Automeris Io moth


Imago resting on the wicker–
I thought him a leaf until he
flickered and showed his true self.

Borning or dying? Two weeks he lives;
Red cherry-stained wings forgive
His dark Instar larval past

when he thieved oak and wild cherry leaves.
Io carries proof of redemption–
the universe on his wings.

The trouble with kale

Fall is not my favorite season.

Yes, I know, blogland abounds with people raving about fall and there are Thanksgiving recipes everywhere. The cooler weather, the colors of the leaves, frost on the pumpkins, pumpkin desserts, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin whatevers….

Yes. All that is fine, but the truth is I miss my garden.

I miss eating veggies and grilling out every night on the back porch.

I miss going out in my shorts and t-shirt every day at 3:00 to pick whatever looks good for dinner.

I miss iced mint tea on hot days and, well, you get it. Tomorrow it is supposed to snow…

So in an effort to extend the growing season here I planted a little fall garden when I harvested the garlic. Kale, Arugula, Spinach, Radishes, Green Onions, and Beets. And more beets. Can’t have too many beets…

We’ve been eating lots of Arugula salads with radishes and our last peppers…

But the kale…

I just don’t like it much. I know how nutritious it is. I know it is filled with vitamins, minerals, and all those omega good-for-yous. I know people make green smoothies from it. I just wish it tasted more like spinach. I wish our spinach had grown as well as the kale is growing.

So last week I decided I needed to pick some of that kale and eat the stuff. Kale Chips. Anything with olive oil and salt on it can’t be bad, right?

I watched a video.

From the video I deduced how it went wrong last year:  I didn’t dry the leaves enough after washing them, and instead of becoming crispy little chips, they were soggy green leaves with burnt edges.

I washed each leaf thoroughly because the first one I picked up had a little big green cabbage worm on it. I don’t like the thought of eating green cabbage worms.  I stopped growing broccoli years ago for that very reason.

So I hand washed and dried every leaf, cut out the stalks, and sliced each leaf into 3-inch pieces. I left them on the counter to go check what the oven temperature should be (anywhere from 275 to 350 depending on whether you watch the video or go by Guy Fieri’s Food Network recipe).

When I returned to my neatly sliced, diced, seriously studied kale leaves, there it was.

And so I checked every leaf on both sides again.

Scrupulously. Somehow I can’t imagine the perky blonde cook on the video finding cabbage worms in her kale. So I’m mentioning it to you because no one else does. If you grow or buy organic kale, you’re going to have cabbage worms. (One way to get rid of them is soak your kale in salted water for 10-15 minutes; but honestly, that seems to me like diluting the minerals that kale is loaded with, so I prefer to get rid of them by hand.) Next year I’m going to try Swiss Chard instead…

I tossed them with olive oil and salt and baked them in a 275 degree oven for 22 minutes. They were okay actually pretty good. And if there were any cabbage worms in there, at least they were dead and crispy.

kale chips

…and for cooking regular greens, I’m using beet greens because cabbage worms don’t bother the beets.

And if you aren’t a greens fan, here is a great tip: Take 5-7 leaves of whatever fall green you like. I mix them usually. Stack the leaves and roll them lengthwise. Slice into quarter inch rolls, and then chop them again so you have little pieces. Throw them into your sautéed onions and garlic and then mix them into whatever you are cooking. It ramps up nutritional value, they cook down and one hardly notices them.

sautéed veggies with chopped greens

Happy Thanksgiving. Don’t forget to count your blessings and eat your greens.

the sorrowful song of the trees

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; 
the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, 
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12

That’s always been one of my favorite verses — the image of the trees rising up and swaying their branches in joy to the Savior is a powerful one for me. (I always loved Tolkien’s Ents, too.)

But the year of 2016 paints a grim picture of trees cowering in fear from the plague of giant flying periodical cicadas. (Yes, I’m sorry, another post on cicadas. It’s what’s happening here at Apple Hill Cottage.)

This is the oak tree at the side of our house. The oaks seem to be a favorite and sustain the most damage.

The only websites I can find that tell the truth about these creatures are the Penn State and Ohio State agricultural offices. At the bottom of the Penn State article it says, (I’m paraphrasing) Your trees should be fine, that is, unless you have 4-year-old or less fruit trees. Then you’re in big trouble.

The adult cicadas are gone now. I can go out in the morning and actually hear birds singing. But the damage they have done to the trees is disheartening. Our yard is littered with broken little branches.

The female cicadas lay their eggs in small shoots at the edges of trees. This is a close up of the slits they make.

Each female can lay up to 400 eggs in 40 to 50 different sites. By my unofficial count that’s about a gazillion cicada eggs on our 2.9 acres… So we are gathering up prunings of branches, both fallen and cut from trees, and burning them.

Tonight we undid the netting on the two trees we covered. As of now, it doesn’t seem like our efforts made a difference, but the branches are not done dying… We pruned back the trees by about a third. The apples seem to have been hit the worst; the two pear trees the least; the beautiful little cherry may make it, but will never be as symmetrical as it was this spring before the cicada plague began.

Mr. H. C.’s beloved Honey Crisp tree went from 10 feet tall to 6 feet. We’re just grateful that we were slackers this spring and didn’t do the early spring pruning.

Pruning from a Honey Crisp apple tree after the decimation of periodical cicadasThat pile of branches is from one tree. Note the tree in the far background. No, it isn’t October!

Why did we not know that to plant our fruit trees 3 or 4 years ago was, in effect, dooming them from the 17-year-locusts? Why did we waste money, time, effort, and love on these six beautiful little trees? What? Oh, NEXT YEAR is the year to plant fruit trees because then they will have 17 years to grow and be fruitful before the next horde arrives.


Most people are just delighted that the awful bugs are gone. Everyone has a story about someone they know who was outside doing chores and opened their mouth at the wrong time. It was bonding, living through this plague — there was always something to talk about with strangers in line at the grocery store…

But from everything I’ve read about the life cycle of Magicicada Septendecim, once they hatch in the twigs (after about six weeks) they are the size of grains of rice and they drop to the ground. Really? Cicada maggots the size of rice dropping from trees? I originally thought the dead branches fell with the eggs in them and that’s how the larvae got to the ground. But this quote below is from the OSU Entomology Dept.:

Cicada eggs remain in the twigs for six to ten weeks before hatching. The newly hatched, ant-like nymphs fall to the ground where they burrow six to 18 inches underground to feed.

It definitely implies that the nymphs fall through the air, doesn’t it? There’s something to look forward to in August!

I need a wide-brimmed hat with a veil more than ever…