Can you find the butterfly?
Remember all of my cloudless sulphur caterpillars? Well, they all pupated—or I think they all pupated. I could only find two so far!
First I found a chrysalis attached to a wire up against the house about a week ago. I was very thrilled to see it and I had to do a double take at first because the chrysalis looked like a leaf. That’s a pretty fantastic cover if you ask me—and just like a changing autumn leaf to boot!
Since then I have been on a mission to find more but they have proved elusive. I’ve even looked further away from their host plant in case they really crawled a long way away to look for a place to pupate. Still—I hadn’t found more than that one.
Then last Sunday, as Forest was playing in the sand box and I was just milling about the potting bench and side yard garden, I got down on my knees to crawl around a bit and look harder. I saw something moving, a bright yellow thing, and as my eyes focused I realized it was a cloudless sulphur just eclosing! I mean, it had to have happened just a few minutes before because liquid was still dripping from her body.
Her chrysalis was still partly attached and her wings were slowly unfurling. It looked like one was having trouble opening but I supposed it could take awhile to full emerge, having watched the monarchs do the same in their cage.
Finding this newly emerged butterfly in the wild of my garden was pretty enthralling! I’ve tried to keep my eye on wild monarch and gulf fritillary chrysalides in the garden before to no avail—I always missed them emerging. It was pretty spectacular to have caught this one and I knew it was something special. At the time I was wishing I wasn’t having to keep an eye and ear on Forest so I could have sat there for the entire time she took to emerge. Instead I dashed inside to grab my camera as quickly as possible and took what photos I could of the elusive moment before Forest moved on to something else.
Then, a few days ago at lunch I opted for walking around the garden instead of actively working in it and I noticed the butterfly in the chrysalis on the wire had emerged. She was fully out and almost ready to fly but I noticed Ruby the feral was eyeing her a little too closely. I went inside to get my camera again and by the time I got back out Ruby had managed to knock her off the wire. I shooed Ruby away and picked up the butterfly. Luckily she was not harmed and I moved her about five feet up into a beautyberry to finish preparing for flight. The ferals are usually pretty good—at least what we’ve noticed—but from time to time we do see their predatory behavior impacting some wildlife in our yard. It’s one of the things we’ve had to reconcile ourselves with in letting them stay around. At least we don’t have the 15 that were here when we moved on…good grief that would have been insane. (I realize feral cats are highly contentious and don’t aim to make this for/against argument at the moment.)
There is an abundance of cloudless sulphurs visiting the salvias now and I keep looking for more caterpillars but haven’t seen any lately. The Argentine senna isn’t blooming anymore so maybe that’s one reason they aren’t there—they can’t camouflage on the flowers. I am seeing the odd monarch here and there and just found a caterpillar the other day. It’s time to cut the tropical milkweed back and I’ll probably do half of them this weekend and leave some so that caterpillar and any others can finish out its life cycle. Gulf fritillaries are still around as well and I’m seeing caterpillars once again after a slight lull.
It’s busy with the warm weather!
We’ve had a busier fall than normal, I think, or maybe it is just that we’ve been spending time at home a little more frequently. We had a camping reservation for October but that was cancelled by Texas Parks and Wildlife because the state park flooded during Harvey and they don’t know when it will open again. Chris has been working on several different projects around the house, namely building an aquarium, but he also had to replace our water heater a few weekends ago and that took some work as well. Needless to say, getting out for hiking or camping hasn’t happened nearly as much as we’d hoped.
Initially I’d thought we could do an overnight backpacking trip over the weekend but Chris said it was opening deer season in the national forests and it didn’t seem like a wise choice to be out backpacking for an opening hunting weekend. Instead, we drove up to Huntsville State Park to do a day hike.
Forest is increasingly wanting to walk instead of ride in the backpack carrier and depending on the length of our hike depends on if we take the carrier or not. Chris said he would hike with the carrier this go around until Forest opted to ride in the pack and I carried my light Osprey day pack. Chris recently bought a bigger Osprey day pack—it could really work for an ultralight backpacker if need be, and I’m tempted to get my own because I have been trying to cram too much into the little day pack I have. I really just need to use the water bladder more to open some space up inside the pack but lately I’ve been shoving reusable water bottles in the main compartment with everything else, instead.
A lot of the trails at the state park were closed, either due to Harvey damage or due to the continuation of work on the dam for Lake Raven. This was a little frustrating but there were still plenty of trails to see in the up front areas of the park. I had been hankering to get to the back of the park, though, where some of the landscape rolls a bit and you get that slope forest feeling. Alas, that was not in the cards for us.
Due to our slower pace, we had more time to look around, pick up leaves, and poke around at plants and animals. It got a bit tedious at times when Forest wanted to stop and play in the sandier sections of the trail or when he wanted to pick every beautyberry in sight to “feed the alligators”.
After our first hike we stopped by the nature center to see what they had in there and then popped over to one of the fishing piers for Chris and Forest to fish awhile. We had had breakfast at Chick-fil-A and they also let us order lunch so we had double Chick-Fil-A that day. While Chris and Forest fished, I poked around the shoreline looking at plants and seeing what I could photograph. Eventually Forest got bored with fishing and I had to entertain him along the pond and we jumped off parking lot curbs and did a bunch of other silly stuff.
Finally, I pulled Chris away from the pier and we headed for another trail to meander before we headed home. I really like the shore section of the Prairie Branch loop and in the early afternoon autumn sun, everything was glowing. The day had started off slightly chilly and overcast but the sun finally poked out and this was its golden moment of the day.
We have plans to return to the state park in December for more camping—hopefully more trails will be open by that time!
I’ve been doing some crocheting over the last few months as it is my go-to dark season activity. Plus, right now it seems to be the easiest way to express some creativity instead of spending hours over in my studio. I guess I’ll take what I can get!
My most recent completed piece is this wall hanging! It only became a wall hanging in my head about two days ago but before that it was going to be a cowl and then before that, a scarf. I was making it too wide to be a scarf so I switched to a cowl but then thought that I really didn’t need another cowl and remembered I could do some wall hanging like the the weaving hangings I’ve been seeing over the last few years. Sure enough there are some really cool crochet wall hangings and I thought I’d give it a spin. I think I have a new love!
I did make a cowl recently—but it would have looked good as a hanging, too.
And I did make another Movie Night Cocoon Cardi like the one I made last year only this one is for my mom.
Currently I’m working on a Christmas wall hanging (because now I have all sorts of ideas) and a crochet rug for my studio. The rug is kind of on the back burner at the moment.
What are you creating?
Three more Seminole pumpkins have ripened out on the vines. I pulled these and processed them for more pumpkin butter. There are several more still out there and I will process those and just freeze the pulp to use for baking later throughout the year.
My great pantry chia seed experiment has finally come through! Back in the spring I threw out some seeds to see how they would do in a different location. A couple of years ago I tossed a couple of seeds out on the side gardens but it was too shady and the plants just got leggy and never bloomed. Well, this year I threw some out—too many according to Chris–and I thinned them a little throughout the summer but then Harvey’s rains caused a lot of them to flop over so many of them got pulled. I left enough to see if they would bloom—earlier in the summer I read that they were a short day length bloomer and knew that it would be fall before I saw anything. Well, finally here we are, blooming!
I’m almost done moving mulch to the edible garden paths. I’ve been working steadily but cooler weather and other plans during my lunch hour have prevented me from finishing over the last several days. Chris finally got around to planting out two of the empty beds so it looks a little different now than in this photo.
There’s quite a bit going on in this photo: cabbage seedlings—or rather tweenagers—a self sown bok choy, a borage, and plenty of free growing oxalis which I just learned is edible. It’s rather tasty, too! A little sour, almost citrusy. I’ve added some to my salads and I kind of like that it is growing in the edible garden alongside everything else.
My fall tomatoes are doing quite well and while I hope that I can get a round of tomatoes in before we have an actual frost or freeze I’m getting skeptical. Honestly, I’m becoming skeptical of Texans being able to have a supposed fall tomato crop unless you live south of I-10. I can’t say that this year will be any kind of good test to go up against because I also had to deal with Harvey wiping out all of the tomatoes I had going, but the ones I replaced those with have thrived and grown extremely well—it’s just that we stay warm so long and night temperatures for flowering don’t drop until late October really, and then it gets iffy with cold fronts. What I’m saying is, it is such a narrow window. And with all of this, I’ll be starting spring seeds indoors in December anyway. I guess I will just keep waiting to see how this year goes before I keep trying this mythical fall tomato harvest.
One green I am uber impressed with is the Florida broadleaf mustard. It has taken off and is thriving! I’d say it is less spicy than the red giant mustard but it still has that bite. I would like to steam or saute some up soon.
The ‘Sumter’ cucumbers are doing well and while I did not plant very many I am getting plenty to eat and still share with coworkers. It’s amazing how many cucumbers you can get off of a couple of plants!
Kale is slowly growing and I’m looking forward to having plenty of kale salads and kale chips over the winter. Maybe some Zuppa Toscana soup, too!
A slight dip in temperatures this week but looks like we’re back to mild weather again soon. I’d say that’s a good balance—a few days of cool to get that cozy fall feeling with plenty of days to be outside in between. Too much gray for me gets me into SAD territory.
The monarchs may have moved on for the most part but the garden is still active with other critters. About a week and a half ago, before the cold front, I was out in the edible garden during lunch. Some days I move with purpose out there and other days I mostly tinker with plants and check different things. This day I was in the latter mood, moseying around to look at what had germinated over the last few days, when I looked up and noticed something amiss with the tomatoes.
It looked like something had chowed down a couple of the top branches of one of the vines and my first instinct was to curse the deer. Then I remembered I was inside the 7′ tall fence and it was highly unlikely it had been the deer. I moved on to birds and squirrels but wasn’t quite satisfied with that answer but figured I would never know.
I wound around to the other side of the bed and was greeted with the culprit, a really cute and very hungry tobacco hornworm! Now, it has been a very, very long time since I have seen one in the garden and quite honestly I don’t even know if we have seen one here at this house. I remember seeing them in Florida from time to time but we’ve never had an overabundance of them anywhere we’ve gardened. I glanced around to see if my friend had any siblings but I didn’t see any and left it to continue munching while I went back to work. I later moved it to the brugmansias so it could eat that instead!
One thing I’ve noticed regarding caterpillars such as hornworms is the language used around them. They are ‘voracious’ and will ‘strip your plants’ and other words like ‘bad’ and ‘gross’ are used. While their appetite might be a little stronger due to their size, I don’t see why the negative language needs to be used. Monarchs do the same thing. They have voracious appetites and will most definitely strip your milkweed plants of their leaves! That’s what baby larvae do. It’s just that, of course, some butterflies look more intimidating and enjoy your heirloom tomatoes while the others are the golden child of the pollinator world. Don’t get me wrong, I love monarchs, I just wish the language used around caterpillars and insects was less evil sounding and more pragmatic. They are caterpillars going through the stages of metamorphosis—eating their host plants is what they do.
Along with the tobacco hornworm, I have been slowly finding gulf fritillary chrysalides. I found the first one attached to the underside of a bromeliad leaf the day before the cold front blew in and of course I found two more attached to a trellis in the garden. They appeared to not be as easy to move as the monarch chryalides so I ended up leaving them and just put a sheet over the trellis as a buffer against the cold wind during that weekend. Hopefully they pull through but I’m just waiting to see. The one on the bromeliad was brought inside with some monarchs I still had in chrysalides and it is now in the cage on the patio as I wait for it to emerge. And just this evening I found another one attached to a post on our porch, about 4.5 feet up! It looks new because I did not see it this weekend and it would be hard to miss!
My last two friends include a cicada exoskeleton I found while crawling around in one of the flower beds and a sweet little spider sitting on an oxalis leaf.
Oh, I did find what I think was a cloudless sulphur chrysalis underneath the Argentine senna but it was covered in mold. That was something I hadn’t seen before so I suppose it had been dead for awhile or was on its way to being dead. I’ve been actively searching for their pupa but have not see any yet. And I’m still keeping an eye out for my gulf frits on the passiflora but haven’t come across any more.
Why is the US So Susceptible to Social Media Distortion? via the New Yorker.
Sarah from the Pantsuit Politics podcast mentioned this article in their episode today–and it is a good episode to listen to because they talk about this issue as well as a variety of other pertinent topics from this week. As I read this article it reminded me of the pre-social media email forwarding/chain emails that used to be so prevalent—this was how memes and ‘fake news’ was shared back in the day. It just morphed into a larger platform with social media.
I have thought time and time again how glad I was to have been off of Facebook during the election, having quit in the spring of 2015. I’ve been tempted to go back a few times because it would be easier to get on some local mom groups to sell baby items and because I do miss some updates from friends, but I’ve been reminded how much better off I have been not to have been subjected to the crap that was put into Facebook over the last several years. The times I’ve read over Chris’ shoulder at something I have been utterly dismayed at some of the things people I know have been sharing. It made me glad that I wasn’t seeing that side of them on a daily basis because I’m not sure I would be able to have stayed friends with them on the Book of Faces. I’m also reminded about what role Facebook played in this election (as well as Twitter) and that also deters me in wanting to return. Pod Save America covers this today on their episode, starting around the 38 minute mark.
I only recently quit Twitter as well and I was rather sad to do so. For the longest time during the campaign/election, it felt like a bit of a beacon of hope, getting news straight from journalists and investigative reporters but over time it turned into a massive dumpster fire. I nearly left last spring after I was bombarded by trolls, real and otherwise, after I quote retweeted my reply to a journalist’s article about the potential loss of grants funded by the EPA during those first few weeks of T’s being in office.
I mentioned, thinking that I was really just tweeting to the people following my feed, that I’d had a previous job that had been funded by an EPA grant and was worried about the ramifications for that grant being taken away. Well, said journalist then retweeted my quote to her followers and I had never seen that many likes or retweets or comments to any of my tweets before. It started off innocuous but quickly ballooned out of control to the point I started blocking people. A couple of people who replied me seemed like genuine humans, but they were far right-wing and you could tell no amount of actual clarification would assuage their fears of Big Bad Government funding someone’s job. Others I could tell were bots. It got to the point where I locked my account and deleted the tweet. I laid low for awhile after and honestly didn’t quite recover from it. Twitter was a huge turn off for me after that and I finally had enough this summer. I do miss being on there, keeping in touch with a few people, but it also feels much healthier taking myself out of the rage cycle and instead choosing to find good news sources to stay informed.
Sidenote: Not that I consider Yahoo!’s front page a good news source, have you seen it lately? It’s gone seriously downhill since they were bought by Verizon and I’ve seen what look like legitimate headlines by Yahoo! News itself turn out to be completely misleading. That doesn’t even consider the amount of ‘articles’ in their lineup that lead to crap websites. So, say you are Mrs. Jones checking her email, you probably think Yahoo! is supposed to be a fairly truthworthy source to read something, and if you glance at a headline without reading the rest of the article, you might well believe that Michelle Obama assaulted someone. Yeah, I read that one yesterday. It seemed really real at first…until you read the article and realized it was a huge click-bait and was a total spin on not a story of Mrs. Obama assaulting someone. Very dubious and shoddy ‘journalism’. I’m afraid of *that* becoming more common.
Which brings me to a couple of quotes from the article at the top:
The Trump-Putin breed of celebrity authoritarianism operates on a crude double strategy—control the media you can, muddy the rest. The Russian disinformation campaigns are based not just on promoting the viewpoints that it wants promoted but by destabilizing entire systems of meaning.
The parameters of social-media conflict are difficult to grasp because Facebook posts seem irrelevant when compared to war or geopolitics—one is an online amusement, diversion, and sometime news source, while the other is life and death. But Marshall McLuhan predicted that the Third World War would be “a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation,” and that’s exactly what it has turned out to be. America seems more vulnerable than other developed countries to the kind of distortion that Facebook and Twitter bring to news and politics. Arguably, the social-media distortion affects America more profoundly than other countries because of the very specific, even unique, way that Americans make meaning. This gullibility is a consequence of the country’s ancient faith in self-determination as an all-encompassing guiding principle.
What’s being made abundantly clear is that even if you think you aren’t being swayed by some meme or ad on social media, constantly seeing something puts that inkling of doubt into your head. It’s probably also why people are so quick to use false equivalence (and its sibling “both siderism”) when trying to shift around blame, too. The real problem is how all of this is being used by a foreign government to infiltrate and disrupt another government, ours.
I guess, all of this has been building in my mind anyway, this need to slowly un-tether myself from various social medias, loosen the ties to my smart phone (I don’t have many apps on it, try to not use it all when I’m around a computer and can look things up on that, keep my phone on silent/vibrate, no notifications, keep my phone in my purse, etc etc.) and be a little bit more conscious. There are plenty of articles and research you can find showing the affects smartphones have on our brains—and that doesn’t even count what social media has done.
One final article by writer Cal Newport, Are you using social media or being used by it?
Just me here, thinking about the broader societal issues we’ve got these days.
+In My Head
I was folding laundry last night and had queued up my Jefferson Airplane station on Pandora and Buffalo Springfield came on with For What It’s Worth and as I was listening to the lyrics I thought, man, you could easily just transport that to the last couple of years and it would easily apply to current times. I guess Beyoncé is our protest music these days?
I may have binged season 2 of Stranger Things last weekend. And it was still just as good as season 1 and incredibly high on the 80s nostalgia. I recommend a good binge—it’s only 9 episodes so it doesn’t feel as drawn out as a 12-15 episode binge. Do it! BINGE!
Outlander….oh Outlander. I was really loving this season for the most part but I for the life of me cannot figure out how they are going to cram the rest of the book into the remaining episodes without screwing some things up. I was upset with this latest episode because they screwed with some things and that episode was the very first time I looked at Jamie and didn’t like him. Usually, despite his outlaw Highlander ways I could find a way to forgive him because he’s been dealt a bad hand, but how they wrote his character for the episode made it hard to empathize with him any longer. And they gave Claire some crappy lines. I have a lot of mixed feelings right now!
Big Bang Theory is going well this season. I was wondering why Bernadette was pregnant again but the actress is pregnant in real life so it worked as a plausible scenario. Still a good show!
This is Us has been bringing their A game as well but I don’t like where they are going with Kevin. Is this a treatise on the current opioid epidemic?? I just hope they don’t screw with that storyline too long.
Movie wise I found Miss You Already on Amazon Prime last night and really enjoyed it. I mean, Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette, not much wrong about that. I may have spent the last 30 minutes crying soooooo, get Kleenex if you watch it!
+Outside My Window
Currently it is raining but we needed a bit of the wet stuff as it has been a while. Last weekend was our first really chilly weather, down to the mid-30s, but the only thing I saw with any kind of damage was the sweet potato vines. They were volunteers anyway so I didn’t particularly care. Otherwise, we’re back to our typical seasonal weather of lows in the 50s and highs in the 70s or low 80s. My kind of weather!
I’ve been working on two crochet projects the last month but haven’t actively done much with them in the last week. The first project is going to be a ripple crochet rug for my studio using a backlog of acrylic stash yarn I have. The second is going to be a scarf, I think, with some yarn I bought on clearance recently. I need to get back to both of those projects this week as well as start some holiday crocheting soon.
+In The Garden
Honestly, I haven’t been doing as much in the garden and the recently cold weather has had me huddling inside. I’m also enjoying just letting autumn do its thing, letting the garden senesce a bit, and letting the leaf litter pile up a little. The leaves are good in the garden anyway as some extra winter protection. I do need to finish up mulching the edible garden paths and get back on getting the flower garden paths weeded so we can get a new layer of decomposed granite laid down.
I’m on the last chapter of What Happened. I have so many thoughts about this book and I’m debating whether it deserves its own blog post or keep it with my monthly reading wrap-ups. I honestly wish I had a copy of my own because there was so much I wanted to highlight. The best part about reading this book was it showed me that I really didn’t know a lot about Hillary. I mean, I knew about her, but life from her perspective, the very difficult life her mother had, and all sorts of things in between. Being as she was updating this with new information up until it was sent off to the publishers, there were some things in there that have obviously changed—like we’re managing to get somewhere with the collusion investigations with the indictments over the weekend.
Like I said, so much to process that I’ll have to come back with more later! Very much worth reading if you’ve been thinking about adding it to your to-read pile.
My friend Chel has been writing her Hurricane Irma story. She lives on Marco Island and due to some health issues with her husband was unable to leave the island. They chose to ride the storm out in her parent’s condo and hope for the best. Marco Island was incredibly lucky with the storm surge and unfortunately the more economically depressed area of Everglades City and Chokoloskee took the brunt of it. It was good to read her perspective, though!
I’ll be chomping at the bit for daylight in January but right now I’m loving that it is dark early. I’ve been doing some workouts and yoga in the evenings while Forest plays and I’m hoping I can start doing some studio time as well. Chris has been nursing a really bad upper respiratory infection the last week so I haven’t really had much off duty mom time so maybe I can get a little bit of that soon. Time change is this coming weekend so it will be dark even earlier and we’ll have to escape outside before dinner for a few minutes if we want that play time and garden time!
What’s up with you?
I feel like, no, I know, I did not take nearly as many photos this month of the garden. I’ve been out there fairly frequently but have never brought along the camera for extended periods of time to document anything. I know last month I mentioned being ready for things to slow down outside just a bit, and they certainly are. Weeds are finally not germinating nearly as much and I’ve been making slow but steady progress on getting mulch down on the edible garden path.
The mulch is coming from a now empty lot catty corner to our house. There used to be a house there until March of 2015 when it burned down. I can’t remember if I wrote about that or not, but Chris had gone to work a little early that day and Forest and I were still asleep and just waking up around 7am when I recall smelling bacon and eggs. I just figured my mind was playing tricks on me and didn’t think much of it. We went downstairs and I began getting Forest ready for daycare and on my way back up I peered out the porthole window in the stairwell and saw the house across the street burning down!
There was a truck in front of the house and I could see traffic beginning to scope things out so I didn’t bother calling the 911 because I knew our small community cops were likely already on their way. Instead I called my neighbor who lived directly across the street from the house and then called Chris. He came back home to make sure no one needed help with anything and then we went back to work. Thankfully no one was home but we did find out it was intentionally set and was drug related. Yeahhhh. Anyway, the city now owns the lot—it regularly flooded and they didn’t want anyone building on it again—and the lot has been used as a debris dumping area for when they do brush or tree removal around the city. Just so you understand, by city, under a typical circumstance this city would qualify as any kind of large subdivision development, so it isn’t a city in what you would typically think of. In fact we have zero commercial services within the bounds of the city—no gas stations, no shops, nada! Just homes.
Anyway, that pile of debris eventually got shredded last winter/early spring and has been sitting there for awhile. I asked Chris if he thought it was worth using for mulch on the paths and he thought it was fine so I called the city office up to make sure it was kosher with them and I’ve been wheelbarrowing mulch to the garden by the loadful at lunch the last week or so. I have a couple of areas to still work on removing weeds and cleaning up the leaf litter that had piled up but I’m hoping I can wrap it all up this weekend or early next week. Then, the garden will look a little nicer as we head into winter.
Speaking of winter, we may get a frost tomorrow night. It looks like it will get into the mid-30s here so we will be shuffling some plants in that will not enjoy that temperature. I brought the remaining monarch chrysalises inside to stay warm and took cuttings of my variegated Cuban oregano as well as made additional tropical milkweed cuttings. A lot of the plants on the potting bench that will need a little protection got shuffled under the chairs on the porch tonight and will be fine there at those temperatures. I’m kind of curious to see what gets hit back this weekend. We shall see!
It’s about time I start going through our seeds again and re-cataloging them and even looking to see what tomatoes I want to start in December. It’s never too early to plan for spring gardening—-February will be here before we know it!