Friday, May 25, 2007

Garden Interrupted

I am a gardener first, not an entomologist, but the 17-year periodical cicadas, known affectionately as Brood XIII, have a way of getting your attention. Therefore, in addition to my garden stories-glories, I will be covering these winged beauties.

Chicago has gone cicada crazy--local advertisers are having cicada sales--and flying around television screens with their heads pasted to buzzing cicada bodies. Schools, the forest preserves, and towns are throwing cicada festivals, cicada eating contests and parades. Morton Arboretum is hosting cicada lectures and programs for children to build cicada toys and noise makers. The Field Museum is featuring a special exhibit on cicadas. The Lake County Forest Preserve has a Cicada Mobile which is making special appearances throughout the county.

Meanwhile residents, especially in the older tree-laden suburbs, are bracing for bug-infested cookouts and noise pollution as the sex-starved male cicadas roar as loud as a motorcycle upon reaching their 17-year climax. After the mating frenzy, residents can look forward to piles and piles of dead and smelly bugs as the little guys meet their maker.

Seventeen years is a long time, some things change, some don't. There's still a Bush in the White House and the Chicago Cubs still haven't won a World Series. Dr. Jack Kevorkian has been in and out of jail. Johnny Carson was still hosting the Tonight Show, seventeen years ago. Bill Clinton served two terms as president during the past seventeen years and may be returning to his old Pennsylvania Avenue address via Hillery in the next seventeen years.

How old will you be in seventeen years? How old were you seventeen years ago? What will you be doing? Celebrate nature, celebrate the cicada and follow their misadventures via this blog.

Come out, Come out, Wherever You Are

Today is the day I predicted that the "brood' would arrive. My digging in the yard told me that that May 22, the date prognosticated by area scientists, was too early. But our cool spring makes me wonder if even my scientific guess was jumping the proverbial gun. I hate to be wrong. So come on out little guys and girls, spread your wings, the weather's fine...and love is in the air.

If you live in any of the areas above. Watch out!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Growing Up

Garden Update: May 15, 2007

Cicadas Tunneling

Way to Grow

Yukon Gold Potatoes

Monday, May 14, 2007

CICADA UPDATE: The good, the bad and the ugly

The 17-year periodical cicadas that those of us in the northern Illinois and southwest Indiana area are awaiting are known collectively as Brood XIII. They have been underground since 1990 and will arrive by the millions very soon. The 1990 Brood XIII emerged 17 years ago on this day...May 14. Watch for their first appearance at dusk on the day when the soil temperature exceeds 64 degrees. Current perdictions are for May 22...I'm betting later...Friday, May 25...How about you?

The good...

Cicadas aerate the soil, feed predators as well as domestic animals and some humans, prune the treetops, and put nutrients into the environment.
ALS researchers believe that by studying periodic cicadas they may be able to develop ways to help ALS patients.

The bad...

Periodical cicadas can damage trees above and below ground. Damage can be especially serious on young plants (four years or younger). Susceptible trees include maple, oak, hickory, beech, ash, dogwood, hawthorn, magnolia, willow, apple, peach, cherry and pear. Flowers, vines and shrubs that could be harmed include: Rose of Sharon, rose, raspberry, grape, black-eyed Susan, hollies, spirea, rhododendron, viburnum, junipers, and arborvitae.

Prolonged feeding by nymphs on a tree's root system may reduce plant growth and fruit production.

Many people find cicadas to be a nuisance by their sheer numbers and loud piercing call.

Cicadas have fluttered into automobiles and frightened drivers, leading to traffic accidents.

Many pets like to eat cicadas and may consume so many that they become develop digestive problems.

The ugly...

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Crunch Time...

If you are hoping to serve these 17-year delicacies to friends and family, be creative. The best time to eat a cicada is just after they appear above ground. They should be soft and mushy, when they come out of their skin and taste like cold, canned asparagus. Think romaine lettuce tossed with cicadas...or a grilled mix with cicadas, tomatoes, peppers and herbs. Or deep fry them, let them cool and crunch away. Yum.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Little Sprouts

The spinach, arugula and lettuce
mix sprouts are making their early May debut...they're anxiously awaiting their cousins: Carrot, pea, radish, beet and potato. Hurry up guys...we're getting hungry.