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Annie in Austin
Welcome! As "Annie in Austin" I blog about gardening in Austin, TX with occasional looks back at our former gardens in Illinois. My husband Philo & I also make videos - some use garden images as background for my original songs, some capture Austin events & sometimes we share videos of birds in our garden. Come talk about gardens, movies, music, genealogy and Austin at the Transplantable Rose and listen to my original songs on YouTube. For an overview read Three Gardens, Twenty Years. Unless noted, these words and photos are my copyrighted work.
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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Swashbuckling, Wood-chunking, and Bug-sloshing

"Swashbuckling, Wood-chunking, and Bug-sloshing" was written by Annie in Austin for the Transplantable Rose

he adventures may have been bloody but they were cinematic and the blood was not real in the new arthouse movie called The Fall. This visually compelling movie came with recommendations from both Roger Ebert and a trustworthy friend, so Philo and I went to see it at the Regal Arbor a couple of nights ago. We liked it a lot and were enthralled by the performances of a young Romanian girl named Catinca Untaru and by an actor who was unknown at the time this long-in-progress movie was filmed, Oklahoma's own Lee Pace. (Lee is now a favorite for those of us who have fallen under the spell of Pushing Daisies.) Lee's character is Roy, an injured stuntman confined to a Hollywood hospital in the 1920's. The wonderful Catinca plays Alexandria, also a patient, also injured, but mobile and so charming she has the run of the hospital. Roy tells Alexandria "an epic tale of love and revenge" - interrupting his story like Scheherazade in "One Thousand and One Nights". We see Roy's words inhabited by the kind of characters seen in old movies and visualized against some amazing settings. The hospital scenes were filmed first, but it took four years and location filming in 18 countries for Tarsem Singh and his brother Ajit to get this story on screen. The official site is here. A review by Reel Fanatic is here. If this looks like your kind of movie, try to get to it while it's still on the big screen.

The blood is real elsewhere. Mpst of us have discovered that deer, woodchucks, raccoons, squirrels and other animals don't share - they're able to turn an entire crop to compost by taking one bite of each fruit or tomato, or are willing to destroy a garden seemingly on a whim. Most of us just write posts in order to vent our anger and grief over lost crops or plants, but some people go after the varmints with everything from guns to hammers. Read all about it in the New York Times article on Garden Vigilantes. Philo saw the story first and brought it to my attention as soon as I woke up this morning.

Sometimes I read the paper right away with that first cup of coffee, but lately have bee
n taking a quick run out to the tomato patch before breakfast to look for Leaf-footed stink bugs. I don't like to use pesticides anyway, but after reading the level of poison needed to control these bugs it would be out of the question - I don't want to kill off the bees, too! So I take my small bucket with a couple of inches of water in the bottom, lightly sprayed with something like Simple Green to break the surface tension, and in the other hand carry the Green Shears of Death, a pair of stainless steel garden scissors. The bugs are too fast to cut in half, but but by using the point to hold the insect's attention while stealthily moving the bucket underneath him, one jab forward and many a stink bug falls into my pail and drowns. As I scurry around the tomato frame in a nightgown, carrying a bucket and scissors and making triumphant little grunts as another bug falls to soapy death, the idea of me tending a front yard vegetable patch grows ever fainter in imagination.
Some adventures are best kept behind the garden gate.

There will be Flower Photos next time! I promise!

"Swashbuckling, Wood-chunking, and Bug-sloshing" was written by Annie in Austin for the
Transplantable Rose Blog.


  1. The movie does sound intriguing Annie. It's been a while since I've seen one worthy of its exorbitant ticket price. You made me smile with your story about hunting for bugs in your nightgown. It's a good thing we have neighbors who like to garden too. To anyone else, my early morning forays into the garden (dressed in my absurd pajamas) might seem a bit insane.

  2. Great choice of movies to review! I saw it last weekend and have been singing its praises to everyone I've seen. From the stunning cinematography to that amazing young actress, this is one I might actually consider buying when it comes out on DVD (and I don't buy movies). My quandry was how in the hell they directed her! The performance was so innocent and real, I can't believe everything wasn't improvised and captured on the first take.

    Anyway, thanks for letting me spew.

  3. I am glad to know I am not the only gardener out in the cool of the morning before changing from robe into clothes. I don't think I have seen this type of stink bug here. I will keep a look out for them.

  4. Oh Annie it is comforting to know that I am not the only one with these "little rotters". While we were away they just about destroyed my tomato crop. Let me tell you what I do; I do it with my fingers with no gloves. I am quite the master of the pinch. Water is too good for this bug along with Harlequin bug. No mercy.

  5. Great link to the Garden Vigilantes story. I cried and laughed and cried. Misery loves company. Durn raccoons.

  6. Great link to the Garden Vigilantes story. I cried and laughed and cried. Misery loves company. Durn raccoons.

  7. Annie, thanks for the thumbs up on the movie. It's on my must see list now! (We're big fans of PUSHING DAISIES here on MCOK, too.)

    I've got bugs aplenty here, and squirrels, but no deer. Raccoons are rumored to hang out in the storm drains but I've never spotted them. Rats, however, can be a problem. They eat the birdseed from the feeders at night and I have no idea how to stop them, short of bringing the feeders in.

  8. I just read that article today- so funny. But a little disturbing when it talked about the woman getting the porcupine with a sledgehammer.

  9. I'm visualizing you in your garden in a nightgown with shears and scissors waging war on those bugs:)
    Actually, like Lisa, I'm often out checking the flowers in the morning wearing my ratty blue robe. I don't think the neighbors can see me, or maybe that's just wishful thinking.
    Thank heavens we don't have leaf-footed stink bugs, but they sound as bad as Japanese beetles, which we do have.

  10. Thanks for the trip on 'The Fall', I put in my queue at Netflix.

  11. The trailer is compelling for that movie! We all rage our own little wars in the garden don't we.

  12. Thanks for the recommendation Annie. I'll add it to my Netflix list.

  13. Hello Walk2Write - when we left the movie theater we sure felt as if we'd had our money's worth!
    It's nice to have gardening neighbors.

    I'm so glad you liked this movie, too, Billy the Garden Wise Guy - it's one of those movies you just want to tell other people about!
    The Regal Art theater has a free Film Guide that told a lot about the making of the movie - is there any way you can get hold of a copy?

    Lisa at Greenbow - it's too hot for a real robe but my collection of tattered dusters and muumuus have all been dragged through the mud. I hope you never see this bug!

    Wow Lancashire Jenny! I might be able to get over the 'ick' factor, but doubt I have the vision or hand-eye coordination to catch them. I am in awe!

    Wasn't it an amazing article MSS? I'll have to check out the reader responses - bet there are lively conversations going.

    I cannot resist "Pushing Daisies", Cindy! The supporting cast is wonderful, too. All those legends of the theater!

    The Austin bird feeder-rat stories make me glad I only give birds water, not food. Dawn/Suburban Wildlife Gardener had a creepy photo on her blog. Birdseed attracts rats and feeding pets outside attracts coyotes! Yipes!
    Have you ever tried coating the birdseed with hot pepper? I've read that it doesn't affect the birds, but squirrels and rats are discouraged.

    Just killing scorpions used to make me feel queasy, Bonnie. I can't imagine how she could kill the porkie!

    It may not be a good mental picture, Prairie Rose! My 6-foot privacy fence means the back garden always gets more attention than the front. We had Japanese Beetles in IL - do not remember them with affection!

    I'll probably watch it again when it comes on DVD, Herself - and hope you like it.

    Maybe the more logical and efficient the gardener, the more infuriating the non-logical workings of nature, Layanee? And we are trained from childhood not to waste food or be destructive, admonitions which are meaningless to non-human life!

    I think you will like it, Phillip. Since it just came out, you may have to wait but it will be worth it!

    Thank you for all the comments,


  14. Go for the front veggie garden! Who cares if you're out front in your jammies, as long as you're decent. I often wander around out front in my robe when I go out to get the paper. The neighbors are used to me. I'm going to check out that Garden Vigilantes article now. Thanks.

  15. Thanks for the movie review/recommendation! Now that I'm in a bigger metro area, I can actually find some of these hard-to-find indie/great/kick-arse films again...and on a big screen! Definitely worth the money.

    And good luck with your bug-killing operation!

  16. We all have predators to deal with. I'm with you on not wanting to poison everybody indiscriminately, but I never outgrew the yuck factor. I could no more cut a bug in half than remove my own appendix. For now, I seem to keep 'em at by by hosing down things in the morning. It also helps that I have a habitat that welcomes birds. They take care of a lot of the yucky bugs.
    I used to use a super soaker water gun that you can pump and shoot 50 feet. We'd sit in the yard beneath an umbrella where the bird couldn't see us, and shoot at the great herons when they landed near our pond and tried to snack on our koi. Now, we just net the pond. Not as pretty, but it works better than a water gun.

  17. Wonderful review, my husband loved it and has been telling all about it!

    I am presently doing battle with the Phlox Bug...which is decimating my summer phlox....no way do I want to use pesticides of the magnitude recommended...I'll do without the phlox, sigh,


  18. Green Shears of Death? Sounds like another song title, maybe for Halloween. We don't have those Leaf-footed stink bugs, but we do have Japanese beetles, which deserve the same treatment and worse.

    I am definitely going to read that article about Garden Vigilantes...

    Thanks for an interesting post as always!

  19. I missed the Garden Vigilantes article this week, but the paper is probably waiting for me back in the city. Reading newspapers online is just not the same.

    I found my first ever Colorado Potato Beetle this week - munching on a tomato plant. Reading up online, I learned they've been the target of so many pesticides that they're now resistant to many of them. Handpicking is the way to go, I guess.

    I cut a tomato hornworm in half with the grass shears last year, but I don't think I'd like to do it again. Just too icky.

  20. Ours must be slower than yours... I cut plenty of those guys in half last summer. I was shocked at how amazingly good it felt. I almost wanted to chant "take THAT!" with every snip. Scared myself. ;)

  21. Kill a porcupine with a sledgehammer?! Eeeew and alrighty then! Then I feel vindicated off-ing mine with a single .22 slug to the brain. Humane, speedy, and "out go the lights".

  22. I'm grinning at the thought of you running around in your nightie, Annie. I've been outside in random clothing, too... but I think I wouldn't care whether it was the front yard or the backyard, if I wanted to grow veggies. I'm pretty irreverant like that, I guess.

  23. Yay for the hunter! And cool trick to fool the pesky bugs into falling to their sure drowning death!

  24. Heehee. I think that was the most convincing argument against front yard veggie gardening that I've heard so far. I've been known to weed in nothing but a towel after getting distracted by the view of the garden from the hot tub! ;D

  25. Ha, I do the same thing with my scissors, although mine are small and lethally pointed. One quick cut and one less nasty insect to deal with.

    Running out to the garden in my nightgown had my neighbour asking me how many nightgowns I had since I seemed to be wearing a different one each morning. I didn't think anyone ever noticed ... not that I care. But warfare is far more important than vanity. I have to check out the garden vigilante story. It made me think of Michael Pollan's Second Nature ... and bombing the woodchucks.

  26. No thanks, MMGD - too many tree roots, loose cats and people walking dogs for growing vegetables in front!

    Austin doesn't get movies as quickly as NY and CA, but at least we're on the "B" list, Inadvertent Genie - college towns have cultural advantages! Enjoy the access!

    Since we put in the disappearing fountain a few months ago, our back yard is like an aviary, WeepingSore - but it seems no one likes the taste of Leaf-footed bugs. That super soaker could come in handy for cats and squirrels.

    Thanks Gail - I'm glad your husband liked it, too. Your Phlox Bug sounds like a pain! I'm sorry it's targeted one of your favorite plants.

    My garden scissors got that name last summer when all the rain brought out snails and slugs, Carol - and although I don't miss the slugs, we could sure use the rain now.
    I used to do the same thing with Japanese beetles in IL - bet you will find the 'Peter Rabbit Must Die' article enlightening!

    I like the paper NYTimes myself, Entangled - and also let them stack up for awhile, then have an information orgy.

    Cutting is icky - but supposedly leaving the remains in place also acts as a warning to others. Sort of like the varmint hides hung along fences or tacked on sheds in the country?

    Part of the problem is maneuvering around the tomato frame without knocking off developing tomatoes, Rurality. Your glee sounds halfway between Sweeney Todd and Edward Scissorhands - very Johnny Depp in either instance!

    How "Annie Oakley" of you, Lisa! I've read scary stories of the destruction one porcupine can wreak.

    You're not only more intrepid than I am, Blackswamp Kim - you're a lot younger! It's weird, but even though my songs are on YouTube, I want to be invisible in my own neighborhood.

    The numbers have been lower the last few days, Tina - not sure if it's my hunting or the heat!

    Well you have met me in person, Lori - so know that I should be fully dressed before appearing in front >:-0

    That Michael Pollan story immediately came to my mind, too, Kate. It's interesting to think how his experience made him turn in a completely different direction mentally. I also remember that he left that garden on the edge of the woods behind and moved to California!

    Thanks for the comments!


  27. Making triumphant little grunts? I always get such a giggle from your posts. Carry on you brave stink bug warrior! I wish you a rapid victory. :-)

  28. Will try to see the movie if it shows here in Oklahoma. LOL at the idea. Otherwise on Netflix. I hate stink bugs of all sorts, and I get them any way I can.~~Dee

  29. Annie - thanks for the stinkbug stalking tip! And what an image that conjured up - LOL! I had them so bad last year that I had to give up and let them have my tomatoes in Sept/Oct. Figured I'd gotten most of the fruit anyway, but I've seen them on the butterfly bushes out front a lot, so I am afraid, very afraid! I will try your technique and see how I do. You may have to come visit and give me a lesson!

  30. too funny! I have learned to kill the stink bugs when I see them, but I am still learning which Texas bugs are bad and which ones are good. There were a lot less bugs in Wisconsin! I've seen a new bug on my sunflowers every day this week. I have no idea what any of them are!

  31. Hi Annie ... that films sounds fascinating, and I'd been wondering what Tarsem Singh has been up to the last few years. The only film of his I've seen was The Cell which I thought was a brilliant piece of work, despite J-Lo! I'm going to keep an eye out for it, as it will likely show at our arthouse 4-plex (the best cinema in town!).

    Love the story about your stinkbug stalking ... fortunately we don't have those here. Our main tomato threats are Japanese beetles, White flies and those icky green cutworms. We're a no pesticide garden here too(except for mosquito yard spray that only goes on the grass). With all the rain and flooding we've had here lately, I expect we'll have a bumper crop of nasty bugs this year, but we will see! LOL, we planted our corn seeds on Sat last, and they're up already ... yay!

    You have a lovely site, and I'll be back frequently! Thanks for stopping by my place ... it's always gratifying to see another gardener find it!


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