As a follow up to my previous post, I should have posted these photos in mid April when I took them, but alas here they are! This first photo shows a monarch about 1 hour before emerging. The chrysalis is completely see through at this point! Also in the second photo notice the curled wings before the dry out. This was taken a few minutes after emerging. The fourth photo is pretty cool in it’s own right because those two monarchs literally emerged within minutes of each other!
And just when I thought our monarch adventure was done for the season, we now have 14 new caterpillars within the last week. That month in between gave the milkweeds just enough time to replenish to give life all over again.
The ONLY plant that monarch caterpillars can eat is milkweed. There are many varieties, so it’s best to buy the ones that are native to your area if you’re interested in helping the monarch butterflies reproduce. It’s kind of like a science experiment in your yard. I have learned things about these amazing creatures through seeing them live through their life cycle that I never knew before. And it started with one plant.
Sure these little guys will start off tiny and within a matter of days double their size over and over. In the process they will systematically eat every single leaf and flower off your milkweed. But it’s okay. Because milkweeds are built for this. They will grow back. And then a monarch or two will lay eggs on it again and it’ll get mowed again and it will again grow back.
So when my daughter and I counted 38 baby caterpillars on our ONE milkweed about a week ago, I knew they would run out of feasting material fast. So I went to the nursery and bought 3 more plants. Then 2 days later I bought 6 more. And they were finally happy and fat and had had their fill of the buffet. Whew! It was then that I got worried. They were lethargic and many had curled up. I calmed my concerns with a quick internet search informing me that they do this before getting ready for their next stage in the chrysalis.
And then they started disappearing. They were off to find their magic place to make their final transformation into a butterfly. I managed to find 4 of them in a nearby tall bush called “pink breath of heaven”. When they attach themselves to wherever they have chosen and form their “J” as my daughter likes to call it, they are C O M P L E T E L Y still. Take a glimpse at the 3rd and 4th pictures below. That’s the same caterpillar before and after the chrysalis. And the time in between taking those shots today? 2 hours. That’s it. You can youtube a video of a time lapse of this process if you’re interested. Pretty amazing. Now we wait!
I was thrilled to stumble across this chrysalis, which is the first one I’ve ever seen in my own yard. I showed my daughter and husband and was quite impressed that I could see the butterfly’s wings through the beautiful chrysalis. Do you see it? The gold edging and dots are also most elegant. The caterpillar traveled approximately 40 feet from the milkweed plant to this location (on the back of a worn metal patio chair). It seems that butterflies migrate even as caterpillars!
A few mornings ago I saw this beauty while out on my morning walk around the yard on our recently acquired milkweed plant. These plants are havens for butterflies and also support their lifecycle. I felt fortunate to have caught it on camera when I did. I presume it was laying an egg or two since yesterday these 2 were found cruising around the same plant:
This last photo is sort of a “Where’s Waldo” of caterpillars. It’s exciting seeing these caterpillars grow so fast on the milkweed. My mom told me that when they’re big enough, they leave the plant to find a safe place to make their chrysalis. I was relieved to hear this because last week’s large caterpillar seemed to have disappeared and I was worried about a bird having eaten it for a snack! (By the way, my mom gets all the credit for inspiring me to buy a milkweed plant. She has many in her front yard and even though she doesn’t care for the twiggy look it has after the caterpillars have eaten it all up, she knows the plant will grow back to feed a whole new crop of future monarchs.) Seeing the butterfly’s life cycle in action is also a wonderful science lesson for kiddos. Do butterflies in your neck of the woods a favor and get a milkweed plant!
I still enjoy baking with agave instead of cane sugar and I recently found a fabulous recipe for pumpkin agave muffins (I added the cranberry part) on the blog, Hell Yeah It’s Vegan! (This link will bring you right to the recipe.) They are moist, not too sweet and full of pumpkin-y goodness. The only other tweak I made was switching regular flour for whole wheat flour.
I made them a second time around and reduced the flour to 1 and 1/4 cup to make way for adding 1/3 cup of Coach’s Oats (also interchangeable with Old-Fashioned Oatmeal). And Pumpkin Cranberry Oat Agave muffins were born! I brought them to a morning work meeting and they were a hit!
I’ve never had a fruit tree bloom quite like this before! Doesn’t it know that apples and pumpkins get to be the star now? It has just really started to cool down here in southern California. I can almost guarantee that this bloom will fizzle before it bears fruit, but it’s an interesting site in the garden.
The potted pink mandevilla next to the outdoor fireplace it definitely more sure of itself and I’m happy to report that it’s creeping along the mantel quite nicely, situating itself in the cracks of the stones.
I decided that with my lackluster fruit tree growth this year, I would adopt a technique that I used for the Spice Zee Nectaplum when I planted it this spring and it did fab. When I planted it, I also planted a two foot long plastic pipe found in the hardware center plumbing section. I use it to give water directly to the roots deep in this hard, dry soil. So, I picked up 6 more and carefully dug holes around my already planted fruit trees and positioned them down in the ground. I also drilled about 4-5 holes in the lower half of the pipe to give water all around.
The center part of this 5′ tall sunflower has finished drying in the sun and the seeds are now exposed. I’m planning on roasting these home-grown seeds. Since this will be my first time doing my own roasting, I looked up this recipe, which only involves boiling the seeds in a pot of salted water and then roasting them in the oven. I’m looking forward to seeing how they turn out!
And the Red Baron peach tree fairy gives her approval after many weeks of overseeing the sunflower seed soldiers.
My recent visit to an Alpaca ranch in Temecula, CA really caught me by surprise. I’m not sure that I’d even seen an alpaca before in the flesh so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Kinda like a llama, maybe?
The Alpaca Hacienda is home to about 60 alpacas, most of which are there as boarded animals and let’s just say they’re all living high on the hog. The owner used to be an elementary school teacher and when contemplating a career switch, decided to raise alpacas (well of course!). She told us that her husband saw the idea in a Costco magazine, of all places. Their hacienda is atop a hill with beautiful views, their personal home, and large divided sections of land where the alpacas are separated usually by age or gender. Each alpaca is unique in color, type of fiber (that’s alpaca talk for fur) and personality. They’re a cousin to llamas and are a bit smaller. I didn’t expect them to but they really stole my heart!
Here’s my daughter feeding her new BFF, Moon Shadow, who really took a liking to her (nothing to do with the food I’m sure) and followed her most of the morning.
Now, I imagine you may be wondering if they spit, and they can, but they never did at us, only to each other if they were getting vexed about not getting a fair share of food.
They are so amazing! And incredibly soft. They were originally brought to the US from South America in the 1980’s and in the decade or so that they were brought in, they were meticulously recorded and catalogued. To this day the genealogy lines are maintained and recorded.
We were lucky to have arrived only a few days after these two were born. After a year inside the womb, they essentially come out looking like this and within an a few hours are walking!
The Alpaca Hacienda is an amazing home for these animals and the owner happily gives tours by appointment. To boot, there is a boutique on the grounds with anything you can imagine made from the fiber of her alpacas. My daughter picked out a bunny!
“I promise I won’t buy any more fruit trees.” I said 2 weeks ago after my husband planted this for me. After which I heard, “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.” And he was right. I couldn’t argue his point.
After taking out a lack luster vine from this spot, I knew what addition I wanted to try in it’s place. I’d read a post from Hanbury House about her new Spice Zee NectaPlum that she’d gone so far as to sacrifice a Red Baron Peach to make room for after a neighbor gave her some amazingly sweet fruit from her tree. She described it as “the best tasting stone fruit I ever tried”. It’s a white-fleshed, nectarine-peach-plum hybrid.
In a sea of green leaves while I overlooked the fruit tree section of my local Green Thumb nursery, I could see the Spice Zee NectaPlum all the way in the back. The dark purple leaves are extremely unique and turn green after they mature.
In a way it’s an ornamental and a fruit tree all packaged in one.
This season I’m also growing a unique tomato with a strawberry type shape, aptly named German Orange Strawberry.
It’s shape also resembles the ripening Red Baron peaches that it sits next to:
The 18″ high fencing we’d been using to keep our 4 chickens in their designated 300 square foot area had been falling short for quite some time. The Silkies had figured out how to squeeze through and Henrietta could just give a little hop and just roam free all through the yard, which is not a good thing. I decided I’d had enough of chasing chickens around the yard when I came home from the store, so I did a little research and found this blog post from Sunny Simple Life and knew it was just what I had in mind. Something nice looking, blends well with the garden and is functional.
Before (morning dirt bath under the Double Delight Nectarine):
I purchased it at Lowe’s and it took about 2 hours to install with metal posts that hammer into the ground. The fencing slides onto the posts and then links together to the panel next to it. In order to still have access into their space, we left one panel un-linked, sawed off the metal post at the bottom of the panel to prevent drag and then turned around the next panel and continued along.
I love the leaf design. Now I know the chickens aren’t causing mischief in the rest of the yard, which makes me an even happier chicken owner.