Thursday, October 4, 2018

Tiny insects, tiny campers and lots of plants...that's our fall folks

It's that time of year here in Ohio when days of opposing temperatures are coupled together in a 48 hour cycle: yesterday was 80 F, tonight will be 45 F and tomorrow will be 65 F. The wind is howling outside my window as I write and the yellow Black Walnut leaves are raining down, renewing the forest floor. We always hate to say goodbye to summer and my Dad - the winter man - always wonders how I am his child, but the brilliance of October is enchanting and so we enjoy the wonders of the season and want to share a few with you.

Caterpillars are everywhere and you know how excited that makes us. Here's a few we've seen recently:

Smartweed Caterpillars feeding and friending on Smartweed growing near our garden.

A Red-humped Oakworm walked across the trail at Mohican State Park (MSP) and I just dropped to the ground immediately to look at the incredible stripes. If my ID is correct, this caterpillar feeds on plants in the Fagaceae family (beech, oak, chestnut).

Drexel's Datana at MSP near a large patch of Witch Hazel, a frequent host plant. Datanas usually feed together and evidently disperse together because they were everywhere in this one location.

This is one of the Sphinx caterpillars, also at Mohican, but I am not sure which one. Can anyone help me out with an ID?

Fawn Sphinx found wandering our backyard thanks to the members of the Oleaceae plant family we have growing here (ash, lilac).

Hickory-horned Devil found while hiking once again at, Mohican State Park (can you tell this is a gem of a forest?). This is only the second time we've found this caterpillar in our entire 40 & 50 years of life so we were pretty dang excited.

A chysalis-site-searching Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar in Rockbridge State Nature Preserve with lots of Tulip Poplars, a preferred food plant:

It's easy to see why this place has its name. If you are local, you must go!

These Bumblebees are on one of our native asters. The female is the larger with two guys clinging on dearly. They were coupled for more than 4 hours.

What a cool shelter...who might be there?

Oooooo, it looks to us like a Marbled Orb Weaver or the enchanting pumpkin spider.

Monarchs are moving through in big numbers. The New England aster is definitely a super important source of energy for these beautiful butterflies. Our old field is loaded with these asters and therefore, with's seriously a sight to see.

Here's a quick video highlighting one of our favorite annual Monarch attractors: Mexican Sunflower aka Torch:

Fall is a great time for planting so you know we are doing lots of it, including adding some Yates Persimmons (we have the straight species here as well) and Dunstan Chestnuts - food for us that we might actually get in our lifetime!

The vegetable garden is in the in final stages with oodles more hot peppers to pick, which means another batch of delicious, homemade sriracha.

The high tunnel is growing us some mighty tasty kale, radish, collards, parsley, beets, etc. Steve rigged up a great drip system using our rain water harvesting. The soil seems very happy to not have well water constantly infiltrating.

I've been planting lots more natives to enhance some of our new orchard areas, which we don't mow.

Flowering Raspberry (Rubus odoratus) is one we really, really adore and that should be very happy in this sunny, moist spot.

All the stakes mark every second plant. We are probably putting in another hundred plants this fall! We might be crazy, but we are so addicted to seeing the life return to this land. How can we not plant?

A method we continue to experiment with is tucking into the tall European grasses. We've had such success with this method and the grass eventually fades away completely or enough the natives thrive. (Native Skipper and Common Wood Nymph butterflies use a lot of these European grasses for host plants, if you let them grow, so they aren't all bad.)

Old Field Aster survivors are highlighted below. The seed bank here continues to amaze us! Here's a short video on this super cool, must have plant.

We still have some great native plants for your garden and will continue selling until October 20th. There is still plenty of time to plant; if you do plant at this time, just check throughout the winter that the plants don't heave out of the ground with freeze/thaw. We love planting this time of year because it's so much less work than spring and drying soils. Since we continue to plant late, we just tour around in the winter and any that are heaving out of the soil, we push back in with our feet. Easy peasy.

 And finally, we found it - our little traveling home! We've looked for quite some time now and weighed many different options, but this little popup truck top camper stole the show. It didn't require a super trendy van build (though we did explore that option), we can both stand up in it, the weight isn't too much for our truck and it has a little kitchen, kitchen table and place to sleep. We are thrilled! This won't replace our backpacking adventures, but will, hopefully, help us satiate this neverending supply of wanderlust we both harbor.

A little cleaning and removal of old mauve carpeting and curtains was really all we had to do. All the systems work, hallelujah!

Steve tweaked out a bucket system for us for bathroom duties. They fit perfectly into those little half bucket circles. If' you've never peed in a 5 gallon bucket and you need a toilet somewhere one isn't, they work brilliantly. I've been using one for years out at our nursery.

Steve also found a USA company with steel tie-downs for our camper so we don't have to use sketchy straps.

Our inaugural trip is in a couple of weeks and we are beyond excited to see how this little unit fits our needs. We personalized a bit with things we already had...the accumulation of stuff in our house is astounding! How does that happen?

More in November friends!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

SO MUCH LIFE, Unfolding hearts, Native Plants for Sale!

Friends, I write today on this most brilliant of all days. I told Steve as we ate breakfast, I wish this day would last forever. The streaming sunshine, singing American Goldfinches from every last sunflower, peaceful cats, sunny Goldenrods, migrating Monarchs, singing Wood heart says hold on to every last moment. It's here and real and now. I'm struggling a lot lately with computer time or inside time...what am I doing indoors? Everything happening is outdoors, all the way, all the time.

So, we venture into the world with lighter packs (finally!) so we can go further...

and witness a Banded Tussock moth caterpillar munching in harmony right next to an Io caterpillar...

and sing a song of gratitude that Ginseng remains in places not far from people. Life holds on!

Glacial grooves connect us to the forces that shaped our part of the country...

and alvars remind us how much is ephemeral. The time is now - an overused phrase, but oh, so true.

This tree tells us we are not separate and we are all fierce in our desire to live.

On the homefront, harvesting cabbage means greeting a little Brown Snake. Oh my heart.

It also means saving 20-30 Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillars, 5 Monarch caterpillars and 1 Question Mark caterpillar one day shy from getting mowed. Steve's intuition and our evening walk were certainly guided by forces larger than us.

We brought all these friends home and reveled in their life and their magnificence and placed them on all their native hosts plants with no mowing ever in their future. This Spicebush cat was on "walk about" aka searching for a place to make a chrysalis. What color!

Harmony. Always seeking harmony and laughter...that's us. Fern and Aster decided to say hi to Minnie Pearl, which elicited much laughter from us. And joy. Yes, joy. Big, beautiful, sometimes elusive joy.

Wild Cucumber and the perfumy, intoxicating scent of the blooms caused many exclamations of joy too: the scent! the flower spikes and tiny pollinators! the burry seed pods!

We have plants for sale for many of you looking to add this magic to your life. All you need are the right plants, some love for these plants and the life associated with those plants will find you. You will be astonished and bound to the web uniting us all. We promise.

Once you live this way and see the life around you as just that, LIFE around you, you will satiate a part of yourself yearning for this connection and you will want more and more and more. We promise you that too.

Give yourself space and time to reaquaint with this exquisite planet, of which you are an important part and where your decisions in how you live your life affect many - many, many more than you might realize. We learn new connections every single day. Sometimes I tear up as I fill with truly, overwhelming gratitude.

So, plant my friends. Your heart will enlarge and you will find compassion and joy for being part of something much greater - and not something of which we "have dominion over," but rather for what we are stewarding. Yes, stewarding. The greatest gift of my life so far is to serve as caretaker for myself, my loved ones and this planet and the life around me.

We are offering our plants by order only this year. What does that mean? Take a look at the plant list at the end of this post and email me what you are interested in and I will tell you what we have and in what sizes and then I will pull them all together for you and you can pick them up and we will have a happy little plant party together. Why this new format? Well, because we have less plants than years before and so this format will ensure we have what you want before you make the trip.

Why less plants? Well, because we continue to experiment on the media front and sometimes we struggle with experimentation. Who doesn't? We will not capitulate on using peat or synthetic fertilizers. They are not sustainable in any way, shape or form and the plant growing industry, especially native plant growers, needs to get on the right side of this issue. If we want to provide a plant to help us (whether by food or beauty or oxygen, etc) and the planet, we should not do so at the expense of future generations or diversity-rich peat bogs in Canada or the U.S. Read about it.

Once you know, you can't unknow it. So, our media is currently compost, coir (byproduct of coconut industry...not perfect, but it's used for other reasons first), rice hulls (byproduct of rice industry) farmed worm castings and sustainably sourced bat guano. Where did our issues arise? Steve the brilliant soil scientist finally figured it out...alkaline media. Where did the alkalinity come from? Compost. Ours? No. We don't produce enough compost onsite to use in the garden and nursery so we buy from a local composter.

All the different types of compost we purchased from this company tested very basic (highly alkaline). That creates an environment where many plants won't thrive or will have nutrient deficiencies so we will be getting compost elsewhere in the future (and testing right away, duh!) and that means less plants for you this year. But, we still have many brilliant plants and they want homes.

So please take a look at the list and message us with your orders. You can pick them up at our house or we can arrange a drop off location if we will be in your area for other reasons or orders. Thanks for your support friends, not only of us, but of this mighty and dazzling planet!

2018 Native Plant List

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Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar Rescue Video