Not too many of my readers will have had, as I, the pleasure of meeting Ivan. The Little Lady and I were first introduced to Ivan by a friend of a friend about five or six years ago, but Ivan needed no introduction, recognizing me from my mug shot that accompanies my columns that he had been reading for quite a number of years.
Ivan is of Mennonite extraction, whose family operates a dairy farm just beyond the western hinterlands of Wellington County. Ivan, being rural route, and I being urban, with neither of us licensed to drive, puts us in the awkward position of not seeing each other more often than once or twice each year.
Ivan sports an age younger than mine by approximately two months, which puts us both in the senior portion of the senior category, but the other thing we have in common is we have both been addicted since birth to the love of birds, their habits, their queer quirks and their preservation.
But Ivan has “one-upped” me with a large colony of purple martins that return each year to nest and raise their young in a number of multiple-compartment houses he has built and maintained for them on posts along the lane that extends beyond the house to the barn.
Each year, as the first, I usually manage to connive one of the local “birders” to drive me up to Ivan’s to watch for a couple of hours the activity of these fascinating creatures as they glide back and forth with flying insects clasped in their mouths, which they have caught to jam into the wide-open mouths of their clambering young. This year was of no difference, other than that Ivan let me in on a secret as to how he controls the pesky insects, in addition to the purple martins, in a safe, environmentally-friendly manner. He showed me three of his insect traps, and believe me, I was amazed at the simplicity of what he cared to share with me.
The first hung in a dwarf apple tree. It was a plastic soft drink bottle with a slotted opening cut in its side up near the top. It was filled by a third with a mixture of half water and half vinegar with a dollop of molasses (old-fashioned blackstrap) on top (if you have no molasses try a couple tablespoons of sugar). You will not believe this, but it was filled almost to overflowing with dead flies and other insects that were attracted to it. The second, hanging in his grapevines, was of similar mixture but was just an ordinary glass jam bottle with an open top. It, too, was overflowing.
The third, across the front yard to his lane-side garden, was simply a large plastic unadulterated pop bottle sitting on the ground within the row of heavily laden ripening red raspberries. It, too, was overburdened with what is colloquial known in the farming community as beer bugs and other hard shelled insects. But get this, it was simply baited, a quarter full, with the usually thrown-away pickle juice, nothing more. What a marvellous, free, environmentally friendly, surefire way of keeping the creepy-crawlies and flying insects in check. I kind of suspect that I am not too old to learn a thing or two – thanks to Ivan. Beer bugs, the little hard shell insects, notably attracted to the popular beverage sharing the same name, are easily caught, but Ivan wasn’t explicit as to if you first strain it through your kidneys, or not.
By the way, just as a matter of interest, this column begins my 27th year of writing for the Wellington Advertiser, which leaves me only 24 more years to complete number 50. In the meantime, note my new phone number. I will be fully moved up to my son’s family farm, just west of Markdale, by the end of August, and though my e-mail will be the same, my phone number will be in the 986 area so it will, of course, differ. Check it out below. Take care, `cause we care.