The Smoke Cleared and Then…

Lilac blue butterfly – wow!

Last week a trough of low pressure came through the area. This pushed the smoke elsewhere. The changes at the ranch were immediate. In addition to clean air for my lungs, there were pollinators everywhere. My father decided to go for a drive the day the smoke cleared and stopped by (Of course, we followed physical distancing requirements and stayed outside). To have him stretch his legs, I took him on a tour of all the butterfly plants and blooms. As we got to the end of the patio, we saw the first group — a swarm or kaleidoscope of small, lilac-blue butterflies!!! They fluttered all around me as I walked through their nectar sources. I was overcome with surprise and joy – so much so, I nearly fell to my knees. My dad chuckled and asked if I was ok, and I said “I really did it. I created a home for butterflies!” All this work paid off. They are here. Maybe not the monarchs, but these beautiful little ones are here!

Butterflies eating or resting. So pretty!

We kept walking, and there were more and more. I couldn’t count them. These little ones seemed to like the dove weed, aster, butterfly bush and the blooms on my stevia herb plant. They were fluttering around the milkweed too. Their coloring was extraordinary, with a bar of orange with black spots just on the end of each wing. In addition to the small lilac-blues, there were the white and bluish sulphur butterflies. I was overjoyed.

Fortunately, they stayed several days, and I was able to collect myself to get the images seen on this blog and one decent video of a couple butterflies fluttering about on the stevia. Here it is, and enjoy these 36 seconds of pure Zen. Sadly, the smoke rolled back in, and the butterflies were gone.

Other Amazing Things

Garter snake – a good friend to the garden and gardener!

The land seems healthy. We have seen snakes, lizards, tarantulas, song birds of all sorts and frogs. There was even a falcon battle in the front yard. The animals are not being shy, which means there is plenty to eat, plenty of habitat, enough space between all of us, and they are feeling comfortable to make a life here.

The marigolds are finally fully in bloom. It took a while, but the smell is lovely, and the sight of their sweet blossoms – beautiful. The sunflowers are fully open and are so joyful. If it was not for the smoke ebbing and flowing, the scene would be a daily respite.

Branch Protection Works

Grass grows where the branches are. Far less grass where there are none (apologies for the blur)

Some notes from Sites 7 and 8: You can really see the difference where we placed branches and where there are none. The cattle has not grazed the branch areas as heavily. This gives me an idea for protecting the creek, which I will vet with the biologists.

I also noticed a mass of aphids (the orange spots) on the narrowleaf milkweed. I have some at Site 9, but only on one milkweed. The aphids do not seem to prefer the showy or woolly pod plants. According to Ron, my native plant vendor, they shouldn’t hurt the plant. Besides, we are nearing the dormant period. It is good that something gets some use from them, since the monarchs did not make it here this time.

Aphids on the narrowleaf milkweed – Site 8

Getting Close to the End of the Season

Rubber boots are shot

We have just one big planting to go before we are at the end of the season. My back is sore, the skin on my fingers cracked, and my boots are completely worn out. It is not a complaint, but a sign that it has been a productive seven months. Just for that one swarm of butterflies…it is all worth it. I think next year will be even better. I just need to get the next set of plants in the ground so we have more early bloomers ready to go for February. Oh, and if anyone has some recommendations on a really good brand of rubber boots, please share them with me. I hope I will need them soon (read: need rain).

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