Wednesday, May 29, 2013


   Today, I have new butterfly eggs all over my fennel.  Those tiny cream colored balls are butterfly eggs.  Just like a bird or chicken egg, as the embryo matures, the egg will get darker because it's filling up with baby.  The mama butterfly does not lay her eggs in a nest.  She lays one here and one there, far enough apart that each little hatching caterpillar will  have plenty to eat and no competition for food as they grow.  In about a week, I'll have tiny baby caterpillars again, and I'm going to protect them from wasps and birds, if I can.
     This mama mockingbird has been staying very close to my front porch where my cats hang out.  She keeps making a warning sound.  I'm sure she's trying to distract all from her nest.  The nest is in a cedar elm tree very close by.  Today, I finally can hear the babies.  I love mockingbirds and they are our state bird.  (Mama mockingbird can rest easy about my cats.  If one of her babies hopped up to their mouth and jumped on their noses and chirped at them, I don't think they would know to grab it.  I think they would just be amused.)

     Anytime I turn on the camera, Charlie comes running and looks up at me.  So, I had to take a cutie pie photo of him.  Last time I had his teeth cleaned, he lost two front teeth so, now he's snaggletoothed.  But, still very, very cute!
       Today, I went to my favorite nursery, Shades of Green, to spend my birthday money. I love cosmos and pentas.  They are both butterfly flowers.  And, I got two of the old fashioned hot pink phlox.  I really love them and they are butterfly flowers, too.  I'll get these in the ground in the next few days.  Hopefully, before the heat sets in, again.  But, the recent rains have really cooled things off, for now.

Monday, May 27, 2013


     Today, I've been checking my fennel to see if there are new butterfly eggs.  None, yet.  And, I've been wondering how the butterfly knows not to lay anymore eggs on a plant that already has eggs or small caterpillars.  I've noticed that, before.  Once there are eggs and hatched babies, you don't see any new eggs.  There are several butterflies at one time in my yard every day, but they don't go to that plant.  How does she know not to crowd a host plant?

     Yesterday, when I was walking Charlie, I heard a commotion in the sky.  Three large black grackles were chasing a hawk and squawking at him.  Either, the hawk got too close to their nest or he was trying to get to the babies.  But, it was interesting to watch.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


The good news is, I saw my first monarch butterfly today.  It was drinking nectar from the butterfly weed.  It looks like a newly hatched monarch.  The ones that wintered in Mexico are usually tattered and worn out by the time they get here.  On their way back to the states, they start laying eggs along the way.  I think this beautiful one is a second generation monarch.  If you ever get the chance to watch the flight of the monarchs story, it is amazing.  A butterfly doesn't live very long.  But, the ones that travel thousands of miles to winter in Mexico live several months, just so they can travel thousands of miles to come back to their summer homes and keep the species going.  They lay eggs along the way, before they die.

Chicadees are some of my favorite birds.  They are so tiny and so, so cute with cute personalities.  They're friendly and come close to where I am in the yard and just chatter and I think they're talking to me and I talk back.  They're clingers and it's so cute how they jump to the next branch and swing upside down to eat the bugs or seeds or whatever they're after.  Sooo cute!!  The little chickadee in the photo was jumping around and I got the best photo I could.
So, the sad news is...I went over to check my little black swallowtail caterpillars and saw two paper wasps hovering around the fennel and they had eaten everyone of those little caterpillars.  So many people save and allow the paper wasp nests to exist because they want perfect foliage and to keep caterpillars out of their vegetable gardens.  I'm certainly not one of those people!!  I want all of the caterpillars that can grow in my garden.  I will discourage any wasp nests I see around my yard.  But, I have so much foliage and so many bird houses that I can't always find the nests.  I just have to watch around the yard to see the wasps going in and out of something and that's how I know where the nest is and I get rid of it.
Oh, well!!  There will be more caterpillars and I will watch very carefully for the paper wasps and their nests.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Every weekend, I listen to (Bob Webster, Shades of Green) the organic gardener on the radio.  He says there are certain very desirable plants that we should have in our gardens.

Butterfly weed (asclepias) is one of those plants.  They're especially good because the monarch butterfly lays her eggs on them and they are host plants for the monarch butterfly caterpillar.
And, they're also good because they attract beneficial insects to your garden.  You will, nearly, always find aphids on butterfly weed.  And, the aphids attract beneficial lady bugs.  The lady bugs lay their eggs on the plant and their larvae eat the aphids.  This happened to me, just a few days ago.  I had seen the aphids and was hoping for lady bugs and, here you go!  I found this little lady bug on the stem, yesterday.  She was being very still and I bet she was laying eggs.
(Aphids are the tiny cream colored specks you see on the back of the leaf  on the right.)

A few weeks ago I planted a pot of fennel, parsley and other herbs.  I planted the fennel and parsley  for the black swallowtail butterfly to lay her eggs.  They are host plants for the black swallowtail larvae.  Yesterday, when I took this photo, it was almost dark and you can't see the caterpillars too well.  I'll take better photos when the sun comes out.
But, I want to tell you that, last night and this morning we had some very hard rains and got 9" of rain.
I was wondering if the tiny caterpillars had been washed away.  Finally, when it stopped raining, I went out and there they were!!  I can't imagine how they held on through all of those hours of constant, sometimes really hard rain.
Yesterday, I counted 14 black swallowtail butterfly caterpillars on the fennel and I'm sure there were even more.  They will eat until it's all gone.  Nothing left to eat, so they will head out to weave their cocoons.  In a couple of weeks, I'll be watching for newly, out of the cocoon black swallowtail butterflies.

            So beautiful!!

Saturday, May 18, 2013


     When I'm looking out of my kitchen window, I can see most of my backyard.  I have birdhouses everywhere and can see what's happening with lots of them.
     This birdhouse and this nest are right by my window and the little wrens just love both of them.  I'm guessing they think they're safe and are protected from rain.  Every year, I put more moss in the hanging basket, just to keep it going.

     Yesterday, I saw a larger dark bird flying in and sticking it's head in this birdhouse, checking it out and then she went over to the hanging basket and went all the way into the hole and then came out.  
At first, I thought she was going after babies. 


Then, I realized she was a female brown-headed cowbird.  They don't build nests, they lay eggs in other birds' nests and leave their baby for whatever parents to raise.  There were no active nests here, so she moved on.
But it did remind me of  something I witnessed a couple of summers ago.  I kept seeing a tiny wren feeding a very large baby that, obviously, was not her's.  At that time, I figured it must be one of Mrs. Brown-Headed Cowbird's babies.  It was very, very cute to watch that little wren feed that baby and that huge baby seem to NEVER have enough.  It kept squawking and that sweet little wren just kept running back and forth feeding it.
What a good little mommy she was! 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


      I'm painting kitchen cabinets in a home that is under construction.  The supervisor is a kind of tough, cowboy type.  He just moved to a new house and he said the birds were pooping on his truck, so I suggested he cut the limb where the birds were sitting.  I said, before you cut the limb, please make sure there's no bird nest.  This morning, he told me that he had a ___ of a time, cutting the limb.  There was a nest with three eggs in it and he said he nearly killed himself cutting the area where the nest was and attaching/wedging it into another area on the tree.  It was so funny when he was telling me about it, but was so sweet and I told him so!!

Monday, May 13, 2013


     The weather has been so nice and cool, but warm some days.  I didn't realize that several of my plants in my flower garden had spider mites.  The leaves were looking white spotted and weren't as green as they should be.  So, tonight I sprayed all of my tender plants with organic liquid seaweed.  Liquid seaweed toughens the leaves of your plants, so they're not so easy for the spider mites to destroy.  I'm so glad I noticed the plants had a problem, because they would eventually weaken and die.
      Liquid seaweed is, also, nutrient rich and so good for your plants.
      I love cherry tomatoes and they're so easy to grow.  I have a very healthy cherry tomato plant in the middle of one of my flower beds and I sprayed it really well, too.
      The mixture is two tablespoons to one gallon of water.  I poured it in a quart spray bottle that I got from Lowes and went around spraying everything.  I'll try to remember to spray everything every couple of weeks.

Liquid Seaweed 0-0-1Improves Plant Strength - for Lawn & Garden
"A standard in foliar feed programs.  Contains nutrient rich North Atlantic Sea Kelp.  Considered the best and most complete mixture of trace elements for plant and animal life."

Saturday, May 11, 2013


     Today, as I was looking out of my kitchen window, I saw the limbs of my orange esperanza moving and I watched very closely.  I knew it was a bird and by the way the limbs were moving, I could tell it wasn't a small bird.  Then, I saw him!!  An orchard oriole was visiting my yard, again.


     When birds are migrating during the fall, I always see lots of them in my yard, just in front of cold fronts.  I always wonder if the wind is moving them, or if the atmosphere is pushing them along.
     In the spring, I rarely see migrating birds, but this spring I've seen quite a few.  Maybe, because of the late cold fronts and the unusual weather we've been having.  Whatever the reason, I've loved seeing them in my yard, again.