Saturday, January 15, 2011

Carrots and Cutworms and College and Coots

I'm glad I decided to dig carrots yesterday as the way it's raining today they may have floated out by tomorrow. Given our suddenly warm weather, I was worried that they would start growing and get woody. So I dug them. Lots of them. We've been eating them steadily for months but there were plenty left. Here's a photo of some in the sink after being hosed off outside.

Another batch waits for bagging.

They are all now housed in two gallon bags in the refrigerator. We'll have lots of carrot/raisin salad in the next months.

But there was one that was just too cute to cut up.

Quite a few of these not-so-cute caterpillars were curled up a few inches under the surface of the soil in the carrot bin. I sent photos to the midvalley nature group and was told they are cutworms (family Noctuidae)... not such good insects to have in a garden. I'll put them out for the birds to find and eat.

The day before the carrot harvest, friend Marilyn and I drove to Corvallis to hear ornithology grad students talk about their projects: Streaked Horned Larks in the Willamette Valley, Rusty Blackbirds in the Copper River Delta of Alaska, and interactions between Spotted and Barred Owls in the Coast Range of Oregon. All quite interesting, but all made me glad I did not get a job in Wildlife Biology out of college, as I had intended, because I would never be able to come up with those fancy power point presentations. It's all I can do to figure out MS Word. In fact, I can't. I switched back to Word Perfect for our sometimes-annual State of Our Union letter, even though the only version I have is in Portuguese. Even Portuguese, which I neither read nor speak, makes more sense than MS Word to me.

After the lectures, Marilyn and I wandered aimlessly around Nash Hall on campus until a kind student directed us to the door going outside. We then drove to Finley NWR and looked at birds. A Red-shouldered Hawk was in the same place it was on my trip with Toni and just as far away. It was a gray day and none of my photos of the many kinds of waterfowl came out well. Only this Bufflehead emerged from the gloom with any sort of clarity.

Earlier in the week, when it was still snowing, I detoured through Baskett Slough Refuge on my way home from the feed store with neighbor Irv. We saw these American Coots, or "Mud Hens", as Irv calls them, right by the road.

As a former duck hunter, my 80-year-old neighbor could identify most of the waterfowl we saw.
A pair of Northern Pintails swam close. And Canada Geese browsed nearby as snow fell.

Irv seemed quite interested in looking at everything through the extra binoculars I keep in the pickup. Maybe he'll turn, at this late stage of his life, from hating the Cooper's Hawks that get his pigeons and the Great Blue Herons that eat his goldfish to appreciating birds for their own sake. At least appreciating the birds that don't cause him grief.

It's never too late in life to learn to appreciate things like Coots. I'm not so sure about cutworms.


  1. Tell me more about this carrot bin. What do you do to the soil in there? I've never grown carrots with success but would like to.

  2. The soil is just our composted goat manure and straw. I don't know why we don't get carrot maggots in there... I always did when I grew carrots in the ground. Perhaps it's because I grow onions in the same bin. Maybe carrot maggots don't like onions.