Thoughts & Sketches

Welcome to Sunday, a time of thoughtful reflection and last chance to get the vacuuming and dusting finished. And even though it’s hot (a sunny 86 F at the moment), I like to spend some time out in the backyard, taking in the colors of the gardens in this last part of summer. Surrounded by nature, I’m inspired to dream… write… draw…

Athena joins me on the back patio. The sandy flagstones are perfect for back scratching, and under the table, they’re cool enough for an afternoon nap.The flower patch along the back fence is looking especially cheerly this afternoon. It’s the breeze that does it. Not too much; not too little. Just enough to make the flowers nod and sway, just enough to make the cottonwoods wave hello, and just enough to create the soft, soothing, swoosh sound as it swirls its way through the branches. A dry, light breeze is a rare gift in the middle of August.

This is the month when the butterflies come. We plant milkweed (four varieties!), bee balm, dill, parsley, fennel, and an assortment of flowers, hoping to entice them into our yard. We don’t see too many early in the summer, and about mid-July I usually decide that we’re not in the fly zone this year. But in August, they arrive.

We see many black swallowtails, a few monarchs, and lots of skippers. The tiger swallowtail is rarely seen, but all the more exciting when one does make an appearance. They all love the zinnias! Even though the monarchs visit, there are not as many as I expect, and I do think that our yard is not on their usual route. We have the milkweed ready, just in case!Athena has moved out into the corner garden, finding another shady spot under the wisteria where she can keep watch and not be bothered. 

For me, I’ll spend some more quality Sunday time gazing out at the gardens, watching butterflies… writing… drawing…

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.