Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Sucked and the Success


The very excellent news is my butterfly project, growing Monarch Butterflies has been a rousing success. I took this shot just a few minutes ago and I'm excited to continue monitoring the chrysalises that hang from the house the plants and every which where.

update


When I came home from a vet appointment I checked again!


  So I looked and found anther getting ready to emerge.







 
she rocks back and forth to dry her wings


This is taking place just outside my door on a cactus planter.


Isn't nature miraculous!!

The suckie news is this blog may be vanishing simply because I can't for the life of me or my husband or my son figure out how to keep my domain name through google. They sent me the most convoluted email I had ever received, go here, go there, password this, that, an old email I have not used for several years. So if you find Along the Trail has turned into a porn site or a place selling shoes, I thought I'd tell you why.

I may set up a new one but for now, I'm just going to let technology take its course. Thank you all for joining me along this trail and for you kind comments and support throughout the years, I really have appreciated you!


Happy trails to you!
xo Ro b.r. (butterfly rancher)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Chrysalis in July


I am thrilled beyond words to be finding gorgeous chrysalises dotted here and there now, around the garden.



When the larvae are in this state, no longer active, quiet and seemingly lifeless, it takes but a few short hours…


 to turn into this. These are nearly impossible to find even though they are about an inch in length. They blend so well with the vegetation they can vanish in front of your very eyes. Who needs a Christmas tree when you can have a butterfly bush! My only regret is that I didn't just sit there to watch it unfold with my eyes, maybe I'll be luckier in the future.


In about 10 days time butterflies should emerge. THIS is EXCITING!!!

Thank you for staying tuned to the Butterfly channel, xo Ro

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Butterfly Project Update

 

The butterfly project has exceeded all of my expectations. I planted 11 milkweed plants in order to supply the Monarch Butterfly population with food and a place to lay eggs, just doing a little crumb of a my part to help bolster their ever dwindling populations. I also did it to see if it would be successful and for my own curiosity. 

*laying eggs


 The plants started out quite pretty and soon they were populated with small caterpillars…


who grew and grew ( their munching is sometimes audible like if you click your thumbnail and middle fingernail, try it :)


They were stripping the plants bare then they'd move to the next and the next one was already hosting a number of them.


I can't help but think of the Walking Dead, these little crawlers are like zombies moving slowly and devouring.

Things I have observed and questions I hope to solve..

Our lizards get excited when they see them but they must know the caterpillars are filled with toxic milkweed because they don't want to eat them. I'm not sure about the birds. 

I'm not planting any more weeds this year, in the wild they are but dotted on the hillsides so I'm going to see if they can recover.

The larvae have eaten all the fresh seeds and pods from the African plant causing it I would think not to be able to procreate. Our native milk weed develops seeds much later in the season.

I'm thinking once all the vegetation is gone the caterpillars will move to the trees and bushes and begin the next part of the cycle which is another reason I'm limiting the supply.




This one already has!!!! How wonderful is this!!!



Mama was back today laying eggs on the twigs. Next year I will plant more milkweed. If you live here in CA the best time to install native plants is in the fall. It's no too late though to add some to your garden, I suggest you add more than you might think.





I think the spiders are getting jealous, I had never thought to dust the mobile since I never saw the dust by the light of the day……look!…….spider art…..I sort of love that they are getting into the act!

Happy summer flitting to you, my friends!
Love, Ro

Monday, June 30, 2014

Casa Mariposa



I don't know what it took me so long…I've vowed to do this every summer and haven't followed through until this fall when I started collecting native milkweed plants. The plant pictured above is not our native but a native to tropical Africa (Asclepias Curassavica) it's a pretty plant and it seems to be visited by a host of pollinators, it also grows redily in our climate but I'm always strongly on the side of planting native species, particularly if you are planting weeds being that some plants can easily escape their boundaries and become invasive, crowding out the things that should be growing then becoming a problem so you might want to do a little research. I think this one needs too much water to get a foothold but I will most likely just remove them when the season is over.



We all know by now, the Monarch Butterflies are in trouble and I'm not going to go into a Debbie Downer litany here, I'm only going to say, if you plant the weed, they will come…..



and you will enjoy visiting your own project,


and taking a count each day of how many hungry caterpillars are munching away and you may even glimpse the "King of butterflies" (though it will be the queen) flitting about, laying eggs for a new batch.

*Even if milkweed abounds in the ditches where you are, you might want to invite some to live close to you so you can keep watch at the lovely summer events taking place.


I started growing butterflies in my studio, I'm having a blast making them and a moth, a bit of silver entomology …… now just what to do with them……brooch, pendant, ring?


Many hours later, one pretty cuff with three insects to go..


Who know's what will be next?

Flitting in the wind, Ro

Friday, June 27, 2014

San Francisco


Last week I took an impromptu trip to San Francisco. My girlfriend called and told me she wanted to go visit her grandson and family and I asked who she was going with. "I'm calling to see if you want to go?" "Okay when?" "Tomorrow" she relied……ah okay. So I quickly tied up loose ends and we met to figure out just which mode of transportation to take…


 We opted on the train up California's central valley where all your nuts are grown, ( pun intended) hour after hour of pecans, walnuts, pistachios wizzed by.


I have to say I loved taking the train, I read and slept and looked out the window at the dry hillsides…


 and sometimes bodies of water so large it felt like we were on a ship. I looked in the ditches at the blackbirds and marsh birds, herons and egrets as we clickty clacked our way north.


We stayed in a comfortable Victorian apartment three stories up and off the main street,


 where it was surprisingly quiet just about a block away from the hustle and bustle.


We stayed in the Mission District so naturally we visited The mission. This one is called The Mission San Francisco de Asis, but is mostly referred to as the Mission Dolores.


This mission was the 6th in the chain of California missions, founded in 1776 by Father Serra.
As with all California missions, it is Spanish in style, having been the decision by the King of Spain at the time to build them and civilize the native people. grumble, grumble  All politics aside, the missions are beautiful, I'm sure their *mission was sincere but I can't get over how we forced ourselves on this country.

I happen to be reading Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder by Kent Nerburn. If you haven't read it you might want to, it's very interesting and enlightening.


I love this statue of Father Serra  out in the garden/cemetery, really the most sincere part of the mission. He looks reflective, a pose perfectly in tune with the setting.


A pirate perhaps!


Next stop Golden Gate Park and the Conservatory of Flowers an amazing Victorian, wooden greenhouse with an absolutely stunning array of tropical plants.



Hundreds of, orchids in every form and color colud be discovered hanging, trailing and clinging…


in a most artful and beautifully arranged display.


Strange and VERY strange plants stared out from every crevice and corner.


Carnivorous pitcher plants, just waiting to close their traps..



Some kind of death flower, I can't remember if it was an orchid…..these oddities abounded, I loved this place, the collection was remarkable.


bromeliads, tillandsias, waterlilies ferns


Hanging pitchers…. The plants are cup shaped to collect water and detritus in order to lure their prey. One of them had a sticky sweet  substance around the rim that looked like mildew to attract small birds who liked to eat it, the bird subsequently eliminated in the cup and the plant was fed. Nature never ceases to astound!



Plant ladies :)



Next stop, de Young Museum…. there was a Modernism show in the main gallery we decided to pass on it but we did go up the tower which is free and it gives a 360 degree view of the city.

I love this shot of the man who never stopped washing the windows and the little girl who never stopped adding her hand prints. He looks armed and I wondered if he wanted to spray her and just get it over with :)


The iconic bridge in the fog..



 I looked into The Japanese Tea Garden but there are so many wonderful gardens to explore it's hard to choose…..we skipped it and decided on the less formal arboretum. What an alluring tree though, if we had more time, I'm sure we would have been easily seduced!


The arboretum was wonderful, I've never seen such a collection of impatiens. It is too sunny and dry here to grow this African native that seemed completely happy growing by the bay.



We walked for hours, and it felt good, we looked at a rather rangy collection of California natives way out on the perimeter of the huge garden, the matilija poppies were about 8 feet tall, swaying and fluttering in the in the wind like Spanish dancers in ruffly, white skirts.


I spied a Night Heron hunting by the light of day….



A strange and beautiful bird that blended so well people stopped and asked what I was photographing.


He moved on the water like an automaton, ever so slowly lifting a foot closing the toes and without so much as a ripple, gently taking a step, thi chi style.


A sudden quick stab at the water and dinner!


Oh, and there was the baby, the delightful baby and his wonderful parents. We even got to babysit for a few hours one night, it was lovely!


Thank you for visiting, I'm sure many of you have visited San Fran, we had a lovely stay but it's always nice to be back home.

I visited my stone guy yesterday and I have itchy fingers, I'm looking forward to studio time! We are tending milkweed in our home garden " The Butterfly Project" as we're calling it and so far it is a booming success, more on that later.

Wishing you all a joyful summer!

Love, Ro