little more than sacks
Sunday, June 22 2014
This afternoon after Sunday morning coffee, Susan and David came over from their newly-purchased (and mostly-unfurnished) house to walk their dogs Darla and Olive with us and our dogs. We took a long and uneventful (from a wildlife perspective) loop that included the Mtn. Goat Trail, the Canary Overlook Trail, and the main length of the Stick Trail. Along the way, we kept noticing numerous two-inch-long caterpillars on the trunks of trees (mostly Chestnut Oaks, but that might just be because that is the most common species). At some point David poked at one with a stick and determined that it was dead. In fact, all the caterpillars we could see on the trunks of trees had died. If one pressed a little against their bodies, they proved to be little more than sacks containing a thin brown fluid. What had killed them? And why were there so many of them? And what kind were they?
Later I used a handy chart to determine these were Gypsy Moths, which have been endemic to this area for over 50 years. Evidently there is now a nasty disease that is ready for them when their populations experience a boom. I remember in the 1980s in Virginia, there was a lot of dread (both from my father and supposed forestry experts) about the approaching front of expanding Gypsy Moth range coming down from the northeast, but the forest quickly adapted to this invasive species just like any other pest, and there were relatively few casualties among the trees of the forest.
Olive (left) and Ramona in the forest today.
A dead caterpillar on a Chestunut Oak trunk.
Today we conclusively gave up on ever trying to capture those two cats we recently attempted to adopt. We'd been setting traps every night, one in our garage, and one near our downhill neighbors' house, but we stopped setting the former a few days ago and the latter this morning, when Gretchen retrieved it and took both of the traps back to the ubiquitous Woodstock vegan who had loaned them to us. Later this afternoon, I went down to distant trap site and retrieved the tarp that had been used to keep it dry. I went to retrieved the trailcam (or "gamecam"), which I'd only set up for one night in a place where the three-legged cat might have ended up. Initially, the trailcam (which is camouflaged) proved elusive, but when I decreased the sizes of the trunks of trees where I looked for it, I found it almost immediately. But not before leaning against a trunk and bursting one of those dead caterpillars all over my hand.
That was perhaps the fourth possible allergen my skin was exposed to today. Earlier today I'd put on some winter gloves and proceeded to tear up a bunch of Poison Ivy that has been encroaching on the greenhouse steps from just north of the northeast corner of the house. My hands were protected, but my bare arms brushed against the allergenic leaves multiple times. I scrubbed them with soap and water, which always seems to work, but by this evening I'd developed a rash of large bumps on the soft white bellies of my forearms. But they could have also been caused by insect bites or whatever critters lived beneath the pieces of firewood I salvaged today. Usually Poison Ivy needs a little more time to work its misery.
This evening I just happened to notice an email that I would normally have deleted as spam. It claimed my Amazon credit card had an outstanding balance of over $50 on it. This is a card that I got for exactly one reason: to get a $20 credit on a purchase made in the Amazon marketplace (out of deference to Gretchen and anyone else struggling to keep independent bookstores alive, I don't buy anything from Amazon itself). But now it had a balance on it? How the fuck did that happen? So I called the 866 number to find out. Fortunately I don't have to make such calls very often, and I guess it's old news that it's very hard to scare up a human when making such calls. The first person I reached hung up on me, though the second one managed to track down the source of my balance. Despite my explicit efforts to make my normal credit card into the default one in my account, Amazon had made the new card the default card on a subsequent visit, and I'd rung up two charges. Then, of course, I'd never noticed the email-only statement (which would have been indistinguishable from spam), and had failed to make my payment on time. So I'd been assessed a $25 fee and a $1 interest payment. The woman I was talking to was obviously Indian, and it was a little hard to tell what she was saying to me, but I think I got her to reverse those two charges. But when I logged onto the account online, the balance remained the same, with the caveat that some transactions take 24 hours to post. I am definitely staying on top of this issue until it is solved. And I will be very careful when taking advantage of such deals in the future.
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