What’s Been Going On?

A lot has been going on!  This time of year there is so much to do.  Most gardeners probably feel the same way.  Future projects stretch on into infinity – but that is  GOOD thing.

First bit of news is we are in round 3 of the Bunny Wars.  We are now building a permanent – what I hope is indestructible – bunny proof fence around the veggie garden.  The reason for this is because the bunnies discovered they could chew through the plastic netting we had up.  We patched the ‘chew holes’ almost daily with zip ties but it only takes one bunny one night to decimate a row of just starting snap peas.  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!  If you calculate the cost of ALL the measures we have taken to get this garden up and running and now bunny proofing, the cost of my home grown produce is astronomical.  (But who’s counting?  Plus it’s so worth it!)

We are going for something similar to this:


Second bit of news is WE HAVE ASPARAGUS in the ‘New and Improved Asparagus bed’!


I have counted 5 little sprouts so far which to me is pretty exciting!

The new butterfly garden is fantastic with the iris just about finished blooming, the daisies, wisteria, clematis and peonies about to bloom.


  I am not sure the yarrow is going to bloom this year after being divided and transplanted. It should have buds by now but doesn’t. The Swamp milkweed survived transplanting and I ordered and planted 2 more varieties.  Yes, I HAVE been busy. I planted morning glories to cover the old coop and sunflowers along the fence.  Our canna bulbs went in this week too.

The doggie poop area I wrote about is going GREAT and we landscaped around it with Ninebark shrubs and roses.


  It looks great.

We need to fill in landscaped areas with mulch but I want to wait until the messy cottonwood tree behind our property is finished dumping it’s white fluff.  Have you ever dealt with that?  Pretty but YUCK!  Once everything is all cleaned up I will post pics.

In the veggie garden lettuce, peas, onions and radishes are up.  Beans are in the ground and tomaotes have been transplanted but we broke 2 of the plants while traipsing around working on the fence.   😦  I might wait to put in the pepper, cabbage, okra and brussel sprout transplants until we are finished working on the fence to avoid more mishaps.

The chickens are laying like crazy, seem happy with the warm weather and love that I toss them buckets of weeds every day.  I have an idea to use the old bunny fence and secure an area in the wooded/weeded lot behind our yard to let them free range a bit.  No one will know/no one will care and the gals will LOVE it!

((((((( Shhhhhhhhh – don’t tell! ))))))))

I haven’t started on my spring sprucing up of the coop yet but will soon.  Fence building has got me a bit behind schedule.  Look for pics of the spruced up coop and new free range area in a future post.

What has been going on in your neck of the woods?


New and Improved Asparagus Bed!

After doing more reading I realized the six asparagus crowns I planted would be not much more than an appetizer for our asparagus loving family.  I seriously needed to plant MORE!

But where?

As most good ideas do it came to me in the middle of the night.  (Everyone wakes up at 4 am with gardening on their mind, right?)


Anyway it came to me.


Well not IN the butterfly garden.  I could MOVE the butterfly garden.  I could move it to the back of the garden flower bed.  The one I call my ‘formal’ flower bed.

Formal – poo – I want asparagus!

So I went to work moving the plants in my butterfly garden.  Most were big enough to divide so I did that too.  I tried to place them where I thought the color combinations and heights would look best but to tell you the truth in some cases I did not even know what some of them were because some of my garden markers blew over.   (OK, they didn’t so much blow over as got ‘picked’ by a certain little pint sized garden helper).


It is going to be AWESOME!


I am super excited though because the bed is a lot more densely planted which means fewer weeds and it will be a RIOT of flowers

I am also super excited about the NEW AND IMPROVED ASPARAGUS BED.

 We  prepared the trench, added sand for drainage, compost for nutrients, and bone meal for root growth.


We put in 35 asparagus crowns.  That should keep us in plenty of asparagus for the rest of our lives!  ❤


If you have an unused part of lawn, like maybe over by your fence, and you buy asparagus to eat each spring, you should probably put in an asparagus bed!

Go on, DO IT!

A few other spring updates:

Peas, lettuce, onions, radishes and carrots are up in the garden.My indoor seedlings of tomatoes, peppers, okra, cabbage and marigolds are getting big.


I can’t wait to get these outside!

The honeysuckle vine more than doubled in size before I finally got it planted outside and it is doing well.  All fruit trees including the new and old Paw Paws have leaves.


Leaves on the new PawPaw.

 Best of all – the Wisteria LIVES!


I ❤ Wisteria!

It’s not gardening but I have to brag – this week my granddaughter Haley qualified for the Olympics in Womens’ Freestyle Wrestling!  She is Rio bound!


 How are things in your spring garden?

Monarchs In The News!

a monarch

What a week!

My dear friend Nancy who lives in Mexico went to see the Monarchs at their overwintering spot in Michoacán, Mexico.  The pictures and videos she posted were breathtakingly awesome and she said that it is even more spectacular to see in person.

a nancy

The news was good, the Monarch numbers were up from recent years!


a monarch 4

But then this happened:


I was so sad. 


a monarch 3

This is encouraging but they still are in danger and need our help.

Spring is almost here.  Order and plant some (neonicotinoid free) Milkweed this year.


Here are some great places that sell it:



a miikweed

Remember, milkweed is the ONLY thing the Monarch caterpillar eats.

a milkweed 2

Another way to help:


If you are interested in visiting the Monarch sanctuary in Mexico:


a monarch 5

It is on my bucket list for sure!

Some New Info Related To A Few Of My Posts:

In case you need some interesting reading on a cold winter day, I am posting some links with more information related to some of the things I wrote about in the past year.

Did my post from awhile back stir you interest in Paw Paws?  Here is some news on them:



good paw

One of my Paw Paws did not survive but the nursery is replacing it for me this spring.  The other one grew to about one and a half feet tall and looked very healthy by the end of summer.


I still am a fan of front yard gardens and now so is California!




Yep, I know I said I was cutting down the size of my garden this year.  However,  I have changed my mind (again) and am keeping it as is.  So far I have no plans for veggies out front.  Maybe someday though!

Monarchs are on everyone’s radar it seems!




  Have you planted your Milkweed yet?  If not be sure to order some for spring planting.

I am happy to say that many Home Centers are phasing out neonicotinoids.  It can’t happen fast enough!




On a more personal level, I am thrilled to say that I will have a new grandbaby this summer!

I’m counting the days until spring gardening.  It wont be too long before I am starting tomato and pepper seeds.  I need to decide on a vine to grow on the arbor we put by the coop.  I can’t wait to see what my Wisteria does this year!  Did my poppies survive?  Will my new weeping cherry tree bloom?  Will I get any pears or apricots on the trees this year?  Will the birds leave me any blueberries?  Who will win the bunny wars in ’16?  Can I resist baby chicks this spring?

Hang around, only time will tell!

What are your 2016 gardening plans?

Update On The Monarch Rescue

8/15/15 I found a tiny caterpillar and a tiny egg.

8/16/15  My egg hatched!   I now have 2 small cats, plus I found another (possible?) egg.  (I say possible because I am not very good at recognizing Monarch eggs!)

8/17/15 One cat is MIA (could the other cat have eaten it?)  but the other one has grown a lot!  (Hmmmmmmm).  I found another cat about the same size plus another egg(?).  So my total for today is 2 cats and possibly 2 eggs.

Update:  Found another cat today so that makes 3 cats and 2 eggs.

Monarch cat 8 14 15

I found this cat on 8/15/15. It’s a MIRACLE that I could even see it!

Monarch cat 8 17 153.+0

Here it is on 8/17/15. It is really growing!

Monarch set up

This is my set up. In each smaller container there is a tiny, few day old caterpillar and some fresh leaves to munch on. The two leaves laying on the bottom each have a (possible?) Monarch egg. When the eggs hatch the baby cats will get a small container of their own. Once the cats get bigger I will put them in in my net habitat (hopefully it will arrive soon) where they will stay until they become butterflies.

8/19/15:  I haven’t found any new cats outside for the past 2 days.  My eggs(?) haven’t hatched or changed.  My cats are alive but not growing much..  My butterfly habitat has been shipped but hasn’t arrived yet.  Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr – it’s cold outside.  Mid-August and 57 degrees.  😦

8/20/15 I did not find any more cats today but did find one possible egg.  MY HABITAT ARRIVED!  It is really neat and even came with some Painted Lady Butterfly caterpillars.  It is such a nice set up that I ordered one for my Grandson Patrick’s birthday.  It makes a great educational and fun gift.  Just check out Amazon if you want to order one – I chose the one with a 36″ net habitat.


This is the habitat.

painted ladycats

This is the little jar of Painted Lady caterpillars that came with the habitat. It is complete with their food.

monarch cats 8 19 15

My cats 8/19/15

Monarch cats 8 21 15

My babies continue to grow. Here they are on 8/21/15.


Believe it or not they poop a lot. This is their ‘poop’ aka frass.

8/24/15 No new eggs or cats but the 3 I have are growing and went into the habitat today.  I think they will make their chrysalis’ soon so I put a couple of branches in there for them to climb on when they are ready.


8/24/15 My big, fat baby!

In the next few days I hope to see each of my 3 Monarch caterpillars form a chrysalis.  I will post more pics on my next post.


8/24/15 My fat babies getting ready to go into their habitat.

  Have you had any luck attracting Monarchs to your yard?  If not have you noticed Milkweed in your neighbors yards, local parks or roadsides? Have you tried rescuing and releasing any?  I hope you will give it a try!

I Am At It Again!

And you should be too.

I’m helping Monarch caterpillars hatch, grow, and become butterflies.

It is a very rewarding project.

Taking the eggs from the Milkweed plants and protecting them until they are butterflies increases the survival of this amazing species.

You may or may not know:

  • Monarch caterpillars ONLY eat milkweed which is less plentiful now due to herbicide use and loss of our prairie land due to construction and expansion.
  • The last generation of Monarchs to hatch each season do not die in a few weeks like previous generations, but live long enough to migrate to their winter homes – mostly in Mexico.

The trees are covered with the over-wintering Monarchs. I would love to see this someday!

  • Monarch numbers have decreased from a couple billion to only 50-some million!

You can read more about the remarkable Monarch here:


Simple things you can do to help Monarchs:

  • PLANT MILKWEED!  If you plant it they will come!  There are several varieties of Milkweed that will survive, multiply and beautiful your garden.  Monarchs will come and lay their eggs on your milkweed plants.

Milkweed blooming in my garden. The flowers smell amazing!

  • BEWARE to not get your milkweed from your local large garden center or home improvement store because they will most likely be treated with insecticides.  The caterpillars that hatch on this mildewed will DIE. Read about one person this happened to here:


  • Plant nectar flowers for the adult Monarchs.  Nectar flowers are the beautiful flowers you love anyway and the nectar provides nourishment for the adults. It is especially important to plant fall blooming nectar flowers such as asters, so the season’s last generation of  Monarchs will have food for their migration.
Monarch on zinnia 8 14 15

A beautiful Monarch nectaring on a zinnia in my garden,

  • Rescue or ‘adopt’ Monarch eggs or caterpillars and raise them in a protected environment and then release the adult butterflies.

It’s easy!

Here is what I did, you can do it too:

I ‘harvested’ Monarch eggs off my Milkweed plants. If you don’t grow Milkweed in your garden you can find it in fields or along the road in rural or even not so rural areas.  Make sure it hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides.

The eggs are small whitish dots on the underside of your Milkweed leaves.

Monarch cat

See the egg – nearly in the center of the photo? A tiny caterpillar is on the edge of the same leaf, below and slightly to the left of the egg.

 I put the eggs, and one teeny tiny caterpillar I found in a opaque Rubbermaid tote.

Some people I know use a clear cup or jar but I wanted mine to have more room.

The small caterpillars will not leave their food source of Milkweed leaves but when they get larger and ready to form a chrysalis they will become more mobile and you will want to fasten a net or screen over your habitat.

My husband ordered me a super-cool habitat off Amazon.  I can’t wait!

Give your Monarch caterpillar(s) a daily (later even more than daily) supply of Milkweed leaves to munch on.


(I can’t say it enough)

Put newspaper or paper towels on the bottom of your habitat bercause the caterpillars poop A LOT and you want to keep them clean and healthy.

Your caterpillar(s) will EAT and EAT and GROW and GROW!


They remind me of the caterpillar in my grandson Carter’s favorite book.

Finally they will slow their movements and form a ‘J’ shape and then soon after form a beautiful chrysalis.  When the chrysalis becomes clear and you can see Monarch orange and black markings through it the butterfly will soon emerge.  It’s wings will be shriveled at first but they will soon unfurl and grow strong.

Now you can release your adult Monarch into your garden and pat yourself on the back because you just did a wonderful and important thing and helped make the world a better place!

 I will share the progress and photos of my caterpillars in future posts.

I hope I have encouraged you to give it a try.  If you are not up to ‘rescuing’ eggs and caterpillars perhaps you will at least consider planting Milkweed and nectar plants in your garden.

I would love you to share what you are doing to help the Monarchs!

Spring Is Busy In The Garden!

There are always a million things to do and I have been too busy – aka having too much fun-  to write much.

Not sorry.

We got 6 fruit trees planted – 2 Paw Paws, 2 apricot and 2 pears. One of the Paw Paws and one apricot are still dormant but alive.( I did the ‘scratch’ test)  but the others are leafing out nicely.


We splurged on a larger apricot tree from the garden center.


The trees from Stark Bros were smaller and dormant when they arrived but they soon leafed out,


This is one of the pears


The Paw Paw!


We planted a weeping cherry tree for decoration.

I splurged and got a Wisteria.  I have always wanted one and the type I got, Amethyst Falls, is an American variety, less invasive and it blooms when only 2 years old!

I am in love. 


Blooming already!

The tomato,  pepper,, broccoli and cabbage seedlings are in.  Snap peas, beans, cucumber, zucchini, lettuce, radishes and carrots are up and the bunnies are even leaving me some!


This was earlier this spring. There are now also pepper, cabbage and broccoli plants here.

The milkweed I moved last fall survived and is popping up with a vengeance.


Milkweed and other perennials in the Butterfly garden.

I planted more native plants that I received from Prairie Nursery.  I was happy with their fast shipping, great packing and the quality of the plants.


My baby Queen of the Prairie…..


One day it will look like this!

We put the littles out to the ‘transition’ coop a few weeks ago and today we opened up the gate between their and the older gals’ pens.

I am happy to say there was no bloodshed!


Nothing beats getting acquainted over a yummy meal of weeds!

I hope you are having as much fun this spring!

I Am So Pissed Off About Neonicotinoids!

Hard to spell, hard to pronounce, even harder to stomach!


Have you heard of them?

  Neonicotinoids are a type of insecticide that works SYSTEMICALLY which means it makes all parts of the plant poisonous to insects.  The leaves, roots. pollen and nectar are poisonous!


You would never knowingly purchase poisonous plants would you?  Especially if you were trying to plant a bee or butterfly garden.  But that is exactly what you are doing if you have bought your plants at a large garden center.


From a report published by Friends of The Earth:

Unfortunately, home gardeners have no idea they may actually be poisoning pollinators through their efforts to plant bee-friendly gardens. The plants included in this new study were purchased from major nursery outlets and garden centers, including Home Depot, Lowe’s and Walmart in 18 cities throughout all four official geographic regions of the U.S., as well as three provinces of Canada…

I am so angry that I just want to SCREAM!  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Is there no end to corporate greed and irresponsibility toward the planet?

I guess this short cartoon sums it up:

By the way – seeds are also treated with neonicotinoids.

All of our corn, most of our soy and other grains are treated.


Several European countries have banned these chemicals, but a bill to suspend their use in the US went to congress and never left committee – do you wonder why?  Neonicotinoids are produced by Shell and Bayer, right here in the Good Ole USA.

neon protest

I hope you would never find a reason to use an insecticide but if you do, please check your labels and know if you are using neonicotinoids.

This link contains names of products containing them.


It is recommended that if you must poison a pest, use a product that is specific, that targets the pest you want to kill instead of EVERY insect in the garden.

A recent report from the Xerces Society states that ornamental plants treated with a soil drench of imidacloprid (a neonicotinoid) have concentrations of imidacloprid high enough to kill bees in the blossoms for months to years following treatment.  Imidacloprid lasts longer than a year and using it annually on plants may increase the amounts found in pollen and nectar.


Imidacloprid is sold under a variety of brand names (Merit; Bayer Advanced 12 Month Tree and Shrub Insect Control; Bayer Advanced 3-in-1 Insect, Disease and Mite Control; Bonide Annual Grub Beater; Ortho Max Tree & Shrub Insect Control; Premise and others).  It is used to control a variety of insect pests including cockroaches and bed bugs in homes, white grubs in the lawn, and tree-feeding pests like Japanese beetle.


If you are as concerned as I am, please check if your local garden center sells Neonicotinoid treated plants.  If they do please refuse to buy from them.

I just ordered some plants from this place which does not use neonicotinoids:


Contact Congress and let them know you want a ban on neonicotinoid use:


Support groups like Friends of the Earth and Xerces Society:



Petition Lowes, Home Depot and Wal Mart to not use neonicotinoids.


I have included the links to make it easy for you to get educated and speak out.

We have got to do something!

My Butterfly Garden, Supporting the Monarch Butterfly!

When I lived in Illinois two of my granddaughters came for the summer.  We did a lot of fun things but one thing that I really enjoyed was gathering Monarch butterfly eggs and bringing them home to watch them hatch,monarch eggs

grow into big fat and beautiful caterpillars,


form a chrysalis


and emerge as the lovely butterfly.


This pic shows the different stages of chrysalis formation.

monarch3 monarch-on-milkweed-500x357

So awesome!

 I read up on  the amazing life cycle and the even more amazing fall migration of the Monarch butterfly.  Nature is so very AWESOME and one place this is very evident is in how the Monarchs migrate to Mexico each winter.


I URGE you to become familiar with this!

I was saddened to learn that this wonderful species is in danger because the Milkweed plants that they lay their eggs on and on which the caterpillars feed, are being wiped out.

You may notice tall lovely milkweed plants along the roadside.


Although once plentiful, these plants are dwindling in numbers  because of urban sprawl and from the use of herbicides.  Monarch numbers are dwindling and it is a shame to think that one day we may never see these lovely creatures.

Because I have such love and admiration for the Monarchs I decided to plant a butterfly garden and hope to one day soon have it certified as a Monarch Way-Station.

I hope that I may convince you to do the same.

Last year I searched until I found a garden store that sold Milkweed plants.  I was lucky and scored plants of 3 different milkweed varieties.milkweed2milkweed


If you are not able to find plants in your local plant store you can order seeds online.

Milkweed is the host plant which means it is food for the catterpillars.  You will also need nectar plants in a butterfly garden which provide food for the butterflies themselves.  Lucky for me and you – these nectar plants are beautiful and fragrant additions to your garden.


A few varieties of nectar plants are:  Coneflowers, Asters, Black Eyed Susans, Monarda, Liatris, Joe Pye Weed, and Zinnia.

 Many cities have butterfly houses connected with their botanical centers – Here in Iowa we have a wonderful one in Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University in Ames Iowa.


If you have a butterfly house near you I urge you to visit it.  Once you visit a butterfly house you will be inspired to attract these wonderful creatures to your garden.

The links below are great sources to learn about the Monarch butterfly, how to attract it to your garden and help it to survive.





This is one of the Monarch butterflies I hatched and released


Are you inspired to create a butterfly garden and plant milkweed plants to help the Monarch butterfly?

  I want to become a ‘garden guerrilla’ and plant milkweed EVERYWHERE!

(Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh – don’t tattle on me)

 If you have a butterfly garden I would love to hear about it!







A Fall Update.

The calendar says fall, the air is a bit cooler and the days are noticeably shorter.  But there still is a lot going on in the garden.

A lot is going on in the kitchen as well.  Tomatoes and green beans are prepared for freezing,

002zucchini is turned into delicious spicy bread, and eggs with just harvested potatoes are enjoyed for lunch almost every day!

Some brave flowers continue to bloom and will do so ’til frost.   I am forever grateful for them!


My Milkweed plants were finished blooming so I divided them.  All the rain in our forecast will keep them well watered so hopefully they will ‘take’ and I will have enough of them to become a certified ‘Monarch Way-Station’ next year. (More about that in my next post).

Here is what else is going on:


I scored some windows off the ‘free’ page on Craigslist. Someone had taken them out of their camper and didn’t have any use for them.


They fit like a charm and even still had the hinges on! Now my gals have some fancy windows for these colder nights.


My sedum is starting to bloom. I love this plant.


A gladiola leans against one of my birdhouses – I mean spider house!


Did I complain awhile ago that nothing was blooming?


I love zinnias and so do the butterflies.


I broke my original gazing ball but got this metal one at the thrift store. Next year I will group even more canas around it and put lilies in the foreground.


Another find from the Craigslist free page. She was missing the ball she once held so I gave her a teacup.


I saw this coneflower on sale at Lowes and just fell in love with the color and the fact that it is a shorter, mounding variety.

I must run out and get some tulip and daffodil bulbs to plant.

But first I need to make wine out of the grapes I picked from my friend Robin’s garden.


Also – Note to self:  Plant Brussels Sprouts and winter squash next spring.  (What was I thinking?)


Yard ‘art’ of thrift store glass I glued together.


6 bored girls! “Please Mom, hurry up and finish harvesting so we can get out and free range!”

What is going on in your fall garden and kitchen right now?

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