Category Archives: Life

Swallowtails

Four black swallowtail caterpillars found their way into Joe’s bughouse a few weeks ago. We fed them from the plant we found them on and watched them grow and grow…and grow!

The biggest one made a chrysalis first followed by two more a few days later. Our teeny tiny guy ate his way steadily through the dill we’d stuffed the house with until, tired from all his munching, he joined the others and made a chrysalis.

A few days ago, the first chrysalis started to wiggle and wobble.

We’ve been watching it off and on, hoping to watch the beautiful swallowtail emerge. We never did get to see them make their chrysalis. We turned our back and poof! it was made.

The chrysalis went from bright green to a faded dull pea green as it shook and twitched.

And then…

Wibble, wobble, twitch
A butterfly breaking free
Emerges and flys

Regrowth

We came home from a long weekend and discovered something miraculous.

The kiwi had started to heal and regrow.

It had been ravaged by angry beetles for weeks, but it was coming back. Leaves were sprouting out, healing vines and kicking out the crunchy brown leaves.

The Japanese beetle’s 8-week reign of terror ended. Finally.

We were relieved that the pests had not done any lasting damage to the roots of the kiwi. It would have been depressing to have to cut out all that dead kiwi and start over again.

The grapes and hops are coming back as well, but it is the kiwi I am most impressed with. It had truly suffered and I had my doubts as to whether or not it would survive into next season.

I’ve never been more happy to be wrong.

The kiwi is coming back and we have a plan of attack for next year. A plan that will, with any luck, insure that the Japanese beetles lose the war.

The kiwi returns
To the homestead so bright, green
Leaves dance in the breeze

Wild

I took inventory a few days ago in my walk around the homestead.

The milkweed is still everywhere, but the beetles have started attacking it now that they’ve eaten everything else.

They seem to prefer the flowers to the leaves. Probably because they aren’t as thick and furry. I keep hoping the milkweed bugs will attack. No luck.

The prairie grasses are looking wonderful. The black-eyed Susans are back and flowing in the breeze. A variety of wild grasses blowing in the breeze.

The cattails are getting thicker. I think I’ll clip a few of these along with some black-eyed Susans and bring some wild prairie inside.

I did notice the Japanese beetles, but they are fewer in number and seem to be getting lazy. I can dispatch them easily at anytime of the day now.

I don’t know if these are new, but they are a lot shinier than the others I’ve killed.

They’ve finally started in on my oak trees and a few of the nut trees. I sure wish they’d attack the thistles instead.

As I walked back to the house, I noticed my lovely herb spiral.

The nasturtiums came back, as well as the bee balm. I planted more cilantro, thyme, basil, marigolds and a few salvia. It looks beautiful and the beetles have left it completely alone.

This year, it is more of a flower spiral with a few herbs sprinkled in and chocolate mint trying to take over.

I’m still not sure where the mint came from. I never would have planted mint in the spiral on purpose as it tends to take over.

I keep pulling it out and transplanting it to the swales. It can take over there with my blessing.

The landscape, so wild
Grasses dancing in the breeze
A tangled jungle

The Stockpot

Sir Hubert was the first to go
Caught by something sly
Then came little Fluffy
Her death made me cry

Then roosters started crowing
And squabbles soon began
We knew we had to do it
So I prepared the pan

The biggest two were chosen
The first to hit the pot
We calmed their nervous shaking
We told them thanks a lot

They lived in ease and comfort
Eating yummy scraps and bugs
We thanked them most sincerely
With kind words (instead of hugs)

*We butchered two roosters yesterday. We take their lives with respect and we thank them for their work on our homestead. In return, we treat them well, feed them scraps and treats and provide them with the safest home we can. Despite the humor infused in my stories and poems, we do sincerely thank our birds for providing us with eggs, meat and fertilizer.*

The Final Experiment

Operation Japanese Beetle Eradication (JBE)
Date: July 2, 2017

Subject of Study:
Japanese beetles aka &#%!@?s

Entomoligists:
– Joseph the Bug Hunter (JBH)
– Jacob the Bug Whacker (JBW)
– Melissa (Mom)

The Final Experiment

While I believe that one or all of the natural methods we tried would have worked to manage the onslaught of the beetles, I also believe that, by the time we tried them, it was too late and there were just too many to combat.

So, I am going to try organic Neem Oil in an effort to stop them from completely obliterating what is left of the vineyard, fedge and our young fruit trees in the swales.

We are also going to spread milky spore over the lawn to kill as many grubs as we can in the hope of hatching fewer beetles next year.

The potential problem with both of these methods is the cost.

Beetles are laying their eggs all over the 5 acres we own for the entire 8 weeks they are here. That means that next year Japanese beetle grubs will be waiting to emerge from the soil as a full-grown army of maniacal demons.   

If we wanted to cover the entire property, we would need a ton of milky spore to have a chance against such an enemy. 

Does this mean we won’t try it? Absolutely not. I will try everything withing my power to destroy my insect enemy, but we need to be vigilant and prepared with the other methods we have tried in order to stop–or at least better manage this blight.

They may have defeated us this year, but my team of entomologists will be back to fight the battle anew next year…armed with new knowledge and better weaponry.

Down but not yet out
We learn from all our failures
And come back swinging

Cattails

Out by the pond
Out by the rocks
A new plant is growing

Out in the swales
Out by the edge
Where water is flowing

They sway in the breeze
They dance in the wind
A myst’ry worth knowing

And then they emerge
Those fuzzy brown stems
The cattails are showing

Day of Dirt

Yesterday was a day of dirt.

Digging.

Shoveling.

Crushing.

Ray and a team over at the neighbors started transporting dirt from the greenhouse to our yard.

Joe and Jake helped by stomping and crushing the pile.

Meanwhile, I dug holes and transplanted raspberries and seaberries out in the swales.

There are seaberries coming up everywhere in our fedge. They run under the ground and pop up in, around and between other rows.

The root system runs wild under the ground from plant to plant. This means that when you dig one plant up, you usually end up with two or three all strung together.

It wasn’t until I’d dug up the third plant that I’d noticed the nodules.

All of those bumpy white nodes that look like a cluster of eggs are packed with nitrogen. They are just waiting to spread and feed the plants and trees around them. Pretty cool!

After all the raspberries and seaberries were in their new homes, I mixed water with some Superthrive, a liquid multivitamin for plants, and gave them a good soaking.

By the end of the day, I’d transplanted 10 raspberries and 8 seaberries and we had a large chunk of dirt in our backyard.

Playing in the dirt
In the hot summer sunshine
Gives me a warm glow

Milkweed and Mistakes

I have a confession to make. A rather embarrassing oversight on my part.

I had thought all the milkweed was gone.

Whenever I went out to the pasture, I searched and searched with no luck.

Turns out, I didn’t really know what I was looking for.

It wasn’t until Joe, my sweet 6-year-old boy pointed it out that I realized I’d missed it.

“Here’s the milkweed!” he shouted.

I gazed at it and felt an overwhelming sense of…embarrassment. Or maybe shame is a better word.

You see, I had seen this plant before.

In the vineyard.

In the fedge, and all over the pasture and swales.

In short, I’d seen it everywhere.

I just didn’t recognize it for what it was.

I’d been searching for the tall plant with the big pods, not these little guys. I didn’t stop to think what these might be…I just pulled them.

Sure, I left them alone when they weren’t in the middle of a path or smack in the center of the yard. The leaves are smooth and kind of pretty and I thought they looked nice mixed in with all the other greenery.

But I ruthlessly pulled all the others.

I felt really bad that I’d not recognized this plant for what it was. So I did a few Google searches to see what the life cycle of the milkweed is.

I learned that the life cycle from seed to flower is actually about 3 years. And guess what? The young plants don’t look a whole lot like milkweed. In fact, the very first “common mistake” listed is…

Not recognizing the small plant for what it really is- Milkweed!

I felt a little bit better after that.

Until I remembered that my 6-year-old recognized the plant for what it was.

Boy was my face red!

Beauty

I walk around
I wander over pastures
I see the world
So beautiful and bright

I see my boys
I hear their joy and laughter
I want it all
To stay like this always

The wind blows soft
It flutters through the grass
This land I love
This life I live

The sun shines bright
My world is bathed in gold
I stand enthralled
I kneel in awe

Life Skills

For the past couple of weeks, Joe has been asking if he could learn how to start a fire. My first reaction was to say “maybe when you are a bit older”.

But I then I thought, he’s curious and interested so why not now?

He’ll learn more and retain the information better. And, he’ll learn the safe and correct way to start a campfire. 

Away from buildings, with water handy and the safe guidance of daddy.

Last night, Ray gave Joe and Jake their first lesson in building a fire.

He explained the why and patiently answered questions.

He guided them and he reinforced being safe at every turn.

He quizzed them throughout the process to make sure they had listened and understood both the dangers and reasons behind the safety guidelines.

He also explained what a fire needs. Air, heat and fuel.

I enjoyed watching him teach a lesson. The boys might have learned how to build and create fire from me or someone else, but watching them work with Ray and listening carefully to every word was amazing.

He was patient and the boys had fun.

They learn by doing and they were so proud of the end result of the lesson.

“Look at the fire we built!”

When the fire was roaring and ready, we all sat around the fire while the boys roasted marshmallows for us.

The boys could not stop smiling.

Fire play is so fun
With Daddy to guide the boys
Eyes bright and amazed