Clouds and Caterpillars

August 28, 2017 – It is cool and cloudy this morning. The line of rain that was heading this way from the northwest predictably split into a northern mass and a southern mass, leaving us dry in the middle. But the remnants of rain, or even a near miss of rain, make for a beautiful sky. The rising sun paints highlights and shadows on a soft blue background. Soft pieces of gray fluff drift by…Meanwhile, on the ground, we have new, many-legged life appearing here and there… on the milkweed 

…on the fennel  …on the dill

…and on the parsley.It’s fascinating to watch these guys go through their life cycle… eating and growing and eating and growing. However, we’ve found that when they reach a certain size, the birds get them and/or they wander off in search of a chrysalis site. So here’s what I asked Joe to build…It doesn’t have a “floor.” Its four legs just stick into the ground, so it can be placed right over any plant that happens to have a few caterpillars clinging to it. Also, this year, Joe added a removable top… handy for replenishing the food supply. At the moment, we’ve got about five swallowtail caterpillars of various size in residence. Inside their house, they are safe and we can watch their growth as they munch away at the fennel. It’s not “air-tight,” though, and some still manage to escape as they get ready to transform.

So, this time of year, we don’t harvest many herbs; we leave them for the caterpillars.

We don’t have a caterpillar house for the monarchs yet… that’s on the list for next year. This guy will have to take his chances. He certainly seems up to the challenge.Nature doesn’t really need any help from us; we just need to stay out of its way.

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A Preview of Fall

August 27, 2017 – The morning is cool and clear. The air is light–unusual for August in the midwest. The crickets are still singing even though the suns’s light is creeping over the trees in the east. Before long, cricket song is slowly drowned out by cardinals “chipping” and squirrels scolding as the morning brightens and warms.

Athena, our visiting cat, pads softly across the back deck, heading out to the birdbaths for a quick drink.













Inside, Duncan monitors her movements closely. 

Athena and Duncan don’t get along, but I hope they will work out their differences eventually. But for now, there is much muttering and hissing as the “conversation” moves from window to window.

The sun is up beyond the trees now, and the bright light reveals a late summer garden, somewhat rejuvenated by the recent cool weather. The usual August heat is a harsh reality for the flowers and vegetables. Everything wilts by midday, and there is no energy left for growth… only survival. The bugs seize the opportunity to really wage an all out attack on the vulnerable leaves and petals. Squash borers weaken stems and stalks, and the yellow and black spotted cucumber beetles chew away at the beautiful green leaves. Even the tough prairie plants, with their deep, deep roots, look pale and tired. At this point, it seems like it’s time to wrap up the gardening for another year.

But, the resilience of Nature is not to be underestimated. On this morning’s garden walk, I notice a renewed vibrance in the greenery and a freshness to the flowers. Next to a dried, chewed stalk, a new green tomato hangs quietly, and young green leaves and small yellow flowers hold the promise of more to come. The fallen seeds of bolted  cilantro have sprouted and reach for the sun.

The zinnias look refreshed and ready to face the rest of the summer. Just a small preview of fall is a real boost to the heart and soul of the garden, not to mention the gardener. 🌱

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