Sunday, July 20, 2008

In Which I Pass Up a War.....

....only to find another! We had word that the British had invaded and gotten as far as Prairie du Chien in the southern part of Ouis-con-sin Territory!

LESSON: (optional) "Prairie du Chien" is French for "Plains of the Dog". Has nothing to do with any barking little friends, however. It was named for a Meskwakie chief known as "Le Chien". The Meskwakie people are commonly referred to as the Fox tribe.

Anyway, the word was out, and Mr Dearling, hearing the call, borrowed back his fusil from the Fur Post (at the Museum) and prepared to go join the fight. I had planned to go too; had even packed up appropriate knitting and laid out appropriate apparel. But then........well, I decided perhaps I'd stay home, you know, so that when the winning British marched up this way I could offer 'em some lemonade.

LESSON: (optional) Actually, the 1812 battle held at Prairie du Chien WAS won by the Brits, and may I add, there was no loss of life . There are a couple of very fine yarn shops there; I'm sure that figured in. You may notice, however -- we ARE all speaking English. You know, in case you hadn't noticed.

So, I had a quiet day at home by myself instead. Any rumors you might have read about rowdy, bawdy or tawdry carryings-on at Late-Night Knit on Friday at the Sow's Ear are totally and absolutely true sure to be exaggerated. Nevermind that all the Hog-and-Bloggers came out with tattoos reading "KNIT OR DIE!"; that can be attributed only to the rich, delicious iced chocolate drinks we were enjoying, rendered calorie-less by the healthful addition of whipped cream. It's the Dairy State, whipped cream renders anything healthy. Or, if that's not appropriate, sour cream will do. (Don't you wish you lived here?)

NOTE: Thanks, Cathy-Cate , for the tattoos and delightful conversation! Did I ever mention I tend to digress? Nevermind. And while we're at it, thanks to Bethie for the Ravelry name buttons, and while we're at it, to everyone who was there. It's always fun, but this time it was warmer, funnier, more delicious and rich with the camaraderie we knitters share than usual. Also - to our dear Heather: KUDOS for the single funniest line I've heard anywhere in a long time, and no, I'm not giving it away here. You might be able to bribe...cajole...blackmail persuade some OTHER Hog-and-Blogger to reveal it, but I wouldn't try. So shut up. (Suffice it to say, "We've come a long way, baby" - all the stereotypes of knitters are down the tubes.

Except for the one that says some knitters are little old ladies in rocking chairs with cats on their laps, because I AM some of us are.

Here you see one of my many pictures of the wonderful hollyhocks which have all but enclosed the front of the house. I've been calling it "Hollyhock Cottage", which sounds so romantical and Kid-Book-Author's-House-ish. They have afforded me weeks and weeks of delight; some are pinky, like this one, some are a deeper sort of wine-y color. I haven't made little dancing girls out of any yet, but I may. There are clearly lots of buds still on them.

OH WAIT. Remember where I said, up top there, "only to find another"? Ladies and gennulmen, I thought that this year was going to be the Year of the Mosquitos (particularly in view of all the wet and rain and floodingness which went on, vestiges of which remain). But all that moisture was surely responsible for the lushness of my whole yard and the absolute explosion of my favorite hollyhocks. And so it was - until about four days ago. Four days ago, without what I would even call "close inspection", I came across the following: This. Is. The. ENEMY!! Lest you do not recognize his foul, sordid, tawdry, disgusting self....this is a Japanese Beetle. Notice the shiny metallic-looking shell? The delicate curve of the legs? If you listen quietly, you will hear a sound, and that sound (even if you're half the world away from Wisconsin) is ME SWEARING!! Yes, I know I'm a lady, but don't be fooled, I know Bad Words in a wide variety of languages, and upon seeing this dude, they ALL streamed out of me. I can only hope my neighbor children were at their swimming lessons, napping or locked into their videogames or teevee programs.

Furthermore, this is apparently the time of year the Japenese Beetles wait for all year. There is something about July in Wisconsin -- the warm, sunny days, the lush sweetness of (MY) hollyhock petals, the raging pheromones to which they apparently are susceptible, and although they look equally hideous, ugly, wretched and miserable to me, they apparently recognize ... not only the gender differences, but the especial allure of an antenna, the particularly fine crook of a leg. And they hook up. Connect. Get it on. MAKE IT! The result of which is, apparently, a time in which the girly bugs meander around my lawn and deposit therein the Future Generations of their kind. The larvae or pupae or poopie or whatever you call them dig down into the lawn and spend the bitter freezing nights of winter watching their tiny teevees, reading Beetle porn, or dreaming of MY HOLLYHOCKS!

Incidentally, their courtship isn't just a whambamthenkyewmaam sort of thing. No, they throw in dinner. The most succulent, delicious, fragrant, tasty buggy aphrodisiac on the planet, which is....can you guess? MY HOLLYHOCKS! (The sound you hear now, if you're very very quiet, is me sobbing, but block it out, overlook it. I'll get over it.)

The result of all this romance is this:

This is the hotel room after the party is over, the rock band has left the building, the date is finished. Compare it with the picture up top there, or any other pictures I've peppered the blog with of my lovely hollyhocks. The leaves seem to be more a buffet than a four-course elegant dinner, but they don't fare much better than the blossoms.

It's too late for a lot of my lovely blooms. As if this weren't enough, sometimes the little rotters are modest and conduct their soirees inside buds, which destroys them too. There are some exhibitionist beetles who throw all caution to the winds and carry on their lewd-and-lascivious on the leaves, right there in front of God and everybody: Now, you all know me for an old, cat-loving, knitting, reading, writer of children's stories and possessor of a huge .... overactive ....uhm... disturbed -- well, powerful imagination. You may likewise know me as an unapologetic tree-hugging hippie. But I do have another facet which doesn't come up often. Only once in a while. And guess what? THIS IS "THE WHILE"!

What does one do? This isn't like the Battle at Prairie du Chien. This is a genuine, full-blown out-and-out war to the Dismal Death of the Japanese Beetles. I consulted with the Bug Expert from the University of Wisconsin (well, I heard him on the teevee discussing this very problem); I read a LOT on the innerwebs. I took my ravaged hollyhocks to my favorite garden store and talked to those guys. And I came away with a couple of suggestions.

1) Learn to Live with Japanese Beetles (nawwww)

2) Buy an expensive Japanese Beetle Trap (which exudes the aforementioned pheromones, and draws in the bugs to their deaths - but draws in every single Japanese Beetle within noseshot, too, and may not kill 'em all) (nawwww)

3) Cut down all the hollyhocks and fugeddaboutit (nawwww)

One final suggestion: soapy water kills them. Yep - good old dishsoap does them in, and pretty quick, too, if you're inclined toward being humane, which I am not. Enter the Ultimate Weapon:

This is the Shimmering Emerald Cylinder of Doom. It is the end of the road for Japanese Beetles. The Final Chapter. The End of the Trail. The Death Chamber. C'est FINI!

Do I take joy in destroying their little buggy lives? No. Is there, however, a certain satisfaction in diminishing their numbers, and hopefully preserving the hollyhock population for next summer? Ooooh yeah. Might I add - (with a shudder) - there are occasionally earwigs on the hollyhocks too. They don't eat fact, I don't think they eat ANYthing, but let me tell you they are some UGLY bugs. LESSON (optional): they do not, nor did they ever, live in fancy wigs and crawl into the wearers' ears at night. You know, just sayn'. While the Shimmering Emerald Cylinder of Doom is not designed for them, it seems to dispatch them as quickly and humanely as the Japanese beetles.

And ThAT, friends and neighbors, is my warfare-and-battle story. There HAS been knitting happening, as well as kitty-loving and reading. We will now return to our regular programming.

Editor's note: while this post was completed some days ago (note the date) it has actually been posted today, 27 July; it seems like summer hours slip past all but unnoticed. I have, however, been keeping track and will update to the present forthwith. Mea culpa.


Anne Boleyn said...

So, do you put the soapy water out and the beetles just dive in and die, or do you have to pick the little SOBs off the Hollyhocks and flick them into the dishwater of death? I love Hollyhocks, have never had any in my garden, but have plenty of roses and therefore more than plenty Japanese beetles.

Phebe said...

Dale-Harriet, never, never use a pheromone trap for those wretched Japanese beetles. The traps just call billions of beetles from everyone else's yard to yours and their horrible little offspring bury themselves underneath your roses/hollyhocks to attack in greater numbers the next year. We've mostly recovered from using a pheromone trap but it's taken about 10 years. Finally we're down to manageable numbers of the little beasts which I can shake off the plants and step on. perhaps blood-thirsty but satisfying.

I also use an insecticidal soap spray which won't harm the toads.

Anonymous said...

My dad is having the same problem with his holly hocks, and got some sort of trap where you have to dunk the thing in hot water to kill them. He's actually having fun. He needs to get out more. Or take up knitting.

cheesehead with sticks said...

My solution is the vaccum cleaner - however my problem is with their hundreds and hundreds of selves invading the interior of the house and covering the walls and window trim. I don't know how the little buggers get in, but the do. I had to buy a bagless model just so I can dump the thing out onto the fire after irradicating them on a semi daily basis.

May not work so well in the out of doors though. Keep up the good fight!

Marjorie said...

_shudder_ we are lucky here. Don't get those oogly beetles. Earwigs, yes. So what is IN the Cylinder of Death then? Zat the soap?

Hollyhocks remind me of planting some with my dad. Darn! Could have put them in the yard, _right_where_we_did_before! Next year...

Lee said...

Dale-Harriet, you are a wonder! You made me laugh hysterically about BUGS! Particularly about bug hook-ups and partying like a rockstar.

If you ever want to compose anything about Box Elder bugs, I can offer a large population for scientific observation, come about October.

sheila said...

Ugh! Gotta hate them nasty beetles. My hollyhocks are about finished and the nasties are doing the nasty in my raspberries. My precioussss raspberries!

MollyBeees said...

I am OUTRAGED! OUTRAGED I tell you at the unsolicited peep show going on in your yard. Not to mention the murder of the hollyhocks. You are perfectly justified in taking out a contract on their pervy little lives!
Knit or Die!

Jane said...

Do the hollyhocks close up at sunset? If so, we have them too, although I think they are called something else. If not, then we just have something similar. Ours are either pink or white.

Beth said...

Welcome to the sisterhood; we've been fighting the little green devils since mid June. My poor rose bushes were so lovely this spring, and now they look like a buffet after the local football team has been through. I have an empty tomato sauce can and a plastic fork decorating my front porch, just for them.

This was our first summer in this house, so they blindsided us. I'll be prepared with milky spore next spring, though. Keep up the good fight!