Monday, March 26, 2007


It was an absolutely spectacular July Saturday morning. In the early morning hours, as the mist rose from the pond below us, we walked our Dalmatians in the vineyard.

The still bright-green leaves of the vines and trees were tinged with yellow and gold sunlight. The vineyard looked beautiful. It was idyllic. The dogs ran up and down the rows of vines, all senses on high alert.

After the walk, we ate breakfast in the kitchen with the windows open. We ate cereal with raspberries and sipped fresh-brewed coffee.

Today would be a nice day. We would finally take a breather and drive around the country, looking for yard sales filled with great deals on items (i.e. cheap, affordable furniture) with which to decorate our house. We took our time. We all took showers, discussed our route and places to stop, Hawthorne Valley, Love’s Apple Farm, and we hoped to take a drive through Old Chatham and Spencertown.

It took us a while to get ready. We got the car keys, we gated up the dogs in the kitchen, and we walked to the back door. Closing the back door, we looked at the large rose bush in bloom. Were the blossoms, the new flowers, already rotting? What were all those small brown spots? Upon closer examination, we realized that the suspect brown spots were in fact small, brownish/copper bugs. And there were a lot of them. We were being invaded by Japanese beetles!

It was then that Dominique and I looked at each other. Japanese beetles. Hordes of them. And then we both thought the same thing—the vineyard!

We ran around the house and ran toward the vineyard. From afar it looked fine. But when we got there we realized our little green patch of paradise was now hosting what appeared to be one of the biggest Japanese beetle festivals in North America.

There, on almost every plant, were hordes of beetles doing two things—fornicating and eating. Sometimes in that order—and sometimes not.

I hate bugs. I hate them. I am totally grossed out by them. I hate spiders and beetles and ants and mosquitoes and moths. I truly don’t even like butterflies—which I am sure makes me somewhat unmasculine in a lot of women’s eyes.

We had heard what they could do. To say the least, we were completely unprepared. What to do? What to do? We called our Cornell Extension expert, Steven McKay. Nothing—we got through to his voice mail. Then Dom called Michael Migliore, HVWGA president and Whitehall owner. Yes. He, too, had been attacked. He recommended doing whatever we thought might work, and had a few key suggestions. Steve Osborn from Stoutridge responded to us, as well. He’d been at war since early that morning.

Dominique wanted to try an organic solution.

We tried pepper sprays, garlic sprays, went around with a can with oil. We did battle on every front around the farm. We beat bushes, even resorted to squashing the beetles in our fingers (they crunch, by the way, when you press them). The boys, especially Dylan, were thrilled.
We spent all day Saturday and all day Sunday battling the little pests, who sometimes sat as many as five on a leaf, in ugly bug orgies.

Finally, as they were gaining the upper hand, and the vineyard was disappearing before our eyes, we sprayed our small vineyard with an over-the-counter spray. It worked.

By Sunday night, the bugs were gone. Our beautiful vines had holes in them everywhere, at least the ones that had not been completely eaten. We were devastated. We went to bed that night, after a bottle of wine, exhausted and relieved.

On Monday, someone asked, "How was your weekend at the vineyard?", thinking it must have been charming and restful.

I just rubbed my eyes.


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