Saturday, August 25, 2018

And we have a chrysalis!

Many moths spin cocoons. Butterflies create a chrysalis to protect themselves during the final stages of metamorphosis. (I am getting my monarch information from here. That site has better photos - I am finding it difficult to snap pix without disturbing the critters too much.)

Just hanging around

Closed for renovations

We're right behind you!

Now that the end is near for one of my monarch caterpillars, I am finding it much easier to remember to check on the habitat. To extend the main milkweed stalk, I twisty-tied a shorter one to it. Now the remaining caterpillars will be able to climb to the top of the mesh ceiling.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Out of sight, out of mind

One problem with keeping the monarch caterpillars locked away from the cat is I forget to tend them. A milkweed stalk does not last long even when standing in a jar of water. Also, caterpillars can fall into the jar of water (I rescued one). All I need to do is remember to give them fresh leaves everyday, but somehow that is too much.

Another problem is fresh leaves may also have eggs on them - or even a teeny tiny caterpillar the birds haven't found yet. I really need to get on the ball here or I will miss out on the fun of releasing a live monarch into the wild.

With all the rain we've had lately, it is all I can do to keep ahead of the mowing and trimming. Yesterday I was feeling rather blue about the yard. Today I weeded a bit, though, and discovered it's not as bad as I thought. The raised beds are relatively weedfree. It's the areas that are not protected and mulched that are problematic. In past years, my SO has helped out a LOT, especially battling weeds. This year his contribution was primarily the moving of the wood chips from driveway to backyard. That reflects some progress. Once it cools down, I will corral him into helping me tackle (my side of) the (neighbor's) privet.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

A little catch-up

Sometimes I think I have too many hobbies. Other times I just seem to be inefficient or lazy. I'm retired, so all "goals" are self-inflicted, but I know I am happiest when I feel like I have accomplished something by the end of the day. Blogging tends to fall by the wayside.

Monarch update: I think I have put six caterpillars into the butterfly habitat. I'm hesitant to check the leaves too thoroughly, as if a caterpillar falls off its leaf (a common reaction to disturbance), there is no way it can climb back on.

When it's time for cocoon formation, they will want to climb up and attach to the top of the habitat, but right now there is no way to do that, either. I'd like to add another milkweed plant, but a danger of doing that is introducing a predator. The newly hatched larva are SOOOO tiny I think the smallest spiders could make a meal of them. What is a monarch foster mom to do?

August is rudbeckia season. I have some scattered around the yard; next year, there should be a lot more. Thanks to all the rain we have received, the coneflower and rudbeckia transplants are doing great (as are all the weeds). The butterfly weed is okay; it takes a while to get established.

It's easy to forget about the 'Limelight' hydrangea. It is in a corner I don't visit often except to mow, and then I am looking down, not up. I caught a glimpse of it over the fence while walking the dog the other day and realized it is in bloom.

The late season 'Royal Standard' hosta is in bloom as well. The hosta in general have somewhat recovered from dog trampling but only because I fenced off that section of the yard. I would not be walking daily were it not for the dogs, but sometimes I wonder if my health is worth all the damage they do to the yard.

I continue to pluck blossoms from the cosmos and dyers coreopsis on a daily basis, and in less than 24 hours, there are MORE. A LOT more. There is a lesson in deadheading there, I believe (although the marigold are much slower to recover from just such a denuding). Some plants are in desperate need of deadheading - those flowers are definitely DEAD - but then I see goldfinch feeding on the seeds. Maybe the birds and I can reach a compromise of some sort.

Monday, August 06, 2018

They grow up so fast!

I have little bitty monarch caterpillars! Ironically, the eggs on the first leaves I picked did not hatch (not fertile?), but after ordering the butterfly habitat, I saw a monarch laying eggs on the milkweed by the deck. I grabbed a couple of leaves from there and those are the ones that hatched.

Day 1 (or 2?)

I didn't write down the caterpillars' "birthday", so I'm a bit fuzzy on exactly when they hatched. (And I suffer from CRAFT - can't remember a freaking thing.) I *think* day one they looked like teeny tiny meal worms, but by day two the stripes were visible.

Day 3 (or 4?)
Now you can see the antennae, which for some reason just makes me go *squeee*!

Day 4 (or 5?)

The first indicator that there were caterpillars was the appearance of frass (caterpillar poop) in the bottom of the mason jar. This has to be kept cleaned up, so now not only do I pick up dog poop and scoop kitty litter, I am mopping up frass.


Initially, I set up the butterfly habitat in the kitchen, weighting it down with a couple of bricks in what turned out to be a vain hope Beau (the feline destroyer of all things fine) could not knock it over. Unfortunately, the mess sides are perfect for snagging cat claws. So now the habitat is in the bathtub, behind a closed door.

Butterfly habitat

According to the instructions, this habitat can incubate up to 30 butterflies at a time, so of course I went out and found five more leaves with eggs. It is not limited to monarchs, either, so maybe next year I'll be able to raise some swallowtails or something. Science is fun!

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Road trip

My SO and I went on a little road trip, to the Columbus IN and Nashville IN area. Everything looked so *green*, from the Hoosier National Forest to the fields of corn and soybeans. Obviously, they have had plenty of rain.

We didn't go hiking - too humid, too tick-ridden - but we did wander Columbus a bit. Despite the wonderful architecture and bits of art here and there, the plantings were rather ho-hum. Just as Minneapolis is rife with hosta, Columbus is full of coleus, mostly in pots.

The Inn at Irwin Gardens has a large formal garden. We didn't want to pay for the official tour, so took pix from outside the fence. There is also a large greenhouse known as the Gardener's Farm, but we didn't visit that, either.

Columbus is home to Cummins. The building downtown sports a long promenade-like pergola, which reminded me of my attempts to grow something on my pergola. Hopefully, these pix will continue to remind me next spring.

We strolled down to Mill Race Park, again in hopes of seeing something interesting plantwise. No such luck, but we did come across the Clock Tower. The elevator was out of service, but athletic types use the stairs Rocky-like for exercise. According to one runner, 125 steps! There are also notices about suicide prevention on the backside of the structure.

One nice garden we visited was at the Story Inn ("One inconvenient location since 1851"), but I was too distracted by the heat and hunger to take pix. We ate pulled pork, smoked on the premises, in the basement tavern there.

So, why did we travel to the area? No particular reason. Nashville was a bit of a disappointment; it used to be an artist colony but now is rather touristy. We did visit a weaving studio and a weaving store and a couple of yarn stores, though, so I had a good opportunity to contribute to the local economy.