What a November!

Hi Everybody!

I’m sorry that it has been so long since my last post, but this month came and is now gone before I realized it!  A lot has happened in the yard and in the house, too.

Let me start with what a beautiful month it has been.  The leaves have turned to beautiful color and now are falling at  astronomical rates!  Thankfully, I have places to put them (besides at the curb or in the middle of the back yard or even a leaf bag) which is over the butterfly garden, the milkweed plants around the perimeter of the yard, and the veggie garden.  After winter’s snows it will be nice to have all of that free nutrition added to the soil of the beds for spring planting!

Kris and I and a friend of ours took a weekend and went to Logan, Ohio for a girls weekend/wine tasting.  We stayed at a gorgeous pioneer cabin, moved from West Virginia and rebuilt on its current site.  It was a great weekend.  Towards the middle of the month, another friend of ours – moved in!  He even

I’m here!

brought his dog – Boofus.  We are still re-arranging furniture and rooms, so that he will have his own space.  It’s kinda nice to have a live-in maintenance man.  Just teasing you Shawn!  LOL

Shawn had a beautiful pond at his previous residence that I hope he duplicates at our house sometime in the future.  I can’t imagine a more peaceful spot in a yard where you get to hear the water trickling over the rocks, and watch the butterflies flitter amongst the flowers, and the birds singing in the trees!  I’m

Peaceful looking, isn’t it?

so excited for spring, are you???

The Squirrels have found it!

 

Let me get my cheeks full
Anyone looking?

 

Hi everyone!  While making coffee this morning I just happen to notice some movement at the squirrel bunkers.  A little squirrel found his breakfast!  Cute little guy/gal.  I haven’t quite figured out how to tell the difference yet….LOL  Guess I need to check under the tail????  Oh well….he or she is enjoying the food.

Best seat on the house

Lazy week

Hey Everyone,  it’s been a lazy week with work schedule.  I have managed to feed all the critters…they are really stuffing their bellies for the winter ahead!!  The birds get fed every day, the squirrels every other day, and the other critters well….let’s just say that they are finding food, okay?

Something pretty funny did happen the other day, and that is my neighbor came over for a visit and scared a squirrel out of my potting soil bag.  I’m sure there is something delicious buried in there.  Let’s just hope it isn’t babies.  They have a tendency to nest high in the trees, but if they can find a more private spot to nest, they will.  Eeek!

Moonvine – it’s as big as my hand!

Anyway, fall is here and I hope to get all of my outside work completed.  I am truly hesitant about cutting back my moonvine.  It is so pretty when it gets a chance to bloom in the evening, and it smells wonderful.  But the blooms are getting a little touched by the cold weather.  I cover them, but they must just like it warmer….sounds a bit like us, huh?

Winter is coming….let’s get ready

While most people may find squirrels irritating and a nuisance, we find them adorable and just as needy for food and nesting materials as the birds.  So today, I spent a couple of hours taking down the squirrel bunkers, washing them, putting them back up then lovingly filling them with corn and nuts.  I just figured with the chilling night temperatures, it was time to begin making sure the little guys had their food to start beefing up for winter.  While I was at, I gave the birds their seed and suet.  They need to get some “meat on their bones” as well.

Quaint little eating joint for the squirrels

Raising Monarchs – the Good

Just hangin’ out

Well folks, here is the final post on Monarchs for this season/year.  Our last few butterflies that have been released should be heading south to Mexico to party and over winter (we hope).  It’s a long flight, and hopefully our butterflies will catch those high windstreams to help move them along so they don’t have to flutter their wings the whole time.  Whew!  That would be so tiring!!

The good thing about raising Monarchs is that we are helping bring them back from the endangered list.  By planting native milkweed and native nectar flowers, we initially attract them where the females can lay their eggs, then give them nectar to eat once they’ve emerged from their chrysalis to start the cycle again, or to give them necessary food for the long trip to Mexico.  It is a beautiful thing to watch them grow from egg to butterfly, then to release them into the world, but they will only survive if we give them what they need!

They are pollinators as well as beautiful butterflies.  Without pollinators, we don’t have food and without food – we die.  So…..we hope that you will consider helping them, so that they can help us!  It is a simple thing to do…just think about it.

We have a male that we released this afternoon, but he must have decided that he wasn’t ready for the trip, because he just hung out on the butterfly bush until dusk.  I felt sorry for the little guy, so I brought him back in to spend the night with us.  I will try again to get him to fly away in the morning when the sun is shining and its a little warmer.

That’s all folks……until Spring!

Hibernating the gardens

Here in Ohio, cooling weather usually starts around the first part of October.  We may have an extended warm period just before, but most of the time the night temperatures start dropping into the 40’s (maybe even cooler) about then.  It isn’t long then, that the leaves start to change color, flowers begin to really fade and die, and the hustle and bustle of the squirrels gathering their winter snacks and nesting supplies begin.  It is at this time that I put my gardens – flowering ones and veggie one – into hibernation.  How do I do that, you ask?

First, I pull up the annuals that have stopped flowering and are turning yellow.  They aren’t going to flower anymore so why keep them around?  I shake off the dirt and throw the stems into my compost pile.  Next, I am sure to cut back my perennials that have stopped blooming and may be looking kind of ugly – such as Irises, daylilies, foxgloves, roses, hosta’s, milkweed, trumpet vine, clematis, etc.  – because it just makes the garden space neater and helps the plant grow those healthy root systems instead of wasting its energy trying to keep what’s above ground alive and well.  Now that this part is done, I will wait until the leaves start to fall so that I can use them to put a nice blanket over and around my plants to protect them from the heaving that happens over the winter.  Heaving is a killer on the plants!

In the veggie garden, I just make sure that I have pulled up all of the tomato plants, cucumber vines, pepper plants, etc and lay them on the garden space, and covered the whole space with straw; then will cover that with leaves when I have extra.  All this does is provide extra material to decompose over the winter and provide extra nutrients to the soil that I will plant in in the spring.  Goodnight, gardens!  Sleep well!!

Raising Monarchs – the Bad and the Ugly

Good Afternoon everyone!  Before too much time has gone by, I thought I would fill you in the on the bad and the ugly sides of raising Monarchs.  When raising Monarchs there are several things to consider, each of which are extremely important to the health and safety of the caterpillars (aka “cat”) and butterflies.  Monarchs are subject to diseases, parasites, and predators.  Those are the reasons why, if you’re going to raise them indoors, it’s a good idea to get them when they’re eggs.  When you bring in cats larger than in their first or second instar, you could be bringing in any or all of their killers with you.  I will only list a few diseases, parasites and caterpillar killers, just in case your interested.  If your not….feel free to read our other posts.  🙂

  1.  Tachnid Flies – these are hard to distinguish from other flies unless you see them when their still.  They are hairy and have red eyes.  They will lay their eggs on the Monarch cats, then the hatching maggots will burrow into the caterpillar eating them from the inside out.  You can typically tell your caterpillar’s been compromised when it starts to grow smaller and skinnier. Often, it will appear small if it attempts to pupate. The caterpillar often dies while forming its chrysalis. Soon after, white tachinid maggots or dark-red pupae will exit the caterpillar and fall to the ground, leaving long white strands of evidence hanging from the monarch cat or chrysalis.
  2. Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE)  OE is a protozoan parasite that caterpillars ingest on milkweed. It’s spread through microscopic spores coming off the wings and bodies of adult butterflies. These protozoa multiply inside the
    Caterpillar with OE

    caterpillar and can cause weakness, disfigurement, and an untimely death.

  3. NPV (Nuclear Polyhedrosis Virus)  Commonly referred to as black death, your caterpillars will deflate, turn black, then liquify like something out of a horror movie! This virus can also affect chrysalides as the entire monarch chrysalis turns black.
  4. Pseudomonas (Bacterial Disease) This bacteria can be found in soil and on plants. This bacterium thrives in warm, moist conditions which is why it’s important to have a habitat with good air flow where excess moisture can evaporate. Pseudomonas typically affect caterpillars that are already weakened by other diseases. Similar to NPV, monarch caterpillars and chrysalides will slowly fade to black death.

Tainted Milkweed  It’s hard to imagine that anyone selling milkweed would treat it with pesticides, since the vast majority of milkweed customers are buying it to support monarch caterpillars and butterflies. Unfortunately, this is not always the case…In the world of raising butterflies, tainted milkweed often rears its ugly leaves when people run out of milkweed for their caterpillars and are forced to make a milkweed emergency run to the nearest store/nursery.  If your caterpillar has ingested pesticides it will often expel green vomit. If this happens, rinse the caterpillar off under a faucet, then place it on a new milkweed source immediately! If the current milkweed has been treated with systemic pesticides, the chemicals are inside the plant and can’t be rinsed off.

I have had personal experience (if you remember) with #5, having to make that emergency run to the nursery for more milkweed.  That trip was a good one!  I did, however, have to make a second trip.  I went to a different, more local greenhouse (Dill’s Greenhouse) that time.  As we began losing our cats, it took me a minute to figure out what was making them die.  The second batch of milkweed had been sprayed with a pesticide!!  My heart broke, and then I got angry.  I had even asked one of the growers if they used or sprayed any pesticides or herbicides on the milkweed.  She assured me they had not……  The final death toll is 8.

Going to the Dogs

Sara and Cassie

Kris and I share our home with 3 dogs – Cassie, age 13, a beagle;  Scarlett,  age 5, a beagle; and, Sara, age 11, a black lab/border collie mix.  They are all rescues, and much loved.  We often try to stay rather organized with the feeding of our dogs.  We have them on a feeding schedule, and they all eat the same dog food.  Their personality’s however, have caused us to create an eating place for each of them so that they do not have to see the other eating their food.  Recently, we learned that the “powers that be” have stopped making their dog food.  Our dogs love having a bit of gravy on their food, so it was just so easy to buy a “gravy” dog food and just add water.  We were trying to avoid buying the expensive Gravy Train brand dog food, so we decided to try an inexpensive brand and make our own gravy to add to it.  Well…..the two oldest dogs protested, and were rather loud about it too!!  They were not going to eat.  Good girl, Scarlett, didn’t care whether she had gravy or not, she was going to eat!!  As a rescue, it is often hard to tell what their puppyhood was like, but from they way she gets excited at dinner time I’d say she didn’t get to eat very much as a puppy, so she is not going to miss a meal now!

We let it go for a couple of weeks, thinking they would get used to the new food, but ohhhhh nooooo, not going to happen.  So the experiments began.  Buy a little of this kind and mix with the current food;  buy some chicken, turkey or beef broth and mix with it;  NOTHING was working.  Here comes the Gravy Train!!  Bingo – it’s working with Sara!  Poor Cassie still won’t eat.  Let’s try some canned food….BAM!  She loves it!

It certainly brings a smile and even a little giggle when I see these girls watching our every move as they anticipate dinner each night.  We are certainly going to the dogs….we love ’em so much!

Coming Down to the End…..maybe

We are finally coming down to the end of Monarch season….maybe.  This year there appears to be huge increase in the Monarch migration, something we are very excited about!  What that means is that all of the efforts of Monarch raisers across the United States and Canada are truly making a difference!  Of course what THAT means is, if all of our butterflies make it to Mexico to over winter, next spring could be a truly spectacular sight for sore eyes with all of the beautiful Monarch butterflies fluttering around.  Do you remember seeing them all when you were a child??  The weather has been cooperating, the warm air holding on, and beautiful sunny days, it seems that the Monarchs just want to hang around for a bit longer this year.  Fortunately, their built-in biological clock will usually let them know when it’s time to head south.  Some DO get caught by an early cold snap, which Monarch’s do not like.

Before I forget to tell you, here is an update on our caterpillar counts:  We have released a total of 31 butterflies to date,  most of which have been females.  We have 28 Chrysalides (plural for Chrysalis), 9 caterpillars in various instars, and 1 egg that was just found this afternoon.  I’m sure there are more, but it sounded as if it was going to rain, so I stopped looking.  There are still female Monarch’s fluttering around, so I’m sure there will be more eggs.  Because it takes about a month to get from egg to butterfly, I’m almost certain that what we rescue this week, will be the finale’ of our Monarch season.  These emerging butterflies will have to get to Mexico for the winter!!  Who knows – I learned to recognize Monarch eggs this season, perhaps I will learn how to over-winter a Monarch?  I’m not sure I’m ready for that, but……let’s just wait and see.