Thursday, May 31, 2012

Where are the butterflies and bees?

Growing up in Illinois, I was privileged to witness not only migratory birds, but migrating Monarch butterflies.  They would literally cover the trees in a small park in Neoga - where I lived from age 6 to age 12. They would fan their wings slowly as they rested - and if it was quiet enough, you could actually hear the soft thrum of hundreds of thousands of fragile wings.  They only stayed for a day or so, then they were gone, on to Mexico and South America.  I'm told there are only a few who pass through now.

Tomorrow is June First.  It's been in the eighties and nineties here for weeks.  No bees.  Has anyone else noticed so few bees or butterflies?  Am I living in a no-fly zone?

I am concerned.  I know things have been blooming early, after the mildest winter in memory, but my flowers - including three large butterfly bushes are covered in colorful spikes of blossoms and yet I have seen not one butterfly.  Actually, I did see a small white sulfur (commonly known as a cabbage butterfly) today - but it was dead, just lying on the soil in my garden.
From last summer -Yellow Sulfur Butterfly on Russian Sage
I know bees are endangered by a disease that has devastated a great percentage of hives, but never before do I remember not seeing even one honeybee on the white clover that covers much of my lawn and pasture.  Last year I saw an increase in the bumblebee population humming and buzzing and defying the laws of physics as they pollinated the pear and plum trees as well as the clover, but I'm not seeing them either.  This is frightening.

This year's lilacs - saw only small insects, no honeybees.

Passion Flower - grows wild as a rather stringy survivor with a small bloom or two, but I've managed a huge mass of vines and flowers with just a bit of encouragement.  It seems to love the climbing rose that shelters it and vice-verso.
I don't use many chemicals - a bit of fire ant dust only on the mounds, and something to fight the borers that get in my lilac tubers. I'm very careful not to use sprays or insecticides that kill in a broad-spectrum manner, and I mostly use soap solutions on the few vegetables I grow and on the few flowers that need a little help. But I'm feeling that I'm not doing enough, so this year I'm going to establish more food and environment for a variety of butterflies. 

A couple of years ago, I asked one of my sisters to send me milkweed pods so that I might try to sustain a patch here.  So far, the plants haven't attained much size or flowered, and it may be too hot for it here, but I'll keep trying.  I know Monarch caterpillars love dill - so I'll grow that, too. Tulip Poplar is important for Tiger Swallowtails who also love Purple Loosestrife and Ironweed. All butterflies seem to love the bright orange Butterfly Weed that grows along roads.  I noticed that the highway department actually skips mowing these endangered wild flowers.  How cool - and unusual is that?

Russian sage - I'm hopeful this year's blooms will have visitors from the air.

And for comic relief - Elvis in his box...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

It was a virus!  Yay..  Three days dealing with "the public" and I am sick.  But that's the good news!

Well, not really yay - but it seems I was coming down with a cold when I posted last.  Bummer - but better than depression in general.  After three days of high doses of Emergen-C and lots of sleep, I am feeling more myself.  This cold comes with earaches and blocked Eustachian tubes. Ouchy.  Have you ever heard and felt your heartbeat in you ear canal?  Very weird.
Gracie the undignified...  This is just how I looked the past three days...
And now for a mystery.  Can anyone identify this plant?
Closeup of new shoot showing more color variation.
This is a plant I bought several years ago (on clearance, of course - I'm always buying plants that need rescuing.)  It's deciduous, and flowers in May or June.  You can see the small floral spikes forming here.  The leaf pattern is what attracted me to what was then a tiny little sprout.  It seems to thrive in the part shade by one of my sheds. 

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Yeah, okay - I fess up.

I think I might be depressed.  Not clinically gone.  Not even close to needing a shrink.  Definitely not in need of meds.  (Though a generic loritab - left over from my knee surgery - might offer a brief respite of I can clean the house in ten minutes kind of relief.)  Speaking of meds, what is it with narcotics anyhow?  I can't take codeine unless I want to vomit until I dry heave, I don't tolerate aspirin or ibuprofen or anti-inflammatories, so the only choice left for me in "painkillers" are narcotics.  Addictive!  And since I object to taking drugs due to logical, moral and health reasoning, it's ironic that I should enjoy those narcs so much that I have saved a few even though it meant toughing out some pretty bad leg pain.  I mean: I never even took acid or speed cause I like to be in control (of myself).  Given the proper excuse (head injury, broken bones, etc.,) drugs are, uh, okay.
I built this funky fence out of chair parts, wood turnings and left-over board and such.
I have a bit of fun adding seasonal decorations... do ya like my giant carrot headed bunny?
I'm stoic.  I tolerate pain very well.  I'm tough and I'm a survivor of four emergency room dashes, one of which included a speeding ambulance ride (fractured skull) to get there.  Another time I drove myself there with a broken shoulder - and I had a five speed stick shift!  One time I had keep from passing out long enough to prevent the hospital folk from cutting my custom made field boots off before I went for x-rays.   But that was all back when I rode fearlessly on unpredictable horses - and I was, of course, many years younger.  I bounced back.

Now I don't bounce so well.  The fall I took last September has permanently damaged my left knee, which was my best one (a horse having fallen on the right one - and I was once dragged by that right leg too on a horse named Lucky, of all things).  In a riding "accident,"  there is a kind of glory. There is pride in the retelling. Falling in a puddle of water on a cement floor is without glory.  There's only the mortification of knowing several people witnessed it and it was caught on video.  After seven months, surgery, cortisone shots and some kind of lubricant injections, not to mention crutches, cane and limping - and several weeks of physical therapy, my right knee and my right hip are now inflamed.   When I walk, I can't decide whether to limp right or left or just shuffle - kind of like Tim Conway as the old geezer.

Sigh.  I return to the awful part time job this week on "light duty".  This is literally adding insult to injury.
Spring.  Bloom.  Leaf.  Grow.
So, as my lack of postings here where I am normally wont to revel, wax poetic (about my kittehs) and philosophize  illustrates: I am rather down.  (Now that was a hard-to-read sentence!)

But I still have my sense of humor, my kitties and kittehs still amuse me, and my geriatric dogs and horses are doing tolerably well.  I'm even growing a bit of a garden. Soon there'll be tomatoes and sweet corn, potatoes and squash - and I picked my own greens grown from seed last eve for a stupendous salad. One needs things to look forward to even if one must create them.

My salad?

Black seeded simpson lettuce
bibb or buttercrunch lettuce
red leaf lettuce
black olives sliced
red seedless grapes
thin sliced baby carrots
celery bits (cause I need to use it up)
Vidalia onion (just a bit)

Balsamic vinegar (just a drizzle) and then ranch dressing on top...  Yum.

If you haven't tried grapes in your salad as a replacement for - or in addition to - tomatoes, please do so!

I feel better now.  Thanks for listening.  I think I'll plant some nasturtiums for a zesty salad addition!

Gracie.  Just look at her perfect eyeliner...