Thursday, June 23, 2016

Common Milkweed's Moment

It is just that time of early summer...when everything is green and growing and then suddenly beautiful, fragrant blooms appear everywhere. Right now, you can't walk much of anywhere on our property without seeing or smelling Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) in bloom.

We started with some small patches of this species naturally occurring in our old field, orchard and flower beds, but since it spreads rhizotomously (by underground root runners) small patches soon become large patches and we are thrilled!

The globe-like blooms are so satisfying to us - we just cannot stop marveling at them. This is a hardy species that grows readily as long as it isn't killed with herbicide or continual mowing. How lucky are we to have such a pleasing, beneficial plant grow so easily?

These plants are seriously humming with life. Most everyone knows Monarch butterflies require milkweeds for their larval development, which is reason enough to plant it, but besides monarchs - so many other insects nectar on the blooms and eat the seeds and the foliage; birds use the down for lining nests and who knows what else? This is a very important plant!


Milkweed Bug...

Milweed Bug, Honeybee & Virgina Ctenucha...

Sweat Bee...

Banded Hairstreak...

I didn't get photos, but bumblebees, skippers, and Great Spangled Fritillaries are mighty huge fans too. (Update 6/24/16: We forayed out about 10:45 p.m. last night and these blooms were just covered in many species of beautiful moths!! Tree frogs were calling and sitting on the leaves too! It was such an exciting evening...we totally recommend venturing out after dark to witness.)

You can see the pollinium in the following photo and sweat bee photo if you click on it to enlarge it. Read here for a short and sweet explanation of this reproductive mechanism and to see an awesome video of the G.S. Fritillary excitement.

We've seen two Monarch butterflies and zero caterpillars at our place so far this summer. It's still fairly early so we are hoping to see lots more soon.

In the past year, we had a township representative in our county ask us about these flowers and say "these are weeds I mowed for the Ohio Department of Transportation." Yikes! There are hints of change afoot here in Ohio and we are excited to see how our roadside management changes for the benefit of wildlife and us. I mean what do you prefer...wildflowers or mowed grass? You know where our heart lies...

Happy Summer everyone!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Magic & Southern Indiana Glades (no not the air freshener!)

Steve and I were talking the other day and I said "I just love magic." This totally confused him because he knows I'm not a huge fan of magic shows that involve disappearing people, disappearing and reappearing objects etc. Why? I don't know. Maybe I'm a dud, but anyways - I had to clarify and said, "I love REAL magic." What is real magic? To me, it's fireflies, frog and insect song, the emergence of butterflies and moths, migration, trees from a tiny seed (any plant from a seed, I mean seriously), life, LOVE, the smell of Common Milkweed in full bloom and on and on I could easily go, but let's stop on Glades.

Glades are these dry, magical openings in the forest. (Really, if you've never been you must go. Let me show you why.) South facing slopes with shallow bedrock makes for a super hot place to grow that's often inhospitable to most trees so plants that can tolerate hot and dry grow there...think prairie plants. Here's a peak at the glade from the surrounding forest....

We emerged from the forest to witness this (pinch me, please!):

Yes, that is real magic folks: Pale Coneflower (Echinacea pallida) in full, perfect bloom, humming bees, fluttering butterflies, singing indigo buntings; it only gets better when shared with people you love. Here's Steve, me and our dear friend Beth - the Land Steward of these Harrison County Glades by job and by heart. She is a huge part of why these places are so well cared for and is completely bad *** in my opinion. She and Steve work harder than most everyone I know except for Steve and my Dads. More magic...two people giving so much of themselves for others and this beautiful land. Thank you both from the deepest part of my heart! As they both move onto new career & life paths, I know that new magic is in the making and I'm so excited to see where it leads. Congratulations to you both!

Not yet in bloom while we visited, Short Green Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora) thrives in these glades. Look at that awesome umbel flower structure and it's a milkweed - of course we love it!

As we transitioned back into the woods...

we saw the super cool Climbing Milkvine (Gonolobus obliquus or Matelea obliqua), another member of the mikweed family.

Chestnut oaks shared their magical form and gift of shade with us and ...

with creatures like this beautiful mushroom (Michelle my mushroom guru - thoughts?).

Pure soul feeding MAGIC.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Life and Loss

The black swallowtail chysalises we overwintered are completing their metamorphosis and we are so filled with wonder at this life cycle. The chrysalis over winter was whitish/brown...

and turned black on the day of emergence. It's time!

After a couple of hours a crumpled, wet butterfly emerged and struggled to find a good place to dry its wings in our little box so I offered my finger as a mode of transportation to a better location. The feeling of those little feet grasping my finger always excites me - what beauty and fragility and wonder all wrapped up into this one beautiful being! I moved the butterfly to a common milkweed where it hung and dried and later flew off to continue its lifecycle. Life. Beautiful, precious, wondrous life.

And with life, also comes death....this time to our chicken girls. We will remember them in moments like these:

Preening and relishing the sunshine:

Pecking around on the porch asking for us to come hang out:

Begging for treats:

Watching everything and loving life:

Thank you girls for your gifts of laughter and love, bringing us so easily into the present moment and for your beautiful, sometimes giant, sometimes wonky eggs.  You are missed.

Barbara Kinsolver said in her fabulous book Prodigal Summer: "Solitude is a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot, a tug of impalpable thread on the web pulling mate to mate and predator to prey, a beginning or an end. Every choice is a world made new for the chosen." 

This time, the chosen was a hungry raccoon whom we hope your lives benefited as much as your presence in our lives benefited us. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Plant Seeding 2016

Flowers are beginning to bloom here in abundance and daily we have to walk and see what's happening. It's a full time job just to observe our surroundings!

Canada Anemone (Anemone canadensis)

Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis)

Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

This morning we heard quite a ruckus from the robins and blue jays and spied their concern...a turkey vulture roosting in one of our dead ash. We are always so impressed with these huge birds that help clean up all the dead animals. The robins just didn't get it that all the TV wanted to do was preen in the morning sunshine. I thought it a perfect perch and if I could fly, I would sit there too.

We've been busy these past few weeks seeding lots of flats of native plants:

This year, we are using a better drained, more sustainable mix that is sourced from a local company with local materials: Rusy Bed tree mulch, which we will report thoughts on as the season progresses.

We topped the pots with a mixture of worm poo and seed starting mix to hold moisture better while the seeds germinate.

It was such great fun this year to do the seeding with Steve...even with his Popeye elbow. Yes, Google it. That's what working too hard and carrying heavy road litter will get you.

Anna Lee and Little Girl also helped quite a lot shuffling about, pecking unearthed insects, chatting with us and offering us many opportunities for laughs!

We continue to add our pots to our young orchard. As the trees grow, they will offer nice shade for plants in pots that don't like to bake in the heat. We really, really like this integrated approach to our nursery and are excited to see how it evolves over time.

This morning I took these pictures of a couple of newly germinated seeds - woo hoo!

Seeds - just WOW. What can we say other than their life cycle sure is extraordinary?!