Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Beauty of Organic Gardening - By Rula Sinara

Luna Moth on my doorstep 
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm big on organic gardening. I don't use weed killer or synthetic pesticides. In fact, I spent an entire Saturday weeding my herb and vegetable garden last weekend. It was a time investment, but I got a lot of healthy exercise out of it. Plus, knowing I'm feeding my kids fungicide free potatoes and other organic pickings gives me peace of mind. The health impact of all those chemicals is enough food for a separate post. I even grow an organic lawn and do my own pest control around the house to keep spiders and ants at bay. I save orange peels, grind them in a food processor with a little oil and a lot of powdered cinnamon and ginger, then go around the outside of the house spooning it along the edges. It actually smells great (like Christmas) when folks come to the front door. If I need to treat my fruit trees, I use Neem oil.

Organic gardening is hard work, but the rewards are amazing. The wildlife I get to observe on a day-to-day basis is priceless to me. Take the photo above as an example. One evening in June, I opened my front door to go out and right there on my stoop was this incredible (and incredibly big) moth. The lime green color of the Luna moth is unmistakable. It can reach a wingspan of up to 4 to 5 inches! I took a few more pics because I'm bug crazy and find the feathery antennae on this male Luna super cool.



Okay, so in the last pic he was getting annoyed with me, but come on. He knows he's a looker. He also carries a lot of symbolism, which is why a Luna moth (aka giant silk moth) made appearances in the box office hit, The Hunger Games. Think of the character Katniss' journey...moths, along with butterflies, symbolize transformation of self, rebirth, renewal and new beginnings. This one appeared on my doorstep just a week or so after I got The Call ;). Coincidence? It's pretty rare to come face-to-face with a Luna moth because, not only are they nocturnal, they're also in this adult stage for about a week tops (these adults don't even eat...their sole purpose is to mate). They aren't endangered, but they have decreased in numbers in some areas due to the use of pesticides.

And Luna isn't the only beauty (in this case handsome) member of the Saturniidae family that has hung out at my place. Last year, I came upon these two clinging to the brick outside my garage door. 
A Rosy Maple Moth outside my garage
You can imagine my surprise when I saw the pink and yellow color of this moth. Unreal, and much brighter in person.
A Cecropia Moth outside my garage
And this Cecropia was quite big. Notice it's size with respect to the brick behind it. If I had pest control companies spraying the outside of my house, these guys wouldn't be around. For those of you who prefer butterflies, I have one more photo just for you...
An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on my butterfly bush
There you have it. A few of the beautiful ways my garden gives back to me. I love all my garden gifts, but it's the rare encounters, like finding that Luna moth on my doorstep, that take my breath away and make me stop...just stop...and think (okay, and photograph ;). The ability to change on a deep level, to learn from experience and transform oneself, to take yourself (or your story characters) on that journey or arc and be better for it...it's truly a gift to you and those around you.

25 comments:

  1. The moths around me look so plebian next to yours, but you're right about the incredible metamorphosis.

    It's nice to know you're a fellow organic gardener too. There's not near enough of us.

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    1. Hey Maria! Great to see you over here :). My gardening is nothing compared to all you do with your homesteading. I love hearing about it all at your blog.

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  2. Rula your pictures are exquisite! The moths are incredible. I love looking at them although when they fly, I have to admit, it freaks me out and I scream. I'm going to give your orange peel pesticide some though and see if I can get my very traditional husband to give it a try. You mentioned that you have an organic lawn as well- do you have grubs in your neck of the woods and if so- what do you do to deter them without using grub killer? We use that chemical and it scares me because one of my dogs is part cow I think and grazes on the grass. She gets intestinal problems and I know it's related. Thanks!

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    1. Thanks, Karen! Yep, no chemicals on the lawn either. Of course, I don't mind seeing clover because it attracts the bees that pollinate my veggies :). If we took care to re-seed grass routinely and aerate the soil, it would probably be more lush, but that's a lot of work on over 3 acres. Routine mowing keeps the weeds at bay and the grass coming through.

      We had a terrible Japanese Beetle problem last year. They devoured the leaves and fruit on my fruit trees. Luckily, the trees didn't die. Grubs are a part of the beetle's life cycle. It's hard to control them 100% because they'll often come visit from the neighbor's. However, they do eat roots when in grub form and so I sprinkle (according to directions on the box) Milky Spore on the lawn. It's a bacteria that is harmless to pets and wildlife, but when the grubs ingest it, it basically destroys their gut and kills them. It's pretty selective, so birds that eat those grubs (and beetles) are unharmed. You only have to apply it once (specific point in the life cycle...it's on the box) and the bacteria spread over time. We had far less grub and beetle issues this year. I get Milky Spore either on Amazon or at Home Depot. My husband is a skeptic too, but I think he's seeing it work for himself. It just takes time.

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  3. The moths in Canada definitely do not look like those! So pretty:)

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    1. Thanks, Jennifer! I'm sure climate has a lot to do with it. The hotter tropics support some massive and colorful species of everything!

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  4. Rula, I'm impressed with your photos, and love that you love all of these creatures. Have to say I like butterflies. Anything else of the creepy crawly look aren't welcome around my house. Like Karen, I may try your organic pesticide. How long does it work? I mean how often do you have to use it? I used to have pest control, but I don't like them to spray inside my house. Now in the townhome I do the outside spray myself. I have to wear gloves and a mask, so you know it's not good for anyone.

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    1. Hi Roz! Thanks. I do love my critters :)

      The thing about most organic pesticides is that you do have to apply them more often because they are biodegradable or wash away easily. I figure we're eating oranges (and other citrus) anyway, so I might as well save the peel in a gallon ziploc in the fridge (so it stays fresh and doesn't mold...though I try to use it within a week or two) and use it in the garden. At a minimum, it ends up adding nutrients to the soil (as with composting).

      I get busy, so I'm bad about sticking to a strict routine with the orange peel or neem oil. I basically put it out as needed or at least once a month...whichever comes first. I see ants or a spider outbreak...I use it. Obviously, I don't have to in the winter (but I'm near the Blue Ridge Mountains...prob. different where it's warmer). It's nice that it's needed when oranges are in season!

      The other thing is that you can find eco friendly pesticide companies these days. I tried one, but they were over prices considering you can now find organic pesticides in your local home improvement or garden store. One brand I've tried is Ecosmart. Most are based on herbal oils and chrysanthemum flower extracts. They've all worked for me so far :). I hope it works for you too!

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  5. Rula - how wonderful to feel so connected to everything around you. Your photos are gorgeous. And the moth and butterfly have such a message for us and our characters. I'm less of a bug enthusiast, but if anything gets in the house, I try hard to get it out without hurting it - unless it makes a move toward ME, then all bets are off. I'm going to try your orange peel mixture, too.
    (I don't suppose you have actual proportions?)

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    1. I must have hit the wrong button...my reply is down below. Sorry, Muriel! :)

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    1. Thanks, Aimee!! Glad you enjoyed it :).

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  7. Hi Muriel and thanks! When I majored in biology, I took an entomology class and never lost interest. Of course there are some insects I don't care to go near, such as wasps (we don't get along and have had a not so pretty encounter), roaches and flies.

    As to proportions...hmmm. I throw it all in a food processor. I don't think exact measurements are critical. I'm guessing (seriously) I mix about a gallon ziploc off peels to three heaping TBS of cinnamon and the same for ginger, then I add about a quarter cup of any oil just to help it last longer against rain. The peel itself has orange oil in it and that's what ants hate. They also hate the spices and just pick up and relocate. There have been times when I didn't have oranges, so I just went around sprinkling cinnamon along the edge of the house. You can even put it on an ant pile in the garden and they'll move. I buy the spices at a wholesaler like Sam's or Costco and they last awhile.

    Honestly, any time I have a garden issue I want to solve organically, I Google it. It's amazing what you'll find, but I do take what makes sense and research it more before trying it out :).

    And yes, if wasps come at me, all bets are off ;) LOL.

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    1. And I'll add that what I love more than the bugs are the birds...especially hummingbirds.

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  8. Thanks, Rula! Anxious to try it. I love birds, too, but we have cats, so I don't do anything to invite the birds to stay. My friend, though, lives out in the country and has half a dozen bird feeders and nectar for the hummingbirds. Love to sit with her and have tea at the window.

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    1. You're welcome! It must be lovely drinking tea with hummingbirds outside the window. I grow a lot of flowers that attract them, so I often get a visitor outside my office window while I'm writing. I like to think of it as a good omen :).

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  9. Rula, those pictures are amazing! I can't get a garden to grow much less an organic one.

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    1. Thanks, Syndi! Trust me, there are times when I lose the battle. The J. Beetles ate all my plums this year, but I figure it's their last meal mwwhaaaaah (evil laughter). Well the last until they go grubby again and scarf up some Milky Spore ;).

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  10. LOL, the moths in Arizona are brown. I wish we had pink and yellow ones.

    I planted a garden before my son was born. Got radishes, tomatoes, and carrots.

    We planted an orange tree and got one orange. Just one. Don cut the tree down six years later.

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  11. Pamela, I wish we were warm enough to try for a citrus tree.

    That pink and yellow moth really took me by surprise. It didn't look real! With colors like that it looks like one of those marshmallow peeps LOL. Sorry, forget I said that the next time you eat a marshmallow peep ;).

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  12. Rula love your insect pictures. I had a experience last Saturday that I will never forget. I was sitting on my picnic table with one of my cats beside me. The next thing I knew a blue dragon fly landed on my arm. I lifted my arm slightly and was looking at it eye to eye. Then I could hear a slight chomping noise and I looked at it's mouth. I could see another insect disappearing bit by bit into the dragonfly's mouth. When it disappeared so did the dragonfly.

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  13. Hi Kaelee! It's great to see you here! Wow. What an incredible experience with the dragonfly. I absolutely love dragonflies. I've had butterflies land on me, but never a dragonfly...with its food at that! Moments like that make you feel so connected. Like nature has chosen to tell you a secret or give you a cryptic message. Very cool experience. I won't be forgetting it either :).

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  14. Fascinating photos of Luna Moths! Enjoy your organic garden!

    Julie

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