Moths flock to lights left on at night, exhausting themselves to death or falling easy prey to bats. We leave ours off since there are already so many street lights in our neighborhood, but entomologist Doug Tallamy suggests using a motion activated light if you want an outdoor light.
These are the bugs that were drawn to our light this evening while I finished up outside. They had huge antennae and were very cute. I also took a flashlight into the yard just to see what insects were active. It’s pretty interesting to see a whole new cast of characters at night.
I was planting sunflowers and nasturtiums by the foundation of the house when a medium-sized bee started snuffling around some holes in the ground. I got nervous that I'd disturbed her home, because 70% of native bees are ground nesters.
Two years ago, I had no idea native bees even existed. Turns out there are about 4,000 species native to North America and honey bees are not one of them. Honey bees come from Europe and Africa. Ground-nesting bees tend to like sandy soil, on slopes especially, so if you see perfectly round holes in the soil, that's likely who is living there.
Try looking at the ground while you walk around an open area. You'll probably see some bee homes. Oh, and very few of our native bees sting; they're just too small. Bumblebees do, of course, but only if they're forced to.
The ground is quite a dangerous place to live nowadays. All insects that live there, including fireflies, are very vulnerable to the pesticides and chemicals we put on the ground. A conventional lawn will have very little insect life. Even in organic yards, they are at risk of being dug up. We've been doing so much yard work that we've unearthed two of these bees that I know of. I also accidentally dug up the larvae of something that was nearly formed but still translucent white.
So be careful when you're digging. If you see round holes where you'd like to dig, choose something else to do. I routinely do this, which is sort of inconvenient, but I think it's a necessary mindset shift. I don't need to dig in this one spot more than a creature needs its life.
Some friends of mine have been asking me gardening questions and I think they are worth sharing:
Q) I've planted seeds and I realize I don't really know the difference between weeds and sprouts. Any ID tips or weeding tips?
A) It depends what you've planted. Typically anything that comes up looking like a grass is a weed, unless you've planted corn, which comes up looking like thick grass, or dill, parsnips or carrots, which come up looking like the daintiest little grasses. You could look up images of the things you've planted and pull anything that isn't them. You can also just let the sprout develop for a little while to determine if it's a weed or not. Start observing the plants in your garden and compare them with plants you see when you are out for walks. Common weeds are usually prevalent in other places in your area. My friend also mentioned a solution to his own problem, which is planting in rows.
Q) I've waited the 6-10 days required for beans, and only one has popped up. Should I replant?
A) Probably. Animals could take the sprouted seeds (a chipmunk had taken his) or it could be a watering issue. Seeds need the soil surface to be constantly moist, which could mean watering daily or even twice a day. Once the plant is growing, you can reduce watering.
Watering technique is important. For seeds, you keep the soil surface moist, but no mature plant in the world benefits from a light watering every day. This makes the roots grow close to the surface (that's where the water you’re giving them is, after all) and therefore they are less drought tolerant. You want to water deeply and infrequently, so that roots stretch downwards searching for water, anchoring the plant and making it more drought tolerant. Most vegetables (and newly planted perennials and trees) like an inch of water per week. Rainfall usually provides this, but supplemental watering may be needed.
Also, a note on animals. Boy, they love to eat sprouted seeds. I covered an area I seeded with row cover, which I hope will work. You can also cover your whole garden with rowcover. That is what I'm having some friends in Hartford do whose garden was getting raided by squirrels. Row cover can be ordered from Johnny Seed Catalog, Fedco seeds, or gotten at Natureworks in North Branford.
Ok, and one more note. This one's on beans. I planted some pole beans that I was very excited about. They were getting eaten big time by insects. It's insect damage because they're missing very tiny pieces of leaf. Animals would just chomp large parts off. SO my solution was to plant more beans of different varieties. I figure more plants will spread out the damage more. It has worked, and my precious beans are growing!
Q) How far apart do I plant vegetables?
A) Seed packets will usually tell you a spacing. For most seedlings, I stretch my fingers as wide as they will go and plant them as far apart as my thumb and pinkie. Lots of people plant tomatoes too close. I give mine lots of room to grow--I plant mine about three feet apart. I also plant them very deeply. Tomatoes grow roots along their stems, so you should always plant them deeper than they were in the pot. This way they grow extra roots and they don't have to expend energy holding themselves up.
Q) When do I plant vegetables?
A) Cold-hardy things like greens (kale, collards, broccoli) can be planted approximately April 15th-August 1st. The end of that time span gets a little tight for planting seed, so you'd probably want to transplant. Tomatoes go in May 15th-June 15th. You'll want an early-maturing variety if you plant toward the end of that time span. Beans and squash can be seeded or transplanted May 15th-July 15th. There are better resources out there than this simple answer, but those are some guidelines.
I know many people are gardening for the first time, or trying it again after a long break. Be patient. Some of your vegetables will get eaten by bugs and animals. Remind yourself that you can always go to the grocery store and they can't. Some of your crops will turn out horribly and others will be amazing. Neither outcome has anything to do with you, really.
On Sunday, when Adam and I found out that people were protesting in New Haven for police reform, we didn't really think twice about going, pandemic or no. We joined a crowd at the police station. There were informal speeches for a while, then there was commotion, and someone on the bullhorn asked white people to go to the front. In our current system, which needs to change, White people face less risk of injury, arrest, and death from the police, so a line of them blocking the Black protesters provides some safety.
I found myself linking arms with strangers as we pushed towards a line of police. In a moment I can't forget, the officers before me reached for the heavy weapons on their belts. The metallic taste of fear filled my mouth. I really did not want to get shot or beaten that day, but there was no question in my mind that I was in the right place, doing the right thing. I felt the symbolic weight of what I was doing; physically embodying a commitment to be uncomfortable in order to defend the lives of others.
When the crowd eventually pushed back and the police relaxed, I looked around me. I was definitely on the older side of the protesters, and I wondered if I looked like a frumpy lady from the suburbs in a sunhat. Probably. But that didn't matter. In fact--good. That's who should be at these protests. White people of every demographic must be visible in their demand that police violence must stop. In fact, I will go so far as to recommend that White people actively put themselves in the position to be harmed in defense of Black people. It is hard for White people to comprehend fearing our society; fear is not written on our skin, in our histories. Putting ourselves in positions to feel that fear unlocks an empathy that I think will transform our society. The fear is not written in our skin, but we can write it in our memories, in our feelings. And then take steps to abolish it forever.