December 9, 2009

We bought a turkey from our wonderful locally owned and staffed grocery store. We ordered, in advance, a fresh Thanksgiving turkey, and it, our feeling of thanksgiving and the leftovers were wonderful, but now the leftovers are nearly gone. Next year we will have another fresh turkey, so Bob, expect the order!

The snow just barely held up until the week after Thanksgiving, and then suddenly, winter was here! I really enjoy the start of every season, and I enjoyed getting the snow blower started and up to the house, so Judy won’t have to shovel all the snow from our driveways and foot paths this year. I will be busy starting a fire in my shop, sharpening and putting away tools that I have just let lay when used last, and doing serious man stuff. We have a refrigerator and a freezer in the middle room of my shop, and we keep the temperature in that room at 40 degrees, which seems necessary for the refrigerator and freezer to function well – but also creates a wonderful replacement for a root cellar, so our potatoes, squash, and some potted flowers that like to hibernate do well there.

Our buildings are all old, and have been repaired by idiots like me, and we do spread around mouse poison in corners of the dark room floors. Our old cat seems to miss a few each year, but still expects me to provide meals!  This year we were again invaded by the multi colored Asiatic lady beetles, and I know their larvae love eating aphids. I really wish they would learn to winter outdoors like the wonderful native American lady beetles! We have had the usual number of house flies that suddenly appear just as the weather starts to cool, and this year, for about two days, bigger, blacker house flies suddenly appeared, we believe, from our basement! We are now rid of them – just hope we learn how to keep all the bugs out of our house next year.

In an Elm tree we planted 15 years ago, hopefully immune to the Dutch Elm Disease that killed many beautiful elms lining American roads, we suddenly noticed a huge, beautiful (when viewed from a distance) hornets’ nest.  IF YOU see a beautiful hornet’s nest in a tree near you, it may be safe NOW, since the temperature has been well below freezing, to approach it, or even collect it as a decoration. Let me tell you what I have learned about hornets, and their nests.

Hornets often look like bees, but they are really wasps. What is the difference?  Bees sting to protect their nests and loved ones, and die doing it – they leave their stinger and back end of their body when they leave the scene of their final defense of their loved ones.  Wasps make no such sacrifice, their stinger injects poison like a hypodermic needle, slides in, deposits chemicals, slides out, and the Wasp is ready, willing, and able to do it again repeatedly!

Bees live in permanent homes in hollow trees, sometimes in our attics, but mostly in manmade bee houses, where they serve by transfer pollen from beautiful male flowers to beautiful female flowers of nearly every crop grown by farmers, gardeners, and public parks. Bees, almost as a sideline, create wonderful honey, which mixes well with melting butter on fresh from the oven breakfast biscuits.  Bees are good, mostly. Hornets are treacherous enemies, mostly. Some hornets may drill into wooden walls and raise more evil beasts. I have poisoned their tunnels, stuffed their tunnels with steel wool, and they sometimes drill new tunnels – but they have, at least for the past few years, left. They may invade your unused attic, build and populate huge castles – unnoticed by you, and not every exterminator will even attempt to get rid of them!

In the cold outdoor winters, the queens are the only members of the population to survive the winter. They, somehow, sneak away to a lonely hibernation. The beautiful nest you may see in the fall when leaves should be raked up, was created by her children, all produced last year, and until the temperature falls into the twenties, may still be alive, waiting for warmer weather, when you shake or drop the nest trying to move it to where you can show it off!  Unfortunately, while waiting for the colder temperatures, the almost daily rain and drizzle weakened the hornet castle, which was built by the now dead last-year hornets of stuff that reminds me of really thin gray paper, with small living areas and tunnels, and so far as I know, political meeting and TV rooms – but I believe all was created and dominated by a hornet – hatched, nurtured, and trained to be Queen!!  .  .  .  Good gardening  

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