No phoenix, no flame

We’ve had a problem with ferns for awhile. The problem is that we forget to water, or don’t water enough, or leave town and forget to leave out supplies for watering, or have sun that’s too strong, or plants that aren’t right, or something…. cause in the end, the issue is that they wither right up. And there they sit, balls of dried fern, dry as desert sand. For awhile, I was calling them “phoenix ferns” — just waiting for them to burst into flame and bring forth the beautiful bird held within.
This weekend we decided to regain some standing with the neighbors and let the phoenix dreams die. We replaced the plants… but we did so with a plan. Paul installed an automatic watering system that runs through tubing down into each basket, directly to the center of each plant. It was so easy, so quick, and so attractive an option that I am shocked we didn’t do it sooner.
And we didn’t stop there! Out came buckets, sponges, and soap. The front of the house got washed… at least, from about my arms’ reach down…. not even half way up the 14′ porch, but still not bad. Paul is pricing out pressure washers… it’s time we gave in. It’s just a must in this type of environment. Paul says he’s going to follow up on my start and use the ladder to scrub the high parts of the porch. That would be great… lotsa buggy carcasses stuck to stuff up there. The other thing on our plate: a New Orleans paint job (maybe next fall?) and sealing/painting the porch.
While I was washing, I found several (maybe a dozen or more?) reddish sticky nests behind the shutters attached to the siding, along the crevices where the window frame meets the siding. At first I thought wasps… but no. Then I thought termites? But when we started prying at them with a screwdriver, we saw that they were sort of hard (like a beetle shell?) and had a grub-like inside. Some seemed “empty.” Paul was the primary remover and only got to a few before the kids became too much of a hassle. We have NO idea what these things are!! Any ideas??