The photographer’s cat rides next to the rear window in a car. Photo by Tangopaso. Even an extraordinarily calm cat should ride in a carrier of some kind within a moving vehicle.
There are the usual recommendations from experts to cover up when outdoors in the summer when insects are most active, but it’s awfully tough to take their advice when it’s 90 degrees and the humidity is very high. Long pants tucked into high socks? Long sleeves on shirts? In order to stay comfortable, many people won’t heed that advice. The advice to wear loose fitting, light colored clothes is welcome, however, because in addition to coping with insect attacks that advice helps the wearer cope with hot weather. Above all, in more ways than one, the most important item of clothing in summer is a broad brimmed hat.
One product that straddles the border is the permethrin mentioned earlier. Permethrin is derived from flowers related to chrysanthemums, and is not a repellent but an insecticide. When you use permethrin products, insects will land on you and may get an opportunity to suck blood before they die and drop off. A repellent, of course, wards off insects before they land on you. Permethrin is more effective than other botanicals, and is generally safer for the environment and the user than chemical repellents or insecticides. It is used in some flea treatments for dogs. It is not used in flea treatments for cats, however, because it is toxic, even deadly, for cats. People who have both cats and dogs in their homes should keep in mind if they apply permethrin flea treatment to the dogs but not the cats that the permethrin can still adversely affect the cats by secondary contact. For everyone, as tempting as it is to reach for the most highly effective treatment when battling insects which can transmit troubling diseases, or at least cause discomfort, try to maintain perspective so that the treatment doesn’t end up being worse than the affliction.
Let the moles be, and thank them for their service. Watch out for the voles and shrews, however, and do what you can to mitigate the damage they cause. Get a cat, if that is suitable for you and the cat, and the neighborhood you both live in. Meanwhile, keep mulch and, if possible, snow away from tree trunks, because that denies cover to those creatures while they gnaw at the bark. Clean up leaf litter and brush piles where it seems sensible that these are nesting places and cover for runways. Most of all, let the grass grow to 3 or 4 inches, which should keep the lawn healthier overall, and make those lumps in the lawn less noticeable and not worth fretting about.
National Ice Cream Day came and went on July 16, but in case you missed celebrating it, there are still plenty of opportunities to do so even if you are only a hot weather ice cream eater. In 1984, President Reagan set aside the third Sunday of every July for celebrating the frozen treat, timing it to occur smack in the middle of summer. By 1984, the ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s, founded by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield in Vermont in 1978, was gaining traction regionally in New England and within a few more years would start opening ice cream parlors in the rest of the country and selling pints of its ice cream in stores nationwide.
Works Progress Administration (WPA) poster, circa 1938, for the Federal Art Project, Art Teaching Division exhibition of children’s art in Brooklyn, New York, showing a child’s painting of a cow in a field.
By 2000, Ben & Jerry’s had become a publicly traded company, and when the multinational corporation Unilever made an attractive offer for the company, Mr. Cohen and Mr. Greenfield yielded to shareholders’ demands and sold the company. Since 2000, Unilever has retained the same look to the product packaging, and kept Cohen and Greenfield on the payroll as front men for the Ben & Jerry’s brand, though the two have limited input and no authority. Some loyal customers of the brand may still be unaware the company is no longer run by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield; others may not care.
There is reason to care, however, on the part of those customers who continue buying Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in 2017 at least partly because of the reputation the former owners established in working for social justice and environmental causes. Unilever still allows their front men to put that kind of thing front and center when it comes to selling ice cream, but the multinational giant operates differently on the production end in how it treats cows and human workers who are the source if its business. To begin with, the phrase “All Natural” on the label means nothing. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is not certified organic by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which is a label that would have some meaning to consumers concerned about healthy ingredients in their food, though it would not assure them that cows were being treated humanely in the production of milk for ice cream, or that workers were being treated well and paid fairly.
Truck from Ben & Jerry’s in Waterbury, Vermont, August 2006; photo by Hede2000.
Recent accounts of the production of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream under the stewardship of Unilever state that the company fails in all areas except continuing to charge a premium for the pint containers of its greenwashed product. People will pay a premium for high quality, to be sure, but some conscientious and health conscious individuals will also pay a premium for a product that is produced in a humane and environmentally sensitive way, among other things. Corporate executives have learned this and smelled profits in it. But hewing to those goody two-shoes methods can be expensive and appear costly on the fiscal quarter balance sheet. What to do? Produce the ice cream with low wage labor, even below minimum wage where you can get away with it, and subject the cows to factory farm confinement conditions. That keeps production costs low, while the price at the store stays high because of the goody two-shoes reputations of your front men. What’s that smell? Profits!
Cows on a farm; photo by Eric Dufresne.
Testing of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream has shown traces of Roundup in it. The amounts are within federal regulatory limits for supposedly safe consumer ingestion, but still this is Roundup (active ingredient – glyphosate) in a product that touts itself as environmentally and socially concerned. That is greenwashing. The happy cows depicted in pastures on the packaging bear no relationship to the reality of cows in confinement and fed grain from Roundup ready Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) instead of the pasture forage that is their natural diet. That is greenwashing. The company exploits human workers, too, despite the support of the founders for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and his progressive initiatives, one of which is the Fight for $15 (raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour). That also is greenwashing, and it stinks like hypocrisy for the sake of corporate profits.
Fireflies are beneficial to gardeners not only in the aesthetics of their adult displays, but also when they are larvae residing in leaf litter and other detritus, where they prey on snails and slugs. Firefly larvae also eat earthworms, which is not beneficial as far as gardeners are concerned, but two out of three ain’t bad, as the saying goes. Firefly larvae, like all of nature’s creatures, have concerns other than whether their lifestyle choices benefit human beings.
The fireflies children chase and capture are usually the ones out in the open, flying over an expanse of lawn. Those are the males, flashing their lights for the benefit of the females who, in most species, are incapable of flight and watch and wait from vantage points in the leaf litter and tall grass at the edge of wilder areas, sometimes flashing lights of their own in response. Those edge of the wild and wild areas are critical to the success of the firefly’s life cycle. We may notice only the fireflies flickering across our lawns on a summer evening, but mostly they spend their short lives in wilder areas where the grass grows tall and becomes meadow, and then past that where the trees become forest. Be careful where that pesticide spray drifts then, or better yet avoid using it as much as you can, and consider that the best light show of all on a warm summer’s evening doesn’t come with loud bangs and puffs of acrid smoke, but with an unassuming quiet beauty.