Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mystery Moth (Antheraea polyphemus)

Well, since it is still too wintery to be blogging about any real live gardening activity, here is another mystery insect I thought I'd post in hopes of identifying since we had such great help last time.

This huge moth (5 inch or 13 cm wingspan) was found on my Aunt's farm in Saskatchewan on June 7, 1992. Since then we have never identified it (or if we did we did not write it down). I plan to get a book out from the library to attempt to identify it but thought I'd post it here in the meantime. Not sure if it is a common or rare moth. I recall we caught it flying around the outdoor house light, where moths are typically found of course. I remember hoards of them around our lights on the farm, but rarely see them in the city here. Not sure if this is a rural-urban difference, declining numbers over time or Calgary's climate.

UPDATE: The moth appears to be a male Antheraea polyphemus with common name simply Polyphemus Moth (see discussion and links in comments below). They are relatively common in North America and feed on numerous species of trees and shrubs, not dependent on a single species of plant like the wood wasp we found earlier this winter (see link above). They range from southern Canada to northern Mexico. There is a good possibility there are some in Calgary or perhaps in our own yard. We'll keep an eye out.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Gardening Tools & Gear

I have attempted to be somewhat of a minimalist in terms of gardening tools and paraphernalia in general. Mostly for the practical reasons of saving time, money, space and not being wasteful. This proves difficult when wandering through the local greenhouse with all sorts of cool things to buy, other than plants.

In a near-spring cleaning effort to organize the gardening related debris accumulating and scattering around the garage and house, I thought I'd attempt to list the essential (and not so essential) gardening items that I personally seem to use most or least. The goal is to evaluate what is most useful to make these items most accessible, evaluate what could be upgraded, put in storage, or possibly purged.

It makes sense (to me) to include food preserving and processing tools along with gardening tools, as this is a big part of gardening and at times seems more time consuming than growing the food itself. But for now I will not focus on these items in detail.

MOST

  1. Long-handled roundpoint shovel
  2. Water hoses (mostly from the rain barrels)
  3. Hand-held hoe (weeding - I guess I should look at getting a long-handled one if it ranks this high on the list)
  4. Hand-held spade (for planting and transplanting)
  5. Wheel barrow (for hauling compost around)
  6. Various bowls and baskets (for collecting the harvest)
  7. Scrub brushes (for washing root crops)
  8. Heavy-duty scissors (for pruning and harvesting non-woody plants)
  9. Vita-Mix (I have been mostly convinced it is worth the exorbitant cost)
  10. Various canning/freezing/drying supplies (hope to use these more)

ON HOLD

  1. Indoor planting gear. On hold until more time and space allows. I'm still trying to figure which type of bulbs are best to use.

LEAST

  1. Short flat-bottomed D-Handled shovel. I've read this is an important shovel to have, but I never seem to use it. It seems too short for a tall person and the lack of a pointed end makes digging difficult to me. Maybe I just need to learn how to use it properly. I find myself choosing the long-handled spade over this one almost every time.
  2. Rake (long handled and hand-held). It does come in handy at times, though I did survive for a few years without one, so it can hardly be considered essential (for a small urban garden).
  3. Fertilizer. I do use occasionally but with lots of compost supply from kitchen and yard wastes, it rarely seems needed.
  4. Pesticides. I can see some possible reasonable arguments made for certain cases in large scale agriculture applications but seems completely unnecessary for a small scale garden (so far). Have never attempted to use.

TO GET

  1. Nesco/American Harvest Dehydrator SnackMaster (new version with motor on top). Not urgent as there does not currently seem time to make good use of one. Long-term hunt for used model.
  2. High/Low Thermometer (Analog, no batteries). For use in the cold frame and to check highs and lows at various microclimates in the yard. There is one at Lee Valley, just haven't got there yet.
  3. Long-handled hoe (discovered this could be useful while making above list)
  4. Greenhouse (when I retire?). Do not currently have time to properly manage.

Anyways, I will likely come back and edit these lists as time progresses, for my own reference and interest sake. Any suggestions for must-have tools others have discovered is always welcome.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Calgary Seedy Saturday

Saturday, March 20, 2010
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Montgomery Community Centre, 5003 - 16 Ave. N.W.
(at the intersection of Hwy #1 and Home Road)

Further Details
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