The Last of Autumn, and the First Snow!

Looks like winter has finally arrived in these parts.  I worked the weekend, and on the way there,  had a chance to take in some of the post-autumn, pre-winter scenery:

Some fall-colored roses, and rose hips…

So festive!
So festive!

I had a look  at the wintery milkweed that had been in all its green glory no more than 2 months ago!

Hello, pods!
Hello, pods!

And because it was a bit blustery on the walk across the parking lot, I had my head down…and these caught my eye!

The colors!
The colors!

I put them in my pocket, and when I got to work, placed them on a sheet of copy paper and snapped a pic with my phone.

This past Monday, we had our first snow. Yep. It finally happened.  And of course, I recorded it and posted it on instagram…

The first snow of the season! #lastnight #firstsnow #chicago #itshere

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Yep, my guy picked me up from work and off we went to Home Depot so he could buy sandbags to put in his truck bed. I guess it’s so he doesn’t swerve and fishtail all over the place or something.

So, yes. Winter has arrived.  It’s freezing in the mornings, and I have resumed the knitting that I put aside every spring. Right now, I’m waiting for my Manx Loaghtan wool to arrive in the mail.  Since it comes all the way from the Isle of Man, it’s going to take a while, but I can’t wait!  My paternal grandfather was born and raised on the Isle of Man. The Loaghtan sheep, along with the tailless Manx cat, are synonymous with the Isle.

Just look at these handsome devils…

Yes, that sheep on the left is wearing a hat.  It's a pic from the wool site. They also offer pre-made hats.
Yes, that sheep on the left is wearing a hat. It’s a pic from the wool site. They also offer pre-made hats.

Here’s the site that sells the rich, toffee-colored wool, and the history of the sheep it comes from: http://manxloaghtanproduce.com/about

Oh, I would love to someday have a Manx kitten, but they are hard to find.  My guy doesn’t want any more pets, after Panda “goes off with the fairies” but who could resist this?

Oh dear.  So cute.
Oh dear. So cute.

Ok. That’s all. I don’t want to start looking at pictures of adorable kittens like this….

American Bobtail kitten
American Bobtail kitten

….I’ll never get to bed.

Goodnight!!!!

 

 

Work, Work, and More Work!

Hey!  Did you think I had run away to Patagonia? Well, never fear…I’ve just been doing what my post title says.  Damn work!  It seems like that’s ALL I’ve been doing.  I haven’t even gotten a chance to put the garden to sleep…clear out all the dead annuals, rake the dirt, etc.  Now, we had some beautiful warm days this November; we actually hit 70 degrees, and I should have cleaned out the garden then…but, procrastinator that I am, it never happened and now I’ll have to freeze my ass off cleaning up.  Oh, well. Typical me.

Walking to the bus stop after work, before the time change went into effect, I passed a little patch of heath asters, and plucked a sprig.

Such a homey, simple flower!
Such a homey, simple flower!

They last a long time in a bud vase, and I’m hoping I can collect and plant the seeds.  Hmmm…I was going to do that last year wasn’t I?  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Here is a beautiful leaf that fluttered by me the other day…

That color!
That color!

Even the ivy creeping across the back of our garage was showing off…

Wow!
Wow!

And then, next to the bus stop….

Roses in November!
Roses in November!

A couple of days later, we had frost, and the roses began to fade…

novrose2

The garden gave up her last bouquet…

Red Yarrow, Heath aster, black-eyed susan, and raspberrry truffle echinacea
Red yarrow, heath aster, black-eyed susan, and raspberry truffle echinacea

Back in the great INdoors….

I seem to have started a buddha collection.  Here’s my latest one:

So serene.
So serene.

Every buddha has a pose, or mudra. According to http://www.owlcation.com, this is the Bhumisparsha mudra, one of the most common mudras found in statues of Buddha in many countries.

Meaning: ‘Touching the Earth.’

Hand position: Shown in the sitting meditation position only. In this Mudra the right hand points towards the Earth, hanging over the knee, palm inward. The left hand in this Mudra rests in the lap, palm upright.

Significance: It is also known as ‘Calling the Earth to Witness’, and it represents the moment of Buddha’s attaining enlightenment.

It’s so interesting that something as insignificant (to us, anyway) as the position of a hand, can have a whole story behind it!  Moving on…

Speaking of poses, here’s my old girl Panda…striking a profile pose for me..

pandaprofre

And of course, when I get under the covers at night, she has to crawl under, too…and lie next to me…

 

Peek-a-boo!
Peek-a-boo!

I was holding the covers up to take the pic, which Panda did not appreciate at all. If you look closely, you can see her hair all over my t-shirt (which says, “Now Panic and Freak Out”…which is what I do on a daily basis!)

So, I’ve been missing my butterflies..isn’t that crazy? But I love raising them and next spring/summer seems so far away.

See you next spring!
See you next spring!

There you have it…a little overview of what’s been happening during my absence.

Oh, one other thing, how about those Cubbies?? They finally did it!  After 108 years, they won the World Series, and there were celebrations all over Chicago and its environs.

We had a Cubs appreciation day at work, wearing our Cubs gear, and a group photo was the order of the day. This is just a few of us. We were the only ones who wore Cubbie blue.  The others either didn’t wear team gear or (horrors!) wore Chicago White Sox gear.  So here’s a pic of us..the faithful fans:

Fans at work.
Pharmacy peeps!.

I’m right there in the front clutching my phone. Don’t we look happy? But, the minute they snapped the pic, it was back to work, work, work!  Such is life.

And on that note, I’ll close this post with Thanksgiving blessings for all.  I didn’t mention the results of our presidential election on purpose, because what’s done is done, and I hate politics.  My garden is a politics-free zone..just like this post!

Later, peeps!

Summer’s End

Well, here we are. It’s the first day of autumn.  How did I celebrate? I went to the dentist to get a gnarly old molar pulled. The tooth was not a good candidate for root canal, so out it came. I’ll spare you the (painful) details. Suffice it to say it’s far enough back where I won’t look too hillbilly-ish when I smile big. *Sigh* Moving on…..

As I bite down on my gauze-wrapped teabag (a good clotting helper, so says the dentist I went to high school with…) I am going through all the pics I snapped since my last post.  I really thought I was done with the Monarchs, but on Sept. 3rd, I found 7 more eggs on my milkweed! I took them all inside, and within 3 days, I had these little guys…

Here are 3 of the 7 I collected. Unfortunately, I lost one baby caterpillar, and one chrysalis, so I ended up with only 5.
Here are 3 of the 7 I collected. Unfortunately, I lost one baby caterpillar, and one chrysalis, so I ended up with only 5.

During all this, I had a visit from my granddaughter, who decided to draw a picture of the whole Monarch deal:

A really good rendering!
A really good rendering!

Here’s the detail…

The rectangle that surrounds her diagram is the butterfly cage!
The rectangle that surrounds her diagram is the butterfly cage!

Then, we made cupcakes…

Sprinkles unlimited.
Sprinkles unlimited.

A good time was had by all!

Anyway….back to the butterflies…

So…these late September butterflies will definitely be going to Mexico.  Sexually immature, they will stay in reproductive diapause  until it’s time to make the return trip to us here in the north.

So, the butterflies you’ll be seeing next summer in 2017 will be the great-grandchildren of the late September 2016 butterflies.  Maybe the great-grandchildren of some of mine…released just yesterday. How amazing is that?  Call me silly, but the thought of it nearly brings me to tears. How wise and wonderful nature is. The beauty and perfection of it all.

 

And to prove it, here are my September butterflies…submitted for your approval…

Here are the 3 that emerged this past Tuesday.
Here are the 3 that emerged this past Tuesday. One male, two females.

last

And my last two…both males.

A big, beautiful male on yarrow.
A big, beautiful male on yarrow.
Perfection!
Perfection!

And my last butterfly of the season. I released him yesterday.

Adios, Querido.
Adios, Querido.

So, that’s it.  Summer’s End.  But, there’s still plenty to do in the garden.

‘Till next time!

A Month of Butterflies.

Whoa! What a month it’s been.  I’ve been so busy with Monarch caterpillars and butterflies, that I haven’t had the time (or inclination, really) to post.  But, I’m back…with mostly pictures and a few comments to go with them. This will take you through the last couple of weeks and the progress of my butterflies.

First..the last of the Swallowtails:

This was my last black Swallowtail. A male.
This was my last black Swallowtail. A male.
So beautiful.
So beautiful.

Even a Summer Azure butterfly came to visit the milkweed flowers:

A tiny butterfly, but so delicate and beautiful.
A tiny butterfly, but so delicate and beautiful.

Meanwhile, back at the rearing cage, my Monarch eggs had hatched, and the first wave of caterpillars had started!

This doesn't even begin to show how many I had!
This doesn’t even begin to show how many I had!
Mister Fattie!
Mister Fattie!
"Hello!"
“Hello!”

I had to move the newest chrysalides  to a different cage because there were just too many, and I didn’t want butterflies emerging over feeding caterpillars. So, a big old Ikea hamper did the trick.

This did the trick.
The Ikea Fyllen laundry basket

I had 9 chrysalides, and  I moved them into the  hamper, tying the silk with dental floss, and then tying it to the mesh on top of the hamper.

This worked fine in theory, but in reality I had a hard time moving butterflies out because the top of the hamper opened up & outward, so any intact chrysalides would jiggle all over the place.  Not a big deal, but annoying.

The butterfly is blurry, but you can see the empty chrysalides on the top.
The butterfly is blurry, but you can see the empty chrysalides on the top.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
A Monarch chrysalis will turn transparent right before the butterfly ecloses (emerges).
A Monarch chrysalis will turn transparent right before the butterfly ecloses (emerges).Photo courtesy of  http://mbj2010.blogspot.com/2010_08_01_archive.html
This was one of the nine butterflies.
This was one of the nine butterflies.
A big, beautiful male.
A big, beautiful male.

Anyway…here’s a video from my instagram of the butterflies that emerged in the hamper.  (Mexican music in the background is courtesy of my next door neighbors.)

Ready to get the hell outta here! #monarchbutterfly #savethemonarchs #mexico

A post shared by 🌸🐝Lisa🐛🌿 (@colqui11) on

 

That was the first wave of monarchs.  The SECOND wave? Well, it was more like a tsunami!

I'm really not sure, but I think I had 31 chrysalides in all.
I’m really not sure, but I think I had 31 chrysalides in all.

Yep. It was pretty crazy. I had to order another screened cage, as the caterpillars varied so much in age. I had to separate them by size so there would be no cannibalism.  Yeah, it sounds terrible, but when you have too many caterpillars competing for milkweed (which I ALMOST ran out of…even though I have loads growing in the garden)..some will take the easiest route and eat their smaller cage-mates.

So, I separated the big fatties in one cage, and the smaller ones in the other.  Then, when everyone had made their chrysalides, I moved them all to one cage. So, day after day, I’ve had on the average of 5-6 butterflies released.

One of the many!
One of the many!

As I write this post, I let the last 12 butterflies go today. There is only one lonely chrysalis remaining, which will probably eclose tomorrow. These are the butterflies of the last generation. They will be a part of the great migration to the oyamel fir forests in the state of Michoacan, Mexico.

I have so many videos of these babies, I can’t post them all here. But, you can click the link to my instagram  below, or on the sidebar to the right,  they’re all there!

So much easier, right? Click here: https://www.instagram.com/colqui11/

Enjoy!  I’ll be back with the last installment of the butterfly chronicles as soon as my last one emerges. Adios!

 

As Promised: Fat Cats!

Fat Black Swallowtail Cats, that is!

I’ve been waiting for my Monarch butterflies to show up, but since I didn’t get any until August last year, I planted some parsley & dill & rue in my yard to see if I could attract black swallowtails in the interim. These plants, along with fennel and wild carrot (AKA Queen Anne’s Lace) are the host plants of black swallowtail caterpillars.

Well, it worked! I’ve raised and released 5 Black Swallowtail butterflies so far. 4 males & 1 female.  I’ve been on vacation this past week, and since we haven’t traveled this time (Yes, it’s a “staycation”) I’ve had plenty of time to indulge my gardening/butterfly adventures. Here’s the full  deal in chronological order:

Female laying eggs.
If you plant it, they will come! This is a wild female laying eggs on the dill plant.
These are the eggs. See how tiny?
These are the eggs. See how tiny?

Whereas Monarch eggs are oval, Swallowtail eggs are perfectly round, and about the size of the head of a pin. The mama lays them at the tip of the dill plant. Even though I had 3 different host plants, the swallowtails seemed to prefer the dill. I didn’t find any eggs on the rue or the parsley.

The baby cats start out black with a white band in the middle.
The baby cats start out black with a white band in the middle.

Once they hatch, the tiny babies begin to eat like crazy.  I gave them rue and parsley to eat because after a while,  I really couldn’t stand the smell of dill in my kitchen. I don’t even use it when I cook because it does not exist in my spice rack. ANYway…

The cats go through 4 molts or “instars”. The last one being the chrysalis form. Unlike Monarchs, which look the same through all their instars (they just get bigger & fatter!), Black Swallowtail cats look different in every instar.  I couldn’t get a pic of each instar, but here’s a pic from a blog Called “Backyard Biology” (https://bybio.wordpress.com/tag/black-swallowtail/)

Black Swallowtail Development

What a mess!
Voracious little guys!

The picture above shows two of the cats munching away on dill. That black stuff is their poop or “frass”. Since I had seven caterpillars, I also had a lot of frass. A LOT! I used cling wrap and punched holes in it for the stems so the water wouldn’t get fouled from the poop. And, paper towels on the bottom of the cage, which I changed every day to prevent bacterial contamination.

Wow. It was a lot of work. When I had my Monarchs last year, I only had two, and not at the same time.  This was definitely caterpillar overload! Aside from that, the cats just went about their business of eating & pooping, but every time I moved them to clean the cage, out would pop their osmeterium, which is a forked gland they display when they are bothered or perceive danger. I didn’t have my camera handy, so here’s  another ‘net pic:

"Don't bug me!"
“Don’t bug me!”

So, this orange-yellow gland pops out and emits a nasty odor.  Some people think it smells like pineapple, but I think it smells EXACTLY the same as the statin drugs Lovastatin & Pravastatin (remember, I work in pharmacy).  Both of these drugs smell like rotten fruit. Or Black Swallowtail osmeterium stuff.  Can you imagine the stinkiness of seven pissed-off caterpillars? It was epic!

After 8-10 days, the majority of my cats were fat & sassy, and ready to go into chrysalis…

Nighty-night.
Nighty-night.

One by one, they found a place on the sticks I put in the cage. Two of them actually attached to the screen side of the cage.  Two of the chrysalis were bright green…

bschrysalis

And the rest were brown…

This was taken after the butterfly emerged.
This was taken after the butterfly emerged.

And, exactly 8 days after the chrysalis, this is what I woke up to in the morning:

rearingcage

malebs

undersidewings-bsmale
This boy was walking on the roof of the rearing cage…this shows the underside of his wings.

bs-male

There were 4 that emerged at the same time! All males. How could I tell? Black Swallowtail butterflies are sexually dimorphic: the males have yellow banding on the wings, the females have blue on their hind-wings, and are a bit larger than the males.  The undersides of the wings on both sexes are nearly identical.

So, I took them outside and released them into the garden.  But, I still had 2 more chrysalis to go. At this point, I was kind of over the whole black swallowtail thing. Their voracious appetite for smelly dill plants! Their enormous amounts of poop! Their nasty attitude and stinky-stink glands!

Yep. It was a bit much. Until this happened:

O.M.G.
O.M.G.

Have you ever seen anything as beautiful as this girl? She’s number 5, and emerged 2 days ago at around 7 in the morning.  I took the cage outside about an hour later, opened the cage door, snapped this gorgeous pic, and watched her fly away.

So, that’s it for now.  I still have to wait for number 6 to emerge, probably in  a day or two.  Number 7 just went into chrysalis today, so I’ll have another 8 days to wait. And…I thought I might be done, but…maybe not.   I saw one tiny caterpillar on the plants I had put in the vase right before the last two caterpillars went into chrysalis! What the heck. I never even saw the egg! This is the last one for sure!

It has to be, because I have to wash and sterilize the rearing cage. Why?

Well…

Uh-Oh

The Monarchs finally showed up. A month early.  If these eggs make it, and hatch,  I’ll be up to my knees (figuratively speaking) in caterpillar poop. Again!

At least Monarch caterpillars don’t have stink glands &  are adorably cute:

Aww. Hi, cutie-pie!
Aww. Hi, cutie-pie!

Oh, boy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Go Back…

…in time! Well, not TOO far back. Just about a month or so.  An update on what’s been growing on.  I tried to post sooner, but as always, work got in the way. Stupid work! How dare it interfere with my gardening adventures!  But, in order to buy my flowers, I must toil in the pharmacy. I am looking forward to my retirement, which is only another 7 years away!  Maybe. Hopefully.

ANYway, let the time warp begin…..

Mucho Milkweed!
Mucho Milkweed!

Yep. This was the milkweed patch last month. It is a lot fuller now, but unfortunately, I haven’t had any Monarch eggs yet. Maybe next month?

Last month, my Jackmanii Clematis was in all its glory:

Crazy!

Wow!
Wow!

It was PACKED full of blooms. People would actually stop and ask me what I did to get it to bloom like that.  When I tell them all I do is I prune the whole shebang down to a 12″ high bundle of sticks in March, and then leave it completely alone, they can’t believe it.  Neither can I!  But, its glory is short-lived. All the blooms have blown away, and now it’s just green leaves.

The same thing happened to my clems back in the shade garden.  Here’s a lovely, misty pic of the seed heads with the early morning sun shining through…

I love the light!
I love the light!

And of course…in honor of my mom, her Black Prince petunias…this time, mixed with pure white :

Beauty in black & white.
Beauty in black & white.

Here’s a pic of the butterfly garden from a month ago:

One month ago!
I really need to update this!

And here’s a pic of the naughty squirrel who lives in my eave.

"I am surveying my domain, foolish humans!"
“I am surveying my domain, foolish humans!”

He can’t get into the attic, since the eave is separate from the house, but my guy said he would close up the hole in mid June,  which is when baby squirrels (if any) leave the nest.  Well, it’s almost mid July, and you guessed it…the squirrel is still living in my eave.   And, instead of evicting the squirrel, my guy painted the garage door.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Yep. Beige.
Yep. Beige.

Now…here’s something I tried.  I made a garden gif.  Not a very good one, but it’s a start. I just need practice.  It’s a gif. of my butterfly garden, taken on each Saturday in June. I just have to remember to stand in the same spot when taking pics, so it actually looks like it’s progressing. But anyway…

The first pic in the series is the closer, almost diagonal one.
The first pic in the series is the closer, almost diagonal one.

Gah! I’ll get the hang of it one of these days!

Until then, enjoy my mediocre gif. -making skills, and I leave you with clue to my next post:

“fat cats!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Baby Robins Growing Up

I finally got some pics of the babies in the nest.  As the pictures progress, you’ll see how fast these babies grew.  In little more than a week after my first pics of the babies, they were fully fledged and raring to go.

Always hungry!
Always hungry!
Little sleepyhead.
Little sleepyhead.
Mama, feeding the babies.
Mama, feeding the babies.
Keeping them warm...
Keeping them warm…
Growing up!
Growing up!
This guy must have hatched first. He was always perching on the edge of the nest.
This guy must have hatched first. He was always perching on the edge of the nest.
Young robins are speckled, and at this point, are almost as big as their parents!
Young robins are speckled, and at this point, are almost as big as their parents!
The gang of three, almost ready to go out on their own.
The gang of three, almost ready to go out on their own.

Yesterday, I noticed that the nest was empty. I know that the parents will often encourage the babies to leave the nest, and then spend the day feeding them on the ground, and teaching them how to hunt worms.

After that? I guess they’re on their own.

Hopefully the parents will come back to this nest to raise a new family. If so, you know I’ll be there with my camera ready!