War on bugs

Posted: Sunday, June 20, 2010

When my hub and I first bought our home, we gazed in wonderment at the large patch of weeds out yonder and naively declared, "Lets make a garden!"

(Oh, so fair it is to look back at the days of our youth and stupidity.)

We straight away bought all manner of seeds, and then we to planted, watered, weeded and waited and waited ... and waited ...

Our first harvest yielded wee leprechaun vegetables.

Over that first winter, we became like new parents, reading everything we could on the rearing of healthy plants. By spring we were building compost bins. We bought chickens and geese and yes, we actually bought worms. We went on long journeys to collect seaweed from afar and before we knew it, we were also editing all kitchen waste for suitable compost/worm/chicken food. We built raised beds and while we were at it we added a greenhouse off the back of the house, and another in the garden for good measure. Like new parents, we learned everything not to do with our first few crops, but finally it happened and after a few short years we were getting luscious produce worthy of a centerfold pull out in the Mother Earth News.

Then as always happens when you think you have beat mother nature at her own game, she zaps you with -- surprise -- aphids! Wham! Spider mites and shazzam! Some ugly green nasty creepy-crawly thing that likes to eat gooseberries. Whole armies of them arrived and they went straight to work, devouring our precious produce, noshing on our pretties.

No fair. One or two, or a manageable few, would have been fine, not because they would have been easier to handle, but because a few little nasties would not have evoked the man factor. Ladies, raise your hand if you can identify with the man factor -- it goes like this: a little drip in the kitchen, "Whatever," he says. "I'll get to it-eventually ..." Now, the roof caves in and there is a water park in your living room and whoosh! The man factor kicks in and (pause for man sound effect) grrrrrrrrrrr. My man suddenly identifies with Larry the Cable Guy and next thing I know and he is beating his chest, declaring, "GIT 'R DONE."

Yup, that's man factor for you and these bugs really bugged my man. He had declared an official war on bugs and no aphid or pest would be left standing (or crawling as the case may be) if he had anything to say about it. OK fine, I was in on it too, but he started it -- anyway, our first step was selecting the correct weaponry.

In one organic gardening guide we read that garlic was a good remedy for unwanted pests. I don't know what we were thinking, like they would roll over and die once they were doused with garlic tonic. The only thing we managed to accomplish was that our greenhouses smelled like a spaghetti dinner fundraiser and we had odoriferous aphids. The good news is we didn't get a cold that season and we were sure we were safe from the occasional outbreak of random vampires.

The next step was Safer Soap. The result? Squeaky clean aphids and we suspect the spider mites and their cohorts became more fertile as a result of their improved hygiene.

Our next move was to deploy the lady bugs. Did I mention one of the greenhouses is connected to our home? That year several hundred ladies migrated to our homeland and set up refugee camps in neutral territories such as my refrigerator, the linen closet and under the kitchen sink. They eventually starved to death (duh) and the bad bugs in the greenhouse and garden became like a plague of locusts, devouring everything in their path.

We decided to bring in the big guns. That's right, we actually ordered egg cases filled with hundreds of praying mantis. If you have ever seen a mature praying mantis fly across the room or stare you down, then you know how freaky they can be, but they are voracious eaters and we thought our pesty troubles were over. Then Mow-Mow the man cat decided that according to the law of the food chain, he, king kitty was in for a big feast. Yum!

So here we are again, it's garden season, man factor is in full bloom and for the past few weeks I've been debating what to get my man for Father's Day. We have had a few unwanted visitors this year, and I thought it would be thoughtful if I armed my man with a good bad-boy arsenal of bug blasting ballistics. I can imagine him now, there is another attempted hostile aphid take-over of the tomato plants, a cucumber is held hostage by a gang of spotted beetles, the spider mites are on the prowl and then, my guy arrives on the scene, armed with an environmentally unfriendly bug bomb. He has his finger on the trigger as he snarls in his best Dirty Harry voice, "Go ahead and make my day."

But, before I could complete my day dreaming or my Father's Day shopping I had to stop by Dr. Moore's office to get Patrick a tune-up on his new orthodontic spacers. Doc grinned wide and showed me his new braces. You know, you just gotta admire a guy who puts his own braces on! Cracked me up! Anyway, he must have been suffering from a bad case of man factor this season too because when he was done torturing our son he shared with me his new theory about how to get rid of terrorist extremists: give them all spacers! Painful and completely disabling!

Immediately, I wondered, would it work on the aphids?

Better go call and see if I can get them an appointment

Jacki Michels is a freelance writer who lives in Soldotna with her totally awesome husband and son as well as an assortment of odd creatures.

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