Thursday, October 30, 2008

And Tippi Hedren thought SHE had problems...

Imagine Dancing Rabbit as Bodega Bay, and the birds as ladybugs. You'll have an idea of what's going on today (our lives in 1:40, below)...

Ladybugs. Cute little ladybugs. Unless they're not.

Ugh! We're in the middle of an infestation, a Ladybugapalooza, the ladybug version of a flash mob. And they're not even real ladybugs. They are foreign imposters.

In the 1980's the Department of Agriculture released the Asian strain to help keep aphids off of pecan trees.

Asian lady beetles, a non-native introduced to the United States as beneficial insects, ones that eat pests -- have become a major headache. Hundreds or even thousands of the orange-colored, black-spotted, pea-sized bugs invade homes in fall. Living, crawling clusters form in attics, corners and basements.

Apparently the ladybugs are more active between mid-October and mid-November because they are trying to find protective places for wintering. Which makes sense. Two nights ago we had our first frost, followed by daytime temperatures in the high 60's. I like nature. But euuuuwwwww. They're all over the side of the house, and all over the clothes on hanging on the line. And when you brush them off? They smell. Really, really bad.

The problem seems to be worse in the south (here's a really interesting New York Times article focusing on Kentucky) although I've read blog entries about infestations as far north as Wisconsin. I'm trying to find a way to pin this on George W. Bush. Everything else is his fault...

Tom Cowan just forwarded this info from Ohio State. EVERYTHING you ever wanted to know about these biting, stinky creatures.

Fortunately we don't have very many in the house. While Fionn (the cat), who enjoys stalking and eating spiders and any other bug he had nab, steers clear of them, Kurt handles them with the vacuum; odd, but apparently that is one of the most benign ways to get rid of them.

Hoover on, dude!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

First Frost, winter 2008

Late yesterday afternoon our friend Dan S. came around to remind us that a frost was expected; was there anything I needed help with (since Kurt was out of town?). I did a quick check of the Mercantile - all of the paint, wood glue and other liquid (i.e. freezable items) had been thoughtfully moved by Sparky into Kurt's workshop, which has yet to freeze.

Side note: the shop has no wood stove, but has thick recycled denim insulation in the walls (see photo), 12 fablulous inches of blown cellulose insulation - which is simply recyled newspaper torn into teeny tiny pieces and blown, dry, with a low-tech fan into what ever space you want it in - in the ceiling. Additionally, there are two huge glass doors on the south side (see photo). Passive solar was only a theory for me before moving to Dancing Rabbit. But watching how well this building perform in extreme weather is a fantastic demonstration. It is so cool that it really, truly works!.
Recycled Denim insulation. Used in place of fiberglass, it comes in standard industry sizes and rolls out just like conventional insulation. The bonus: it is soft, non-toxic, and won't leave you with asbestos embedded in your lungs!
The day that the crew blew in the cellulose was a scorcher. They started at 5:00 a.m, but things heated up quickly for Kurt, who was manning the hose in the attic. This is a shot of him when he finally came down, covered in sweat and old newspapers. Ewwwww.
You can see the big glass south-facing doors in this shot of the windmill raising. That was a windy, stormy, thunder-and-lightening day. Perfect for putting up a 40' metal pole!
I was grateful for the reminder - I have a turkey fig "tree" (currently 3' tall) that, while it is supposed to be hardy to zone 5 (where we are) it is in a place exposed to wind. So I took a wheelbarrow over to the Mercantile where there is lots of loose straw (very convenient to be building a strawbale building when one needs insulation for one's fig trees!), loaded up, and surrounded the tree with it. I then put a big black plastic bag (left over from my already-gone-four-years Costco-shopping parents) over the whole thing. It seems like a good idea. I'll let you know in the spring how the tree fares.

This morning when I woke up it was 25 chilly degrees outside. Inside our strawbale home it was 60. Yay for good insulation. We still have lots of single pane windows (donated to DR when other folks upgraded to double-pane) which need thermal curtains. The weather outside is certainly motivation to get going on yet another sewing project!