DeLeon Springs State Park & Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant


*Note: if you view this via email or a feed reader, I don’t think the last post loaded correctly, the Forest Friday post. There’s a video in it and it wasn’t automatically syncing to play unless you went to the website to read. I do recommend going back and clicking through to watch the video because Forest is super cute as he explains his drawing.*

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Before our trip to Florida I saw Florida Hikes post about the Old Spanish Sugar Mill restaurant in DeLeon Springs State Park. Since Chris had wanted to visit some of the springs in the state during our time before Disney, I thought this sounded like a great place to go. I figured since we were going during the middle of the week that the wait wouldn’t be too bad and if it was we could take the boat tour on the lake while we were waiting.

As luck would have it, clouds began gathering as we made our way inland. By the time we arrived to the state park it had started raining and Forest had fallen asleep. Not wanting to wake him unnecessarily, I went in to see about the wait and get our name on the list if there was a wait. Inside, I found the place fairly busy for a Wednesday, and despite the rain there were people still swimming in the spring pool out front. We had to wait about 20 or 30 minutes which left plenty of time for Forest to rest a bit before we went in for lunch.

I loved the restaurant, it was really a fun experience! Aside from items like burgers and fries, you pretty much cook everything yourself at the table. I know, you could cook this at home, but its about ambiance and experience, right? I chose breakfast for lunch and Chris got a burger while Forest opted for his usual jelly sandwich. Yep, no peanut butter. The rain continued falling outside and even after our lunch experience we had to figure out what we were going to do. Our plans had been to do some hiking and maybe even swimming at the state park, possibly take the boat tour.

But the rain thwarted those plans. So, we made our way over to the covered picnic tables to wait the rain out a bit and to scope out their small museum. The rain wasn’t letting up so we ended up leaving the state park earlier than intended, opting to head west to Ocala National Forest for an afternoon drive.

Maybe some day we will return to the state park, however I’m glad we got to dip in for a minute to see a bit of historical Florida!

More information:
DeLeon Springs State Park: Florida State Parks website
DeLeon Springs State Park: Florida Hikes
DeLeon Springs State Park: Florida Rambler

Beachin’: New Smyrna and Canaveral National Seashore


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We had an early flight out of IAH into MCO on June 5th, so we were all rather bleary eyed when we landed in Florida. No one slept on the plane despite my thinking Forest might conk out mid-flight. No such luck. I think the flying was too exciting! I was excited, too! It had been four years since I had flown and there was a good stretch of time when I flew several times a year. I love to fly and to travel and not getting to do so now is definitely a bummer but maybe in a few years that will change again? That said, we were surprised not to have to take anything out of our bags or take our shoes off going through security in Houston. That was not the case when came back through Orlando, but it was pleasant not to have to deal with the hassle in Houston. The lines definitely moved quicker without all of that—my guess is Houston had more sophisticated equipment to scan everything.

When we landed in Orlando we had to get our rental car (more on that in a later post) and get on the road to New Smyrna Beach. It had been a long time since we’d been at the Orlando airport so I couldn’t remember where it was in relation to the rest of the city but quickly we realized it was not near the main part of town and we were on SR 528 heading east to the Atlantic with no place to stop for lunch. That didn’t matter, we were busy looking at the habitat on the side of the toll road and before we knew it Forest was asleep in his car seat. Oh well, onward to New Smyrna Beach.

I managed to fall asleep sometime after we got onto I-95 after lots of mental cussing of the Brazilian pepper on the side of the road. I thought Chris was nuts a few times when he said he saw Chinese tallow (Houston/SE Texas/Louisiana’s equivalent of BP) tucked into the side of the road but later on I saw one. Damn it. Snoozing peacefully, I woke up as we exited the highway and took backroads through Edgewater. And then we crossed the causeway over the Indian River Lagoon and we were in New Smyrna Beach. Quickly we found a place to eat, Norwoods Eatery and Treehouse Bar. I’ll be honest, the treehouse got us! We turned around after we saw it and went in and had a great meal! I definitely recommend it if you are in NSB!

After lunch we got to the hotel on the beach and changed into our swimsuits to chill on the beach for awhile. I do wish I’d looked into it a bit more because I didn’t realize this section of beach allowed car driving. I thought it was only the area around Daytona but apparently this area did too. Non-car driving beaches are one of the high points about Florida’s beaches and something I have a love/hate relationship with here in Texas. We made it work, though and enjoyed the time on the beach.

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One thing I noticed was that while the water was relatively clear, it was more of an olive-green color instead of the blueish color down in the Melbourne area. We later even noticed a difference just 10 miles south when we drove to Canaveral National Seashore. Chris and I took turns going out into the ocean while the other stayed with Forest up on the beach or splash zone. I managed to find a tiny seashore on a piece of sargassum. I saw it floating and didn’t really expect anything to be on it and was pleasantly surprised when I saw it. I took the whole thing up to the shore for Forest to see and then released it after. Chris thought it was a pygmy seahorse but as I have no photos I can’t properly identify it. I was thrilled to see something like that, though! There were plenty of fish riding the waves, too.

After dinner we drove down to Canaveral National Seashore to scope the beach out down there, hoping for a wilder scene. The goal was to turtle watch as it was prime nesting season but to our dismay the gates closed at 8pm. We only had about an hour and a half to see what we could and unless a mama sea turtle was out nesting early, our chances of seeing a turtle were nil. On our way in we did see a gopher tortoise, our only one for the trip. I was hoping for more gopher tortoise encounters but we didn’t get enough time in the right habitat for that. And our encounter with this gopher tortoise was short because immediately mosquitoes came out to feast and we ran for the car. Luckily the beach was mosquito free due to the sea breeze!

On the shore there was evidence up and down the beach of sea turtle nesting–posts marking the nests. This was exciting! Memories from our time in Melbourne watching sea turtles nest and my one summer of volunteering for the Sea Turtle Preservation Society came back. I loved doing all of that! We were probably a few weeks early for any hatchlings to be emerging and most nests we saw were within the last few days or week. Definitely too early for those.

We probably walked two miles down and back, maybe a little more. Wandering up and down the beach, scoping out the debris line, checking out nests for dates, and picking up millions of shells for Forest. It was a great evening to be out on the beach! And there were fewer to no people the further we walked—how I like my beach!

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The next morning we got up early for one last time at the beach. We were headed for the interior of the state later that day and everyone still needed more time at the beach. I don’t think any of us got our fill. Chris managed to see a sea turtle that morning (I think it was that morning, may have been the previous day) in the surf. Later, Forest and I watched from the balcony as a pod of bottlenose dolphins rode the waves. Forest really enjoyed seeing that! The hotel was really nice, almost like a small condominium. A bathroom near the door, then a long hallway with a bedroom to the side and then a living/kitchenette area near the balcony. We could have set up shop there for the week—maybe transport it to a car-free beach.

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I’m glad we went to a different area of the state we hadn’t spent time in before but I do wish we’d had the time to go down to Melbourne or even explore Canaveral NS even more. There’s so much to that area that we just didn’t get to see. Maybe someday in the future!

After the beach we headed inland to Deleon Springs State Park—and that will be my next post!

10 Days in Florida


Annnnndd…we’re back!

The three of us jetted off to Florida the early morning of June 5th, flying into Orlando, and returned on the 15th. Last year Chris’ mom announced she was planning a big family trip to Disney World and so I had a year to mentally prepare. For starters it would mean traveling with a 3.5 year old on a plane and what was that going to be like?, and the second…Disney World. I know some people go gangbusters for that place but it wasn’t high up on my ranking of places I was looking forward to revisit. Chris and I spent maybe 2 days there with his mom and step-dad when we lived in Florida and I remembered the Magic Kingdom being ‘meh’ but enjoying the sliver of Epcot I saw and I had good memories about Animal Kingdom, so there was that. And we decided that if we were going to Florida we would try to do a little more and go a few day earlier and spent some time doing some “Real Florida” stuff.

Despite wanting to go down to Melbourne and the Vero Beach area because those beaches are gorgeous and are familiar haunts from our time living in that area, we opted to stay north of Cape Canaveral because our other plans were to go to Ocala National Forest. We had three days before we had to be at Disney and jammed them full. So, we found a hotel in New Smyrna Beach for a night and then another hotel in Ocala for two nights so we could play in Ocala NF the other days.

Here are few quick photos of the trip but I’ll be back with more write-ups about everything we did, including Disney! I’ll just say, I still generally wonder why people flock there but I was really impressed with the resorts and most of the dining options as well as their rather exceptional transportation system (buses, boats, monorail). In all, we had fun, Forest had fun, and flying on the plane with a 3.5 year old was fairly smooth. Oh, I almost forgot the mini-adventure we had that I’ll share more about later—breaking down on the Florida Turnpike just after a toll plaza and hanging out on the side of the road for two hours waiting to get towed. Forest and I rode in the back of an FHP car for that one! Beaches, paddling, state parks, hiking, forest road explorations, Disney…it was a jam packed 10 days in Florida! More soon!

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A Taste of Summer


We’ve reached the time of year where any time you step outside for less than 5 minutes sweat will bead and roll down your body. For me, it’s simultaneously too much and glorious. I’ve always been a heat loving person but there are definitely times when the heat gets me down and a headache comes on from the oppression of it all. But if I spend most of the day out there I will typically acclimate and be set for the day and plan to just stink to high heaven by the end of it all.

I walked around the garden a few days ago and took a bunch of photos. I meant to write about what May’s garden looked like and while I still have some photos that I took I just haven’t managed to share them. Maybe there will be a look back at the spring garden sometime this summer. For now, here’s a taste of the early summer garden. I took far more photos than these but you will have to wait a few weeks as our vacation looms and other things take precedence at the moment.

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Gorgeous evening light in the side garden with the golden lotus bananas and agastache.

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‘May Night’ salvia finally blooming after a rough couple of years. I thought this plant was on its way out but it is now thriving again.

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Tropical milkweed. It’s been a rough spring on the milkweed as the milkweed beetles having been gorging themselves. Hopefully it recovers for the monarchs to return.

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Zinnias–finally! The only reason why: because they are behind the fence! Don’t you bet the deer have been sticking their noses through to nip the ones they can reach.

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Sunchoke flowers! (or sunflowers…because that’s what they are!)

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Tomatoes! Finally enjoying a few of them!

Life Lately | May 2018


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+In My Head
We just had a great long weekend with all of my family down to visit. It’s been a long time since we’ve had both my parents and then Curtis, Stephanie, Zoe, and Grayson all over at the same time. Having a three day weekend made it worthwhile to have everyone down. Often if we try to cram everything into a typical weekend it feels too rushed and there’s not enough time to enjoy everyone. This weekend we had plenty of time to go to the splash pad, the plant nursery, plenty of time playing in the kid pool, running around the yard, and loads of other things! I lost count of how many time we ran the dishwasher—we were running it at least three times a day! My mom even brought their new ice cream maker so we had homemade vanilla with fresh blackberries from the garden!

Forest and Grayson are at such a great age to hang out together and definitely miss each other when they leave. And Zoe, I can’t believe she will be 10 this summer!

+Watching
Nothing. All of my shows are on hiatus and it’s been too crazy to start something new so I haven’t watched anything. The only thing I watched in spurts was the royal wedding and I still have the rest of the ride through Windsor to watch. I got up early to watch Will and Kate’s wedding and remember some of it vaguely but this one was definitely the one where you are excited for her but also incredibly jealous because in your head as a kid you were going to be the American girl Will or Harry swept off their feet (or else there wouldn’t be a million Lifetime-esque movies in these vein). But then as you read about everything she has to integrate to become a royal you start to re-think that whole royal thing. Yeah, jet-setting around the world is great but then remembering who to curtsy to and all of the social status stuff?? I did enjoy all of the celebrities filing in during the ceremony but my favorite part was watching Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland. I just wanted to sit next to her and hold her hand during the ceremony. She looked excited for Meghan but also very nervous about the whole thing. This was a really great article: The Profound Presence of Doria Ragland via the New Yorker.

+Outside My Window
Sun, blazing sun. The good news is we aren’t scheduled to be in the 100s this week like the rest of the state, the bad news is with the humidity it will feel like it anyway. Good times!

+Making
LOL

+In The Garden
I’m attempting to get all of the gardens in as good of a position as I can before we leave for vacation. That means constant weeding, getting plants and seeds sown, and just prepping as best as I can. I’m thinking the only thing that won’t get done is the flower garden path, though I’m going to do my best to start weeding that and pulling the most obnoxious weeds. I’m currently writing this up while taking an a/c break from pulling the weeds in the edible garden. Another 1-2 hours out there and it will be good to go for a few weeks.

Currently, the blackberries are starting to roll in. Thank goodness! We’re eating those and some Matt’s Wild Cherry tomatoes. A Creole tomato is this-close to ripening and I can tell a few others are wanting to turn. But I seriously doubt the bulk will be ready before we leave so I’ll probably tell the neighbor to get some tomatoes if he sees them ripe while we’re gone. No reason to let the birds get them.

And I’m a little perturbed that my Seminole pumpkins aren’t germinating. I did see one finally come up but I think that was from a the second round of seed planting. I used the original seeds I had first but nothing germinated and then two weeks later went back and sowed the ones I saved from last year. So far one has sprouted. I guess I’ll try to sow a few more seeds and see what happens.

I need to start more cow peas. The ones I planted a month or so ago are now flowering and starting to produce! Woohoo! And I just sowed various green beans and they are starting to thrive, though I need to go back and sow a few more in some gaps that didn’t germinate.

I’ll wait until we get back to sow some other items, though maybe I should just do it before we go so they have time to grow while we’re gone.

+Reading
I’m in a lull at the moment. I need to get back into some Net Galley books I have because some are about to expire.

+Loving
+Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant: I’ve tried my share of natural deodorants over the years only to go back each time to a conventional brand. The B.O. stank just got too bad and I gave up. But I’ve been hearing about this brand for awhile now, originally via The Girl Next Door Podcast and other people but I just never wanted to break down and order it online, which is only where it was found for a good while. Or at Whole Foods and the like which isn’t near me. But someone tipped me off that it was at Target and only $4.99 so I bought one and I love it! It has worked really well for typical work days and general outdoor activities but I did give it a run for its money this weekend. While I would say that even in some moderate Texas summer sweating it works fairly well, if you go all into hardcore Texas summer outdoors and get really dirty, at some point your whole body just smells so the point is really moot anyway. So far I’m liking it though and hope it holds up!

+Levi’s 529 Curvy Bootcut Jeans: I was in the market for new jeans last month and found some Levi’s on sale at Kohl’s. Now, I tried to find these same jeans on the Levi’s website and they do not come up, so I’m unsure why there’s a difference. I’ve always been a bootcut type of person, mostly because I have thighs and calves that just do not work with skinny leg jeans, and I like the leg room. These are super comfortable!

What’s up with you?

Flood Number One Billion and Five


May 2018 Flooding
(Ahh, sweet rain! What a relief—right???)

One would think that after a month or so of no rain that a few hours of rain would be a needed respite. And it was when it all started. At this point in the nearly six years (at the end of June) that we’ve been here the number of times we’ve had flooding issues has continued to grow. Frankly, sometimes I dream of a drought—yes, tempting to wish for a drought but that also has its own terrible consequences. How about some balance, Mother Nature? Or maybe we’re just screwed because we’ve effed the climate so much this is our new weather pattern?

May 2018 Flooding

Anyway, last Sunday Forest and I were heading back from Lufkin/Nacogdoches where Chris was working and as we approached The Woodlands I noticed that the thunderheads that have been noticeably absent this spring were fluffing up on the horizon. Good, we needed some rain! We had stopped at the grocery store to get groceries for the week so I wouldn’t have to get back out that day and on the way home the sky darkened.

May 2018 Flooding

After lunch the rain started and was gentle at first with intermingling lightning and thunder to make it a cozy afternoon indoors. I prepped food for the week and Forest watched some tv and in all it was rather relaxing.

May 2018 Flooding
(No water flowing through here this time, thank goodness!)

By mid-afternoon there was some ponding in the low spot in the front yard which was to be expected. Meh, I thought. By 4-5pm the rain had picked up and was falling steadily and after I’d laid down on the couch to rest my eyes for a bit I got up and noticed the pond had risen into the backyard. Ok, well, it had rained steadily for a few hours, that would happen.

May 2018 Flooding

I looked out front and the water was higher there as well, inching into the edible garden now. *sigh* alright, we’re going to do this thing again? Ok. Fine. What was I going to do about it?

May 2018 Flooding

By dinner time it is getting higher in all areas around and somewhere around the 3-4pm time frame the lights had also started flickering. I had been trying to dry laundry and the drier wouldn’t stay on and then the microwave had some issues running as I heated up something for Forest for dinner. Great. I turned both off and just hoped the rain and wind was what the problem was. More on that in a bit.

May 2018 Flooding

May 2018 Flooding

So after dinner the rain was still going and the water still rising somewhat. My neighbor two doors down had tried calling me because she smelled gasoline and wanted to see if I smelled it as well. I did not. I for certain did not want to be smelling gasoline with flood waters all around. Not on my agenda for the evening. She had called our shared neighbor between us to find out and they didn’t smell it at the time, but later I found out they did end up smelling it as they were leaving to move their vehicles to higher ground.

I went for a run the day after and I did end up smelling something off in the vicnity of the neighbor’s house, though the flood waters had already receded. Something had spilled or floated down the creek for certain.

May 2018 Flooding

May 2018 Flooding
Meanwhile I’m texting with Chris and at some point he Facetimed me and I showed him what was going on. We had a camp chair out near the bat house that had eventually gotten submerged about half way and I ended up putting on his knee boots to get out there and get it and swamped them in the process. In all of this, Forest is toting around behind me, not into the water of course, but to check things out.

The thing is, it wasn’t supposed to rain this hard and everything was supposed to pass quickly. Even the issued Flood Warning that came through an hour after things got worse seemed a little too late—as if they weren’t expecting this little flash flood to happen!

May 2018 Flooding

I don’t know what these guys were doing but they came whirring by the house, slowed down and then backed up. I presume because the water was too deep down the street for them to continue.

As for the flickering lights, they were still going on at 9pm and I mentioned it to Chris at that time because the rain had finally stopped and I had thought that the lights would have fixed themselves too. Googling ‘flickering lights’ will definitely cause a panic because that means worst case scenario you have a wiring problem and your house could burn down or the other scenario there’s something wrong down the electric pipeline that is causing the issue. I had hoped that was the case but didn’t know. In the meantime I went around and turned off all the lights we had on, including our lights outside that light up around the house at night, turned off the man-cave a/c and the main a/c as well. And in my paranoia about a house burning down I got our shoes and my purse together in case we had to flee!

I had also been reading on our local NextDoor group and everyone else was talking about their flooding issues in the surrounding area so it wasn’t like we were alone. Someone in our city directly posted about their AT&T service being out and I mentioned mine was working but that I had flickering lights. And then several people chimed in they had the same thing which had me running outside to look at my neighbor’s house and their’s was flickering and I called my neighbor back and hers was flickering too. So, *phew* it wasn’t my house about to burn down.

As for living here and continuing to deal with flood issues—well, as long as we live here we’re going to have this but it definitely seems that this has become more prevalent occurrence compared to the last several decades based on what other people who have lived here for a long time have said. While there have been flooding events from time to time, yearly or multiple times a year events have become more frequentt. We could talk about several things affecting this such as continued growth in the area, maintenance of streams, creeks, and ponds (ours has silted in significantly in the last five years—it needs to be dredged but it isn’t going to happen because $$$), among many other things. All of this has definitely caused an interest on NextDoor in wanting to get something done such as a county flood district like Harris county (Houston) has, which is great but unfortunately people continue to vote against their own best interests.

And as for the garden, while the initial siting of the garden was the best spot in the yard, I’ve definitely thought that maybe we need to reconsider another option. Because having my garden flood yearly is really beginning to get on my nerves. I lost a few plants out there but it was mostly a mulch mess this time around.

But yeah, 8-10″ of rain in one day after a month without it—I think we’re good until July without rain. Unfortunately we’ve had spring/summer afternoon t-storms popping up all week so I don’t think that’s going anywhere any time soon.

Yay. Floods. Again. Good times, y’all.

Oh, and if you live anywhere in Houston, buy some freakin’ flood insurance. This should be a given by now.

Feral Bees Found Our Hive


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A little over a week ago Forest and I were out on the front porch to send off Chris as he left for field work. It was right after dinner, nearing 6pm and the sun comes over the driveway rather harshly at that time during this season. In the glow of that hour, we noticed a huge ball of insects flying, backlit by the sun. We paused to look at them for a second and Chris started to say something about them, literally made it three or four words in an attempt to say one thing before switching, and then getting really excited to say that they were bees!

We looked over at the hive and sure enough the unidentified insects were heading that direction. Backing up just a bit, about three months ago the bees we had, the new bee package we’d purchased last spring, swarmed and left the hive. Chris hadn’t even gotten in to clean up the hive so the empty combs were still there. I guess a bee(s) had been scouting for a new place to live for its hive and told them to relocate to our hive! Chris was super excited about this prospect!

There’s another video but it is longer and didn’t upload from my phone to Flickr so I’ll have to get it on YouTube at some point to share. We’ve only seen a swarm one time while we were out in our ghost orchid slough in Florida. It was late afternoon when we witnessed that as we were measuring and counting ghost orchids. It took a few seconds for us to realize what the noise was and we laid low under the canopy as the bees flew on their merry way. A lot of cool things were seen in that slough!

So, for now we have bees again! Let’s hope they stick around this time!

Spring Monarch Season


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When we finally got the flower garden beds designed and planted five years ago we added in a plant or two of tropical milkweed in hopes of attracting monarch butterflies and caterpillars. For some reason those plants would last the year and then fade out—I’m not really sure what happened because our weather and situation is no different now than it was then, and we’ve even had colder winters since then and the tropical milkweed had returned.

In Florida, we had a a couple of plants in containers and some in our front flower bed at the rental house where we would see monarch caterpillars every now and then. South Florida has a year-round population of monarchs and tropical milkweed is commonly seen in landscaped areas around the region. Getting monarchs into our garden here in Texas seemed like it could potentially be a task but as we’ve seen, if you plant it, they will come. It might take a few seasons but they will find you. That goes for almost any butterfly or wildlife species—though we are waiting on the barred owl to decide to roost in the box we hung for it. Chris thinks we might have to relocate that to a better location.

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Lots of caterpillar frass—don’t worry, plates were cleaned right after this photo!

After finally raising monarchs over August-October last fall I knew I would go for it again this year but I didn’t realize the season would come on so quickly and at such a fast pace. Over the weekend of March 17th-18th we were over on Bolivar Peninsula with Marc and Eliana and she noticed a couple of monarchs on our way to lunch on Sunday. After lunch I noticed several and when we pulled into the driveway that evening I noticed a female laying eggs on the milkweed.

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From there it was on for spring monarch season—eggs were everywhere! I initially collected 10 or 11 to hatch inside and keep in the cage because I wasn’t sure how much milkweed I would have to raise all of the eggs I was seeing. The milkweed was only several inches tall with some of the plants in pots on the potting bench a bit larger because I had overwintered them in protected conditions during the cold spells.

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By the end of that week there were caterpillars hatching all over the place, in the yogurt container and then outside. I brought a couple of extra caterpillars into the tent that I saw on the potting bench because I figured I could handle a couple more and then we went camping for Easter weekend. Having all of the potted plants worked out perfectly at this time because they were all only instars 2-4 and not quite in the voracious eat-all-the-milkweed mode. That mode is where you give them milkweed thinking it will last the rest of the day only to come back a few hours later to see them wandering around the tent looking for more milkweed because they’ve eaten what you’ve given them. I packed the tent with as many plants as I could and hoped it would last the weekend. It did, though several plants were getting lean.

After that weekend I knew I would have enough milkweed to keep more and since we wouldn’t be going away for a weekend any time soon I decided to just start bringing in any other caterpillars I saw on the milkweed outside. On April 6th I was up to 25 caterpillars and later I was getting up to 30-35 caterpillars with several chrysalides in the tent. It was seriously caterpillar city and then I would see more momma monarchs coming through laying *more* eggs! Wooo boy.

This year I started using Journey North to log my sightings, which I’ve found very interesting to participate in. I also signed up for the Monarch Watch Listserv and had it send me a daily digest of what emails were going through the list. It’s been a very educational experience to be reading that list, with people who are working with monarchs in various capacities, from those at educational institutions to home gardeners and butterfly enthusiasts. I’ve learned a lot just in the last couple of months. One interesting thing this year that was noted was that there was a larger coastal migration coming out of Mexico, heading up the Texas coast to the Houston area due to a variety of factors, one of them being high heat in the Rio Grande Valley and also a lack of milkweed sprouting in some areas. The other route was to the west through Big Bend/El Paso and then over to central Texas. It’s been interesting to see them talk about predictions on the movement north and where milkweed was blooming or not. And this cooler spring stalled movement north as well as milkweed emerging so the butterflies lingered in the south longer than typical. If you really want to nerd out I recommend joining the listserv!

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So around April 7th we got a cold front come through with temperatures dipping into the 50s and high 40s, definitely not temperatures where caterpillars do much movement. They all went into a bit of a dormant period but I brought them inside to warm them up and keep them happy since I had the ability to do that. Several had been looking to pupate so I wanted to help them out, too. And I caught the first caterpillar pupating on that afternoon of the 7th, pretty much from the start which I had never seen from the beginning. It was a great experience and I had Forest come in and watch with me! And then from there it was a combination of a mess of caterpillars on the bottom and a bunch of caterpillars in Js at the top prepping to pupate or pupating. From then until the 12th things were moving along ok, though I did have a caterpillar or two with molting issues that ended up dying.

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On the 12th there began a series of failures to pupate. This is where they begin pupating and then stop for whatever reason and die. The first one or two didn’t bother me so much but then it was several more and I began to get worried that there was some disease spreading. I immediately cleaned the cage up as best as I could—it wasn’t bad to begin with but I wanted to do some increased vigilance. I texted my friend who also raises monarchs here in Houston and she was going through the same thing. It made me feel better that I wasn’t alone and we thought maybe it was a genetic issue.

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Prior to the failures to pupate I had noticed one chrysalis that had a gap at the top but inside it looked like it was still alive, you could see movement. I sent her a photo and asked if she’d seen that before and she had had one last year and said it was a fatal issue and it was best to euthanize in the freezer. That was hard for me to get the guts up to do but I did it. In hindsight I wish I’d left that one alone because I had some other oddly shaped chrysalides later that hatched normal butterflies and I wish I had given this one a chance. Maybe it wouldn’t have helped but maybe it would have.

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Yes, that one pupated on the rock! It and another one on a different rock hatched just fine.

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The failures to pupate kept going until the 14th and then we switched to pupating fully but then falling from their little web that holds them in place right after they pupated. I think there were about four that ended up doing this and some I caught not long after they have finished their transformation so they were incredibly soft and still wiggling around inside and at least another was caught a few hours later so it was kind of flat on one side. I had also put a couple of rocks into the tent to keep it from blowing away—last year’s mistake I learned from—and one of the chrysalides fell onto that which I figured was likely fatal but it was still moving so I gave it a chance. All of the fallen chrysalides, I super glued their cremaster to stick inside the tent which I had setting across the two rocks. I figured I’d give them the chance and later they all proved to have perished from their falls. They looked ok for a couple of days but then you could see the browning and blackening and knew it was over. *bummer* I put them in the freezer to make sure they were dead. Seriously, those few days really sucked.

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But then we got over the hump and by the 18th I had 25 chrysalides and then by the 24th 31 chrysalides. The first pupa started eclosing on the 25th and the final one opened this morning, May 12th. Ok, somehow my math doesn’t add up, I’m not sure what happened but my tallys for male and female after going through my notes are showing 29 total butterflies and outside there are 29 empty chrysalides—so I must have miscounted that 31 at some point. Oops! Next time around I’ll start the tally for eclosing before hand instead of just hand writing notes and relying on that. In the end there were 16 females and 13 males.

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The one issue I had with a newly hatched butterfly was the one that had wing deformities that would never allow it to fly. That one also sucked because I knew I had to euthanize it. I spent a few moments with it taking photos and then told it I was sorry for its sorry state and that it was for the best and then put it in a bag in the freezer. Another big bummer. It’s a lot easier to just nature take care of this stuff on its own.

So, that’s where I’m at for spring monarch season. I should go back and tally up the ones from the late summer/fall last year if my notes are good enough. Now that the last butterfly is out I’ll clean up the cage and put it away for awhile until the monarchs start making their way back through here in the mid to late summer.

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