All posts by GretchenJoanna

About GretchenJoanna

Orthodox Christian, widowed in 2015; mother, grandmother. Love to read, garden, cook, write letters and a hundred other home-making activities.

From sunrise to sunset.

On Saturday we left the house early to get to the hot air balloon festival before the sun came up. Smokey the Bear was the first to get inflated and lift off. This is the same event I attended with Pippin seven years ago, and most of the balloons were the same, too.

In the middle of the day we took naps, and tended the garden. That is, Pippin gardened and I took pictures.

Late afternoon we took the camp stove and makings for Frito Pie up on the volcanic peak of Mount Shasta, to the Old Ski Bowl, 7800 ft. elevation (The top is almost twice that high). We ate our picnic dinner and stayed for the sunset.

The children took me up a ways to a place among the rocks that they call the Sunset Cafe, and we pretend feasted on plates of salad, strawberry bread and chocolatey desserts, artfully arranged from whatever vegetable and mineral materials could be found lying nearby:

We gazed off toward the west…

And when it was starting to get dark, both Ivy and Jamie fell within about ten minutes of each other, and cried for a while in pain from the shock of sharp rocks slamming into knees and ribs. Jamie had tripped over the giant rock loaf of “strawberry bread.” But they were soon done with that and we set off down the mountain again.

Today was full. This is the first year Ivy didn’t have a themed cake, and the first year she helped make her birthday pie.

Everything has been delicious.

We need Thy prayers so sore.

THE MEDIATOR

O Christ, true Son of God most high,
Thy name we praise for ever;
Whoe’er to Thee for help doth cry
Shall find Thee fail him never;
‘Tis Thou wilt plead,
Thou intercede
With God, for us who need Thy prayers so sore:
Thy bitter strife
Hath wrought us life,
And Thine be thanks and praise for evermore!

To Thee the Father giveth now
All power in earth and heaven;
Sin, Satan, Death to Thee must bow,
All fetters Thou hast riven,
Bade fear to cease,
And made our peace,
That now to God we dare our hearts outpour:
Thy bitter strife
Hath wrought us life,
And Thine be thanks and praise for evermore!

Fulness of grace is in Thy Word;
The Life, the Truth, the Way
To life eternal art Thou, Lord;
To Thee alone we pray,
Who didst appear
A servant here
To bear the sin that crushed the world before:
Thy bitter strife
Hath wrought us life,
And Thine be thanks and praise for evermore!

Hans Sachs (1494 – 1576) Germany

I give Nature a hand.

Yesterday I wrote about the dwindling supply of milkweed leaves for my hungry caterpillars, and Linda responded in a comment that they have been known to eat butternut squash in a pinch. I was so grateful for her help, and was ready to go shopping for it and to put cubes of vegetable on sticks for them before I would head out of town.

But when I went out to check on the cats they seemed to have stopped eating, and one of them seemed to be working himself into the hanging J position. They hadn’t eaten all the leaves available. I got quite a surprise to see three more, slightly smaller caterpillars on the pathetic Narrow-Leaf Milkweed plant nearby! Should I also try to rescue them?

Later when I checked again, still none of the six were eating — was that because it was cool and cloudy? — but they had moved and were all stretched out vertically. In case they were going to return to chomping through the leaves, I decided to bring a stem of milkweed over from under the fig tree. There was one with a strange horizontal, shallow root, which pulled up easily. I stuck it in the ground so that its leaves touched the other (healthy) plant; I anchored it with rocks and gave it a good watering. I finished packing the car and drove off.

When I get home again next week you can be sure I will let you know the current state of affairs of what is now a group of six Monarch caterpillars. For now, I want to show you something pretty I noticed on the patio — the white begonia is tall and healthy, much bigger than last year. It’s a pristine, comforting bit of newness when the earth is making its yearly descent into death and decay.

The caterpillars may starve to death.

When I was planting the new milkweed species that I’d bought, I saw Monarch caterpillars on the established Showy Milkweed plant!

They are still there, three days later. But there is much less of the plant left for them to eat. I notice that this morning two have moved over to the smaller stem. (I wish I could have seen them doing that.) This milkweed is a young start that I moved across the yard from under the fig tree, where the original plant had reproduced dozens more over the years.

I transplanted it last year, close to the Narrow-Leaf Milkweed, out in the open where the Monarchs might find it. The Showy leaves are large and meaty, and they are what I fed my caterpillars four years ago, even though the eggs had been laid on the Narrow-Leaf. Meanwhile, the fig tree has grown so large, in spite of being a dwarf variety, that it is shading the Showy Milkweed out of existence over there.

Monarch among the Narrow-Leaf Milkweed plants, 2018.
Monarch caterpillar on Showy Milkweed leaf, 2018.
2018

The Narrow-Leaf Milkweed is one of the two species native to my region, which is why I planted it originally. It has the most dramatic blooms, like ladies in crowns and pink dresses dancing in formation:

… but as I have said before, there is not enough leaf matter there to make the newborn caterpillars grow big and strong and become butterflies. It was my hope that if I put the Showy type out there, the Mama Monarch would choose it. And she did! But — it is hardly bigger than the new starts I set out. From the bottom of the picture at left:

1- Asclepias physocarpa – Family Jewels.
2- aphid-infested Narrow-Leaf Milkweed
3-  Asclepias linaria – Pineneedle Milkweed
4- Showy Milkweed (top L)
5- Asclepias glaucescens – Nodding Milkweed (top R)

I know from the past, when I raised and released three butterflies, that they eat a lot. Back then I picked numerous large leaves off the Showy plant — which was huge — to feed them.

These three have already eaten half of the plant, and they have a lot more growing to do:

When I return from my trip north, I’m afraid that they will have eaten every last leaf, and then starved to death. Should I take them with me, and feed them? But feed them what? I only have two spindly Showy plants growing under the fig tree currently. What if I were to lay them on the ground under the one being eaten right now, making a path to the new starts? Do I really want them to possibly defoliate those, too, when they have barely begun? After that truly thrilling Monarch Project I undertook I decided once was enough. Bearing responsibility for caterpillars was too much work. And physically exhausting for other reasons! So… I think I will have to let nature take its course.

It might be that the smallish Showy Milkweed just wants a tiny bit more water to help Nature along, and then that course might result in this kind of Show next summer:

2021

If so, there will be plenty of food for all caterpillar comers.

“For seasonable weather and the abundance of the fruits of the earth
and for peaceful times
let us pray to the Lord.”
-Litany of Peace