Lorretta Dittrick of Oakdale shares this photo of the scarecrow modeled after Al Batt. It was displayed in the Horticulture Building at the state fair.
Lorretta Dittrick of Oakdale shares this photo of the scarecrow modeled after Al Batt. It was displayed in the Horticulture Building at the state fair.
I watched two chickadees following a downy woodpecker in my yard. Apparently, at least in my locale, the woodpecker had achieved the status of a celebrity chef. The chickadees chased in the hopes of discovering epicurean delights. I watched for as long as time allowed.

I recalled something seen on a gravestone in Cumberland, England, "The wonder of the world, the beauty and the power, the shapes of things, their colors, lights and shades. These I saw. Look ye also while life lasts."

Later, in a park located in Prior Lake, Currently City, I joined three young grandchildren in the pursuit of Carolina grasshoppers.

This large grasshopper, also called Carolina locust or butterfly grasshopper (its wings resemble the mourning cloak) eats a wide variety of plants, but tends to congregate in areas of bare ground.

It's commonly found on school playgrounds, baseball fields, dirt roads, gravel driveways and other similar conditions. Its coloration allows it to blend into such locations. The camouflage is so effective that the grasshopper is usually not noticed until it takes wing.

When flushed, the cream-edged black wings become very evident along with a crepitation element (a clacking sound).

Thanks to the grasshoppers' ability to fly and to disappear upon landing, we didn't capture a single hopper.

Competitive Carolina grasshopper chasing could be an Olympic event and failing to grasp a grasshopper builds character.

My life as a scarecrow

The Village Inn here in Hartland threatened to take my photo off the wall of the cafe. I didn't do anything to offend them. They just wanted to paint the walls of the restroom. I was feeling a little down about that prospect when I received word that a scarecrow modeled and named after me is manning the Horticultural Building at the Minnesota State Fair. I once built a few scarecrows for my gardens. They proved useful only in providing perches for crows and grackles.

Squash that squash borer

Many of us enjoy bringing in garden produce still carrying the warmth of the sun. Darwyn Olson of Hartland lamented the presence of squash borers in his garden.

The adult borer is a moth that resembles a wasp. It's about one-half-inch long with an orange abdomen with black spots. You could use yellow trap pans to detect squash vine borer adults. This can be any container (pan, pail, or bowl) that is yellow in color and filled with water.

Squash vine borer adults are attracted to yellow, will fly to the container and fall into the water. Place traps by late June, checking your traps at least once a day. When you notice squash vine borer adults in your traps you know they are active and it is time to take further action. Plant vine crops that aren't usually attacked by squash vine borers - butternut squash, cucumbers, melons and watermelons.

A second planting of summer squash made in early July matures after adult borers have finished laying eggs. Remove larvae or adults with a pair of tweezers. The larvae are typically found at the base of the plants and often eat their way into the stems.

Promptly pull and destroy any plants killed by squash vine borers.

Echoes from the Loafers' Club Meeting

"I've been wearing some of those magnetic bracelets that are supposed to prevent arthritis."

"Do they work?"

"I don't know. I just freed myself from the refrigerator door."

Driving by the Bruces

I have two wonderful neighbors - both named Bruce - who live across the road from each other. Whenever I pass their driveways, thoughts occur to me, such as: always give 100 percent unless you're giving blood.

I've learned

1. Statistics prove that there are too many statistics.

2. A honeybee stings only once, but that's enough.

3. Each day is unrepeatable.

The news from Hartland

1. City loses largest industry when 400-pound Fuller Brush man retires.

2. Hilltop House of Hotdish offers valley parking. The owner advises, "Yeah, there's lots of room in the valley. Park there."

3. Elvis impersonation contest is judged on unoriginality.

4. Senior Olympian sets record for shot put roll.


1. How do you get a Minniowawisdakotan out of a swimming pool? You say, "OK, everyone out of the pool."

2. How many Minniowawisdakotans does it take to change a lightbulb? We don't change lightbulbs. We accept them the way we are.

3. If you are chased down the street by a Minniowawisdakotan waitress, don't panic. You overpaid and she's returning our change.

4. You are a Minniowawisdakotan if you get a hangnail and are put on a prayer list.

It shows the dirt

Lonnie Kormann, the local electrician, was the first to notice it. It being the new stickers on rural mail carrier Brad Spooner's license plates. Lonnie noticed the new stickers because they were the only clean spots on Brad's car. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds on both hard surface and gravel roads, but to an automobile, being a rural carrier's vehicle is a dirty job.


I'm a fall guy.

I love it when the trees resting upon the last hill of summer have been fired with colorful leaves and the weather becomes variable but bearable.

If you're confused about when to set your clocks back or ahead, just remember this simple rule, "You gain an hour every fall and you lose an hour every time you watch an episode of Desperate Housewives."

Fall is when we try to remember where we put the Christmas decorations. It's a time we spend recovering from summer and preparing for winter. Cascading leaves hit the ground with a whisper.

Fall is when it smells like pumpkins, leaves turn yellow, goldfinches turn green and birds of passage move through.

Customer comments

Pat Coffie of Waverly told me that there is no pressure quite like that felt by a young bride marrying the son of a home ec teacher.

Ric McArthur of Ontario writes, "There is a sign at the local sewage lagoon that says 'Trespassing by Permit only.'"

Nature notes

Skunks, raccoons and squirrels make divots in lawns. Squirrels cache or retrieve buried corn and acorns. Skunks dig holes in search of grubs. Skunks are systematic, moving from spot to spot each night. Raccoons shred or roll the grass in search of grubs. Skunks do a neater job.

It's the female mallard that quacks.

Dew point is the temperature at which water vapor will condense out of the air and form dew or frost.

The dictionary defines "gull" as to deceive, trick or cheat. A person who is easily deceived or cheated. A dupe.

In 1900, there were no wild turkeys or white-tailed deer in Iowa.

Thanks for stopping by

"The best way to measure how much you've grown isn't by inches or the number of laps you can now run around the track, or even your grade point average - though those things are important, to be sure. It's what you've done with your time, how you've chosen to spend your days, and whom you've touched this year. That, to me, is the greatest measure of success." - R.J. Palacio

"Rules of living: Don't worry, eat three square meals a day, say your prayers, be courteous to your creditors, keep your digestion good, steer clear of biliousness, exercise, go slow and go easy. Maybe there are other things that your special case requires to make you happy, but, my friend, these, I reckon, will give you a good life." - Abraham Lincoln

Meeting adjourned

A kind word pushes and pulls.


©Al Batt 2012