A Plague of Locust
And 10 questions for YOU.
John walked into our local wholesale distributor for orchard supplies a few days ago and plainly asked, “Do you have anything that will kill grasshoppers?”. The man behind the desk leaned back in his chair and laughed.
Farmers around here have been dealing with pests all their lives - including the ones who buy land and move here from the coast. People like that - like us, frankly - are labelled “Coasties” and are not usually welcome. Understandably, locals fear their slice of paradise will be swallowed up by people who don’t share their values - and they’re right to fear that. It happens all the time.
Many of these urban transplants move here and want to change everything. Basically, they want to transform this area until it’s just like the area they ran away from: a desolate wasteland of abomination.
Kind of like locusts do.
But that’s not us. We hope, over the years, that time and experience will prove this fact. We mind our own business and, for the most part, keep to ourselves.
We like it here, just the way it is.
Even so, there are a few things we could do without: for one, locusts. Locust is another name for grasshopper and every year we fight our own little “Grasshopper War”. It starts as early as May and can go until early September. It’s commonplace around here (to varying degrees, as you’ll see).
So, when John asked the question that every warrior, fresh to the Battle of the Grasshopper asks, I’m not sure the guy behind the desk took him seriously. The guy probably assumed John was whining over the inconvenience of “a few grasshoppers”.
Well, as he soon learned, he was wrong.
John whipped out his phone and handed it to the guy behind the desk as he chuckled. He hit play and the guy immediately sat up in his chair.
He stopped laughing and his jaw dropped.
From the corner, a regular hanging out in the office threw out his suggestion, “Get yourself some chickens.”
From where he was standing, he couldn’t see the video.
“He can’t get enough chickens!” the man behind the desk finally said. “I don’t know what to tell you…”. He shook his head in horror and handed the phone back to John.
We were on our own.
This Means War
Every year we face this issue and every year, it’s the same: Experiment. Pray. Spray. Cry a little. Experiment some more.
When we first moved here, we thought it was funny. We’d run through the yard, our arms outstretched like spitfires, and watch them jump in waves ahead of us. The second year, Henry ate them. He was a puppy and, watching him pounce and munch them up like popcorn was sort of amusing. Not as funny as the first year, though.
Every year is less funny. In fact, at this point, we’ve completely lost our sense of humor.
This year, it’s war.
This week we sprayed a concoction of chemicals that John experimented with last year, with some success. We like to garden organically, but, well… you’ve seen what we’re dealing with.
The pesticide he uses is called Permethrin. The active ingredient is in the pyrethroid family and acts like natural extracts from the chrysanthemum flower. It works pretty well, but we have to apply it frequently.
I’ve also ordered a bag of EcoBran to try. It’ll be here soon and I’ll share the results. Basically, EcoBran uses wheat bran infused with carbaryl - a pesticide. Grasshoppers eat the poison bran and then they die. Then, because the little fuckers are also cannibals, the next round of grasshoppers eats their dead little friends and they die, too.
(Insert maniacal laughter)
As an additional defense, I installed mosquito netting around the perimeter of the garden. It’s zip-tied to the fencing, from the ground up to about 6 feet.
Yes, I know grasshoppers can jump really high but, hopefully, this will be a deterrent.
After installing it all, the entire garden area was just FULL of grasshoppers caught in the netting, so John went around and sprayed the netting directly.
It felt so damn good to watch them drop and twitch.
Finally, the ground stopped moving… at least for a while.
We’re also mowing everything down tight, because grasshoppers love grass (who knew?) and we’re surrounded by grass. High grass.
Because we added additional fencing around our property to move the cows further away from the house, all the grass they usually eat is not being eaten. It’s just growing taller and thicker. In some areas, it’s shoulder high.
We have a riding mower, a push mower, a weed-eater, the tractor with a mower attachment, and a brush-mower and we’ve been busy with all of them, depending on the terrain.
The past couple days have actually been in the 60’s so the grasshoppers have slowed down a bit. They don’t like the cool weather. As much as I’ve prayed about this, I think God is just giving us a little break from the plague while we rearm and recalibrate. I’m sure they’re busy in their underground holes, growing and plotting to spring into action once the weather shifts.
The mental process you go through when faced with a battle that seems unwinnable is the same grief process that happens when you lose someone or even some thing important.
The process isn’t linear so you just go back and forth between the stages until, at last, you reach acceptance. And sometimes even acceptance is temporary.
Denial: I’m sure this year will be different. They probably come in waves, like how some years there are more bees than other years… next year, there won’t be as many. I’m sure.
Anger: What the fuck do they want?!? They’re all over the patio! I thought they ate grass! Why the hell are they covering the patio? There’s no grass here!!!
Bargaining: If we just mow the grass really tight around the house, they should go out to the field, right? Where the grass is really tall, right? Where their food is…
Depression: John hugs me while I drop my head in defeat and cry. That’s it. We’re moving. (Followed by hours spent on Zillow…).
Acceptance: No idea. I’m still circling the previous phases, and “acceptance” is starting to look a lot like a flamethrower.
And Another Thing
Meanwhile, on our second battlefront, we’ve been weeding furiously in the garden. We have thousands of thistles that spring to life as quickly as we can pull them.
If only grasshopper ate thistles…
Thistles, if you don’t know, have a long tap root deep underground from which they spring in various different directions. The roots break off when you pull them - like a lizard’s tail comes of so it can escape predators. You have to dig deep to try - and I emphasize try - to pull the whole thing up at once. If you don’t pull it all, it just grows back - minutes later, it seems.
There are a lot of old-wives’ tales about how to get rid of thistles (vinegar being one of the most useless), but like grasshoppers, there is no “cure”. There’s only constant vigilance.
Which brings me to the question I have for you. Don’t worry, I’m not asking for volunteers to come slay locusts or dig thistles… not yet anyway.
I’m only asking you to answer a few questions for me - ten questions, to be specific.
I created a very short survey to help me know you - my readers - and why you’re reading this.
You see, I started this blog to try and offer help and advice for other people who might be dealing with the same issues we’ve faced - or at least similar. I hear a lot of people say they want to “get out and live off the land”, but I don’t actually know a lot of people who are doing it. And we don’t get a lot of how-to questions either, which is kind of why this whole thing got started in the first place.
So, I’m curious, dear reader, Who are you? What do you want? And, Why are you here? Lastly, If we can help, how?
Before I joined Substack, my blog was on another platform. At that time, I wrote some pieces about our solar and wind system, our old well and our new well and our experience choosing land. Those posts are on Substack in the Archives, but they’re pretty far back in time so I’m linking them fresh here. They cover some important information for anyone planning to move off grid so, if that’s you, check them out.
And then let me know what else you want to know, starting here, with these 10 questions:
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my posts to date, whether about technical issues or just my weird rants about bugs. I never require paid subscriptions to read or comment (nor will I) so, consider this favor your act of reciprocity.
And thank you.