Random Thursday

Photo: Out-of-focus face with blurred background

Howdy, y’all. Today is National Do Something Nice Day, and I was at a complete loss as to what I could do until I noticed that it’s also National Rhode Island Day, and so the nice thing I’m going to do is refrain from discussing the fact that there are counties in Texas bigger than the state of Rhode Island.

I realize that I was a bit coy when I wrote about “some good news on the cancer front” last week and while many of you shared my happiness, I sensed that you wanted more information. Fair enough.

It’s been thirteen months since my radical prostatectomy, which was mostly successful. I use that qualifier because the cancer had spread outside the prostate and so there is some remaining nastiness, albeit apparently not much. As a means of monitoring the situation, I get a new ultrasensitive PSA test periodically, and the results inform the doctor as to whether we should consider radiation therapy to zap the remaining cancer cells to prevent a relapse. Fortunately, the uPSA results have remained below the threshold which the current medical studies indicate would suggest the need for radiation. But the last test — four months ago — showed an upward trend (again, still minuscule) and I was nervous about whether that trend would continue.

The good news is that the readings didn’t change at all, and the doctor is now comfortable with waiting six months for the next test.

I appreciate more than I can say all the concern, encouragement, and prayers that have been sent my way. You guys rock!

Now, on to more pleasant topics. We got rain last night…just under 1.5″ to be more exact. Everyone is pretty excited about that following such a dry summer, but we’ve also apparently forgotten that last year at this time we’d had only just over half the amount of total rainfall that we’ve got so far this year (20″ this year vs ~11″ in 2022). We’re still quite grateful for any little bit.

There are some downsides though. You know that saying, “April showers bring May flowers”? Well, here at Casa Fire Ant, September showers, of which we had 2.5″, bring October fire ants. Our lawn is dotted with fire ant mounds, and Debbie is fighting a running (and mostly losing) battle with those insidious invaders. Here are four new ones in our front yard that seem to have sprung up overnight (for those of you who are blissfully unfamiliar with them):

Photo: Four fire ant mounds in our front yard

OTOH, the rain cleaned up a huge mess on our back deck. You might recall that we designed and built the deck and pergola around a big pecan tree that in the best of times provides welcome shade, and in the worst of times trashes out everything in sight. And lately, the worst of times seems to be business as usual.

Here’s what we’ve dealt with, in succession without meaningful pauses:

  • Walnut caterpillar frass, aka poop, for several weeks, followed by:
  • Walnut caterpillars dropping from the tree, for a couple of weeks, followed by:
  • Pecan shells and half-eaten pecans provided by the approximately 4,000 squirrels on our block, for another couple of weeks, followed by:
  • Aphid honeydew, aka poop, for a couple of weeks.

That last thing is what we’ve been dealing with, and it’s exceptionally gross. The sticky substance coats everything under the tree, to the point where one is in danger of losing a flip-flop whilst walking across the deck. Again, if you’re fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with it, here are a couple of photos from yesterday, before last night’s rain:

Photo: Drops of aphid honeydew on a post
Those aren’t water droplets on this deck post cap.
Photo: Section of deck railing showing before and after cleaning of aphid honeydew
Here’s what a deck railing looks like before and after wiping off the honeydew.

The good news is that since honeydew is basically dried sugar water, a good drenching rainfall will wash it away (and if the rain is heavy enough, it will also wash off the aphids…the jury is out on that for our trees).

I assume that the aphid issue will resolve itself shortly, but up next in the Cavalcade of Tree Trash is a boatload of falling leaves. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know that I’ve moved my leaf blower out of the garage and to a permanent storage spot on the back porch.

This is your feel-good video of the day.

Say, did you notice the prehistoric-looking bug in one of the preceding photos? Of course you did. That’s a giant leaf-footed bug (no, really…here’s the Latin name: Acanthocephala declivis). Here’s a better photo of the same insect:

Photo: Giant leaf-footed bug
Those back legs give rise to the bug’s name.

These insects are harmless to humans but can damage some plants. Unfortunately, they’re not known to prey on fire ants or aphids.

Here’s your second feel-good video of the day, also featuring a creature of the avian persuasion:

Closing Shot: Behold the AI-crafted obituary. Humanity may be doomed, but we’ll die laughing.

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