LIFE IN A POST-APOCALYPTIC SMALL TOWN

I always thought it would be zombies. Lurching dead people yearning to eat my brain, shambling around moaning. But it isn’t. Nope, it’s caterpillars. Gypsy moth caterpillars. Coming not to eat me (so far), but anything that’s green and growing. And doing a damned good job of it, too, I should add.

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They stripped the tall oaks in a day and a night. Without missing a beat, they cleaned off the birch trees, rhododendrons and got to work on the maples and firs. The pine trees will die. They can’t survive defoliation. I’m told by others that they are including any fruit trees they can get to, probably as a light dessert.

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The ground is seething with caterpillars, the house crawling with them. It’s the end of life on earth? Probably not … unless they come again next year and then, it might be.

They are killing my fuchsia, eating the unconquerable day lilies. Are even the hosta safe?

Call it the apocalypse of the trees. If trees could talk to us, I’m sure they would agree.

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When they are finally gone, which will be in about a month, give or take a week or two, there will be a lot of rebuilding to do. Essentially, everyone will have to recreate their plantings, clear out the corpses, and come up with a plan.

2016. Remember this date. This is the year the gypsy moths beat the humans in a blowout game of epic proportions.

REBUILDING IN A POST-APOCALYPTIC SMALL TOWN

NOTE: As I was reading this, having just pressed “Publish,” I noticed a phalanx of the hairy bastards crawling up the side of the sofa accompanied by several big black ants. Are they building a united front?

I sprayed the hell out of everything and now, breathing is dicey. I just killed another ant crawling across my keyboard. Do we want to discuss “creeped out?”

I’m almost nostalgic about the good old days when ants and mice in season were the worst of the invaders.

THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY … UPDATED!

Yesterday, I realized we can’t spend the summer locked in our house with doors and windows sealed.

The invasion, now an official worst in living memory gypsy moth attack in the Uxbridge-Whitinsville area, has made it onto all the local network affiliates. This is likely to force the town to figure out how to prevent this happening again — but worse — next summer.

It’s too late to save the summer. The oak trees are bare. So are all the birch. The caterpillars are finishing off the maple and pines. They’ve killing my fuchsia and the garden is dead before anything had a chance to bloom. The damage is done. The pines are gone for good; they won’t come back. The caterpillars are way out of control and marching north. We may have been the first, but we won’t be the last.

The little crawling eating machines are not finished. They will keep chomping on anything they can digest until they become moths and stop eating– at least a month from now. Then, instead, they will begin laying millions of eggs to ensure the next generation.

That’s the life of gypsy moths. Eat a forest. Dump excrement everywhere. Morph into ugly brown and white moths (the white ones — females — can’t fly). Lay millions of eggs. Repeat until there are no trees left standing.

Late yesterday, UPS delivered my marmalade and jellies. Neither Garry nor I had the stomach to retrieve the package. This morning, I geared up. Long dress. Clogs with socks. Long sleeved over-shirt. I couldn’t find a hat, so I just did perpetual motion. It was lovely out there. I haven’t been outside for a couple of days. I almost forgot what a delightful time of year this is.

I spotted the package on the sidewalk in front of the wellhead, by the front gate.

Which is when, looking down, realized the ground is writhing with caterpillars. The package was covered with them. A small package, yet so many hairy brown crawlers. I knocked them off the package, grabbed it, and ran for the door, stomping them back from the entrance, hearing them crunching under my feet. OH YUCK.

Coming in, I opened the marmalade and the ginger jelly, put in an English muffin to toast and took a deep breath. I made it. I was out maybe 3 minutes or less? Glad I have a pacemaker. It kept my heart from stopping.

I settled down with coffee and a muffin and two (TWO!!) kinds of sweets. Very good. Delicious. Hot coffee, sweet muffin, and I’m alive, alive. The caterpillars didn’t get me!

The phone range. It was Lance of Turf Technologies Inc. calling, as promised. Quick conversation and he said “This is now, officially the worse infestation ever. Good for you. People like you squawking is probably why the news picked it up.”

I know, because — I’m married to a news guy. I may not know much, but I know if you make noise and pique their interest, the news people will come. Maybe the powers-that-be — the ones around here making like ostriches — will take notice. As the days roll on with no relief, I become increasingly less hopeful.


One of the worst side effects of this mess is that I’m horribly depressed. I sit here, watching summer slip away, realizing there’s nothing more I can do. There’s a package outside somewhere. It’s a movie I ordered from Amazon, but neither of us is willing to look for it, not if it means going outside.

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A neighbor posted this picture. It could just as easily be my house. That’s what it looks like. I’m not taking any pictures because I can’t bring myself to go out. I haven’t been out of the house for nearly a week. I suppose that’s contributing to the depression.

No matter how horrible it is for us, I can’t imagine how bad it is for the farmers. This is apple orchard country. We’ve got farms. Trees, corn, dairy cattle. I can’t imagine how they are coping with this and what a economic catastrophe this will be for them.

This is the worst summer ever.

ANOTHER MIND-BLOWING DOCUMENTARY FROM MICHAEL MOORE – PART 1 by ELLIN CURLEY

There is so much I’d like to talk about in the amazing, eye-opening documentary called “Where To Invade Next”. It’s really an old-fashioned travelogue. Michael Moore goes to different countries around the world. But instead of reporting about natural wonders or tourist sites, he reports about one specific thing in each culture. It’s the prison system in one, the equality of women in another, the educational system in others.

There are two major areas where the European approach blew my mind. One is the workplace, which I’ll talk about here. The other is the educational system, which I’ll discuss next Monday.

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The workplace in Italy and Germany is a place where workers and bosses come together to create a good quality product for the marketplace, make a good profit for the company and provide a good quality of life for the employees. The companies visited were successful, well-known companies; in Italy they visited a high-end clothes factory that produces for such brand names as Dolce and Gabana and the Ducati motorcycle factory. In Germany they went to a world-famous pencil factory and the BMW assembly line.

In Italy unions are very powerful and in Germany, the law mandates that half of all corporate boards must be made up of workers from that company. The result is that corporations there consider and care about the needs and well-being of their workers. And visa versa. It is a commonly held belief in both countries that to maximize productivity you must have a well rested, unstressed, “happy” workforce. A good balance between a worker’s job and home life is considered essential for the business to succeed. Everyone there believes that longer hours and less time off increases sickness, decreases production and destroys morale.

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All Italians get at least 8 weeks of PAID vacation a year plus around 12 national holidays. They get five months of paid maternity leave that can be shared by both parents. They also get a 13th month of full salary to make sure they have enough money to pay for traveling and other fun activities on their vacations. This is all in addition to a two-hour lunch every day. In Germany, they have a 36 hour workweek but get paid for 40 hours. There is also a law that prohibits employers from emailing of contacting workers after hours, on weekends or when they are on vacation. Embedded in both German and Italian culture is the belief that cultivating friends, time with family, leisure activities and time to enjoy life are as important, if not more important than work.

The bizarre part of this for Americans is the fact that the corporate employers believe they are not only doing the right thing for their workers, but the most expedient and efficient thing for themselves. The bosses believe that a pleasant workplace filled with happy and cooperative people is actually better for their businesses.

They may be right. Statistics show that very few Italians or Germans take sick days off work but that this is a big problem in America. It seriously diminishes overall productivity here. Statistics also show that Italy and America have the same level of workplace productivity. This means that Italians are far more productive per man hour than we are.

Despite the shorter workday and work year in Italy and Germany, all the factory workers Michael Moore talked to made enough money to live a comfortable middle class life. While their taxes may be higher than ours, they don’t have to pay for high cost items like health care, day care, school tuition, etc. The result is enough money to pay for the necessities and many of the luxuries of a middle class life style. The European workers were shocked to hear that middle class Americans have to work two and often three jobs just to make ends meet.

The take away for me was that there are places in the world that value quality of life and mental health for their populations. And this is not seen as undermining the bottom line of the economy in any way. Employers and employees don’t have opposing interests. Everyone is expected to be relaxed and happy and to have a rich, full life, with a wide circle of family and friends. People in parts of Europe seem to take care of each other and care about each other in a way that seems very quaint and outdated in America.

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Ironically, the labor movement and labor unions were born in America. We just abandoned them somewhere along the way and other parts of the world have continued to embrace them. But this documentary gave me hope that there is a way to make it work for everyone in a society. You just have to have common goals and work together. Unfortunately, I don’t think can happen in America for a long time to come.