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!