Sunday, July 10, 2011

Japanese Beetles and building the coop

  I've been swamped and hit a few times by heat troubles. Wild black raspberries are in full swing and I'm determined to grab up as much as I can! (Even though I will never ever be able to make a dent even if there were 20 of me picking around the clock.)  My overzealous picking has landed me in hot water twice now where I collapsed in the lawn on the way back to the house. Hot and humidity in the 90's really can hit you like a ton of bricks. Heat exhaustion happens easily, but trying to track back through a forest to get to someplace cool was the only option. Humidity that high and evaporation does not happen. I take emergency ice packs with me just in case now.

 What also is in full swing are Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica).
  These bugs will "fall" when disturbed. So I grab a large mouthed container, throw in a bunch of ice and some water.. and let them drop in. The wild grape vines and wild roses all around the garden are essentially acting like a trap crop.  They drop into the ice water and are too cold to fly away.

 These beetles will skeletonize a long list of plants. It is like a biblical plague. Several trees are so covered that you barely can see the leaves. While you can use a lure trap, it will essentially attract the fiends in greater numbers than what the traps can catch... As in.. if you use traps, put them up at someone else's place far away!

 Once I have my finely honed attack chickens ready (read.. brave enough to leave a 20 foot radius of their coop).. I dream of opening the door and yelling "RELEASE THE FOWL!" The beetles will tremble and go elsewhere. I did mention I was dreaming..

 At 8 weeks old, I am bringing the beetles to them. I collect up what I can, pour it into an old flower pot and let them devour the semi-frozen fiends.
  I should have had my husband ready with the camera. That red headed chicken is "Karen".. and a force to be reckoned with. She is brave (within sight of the coop), independent (as long as she sees you are around), a natural laid back little leader. The "Karen technique" essentially means we may never ever need to use the weed whacker ever again. She has taught the others the scratch and sit method that has cleared the grass and weeds around the 20 foot distance of the coop to the house.

 This is the coop so far. Keep in mind most all of this is from wood my husband is scavenging from the ancient barn. The bottom was excavated a bit. It should be deep enough that they should be able to wander around under there. Wiring has been sunk into the ground and then rocks which are mud packed as well as concreted into place hopefully will deter any predators.

 Floor boards are from the old barn, as are the posts. You have no idea the string of adjectives my husband was able to fluently string together. Everything is warped, twisted due to time and exposure. Not an attribute my perfectionist husband particularly cares for.
  The coop will be 8' by 12' and have 4 windows that are also reclaimed. When you are working with reclaimed materials, it takes a lot more time. We are insane for doing this. Trying to build a coop this large for under $1,000 is interesting. 

 Here's what my incredibly amazing husband is rummaging to get much of the lumber..

So the cavernous old barn will get a new life as a little chicken cottage, with any luck. When the coop is done, then construction on making some compost bins to organize my piles, and cold frames.. ugh cold frames. Endless list.

 Focus Danielson! I suck at completing projects by the way. I am great at starting a million of them, but notorious for flaking out and biting off more than I can chew. Kinda like the multiple stock pots of berries that I must freeze or jam.. 

 I need a jammer! As in.. here.. you make the jam while I pick the berries. As having a big family is not in my cards to create, maybe I should create a commune. Which I totally would do.. you know.. if I actually owned the land. Maybe start some sort of rent-a-jam-granny business. 

 Time to run over some produce from the garden and get back to work. Take care and stay cool!


  1. I am sooo jealous of your chickens.. I have fowl envy.

    I am usually pretty good about staying on projects, although I do add too many at a time. What will get me sidetracked is when they start swinging the overtime stick at work.

    Stay cool, until you get used to it this Midwest humidity can kill you. I remember when I lived in Santa Fe for a bit I would come back and almost die from the humidity.

  2. WoW! I sure wish I lived closer, I'd love to be your "jammer"!

  3. Oh man SciFi... I wish you could! Seriously I get into a picking frenzy and can't keep up. I'm at the wash and chuck into bags into the freezer stage as I have 6 stock pots full, no fridge space left... and no time to tackle it!! Hellllp!!! My secret black raspberry spot.. is at least 5 acres solid.

    @ PP.. I grew up here in IL.. yeah this humidity and heat is a beast (especially as we are going without AC!) Letting them "free range"... huge massive impact on how much feed they devour. They eradicated the thistles along the house.. LOVE clover.. the keets gleefully snack on grass that's gone to seed.. and will hunt down any grasshopper/ fly/ beetle in their "safe zone".

    Although I think a few are a tad slow... they just now are dust bathing in dirt.. vs their feed trough. A couple almost get the concept.. mini haboob clouds from the keets.. but when they leave what's left are some chickens laying on their sides (or Izzy.. laying completely on her back).. kicking at the air. Hilarious in a "I hope no neighbors see my challenged poultry stock" kinda way.

  4. So glad we don't have those beetles in our area. They sound like nasty little suckers.

    Looks like a nice coop your husband is building and I love that he is using scrap lumber, a good percentage of our coop was built from scrap lumber too.

    Stay cool, and good luck with all those berries.

  5. Oh they are horrible bugs! The birds will eat as many as they can. They stuff themselves silly and then take a nap. Here's to hoping they don't make it any further west. This is a bug invasion making it's way west. In August I'll be using some milky spore to try to help tame their numbers. Meanwhile.. the birds are too stuffed to eat much of the bagged feed. :)

    Reclaimed lumber and his tools are running off the solar panels! We had to buy some 2x4's and of course the hardware. It is turning out really cute.

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  7. Glad to see the chickens are eating those bugs! I have never seen or heard of these. When I lived in Northern WI we had these worms, can't remember the name, and we had so many that they were covering roads making them slippery- in the summer. Anyway these huge black flies ate them, but then the next year the worm population was down but we had tons of huge black flies. They would land on the outside of the house and a house that was once yellow as now looking black- YUCK! Good luck:)

  8. Anything like green almost inch worm like and dropping by the billions from trees? I know my in-laws get those.. and totally serious... I had to help my sister-in-law get to the barn (we used a big push broom and a golf umbrella to part the way. Otherwise you'd get covered in them!)

    The infestation is on the move, literally. I know in 2002 in IL we didn't have them, or if we did.. not in any noticeable numbers. From what I could find.. they were accidentally introduced on the east coast and in a pocket in KY.. and have advanced from there. About 10 months of their life cycle is grub stage. The adult stage they are out for a little over a month.

    They are like 2/3rds the size of a june bug.. but just turn plants and can turn trees into just lace with their feeding. We have a ton of wild grapes and many types of trees these bugs adore (so umping into the wild grape vines around the gardens.. sends up hundreds that just pelt you as they fly off.)

  9. I want to make a cold frame (or two) before next spring, too. Let us know how it goes (a post with pictures would be great if you have time)!

  10. The worms were kinda fuzzy if I remember and bigger. But I could just be remembering wrong- but it was g.r.o.s.s!

    Do you know why or how the beetles were introduced? I sure hope they don't come up this way!

  11. I hear ya on the gross part.. especially when they get in your hair and clothes... just yuck yuck yuck.

    Accidental introduction.. par usual. While they aren't a big pest in Japan.. out here they just go nuts as they love a lot of our native plants. They are making their way to you.. without a doubt. Surprised you haven't seen any. Check grapevines, elders, mulberry, elms.. there's a long list actually. Just wild grapes.. holy heck do they go nuts for them. They are out now and breeding. Then they drop eggs in the ground.. then 10 months of grubs galore chewing on roots.

    @ Kris.. I'll post on the cold frames. There's no set way to make them so you can use almost anything really. Old windows, old glass doors, plexiglass, etc. I really wish I had the ton of bricks we got from a neighbor in CO.. a cold frame lined with dark bricks would be lovely to help get a head start in spring.

    Places to look for materials.. anyone you know doing remodeling, salvage yards, freecycle, craigslist, habitat for humanity stores, and landscapers. Seriously.. landscapers can be an awesome source of materials. We seem to always find a neighbor landscaper and have gotten paving stones, large field stones, extra gravel, lava rock, landscaping fabric. etc. Our first house, we got so many field stones and paving stones that when we took out the above ground pool, we turned that big hole into a huge celtic cross garden. He even delivered the dirt (which took us 2 days to move.. lol it blocked our garage and our cars were in it!)

  12. I have had some luck with lure-traps. But we don't seem to get as many in Central NC as you do.

    This year I have seen very few of them yet. Probably a weather issue.

  13. Just when I thought they were dwindling in numbers.. WHAMO! Well.. it is making for some rather chubby chickens.