8/19/2013 1:29:00 PM Publisher's Column
yard and garden
and other nonsense
Have you noticed that national media, especially Fox News and CNN, is already fixated on the next U.S. presidential campaign? Whenever someone visits Iowa, there is immediate speculation that the purpose of the visit is to test the water for a presidential run. We recently went to Iowa on our way to Missouri, and I want to squelch any rumors that either Emily, Melanie or I plan to run. I've already lived in the Washington D.C. area and have no desire to repeat the experience, even though it is a fascinating place with a wealth of attractions.
I did consider running for Mayor of Minneapolis, though. We went through Minneapolis Sunday while taking Emily to camp near St. Cloud, then spent a day in the city on the way to pick her up. The present mayor has decided not to run again, leaving the field wide open, and pursuing that office has become the hottest new game in the city. When we left Thursday morning, there were 35 candidates registered and downtown traffic was rumored to be congested because there were so many waiting in line at city hall to join them. The filing fee is only $20 - there aren't many major league games you can get into for $20 anymore, especially as a player. I thought it might be fun but, after a few miles driving at a walking pace I decided to continue living in the country.
We have a grasshopper problem, as I have mentioned previously. I think we are finally making some progress in the war against them. Our chickens have pretty well cleaned up the area around their living quarters, so we have started trying to encourage them over to the gardens. I started by moving their water supply. They would go a small additional distance but not far. If the waterer was moved too far, they just stopped using it.
Melanie can do a pretty fair vocal imitation of just about anything, so she tried calling them. They would come a short distance, driven more by curiosity at her behavior than any recognition of a common language, I suspect. Anyway, it didn't work either.
Ever try to herd chickens? We did! It doesn't work. The little beggars are cunning and quick. Even with 3' high by 8' long screened panels, the chickens were too clever for us.
We went to the Steel County Fair Saturday, so I went into Fleet Farm to see if they had any cages for transporting chickens. They didn't, but on the way out I saw a butterfly net. I figured, if you can't get the chickens to the grasshoppers, how about bringing the grasshoppers to the chickens? When I got home, I caught a dozen or more every time I swung the net. I thought I had found a solution, but then the grasshoppers started staying low in the grass whenever I came near. Now I'm lucky to catch any.
Sunday afternoon, I pulled out a screened enclosure I made to protect drying walnuts from squirrels and, with Melanie's help, put about a dozen chickens in it. We carried it over to the closest garden, moved the trailer close by for the chickens to hide under and turned those chickens loose on the grasshoppers. They were fun to watch. Chickens are great grasshopper hunters! After a couple hours, it was apparent they had either eaten a significant fraction of the grasshopper population in that garden or had driven an awful lot of grasshoppers away. Whatever the case, there are fewer grasshoppers in one garden.
Sometimes I see similarities between my grasshopper problem and the situations in some of the Middle East countries dealing with insurrections and terrorists.
A bright spot - we are beginning to see Monarch caterpillars on our milkweed.