid hornet hunter tried to deal with a nest in broad daylight (and even in the dark with flashlights, because the hornets will follow the beam of light or hose-wielding invader to it's source, the human on the other end.)  

Oh, that's gonna hurt.  

And it did.  People were running, swatting, swearing and stung. 

 A lot.

Surprisingly, one man had quite good luck with a Shop Vac partially filled with water and some dish detergent and was able to suck up the entire colony which had invaded his front porch eaves.  That one looked like a success.

We, on the other hand, have not done anything about the ground nest I had the misfortune of running into last weekend.  It's way, way out in the field and no one goes out there right now. When cold weather finally arrives, their time is up anyway.  We'll just steer clear of them until then.  But I fully agree about removal being necessary when a nest is close to a home or an area frequented by people and pets. 

One thing I learned from my educational viewing is that shooting a nest out of a tree is a really bad, bad, idea, especially in broad daylight.   The entire assembled crowd of goofballs were running for their lives when the nest hit the ground, screams of agony reverberating in the air.  Of course, alcohol and bravado were two main factors.

However, the strangest wasp nest attack I viewed was a man who started his removal attempt with a guitar solo.  Huh, that video was a head scratcher.

Spoiler Alert:  It didn't work.

In the meantime, I'm exercising extreme caution.  I'm still going about my chores, but keeping my eyes open.

After all, in a few weeks Mother Nature will take care of the bees. 

And I'll be safe to roam again.  (After I shovel.)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Once Bit, Twice Shy Part Two

After my run-in with the yellow jackets on Saturday afternoon, I was pretty much done with gardening or anything else for the rest of the weekend.  Saturday night was miserable, I was up and down all night long.  The stings on my head and neck are painful, but the ones on my hands are the worst.  I was taking Benadryl every four hours along with ibuprofen which did help, but I certainly could tell when the medications wore off.  
Random photos of the garden this past week

By Sunday morning, my hands had swollen even more than I thought possible; it's a wonder the skin didn't split.  They resembled surgical gloves blown up with air.  
Yikes!  That's a fat hand.
 I resembled a Cabbage Patch doll of yesteryear; my hands looked as if they were sewn on, and closing them was very painful.  Taking back to back doses of Benadryl meant I was more or less a zombie, so after making Sunday's noon meal, I told Carl I was going to take a nap.  I managed a fitful two hours before I gave up and went downstairs.   Carl was working on weeding while he waited for me to wake up.  He asked me if I wanted to go for a ride, and I agreed. I wrapped my hands in gauze soaked with Witch Hazel and off we went.  I brought the bottle along so I could re-wet the gauze at intervals. 

First, I asked Carl to drive the car out to the field to see where the hornet nest was.  We had no trouble finding it, there were swarms of yellow jackets hovering and flying.  I could see right where I'd stopped cutting the hay was smack dab centered on their nest.  With the high amount of wasp activity, I was very lucky to get away with only six stings.  Thank goodness the tractor has a good road gear.  Just sitting in the car with the windows rolled up I found I was still leery of being so close to the buggers, so Carl drove away.  

I hope I'm not developing Spheksophobia!  (Yes, there's a name for the fear of wasps.)  I don't want to become a Spheksophobe, mostly because that would mean I'd have to throw in the trowel with gardening and also because that's a weird title to wield for the rest of my life.  "I'm sorry, I cannot go outside.  I am a Spheksophobe."  

Ummmm........sure you are......all righty, then.

When I was a little girl, I remember being terrified to go outside one summer.  I think it was because I saw my father go berserk swatting at a bumblebee with his hat; I actually could see fear in his eyes and that unnerved me.  If my big, burly dad was afraid of a bee, then I'd best take notice, too!  The lure of the outdoors finally won me over, but I've always been leery of the stinging nasties.  
Danger lurks in the long grass

 For the future of my hay cutting, I'm not sure how I will protect myself.  This has never happened to me before.  I think I will be looking into some sort of Kevlar gloves and bee-keeper's hat/suit just to be safe, especially if I wait until so late in the season to mow.  They seem to be especially active and aggressive in the early fall, presumably because it is their last hurrah, too.  I'm sure they fill an ecological need somewhere, but I wouldn't be sad if every last one of them froze to death.  Good riddance.

More random wandering around.
Sunday night was another rough one; my hands were itchy and painful, my arms ached and woke me up several times.  I kept up with the Benadryl/ibuprofen regimen and hydrocortisone cream and finally woke up quite late, groggy and itchy.

I could stand to do some tidying up a bit too, sheesh! 
Thankfully, by this morning the swelling was down a quite a bit, but now the skin is loose on top of my hands.  As I got moving in the morning, though, the swelling set in again.  I spent most of Monday simply sitting and itching, but managed to make a bunch of phone calls pertaining to settling Mom's estate.  I guess I did accomplish something.

I wandered out to the mailbox in midafternoon and took a seat on the gazebo.  Here's something new:  we added two new benches to the gazebo and Mom's Memory Garden.  How she would have loved to paint these beauties:

I just know they would have been gorgeous if she could have turned her artistic talents on them.  

Hopefully in a few days, the swelling and itching will go down.  Most of what I've read said it will take a week.  

Now I have to get over the paranoia of any flying insect I see.  Gosh, I'm a Nervous Nellie!  I didn't even water my potted plants today; this won't do.  

There are lots of pots needing my attention.  (Why do I plant so many?  Carl always asks me that question, too.)  I guess it's good exercise, because it takes a lot of walking to and fro with watering cans to give them all a drink.

Ok, I will get my act together and water them all tomorrow morning, I promise.  The geraniums are amazing plants; most of them have been overwintered for years now and they always repay me with abundant blooms.  
'Americana Series' Pink with Red Splash, new this year.

All too soon, it will be time to haul the plants I want to save in the house.  

And you can bet, I will be checking them for any stinging varmints before I do!