Spooky Action Ranch Report | Week Twenty-four 2015

June 8th to June 14th, 2015

Possible Cow Killer Sighting

Cow Killer?

I spotted this fellow hanging out on the peas for several days. It doesn’t really look like the Cow Killer, but I don’t get any other options in my searches. Does anyone recognize this guy?

I saw a very interesting bug this week and snapped a couple of photos of it.  From the activities I saw it engaged in, it seems to be stalking the stink bugs, which I am 100% in favor of.  I cannot, however, make a positive ID on this little guy.  Any help is welcome.

He does resemble the Cow Killer Ant, but I am not convinced that it is one, specifically because he lacks the fuzzy texture often used to described the Cow Killer, which is also sometimes named the Velvet Ant.   It looks like there may be many varieties of this critter, so maybe this is a particularly hairless version.  The Cow Killer Ant is not actually an ant but rather a wingless wasp.  It is a solitaire creature, not living in nests, but makes a solo gypsy trek across the wilderness.

The wasp earned its name for the severe painfulness of the sting, which is said to hurt so badly it could kill a cow.  This deterred me from trying to investigate this creature in my garden any further.  The interesting thing is that they actually seem to feed on nectar and water in the adult stages, so he probably was not stalking my stink bug after all, just wishful thinking.

Shade Cloth Close-up

I used the three arbors in the garden to serve as support ‘poles’ for the shade cloth installation, sometimes extending the support using extra wood to help keep the cloth well elevated.

Shade Cloth Installation

Summer is really here in Central Texas, the clouds and rain have passed, the sun beats down for long days, and the temperatures are reaching above 90 degrees.  It is time to protect our garden from the full force of what the Texas sun can do.  Its time to install our shade cloth.

This year we revamped our grapevine arbors, making them several feet taller and much more strongly anchored into the cinder-block walls of our raised beds.  This was all in preparation for the installation of shade cloth over the enclosed area of our garden.  Thinking of the arbors as poles in a circus tent, we spread shade cloth from the arbors to the support wires we strung from corner to corner along the fence.   In this way we were able to suspend a nearly complete roof of shade cloth over the entire garden.  It has been working beautifully, cutting down the sun exposure for both plants and gardeners alike!

We purchased a large roll of 40% shade cloth and cut it to fit our needs.  I highly recommend this technique, since pre-cut cloth is much more expensive and it has given me a great deal of flexibility.  It is important to note, when you are working with and cutting the shade cloth fabric, which way the fabric stretches.  I don’t think I have this all figured out yet, but you will need to work with that stretch when installing the cloth to insure you can stretch it tightly over the area you are working in and not get deep droops which can be annoying when you are trying to work under them.

Garden in Shade

It is great to have a shady ceiling floating over me and the pants to keep us cool this summer.

We used the 40% shade version of the cloth because we felt it was a good match for our garden, letting in enough light for the plants to have the juice they need to grow happily but hopefully blocking enough to keep them from suffering under the intense and drying heat.  It is possible that we could have gone to a higher percentage, and I might consider it if/when we need to buy cloth in the future.

For now, I am very happy with the results, and am looking forward to a summer working in the garden under the shade of my lovely little shade cloth tent!

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