Webby Garden

Even though I slept late, 9 is late to me, the garden had saved many tiny, dewy spiderwebs that needed my attention.

I was quickly distracted by the four ridiculous caterpillars testing their fates against global warming and climate change.

There were some puffballs growing. My potting bench has sprouted shrooms! I literally treat the wood every summer. How can there be room for the shroom?

Fall is complicated. Much of the garden is on its way out, but there are other things taking over. The neglected thunbergia has sent feelers across the patio and the morning glory is strangling the butterfly bush.

Finally, my tour of spiderwebs. Each teeny tiny web housed a teeny tiny spider.

Not this time, caterpillars!

I refuse to get sucked into swallowtail caterpillar drama AGAIN this year. Sure it’s warm today, but I know that October starts this week and the nights are definitely cooler.

Decisions have been made and nature is on it’s own. Enjoy the parsley! At least these late in the season fools can overwinter if they get big enough in time.

Multiple stages of growth all on the same plant.

The Perfect Butterfly Storm

Briefly I had the most glorious and perfect caterpillar to chrysalis moment. My little squishy dude who was polite enough to stay close to home went into the J position on a Sunday. I checked on it frequently.

At 7 a.m. on Monday before leaving for work, I checked again. Little dude was doing ab crunches, but had been considerate enough to wait for me to really get the party started.

I run late for many reasons, mostly cat related. Once 3 days into the official lockdown, I was so anxious and sleep deprived that I backed my car into my rising garage door just as hard as I could, effectively self-isolating. Thankfully my neighbor was able to rescue me so I could go be anxious and sleep deprived at a second location.

However I have never had the opportunity to be late because a caterpillar was going into a chrysalis and I GOT TO SEE IT LIVE!

The video is pieced together clips because I wanted to be able to text MomBert the event. It’s shaky because I was squatting in my yard at 7a.m. and that was too early for my legs to think about such things. The entire process took 6 minutes based on my photo time stamps.

When I left, the chrysalis was still wiggling about. I showed anyone who would stand still long enough my amazing experience. That afternoon, I came home to a beautiful jade green monarch chrysalis with gold accents. In 8-12 days, hopefully a butterfly would head to Mexico.

Sadly, this is where my perfect storm ended. Friday afternoon, my chrysalis was gone. Presumably it became someone’s snack pack. Only the silk pad remained.

Even as I squatted to take that photo yet another growing caterpillar was munching milkweed in my ear.

J Position!

Me outside whispering to the ONE caterpillar who has made it to the J position and stayed in a place where I can observe it:

“You can do this little, buddy.”

His/her ungrateful peers chose to flee the scene this morning for spots on the other side of the fence. If only they had met my neighbors.

The top caterpillar actually pooped on the one below.

“If anything comes along to snack on you during this vulnerable time, I will absolutely lose my shit.”

Caterpillars stay this way for almost a full day before the final shed into a chrysalis.

“It’s all riding on you. No pressure.”

Hummingbird Hover

The garden has been hoppin.’ Lately I have had reliable visits from monarch butterflies and hummingbirds. They both enjoy the butterfly bush.

I noticed that hummingbird also frequented a purple salvia plant at the back of the yard. In hopes of getting a better picture of it, I gifted the hummingbird (and myself) with two big planters of salvia. Results were immediate.

Rest break! Which may mean it’s a juvenile.

Standing inside behind the patio door, I was able to joyfully observe and photograph it. However I was startled into confusion when the hummingbird appeared directly in front of my face for an extended moment.

With a camera in one hand and iPhone in the other, a blurry Sasquatch/UFO version of this closeup was all I could handle. The hummingbird stayed for what felt like a long time for a wild creature and I’m not sure if I was being rewarded for the flowery treat or assessed for future tactics.

Casual Caterpillar Cannibalism

The only remaining caterpillar. There were no bodies.

I inadvertently ended up with caterpillars again this year. A friend who had 20 well developed caterpillars going plus another habitat with newly hatched babies, needed milkweed. I handed her a bundle of milkweed and she handed me a baggy of 5 eggs on bits of milkweed. Great. Another thing I have to keep alive: the cats, Vincenzo the sourdough starter, myself, and caterpillars.

Getting them at the egg stage was fascinating. When the egg became a “blackhead” which was actually the caterpillar’s head, it would hatch within a few hours into a tiny cream colored caterpillar. Within a few hours from there, it would start to turn green. From eating leaves? By the next day, the stripes developed. It took longer for the distinctive monarch “horns” to emerge.

Pretty quickly I lost count of who was in residence. A few eggs had not hatched, I had added a couple eggs I found in my yard. Who knows? However I did recognize that the population was decreasing although I was not finding any bodies. While all were within roughly the same age range, I had two who were definitely outgrowing their peers. Because they were eating them???

Leaving for 3 days, I stocked the habit well with plenty of fresh milkweed and moisture. I think I had 4 caterpillars at that point. I returned to one very healthy caterpillar and a sickly one half the other’s size. The sickly one has since passed, but was not snacked on.

There can be only one.

“Stalk”ing

Mostly this post was for my curiosity. I have a small corner devoted to asparagus. Very little is produced possibly because of age, but more likely because of me planting it wrong. However one asparagus crown amazes every time it grows a stalk because the stalks are so big, but it will only grow one at a time.

Out of curiosity, I went back through my photos to track dates. I take a picture every time it grew a stalk because I am always so impressed by the size. (Imagine the possible dick jokes here). So far it has managed 4 stalks this season, averaging 20 days between each stalk.

I tried to do some research about how long it takes for a stalk to grow, but most articles wanted to ramble on about waiting a year for the crowns blah, blah, blah, knew that. I did find a statistic that the stalks grow 2 inches per day so I guess I could reverse engineer that. However I don’t know if that is two inches a day from the start or once it breaks through the ground. Shrug. I got nothin’. Certainly don’t have much asparagus.

Hey, Bun!

I have a small bunny who reliably finds the game camera in the yard, and acts like I’ve set it up for a photoshoot.

It got really hot recently and I did not see the bun for a couple of days. Usually I would see it in the mornings and early evenings more or less deciding what to destroy in my garden (pepper plants seem to be the answer). I was concerned. There’s traffic and plenty of predators.

However I discovered that the bunny just opted for a cooler time of day.

T80

There’s a possum also trying to get in on the photo action. We’ll see how it goes.

T80

Arm Day: The 10 minute knead

Humidity is 72% and it feels like way more than 77 degrees in my kitchen, but I’m going to bake. Allegedly warm and humid is a good thing for rising dough. I’m also out of bread--this stuff freezes well if pre-sliced and I have not bought a loaf of regular bread in ages— and Vincenzo needs attention.

Vincenzo is my sourdough starter that I acquired from a baking friend last May (Happy 1 Year Birthday Vincenzo!) when we were all trapped at home apparently hoarding toilet paper and yeast. Yes, there was such an uptick in people baking at home that stores struggled to keep yeast in stock. I now reflexively buy a packet whenever I walk down that aisle at the store. I have a reminder in my phone that pops up at 9 a.m. on Thursdays: “Feed starter.” He has been well fed and needs to either be used or dumped which just seems wasteful.

I’ve tried a couple of different bread recipes, but landed on a “San Francisco” recipe that is my favorite and has yielded the best results. The first time I adhered to the recipe and the chopped onion topping. It was good, but ….what if?! I ditched the onion for the next batch and started mixing in chopped up rosemary and thyme, sprinkling rosemary, thyme and salt on the top instead of onion. Oh, the warm, earthy smell. The perfect bread for whatever, but especially if you needed to sop up some herby olive oil and nibble some cheese.

After MomBert sent me an article about a local baker who sells sourdough loaves at the farmers market near her, I tried to do some researching about what and how I could add things to my bread. It was a lot!! There was an overwhelming amount of information and discussions about what ingredients need presoaked to maintain moisture and which didn’t and when was the best time add items. As established, I am not a scientist, a park ranger, or a vet, but I am a fan of let’s throw it in there and see what happens when I’m just baking for the sake of baking. I am much more fastidious if the end product is going to other humans.

So today’s product has rosemary from my herb garden, sundried tomatoes in oil, some shredded from a block parmesan, and garlic scapes because I have a ton and why not? This recipe has 3 different rise times, but requires only 10 minutes of kneading hence “arm day” as mind wandered to whether or not this counted as a workout.

Humidity and yeast at work. Note yellow squirrel holding my essential olive oil mister. It is the latest addition to my squirrel army.

I have taken to baking the loaves in my cast iron skillets for easy clean up. This is a doubled recipe. Would eat again.

The end product.