Archive for August 3rd, 2009


Raspberry season follows hard on the heels of strawberry season. When I visited Dentz Orchard and Berry Farm to pick strawberries, the raspberry season was just beginning. Once I had picked a basket of strawberries, I moved to the raspberry fields. Raspberries grow in a very different manner from strawberries. While strawberries are produced on low-growing plants, close to the ground, raspberries are produced on tall canes.


At pick-your-own farms, the canes are nicely maintained in long rows, with the berries produced well above the ground. You know a raspberry is ready to eat when the gentlest touch releases it from its stem. If you have to tug, the berry isn’t ready to eat. Raspberry plants are vigorous growers and spread quickly by underground shoots that produce new suckers. When the kids were young, there were a few patches of wild raspberries around the property. The wild fruit is generally smaller than cultivated berries. Black raspberries, or Black Caps, were a favorite with the kids.


Strawberries remind me of sunny early-July days, my kids newly out of school on vacation, the whole summer stretching out luxuriously ahead of us. Raspberries take me back to an earlier time, my own childhood. Raspberries grew all along the back fence of my grandparents’ yard. Whenever we visited my grandparents in raspberry season, my sister and I were dispatched to the backyard to pick raspberries. I hated picking raspberries! The canes were prickly and unruly and it seemed to take forever to fill a basket with the small berries. However, I loved eating raspberries! My grandmother used to make raspberry jam and it is still my favorite flavour of jam, no doubt due to sentimental reasons. Raspberry jam in winter is like the sunshine of long-ago summers captured in a jar.

My grandparents

My grandparents

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kaufman field guide

Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America by Eric R. Eaton & Kenn Kaufman. Houghton Mifflin, 2007.

My interest in insects is modest. Like many people, I find mammals easier to appreciate! However, insects are so plentiful, it is impossible not to come across them … pretty much everywhere! Insects are vital members of ecosystems. The incredible diversity of insect species is amazing. Also amazing is the ingenuity with which evolution has equipped so many different species to so many specialized niches. The best guide I’ve found for identifying the insects I come across is the Kaufman guide by Eric Eaton. The introduction provides good background information on the classification of insects, their anatomy, reproduction and development, and more. The guide is well-illustrated with more than 2,300 images and the organization of the guide makes it simple to locate the insect you are looking for. Below are a few insects that I was able to identify with the guide.

Pennsylvania Leatherwing

Pennsylvania Leatherwing

Soldier beetles (family Cantharidae) are also known as leatherwings. These valuable pollinators are attracted to flowers, and can be abundant during the day on their preferred plant. The Pennsylvania Leatherwing (Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus) is commonly found on goldenrod and thoroughwort in the east in autumn. The photo above, showing them on goldenrod, was taken last fall.


Squash bugs belong to the Coreidae family, which includes leaf-footed and broad-headed bugs. They’re pests of gourds, pumpkins and other types of squash. They feed on foliage using piercing and sucking mouthparts. Later in the season, they may also feed on the squash itself. I found these squash bugs (Anasa tristis) on a squash last fall. Although there were quite a few bugs on the plant, they didn’t damage this squash.


I visited the Central Experimental Farm Garden, where Felicitas Svedja once produced her hybrid roses, in Ottawa a few weeks ago. A few of the roses in the display garden were heavily infested with these colourful beetles. When I got home, I looked them up in my Kaufman Guide. They’re Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica). They’re native to Japan and northern China and were introduced to New Jersey in 1916 on nursery stock. They are now found throught the eastern U.S. and southeastern Canada. The adults feed in groups on a wide range of plants, but they are obviously fond of roses, skeletonizing the leaves.

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