Beneficial Insects

Walking through a farmer’s market a while back I happened to notice a lot of stink bug damage to vegetables in a few vendor sites. That reminded me that the insect kingdom usually gets a black eye because of the damage caused by the different species of ‘bugs’. Not all insects are bad. Here is a partial list of beneficial insects.

  • Aphid Midges – can attack over sixty types of aphid species.
  • Braconid Wasps – females lay eggs in the body of tomato hornworms which the larva then consumes as their first meals.
  • Calosoma Beetle – hard-shelled, 2-inch long, loves to eat caterpillars.
  • Damsel Bugs – thrive on caterpillars, mites, aphids, potato beetles and cabbage worms.
  • Green Lacewings – do an excellent job of controlling soft-bellied pests such as aphids, whitefly, leafhopper, mealybugs and caterpillars.
  • Hover Fly –  larvae feeds on aphids, scale insects and caterpillars.
  • Ichneumon Fly – lays eggs in caterpillars and their pupae, which the young fly then consumes.
  • Lady  Bug – eats its weight in aphids each day.
  • Mealy Bug Destroyer – one mealy bug destroyer can eat up to 250 mealybugs larvae.
  • Minute Pirate Bugs – both the immature stages and adults prey on a variety of small insects such as spider mites, insect eggs, caterpillars,aphids and thrips.
  • Praying Mantis – feasts on many insects pests, including mosquitoes.
  • Predatory Mites – consumes spider mites while feeding on the pollen of plants and not the plant itself, when there are no spider mites around.
  • Soldier Beetles – feed on grasshopper eggs, aphids and other soft-bodied insects.
  • Spiders – feed on a large range including bed bugs, aphids, caterpillars, grasshoppers and fruit flies.
  • Tachinid Flies – consume gypsy moths, Japanese beetles, cutworms and squash bugs.
  • Wheel Bugs – preys on soft-shelled pests.

Keep your fork

Trailer Park Retirement

Luray is the host city to Cooter’s Last Stand this weekend. Ben Jones (Cooter) has his ‘Cooter’s In The Valley’ establishment (museum, restaurant, gift shop) just west of town and is hosting Cooter’s Last Stand Saturday and Sunday. They decided to get the whole Dukes Of Hazzard cast together one last time before more of them buy the farm, so to speak. There is supposed to be at least 20,000 in attendance with nearly 200 General Lees in addition to about 100 other Hazzard County cars. Although not many young people today know about the Dukes, we ‘Older’, retired individuals can remember them as if they were on TV yesterday. This realization of being not young reminds me of this story.

After spring break, a teacher asked her young pupils how they spent their vacation. One youngster offered the following: “We always used to spend the time with Grandpa and Grandma.

They used to live in a nice big brick house. But, Grandpa got retarded and they moved to Floriduh. Now they live in a place with lots of other Grandmas and Grandpas. They live in a tin box and have rocks painted green to look like grass.

They ride around in huge tricycles and wear nametags because they don’t know who they are anymore. They go to a big building called the wrecked center. They must have fixed it because it looks pretty good now.

They play games and do exercises there, but they don’t do them very well. There is a swimming pool, too, but they all jump up and down in it with their hats on. I guess they don’t know how to swim. At the gate, there is a dollhouse with a little old man who sits in it.

He watches all day so nobody can escape. Sometimes though, they do manage to sneak out. Then they go cruising in their golf carts.

Grandma used to bake cookies and other neat things,but I guess she forgot how. Nobody there cooks, they just eat out. And they eat the same thing every night, “Early Bird,” whatever that is. Some of the people can’t get past the old man in the dollhouse. So the ones that escape bring food back to the wrecked center and call it potluck.

My Grandma says Grandpa worked all his life to earn his retardment and says that I should work hard so I can also be retarded someday too. When I earn my retardment, I want to be the old man in the dollhouse. Then I’ll let people out so they can visit their grandchildren.”

Keep your fork

BBQ Grill Breakfast Scrambler

Since when is the grill to be used solely for dinner (lunch) or supper (dinner)? Need a recipe for breakfast on a hunting/fishing trip or family camping vacation? Here’s a breakfast scrambler that will please the boys or family members.

6 c Hashbrowns
2 c Diced ham
6 Whole eggs
1/4 c Milk
2 c Shredded cheddar cheese
1 c Diced green onions
1/2 c Diced tomato
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the grill to 375 degrees. Spray a grill safe pan with cooking spray. Add in the hashbrowns and ham. Add the eggs to the milk in a large bowl and whisk until combined. Stir in the cheese, green onions and tomatoes and pour over the hashbrowns and ham. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Cover with foil and cook for 30 minutes. Uncover the pan and cook for an additional 15 to 35 minutes until the edges are crispy.

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Working on Fifty

While having coffee and cake with Catfish and Gator Babe a couple of days ago, Gator Babe’s sister who along with her husband were visiting from the Atlanta area, asked how long we had been married. I proudly answered, “It’ll be fifty years next June.” Then I had a flashback, remembering our wedding.

The pickle Queen was really anxious about making a mistake during the wedding ceremony. Her uncle, a pastor, along with the church preacher were both officiating at the wedding. I don’t know if they were afraid that I’d change my mind and flee and the PQ would be an old maid forever, or why, but one of the two reassured her, pointing out that the order of service was not difficult to remember.

“All you have to keep in mind,” one of them said, “is that when you enter the church you walk up the aisle. Floyd and the best man will be waiting before the altar. Then I shall ask the congregation to sing a hymn. Then we shall go on with the ceremony. Just remember this order and you can’t go wrong!”

The happy Saturday evening arrived, and I waited nervously for my bride to appear. As the PQ took her place beside me, I was curious and then horrified as I heard her repeating, “Aisle, altar, hymn. Aisle, altar, hymn…” (Think about it!)

And some time later she did!

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Thoughts on Watering Tomatoes

While working in the garden a couple of weeks ago, Abraham, the neighbor across the road came over to ask about watering tomatoes. Knowing he didn’t have any plants at his cabin, I asked if he had plants back home. He said he had a couple of plants that were in five-gallon pails and his wife had called asking about watering them as they were wilting. After giving him a few suggestions on watering, I thought that others may have questions as well. Here are a few thoughts on the subject.

  • Mulching – Mulch, if you are not familiar with the term, is an organic layer of straw, leaves, hay, coconut husk, wood chips, pine cone pieces, etc. spread on or worked into the top layer of the soil around the plants. This organic matter will decay over time adding nourishment and tilth to the soil. It aids in water retention and you will not need to water as often as evaporation from the soil is reduced. If it has been incorporated into the top layer of the soil it increases air movement into the soil. Seriously, consider mulching if you haven’t done so before.
  • Water Slowly – Water must enter the soil around the plant and not run off carrying away nutrients and top soil. Water should penetrate the top 6 to 8 inches of soil to stimulate root growth in this area of the growing zone so the plant has access to the nutrients that the plant can reach. If you don’t have some kind of a drip irrigation system that allows the water to slowly seep into the soil, consider installing/using one.
  • Water Regularly – There is no set rule as to how often you should water your plants. Check the soil regularly for a few days to determine when the soil starts turning dry. In some areas you may have to water only once daily whereas in other areas you may have to water 2 or more times a day. If you see your tomato plants wilting mid-day, don’t worry too much as they’ll be back to normal that evening. If they are still parched at sunset you may need to water the next morning. If you see plants are wilting in the morning, it may not be a lack of water but a normal reaction the plant has that minimizes surface area to reduce transpiration from the leaves.
  • Do Not Water At Night – The temperature is generally lower during the night-time hours and in conjunction with moisture on the leaves allows for the likelihood of tomato plant diseases. Do not water at night, even if the plants are droopy.
  • Water early In The Day – If you are using a hose, watering can or other manual means, do your watering in the early morning hours. Drip irrigation, either above or below the ground surface, as long as the water doesn’t get on the leaves, can occur any time of day.
  • Water At The Stem  (At the roots) – Again, the idea is not to get water on the leaves. If you do want water on the leaves or that’s your watering method, do so before the sun come up in the morning. If your water is hard, or if you mix fertilizer or other chemical with the water, DO NOT water the leaves. Do not put the water directly on the stem as this could wash the soil away from the stem decreasing support for the plant. Water a few inches away from the stem, where the roots are spread below the plant.

There are a few other considerations when watering but I’ll save them for another time.

Keep your fork

Stuffed Baked Tomatoes

While fixing stuffed peppers the other night, I looked at all the tomatoes lying on the counter and remembered that my grandmother used to fix stuffed tomatoes. I found her recipe after checking her recipe book. Now we’ll be able to enjoy stuffed baked tomatoes as well as stuffed peppers. Heaven only knows that we have plenty of both ripening daily.

6 tomatoes
1/2 c cooked rice
1 tbsp butter
1/2 c chopped meat
1/2 c meat broth
Salt and pepper

After washing the tomatoes, cut a slice off the top of each tomato. Hollow out the tomatoes, leaving a thick shell. After combining the rice, meat and broth, season to taste. Fill the hollowed out tomatoes with the rice mixture. Place the stuffed tomatoes into a well-greased baking casserole. Place a dab of butter on each tomato. Bake at 375 degrees until the tomatoes are tender.

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The Knob

Wayne Newton was on a game show on TV the other day. He must have had an extensive facelift as he didn’t look anything like the man I remember. He did remind me of this story ‘tho.

A lady in her late 40’s went to a plastic surgeon for a face lift. The Dr. told her of a new procedure called, “The Knob”. This small knob would be implanted on the back of the woman’s head and could be turned to tighten the skin to produce the effect of a brand new facelift whenever wanted. Of course, the woman wanted “The Knob.”

Fifteen years later the woman went back to the surgeon with two problems.

“All these years everything had been working just fine. I’ve had to turn the knob on lots of occasions and I’ve loved the results. But now I’ve developed two annoying problems. First of all, I’ve got these terrible bags under my eyes and the knob won’t get rid of them,” the woman told the doctor when asked about the problems.

After examining the woman, the doctor looked at her at said, “Those aren’t bags, those are your breasts.”

She replied, “Well, I guess that explains the goatee.”

Keep your fork