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:

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

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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.

iris

  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.

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  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?)

dream

Anyway it came to me.

  THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN! 

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).

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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Leaves on the new PawPaw.

 Best of all – the Wisteria LIVES!

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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!

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 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!

http://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/survey-shows-69-increase-in-area-occupied-by-monarch-butterflies

a monarch 4

But then this happened:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/3/10/1499281/-Mexico-s-monarch-butterflies-die-in-unusual-cold-storm-while-US-conservation-effort-also-imperiled

I was so sad. 

http://valleycentral.com/news/mexico/snow-hits-monarch-butterfly-reserve-in-mexico

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.

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Here are some great places that sell it:

http://www.prairienursery.com/

http://www.highcountrygardens.com/?gclid=CJnzuMffu8sCFQwPaQodnRkGxg

a miikweed

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

a milkweed 2

Another way to help:

https://gifts.worldwildlife.org/gift-center/gifts/species-adoptions/monarch-butterfly.aspx

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

http://www.visitmexico.com/en/michoacan-where-monarch-butterflies-migrate

a monarch 5

It is on my bucket list for sure!

A REAL Challenge!

A challenge that I have not yet met.

I’m talking about keeping a nice yard with dogs and chickens.

This is especially important in urban areas.

Having separate areas for your pets and chickens that can be landscaped around and ‘hidden’ from view is the best option I have seen.

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You almost can’t tell there is a coop in this garden.

 

A coop and chicken pen blended into a well landscaped yard with shrubs and grasses, works nicely.  I know of people who keep chickens in towns where they are not allowed, and they are tucked in so discretely that no one is even aware.

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My dogs have their own fenced off pooping area.

They even have their own back door that leads to it.

 (I have mentioned before, that actually is one reason we bought this house).

Every spring it turns to a muddy mess.  We have taught them to wait and let us go through the tedious job of wiping off their feet before they come in, but that doesn’t change the fact that their area is an eyesore.

Every year we re-seed the grass which my husband then ‘babies’  until it is thick and green.  We forget about the problem until the following spring.

This year we are not forgetting.

We have decided to put gravel down.  I saw it on Pinterest so of course it is a great idea!

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Our dog ‘poop’ area will be larger and fenced in but ya get the idea?

 

Here is a link with instructions in case you would also like to do it:

How to Build an Outdoor Dog Potty Area

All we have to do is dig out the dirt to a depth of about 4 inches, put hardware fabric down and cover with gravel.

Easy-peasy, right?

Since we can’t get a back hoe into the yard, we get the fabulous pleasure of digging out the dirt by hand.

No problem!

It is a good work-out and I have places to put the dug-out dirt:

  •  Some will go next to the new fence fill the gap and keep the neighbors dog from peeking and maybe digging under it.
  • A bit is going into my metal firepit which I have decided to turn into a planter (I have moved the darn thing a zillion times and still can’t find a spot I like.  It is either too close to the house or coop or to the fruit trees)  I promise to post pictures when it is finished.
  •  The majority is going into my veggie garden.  Yes I know it is poopy but it will be mixed in with the other soil and compost and will have a good month or two before anything is growing in it.  I know my dogs are parasite free.

I will be sure to post pics of the finished project – sorry I don’t have ‘before’ pics but just picture a poopy muddy mess.

The chickens also have their own area and to keep it from being an eyesore I planted some ornamental grass around it last year.  I plan to add to it this year.  The plan is to almost completely ‘hide’ the pen.  I don’t care how cute a coop is, the pen will be picked clean of any growing thing and have nothing but dirt and chicken poop.

Not pretty!

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Totally unrealistic!  These plants wouldn’t last a day!

 

 

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THIS is what the floor of a chicken pen actually looks like.

 If you let the chickens free range the entire yard all the time they will eat your plants as they sprout, make a total mess of your mulch, poop on your deck, roost and poop on your patio furniture and dig holes to take dust baths in.

Also not pretty.

Now if YOU don’t mind your yard looking like a barnyard that is fine with ME.

  Most of us DO mind and so do the neighbors.

A compromise is needed.

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This book has some great ideas!

 We placed an arbor in front of the entrance to the pen and plan to grow a pretty vine over it this year.

  Hanging planters on the coop or from shepherd’s hooks,  flower boxes or trellises with vines where the chickens can’t reach, are more great options.

  I think sharing your outdoor space with pets and chickens can be done attractively.

zzzblog1

I like the look of the vine growing on the coop.  You have to be careful the chooks can’t reach it though or they will eat it ALL!

We shall see!

 How do you keep your yard nice with chickens and/or pets?

Do you ‘hide’ your coop and pen?

What suggestions can you offer?

I Bought Even MORE Seeds!

Because my husband and I love Korean food!

OK, let me explain……

  Sadly, there is no Korean restaurant in Des Moines.

We eat at a great place in Iowa City whenever we are there.

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One of our favorites, Bibimbap in a Hot Stone bowl is AMAZING! The hot stone bowl causes the rice on the bottom to get a super delicious nutty brown crust.   The Huffington Post says it is one of 25 foods you must eat before you die!

The rest of the time we try to make our own and hubby is getting pretty good at it.

There is a Korean cooking show on The Cooking Channel called Korean Food Made Simple. We DVR it so we never miss an episode.  We have recently learned of dishes that are wrapped in a Sesame or a Perilla leaf and eaten like a wrap.

Marinated beef wrapped in lettuce and sesame leaf with miso past

 Soooooo – – –  – I had to get seeds and try to grow these plants!

Some interesting info on these leaves:

http://drbenkim.com/articles/sesame-health-benefits.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perilla

I found a neat seed company in CA called the Kitazawa Seed Company that carries seeds for many vegetables found in Asian cooking.  I ordered seeds for Sesame, Perrilla, Asian cabbage and Pickling Melons. Yum!

pmelon

Where I will plant these seeds I do not know.

 With everything I plan on planting this year I really don’t think I will have enough room in the existing garden.

 I thought about planting some veggies in my flower beds but since the bunnies devour everything not fenced in with netting that is not a good option.

I could dig up a bit more lawn and make the garden larger.

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Wow! Amazing!

I will have to think this over and see what I can come up with!

 

Any suggestions/words of encouragement are appreciated!

addict

I really do think  I might need an intervention!

12 step

My (Second) Annual January Trip To Buy Seeds!

A few weeks ago I was sitting around wondering if it was too early to get seeds when a Facebook ‘memory’ popped up informing me I did exactly that one year ago.

So why not make it a January tradition?

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I don’t do well in the winter.  Call it SAD, call it cabin fever, call me deranged.  Whatever.  I just get grumpy, sluggish, overly obsessed with the weather and just plain no fun at all.

blog grump

  It begins with daylight savings time and doesn’t go away until I can go outside and dig in the dirt.

blog time

Sure,  I put on a happy face throughout the holidays, I find winter projects and try to exercise, get outside, socialize more (even though I don’t really feel like it) and all the other things the ‘experts’ recommend.  I tell myself that all we really have is the here and now and to live in the moment.  But my garden-dreaming self doesn’t listen.

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Ahhhhhhhhh…..I’m sooooooooooooo ready!

 

 It’s insane how happy a seed catalogue or gardening magazine arriving in the mail makes me.

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Oh Yay!

 

I take trips to the Botanical center or garden store just to smell the plants and soil!

I am counting the days ’til spring.

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So no, I don’t think January is too early to buy seeds.

  Not at all.

  It is better than being a kid in a candy store!

  Rows and rows and rows of vegetable and flower seeds and a dream of sunshine, dirty hands, good muscle aches and bone weariness at the end of the day with a great night’s sleep to follow.  For a gardener, starting a garden in spring is one of the best things to happen all year.

I mean it is really, really good!

Remember my post of last year where I said I might reduce the size of my garden?  It was called “Putting the Yard Back In The Backyard Farm” or some such nonsense.  Well forget it.  I must have temporarily lost my mind.

Here is a link to that silly post in case you missed it:

https://ruthschickens.wordpress.com/2015/08/04/i-am-thinking-of-putting-the-yard-back-into-the-backyard-farm/

Now I am trying to think of how I can expand it even more.  Would we miss it if I took just a bit more of my backyard lawn to put in an asparagus bed?  Could I squeeze in a few more fruit trees?  Perhaps it is time to expand to the front yard?  Where will I put some Rhubarb?  Do I have room for Jerusalem artichokes?

I have marked my calendar with the dates I will plant my onions, lettuce, cucumbers, squash  and carrots (yep, I’m trying them again this year) outside,

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and start my tomatoes, peppers and okra (first time ever growing okra) inside.

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Of course I am doing green beans and cabbage and this year I wont forget to put in a few Brussels sprout plants for fall dinners. (I really missed them last year).  I want tons and tons of sweet peppers this year and some spaghetti squash and zucchini.

I also bought some Morning Glory seeds – wont they look great climbing up the fence?  I wonder if the chickens would leave them alone if I planted them on the fence around their pen?  (What am I thinking, of course they WONT!).

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 I read somewhere that you can plant morning glories in hanging baskets and they will trail downward.  I have to give that a try.

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I also got my Zinnia seeds.  Well ya never know, the store could run out.

Look out bunnies – I am winning the war this year.  You don’t stand a chance!

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I am  excited, happy and hopeful and that’s saying a lot for me in January!

I highly recommend a visit to your local garden store for some seeds.  Get to planning your garden, you wont be sorry!

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Comment and let me know what you plan on growing this year.

 

—-

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:

http://www.urbanfarmonline.com/urban-gardening/backyard-gardening/a-pawpaw-germination-experiment.aspx

http://www.hobbyfarms.com/farm-news/2015/10/23/is-the-pawpaw-making-a-comeback-trending.aspx

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!

http://insteading.com/2014/09/30/california-passes-neighborhood-food-act/

 

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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!

monarch-on-milkweed-500x357

 

http://www.farmanddairy.com/top-stories/giving-pollinators-the-right-of-way/304755.html

  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!

http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/12/03/home-depot-neonics

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/09/lowes-pesticides-bees_n_7035208.html

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn28167-bees-win-as-us-court-rules-against-neonicotinoid-pesticide/

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?

Maybe this blog should be called Ruth’s Garden!

Or maybe not. 

It seems I write more about my garden and garden related things lately.

I assure you, I still have my chickens and love them as much as ever.

My chickens are an extension of my garden and a progression that comes from loving to plant and grow my own food and flowers.

chickies

I love to be connected to nature.   I would love to have been born on a farm or bought a farm years ago.

I may still do it one day!

In the meantime I will continue to be an Urban Farmer.  My chickens personify this for me and although gardening posts seem to have taken over my blog – my chickens are in the background being a large part of who I am.

I just consider ‘Chickens’ or better yet ‘Chickies’ to be a term of affection for all the things I love.  So here are some pictures of the non-chicken ‘Chickies’ I love:

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Puppy chickie, Gemma.

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Kitty chickie, Oliver.

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One of my grandbaby ‘chickies’, Lisette.

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My ‘chickie’ Grace with some of the girls.

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Me and chickies Danielle and Patrick.

So the blog name will stay.

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My coop ‘helper’. Don’t ya just love his outfit?

I hope you enjoy the pics of my ‘Chickies’!  Next post promises to be chicken related!

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.

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This is the habitat.

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

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My cats 8/19/15

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

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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:

http://www.monarch-butterfly.com/

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.
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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:

http://michiganradio.org/post/how-help-monarch-butterflies-without-poisoning-them#stream/0

  • 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.
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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.

MAKE SURE ANY MILKWEED LEAVES YOU GIVE THEM ARE NOT TREATED WITH CHEMICALS!

(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!

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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!

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Back Porch Sheep

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27

Butterfly Garden

Attracting & sustaining butterflies and growing native flowers.

A Note From Abroad

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sailaway from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

GARDEN OF EADY

Bring new life to your garden!

Crazy Green Thumbs

Chronicling a delusional gardening experience.

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