Thursday, August 30, 2012
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
About a year ago, our house underwent a serious invasion. Tiny ants began to show up here and there inside. I had heard of tiny Argentine ants having invaded California, forming super colonies that somehow communicate across vast distances. I guessed that these were those, and felt strangely ready to surrender without a fight.
After repeated pressure from family members, however, I finally found the bottle of ant poison that had disappeared into the fabric of the house's disorder since the last invasion of (larger) ants. The new invaders took to the ant poison, though not as avidly as could be desired, and there was this sinking feeling that these highly successful creatures would quickly evolve a biochemical way of turning the poison into fuel to further energize their expansion into new spaces.
By this time, my youngest daughter had already abandoned the upstairs bathroom, unable to coexist with such creepy creatures.
Unlike ants in the past, which would pick their spots and stick to accustomed routes, these tiny ants would spread out across the kitchen counter and into other rooms. They seemed determined to explore and ultimately occupy every square foot of surface area--walls, family room chairs, the piano. In the study, one crossed the computer screen while another did a high wire act on my glasses.
Sweeping the guest room one day, I looked down to find that the dust was not staying swept, but instead scampered off in all directions. At that point, the ants were christened "dust with legs".
It was time for action, but I was still preoccupied with the deeper meaning of such tiny creatures having their way in a house of giants. If they were larger, I would have taken action weeks ago, but their smallness, the certainty that squashing any one of them, or even a dozen, would be meaningless compared to their infinite capacity to create more, left me paralyzed. I had become like one of the philosophers in the Monty Python soccer game that pits the Greek philosophers against the Germans, all of whom stroll about the field stroking their beards instead of kicking the ball. The ability of the ants to so thoroughly invade without triggering action correlated with my observation that climate change works similarly, baffling humanity with even smaller malefactors, operating at a scale below our perception, tweaking the atmosphere and ocean day by day until we wake up to a permanently altered world.
The borax did suppress the ant presence, though not completely. Fortunately, I happened to talk to a friend who suggested a poison available in a gel form. I found it at the hardware store, with the endearing name: Combat Source Kill Max, which comes with a syringe applicator. We dabbed some in just a few strategic spots, and the ants promptly disappeared, without any further applications necessary. As Archimedes said at the pivotal moment in Monty Python's soccer game, Eureka!
Monday, August 27, 2012
Here is Melinda's description of the encounters:
"As Lee and I were doing our pre-breakfast walk along the DandR towpath this morning, Lee spotted a beaver gnawing on a tree in the water. It was content to let us watch for quite a while before it finally swam off to its lodge. We could hear the gnawing quite plainly. We went back another morning with a better camera and found two beavers gnawing on the fallen tree. As soon as Lee began photographing, one splashed its tail on the water and yelped a warning, which caused the other to depart, but the big one stayed and calmly chowed down on the delicious wood."
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
This travelogue made possible by bacterial leaf scorch and high winds.
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
My daughter stripped the berries while watching a movie on the laptop--an interesting integration of tactile tradition with the media-rich present. Having lost, or never learned, the time-honored family recipe, we found one on the internet.
Note: A friend expressed concern that people might confuse elderberry with the poisonous berries of pokeweed. Anyone eating wild foods should do their research beforehand. I had the benefit of parents and teachers who could serve as guides. If schools put more value on learning plant identification (what a great way to learn to see subtle distinctions in pattern--a skill with many applications beyond botany), kids would feel much more empowered and comfortable out in the woods. I posted photos of pokeweed on September 8. At least this year, it matured a month after elderberry, which will also help distinguish between the two.
Sunday, August 05, 2012
A post on the adult cicada's magical night-time emergence from the shell, and the dangers they face as slow-flying protein in Princeton, can be found here: http://princetonnaturenotes.blogspot.com/2008/07/cicadas-rise-from-depths.html.
Walk organizer Martha Friend, science teacher at Little Brook Elementary during the school year, put considerable initiative into making this one-time walk happen. Given how close various summer camps at Community Park and the Y are to the preserved woodlands of Pettoranello Gardens and beyond, and a naturalist just down the driveway at Mountain Lakes House, maybe there's a way, without too much extra effort, for these guided walks to become a regular part of the camp experience.