The Great Mosquito Hack of the Summer of ’22

Mosquitoes. Love. ME.

This post is for you if:

  • mosquitoes love you, too
  • you hate having to use Mosquito Joe to manage these pests because you suspect there is collateral damage to beneficial insects, but you hate mosquitoes more
  • you hate to wear bug spray and socks, a long-sleeve shirt, and pants in the middle of summer whenever you weed your garden
  • you worry about diseases spread by mosquitoes

I am very thankful for the day my delightful naturalist friend, Joanna Brichetto, posted a story on her blog, Sidewalk Nature, called The Mosquito Bucket of Doom. It is about a bee-friendly, vegetable garden-friendly, pet-friendly way to eliminate mosquitos in your yard.

I’m here to tell you Joanna’s mosquito control system really WORKS. I’m such a believer; I show everyone who visits my yard my buckets. And, now I’m showing YOU!

How to Make a Mosquito Bucket

Ingredients:
a  5-gallon bucket, a planter, or any container with a wide top
a few handfuls of grass clippings (leaves work but take longer to decompose)
water
a package of Mosquito Dunks® (a larvicide)

Instructions:
Add 3-4 handfuls of grass or other yard clippings to a container of your choice.
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Half-fill the container with water. As the organic matter decomposes, it produces carbon dioxide, which attracts female mosquitoes. Add a Dunk® and place the bucket in a sunny location. Thirty days later, add a newDunk®. I buy packages that contain 20 Dunk®s online.

I have four buckets in my half-acre backyard. They are scattered among my vegetable garden beds, the chicken coop,

and one, prettier than the others, is located on the patio.

Testimonials
We hosted my son’s rehearsal dinner in our backyard in the middle of July with just four buckets for mosquito control and never saw a skeeter.

I volunteer at a community garden near a floodplain with many mosquitoes. I brought supplies to make two buckets and showed the residents how to set the system up. We placed the containers on opposite ends of the garden for adequate coverage. We inspected the yard for sources of standing water and removed them. Two weeks later, while working in the gardens, we happily realized the mosquitoes were GONE!.

How Does the Mosquito Bucket Work?

Mosquito Dunks® work by killing mosquito larvae, interrupting the insect’s reproduction cycle. It does not kill adult insects of any variety, just the larvae of mosquitoes using the bucket for their next generations’ production.

Joanna Brichetto is quick to point out that she learned about the buckets from famed etymologist Dr. Doug Tallamy. Here is a link to his short video explanation.

Mosquitoes need water to breed. They only need ¼-inch of standing water to successfully lay eggs. It takes a few days for the eggs to hatch into the little swimmers you see in the photo below. Joanna permitted me to use this photo because she is passionate about protecting the environment. “Yes, of course!” she replied when asked, “The more buckets, the better!”

Dr. Tallamy says the best way to control mosquitoes is to interrupt the growth cycle of their larvae. These swimmers eat a mosquito-specific toxin, B.t.i. (Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis) spore found in Dunks® that prevent them from maturing. Furthermore, Dr. Tallamy says broad spraying of insecticides kills only about 10% of adult mosquitoes and many other insects. Thus, the mosquito bucket method is more specific and effective.

If you came by my house this summer, chances are I sent you home with a Dunk® or two. Like my friend Joanna, I feel the more people who know about the mosquito buckets, the happier they will be outdoors, and the more beneficial insects will be available to do insect work, like pollinating flowers across the city.

Thank you, Joanna; you gave our family a mosquito-free summer without much fuss and chemicals.

Related Stories:
Joanna recently appeared in a Nashville Public Television Volunteer Gardener episode called Natives in Plain Sight. You can follow her on Instagram at jo_brichetto and on her blog, Sidewalk Nature.

Putting Your Garden to Bed with a Blanket of Cover Crops

How to Start Seeds in a Recycled Milk Jug

Edible Landscaping with Nashville Foodscapes

How to Build a 4 x 4 Raised Garden Bed

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.
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© 2014-2022 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may not be reproduced without the written consent of Judy Wright.

How to Make Pine Cone Flowers

I love a project that involves a group of folks sitting around the table chitchatting the time away while working with their hands to create something new and lovely. It feels good and hugely satisfying to make something that didn’t exist before.

Such was the creative environment when Herb Society of Nashville member, Larry Banner, gave fellow “Herbies” a workshop on making flowers out of dried pine cones. We worked in the barn of an HSN member. The barn doors were wide open and sheep were grazing in the field. It was a beautiful day.

When I arrived at the farm, I would not have imagined that this pile of dried pine cones and seed pods sitting on the table

would reveal delicate flowers from within through focused whittling.

Larry graciously showed us how to sculpt flowers using two tools, pointy cultivation scissors and ratcheting pruning shears.

We learned to make zinnias out of the large round pine cones on the table by cutting horizontally across the cone’s midsection and then snipping off a few scales (aka pine cone “leaves”) from the core to create a central disc similar to flowers found in the Asteraceae Family.

By the way, if you turn the zinnia over, you have a coneflower!

Larry glued a tiny seed head to the coneflower’s center for the finishing touch.

Next, we used short squatty pine cones to make roses. Larry had us cut off the tip of the cone and then snip each scale twice to create pointy rose petals.

He used the bottom portion of that cone to make button zinnias.

Larry painted his rose pink. He said there are hundreds of pine cone flower how-to videos online.

I found this pretty pine cone arrangement for sale here on Etsy.

We used the long thin cones to make the two-toned flowers. I love the variety of patterns, colors, and textures on the scales. Had I not taken this workshop, I doubt I would ever have paid attention to these subtleties of nature.

We cut a magnolia seed pod in half to make these flowers.

This is a video of how Larry cut the pod:

Larry began the workshop by showing us how to cut into pine cones. It takes work. Some pine cone artists, for ease, choose to use a grinder saw to cut off the bases.

Larry rotated the cone as he cut deeper and deeper into its core until the bottom finally fell off. It looks like you are butchering it, but the flowers come out fine.

Here is a video of Larry cutting a cone:

Create a Flower Arrangement
Once we had created our flowers, we arranged them on a base. To help us remember our position of flowers before gluing them down, Larry had us photograph our work. He likes to use the E6000 brand of quick-drying glue because it has a very thin nozzle.

Once the arrangement is set, spray with polyurethane (satin or gloss) to protect the flowers from moisture and make the colors pop.

Here are some of the pine cone varieties we used:

The Herb Society of Nashville is hosting the 2022 Herb Society of Nashville Plant Sale at the Nashville Fairgrounds, Expo Building 3, on Saturday, April 30. Doors open at 9:00 A.M.

Anyone interested in growing, using, or studying herbs is encouraged to apply for membership in The Herb Society of Nashville. The Membership Committee accepts applications year-round. Here is a link to an application.

Other Crafty Posts on Judy’s Chickens:
How to Make Plant-Based Dyes
How to Make Gorgeous Birdhouse Gourds
How to Make Indigo Blue Dye
How to Make Cork Bulletin Boards

How to Build a 4 x 4 Raised Garden Bed

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.
If you enjoyed this post, sign up to become a follower. If you do sign-up, press “confirm” on the follow-up letter sent to your email address. And, feel free to share!!

© 2014-2022 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may not be reproduced without the written consent of Judy Wright.

How to Knit Fingerless Mittens on Straight Needles

Fingerless mittens are my new favorite mitt to wear in winter. Even now, as I sit outside on the porch writing this post, I am wearing them, tucking my fingers into the wool interior now and then to warm them.

My husband is a convert, as well. He has found he can pet his beloved dog, feed her a treat for minding him, and answer a text while out on our walks, all without taking his mitts off!

A Knitting Club:

I recently started a knitting club at a local high school. The first stitch I taught the students was the long-tail cast-on. It’s a little more complex than the backward loop cast on, but it gives a neat, elastic edge to your garment; I thought it was worth the extra effort. The students were brilliant and figured it out in no time and then taught their friends. That was lovely; I even heard a few of them say how accomplished they felt. That taught me not to underestimate their eagerness to learn a new skill. Next, they learned to knit and purl. The first garment we worked on was a scarf. I worked out this stitch sampler to introduce them to a few pattern options.

Here’s a photo of one student’s first finished object, a scarf knit in stockinette stitch. I was so happy for her!

All the needles and yarn for the class were donated by friends and strangers alike. I received many lovely notes with the packages of supplies. I’ve included two. Receiving boxes of supplies in the mail or dropped off on my porch was all part of the fun for me. The knitting community is a generous bunch. I am grateful.

Moving this story along, I was inspired by one student’s desire to make fingerless mitts. I have always found knitting mittens to be a complicated endeavor, mainly because they are typically knit on four double-pointed needles. Along with keeping up with the stitch count and keeping the needles level, you need to knit in a thumb gusset (which I’ll explain soon). After much trial and error, I figured out a pattern that used one size of straight needles and worked up quickly once you got the hang of it. The pattern still may be too advanced for a beginner, but I’ve written it up with detailed instructions and lots of pictures hoping that those who are motivated and willing will give it a try. Once I figured this out, I’ve been making mitts for friends and family using all sorts of colorful yarns.

Anatomy of a Fingerless Mitten: 

Measurements:
7-inches long and 8-inches around the palm of the hand. They seem to fit the average-sized hand as there is a lot of give in the fabric.

Supplies:
1 pair size 7 straight knitting needles
1 skein (about 110 yards) of worsted weight yarn
2 stitch markers (you could use paperclips)
1 large-eyed sewing needle
a tape measure
scissors
paper and pen for counting rows (optional)

Choosing yarn — what’s all the info on the yarn tag mean? 
This pattern calls for worsted weight yarn. The word “weight” refers to the thickness of the fiber, not what is measured on a scale. Any yarn you like that says “worsted” on the label will do. For extra warmth, choose 100% wool.

Knitting Terms:
Cast-on: How you put stitches on a needle to begin a project. 
1×1 Rib: Knit 1, Purl 1 across each row.
Stockinette Stitch: Right-side rows, knit. Wrong-side rows, purl
Increase a Stitch: Turn one stitch into two by knitting into the front and back of the loop. 
Bind-off: How you securely take stitches off a needle when finished knitting.
RS: Right side or front of garment. WS: Wrong side of garment.
Gusset: Because thumbs have a joint and need room to move, we build in an extra triangular patch of fabric called a gusset. To shape a gusset, we increase stitches at regular intervals to accommodate the added width of the thumb. This photo is a good demonstration of what a knitted gusset looks like.

The Goal: 
This is how your mitt should look when you are finished. We will start from the bottom cuff and work our way up. The thumb fits comfortably on either hand, so you will knit two identical mitts.

Once you fold the sides in and sew the seam, your mitt will look like this.

Let’s Get Started!

Knit the Cuff:
Cast on 36 stitches. Work in k1, p1 rib for 2¾ inches. End with your last row being worked on the WS. How do you know which is the RS? The cast-on tail is hanging from the right-hand corner.

Knit the Hand:
With RS facing, knit 6 rows of stockinette stitch. I use tally marks to keep track of my row count.

Set Up Thumb Gusset Increases:
Row 1: k16, place a marker, increase 1, k1, increase 1, place a marker, k17 (38 stitches total). You will then increase 2 stitches every other row as follows:

Row 2, 4, 6, 8, 10: Purl row.
Row 3: k16, increase 1, k3, increase 1, k17 (40 stitches)
Row 5: k16, increase 1, k5, increase 1, k17 (42 stitches)
Row 7: k16, increase 1, k7, increase 1, k17 (44 stitches)
Row 9: k16, increase 1, knit 9, increase 1, k17 (46 stitches)
Your work should look like this:

Purl 10th row and remove markers. Turn work over to RS.

Shape Thumb:
With RS facing, k27, increase 1 stitch on the next (28th) stitch.

Turn work. With WS facing, p11, increase 1 stitch on the next (12th) stitch for a total of 13 stitches.

Turn work. Begin working back and forth in stockinette stitch on these 13 stitches for 4 rows. Your work will look a little wonky on the needle.

Loosely bind off the 13 thumb stitches leaving a 10-inch tail. Your work will look like this.

Knit Remainder of Hand:
Row 1: With RS facing, join yarn from ball and increase 1 stitch on the first stitch on the left side of thumb gusset/flap. Knit to end of row. You should have a total of 36 stitches on the needle with a gap in the middle.

Row 2: Turn work, purl across the row, joining the two sides.

Next 6 rows: Continue in stockinette stitch. If you would like longer mitts for more coverage over fingers, add 4-6 more rows of stockinette stitch at this point.

Ribbed Closure:
Next 6 rows: k1, p1 rib.
7th row: Bind off stitches in rib pattern. Leave a 15-inch tail.

Finishing: 
Thumb: With RS facing and starting from the top, use the mattress stitch to sew the seam. Turn fabric to WS, pull tail through work, and weave in the end.

With RS facing and starting from the top, use the mattress stitch to sew mitten sides together. Turn mitten to WS, pull tail through, and weave in ends.
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The founders of Modern Daily Knitting, Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner, generously donated copies of their Skill Set Beginning Knitting book and downloads of their Skill Set app to the knitting club students. I highly recommend the app as a one-stop “shop” for learning or tuning up your knitting skills. They have a nice section on seaming using the mattress stitch.

Please drop me a note in the comments section if you have questions.

Related Knitting Posts:

How to Knit a Hat and Make a Pom Pom

What to Knit for a Baby: a Hat, a Sweater and a Blanket

A Birthday Tribute for My Mother: Knitting Neck Warmers with Mom’s Stash

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.
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© 2014-2022 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may not be reproduced without the written consent of Judy Wright.

How to Make Dishtowel Vegetable Storage Bags

My dishtowel drawer is a hot mess smorgasbord of fruits, vegetables, flowers, chickens, funny sayings, and colorfully striped images, all printed on cotton rectangles. The super-absorbent among them, often dingy and stained, are the workhorses of my kitchen. The others, those with high sentimental value or less absorbency, have been smushed up in the back of the drawer for eons. They are the ones now being repurposed into vegetable storage bags.

I use the storage bags as I harvest food from the garden.

I use them to store veggies in the fridge after they have been washed.

I use them to hold electronics when I travel.

The idea came to me while harvesting greens in my backyard. I didn’t want to mix the kale, lettuce, and spinach leaves together yet didn’t have enough containers to keep them separate, so I decided to repurpose my stash of dishtowels to make harvest containers.

I started with my favorite towel, one my mother bought me from France while on one of her annual painting trips with artist friends. Talk about high sentimental value.

This painting of my mom was created by one of her friends on that trip. It captures a moment in time when she was happy and healthy.

This towel was from a pair that fell into the category of loved but not absorbent enough. I ended up making two bags with them, one for my sister-in-law, Lesley, and the other for my friend, Jennifer, both of whom garden.

I am a scrappy seamstress, but I don’t let that stop me, and I hope you won’t let it stop you. I had to finish this one by hand because my sewing machine died.

I used the trimmed remnants from this first bag to make the drawstring.

My husband gave me the idea to use shoelaces instead. I ordered an assortment of 54″ laces from Amazon.

How to Make Dishtowel Storage Bags:

Supplies:
Clean dish towels, any size works
54″ shoelaces

Instructions

Fold dishtowel in half with right sides facing. If the towel is too wide for your intended use, trim off some of the width.

Pin side seams together. On the bag opening side, leave a two-inch gap. This is where the tunnel for the drawstring will be. Sew the side seams and trim off the edges to reduce bulk.

Sew the tunnel opening. You can do this the quick way, which leaves you with an unfinished edge,

or you can unfurl the original seams, fold the frayed edges under, pin them, and create a more finished edge.

Next, fold over the top one-inch edge of the fabric, pin it down, and sew the drawstring tunnel.

Run your shoelace through the tunnel, and you are ready for business.

One dishtowel will stay in my collection forever, and there is a story about it here. RIP to my dear and funny friend, Carol, who died two years ago from breast cancer.

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Some other Fun How-Tos:
How to Make a Heart Tree
How to Make Cork Bulletin Boards
How to Build a 4 x 4 Raised Garden Bed
How to Make Whole Milk Ricotta
How to Peel an Orange or Grapefruit Quickly

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.
If you enjoyed this post, consider becoming a follower. Be sure to press “confirm” on the follow-up letter sent to your email address.

© 2014-2021 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may not be reproduced without the written consent of Judy Wright.