December 31, 2017: In the past, I have ranted on this blog about insect pests, and one might think I was a bugaphobe and entertained anti-entomological sentiments. But I keep bees, which can be a disheartening labor of love, and realize the problem of declining pollinator populations. However, it seems insect decline goes farther than just honeybees and monarch butterflies.

Malaise trap used in surveysMalaise trap used in surveysA recent article in a scientific journal has created a rather shocking revelation that perhaps most of the insect world may be suffering decline. The article reports the findings of a survey of flying insects in 63 nature preserves in Germany over a period of 27 years. It reports a decline of insect biomass (all bugs caught in the survey traps) of more than 75%. Now when you consider that 70% of the entire animal kingdom is comprised of insects, that 60% of birds rely on insects for food, that 80% of wild plants rely on them for pollination . . . well, that seems kinda serious. Like maybe a big change is happening?

What's causing this decline? That is not so clear and it seems evident, from the literature, that there is no one factor responsible. Of the usual culprits - habitat loss and change, climate change, pesticides - no one seems to stand out. The researchers found that decline in this survey happened regardless of habitat type, climate variations, or temperature and could suggest a larger overall reason.

There are some scientists that believe we are entering into the sixth mass extinction event. I guess we were out of town for the first five. Another recent survey of population declines looked at a much broader range of species and estimated that 30 percent of all land vertebrates — mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians - are suffering from dramatic population declines. Species extinction rate for the past 100 years has been 200 species/100 years. "Normal" extinction rate in the past has been 2 species/100 years.

The good news is that humans don't seem to be declining in population and I'm going to be giving thanks this New Year for not being extinct. What can we do for our other biomass brothers or sisters? That is an urgent question for us all, and I, for one, am going to go mix a stiff drink, turn up the heat and maybe watch reruns of the Brady Bunch while thinking about that. Happy New Year to you and your species!

For more info to dampen your revels:



Nov 19, 2017: My fellow Oregonians, we have been invaded by aliens who come undocumented and uninvited and with a voracious appetite for our Oregonian landscape and agriculture. These invaders originally came from the Far East but probably more recently came from the Back East where they have been wreaking havoc for years. I speak of the Japanese Beetle and it's beachhead, for the largest invasion ever detected to date in the state, is in the Oak Hills/Cedar Mill area.

Spring and early summer of 2017 the ODA (Oregon Dept. of Agriculture) found 23,000 beetles in monitoring traps set up in the that area. Alerted by numbers caught in the year previous, the ODA set about a program of control and quarantine. With an estimated 2000 homes in the affected area, ODA sought permission of homeowners to apply a granular pesticide to lawn areas. The larval beetle live under sod surfaces from mid-summer to spring when they emerge as adults. 1700 of those 2000 homes granted permission to apply the insecticide Acelepryn. Acelepryn is listed as a "Reduced Risk" pesticide, which in my personal scale of toxicity means I have more to be concerned about the amount of sugar in my diet than the amount of Acelepryn in my garden.

As part of the quarantine component, the ODA is requesting from landscapers and homeowners that all Public Enemy #1Public Enemy #1landscape debris collected within the quarantine area be taken to a special yard waste collection site on Cornelius Pass Rd or put in your regular curbside yard debris can. For a map of the quarantine area, information on yard waste dumping, and updates from beetle control HQ, check out
I can't overemphasize the threat of these #$%@!! beetles. They eat everything! Well, at least 300 types of crops and plant, including fruit trees. And guess what they're favorite is? Roses. Do this math: Japanese beetles + Roses + the Rose City = well, you get the idea.

Even if you're not on the front lines for the battle now, you can help in the war effort by reporting any Japanese beetles you encounter by calling the Oregon Invasive Species Hotline, 1-866- INVADER or there is an online equivalent also.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill (quite horribly, I'm afraid), "We shall fight in backyards. We shall fight in the front yards. We shall fight in the fields and in the orchards. We shall never ever surrender."



July 20, 2016: In this election year, I'm sensing a lot of fear, anxiety and anger over a number of issues such as terrorism, illegal immigration, law and order etc. I too am fearful, angry and anxious. I can pinpoint the root of my terrorism, illegal immigration and law and order issues directly to my garden and I'm wondering when the heck my government or some politician is going to stand up and protect us from . . . VOLES (not to be confused with moles)! I'm a little picture kind of guy. ISIS is bad but they've yet to decimate my potato patch. Voles have. Immigrants, legal or otherwise, form the backbone of the green industry in Oregon and pay taxes. Vole immigrants from the nearby fields devour and destroy and have yet to pitch in on my property tax. Voles steal what they don't plant and no ordinary fence is going to keep them out.

Live Vole - Bad!Live Vole - Bad!Perhaps you're not familiar with what a vole is. It's other aliases are meadow mice or field mice. At 5-8" long, they're bigger and stouter than your regular mouse. Mice have tails that are longer than their bodies, voles have bodies longer than their tails. Also unlike your regular mouse, they burrow underground creating tunnels and runways anywhere from surface level to 8-12" deep. There are two primary vole species in the northern Willamette Valley - the Graytailed Vole and The Townsend's Vole. The latter being the biggest species of vole, has the most extensive tunnel system and is the SOB that is in my garden.

Voles are primarily herbivore feeding on plant tops and roots of almost everything - root vegetables, bulbs,Dead vole - GoodDead vole - Good tubers, the ground level bark of shrubs and young trees. They will also occasionally will eat insects, snails and slugs.. They are particularly fond of my carrots, potatoes, and turnips. For fun and giggles they like to chew the carrot root from the bottom leaving the green top . They usually time this just prior to when I'm getting ready to harvest the carrots, so when I pull on the carrot tops I topple over backwards onto my keester. Who would have thought a rodent had such a capacity for warped sadistic humor. They are also very fond of excavating their runways right up the furrow that your vegetable seedlings are sprouting up from. They don't eat the sprouts from what I've observed, they just toss them out to die. Again, sadistic, wanton destruction - that is the way of the vole. And when fall comes and they're done making your life a horticultural hell, they move into your house, barn, garage, even vehicle and start their spite-filled chewing anew. I've had several pairs of fishing waders, the canvas of a pop-up camper, my bee coveralls, a high school yearbook, and the wiring harness of a car chewed up. It's a diabolical mind, albeit small, that can identify and destroy the things you use and love the most.

Terrorist VoleTerrorist VoleNow vole liberals will tell you that everything has its place in the natural ecosystem, even voles. I contend my garden is not a natural ecosystem and voles have no place. They'll tell you their burrowing helps to churn up and aerate the soil but their tunnels divert irrigation water making watering less effective and more wasteful. They'll point to the endangered Red Tree Vole whose demise is linked to the decline of old growth forests, but I don't plan on having an old growth forest in my vegetable plot just some ungnawed potatoes would be nice. Vole conservatives will point out that voles are family-oriented. I guess so, but with 5-6 families a year that's a little too much family.

To date, our government, the politicians and their parties have done nothing to protect us from voles. We've had to rely on our own wit, wile and resources to battle the vole and often it's been a losing battle. Some control measures that have been used in the past:

Wire mesh Screens: Place around the trunks of newly planted trees to prevent voles gnawing the bark. Also effective for beaver, muskrat and nutria.

Cultural: Voles, being the criminal that they are, like cover. Tall grass, lots of mulch, taller vegetation that they can move unseen between burrow exits. Keeping grass mowed, both lawn and field mowing, can help a little bit.

Repellants; They don't really work.

Toxicants: Zinc phosphide and anti-coagulants such as Warfarin have been the most effective. These come as baits and must be placed down in the runways. These baits are toxic to all mammals including your cat and dog so they must be placed in a runway and covered. Don't use toxicant covered grain bait. Some of it ends up sprouting in your garden and now you have to do some toxic weeding.

Trapping: Good if you have a lot of spare time and tolerance of failure. Typical mole or gopher traps don't work. I've tried the typical snap spring mouse trap - two buried alongside at a burrow entrance and runway. I was very proud of my diabolical vole abattoir but pride evaporated to nothing after my fifth unsuccessful attempt.

Shooting: This means sitting patiently with a shotgun and waiting to see a vole push dirt out of an entrance hole and then running over and blasting it. I have not done this myself, but I have several neighbors who have and have as great a pride in it as bagging a trophy elk, One actually did this as he was hosting a BBQ for his work colleagues. Those were pre-mass shooting times. Today I wouldn't advise it for party entertainment.

Fumigants: Might work for moles, but not for voles, as their tunnels are extensive with many exit holes for fumigants to escape.

As I'm writing this, I'm getting more and more angry. Just whose going to stand up for the little guy against the little vole? You know, when I was a kid and I'd get angry I always remember my dear mother's advice, "Get out of the house and do something before you get smacked!" With her words ringing in my ear, that's what I'm going to do.

I am announcing the establishment of a new independent party. Much like Teddy Roosevelt, who at theFirst my carrots, then yoursFirst my carrots, then yours turn of the 20th century formed the independent Bullmoose Party (I'm thinking moose were probably a bigger garden threat back then than they are today), because the two major parties just didn't get it. I am starting a new third or maybe seventh party that will be called: The American Meadow Mouse Party.

At a very recent party caucus, that was held with the other two AMMP members at the local tavern, we developed the following planks in our party platform;

1) SECURITY: Every American vegetable garden (except those owned by illegal immigrants) will have a wall built around it, about 12"" deep and 12" high with mini-razor wire atop. It will be government funded.

2) ANTI-TERRORISM: A Dept. Of Voleland Security will be established which will supersede and have at its command the branches of our military and intelligence services. Suspicious vole activity will be monitored and assessed and both pre and post-emption military strikes will be blanket authorized without Congress approval.

3)TAXES/ECONOMY: The IRS will give a $5 tax rebate to every citizen for every vole skin that they remit with their income tax forms. Individuals and businesses making over $100,000/year may opt for a tax deduction of $10,000 per vole skin (rationale being is that they have the extra expense of somebody else catching their voles).

4) IMMIGRATION: Folks from vole infested nations will be restricted from entering the United States ... period.

That's it. Just four planks, but we got it done pretty quick without a lot of screaming and hollering like the other parties do. Another reason to vote for us.

I am not one to cotton to politics or even leadership, but if my party asks me to run, then I will serve. For our American vegetable gardens somebody has to stand up and tell it like it is. If you vote for me (it'll have to be write-in because the Establishment machine has excluded us from most ballots) , I promise to rid your garden of voles and when that gargantuan task has been done, I'll work on moles, gophers and ground squirrels next. I promise that no grandchild of mine or yours or anyone else (with the exception of the grandchildren of illegal immigrants) will ever again suffer the shame and humiliation of falling on their keesters from pulling up a gnawed off carrot! I will MAKE OUR AMERICAN VEGETABLE GARDENS GREAT AND SAFE AGAIN! You have my word!




July 7 2016: Let's talk about decline. Not my own, but of trees. The #1 cause of tree decline and death in the urban/suburban environment is due to soil compaction. It's a slow and insidious process that can take years, in some cases, to manifest itself and often by the time it's noticed it's too late for meaningful corrective action.

I recently have personally experienced decline (again, not me personally, but my trees). Some Douglas firs that I have been parking trailers, trucks, cars, tractors, etc under their shady boughs for 16 years have been exhibiting signs of decline. Typical signs of decline, in conifers, due to soil compaction are loss of lower branches and dropping of interior needles leaving just the needles on the ends of branches. They slowly die from the bottom up and the inside out. It's interesting that deciduous trees generally have just the opposite progression of compaction symptoms - they die from the outside in (ends of branches drop leaves first) and the top down (branch dieback).

Here's how soil compaction works to debilitate a tree. As soil becomes compressed from the weight of something on top of it , like trailers, trucks, cars etc. it squeezes out and smashes the pore space through which roots grow. The roots of a tree must grow continually. If they cannot grow, they will die and as they die that affects the crown (what's aboveground) of the tree. As the crown dies, then there is less food produced to sustain remaining roots. It can be a slow deadly spiral. In conifers, such as my Douglas firs, by the time you notice the signs of compaction decline, the final demise of the tree occurs quickly, within a year or two.

I'm feeling distraught that not only do I have several large trees that I will have to remove but that as an arborist I did not have the foresight to foresee that before parking my fleet underneath them. Not bright. Ah, physician heal thyself. And so, I've become inspired to sensitize people to the dangers of compaction decline and since this is a big urban problem, I thought I'd go more urban with my message. I've written a rap song. It is my first and perhaps a little technically rough around the edges.


(Imagine a strong hip-hop beat in the background. Say similar to Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, or Lawrence Welk)

I can see da forest, but I can't see my trees.
I doctor other people's, but not my tree's disease

Compaction is the action from which there's no retraction

It takes ages, man, to happen, while you freakin' or you chillin'
Your parking lot be real tight , but your trees you do be killin'

Compaction is the action from which there's no retraction

Them roots you cannot see, but they will not take a slammin'
The soil gets compacted and da roots be smashed and crammin'

Compaction is the action from which there's no retraction

My firs are losing needles and they're looking really dead
My homies in the wood see this, they'll think I lost street cred

Compaction is the action from which there's no retraction

Da crime of decline is messing wid my mind
I done the crime, I'll do the time, I wish I weren't so blind.

Compaction is the action from which there's no retraction

So listen fool to this golden rule
Don't park no wheels where the roots can feels . ... .it.




April 28, 2016: When I was growing up, my father and I never had a serious conversation about verticilium wilt. We had other conversations, which I'm sure he felt were more important, but we never talked about that. I do not blame him for I never had the same conversation with my child. I guess as parents we rationalize by thinking it's not that important or its too delicate a topic, and let the moment, which may never return again, pass by. They will figure it out on their own we think. And some day they will, but wouldn't it have been nice if we could have prepared them for it.

If I had that moment back again, here's the conversation I would have:

FATHER : Sit down a minute, kid. I want to have a talk and I think you're old enough now that you'll understand. Is that OK?

KID: (Nods)

FATHER: You're growing up so fast! Soon you'll be leaving home to start a life of your own. You may have a garden, some property or perhaps just a nearby park, but it is my hope that you will find and fall in love with trees. Love is what makes us human. It gives us the potential to really see ourselves and the potential of others. Where there is the warmth, light and life of love, there is also the darker opposite lurking -cold, dark, death - the two sides of a coin. It is a fact that we must acknowledge but not necessarily dampen that which makes us human. If you happen to fall in love with one of more than 350 species of trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials or vegetable crops, then that dark side may well come in the form of verticilium wilt, a disease that can cripple and often kill a plant.

I know this is disturbing to hear , but it's really important to both of us that you understand. I'd like to tell you how this might happen and what are the signs that it may be coming. Is that OK?

KID: (Nods)

FATHER: Verticilium wilt is a fungus disease that lives in the soil. It can live unseen and undetected by mortal eye for up to 14 years in the soil. It invades a plant through the roots and will travel to the xylem, the water conductive tissue of the plant. There it will grow and flourish and block water conduction to the leaves. It causes the leaves to wilt and die, which leads to branch dieback and eventually crown death. As leaves die, the roots that supply them die for lack of food. In trees, this process can go on for several years before tree death can occur.

There are a number of other diseases and environmental disorders that can cause branch dieback. One of the ways to identify that V. wilt is taking place is to slice a newly wilted twig diagonally. You will see olive-brown, brown or black streaks in the sapwood (the last few rings of growth).

(Father sighs. Wipes some moisture from his eye and looks away out the window)

I once had a big leaf maple I was very fond of. It was old and venerable and shaded the yard. We had a summer that was very, very dry followed by a very, very wet winter and the next spring I found some dead Sapwood streaksSapwood streaksbranches in my beloved. The next summer over half the branches died and that winter it blew over taking out a chunk of the garage There was little in my power I could do, except repair the garage.

Once a tree has verticilium, there are no effective treatments for it. One can prolong or temporarily reduce the effect by watering the tree during droughts but there is no un-inevitabling the inevitable. Does that make sense?

KID: (Nods)

FATHER: Here in the Pacific Northwest it is our maples, elms, ashes and cherries that are some of the most susceptible. In my opinion verticilium is everywhere in the soil. It can't be avoided. Healthy, relatively stress free trees seldom show signs of it so reducing drought stress or overly soggy soils can help where practical. If replacing a verticilium killed tree, do not put another susceptible species back. You're just asking for heart ache then.

I guess what I'm saying is that the things we love will eventually die. Let not the hurt of that keep you from loving.

Hey! HEY! Will you please take your Ipod earbuds out! I don't understand how you can hear a word I'm saying!

KID: Whatever.

FATHER: Well, I'm glad we had this little talk. Love you, now.

F & P