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MARTHA SEZ: Not all living things are created equally

June 8, 2017
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

As I work in my garden, during the brief intervals between rain storms-the last two months have been as rainy as any I can remember-a fat robin keeps me company.

He is ready at a moment's notice to hop over and grab any earthworms I dig up, probably to feed a nest full of hatchlings. I know he is being opportunistic, not friendly. Still, I don't begrudge him the earthworms, even though they're good for the garden.

Before you go imagining that I am in tune with nature and love all living things, let me say that I detest the cutworm grubs I am constantly digging up. I can't stand the way they curl up and sort of writhe around. Even the robin will have nothing to do with them.

This is not the cutworms' fault. Grubs are disgusting, yes, but soon they will morph into something else. Japanese beetles or something. Or at least some of them will morph. The ones I find I throw out into the road, and if a huge logging truck were to come screaming along state Route 73 and crush them I wouldn't care. I would not lift a hand to avert their fate.

Cruel as that may sound, it is distasteful to me to murder almost anything, even bugs I hate, like lily beetle larvae and earwigs. Lily beetles are a beautiful bright red in color, but handsome is as handsome does, and who can forget that they spent their youth defoliating my tiger lilies, cleverly disguising themselves with their own excrement in order to escape detection? Not I.

A really big spider has spun an orb web in the doorway between my kitchen and the garage. Sometimes I open the door without thinking, see her sitting there, and quickly close it again. I go around to the outside door when I want to enter the garage. Once I apologized to the spider when I opened the door by mistake. I am not proud of this behavior.

Even strong Adirondack men can be unnerved by a bat in the house. I have witnessed the alarming spectacle of a 6 foot tall man leaping wildly around his dining room trying to dodge a flying little brown bat while swinging at it with a tennis racket. This was not an isolated incident.

Little brown bats used to be common in the North Country, but their numbers have been decimated since 2006 by a disease called white nose fungus. The two main complaints against bats are that they entangle themselves in people's hair and that they carry rabies. Were these complaints well founded, we would constantly be hearing such statements as "Yvonne rushed in from the twilit courtyard, her long black hair twitching with rabid bats."

In fact, however, we hardly ever hear such statements, because fewer than 1 percent of bats contract rabies, and those that do die off very quickly. Furthermore, bats rely on echolocation to find their way around, and therefore do not fly into things.

Bats are unfairly stigmatized by humans. This is wrong, because a flock of bats, on a warm summer evening, will eat pounds of of mosquitoes. It takes a lot of mosquitoes to make a pound. Have you ever tried to weigh one? So you shouldn't try to hit bats with tennis rackets, even if they do try to nest in your house.

Bats are in danger of extinction, while ticks this year are apparently multiplying here like crazy and spreading disease, but I can't write about ticks because just thinking about them makes me itch all over.

A friend of mine, Max, was overcome with remorse because he knocked a squirrel out of his bird feeder with a rock. Max appeared to be in shock at this proof of his own deadly accuracy.

"I felt terrible!" Max said. He frowned. "And then the next time I came outside, there was that damn squirrel, back in the bird feeder!"

According to my mother, who knew these things, "Squirrels don't remember anything negative. They can't. Their brains aren't made that way."

She was reading a book titled "Outwitting Squirrels" by Neil Adler, Jr. Presumably, the average squirrel has so many negative experiences during the course of a day that he can't dwell on them or he would become too depressed.

I say some of us are like squirrels. Otherwise, why would we keep trying to garden, way up North, in this cold rain?

Have a good week.



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