Ants, Scale Infestations, and Tanglefoot


About this time of year in the spring, when the weather warms up, the blooms are off the stone fruit trees, and the new fruit are just beginning to grow, the ants start to stake their claims on the trees. You can see them marching up the trunks and disappearing into the foliage. What are they doing? Most likely building their scale nurseries. The ants nurse and protect the scale insects, which, tapped into the sap of the tree, produce a sweet nectar that the ants love to eat.

You can pick off the scales one by one (they’re squishy underneath their hardened shells, like baby snails, yes eww gross, wear gloves) but unless you tackle the ants, the scales will just come back.

So, what to do?

Continue reading

Interview with Allee Willis of Bubbles and Cheesecake


I first met Allee Willis in the mid-nineties when we worked together on “Willisville”, a virtual world of 19 or so wildly amusing fictional inhabitants of a town by the same name, accessible only through the Internet. It was a grand experiment, funded by Intel, and like so many things that Allee creates, years before its time. Allee is one of the bravest, truest artists I know. Brilliant ideas come hurtling out of her faster than most of our brains can process. She seems to thrive teetering on the edge of either disaster or brilliant success, ready to leap fully into the next thing, forging ahead wherever her creative juices take her.

Recently Allee teamed up with recording artist Holly Palmer to create and publish their own music, skipping the established record labels all together. Their video It’s a Woman Thang was featured on YouTube and has had over 800,000 downloads to date. Allee is a grammy award winning songwriter, over 50 million songs sold, used to write a lot for Earth Wind and Fire, wrote a lot of the music to Beverly Hills Cop (remember Neutron Dance?). She co-wrote the music to the Broadway show “Color Purple”, produced by Oprah, based on the book by Alice Walker. I’ve always been awed and amazed by Allee Willis and am delighted that she agreed to be interviewed about what motivates her and the latest stage of her career:

Continue reading


Photo by Shuna Fish Lydon

Someone sent me an email to request a conversation with me tomorrow at 2:00 pm. Ever since I stopped wearing a watch with regularity a couple of years ago I’ve been struck by how tethered we are as a culture to the idea of hours and minutes. Time, as in the time of day, days of the week, is so woven into the fabric of our lives that we have a hard time organizing ourselves without considering it. We have difficulty imagining what a day would be like if it weren’t broken up into hours and minutes.

Slots to be filled with useful activities.

So, when someone wants to have a phone conversation with me, instead of just picking up the phone, they send an email, and try to find a particular slot, bounded by numbers, in which I might be available to talk with them, in a particular slot, bounded by numbers, which works well for them.

Don’t people just pick up the phone and call anymore?

The problem is that now that I work for myself, building a business that requires just my creative attention, not a consulting business that is bonded to time constraints of clients, I have a hard time with doing anything at an appointed time, and submit to it only because it is necessary and important to others. There is also TV; Dr. Who comes on at 8 pm on Friday and if I miss it, god help me if I can find a rerun. I get almost a little panicky around the hours that I need to remember, because so out-of-time-consciousness am I that I easily, completely forget. Yet when I need to wake up at a specific time, I can do so, without an alarm. Can you?

Days are a bit easier. Wednesday in the food section. Saturday I can usually get some work done because I’m not bombarded by a hundred emails that need answering. Sunday is church, whether I go or not. I’m addicted to 2 TV programs at the moment, but I don’t usually remember that they are on until a half hour before. Monday dinner, “oh, the Closer is on.” Friday dinner, “Yikes! Dr. Who starts in 5 minutes.” (Except when it doesn’t. Half the time our cable company shifts it to another time slot on Friday. Ironic. Dr. Who is a time lord.)

Continue reading

Spider Love

California Orb Spider

Yesterday a guy came to the door wanting to know if we had any spiders we wanted killed.

“Spiders? Killed?”

“Yeah, we’re doing the house down the street, thought you might have a problem too.”

“We like spiders. We don’t kill them.”

“You LIKE spiders?”

“Yes. We LIKE spiders. We don’t kill them. They kill the bugs we don’t like. So we don’t kill the spiders. Thanks for stopping by, but we don’t need anyone to kill our spiders.”

So, is it safe to assume that everyone hates spiders and wants to get rid of them? I love spiders. I don’t even kill the ones I find occasionally in my room. I might shoo them out the window, but more likely I’ll let one build a small web in the corner and let her catch mosquitos. When she’s done and gone I’ll dust away the web. The daddy long legs do tend to overpopulate the eves outside, but they are easy enough to brush away a couple of times a year.

Why do I like spiders? Because I hate, truly hate, mosquitos and silverfish. Insects that spiders like to eat. Same reason I love praying mantis.

Sometimes at night, I’ll find a spider in the bathtub. I’ll talk to the spider and say “Hey there Mr. Spider. You don’t belong here. Tomorrow morning I’m going to take a shower and if you are still in the tub you are going down the drain.” Sure enough, 9 times out of 10, Mr. Spider is gone by the morning.

Here in California, the only spider you really have to watch out for are black widows. But they are quite distinctive. Jet black with a bright red hour glass shape on their belly. Black widows have really ugly webs too, and tend to hang out in outdoor tool sheds.

Anyway, this beautiful gal is an Argiope Aurantia, also known as the Yellow Garden Spider. She is currently camped out on my lavender bush in my flower garden. She’s been there for about a week and has managed to devour quite a few bugs.

Spiders teamed up to create a giant web, scientists say