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Japanese Beetles In the Garden

This is my third year with a deck garden in Saint Paul, Minnesota. If you prefer the proper terminology, I'm an urban gardener. That is, I have a container garden. On my deck. In the suburb.

In previous years, I started out small – a ready-made pot of petunias and a few other plants and that was about it. Then, my gardening endeavor last year got pretty complex: I added more plants than the year before and I even grew herbs, which I used in my cooking. Whoa. Look out, Martha Stewart!

Well. You think last year was something special? This year, I was even more zealous...more plants, more pots, more types of foliage and I even added actual vegetables to the garden!

That's right, this year I'm not just growing basil, chives, cilantro and lettuce (like last year); this year I added green onions, cherry tomatoes, green peppers and green beans to the mix. Go big or go home, that's what Clint says. So that's what I did.

Well, everything was going swimmingly, 'til all of a sudden I noticed some of my leaves (on various plants) were looking a little holey and chewed.

Of course, I thought it was because I found snails in my container garden at the end of May. I tried to "trap" them with beer and even sifted through leaves, stems & soil every day for weeks trying to find the offending slugs...but I only caught and executed about 5 of the slimy things, so didn't think that was the reason I had holey leaves.

While I'd seen various bugs and beetles on the leaves here and there, I didn't think much of it...until this evening. I went out onto the deck to check on my lovely plants and lo and behold, there were beetles EVERYWHERE, especially on my zinnias.

These greenish, round little sh*ts were lolling on my erstwhile beautiful plants and I could see the utter desecration they'd wrought with their little beetle-y pincers...the evidence was writ plain to see on the leaves of my zinnias, daisies and even my CORN!

I was aghast...and I started slaughtering the beetles. No remorse, no "aww, they're just doing what they DO!" attitude; no, it was all cold-blooded smooshing. I must've gotten 15 of the wretched bugs before they started flying off.

After cleaning up the mess (and tossing the lifeless bodies into the trash) I Googled "garden beetles" and learned through Google Images that what's ruining my container garden is the Japanese beetle. Otherwise known as The Low-Life Beetle Which Shan't Be Allowed to Rule Here No More. 

I read up on them a bit, and it seems they're attracted to rotting/dying fruits...while I don't have any ripe fruit to speak of (yet), some of the flowers on the zinnia plant are well past their prime and could be responsible for attracting this hideous beetle.

Also, I learned that in killing the beetles on the plant, less beetles are likely to come because they give off some sort of "get it here" type pheromone that attracts more beetles. So, if there are less beetles to give off said pheromone, then it stands to reason less of them will show up.

Regardless, I shall be diligently checking each and every plant for the little bastards each and every evening (this is the only time I've ever seen so many of them on the plants at once...which could be due to the extremely hot weather, or the time of day – it was after 8pm – though I've yet to see this many beetles in one place before. 

War. War has been declared. 

We'll see who has the best strategy: the Japenese beetles or this container gardener! 

And the Winner is...Behr Adventure Orange!

Remember way back in October 2010 when I needed help choosing a Behr paint color for my downstairs living room?

I originally wanted the color scheme to be chocolate browns, blues and splashes of orange. Since our downstairs living room is a walkout (the only source of light being the patio door), I wanted to paint the one long wall – the north side – a "warm" shade of blue. After debating on several hues of Behr blues, including Caspian Tide, Gentle Sky & Madras, I just wasn't sure about the whole thing and the project got put on hold.

Finally, this spring my sister came over for lunch one day and I asked HER what she thought...and she told me I should paint orange. Excited at this prospect, I went out and got every single Behr paint chip I could find that had the slightest bit of orange on it so I could choose the perfect color.

Now, choosing the perfect paint color is not my strong suit. I know what I want it to look like in my head, but even with purchasing, painting and testing several of those 8-oz tester cans, I've STILL ended up with the "wrong" shade of whatever-color-it-is I'm trying to paint.

With those previous experiences in my mind, I was slightly nervous about this project, since orange is quite a bold color and it could either look very cool or very, very wrong.

I debated on the myriad of orange paint chips for over a week, getting less and less confident with each passing day. Then I had a thought: invite the neighbor over to ask HER opinion. So, over came "Jane" to see the possibilities.

She had a good point: select the 3 or 4 I was most interested in and hold them up to the trim to ensure the colors wouldn't clash. No clue why I hadn't even thought of that...turns out she picked the color right then and there for me: Adventure Orange.

I asked her, "should I get the color 2 shades lighter than this, like everyone tells me to do?" She thought for a second and said, "I wouldn't. But I like bold colors."

So guess what I did? I trotted over to Home Depot and bought a gallon of Adventure Orange. BOOM! Just like that.

I wanted to start the project on a Friday or Saturday, so I could be sure I'd have the entire weekend to paint, do a good job cutting in, let the first coat dry before applying a second if needed, etc. etc. etc. But wouldn't you know, things kept coming up and I didn't get to it for almost a month...

Finally, one Monday at about 1pm I decided, "LET'S JUST DO THIS." So I did. I taped, tore apart the living room, put down my drop cloths and started cutting in (obviously the most time-consuming and my least favorite aspect of painting).

It was going much more quickly than I'd expected, so I kept at it until I had the entire area cut in and the first coat rolled on and drying before it got dark.

The next day when I got home from work – and after walking the dog, of course – I dove back in and painted the second coat (I was painting over the original flat paint the builders put on, so it soaked up the paint like a sponge) and worked on evening up the details.

On my third evening (again, after I got back from work and walking the dog) I pulled all the tape off the trim and we put the console & TV back. Then it was time for the final touch. This involved the ginormous painting hanging over the couch.

The primary reason for painting this room in the first place was to have contrast between the painting's large, white matting and the bland, white wall behind it. Well, since my sister had told me the corner would be a better place to paint in this room, that left me with a white-matting-on-white-wall situation for the painting.

What to do? Why, paint an orange rectangle behind the painting, of course.

And I did. I measured 5 inches around the painting, drew my lines, taped, removed the painting and put 2 coats on that evening.

The next and final day, it was time to remove the tape from around the rectangle (and touch up the several scrapes The Hubby had made while hanging said huge painting by himself :), cover the couch back up and move everything into its place.

VOILA! A "new" living room with a fresh, bright outlook on life.

I personally think "Jane" picked out the PERFECT color of orange for's exactly what I wanted, and it's just enough color to make the room "pop" without being overwhelming. Add in a few final touches I got on super-sale from Pier 1 (candles, a throw and my new, very favorite wool rug) and I have a pretty damn cute living space (says me).

Thanks to my sister and "Jane" for your opinions, thoughts and support of my love of bright colors!

Playing Around with My Life-Size Converter EF Lens

The other day I "found" something fun in my camera bag: my Canon Life-Size Converter EF lens.

I've had it for several years but hadn't really used it that much. So, last weekend while tending to my pretty little garden I decided to dust off that macro converter lens, break out the tripod and see what happened (also, I happened to find snails in my plants so that's what started the whole macro lens photography session).

After shooting with the converter lens that day, I realized I've never really gotten into macro photography. So, the life-size converter and the 50mm lens have stayed on the camera (and the tripod) for over a week and I've been continuing to try it out on the flowers.

Since Zada likes to follow me out onto the deck to hang out while I'm "gardening," it was only a matter of time before I turned the lens on her.

Now, my tripod's not very low-to-the-ground friendly, so I had to take the camera off the tripod to take Z's's a good thing she keeps so still when I ask her to.

No tripod, camera lying on the ground, trying to focus on a specific portion of the frame and hoping she stays still enough to get a crisp was interesting. Not that she did anything; I had to contort myself into some weird positions to get it done.

But, as usual, my good girl was ever the willing model and I ended up getting some pretty neat shots.

I think the next time I go to Como Conservatory I'll be bringing the converter lens along so I can try it out on more types of flowers than I have on the deck...

It's been fun re-examining macro but as of today I have to take off the little lens and change it out for one that's much, much bigger: a 70-200mm telephoto lens. I'll be shooting a softball game so I need all the lens length I can get (although the telephoto lens will still give great depth of field). We'll see how that goes.

Most likely, once I returned the big lens (it's rented), the macro photography will resume at Casa de Danks.