Today, I saw two Praying Mantids in the garden.

One on the Tithonia....

... and one on the Strawberries.
These look like two different species to me, or maybe a male and a female of the same species. I did some research and there are many different kinds, most of them non-native. But I couldn't determine which these were. I learned that they eat the bad bugs, yes, but they also eat the good bugs, like my honeybees! and butterflies. They do not discriminate, making them not-so-great for targeted biological pest control. However I still like to have them in the garden and since I have between 20-40 thousand honeybees, I suppose they can take one or two. Autumn is mating time for the mantids, so that must be why I'm seeing them now.

I also picked our first two figs, yum.

'Panache' fig
And I picked a bunch of Delicata squash. I guess they'll join the potatoes in our bedroom, the coolest room of the house. I can't do much about providing high humidity, though.

It won't be long before Butternut squash and sweet potatoes join the stash.

I forgot to show you a gift I was given last week at our Ceilidh. My friend Leslie ("Stitches," as she is known at camp) made my hen-pecked chicken an apron. Isn't it cute?

You snap it under the wings and it lays snug on the back, to prevent the other chickens from pecking the bird. Unfortunately, I've had no luck getting it on Tonks, despite several tries. The chickens (all except Molly) really don't like being handled and think I'm pretty scary. This bothers me a little because soon we are planning to make a sort of chicken tractor to place in the garden in different spots so the hens can have field trips and eat bugs etc. But how are we going to get them into the tractor? Hm. Thinking we'll have to build some sort of carrier, too, and bribe them with greens to get them inside. Oy. Oh well, that's a project for another weekend. Thank you Leslie! I'll keep trying to get the apron on.

Speaking of the Ceilidh, I keep forgetting to remark how fun it was. We had homemade pizza on the grill with a sauce from the garden and Tom's homemade cheese; our guests brought a lot of yummy side dishes, and Mom and Dad brought the crank ice-cream maker and everyone took a turn making our dessert. It was fun to be with neighbors and friends on a hot summer night.

And hot it will continue this week, with temperatures well over a hundred predicted for the next four days, sigh. It's hard to remember that 'winter is coming!' (Thanks, G.O.T.)

The Value of Connection

I'm losing friends left and right these days. Friends I've had since I was a kid - friends who knew me in my awkward teenage years - friends who saw me struggle in college. I can't seem to keep authentic connections going with any of them, and to me, it seems clear that it is due to social media.

Why write or call one person to connect, when you can update 300 people all at the same time?

It's efficient, I agree. It saves time. One picture can tell everyone what you're up to, what the news is. There's no need to write an email or pick up the phone, your job is done. And you don't need to ask anyone else how they are, either - it's all there on social media for you to peruse at your leisure. That is, if you have any leisure. A common refrain I hear from practically everyone these days is that they are just 'too busy.'

I've just been told quite clearly, for the second time now (I guess I didn't really believe it the first time), by a dear friend that I've known since Kindergarten (I'm 47 years old, so that means we've been friends for 42 years), that Facebook is a higher priority than me. That all she has time for is updating there, and on Instagram, and on Twitter.  So I'm waaaaay down on the list. She is 'too busy' to even respond to my emails. Instead she chooses to spend her time on social media.

I used to be on Facebook, but left several years ago when I realized that it was inauthentic. I knew I'd need to work harder to connect, and I vowed to do that. I've been trying, maybe not hard enough. It's hard to have one-sided relationships. Hard to put stuff out there, and not get any response, or just cursory ones.  I've never used Instagram, but I am on Twitter. I don't do much there except promote this blog, and I don't even really need to do that - very few of my readers come to the blog from Twitter. Sometimes I get recipes or gardening ideas there - but I can get that elsewhere.

It's hard to see it when you're in it, but quite clear when you're out of it - social media isn't about real connections. It's about advertising your life, one picture or 140 characters at a time. It's "hey, look at me, here I am" rather than "hi, how are YOU?" It doesn't promote conversation. The 'sharing' isn't real sharing. I realize that as a blog writer, I'm often also saying "hey, look at me." But I don't use my blog as a way of connecting with my friends. I use it to connect with new folks, and to put information out there that might be useful, and to be a part of the larger conversation about homesteading. I would never say to my friends, 'we don't need to talk, because you can get all your information about me from my blog.'

I'm an introvert, social situations are hard for me, it takes a lot for me to get 'out there' and be part of a social world. And yet I miss friends. I miss hanging out, having drinks (I don't even drink!), sharing life, laughing. I miss real connections.

To that end, I am putting my money where my mouth is and taking action on two fronts. One, I have deleted my Twitter account. If you need to reach me, and you don't have my private info, put a comment on this blog - I'd love to hear from each one of you. Two, Tom and I are instituting the Poppy Corners Ceilidh (pronounced Kay-lee) on the last Sunday of every month. It'll be a sort of open house - we'll plan to be here between 5-9 and we'll have a big pot of food to share and some lemonade. Anyone is welcome to drop in - bring a side dish or drinks to share, bring an instrument, bring a football - we'll eat and play music and throw a frisbee around and just connect. Our first Ceilidh will be on August 30. If you're in town, and you've got an hour or two, come on over. I can't promise anything particularly clean or organized. There'll probably be paper plates. I don't want the pressure of trying to 'entertain.' I just want to hang with my friends, family, and neighbors.

We're all busy. We've all got tons of things to do. But I want to carve out a time, once a month, to just be with people. I hope you'll join us.