Caterpillar Update

It’s been a little over a week, and Mr. C’s Monarch caterpillars have more than doubled in size.  Here’s a photo from This past Thursday. 

As of this morning, they’re all in the process of creating cocoons, attaching themselves to either sticks that we added to rhe habitat, or directly to the bottom of the cardboard cover that we put on the habitat.  And by ‘habitat’ I mean a wire mesh tradh can with a piece of cardboard on top!  Next, they will then be transformed into Monarch butterflies. 

Here’s a photo of some of them on the cardboard, kind of creepy looking.  

I had to be careful not to disturb them so I could just lift the lid up a few inches to take the photo.  

When I first moved here, fifteen years ago, there would at least be a few Monarch’s around our stand of milk weed in the Fall, but I haven’t seen very many at all lately.  This year I haven’t seen any, except for the ones Mr C has.  Hopefully in the next few weeks, we’ll have some to let out to make their way down to Mexico.

First Pet

We have a lot of milkweed in the backyard. It can spread and take over areas quickly, so I used to pull it all out. Ms J told me that milkweed is the only thing that Monarch butterflies eat, so I stopped pulling it all out, letting most of it grow to maturity.

Here’s some milkweed mixed in with the flowers next to my neighbor’s garage. It’s the tall leafy plant in back of the purple flowers.


Mr C loves learning about plants, bugs, and animals, so for his birthday he received a milkweed plant in a box.  The plant was covered by a mesh netting in the box.


The netting was over the plant to protect the twenty or so Monarch caterpillars on the plant. The company that sends them out wants to raise awareness of the dwindling number of Monarchs, mostly due to loss of habitat caused by development and people pulling out milkweed. 

The only thing we could think of to put the plant in for a temporary habitat is this wire mesh trashcan!  We’re gathering branches from the milkweed in the backyard for them to eat.


Eventually the caterpillars will turn into Monarch butterflies, we’ll release them and hopefully they will mysteriously fly off to the one spot in Mexico where all Monarch butterflies migrate to.

We plan on getting Mr C a dog at some point, but for the next two or three weeks his first pet will be Monarch butterfly caterpillars.

Take a picture Dada!  he says.

Here is what one looks like on Day Two, already much bigger. 

Compost

This past Spring we bought a compost bin.  It’s about four feet tall, three feet wide.  Fill it up with any kind of plant material that you’d usually just throw away, such as apple cores, banana peels, grass clippings and leaves.   


And then, about six months later, you have some rich organic soil for the garden.   

Mystery Solved

Back in June, I wrote a post (here’s the link to it) about how our back yard has been regularly visited by some mystery animal that has been digging fairly large holes in the lawn.

One day last week, I was having trouble sleeping, so I went downstairs to make a sandwich.  It was about 2:00 am, and while making the sandwich I noticed some movement in the backyard. Taking a look out the window, I saw a slinky white and gray animal, which seemed to be about two feet long, very close to the ground, digging in the lawn.  In the darkness, it had an eerie ghostly look to it as it dug in the lawn.  It took me a few minutes to figure it out, but from the color and the distinctive long tail, I’m fairly certain that it was an opossum.   After about five minutes or so, it wandered away, under a bush and then probably under the fence.

Opossums dig in the dirt to look for grubs and any other bugs to eat.  They may hiss and bare their teeth, but they’re harmless overall.  I’ve never seen one in the wild, and I didn’t know that New Hampshire was anywhere near their range so I was surprised to see it.

A few years ago, a photo of a “Found Cat – Not Very Friendly” poster circulated on the internet.  The poster included a photo of an opossum in a cage, which the person who found had thought was a not very friendly cat.

It was too dark to get a photo, especially since I only had my smart phone with me which doesn’t take very good photos with low light anyway.  So if anyone doesn’t know what an Opossum looks like, here’s  a stand in from Mr. C’s hand puppet collection.

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Planet of the Heleniums

Planet of the Heleniums

In past years I would write a few posts about the garden, but not this year, I just haven’t been able to spend much time gardening this year.  Unfortunately, what has happened due to this lack of gardening time is that the clump of helenium that I planted about 15 years ago has taken over the garden.  Helenium is a perennial flower with medium sized daisy-like flowers.  They bloom for months and spread, spread, spread everywhere.

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There’s 30 or so other perennials in the garden, but you can’t see them, they’ve been crowded out by the heleniums.  I usually have a few more of these red lilies , but not this year.   The common name is sneezeweed.   Hmmm… this probably explains Mr. C’s frequent sneezing since they’ve started blooming.

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Doesn’t matter if it’s not a sunny area either, they can insert themselves everywhere.  They’re native to the area, so at least they’re not an invasive species.

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There’s three rose bushes in the picture below… somewhere.

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They’ve moved to the neighbor’s yard too.

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And down the street, about a block away, on the sidewalk.

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At least, I’ve seen a lot more birds in the yard this year, like orioles and finches,  which are not uncommon here but there has been a noticeable increase of these and other birds.  Also,  they look good in a bouquet.

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Sorry, little tree!

Mr. C planted a tree late last year, I think it was a Japanese Maple seedling.

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To try to help make sure it survived the snowy winter, I made a little triangle shaped wooden shelter for it.  I’m sure that the shelter helped since we had a record 110″ of snow this past year, and without the shelter it would have been crushed.   It was also just a few feet from our driveway and since I had to put the snow that I shoveled from the driveway somewhere,  the little shelter ended up being completely covered by up to fifteen feet of snow at the height of the winter snow.

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Once all the snow melted, it seemed to be doing fine in the early Spring, (sorry, no photo of the tree in the Spring, but it did have nice foliage at first) , but soon all of the leaves withered away and fell off.    Since then, the tree has completely withered away and died.

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I checked some gardening websites, and apparently Japanese Maples are fickle when they are this young.  Most likely all that melting snow waterlogged its roots and killed it.

Mr. C was not upset at the time, but now when he passes the spot  he says; ‘That’s where the tree used to be.”.

He’s looking around for another seedling to try too.

 

 

What’s digging in our yard ?

I’ve noticed that some kind of animal has been digging in our back yard.  Not so unusual for New Hampshire, there’s always lots of small animals around during the Summer.  The strange thing is that whatever kind of animal it is has been digging in the same exact spot every night.

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Every morning I go out to the backyard and fill in a hole that is about six inches deep.  There is a spray of soil around the hole that has been scattered up to a foot or so away from the hole.  It is always in the same place in the grass in the backyard.

Then, sometime during the night, whatever it is comes back and digs the hole again.  This has been happening just about every night this month.

Is it a squirrel with a very good memory, looking for a nut that was buried last Fall ?   Or maybe it is a squirrel that just thinks that it has a very good memory, and there never really was a nut there anyway ?   Or maybe a determined skunk, searching for what he thinks must be a horde of grubs hiding somewhere deep under the lawn ?  If I don’t keep filling it in every morning, will it get deeper and deeper every day  ?

Mr. C thinks it’s something digging out, not digging in.  Maybe he’s right.