Monday, July 5, 2010

The great outdoors (is testing my resolve)

Despite the heat wave, things are plugging along in the vegetable garden. Here, the Japanese black trifele tomatoes are getting ready to ripen. Don't they have a beautiful shape?

But precious tomato plant has been relegated to sticks!

If you don't know me, know this: I have a certain "respect" for insects - I see their place in the scheme of things. But the fact is, I hate them - and here's what I'll admit: it's because I'm scared. Of all garden insects, I've been most scared of tomato hornworms ever since I saw one covered in parasitic wasps on a website a few years ago. I've been so scared and disgusted by them that I think I've written several posts about them by now. Today, as I was up close inspecting the damage to my tomato plant, I ended up face to face with the dreaded tomato hornworm for the first time in real life... I identified it immediately. What I didn't expect was how big it would be in real life. I screamed. I ran. I got my daughter.

She read over my shoulder as I researched on the web. You would not believe the manipulation of this smart little kid. Knowing her dad is out of town, "Mom, I'll get rid of it for $5. Otherwise, it will stay in your garden and eat all your tomato plants". I readily paid. She removed the hornworm but then had the nerve to chase after me with the bucket. Luckily, I'm smarter and as I ran into the house, I threatened to lock her out.

Apparently, where there is frass there are hornworms. I also have a 5 year old so I'm all for cutesy names for poop, but look at the size of it! In my opinion, it's absolutely abnormal for any insect to have poop of this size. This is no frass. This is a full blown bowel movement. We found another hornworm, so the bill went up to $10. My skin was crawling so my inspection may not have been too thorough, but hopefully that was it.

And just to give me more of a fright since I was already freaked out, this guy was guarding the back door. I almost had a heart attack going back for this photo (I hope you appreciate it!).

In an additional test of my resolve...
When I remember, I wear pants and a hoodie in the garden to keep from being eaten alive by mosquitoes. I've recently written about my problem with this. So as I type this, the mosquito bites on my neck, thumb knuckle, and little toe are itching the hell out of me (I'm going to start going out in a beekeeper's suit). Also, my right butt cheek is hurting because guess what? I got stung by a bee at the pool yesterday.
A funny thing I'm thinking of now - my 5 year old could tell her own bug story. This morning, I heard a little scream just before she ran over to me and grabbed onto my legs. Pointing to a little moth on the wall, she said, "I thought that was a heart sticker so I tried to get it but it was a moth!"

Just so I don't have nightmares, I'll end with a nicer image - the pretty blooms of hairy vetch, saving the space for garlic to be planted in October.


  1. I'd be scared too if I saw that bug! Over the weekend, I stepped on something that made a 'crunch' sound as I was watering my garden. I lifted up my foot and it was a snail. EWWW!!

    I also see quite a few different kinds of bugs in my garden. One of them eat my rose bushes and dahlia plants. I don't believe in using chemicals to kill them. I'm trying to figure some organic ways to get rid of them.

  2. Wendy..another enjoyable read..i love all your adventures! I totally respect bugs too..but they do creep me out..ha ha!!

  3. Wendy,
    You are brave to take those photos when it is something that frightens you so much . That is how I am about spiders. I think paying your daughter is a good method of bug removal. Those tomatoes are getting more expensive by the minute!

    Mosquitoes are pretty bad this year for us and usually we escape their tortue. I suggest you go to the store and get a net to put over your hat. They are about 2 dollars, money well spent! We were camping in Wyoming and my mom lent me hers for a hike and it was nice not to have them biting the heck out of my face. My hands were a different story. I think a beekeeper suit sounds like a nice idea...but way too hot.

  4. Your daughter is one smart girl! I am totally with you about the insects and hornworm...yuck! I keep running into the leaf-footed bugs...I can't stand them. I hate to reach in to get my tomatoes for fear I might run into these "things". I'm glad I'm not alone in my thoughts. :)

  5. I hate bugs TOO!!!!!
    At least you have someone you can pay to take them away!

  6. They look really horrible. Luckily these are not in my garden ha ha... (sorry!)

    Your daugther like heart stickers? Kids here loves them too.

  7. I have been mulling over thoughts about how best to live and garden with the critters around here. It's rabbits and slugs I'm not happy with right now. The caterpillars don't normally kill a plant, so I leave them alone. I don't know if I would leave a tomato hornworm alone, though. It looks like it did quite a lot of damage to your tomato plant. I'm thinking the hornworm turns into a hummingbird moth of some kind.

    Those are pretty tomatoes. Last year, I had birds eating a bite or two out of each tomato just before they ripened. I was hoping they wouldn't notice the patio tomato plant on my deck, but they did. I'm not happy about that.

  8. Your posts are great entertainment, and when your daughter enters the much the better!

  9. Heh! I love this - because I so could have written it. Well, except that I have yet to run into a tomato hornworm. I'm dreading it though, because it's sure to happen. I'm just thankful I've got a seven year old - she's still happy with a quarter. I hope she doesn't up her prices as she gets older, because when it comes to squash bugs, she can earn ten dollars in an evening, easy.
    I'm with you on the mosquito thing, too. I'm seriously considering a hat with the netting stuff attached to it - I've got five bites on my face. Not. Pretty.
    Hope those are the only hornworms you'll have to deal with this year. Definitely not the fun part of gardening!

  10. Rosebelle - how horrible! I don't think we really have snails with hard shells around here.

    kiki, amy, deborah, glad I'm not the only one!

    Julie - funny stuff!I can see the adorable and fearless Chloe following in my older daughter's footsteps in a few years. Get the wallet ready.

    Sue - that's frustrating! These kinds of things tend to happen to me too. Last year I picked all my tomatoes about a day or two before then started to ripen. I guess it's either that or drape the whole thing in bird netting.

    Ricki - glad it was entertaining for you! I'm trying not to be melodramatic, but it was pretty horrible! :)

    Stephanie - I think my younger daughter will think twice about peeling "stickers" off the walls from now on!

    Rosey - you have me thinking about the book The $64 Tomato. Yes, my tomatoes also carry a premium pricetag!

  11. Wendy, I'm so sorry you struggle with fear when facing insects. That must be so difficult as a gardener -- and makes me appreciate your devotion to your beautiful garden even more!

    Your daughter is going to go far in life. Smart, sassy, and can-do. (Also, beautiful, if I recall correctly from a previous post. :)

    Hornworms bother me because of their capacity for rapid destruction. They can practically destroy a plant in a couple of days if you're not around to catch them. Last year I pursued a "no-kill" policy in the garden -- but F. refused to comply when it came to the hornworms, and he would take them from me, or track them down to wherever I'd relocated them, and squish them. Now that's really gross to witness!

  12. Wendy, I won't say, "don't kill the hornworms!" because I don't want to be bossy and have you hate me and besides, I don't have them destroying my garden and I can totally understand your creeped-out-ness. However, hornworms become the coolest, most awesome sphinx moths that flit around at night like hummingbirds, sucking the nectar from the honeysuckle etc. I live for their nighttime sightings.

    My history with mosquitoes is usually pretty benign. However, this year is the exception. I'm constantly having them land on me, evil creatures!! I didn't think much about it until the local news anchor asked the weather guy who was outside, "Are the mosquitoes bad out there?" And he said, "Yes. With all the rain we've had, we're seeing a lot more this year." I'm like, okay, no wonder! A real "Duh" moment for me.

  13. Hi Wendy, I don"t mind insects generally but in mosquito areas I do use repellant because of the danger of malaria and dengue fever.
    Your daughter is a very smart operator. I am impressed. One of the things visiting southeast Asia again is seeing people eating insects - there was a grasshopper plague and lots of people walking around with fried grasshoppers in baskets to sell.I didn't taste any this time.
    cheers, catmint

  14. Hi Wendy, it's me again. I hope I didn't sound unempathic in the above comment. I think you're very brave facing your fears in order to follow your gardening passion.
    cheers, catmint

  15. Mosquitos love me too, but I've found that if I apply bentonite to the bite soon after I've been bitten it seems to help a lot. It's a clay and you can usually find it in health food stores. It doesn't do much on old bites, but if you can get it on a fairly fresh one, it seems to help draw out the stuff that makes you itch. Also, I like a product called Cactus Juice. It's a bug repellent that's made out of cactus juice; it smells like oranges AND it has sunscreen in it. It's not quite as effective as full-on DEET, but you're also not spraying yourself with poison, gotta weigh your options.


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