Flowers really are the manifestation of happiness. All one needs to do is look at, and sometimes smell, a bright, beautiful bloom to make their level of joy increase. The blooms are also a sign that the plant is settled in and growing. Plant happiness is a constant worry of mine. When you spend a great deal of time, sweat and financial resource, added to -oh, the fate of the monarch butterfly – you desperately want the plantings to succeed. In fact, the western monarchs should be beginning their migration south from Canada/Idaho/ Eastern Washington this month. Having blooms on the plants means there is a’woo’atea (butterfly food) available to them if they choose to stop here on their way back to the coast.
In the first row, third image, you will see what is widely considered a weed, prickly lettuce. It is in bloom. I want the availability of the nectar, so do not pull them. Even if this plant will not interest the monarchs, it will provide food for other pollinators, and may decrease competition for monarch food. I also care about the survival of all pollinators. To gain more nectar, I “cheated”. I planted two non-native butterfly bushes (bottom right photo). The other times the monarchs were here, I had a large butterfly bush. I decided that this is an “all hands on deck” moment for the monarchs, and having a sure favorite would increase their ability to refuel. Most of the plants are natives, and will adapt to this place well providing a food source for years to come. Diversity is key to survival.
I began my short course on monarchs through Monarch Joint Venture this past week. It is an 8-week course filled with a variety of data on monarchs. I am hoping to learn more about the migration and how my project can do the most to effectively help.
Sometimes “Full Sun” Really Needs Shade
I noticed last month that the carpenteria was looking very droopy and yellow. Further back in this blog I discussed using a tomato cage and shade cloth to provide this sun-loving plant with some shade. With the wind, the tomato cage was not sturdy enough to stay in place. I tried a number of configurations, but nothing worked. The other day, I made a shade structure with t-posts, wire, and shade cloth. I pounded the posts into the dirt well past the t-braces so the posts would have better strength. The structure predominantly shades the plant from the south sun and allows for east and west exposure. So far, it is holding despite the afternoon wind. Most importantly, although it does not look like it in the photo above, the carpenteria is much happier.
A New Tool
I will be obtaining an electric ATV soon. It is supposed to be delivered in a couple weeks. I will be using this for water and supply delivery to the far off sites. My fear of starting a grass fire compelled me to look for another solution. The Gorilla Cart is 1/2 of that solution. This will be the cart that gets hooked up to the back of the ATV. David performed an exhaustive search to figure out the best quality for the best price. This unit has a dump-truck feature as well as a convertible handle that goes from hand pull to a pin hitch. It is stable with four wheels – and so far I love it! We had to put it to good use last weekend. Our nephew borrowed the truck, and we had to figure out another way to water. I enlisted the help of David, and together we pulled 25 gallons of water from the rainwater tank to Site 8 and the deer grass site. It took much longer than with the truck, but the cart proved its worth.
We are definitely mid way through the summer. As I was walking the ranch taking advantage of the cooler weather, I saw the acorns beautifully developing on the branches. I saw insect cocoons, like blisters, on oak leafs, juvenile raptors soaring, calling out with their not quite mature calls, and buckeye trees with shriveled leaves making way for lustrous seed pods. The larger creek on the mid section of the ranch, though moist with limited flow, was filled with life. Blooms and new willow tree saplings, blue birds and doves were abundant. I disturbed a falcon and an owl from their high tree branches, their beauty nearly bringing me to my knees. I smelled warm wood and a sweet medicine there in the creek.
On my way back to the house, I observed small flecks of hay, like a trail of breadcrumbs, from the meadow toward the pond. My cattleman is back. He dropped off an elder bull the other day, and lured the bull’s aging, hulking frame to an ample water supply where he can amble and wallow and not have to go too far. The flecks shook me from my rapture. The cows will be back soon. I need to get that darned fence done.