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Today was another fun day on the farm. I spent the morning spraying the nasty perennial noxious weed, Canada Thistle with Milestone. Canada Thistle is also widely known as Canadian Thistle, California Thistle, Creeping Thistle, Corn Thistle, Cursed Thistle, Field Thistle, Green Thistle, Hard Thistle, Perennial Thistle, Prickly Thistle, Small-flowered Thistle and Way Thistle. Its Latin standard name is Cirsium Arvense.

I calibrated my sprayer (a tag along 2 gallon capacity kind) and my spraying habit to deliver 20 gallons of water per acre, used the 7 fl oz (0.078 lbs) per acre active ingredient dosage and added Activator 90 at 0.25% v/v, just as in the Robert Wilson's of University of Nebraska Lincoln 2007 - 2008 study, which I found to be very helpful. In Bob's study, a very effective spraying was performed on May 16th. BTW, Bob can be reached at 308-632-1263.

To achieve the desired mixture, I eyed 0.7 oz of Milestone and 0.64 oz of Activator 90 and added them to the 2 gallons of water, first the Milestone and then Activator 90. I sprayed most every section infested with Canada Thistle, even under the ash trees. The only exception was an area that a large rattle snake loudly warned me not to disturb. Some Canada Thistle plants I was spraying already flower buds.

I hope I got almost all of it, that the two week delay vs. Bob's study will not significantly effect my results, that the minimal spot spraying I did under the Ash trees will not kill them - it should not and that the area with the rattle snake will not quickly expand to become a problem again. I know, that's a lot of hoping, but that Milestone was expensive as hell and I did not enjoy the spraying all that much. If I have to do this again, I will probably buy a cheap little garden tractor with a sprayer first.

Attached to this story is a picture taken today of a much more pleasant annual member of the same Asteraceae family, Cosmos Bipinnatus. The Cosmos pot was kept in the unheated greenhouse space all winter long and these Cosmoses started flowering in mid May - that's when they normally get sown in Colorado and then only start flowering in July.

The afternoon was much more exciting, as we had a visitor from what now feels like an ancient past in Los Angeles. We had not been in touch with Sabina for something like 5 years and the last time we saw her, she and Leon were living in Pasadena and not yet married. Now they have a 3.5 year old daughter and live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sabina is taking a brief vacation from her family life and visiting with another one of her friends that just happens to live in Denver. It was good to reconnect with her and meet her friend, Lidiya and her friend's husband, Zhenya - nice couple.

Cosmos Bipinnatus (commonly known as Garden Cosmos or Mexican Aster or Cosmos)

Dear G-d,

I know you are busy and all with a revolution of sorts in Iran, a renewed nuclear threat from North Korea, MEND militants attacking anything and everything in Nigeria, the whole World Wide Recession business, but that's no excuse for forgetting about us here in Colorado. I mean, it is June 26th already - summer, you know, and out of the blue - another hail storm!

Now, I am not complaining about the moisture - you know we need it. Something must have broken in the heavens when Y2K hit and we have been in a drought ever since. But hail at the end of June?! That's not exactly what we have been praying for.

So, the next time you get a break from all the unpleasantness you have been forced to deal with lately, please have a word with your climatologist and give him a gentle hint that we would prefer rain...

Thanks so much,
Jake and the people of Colorado

Yesterday, I finally received the Canada Thistle control bug from the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Biological Pest Control Section in Palisade, CO. It was ordered in 2007, when all of their non-native weed control bugs were still being distributed at no charge and so they had a big back log. (Starting in January 2008 they are charging a $15 processing fee.)

The bug package arrived by FedEx in the afternoon. What got sent were the Canada Thistle stem-gall forming flies, Urophora Cardui. According to the Colorado Department of Agriculture website, Urophora lays eggs in the stems of Canada thistle and large galls develop around the stem-dwelling larvae. Larvae pass through the winter within the protective galls and emerge in the spring as adults. Unfortunately, this agent is not effective in killing the plant but may weaken the plant, making it more susceptible to other stresses.

Apparently, the Canada Thistle stem mining weevil, Ceutorhynchus littura, which has been released in Colorado, still can not be collected reliably and were not shipped. There is some evidence that these beetles may be effective especially in combination with the gall flies, so it is disappointing that they were not in the package.

I took a walk through the fields, looking for a good place to release the Urophora Cardui and was happy to see that my Milestone herbicide application of two and a half weeks ago was not a total waste. I had used a rather primitive hand sprayer, which did not allow for good control of the amount of active ingredient being applied. Some areas, which must have gotten better coverage, looked very well controlled, while others, which where probably missed, appeared unaffected.

I released the bugs in the evening in one of the denser patches of strong Canada Thistle growth, per instructions that were included in the package. I really hope that they survive and make a difference in controlling Canada Thistle. One thing that worked against them, though, is a hail storm - the second one of the year. (First one being just about a week ago - what an unusual June!) Anyway, that hailstorm hit within an hour or two of my bug release and there did not appear to be that many bugs in the box to begin with...

P.S. The Biological Pest Control Section of the Colorado Department of Agriculture may be reached by telephone at (970) 464-7916. They are generally good about picking up the phone.

P.P.S. Just talked to the nice folks at the Biological Pest Control Section again and they put me on the list for another shipment of the bugs to be delivered next year, just in case. The lady I talked to said that they send a hundred bugs in every box, which should be sufficient to establish a colony that will cause significant damage to Canada Thistle within 3 years.

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