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August 2012

July 2012

Barefoot Iowan

Tennis shoes
I've been researching the idea of running barefoot lately.   Around 2009, the topic started gaining popularity again.  The case for running barefoot supports spreading the impact on the ball of the foot followed by the toes or heel, instead of landing directly on the heel first.  As a runner I immediately understood what they mean about the impact.  As I get older I feel the soreness in my knees and ankles more and more.  Even though I slowed the pace down, I'm still hitting the ground with my heels while my shoe hide the impact.  Our feet were not designed to take that repeated impact against the rear sole so often.  If you think about it, you're actually braking when you hit with your heel and have to propel yourself forward again with the next step.  Expensive footwear is another factor to content with. Shortly after breaking in a new pair of running shoes, I'm counting the days before having to retire them due to lack of support.

Last week I cursed my latest shoes for causing some blistering at the end of an otherwise enjoyable jog.  My only concern is stepping on something sharp or otherwise hazardous.  I've already picked up a book called Barefoot Running: Step by Step by Ken Bob Saxton and Roy Wallack.  It'll take time but I'm hoping I'll be able to make the transition.  Not sure what I'll do when winter arrives, but I'll figure it out.  I'm sure there's something that can be used besides regular running shoes to protect against the colder temps.

Speaking of barefoot runner's, here's a great story on an Iowan running across the US for charity. Her website and facebook page.  The charity is Soles 4 Souls.

Landscaping 1.3

July is almost over and plant nurseries are starting to discount some of their stock to unload items faster.  So if you're quick you can rescue some flora that's starting to waste away in the crowded overlooked back aisles.   

B and I bought out some of Lowe's and Home Depot's nursery stock over the last couple weeks.  I ended up with ten hybrid lilies, three sick-looking carolina cypress trees, a few delphiniums, a butterfly bush and a weigela shrub.  
wegi and Lucia
Lucia modeling the new weigela shrub
My backyard now has eight cypress trees including the leylands I planted earlier this spring.  Now I just have to nurse them along during the heatwave we've been having all summer until they can take root.
Carolina cypress
Yes, I'm aware of how shaggy they look
The carolinas have a blue-green shade that contrasts nicely with the darker green of the leylands.  I still need to put in some other privacy plants on the north side.  But the spaces are so narrow on the north and south I'll have to stick with some shrubs or other conical plants.
LA hybrid lilies
The lilies filled out the spaces around the dwarf burning bushes and the front porch.  The lilies are red, so again my front yard continues to be one large venue for red plants.
The delphinium pacific giants grow up to 5-6ft so I'm staggering them along the back wall  near the leyland cypress.  It's a bit shady during the morning hours but they should still get a full day of sun.   
Butterfly bush
This butterfly bush couldn't even attract a moth right now.
The butterfly bush was planted on the south side next to my rose bush. I wish there were a few more on sale since I have so much room left.  It's the sickliest of all the plants at the moment but it'll hopefully take off with the right amount of h20 and attention.  I'd like to add a few more ornamental trees in the front yard yet.  So that may be next.

Opportunistic pest or organized invaders?

Homeowners often worry and check for the evidence of insects intruders in their home.  I had to repel a horde of "camelback" crickets last summer.  A few random ones are starting to appear again this year but not as many as last year.  A simple re-application of pesticide in the crawlspace will send them packing.

However the crickets are only minor players in pest prevention when compared to major aggressors like termites.  During my landscaping upgrades, I discovered a surprising number of white "ants" near my front porch. They had infested the old wood mulch and were running along my foundation also.  Suspecting termites, I didn't see any evidence of their trademark tubes inside or outside the house.  So I called up a few companies to come out and confirm what I thought they were. Inspectors verified my suspicions.  

Soldier termite caught behind enemy lines
So the war is on.  All the inspectors suggested a product called Termidor.  I'm not too crazy about the application of a pesticide into the ground and possible contamination of ground water.  But all the companies I spoke with said the product they used adheres to soil and doesn't wash away.  An active ingredient in Termidor is fipronil.  The same ingredient found in Frontline, an insect repellent for dogs and cats.  So the choice was simple, the cost of replacing damaged structures in the near future or injections of pesticides into the perimeter of my house.  I could have tried using bait stations placed around the house, but they are not as efficient at eradicating termites all at one time.  And the termites have to go to the stations to become infected instead of just passing through treated ground.

After doing some termite research, I was surprised by how they operate in their caste system of worker, soldier and queen.  The worker termites operate near the surface and gather food for the other termites.  The soldiers defend the caste at lower levels and do it much like a Zack Snyder film (300). When an enemy breaches their tunnels, soldiers will defend the narrow spaces by using their large heads to block enemy access while the workers can seal tunnels behind them.  Once their path is sealed behind them, the soldiers fight to the end and ultimately give up their life for the rest of the termites.  Termites in South East Asia can commit suicide by rupturing a gland that emits a sticky substance that slows an enemy, similar to a tar baby effect.  Lastly, termites detect strange behavior quickly and scatter when one of their own exhibits signs of being sick.  Older pesticides use to attack termites slowly, so when others saw them dying they didn't hang out long to find out why.  Newer products will attach to the termite undetected and death occurs suddenly a few days later after its already been spread around to the rest of the caste.  Nasty.  If the risk of their damaging a home wasn't so high I would almost feel sorry for them.  Almost..