|This is a Weekly Coffee Share Essay.|
I’m part of a small group of bloggers who stay in touch and chat about blogging, writing, or just about anything else that might be of interest.
|Link to This week’s full list|
|Link to my Story Blog: Table of Contents.|
Every now and then, I like to produce a simple guy-essay where I take on topics that might typically appeal to a peer guy.
In this, I have to confess a certain handicap. I am, by personal fiat, sports deaf. I almost zero interest in sports, especially team sports. Several bad experiences with different shaped balls or bats when growing up have contributed to to my sometimes needing to ask for help from a trusted friend in a group where everyone is talking about a big game approaching, I nudge my friend and ask, “Can you please tell me the shape of the ball this game will be played with?” Team names, team colors, the season, and major well-known stars of the engagement all mean nothing to me. It’s like my brain has a automatic filter whenever some live person nearby or even on the radio begins to talk about a sport, I can recognize it as such and my mental CPU cycles are automatically shunted to something I want to think about, something I consider useful or interesting like, “what’s my next coffee share going to be about. . . ?”
Our church pastor, despite being very sharp, very good at the task of running a medium size church in an area that is not very interested in religion, has done a great job of leading us for at least the 20 years that we’ve been in the area despite having been a basketball jock in college. He’s tall, slim, not quite as old as I am but loves his occasional basketball analogy. I’m not a great payer-of-attention to sermons anyway (another handicap — I know) but when I sense a basketball shaped analogy coming, it’s like a logic switch to me that toggles me to a story I’m working on, a problem I’m trying to solve at work or a good book that I’m anxious to get back to to think about. I’ll bet my eyes just glaze over and I’m gone.
So, no sports talk from me, well unless that lil’ tirade above counts. So I have a couple of items that should appeal – but would not bore the exceptional non-guys who frequent our coffee share meet-ups.
I’ve decided to go with knives and aphids, I will attempt to find a way to go with both and bring them together somehow. This is either a great prompt or great self-abuse and I’ll leave it to you to decide which result I delivered.
I do like knives and have spent a moderate amount of time learning about them, how to chose them, how to sharpen them and such. So we’ll start there.
I stand almost 6’3-4″ (depending on how strong gravity is that day) so have large enough hands that I have to be careful when buying gloves because most don’t fit me. This impacts which knife I’m going to be comfortable carrying and using. Here’s how I got to what I use:
- It has to fit both in my and my pocket because, a knife that has to be retrieved from a drawer somewhere will simply never be used.
- Folding knives will almost always fit in your pocket better than a fixed-blade or sheath knife.
- Folding knives, in use, will always be safer if they have a lock that keeps them open until you decide to close the thing.
- Then there’s the blade, how many and of what shape and quality because some steel formulas result in harder or softer, more rust resistant or less, easier or difficult to sharpen and so forth.
- Since I’m carrying the thing, do I want any other “tools” built into the it, i.e. a multi-tool?
For me, this leaves me wanting at least 3 knife-like tools, of decent quality that fit in my pocket. BTW: any of these would be a great gift idea for your knife-centric special person. If that person, or you want one for yourself and you have no trouble getting into the one-size-fits-some gloves, you can change my 4″ recommendations below with 3″.
- A 3-blade folding knife (which rarely locks) with a largest blade length of at least 4″.
- A single blade folding which locks open and has a blade of at least 4″.
- A multi-tool which lands somewhere between a hundred dollar Swiss Army or Leatherman and a cheap look-alike costing fifteen, type tool. There are so many these days, that I would bore you if I even surveyed this market.
Each of these average around 4″ for the (longest blade) but you can find versions for smaller hands in the 3″ range which work great. I love each of these for different reasons.
The Buck 110, has a single long, pointy, locking blade for me finds the most use and is great for digging out those nasty berry brambles that have tried for years to assert ownership of my backyard.
The most comfortable in my pocket is my Buck 371, a 3 blade folding that all but disappears in my pocket.
When camping or working on stuff, I do love my Leatherman multi-tool for all those cool gadgets in-hand and ready for use. I have the original model that I felt I paid a lot for in the early 1980s, but the thing never wears out. I take good care of it, but, wow, do the math on the age of this thing.
Both Buck and Leatherman are brands that I trust to use both better than average steels, have great warranties (that I’ve never needed). Some of these have identical looking versions but are built of even better steel. For any of these, expect to pay up to twice as much for the models with the much better steel.
Next, you’ll want to learn how to sharpen your knife and this area can get crazy with tools. I’ve tried many and have settled on sharpeners that use diamond plated surfaces and ceramic rods to finish the edge. You can find a variety of tools that some or all of these surfaces like this all in one tool I found on Amazon. Learn to use these and you can get that near razor sharpness. Less than 30 seconds with these and even our much used steak knives come out remarkably sharp. From a more expensive knife, you should get better steel and thus need to sharpen your knife less often and you should never see rust, but I keep my knifes dry anyway.
Okay, but what does all this have to do with Aphids?
I’ll grant right up front, that this connection is a stretch but many of you will recall my recent attempt to transplant an ornamental cherry tree and how well it was doing. Well, that was until it was attacked by aphids. Have you ever seen these guys in action? They’re easy to miss until you look close at any new growth on those plants you really value and want to keep. Weeds and shrubs or even trees you barely care about seem to have no interest to aphids. I’m not sure how this works exactly but it seems to be true. Because I’m giving that tree special attention, so are the aphids. I’ve looked at other things growing nearby and this is the only impacted plant at this time. The freshly transplanted one, right next remains untouched. Using the magnifier on my phone, I was able to capture these images.
Those close ups are hard to make real sense of so here’s what those branches look like like without magnification and before the aphid swarm.
But afterwards, here’s what they do to your plants.
The recommended treatment is to spray them with “Neem” oil, which which Wikipedia tells us, “Neem oil is a vegetable oil pressed from the fruits and seeds of the neem, an evergreen tree which is indigenous to the Indian subcontinent and has been introduced to many other areas in the tropics. It is the most important of the commercially available products of neem for organic farming and medicines.” So far, I’ve administered 4 doses and the aphids are annoyed, some appear to be dead or dying. As I understand it, the neem oil dries on them and slowly suffocates them. I do know the aphids come in a wide variety of colors and slightly different sizes. If you can get them, lady bugs consider them a delicacy and will crawl all over your plants or trees gorging themselves on them.
But here’s my tie-in. My Buck 110 knife is long enough and narrow enough to reach in and scrape the bottom of the infected branches and pull a batch from the tree for examination. Aphids move slow in the best of times, but you can see them move if you get them away from happily sucking the life from your tree from where they barely move. When you come back after giving them a thorough shower with neem oil, you can begin to measure if there’s any progress by scraping some off again. Unless they are still soaking wet; if they just fall off the blade, they are dead — mostly because alive they can stick to the blade and move while trying to figure out what happened to their meal ticket.
If it comes to amputation, my Buck 110 will make quick work of slicing off the branches I need to sacrifice.
Sigh — just another day of small adventures in the back yard.
That’s it for me. Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be around to visit your share shortly.