It’s Butterfly Plant Season!

The first plants of 2021! Narrowleaf milkweed, sages, Ca fuchsia, yerba santa, sulphur buckwheat, maple+

I took my first delivery of butterfly plants today. I am excited to begin more intense work and for what is ahead of me this year. My plan is to make three to four large butterfly oasis (a collection of nectar plants and milkweeds) on the east side of the house within the large enclosed space.

This Spring, I am hoping to start the second part of my grant plan, which is to expand the plantings to other properties and provide technical support. A friend, Carolin, already asked about making butterfly plantings. With Ron Allen, UC Master Gardener and Mariposa Native Plants co-owner, I helped configure and select some of the best plants for her to use. She took her first delivery of plants today as well. She plans to make one butterfly oasis using 16 plants – ten milkweeds and six nectar plants. Carolin already has a number of plants in her garden that are butterfly friendly. Also, another friend, Caroline, will be expanding her existing butterfly planting by adding some showy milkweed. Caroline already has a phenomenal garden that is pollinator friendly with significant stands of narrowleaf milkweed.

Greening hills after the rain

The hills are beginning to green up with the continuous rain. We had some additional moisture this past week, but nothing on the scale of the storm the week before last. We had about 6/10ths of an inch. The sky has stayed cold and moody, which has helped the soil retain its moisture. The first wildflowers are beginning to show. First it was the sweet little white blooms that grow best on bare patches like the cattle road and trails. These blooms are already releasing their intoxicating, sweet smell. At their peak, the entire atmosphere is so thick with nectar that you can almost lick the air. Second, the small white flowers on top of the clover have been opening. And, finally, just today, I saw my very first blue dick bloom. I’ve seen the hillside filled with their sleek, slender, tall stems, but had not seen any hint of the purple bloom until today.

Every day I have looked for the a. Californica milkweed starts to make sure they are not being crowded out by the grass. Probably, given the many overcast days, the soil is not at the right temperature to communicate growth to the seeds and plants. I imagine when the sun shines more continuously, the grass will have a quick growth spurt. I may need to cut the grass in that area to give the a. Californica a chance.

The last couple of rains storms produced enough rain to fill all the rainwater tanks. I am now back up to 7,500 gallons stored. What a relief after missing out on all that gorgeous rain when the piping decoupled in four different areas. I think we will have a couple more large storms before the end of the rain season. I am going to attempt to install another 2,500 gallon tank on the north or east side.

While walking the ranch, I have seen so many wonderful birds. The great blue heron continues to bring excitement with his close to the house presence. I wish I could have gotten a good photo for you this weekend. He was perched on the enclosure fence, wet feathers and a grumpy look. There was blood on his massive, long beak. No doubt he had had a gopher meal. The warblers are back singing their warbler songs. Crows, ravens, vultures, harriers, kites, titmice, and of course, my dear friends, the super large red tail hawks – all join me from time to time on my walks. The red tails were riding the winds of the oncoming storm the other day allowing me to get closer photos with my cell camera. If I only had a telephoto lens and a recorder for their high pitched calls!

It has been beautiful here. The storms, combined with the still limited travel due to COVID-19 of autos and jets, continue to keep the air so incredibly clean. Not only does it make for healthy living things, but it makes for sensational photographs. I will end this blog with the beauty of Walappu’ ‘Uuchuthuu – Butterfly Home place.

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