by Charlene Burgi
Let’s face it, it is Halloween week. The stores and TV advertisements have saturated our senses. Spooky costumes and movies abound. These creepy images keep us in a state of suspense about what may be crawling around. But are all creepy crawlies to be dreaded?
Last week a dear friend called and suggested we grab our cameras and head out to capture the fall color before all the leaves fell. It was a glorious day. The sun was shining; the sky was a clear, crisp blue. The creek gurgled its little song as it meandered through the golden trees. All was perfect—until that night when the back of my legs started to itch. I hadn’t thought to wear boots as the weather was, as I said, glorious. Welts as big as quarters formed on the back of my legs, and judging from the bites I can only suspect that there were mosquitoes the size of dinner plates creeping around my exposed ankles as I snapped pictures and failed to heed anything beyond what was in front of the camera lens.
For three nights I fought the itch and finally found respite in the oddest fashion.
One evening while heading out to the garage, I saw two bats flying about my car. Their presence startled me, but I had the satisfaction that justice was being served as these mosquito-eaters supped on the blood-suckers (or relatives of) that had made my life miserable. Despite that old wives tale of bats getting caught in my hair, I was delighted to see these beneficials here. I quietly tiptoed back into the house to provide them all the room they wanted for the hunt!
This past week’s experiences made me wonder if it is better to be oblivious to our surroundings or be surprised. I once found myself making a pact with an Argiope aurantia that lurked around my vegetable garden. That black and yellow spider was fast, and I didn’t want to get in its way as it cleared the garden of unwanted insects. I only asked that it make itself visible before I reached in to pick vegetables!
And I’ll never forget the first time I saw a tomato hornworm in the garden. Leaves were being devoured before my very eyes. It looked like something from outer space! Over the years, however, I clearly did forget something. When Ann from MMWD sent a picture of the creepy crawly thing in her garden, I misidentified it as the old tomato hornworm. Ann wisely took the time to investigate and identify her visitor, who found the parsley in her garden to be a gourmet’s delight. She didn’t mention if it caused her a fright, but her steady hand behind the camera indicated she was fearless as well as excited. Her investigation revealed the prospect of future black swallowtail butterflies in her garden.
What did I learn from these experiences? First, wear protective clothing when working or playing outdoors. Second, be aware of your surroundings. Third, use identifiers such as books, camera, notes or sketch to identify what you might find that creeps about. And lastly, encourage those beneficials in the garden and your surroundings by feeding birds, hanging bat boxes, and growing plants that feed insects that help protect your garden.
And speaking of learning experiences, this is an opportunity not to miss. Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL) is offering a Graywater Specialty training course beginning this coming Tuesday, November 5, at Pickleweed Center in San Rafael. The class includes 12 hours of lab-based instruction covering current California graywater regulations, laundry to landscape systems, branched drain systems and an introduction to complex systems. For class dates and to register, visit qwel.net/trainings.
I, for one, am very proud of QWEL’s accomplishments. The Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership—a partnership of ten North Bay water utilities including MMWD—recently received the EPA’s national WaterSense Excellence Award for outstanding work promoting WaterSense and water-efficient irrigation practices through the QWEL program. The award was one of six given nationally. Congratulations to the water agencies, educators and landscape professionals who put heart and soul into this program.