Where Agriculture and Horror Movies Collide

Have you watched the movie “Alien” where a creature bursts out of the chest of a human, killing him? Truth be told, I am not a fan of horror movies. However, when similar things happen to insects in nature, I am totally fascinated!

Starting today, one of our soybean fields will have little wasps that act like the Alien. They sting soybean aphids, and lay their eggs inside the aphid. This kills and mummifies the aphid. When the larva is ready for the next stage of life, it bursts out of the mummified aphid body. So cool!

So, what do these vicious creatures look like?

CarolynCares Wasp

Did you see it? Maybe this extreme closeup will help…

CarolynCares Wasp Closeup

Yep, these tiny little wasps are the size of a soybean aphid…which is about as big as the dot of a Sharpie Fine Pen. Nick, a doctoral student from the University of Minnesota entomology department came out today to distribute 75,000 of these little buggers. They arrived in their shipping containers, which were mummified soybean aphids on soybean leaves. The black dots are the aphids which house the wasps…

CarolynCares Mummies

Nick transferred the wasps, leaves, and larva to a slightly larger cup, making sure he had a similar amount of wasps in each cup (yes, someone had figured out how many there were in each cup). He then put a mesh over the top that was large enough for the wasps to go in and out, but not large enough for predators like lady beetles to get in. These cups were put in milk crates as a base of sorts for the wasps.

CarolynCares Wasp Release

Nick then went walking on the edge of the field, flagging locations for the six crates to be placed. After that he measured out about 2 meters in each direction, and placed another flag. The soybean plants by those flags will be checked in 3 weeks to see if the wasps have moved that far from their point of release.

One of the limiting factors in this research is the amount of soybean aphids currently in our fields. When we were looking, we really didn’t find many at all. This is due to the delays in planting, and the cooler weather that has slowed the growth of the soybeans. Nick was explaining the optimal time for aphid movement according to soybean plant stage, and encouraged scouting within the next two weeks.

Jonathan and I are pretty interested in learning more about how this natural aphid control will work in a real world situation. We are hoping that this will turn into a viable tool that we can use to combat the soybean aphid. Right now, as organic farmers, we have no effective method to control them other than planting naturally aphid tolerant varieties of soybeans. Nick is hoping that the wasps that were released today will not only help us this year, but their future generations will be helpful in the years to come.

How cool is it that scientists have found an Alien like way to control an agriculture pest?

 

 

Adding Color to My Sunset Sky

CarolynCares Clouds

I love this quote by Rabindranath Tagore…”Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” How many times do we feel the storms of life, or feel like the clouds are hanging over our heads? Flooding, planting delays, stress, anxiety, depression, chronic illness, life changes…all can be the storm clouds that seem like they’ll never part.

Tonight, I am thankful for the parting of the storm clouds, and the brilliant sunset. I am thankful for the rough patches in life that help me to see the beauty in the good times. I am thankful for the promise of a new day. A new start. A new opportunity to be a blessing. Tonight, I am thankful for the clouds that add the color to my sunset sky.

Thankful Thursday – Shout Out to the Septic Guys!

CarolynCares Thank You Septic Guys

Last week was quite a week for drainage issues at our place. The first issue was related to the two inches of rain we received on Thursday. The outlet for our house storm drainage was under a foot of water, which meant the tile lines around the house were level full. Every time the sump pump ran, it would pour the water back into the house. Jonathan and I were not home when that happened, but thankfully, our daughters were. We were able to tell Laura how to cut the pipe with the Sawzall and attach a hose to extend the drainage into the yard. The girls were awesome, and even started cleaning up the water before we got home.

While dealing with the wet carpet, we noticed that the sewer line was backing up a little bit. We weren’t sure the cause, but thought the septic tank could have gotten too full, so we called a local septic tank guy. We were on a no water in the drain order until after he came to check out the situation. I was very happy to see Gary show up!

Last summer, we had some landscaping done where we took out all the shrubs and the sidewalk around the house and regraded the soil to help prevent water issues in the basement. This meant that they tapered the soil and tilled up a swath of grass as well. This was seeded to grass seed, and looked really nice. What we didn’t think about at the time was the fact that they took out the divots that marked where the septic tank covers are. So we needed to start probing the soil. It took a little bit to find the covers, but once we did, it was easy to dig down and uncover the pump outs. We found out that we had an issue in the line, so after the septic tank was pumped, the guys went to work figuring out the issue. I’ll be honest. It totally grosses me out when they work on that. I can handle animal manure, and baby diapers, but I can’t handle sewage.

Because the whole thing grosses me out, I am so thankful for people like Gary who do this every day. He is the nicest guy, and is so easy to work with. You don’t really appreciate guys like him until you need them…which is why the septic cleaners and fixers are my Thankful Thursday focus this week. Thank you all for being willing to deal with crap every day so we can flush at will!

We’re Called to Be a Blessing

CarolynCares Called to be a Blessing

I receive a text every morning from my DailyBible app. Since I am not a morning person, and prefer to ease into my day, I lie in bed and read the notifications on my phone before rising. Sometimes the verses that are sent are not really uplifting at the time, but yesterdays really stuck with me. These verses in 1 Peter are still very applicable today…or maybe even more so with some of the things I’ve been reading online lately.

I hope you ponder these verses before you post an angry reply, or zing someone that thinks differently than you do. Instead, think of how you can be a blessing to that person. ‘…repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called…’

 

Thankful Thursday – The Power Pole People

CarolynCares Thank You Brave Ones

I don’t know about you, but heights scare me to the point of buckled knees and shortness of breath. At the same time, I have a fascination with people who seem to be so at ease with heights.

The guys in the photo work for a company that is removing all of the high-line wires and poles from the road in front of our house. The new CapX2020 line will eventually replace these double wooden poles, which really won’t affect us much at all. Watching the process of wire and pole removal was super interesting. I tried not to gawk too much as they worked in front of our place.

One day, when the poles were being removed a few miles north of us, I had to run up to the Cities. I left later than I wanted to, and was feeling a bit grumpy. Things just seemed to be going wrong all morning. I had to wait for the flag man to wave me by the first set of trucks, which was expected. The second truck a mile down the road didn’t have an official flag man. Instead, two of the workers who were putting gear in the back of the truck started waving cars by, dancing, waving, and smiling broadly. They totally brightened my day. It’s hard to be grumpy when you encounter two gruff looking guys break into dance!

When the time came for the old power poles to come down in front of our place, I just had to go out and watch the process. The one guy had a chainsaw, and was cutting the support brackets. The other was there to maneuver the bucket and assist with the cutting. The main cross piece was lowered by a chain attached to the claw on the second truck. After all of the support braces and main cross piece were removed, the two white trucks were moved, and the large backhoe worked the poles out of the ground. The whole crew working on these poles had great communication, and treated each other in a friendly manner. To me, it was a great lesson. No matter what your occupation, your attitude can make your job seem less like work.

Thank you, Power Pole People, for braving heights and dangerous conditions every day…and for the occasional dance break.

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