Alas, There Are Still No Good Moths, & Other Tales

Ornamental plum blossoms in our front yard

Wells, folks, up here in the Pacific Northwest, Spring has decided to make its official debut.  True, there are three more weeks of winter.  True, this does not mean that we’ll have sunny, warm days from here on out; far from it.  But, things have been set into motion and there’s no turning back now.  Nature’s switch has been flipped and plants and animals alike are bursting forth with new life.

Nothing says spring like daffodils, tulips, and fruit blossoms.  About three or four days ago, a few little sprays of pink were starting to show on the ornamental plum trees that are ubiquitous in the Portland metro area, and the nodding heads of daffodils were promising flowers soon to come.  As of yesterday, the bloom is in full effect.

Even one of our tiny, baby apricot trees in our tiny, baby orchard decided to get in on the act.

Puget Gold Apricot blossoms

It’s the first tree to go!  It has exactly 5 blossoms.  But hey, it’s better than nothing.  With a name like Puget Gold, I certainly hope it’s not a variety that is too early for our climate!  I know growing apricots up here is iffy at best anyway,  but I have high hopes for this little guy :o)  I grew up in Oakland, CA, and the climate was just too mild there, too.  Apricots need heat in the summer, cold in the winter, and early springs.  The California Central Valley is perfect for it.  The Bay Area is not.  Neither is the PNW.  So, I grew up with an ornamental apricot tree.  My fate may be the same here, but I still hope against hope.  Apricots are hands down my favorite fruit in the entire world and 99.9% of them that you can buy anywhere are total crap.  Mealy, mushy, nasty, flavorless things that make me wonder how there could possibly still be a market for them at all.  BUT!  When you get to experience a just-picked, sun-warmed, perfectly ripe, golden-orange, kissed with blush apricot grown organically in the right climate AND the right cultivar… then.  THEN you know heaven.  That’s all there is to it.  You can lay down and die a happy person.  Sweet-tart, juicy, honey-flavored with floral notes.  There is nothing better.  And once you’ve managed to locate this ambrosia of the gods, then the possibilities are endless.  Not only are they breathtaking when eaten fresh, out of hand, but they are rapture-causing in just about all other states – in a pie, cobbler, crisp, or any other baked state, alone or combined with other fruits like peaches or cherries.  Home-canned in light syrup, they will make winter thoroughly tolerable.  Cooked with a little sugar or honey and pectin, there is no better jam on earth.  Sun-dried.  Poached.  Flambeed with amaretto cookies crumbled on top and a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream.  Try them with meats – they’re wonderful with lamb, chicken, fish.  In a salad.  Grilled.  How about pureed with a little lemon and sugar as a sauce for cheesecake?  Really, people.  Can anyone ever say enough about apricots?  I can’t.

Sigh.  But they are SO HARD to find.  In my humble opinion, the best in the world come from Frog Hollow Farm in Brentwood, CA.  And until we moved up here, I was lucky enough to have them at my local farmers’ market.  The farm is at least partially owned by the family of my dad’s childhood friend (he grew up in the next town over), but we have yet to get the hookups, so I pay full price at the market like everyone else.  And they are worth EVERY, SINGLE PENNY.  When I lived down there, I bought flat after flat every week at the market while they were available (it is a fleeting window to say the least).  And I ate and cooked and ate and canned and ate until I couldn’t see straight.  Oh yes, those were the days.  Now, if I am lucky, I take a roadtrip down to the Bay or my parents drive up here to visit and we drive a flat or two of them to my house.  The standard gluttony always immediately follows.  Also now, the little orchard that we planted at my family’s ranch property in Danville, CA is bearing and we got the first apricots this year.  And they are wonderful too.  And I can’t have them either (unless I visit or take a carload).  And my dumb ass is up here in super-duper-rainyland.  Remind me why?

Moving on…

Alas, There Are Still No Good Moths…

Sewer Moth aka Drain Fly

Believe me when I tell you: that is the closest thing you will ever, EVER see to a picture of a moth on this site.  That picture is bad enough.  Be proud of me that I can handle it.  At this point, I will also ask any of my readers with blogs, if you care for my safety and wellbeing even the tiniest bit, to kindly refrain from ever posting photographs of moths and/or caterpillars on your sites.  Trust me.  It’s better this way.  You don’t really want my blood on your hands when your picture catches me off guard and sends me flying away from the computer screen, shrieking, shuddering, and running blindly so that I trip over something or slam into something or gouge myself with something, etc, etc.  It WILL happen, I promise you, and it would be far from the first time.  Ask anybody who knows me.  I am highly skilled at injuring myself with inanimate objects when I am totally alone.  And since moths and caterpillars are the embodiments of evil, it’s really better to refrain from looking at them entirely, let alone photographing them.

The story:

Last week, we had an inspection and service of our septic system.  The man from the septic company was very nice and friendly and informative and wanted to show me how things work and what to look for and how to avoid problems, etc.  As we were walking toward the first tank, closest to the house, he said, “So, do you ever use the liquid hand soaps?”  Odd question.  “The” liquid hand soaps… like “the” one and only liquid hand soaps?  I was confused.

I replied, “Um, sure, yeah, sometimes…?”  I didn’t really know which soaps he meant, but some of mine are liquid so, that seemed the accurate response.  I was wondering if this was some sort of test and from the way he said the question, it seemed that “yes” was the wrong answer.  His silence was not reassuring.  So, I casually added, “Why do you ask?”

He sighed.  “Well, they’re usually pretty heavy on the anti-bacterials…”

“OH!  No!” I interrupted, “I would NEVER use anti-bacterial soaps.  I know that stuff is bad.”

“Uh huh.”  He hardly even heard me.  He wasn’t buying it.

So, I kept defending myself, “I tell everyone I know not to use anti-bacterial soap or anything else with Triclosan in it.  In fact, I try to use only biodegradable cleaners and soaps and I never use bleach or anything else like that.  Only all-natural.  No bad chemicals.  I got my degree in biogeochemistry so I’m really aware of what those things do to our bodies and the environment.  I work really hard to keep them out of my life.”

“Uh huh.”

Great.  Fine.  Don’t listen to me.  Don’t believe me.  What do I care what you think, buddy?  I don’t even know you!  I shouldn’t have to explain myself to you!

Then he opened the lid of the tank.  “Wow!  You can see the sludge layer moving!  It’s definitely alive!!  Come take a look.”

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t all that excited to look into a tank full of our poop and dishwater.  Plus, I have a serious issue with smells.  My nose seems to work better than the average nose and I notice smells long before other people do, and they tend to bother me more.  But, he seemed excited, and I’m a sucker, so over I went.

I peered into the round opening in the ground and I saw what looked like a mound of black mud with bugs crawling all over it.  Luckily, there was only a faint odor.

The septic guy was looking in, smiling, and scratching his head.  “Well, I’ll be!  We never see those anymore.”

“See what?”

“You see those little bugs that are all over the surface of the sludge?”

“The flies?”

“Yep, they look like little black flies.  Those are sewer moths.  In most modern systems those are either all dead or entirely absent.  But yours are alive and you’ve got tons of ’em!  That means you really don’t use any bleaches or anti-bacterials and you really do use natural and biodegradable stuff!”  He said this as if I, myself, didn’t realize which products I’d been using until he told me.  Aren’t you surprised, Lisa, that you really, truly, ARE using only environmentally-friendly cleaning products?  Why, yes, Mr. Septic Man, I am surprised.  I had no idea!

“So, the bugs are a good thing?”

“Yep, a VERY good thing!”

“And they’re really moths even though they look like flies?”

“Yep, they’re actually a moth.  And they help break down the sludge and so it keeps the smell down too.”  At this point, he stuck a giant tube down into the tank, pulled it up, full of water, and pointed.  “See that?  You’ve got about an inch and a half of sludge.  In healthy tanks, we see about four or five inches.”

“So is ours not healthy?”

“No!  This is the healthiest tank I’ve seen in a long time!  Bad ones have a couple of feet of sludge.  You have almost none.”

Well, knock me over with a feather.  Here I was, looking into a tank of raw sewage, covered with MOTHS, and I was OK with the whole thing.  I could handle the smell.  I could handle looking at the moths.  Heck, I was PROUD of the damn moths.  I was keeping moths alive and I LIKED it.  Things were so backward you could have told me that baseball was fun to watch and I might have believed you!

Anyway, I walked away from the whole experience pretty damn proud of myself and totally recommitted to using natural products and skipping the bleach.  After all, the water ends up sprayed back into the ground in which I am growing fruits and vegetables for our own consumption.  And after going through all the trouble to grow them organically, I wouldn’t want to end up eating raspberries or tomatoes or spinach full of toxic chemicals from our waste water!  It’s nice to feel like the efforts I make have been paying off.  After all, cleaning with natural products does cost a bit more and does require a bit more elbow grease.  But, I digress… back to the moths.

I spent the next couple of days telling everyone about the “good” moths.  I was very excited.  And then, this morning, being the nerd I am, I looked them up to learn more about these wondrous, helpful creatures.  And it turns out… ready for this?  They’re not moths.  They’re flies with fuzz on them.  And so they’ve been nicknamed “sewer moths.”  Upon learning this, I called upstairs to Brian to deliver the bad news, to which he replied, “Alas, there are still no good moths.”  Alas, indeed.

Chickpeas

Chicken Butts

As is often the case with me, this post was going to be a good but longer, but time has gotten away from me and I have to get to bed.  So, I’ll save my seed-starting post to another day and leave you with a brief update on the chickadees.

Thirteen

Can you believe it??  It’s amazing how fast this baby is growing.  I swear Thirteen about tripled in size during the 2.5 days we were gone last weekend and now it’s been another week of rapid growth.  If I have time this week, I will put up some photos of last year’s babies at the same ages.  It will be interesting to see how they compare.

"Hey, Mom, look over there!"

Independence

Spring seems to suit my chickens well.  They are all fat and happy and looking beautiful and healthy with bright red combs and shiny, full feathers.

Lady B

After all this time, she’s still my girl.  She often likes to hang right at my feet, all by herself.

Lady B, chillin' with me

Blanche

Lorelei

Miss Pippin, queen of the dust baths

everybody

MUAHAHAHAHA!!!  Asparagus!

teeny asparagus shoots

I thought I’d be a little nostalgic and reuse my heading for this same topic from last year, since I felt just as excited this year.  I’d been thinking lately about tossing some bird netting back over my asparagus patch to keep the chickens out, just in case they wanted to start sprouting any time soon.  Mostly I thought that was wishful thinking since my shoots showed up on May 26th last year (granted, they were planted late, but still… it’s only February).  But then today, Pol Po was scratching and pecking just a bit too excitedly in the patch and so I shooed her away and when she moved, I looked at the spot she had cleared and I found my teeny babies (please note that is 1″ soaker hose.  They are the thickness of a strand of spaghetti and about 3/4″ tall, and Pol Pot ate the top off one.)!  They did it!   They made it!  Even with my late planting, and rough weeding (I accidentally dug some up and broke the roots while weeding in the fall.  I about had a heart attack.), they’re ALIVE!!  YAY!!!  I can’t harvest until next year, but I am super-dee-duper-dee excited nonetheless.  YIPPEEE!!!

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2 thoughts on “Alas, There Are Still No Good Moths, & Other Tales

  1. Yay, daffodils! But your apricot story is simultaneously making my mouth water and making me feel like a dope that I don’t have an apricot tree in my yard…. maybe I can find one more square foot that is unplanted to stick one in.

  2. Laura – You and me both. I want me some ‘rapture-causing’ apricots as well. Go little tree – we’re all pulling for you and hope we don’t get a hard frost just as everythings blooming and budding.

    I’m curious to know how those hairy flies got down there and how do they get out? Do you have a vent?

    I too think the momma raised chicks matured quicker.

    Lisa – thanks for another GREAT blog that keeps me coming back.

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