A place for family and friends to see what I'm up to. Visitors welcome here.

Hail Guest, we ask not what thou art.
If Friend, we greet thee, hand and heart.
If Stranger, such no longer be.
If Foe, our love will conquer thee.
-Old Welsh Door Verse

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Butterfly Farm


It's been a while since I posted about the butterflies.  I started with one tropical milkweed plant that - as tropical milkweed does - seeded the yard.  My son got the bug (pun intended) and declared to his girlfriend (who was helping us weed) that milkweed is sacred and allowed to grow wherever it wants to.  Since then I've added two varieties of passion vine for the frittilaries and a Dutchman's Pipe for the Pipevine Swallowtail (and I've had violets, host food for the little blues, for years).  But my first and still biggest love are the Monarchs, and we're ending our summer with the biggest crop ever.

This could get ugly.
Fresh sprig was gone in minutes.

New babies.  The giant finger is my pinkie.  It is touching the leaf.

Part of our first crop potted from intentionally sown seed.  Each plant had 2-4 baby cats.

Once I see a cat I cut a couple of sprigs of milkweed and bring it in the house, where we can enjoy the show as the babies make their way to the pupae stage in this bowl.  Eventually the butterflies emerge and are released back into the yard.
At this point I think there were nine in the bowl, but every time I cut a piece of milkweed and checked it for eggs, I found babies.

The last time I checked the bowl I counted nineteen cats in sizes ranging from about 1/2 inch to a full 2 inches and ready to pupate.  I had to give up bringing the baby caterpillars in.  At least outside they can migrate from plant to plant to forage.  I can only fit so much milkweed in the bowl at one time.
My son and I are excited to get started planting a variety of milkweed (mostly native California varieties) from seed in the coming year.  It may develop into a small business to encourage Monarch support, or we may just continue to have fun with it all.
Last year I read a self-help book on finances that asked me to reflect on times that I felt prosperous.  This summer, as I've worked (played?) with these beautiful, peaceful creatures I realized that I have felt prosperous every time I've found one of these caterpillars in my garden.  As if the Universe has seen fit to gift me with one of its most precious treasures.
And when I release a newly emerged butterfly back to the flowers, I feel privileged to share a connection with the ages.
September 11.  My son was living in Brooklyn that year.  He went to school and taught in Manhattan and his fiance worked near the Empire State Building.  That day was the most terrifying in my life.
But rather than commemorate the day with a post about politics or anger or fear, I choose to share beauty and love and peace.  Butterflies stun with their beauty as they serve as pollinators. 
Small acts of kindness to nurture nature.
We should be so generous.

No comments: