Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wind and waves, tents and campfires

Sometimes it's time to put everything on hold and head to the lake...what a rejuvinating get-away.  Windy dunes, warm waves, cool breezes, cozy campfires, long shadows, starry nights, and time for our family to connect together outdoors away from our busy homestead, to-do lists and summer projects.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Summer solstice monarch hatches!

Our monarch butterfly hatched just in time to see the sun rise on the first day of summer.  We had noticed over the previous days that the chrysalis was changing from bright green to darker green and almost black, and then the monarch wing pattern started to be visible inside (the chrysalis was actually transparent when the butterfly emerged).  On solstice we spent the early morning hours hardly leaving our back porch as we watched the monarch emerge from its chrysalis, unfurl and exercise its new wings, clamber from branch to branch on the milkweed and sticks we had provided nearby, then climb briefly onto our hands for a goodbye, try a small test flight upto our apple tree and then fly off with the breeze. This whole process took about 3 hours.  Beautiful, awe-inspiring, and a wee bit sad to see our friend go.  We learned that it takes monarchs four generations to make the entire flight to Mexico where many will overwinter.  What an epic relay-race that butterfly journey is.  So we needed to explain to our daughter that although this monarch will never return, we look forward to hosting it's great-great-great-great....grandchildren next summer.

This Moment

{This moment} - This moment - an end of week ritual, no words, just a special photo to remember, savour, enjoy.  (playing ukelele to the monarch butterfly)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

This week - gardens, harvests, pies, hammocks

Delicious fresh new and exciting garden harvests this week as the summer season is now nearly upon us...juicy ripe strawberries, sweet snow peas, wild grape leaves, braising greens, and the last of our  asparagus and rhubarb, radishes, turnips...yumm!  Our new patches of blackberries, heirloom raspberries and high bush blueberries have been planted in our new permaculture berry garden (near the wild planted mulberry, in the forgotten part of our yard that we are trying to reclaim now that all the construction projects on the house are completed), and it feels like for once we are almost caught up on garden tasks - almost, except for the compost spreading, mulching, weeding, watering...And the tomatoes are flowering!   We couldn't help ourselves - there are 110 tomato plants in our various gardens and containers this year - what will tomato harvest look like??  I'm dreaming of sauces, salsa, drying, roasting, and lots of fresh eating.  Oh, there is so much ambition at this time in the season.

The local CSA (community supported agriculture) pick up has started again in our neighbourhood, so we are back to baking organic wholegrain breads, organic fruit pies, and other baked treats each week for the members.  So thankful for the outdoor cob oven on hot hot days like this one, when baking bread indoors would not feel possible.

At the end of the day, we find time to relax in the hammock with a good book - well, the youngest one here loves reading there even more than the rest of us...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Monarch caterpillar arrives

This past weekend we had a thoughtful and surprising gift dropped off at our house - a monarch caterpillar nearly ready to pupate, which neighbours could not keep as they were going on holiday.  We've watched caterpillars transform into butterflies here before (a black swallowtail last year), but were more than happy to host this monarch and watch it's process.  It ate milkweed for two days (you need to feed it fresh plants every day and clean out the frass, aka poo), then started to climb the stick we had left in the large jar, and today formed it's chrysalis.  Now we wait 7-10 days to see it hatch into a monach butterfly.  Good instructions for caring for various butterflies are here at Butterfly School


Bug hotel

We've had this project on the list for a while now - building a "bug hotel".  In a way it's funny to create a bug "habitat" when really there is a wide array of insect habitat in the entire yard (pollinator-attracting plants, the pond, lots of old logs, tall grasses, compost pile, soil, brush piles, rocks, etc).  However, the bug hotel allows you to create one visual place that will attract a variety of beneficial insects for viewing in one location, and it's a great project to build with kids.  There are many beautiful design ideas out there for this kind of project - we suggest using materials you have on hand for the structure, and filling it with all manner of found natural objects (pinecones, bark, dried sticks, hollow sticks and plant stalks, old clay pots, burlap, rocks, clay bricks, logs with holes drilled in, etc).  You can include flowering pollen and nectar-rich plants, or locate the bug hotel near a flower or herb garden to help attract insects.  Then sit back and watch what will come.  Have your kids create a bug logbook to record what they discover.