Remember a while back I posted a piece on grasshoppers and crickets? I believe the post ended with these words “And, if we don’t overreact, but do take the time to observe, we can enjoy the sounds of crickets.”  Yeah well that was back in May when the grass was green and life was good (it still is) and 400 acres immediately adjoining the property was in CRP. As much as I dislike pitching the anecdotal reactionary milk pail onto the public sidewalk without one shred of verifiable scientific fact to back it up…I’m going to.

Friday August 1st

It wasn’t the decimation of the sunflowers, nipped squash heads, shattered limp coyote willows that caused the rising panic, it was the experience of stepping onto the mulched corridor between two planting areas and suddenly being engulfed in a rising tide of flying insects. It was the sound of hundreds of flat thudding animals as they dropped down to escape my movements and then leaped into the air again. 8:30 am and the sun was climbing into its treacherous ascent bent on burning every last living thing that wasn’t in shade including me and where was I?  Out in Charlie’s gulag (a large safety enclosure for one of CBP’s cats) for 45 minutes, a large sheet in each hand literally beating thousands of desert grasshoppers away from the plantings, knowing how utterly futile the exercise was and not being able to stop regardless of my lead weight arm muscles or despite the sweat and shortness of breath (and I’m in great shape).

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Great, now what? I know, emotion, lots of it; anger, frustration, helplessness and generally any other baby-ish reactions a human can muster. That’s helpful.  My emotional outburst produced a ride to the local hardware store to purchase mesh screen that would protect any number of brand new spring planted young saplings. That, and a baby pool filled with water under the black cottonwoods where we would herd unsuspecting grasshoppers to their drowning deaths.

On the way back from the hardware store, I at least made an attempt to use basic statistical science to understand what was going on, by stopping every mile, getting out of the vehicle and taking a grasshopper “count” with Will Kearns until we had enough data compiled to review. Part One of our theory was and is; in a year with a mild frost kill free spring with adequate rain (6″ from January – June) the apricot trees produced a bumper crop of apricots and the environs produced a bumper crop of desert grasshoppers because most of the emerging larvae weren’t killed in a deep May freeze. Part two of our theory was and is; CRP, in what was once 10.5 Million Acres of the native shrub steppe ecosystem, and what has now dwindled down to 3 Million Acres (and declining), has become the default habitat for desert grasshoppers and our “neighbors” just disked under 400 Acres of CRP immediately adjoining our property June 25th.

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Melanoplus bivittatus, now finding themselves homeless, walked a couple hundred feet to find safety within an Oasis of greenery, a kind of “eat all you want buffet” of sorts. During my lucid moments, when I was able to apply Permaculture conceptual theory, I completely understood the logic of life on earth for Melanoplus and their ensuing migratory response – survival.

Ok, that’s cool brother, I get it, but we’re gonna have to balance this one out. Don’t wanna be a hater. America’s got enough of those already (hey when did they switch from home of the free and the brave to home of the infantile overreacting violence addicted whiners?) bent on spraying, dominating, killing every thing that’s not behaving.

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Now it gets interesting. Nope, we’re not going to spray anything, period. Grow up. That’s where Luis Candela and Elide Malagamba enter the picture. They hail from the new scorpio/capricorn plutonic generations that are either throwing themselves on the sacrificial alters to create change or methodically changing the broken systems from the ground up – either way – they have applied the powers of observation and have no intention of drinking the Kool Aid those of us on the ass end of the American baby boomers have guzzled down i thought about this.

Luis found Columbia Basin Permaculture on the world wide permaculture network PRI site by signing up and searching for dry climate permaculture sites around the western U.S. states and got a hold of me a week ago to ask if he could come by for a visit. They rolled in late at night and woke up to one of the harshest climates on the planet complete with a grasshopper infestation. And when they saw the baby swimming pool full of drowned grasshoppers they were horrified.

Remember; Water, Climate, Culture? The basic tenets of Pc theory? Well there’s a reason for that. How about the last one; Culture.

Luis and Elide remarked about how many gas stations we have in the U.S. and how much food we have everywhere and as a European/American phenomena it’s true. Shocking but true Sparky, when you pull your head out of your TV, and have a look around you find that many cultures eat insects – an equally horrifying notion to citizens of the dying empires who pride themselves on the cultural creation of a bajillion little “civilized conveniences” in their gluttonous march to consume most of the world’s resources.

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Chapulines are a staple in Oaxaca and culinary treat through out Mexico; you can read about it here in Gastronomica the Journal of Food and Culture or here in the EZine Food Republic. True our grasshoppers are Melanoplus and Oaxacans eat primarily grasshoppers from the Genus Sphenarium but you can hash out the nutritional values for yourself after reading the open access Scientific Research journal Food and Nutrition article.

A quick search told me exactly how I would collect these critters, what secret ingredients I would need to make the tacos de chapulines authentic and how to prepare them to create healthy organic chapulines. It seems that one of my favorite chefs Rick Bayless has already discovered how incredible this new culinary favorite actually is.

Early in the morning, when the air is still cool, is the best time to gather grasshoppers while they’re still moving slowly. One afternoon while I was watering the lilacs with a sprinkler (sorry) I noticed something else; when the cold water hits the grasshoppers a temperature differential occurs and has the same effect as early morning temps – they suddenly moved slower! How’s that for stacking functions?

Then just the other day (all this has happened in less than one week) I received a response from a craigslist person who was selling 2 year old chickens and they were still available. Columbia Basin Permaculture is in the middle of no where and as luck would have it, I was in the closest major city with my brother who flew in and we were able to swing by, pick up the chickens and deliver them yesterday to CBP. Thank you! to my brother who graciously delivered me and the four chickens in a rather pimp ride of the Cadillac Escalade.

Here they are, safe and sound getting the first view of their new surrounds. Between my culinary endeavors and the chickens we can make a dent in the infestation, use no pesticides, eat well and allow the whole system to balance out over time.

 

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As Luis Candela reminded me; In Permaculture, the Problem is the Solution.

Adios!

sheila