Our Butterfly Project – Post #2

So at last count, last update here I had three huge mongo Black Swallowtail (BST) caterpillars, and three tiny bebe caterpillars. I also had one Luna Moth cocoon. Things have changed.

Last Wednesday, we had mom’s night at my friend Kelly’s house. Besides having a blast with my crew, l left with four monarch caterpillars and one tiny BST caterpillar. Kelly has been rearing butterflies and caterpillars for years, but she is getting her kitchen entirely remodeled and couldn’t take these littles in right now. So I took them home!

This is what they looked like last Wednesday when I brought them home.

This is how they look today, a week later.

They are getting so big! I will be running around getting milkweed to feed them multiple times a day soon, as they will start munching through the leaves faster and faster. Then they will go into chrysalis! Monarchs have a beautiful chrysalis so I am excited to see them.

As for the black swallowtails, we have all but one in chrysalis! Their process is a bit different. They find a spot, and it happens slowly, where a monarch is sort of quicker and more explosive. I took pictures at four intervals of one of the BST’s going into chrysalis, and it is pretty neat. They pick a spot, glom on, make a silk string sling, and then sort of turn into the chrysalis slowly. I am not sure of the science behind it but it is crazy to watch.

As for our Luna Moth cocoon – it hatched! They only live a few days, and have no mouths. They only live long enough to reproduce and that is it.

We kept it in the enclosure for a day or two then released it on the night of the full Strawberry moon – it just felt appropriate for a Luna Moth. It was also International Fairy Day, and I was thinking – if it were hundreds of years ago, before scientific understanding of creatures, and I saw one of these moths, I could see myself thinking I was maybe seeing a fairy. A little fanciful, but can you see it too?

So as of today, we have four hungry monarch caterpillars, five BST in chrysalis, and one BST baby that is growing! I am hoping that by next Wednesday’s update I will have a few more chrysalis hanging around!

If you missed the first post, you can find it here!

Mini-Post: What’s growing on?

I felt like it was time for a garden update. Our garden did not go as we had planned way way back, during the winter. That fun breakfast with my sister-in-law planning, how my husband and I drew up a blueprint of where we wanted things, then…lockdown. Then, my husband’s broken elbow. We had beds never dug, seedlings that never made it into the ground – but we persevered, and started again. We had to cobble a garden together in parts, my brother kindly came over and rototilled a few spots for me, we planted in containers. And while we didn’t plant anywhere near what we had intended, it felt good to just get some seeds in the ground.

My pumpkins are my favorite. I have always wanted to grow them, and they have taken off like crazy. Literally, they stretched out across our entire yard. I have a long term plan for our little pumpkin patch – if Halloween is cancelled, which I am feeling like it will be, we are going to do a Charlie Brown Halloween and wait for the Great Pumpkin to arrive while sitting in our pumpkin patch, next to a bonfire. And I am sure I will be drinking cider and eating stew or chili. So grow pumpkins grow! Although, I am a little concerned. Some of the leaves are a little funky! I need to google that, unless someone here knows what is happening?

My cucumbers are utter chaos. Like seriously it is anarchy in their corner. Weeds grew up along the fenceline and the cucumbers attached themselves to them, while also refusing to climb the trellis Billy built. And maybe we will get a cucumber or two? I planted seeds late, so whatever we get I will be happy with. They look pretty though, even among the chaos.

We transplanted our strawberries to this bed as well – they were living in a strawberry planter that got knocked down by strong winds and shattered. They are alive and kicking though so I am looking forward to what they do next year. Cabbage lives here too, along with the dill that the black swallowtail butterflies love so much… and grasshoppers. So many grasshoppers.

Our experimental peanuts are doing ok, I think? I can’t tell. Our radishes did fabulous! They were delicious on baguettes with butter. So yummy!! My carrots did fairly well too. My beets however, failed spectacularly. I am going to replant and see how a fall crop does.

In the front of the house, we have flowers, lavender, lemon basil, swiss chard, and our raspberry bushes. The lemon basil is enormous – almost as tall as me! I am turning it into flavored salt this week. The raspberries are so sweet and delicious, and it is so fun to run out there and pick a few to eat. We don’t have many, just enough for a little treat. And I have learned I don’t like swiss chard.. that was a substitution at the nursery. By the time I felt comfortable going, the lettuce and spinach was gone. I grabbed a few swiss chard but I am not a fan, which I didn’t realize.

What about you all? Any successes? Failures? Things you would do differently? I would love to hear!