Dragonflies for Mosquito Control

A decade ago I started a dragonfly pond behind the home we now call La Casita. My inspiration for building a dragonfly pond came from an observation I made one day while working to clear my lot.  I happened on a swarm of termites flying up from a rotting log. I was marveling at the swarm of termites flying up and out of the ground when all of the

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Common Green Darner

sudden right in front of my face flew a dragonfly.  I stood motionless and watched as large common green darners flew back and forth mere inches from my face snatching the swarming termites and gobbling them up in mid-flight.  It was as if the eagles had arrived to battle the forces of darkness in Lord of the Rings. At that moment I became a friend of dragonflies.

Why not be friendly to a beautiful creature that eats all sorts of malevolent airborne pestilence…what’s not to like? Here are some quick dragonfly facts collected from the internet in various locations.  Dragonflies….

  • Are among the first winged insects known to have existed.  Some fossilized remains have been found of dragonflies with two foot wing spans! (how big were the mosquitoes?)
  • Belong to the order Odonata which means “toothed one” in Greek because dragonflies have serrated teeth.
  • Eat almost anything in their during their larvae stage when they live in water…mosquito larvae, other insects, fish, tadpoles and they are even cannibals.
  • Are amazing fliers…they do everything on wing except rest.  As when I observed the Green Darners they eat mid-flight.  While flying a dragonfly catches its prey with its feet and then eats the prey mid-flight. Dragonflies only eat while flying. If a dragonfly can’t fly it will starve.
  •   A dragonflies head is almost all eye.  With their amazing vision they can see almost everywhere except right behind them.
  • (A.K.A. mosquito hawks) are serious mosquito eater…one dragonfly can eat up to hundreds of mosquitoes per day!

Are you interested in witnessing the effectiveness of dragonflies?  Try this.  Find a lawn chair.  Find an area where dragonflies can be seen darting about next to a pond, in a park…where ever.  Don’t put on any mosquito repellent (be advised that mosquitoes do carry diseases but you’re a risk taker…right?).  Now, take your lawn chair and find a nice sunny spot and sit perfectly still.  Wait.  I bet that in a bit you’ll notice a dragonfly or two that keeps flying around you.  Guess what?  You have your own personal natural mosquito defense system coming to your rescue.  As the dragonfly flits back and forth it is eating mosquitoes and gnats that are attracted to you.  There is no better mosquito repellent.  However, some of us are more susceptible to mosquitoes.  I just recently had one guest who was eaten up with mosquitoes but no one else in the family was.  Hmmm…I found this interesting article on WebMD, “Are You a Mosquito Magnet?”, which indicates that about 10% of the population is very very attractive to mosquitoes. If you are a “mosquito magnet” and you are visiting La Casita please bring the bug spray that you like to use.  But just think how much worse it could be without the dragonflies!

I use dragonflies and their smaller cousins, damselflies, as a pretty effective natural biological mosquito control.  The focal point for this mosquito and gnat defense is Dragonfly Pond which is about 50 yards from La Casita in the pasture.  At La Casita except on the coldest days of winter on a bright sunny warm day you’ll see dragonflies.  In the summer you’ll see squadrons of my friends flitting back and forth through the yard and gardens.  The result? Even in the evenings on the back porch at La Casita it is rare to see many mosquitoes.  But as mentioned in the previous paragraph if you are a “mosiquito magnet” then I guess mosquitoes will run through any defenses to get to you.  Sorry.

Are you interested in having your own squadrons of dragonflies and or damselflies protecting your back yard?  If your answer is yes there are two options you can explore. You can build a dragonfly pond or even scale down and make a damselfly habitat. First, let’s explore building a dragonfly pond.  Step one is determining the dimensions of the pond you want to build. The ideal dragonfly pond is at least 20′ (~6 meters) in diameter and at least 2′ (~.75 meters) deep and has sloping sides. Visit this “How to Build a Dragonfly Pond” article for additional instructions.

To construct my dragonfly pond I used my two wheel drive Farmtrac 60 tractor, a plow, my front end loader and a pond scoop.  You tractor driving types will know what kind of equipment I’m talking about.  If you aren’t a farmer or don’t have access to heavy equipment you may

need to scale back the size of your pond but don’t worry, there are other options available to you. If you don’t have room or equipment to build a dragonfly pond why not build a barrel pond to attract dragonflies, damselflies and other creatures. 

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Dragonfly Pond after construction.

Anyway, during the droughts we had in North Carolina a few years ago I first plowed the sunny low area where I wanted to dig my pond. Then I followed that step and dug out the loosened soil with my front end loader and pond scoop.  I kept repeating these steps until I had created a pond that is about 20′ (~6 meters) x 30′ (~9 meters) and 4′ (~1.2 meters) deep.  I have clay subsoil so I simply kept driving my tractor through the dry pond to create a natural pond liner.  Since completion the pond has never completely dried up.  My homes all drain into the pond so each rainfall helps keep the water level sustained. Bull rushes and other aquatic plants naturally began to grow on the banks of the pond.  Mosquito fish were introduced during a flood.  To jump start the pond I put some pond water and mud in the pond (contains bacteria, larvae and eggs of pond life). Frogs found and love the pond as does Mango the snapping turtle (the turtle loves mango peels) and innumerable crayfish.  The pond may not look like much but it is teeming with life.  In the spring and summer the frogs singing is amazing!

There are numerous methods for digging ponds and techniques for lining the pond so that it holds water.  What ever method you use remember for a dragonfly pond you want to site it in a sunny area, it should have sloping sides and it should be at least two feet deep. I recommend you consider diverting the water from the roof of your home to the pond. This way you’ll not only be keeping your pond full but you’ll be helping to control suburban water run off which is a contributor to the pollution of our waterways.  Your dragonfly pond could sit adjacent to a wetland bog/rain garden that is flooded during periods of heavy rainfall. The picture titled “How does a rain garden work” is from The Tipp of the Mitt Watershed website Rain Gardens page.

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Our flock of chickens at Dragonfly pond

A dragonfly pond is more than just a bare pond…it is a habitat.  To optimize the environment for dragonflies you need vertical plants or poles for dragonflies to roost, different colored stones or logs for dragonflies (they are cold blooded creatures) to sit and warm themselves and nearby bushes/grasses for insect habitat.  Ideally your little pond will, like mine, become a magnet for wildlife that will attract the flying jewels we call dragonflies and damselflies.  Attracting dragonflies for mosquito control may not be 100% effective but believe me dragonflies make a big difference in how much you will enjoy your yard.  So, make a dragonfly habitat, keep some mosquito repellent around for the 10% of people who are mosquito magnets and enjoy watching your new friends as the fly through air eating hundreds of insects which would like to be eating you! Please remember that dragonflies are only one aspect of controlling mosquitoes.  Another key part of your anti-mosquito regime is to keep you yard and garden sanitary. Don’t forget to make sure gutters don’t hold any standing water, that you keep the bird bath water changed and that you make sure there are no other places which hold standing water in which mosquitoes can breed.  Dragonflies, damselfies and eliminating standing water are just the tip of the iceberg for mosquito control.  I recommend reading this Mother Earth News article, “How to Keep Mosquitoes Away” by Barbara Pleasant, to learn about a broad array of things that can be done to mitigate the dangers of mosquitoes. Here at La Casita and Redbay Farm we have instituted many of the ideas mentioned in the article.

I wish you the best of luck with your project and hope that in the near future you can sit on your own back porch and watch the acrobatics of dragonflies as they make your yard and garden a more enjoyable place to be.

References:

McGuigan, Tony – Ribbit’s Time of Year

Miller, Elizabeth – Mosquitoes Have Natural Enemies: Some Predators work Better than Others for Mosquito Control

Pleasant, Babara – Mother Earth News, How to Keep Mosqitoes Away

Orkin article – Mosquito Predators

Smithsonian.com – 14 Fun Facts about Dragonflies

Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council – Rain Gardens

WebMD – Are You a Mosquito Magnet?

Wikihow.com – How to Attract Dragonflies

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our New Solar Shower

There are few things more relaxing than taking a shower au naturel  in an out door shower. I had wanted an outdoor shower for years especially since I live near the beach, do a lot of heavy outdoor work, and have received constant “encouragement” from my who tired of me trudging through the house in my dirty clothes to the shower.

Solar Shower Illustration from Cabinlife.com

I thought about hooking into house hot and cold water supplies but I was intrigued by setting up a solar shower. Originally I was going to build the solar shower from scratch. I posted this picture from Cabinlife.com on Pinterest. How to Build & Enjoy An Outdoor Solar Shower
By Kurt Anderson. I really liked the plan but after I tallied up all the expenses I decided to look at other alternatives.

I googled solar showers and found all sorts of iterations of the idea. Most commercially developed solar showers are a 6″ to 8″ diameter PVC pipe that is vertical and contains many of the components shown in the illustration from Cabinlife.com . I purchased one of these solar showers from Best pools.com via Ebay. Below is the picture that was posted on Ebay.

shower2Best Pools sent the solar shower promptly but without directions and without a complete hose adapter. I had to jury rig the adapter to a piece of hose to complete the water connection. Best Pools sent an adapter but it didn’t work so I just double hose clamped the jury rigged connection which stopped all leaking. Our newly installed solar shower is already being used by guests at La Casita…and they love it!

La Casita's solar shower

Ourdoor solar shower with La Choza de Caza (The Hunting Shack) and Redbay Farm in the distant background.

I installed the solar shower along side an existing fence. First I dug a trench to install a 3/4″ water line from an outside spigot to where I wanted the solar shower would be installed. Then I built a partition about 6′ high and 6′ by 8′ for the enclosure. The solar shower is mounted on the stringers for the partition. For the floor I decided to build platforms on about a 3″ gravel bed spread over a weed barrier. The shower drains from the shower via a French drain into a drywell.

Solar shower exterior

The solar shower showing the nice privacy wall. The top of Redbay Cottage is in the background.

If you plan to build a solar shower like this plan to spend about $500.  The shower costs about $180. The rest of the materials included 3/4″ PVC waterline, pea gravel, treated lumber and fasteners.

I’ve used the solar shower several times as have my guests.  Very enjoyable! Hopefully my guests and my family will enjoy this solar shower for years to come.

Sold: an Old Meadows 20″ Stone Grist Mill

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Old Meadows Mill in pieces

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Main shaft showing belt pully and top outside of rotating mill stone

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Face of rotating mill stone. Grooves appear are about 3/16″ deep. No visible cracks.

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Stationary stone with grooves about 3/8″ deep. Stone and bedding cement are intact with no visible cracks.

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Photo shows belt pulley, cast iron frame and shuttle mechanism. All cast iron parts seem to be solid and not cracked.

The Mill is sold: The Mill was purchased by a gentleman from my state, North Carolina, who intends to restore the mill to original condition.

I’ve added more pictures at the request of an interested party.  The pictures show close up photos of the stationary mill stone (grooves about 3/8″ in depth) and rotating stone (groves about 3/16″).  Neither stone appears to have any cracks.  I’ve also provided some additional pictures of the square cast iron frame, shaft and mechanism of the mill.

Original article.

It doesn’t look like much but it is an old Meadows 20″ Stone Grist Mill I hope to sell to someone for parts or restoration.  I am selling this old stone grist mill on Ebay. These mills were apparently sold through Sears and International Harvester or directly by the Meadows Company. From the Company Video, “Meadows Mills has manufactured stone burr mills since 1902. Meadows stone burr mills, also referred to as grist mills, are designed to grind all dry, free-flowing grains and corn into flour, meal, or grits.” These little wood encased belt driven grist mills seem to have been built from the early to mid 20th Century. Tractors or small “hit and miss” engines were used to power the little mills with a belt so that farmers could produce their own stone ground corn meal, grits or cracked corn for livestock.  Mills made today by Meadows Mills are powered by electric motors and made of stainless steel.  Yes the Meadows Mills company still makes mills right here in the USA in North Willkesboro, NC.  As a coincidence I was getting a haircut today and the barber was from North Wilkesboro and was very familiar with  Meadows Mills which is still in buisiness today. He even knew the owners name.  It is a small world.

Meadows Mill sold by Sears

A Meadows Mill sold by Sears

The Meadows mill I have is in pieces but may have value for the right buyer who needs parts or would like to restore one of these historic pieces back into working condition.  As mentioned earlier these little mills freed the family farmer from having to make a trip to a large mill like the picturesque Brock’s Mill in Trenton, NC. However, even these little farm mills went unused as large centralized industrial mills produced meals, flours and feeds that were inexpensive and readily available at the local grocery store.

As I was doing some research to learn about these mills I found some wonderful examples of restored mills.  Most of these mills are collectors items and displayed at fairs or tractor shows.  My favorite find is the Survival Schubert video.

Survival Schubert: old Meadows mill powered by a 15 hp hit and miss engine. This Meadows mill looks to be a match for the mill I am trying to sell.

Meadows Mills put together a nice YouTube video about their stone grist mills.  In the video they even make it a point to say that they restore their mills.

The old Meadows Mill I am selling is an interesting piece of Americana. I hope that a buyer gets it and restores it…that would be cool!

 

Hammocks Beach State Park

Going to Hammocks Beach State Park and Bear Island is the top thing to do fHammocks Beachor people vacationing in Swansboro (according to Trip Advisor reviews).  Our La Casita guests agree! This article provides a bit of information on how to get to the park and some history on how the park was established.

How to get to the park: Hammocks Beach State Park is about 3 miles from La Casita. The park is on the right near the end of Hammocks Beach Road at 1572 Hammocks Beach Road, Swansboro, NC 28584. At the park you’ll take the ferry over to Bear Island (a Southern Outer Banks barrier island).  Bear Island is undeveloped and can only be reached by boat.  We have had guests stay at La Casita for a week and they have gone to Hammocks Beach State Park every day. Guests routinely tell me that Bear Island is among the best beaches they have ever visited.

Then take the ferry to Bear Island: To get to Bear Island you will have to take the ferry or a private boat. The park ferry is a large passenger only pontoon boat. It is wheel chair accessible. The ferry makes runs to the island starting at 9:30 AM every day in the summer. There is more limited service in the Spring and Fall.  There is no ferry service in the winter.  Throughout the year Bear Island is always accessible by private boat.

Ferry Fees

  • Adult roundtrip — $5
  • Senior Citizen (62 or older) roundtrip — $3
  • Children ages 6-12 roundtrip — $3
  • Annual Ferry Pass — $50
Aerial View of Hammocks Beach State Park

NC Coastal Federation photo

On Bear Island you will find a Beach Pavilion which has showers, bathrooms and a concession stand. There is a life guard at the beach.

For more information on Hammocks Beach State Park schedules and amenities visit the park website.

Hammocks Beach State Park has an interesting history: The park is much more than the beach at Bear Island. For more information about the park history and a recent land acquisition I recommend the reading the articles found at the links listed below:

 

Mark Simmerson’s History of Bear Island, 2004 which provides a wealth of information about Dr. Sharpe and John Hurst and how those names are entwined in the history of Hammocks Beach State Park and Bear Island

More about Huggins Island…another part of Hammocks Beach State Park and location of the only remaining intact Confederate earthworks fort. – Swansboro History Website

Jones Island (the island you see in the middle of the White Oak River north of the bridges) … yet another part of Hammocks Beach State Park – North Carolina Coastal Federation

$10 million sale adds 290 acres to Onslow County coastal park – Raleigh News and Observer

Deal Could Add Land to Hammocks Beach (pre land deal agreement but provides useful background information on the park) NC Coastal Federation

Visit Hammocks Beach State Park: Hammocks Beach State Park is a great destination that is enjoyed by many people who visit Swansboro.  You, your family and your friends will have a great time!

 

Complete Farmtrac 60 Documents

Below is a picture of my Farmtrac 60 tractor.  If you have a tractor like mine and need a manual please click below. If you just want a specific section of the repair manual let me know.  Price per section is $1.99.

Farmtrac 60 Tractor FT1Repair Manual.  $19.99

Farmtrac 60 Operator’s Manual $4.99

Long 5320 Front End Loader Manual $1.99

I bought my Farmtrac 60 in 2003 because of it’s simplicity. It still runs great 12 years later.  The nearly 50 horsepower Farmtrac 60 is produced by Escorts in India which is somewhere behind Mahindra and TAFE in tractor sales in the Indian Subcontinent. The tractor is a clone of the Ford 3920 which was sold in Asia…and not here in North America as far as I can tell. Farmtrac went out of business so if you own a Farmtrac 60…it is an orphan tractor…at least here in the US.

I don’t know of any Farmtrac dealer selling tractors but Farmtrac parts are supposed to be available from Unifarm Machinery Corp. in Wilson, NC 252-291-399. You’ll have to google the phone numbers for Diamond R equipment in MO and InfoTech in New York. Try contacting those folks if you need parts. If you have any other additional sources for parts or repairs please post the information in the discussion forum on this page and I’ll make sure the information is available to all visitors to this website.

India appears to be the place to be if you are a Farmtrac 60 owner. Visit the Indian Farmtrac 60 Facebook page. The parts are out there, Lots of Farmtrac 60s were sold throughout the world…the only question is can you get the parts to where you live?

 

Latest Review on La Casita

Our most recent review.  We work hard to keep our 5-star rating.  We are always happy when guests enjoy all of the little things we do to make La Casita a special place to stay.

“In short this house, location and host were perfect. I don’t normally use that word for vacation locales the family has stayed at, but it applies, here. The house was clean with spacious rooms and comfortable beds, roomy bathrooms/showers, kitchen with plenty of pots/pans/utensils/plates/etc with Breyers ice cream in the freezer (amongst other “starter” food items to help transition after arrival), recreation room with big screen (with all major content providers) & pool table, 5 starnew & clean washer/dryer, and patio in back from which to watch/listen to birds, the goats, and handful of chickens. Oh, and free WiFi (no begging front desk for a one-day courtesy access!). Easy 10 minute drive to beach, or short drive/walk to multiple stores a few miles away. As for host, Jim was very friendly and informative, and provided us a plethora of ideas for activities in that beautiful part of North Carolina. I have no doubt if we vacation on the Carolina coast again, we’ll be staying at La Casita.”

To check availability for your trip please click here to visit the La Casita calendar.

Redbay Farm Chicken Update

Willy and his hens at dragonfly pond

The Redbay Farm Chickens at Dragonfly Pond

I took this photo earlier today of Willy the One Eyed Rooster and his hens at Dragonfly Pond.  All of the Buff Orpingtons (the blonde chickens) are beginning to lay.  The little Barred Rocks are a couple of months younger.  Nice photo of our chicken flock with the reflection on the pond.

Shoaling of Swansboro’s West Channel

Aside

Once the Longleaf forests lost their economic value as a source for Naval Stores they were clear cut.  Very little of the virgin Longleaf forests remains.  The Longleaf ecosystem of trees neatly spaced on a grass savanna stretched from Virginia all the way to Texas. There an old picture in one of Jack Dudley’s books that shows Dr. Sharpes house on the Hammock.  There is one tree in the photo, an old live oak, everything else is fields…the sandy soils in the Swansboro area erode rapidly.   An indicator of the impact of deforestation and subsequent silting in of waterways can be found in  The Annual Reports of the War Department…1897

“A steamboat to draw 8 feet is being built at t e Swansboro Lumber Company’s mill for carrying the product of the mill to Northern markets. There are two routes from Swansboro to the inlet. One, the western or old ship channel, has now 5 feet at high water and is not much used at present. It is claimed that over twenty years ago vessels drawing 10 and 12 feet used it freely. The other, the eastern channel, carries 5.8 feet at high water and is used by the lighters generally and by the steamboats and sharpies going up Bogne Sound. The cause 0f the deterioration of the western channel is a shoal which has made out from the southWest point of Dudleys Island marsh and now extends across the channel. The depth of water in sloughs over it varies from 2 feet at times to 7 feet. There was 5 feet at time of examination. The object of the Swansboro Lumber Company in applying for an examination was the removal of this shoal, which at time of a publication was thought to be the only one having less than 8 feet at high water from the ocean to Swansboro.”

Swansboro Lumber Company around 1900

The photo above shows the view looking from the top of the hill down on the Swansboro Lumber Company near where Spring Street is today…it was a corn field in around 1900.  Navigation was already difficult in Eastern North Carolina but deforestation subsequent cultivation of sandy hills and resulting erosion made ports like Swansboro impassible except for sailing sharpies and other very shallow draft vessels.