first errand was easy, mail out the check for my motorcycle insurance. i still need to call them though, the make/model on my policy is actually wrong. i'm sure it's just a clerical error (the VIN number is current though), but better safe than sorry. next i pedaled to union square, in the midst of a civic beautification effort as road crews were busy planting new trees along the neverending construction site known as somerville avenue.
i went to the post office to buy stamps, then to the bank to withdraw some money to pay back my mother for the loan she gave me earlier in the month. the clerk told me they ran out of $100's and could only give me $20's. i decided to go elsewhere, uncomfortable with the idea of carrying a large wad of cash in my pocket. on my way back, i went to rite aid to get some soap (pear's soap 3pak $2.99) and chocolate (120z. hershey's nuggets with toffee and almond $2.50), and stopped by the dollar store to buy 2 more boxes of solar garden lights.
i ran into my neighbor ed on my way to harvard square. he was thinking about having another garage sale this holiday weekend and was showing me some of his merchandise. where he gets all this stuff i have no idea. he wanted me to buy a pair of brand new salomon snowboard boots that were amazingly in my size. they looked pretty awesome, but i would never just wear them around during the winter. a pair would sell for a few hundred dollars retail, but ed was willing to let me have them for $25 (neighbor discount). even with such a generous offer, i had to pass. he usually has a fleet of used bicycles for sale too, which i checked out. he had some nice vintage french-made motobécane bikes, but unfortunately they were all too tall for me (not unless i liked getting beamed in the crotch every time i stopped).
i went to the bigger bank in harvard square to get my money. returning home, i changed into my jeans and took the motorcycle to belmont to add more lights to the backyard.
i disassembled one of the older lights to see what was inside. instead of one battery, these use 2 nickel-cadmium rechargeables (which i'd imagine means they're brighter). but the batteries don't hold much power anymore apparently. just at that moment earwigs started falling out of the housing and onto the dining room table (half a dozen). i screamed, then tried to smash the earwigs before they escaped, all the while entirely repulsed. i quickly threw the housing outside. after what i thought was sufficient time for the remaining earwigs to escape, i brought in the housing to clean it off in the sink. more earwigs fell out as i continued to scream. scarred for life? you bet.
while inspecting the garden i saw a colorful looking hairy wasp hanging around the korean cucumbers. i didn't quite connect the dots just yet, until i realized it was a squash vine borer (a type of daytime moth). the name itself explains what kind of damage this garden pest can wreak. i watched as it fluttered to the ground, flying to the base of each cucumber stems1, and looked to be laying eggs. i tried to capture it with a glass jar but it flew away. later i saw it hanging out near the squashes2, doing the same thing it was doing before. it flew away again before i could catch it. we have so many squash plants this year that if we were to lose a few, it wouldn't make much difference, but an infestation could wipe out all the squash for the year. tomorrow i'm going back to make a thorough inspection of all the squash plants and getting rid of any eggs i find3.
the belmont garden gets a surprising amount of dragonfly visitors. that's probably because my parents' backyard is less than half a mile uphill from nearby fresh pond. still, i don't know what could be attracting these dragonflies. maybe they're just lost or blown off-course. over the weekend i spotted a 12-spotted skimmer; today i found a green female pondhawk. once again a reminder that you don't have to travel far to see nature; sometimes it has a way of finding you.
back in cambridge, i left for harvard square again around 7:00 to participate in the bostonist's june photo walk. i've never been to one of these, but since this one was so close, i figured i'd check it out. about half a dozen people showed up. most had been to one of these photo walks before. the only other newbie i could tell was a young canadian from toronto here in town for a conference and to partake of our american independence holiday. the organizer and de facto leader was a young woman named liv (pronounced "leave"). without the formality of introducing everyone, we started walking around harvard square in search of photo opps.
i managed to chat briefly with every person except one. our common interest in photography wasn't enough to bridge the awkwardness between strangers, made more so by the fact that the photographers fell into two camps, that of nikon and canon, with nikon being the majority. everyone was sporting some serious hardware and i felt thoroughly unmatched in the lens department, with the exception of liv who seemed to be brandishing an rebel XT (same model as me) with a kit lens (or is that a 50mm?).
i think had i spent more time with everyone, i would've gotten to know them better. the photo walk itself seemed a little bit directionless, and a group of people wandering around taking photos with expensive camera equipment felt pretentious to me. i guess in my photomaking i prefer less company, or at least the company of people i'm more familiar with. sensing that maybe harvard square was a dud, liv suggested taking the walk back to her apartment in cambridgeport, where her housemates were having a barbecue party. i would've tagged along if i didn't have something else to do. i bid the group adieu and made my way home (my bicycle parked on the outskirts of harvard square).
with sunset approaching, i motorcycle to belmont again so i could catch the solar garden lights in action. earlier i'd place the 12 new lights around the perimeter of the backyard. my father was already home as we sat at the nearly-dried picnic table, waiting for the light show to begin. what's interesting is the lights don't turn on all at once. but based on which lights turn on first, we could get an idea of how the waning sunlight hits the backyard and which areas are shadier and which are sunnier. as it became darker, the string of lights edging the backyard became more evident. it made me want to go out and buy some more, but 18 solar lights are enough. i maybe want to get some solar lanterns for a few spots.
1 squash vine borer larvae don't feed on cucumbers, so the cukes should be safe. the egg-laying females are just attracted to the yellow flowers.
2 what i keep calling squashes are actually advertised as fancy gourds, which are in fact non-edible varieties of squash. not to be confused with bottle gourds (AKA hulus), which are entirely different, with white flowers that open at nights. i don't even know what kind of fancy gourds i have until they mature, since i planted a mixed assortment.
3 afterwards, i plan on wrapping tinfoil around the base of each squash plants, to prevent the borers from laying eggs on them. they're only out for 2 weeks, then it'll be safe to remove the tinfoil.