Saturday, February 16, 2013
Did you know that just before emerging, a Monarch chrysalis will turn dark and you can see the markings of the butterfly's wings? My stowaway greenhouse guests are giving me a chance to watch their development from a front row seat.
You did know about the color change? Well, have you seen a Monarch immediately after emergence as it unfurls its damp wings and pale green jewels of liquid drip from their surfaces?
This is the second of my unexpected guests to fly off this week. Although I'd happily serve them nectar and allow them to stay until it's warmer, captivity isn't the best thing for a Monarch. I open the greenhouse door, and like a worried parent let them find their way.
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Winter 2013 has been so mild, most of the plants we moved into the new greenhouse probably could have stayed where they were. However, their tiny hitchikers have provided a reason to learn a new word - "chrysalides". It's the preferred plural form of chrysalis, and I looked it up today after finding 6 Monarch chrysalides in all their celadon and gold beaded glory in the greenhouse, along with a newly emerged adult.
Thinking it would give the (outside) butterflies an early start, I was overwintering several tropical milkweed plants in the greenhouse as well. Four are blooming and had provided a temporary nectar source, but unfortunately not enough to sustain the adult.. As the day warmed, I gently showed him the door. Another reason to be grateful for our mild winter and all of the other plants that have started blooming early.
This guy was a little easier to spot. It's on the leg of one of the plant benches.
At some point, I had hoped to learn more about how to hatch and release Monarchs, but it looks like it's going to be on the job training this year. If you have experience with this, please leave a comment.
And wish them luck!
Monday, December 17, 2012
For all you Black Crowes fans, sorry to mislead you. This is a post about my new greenhouse. For all of my gardening friends who had no idea I knew anything about The Black Crowes, we should probably talk.
In the meantime, here's a slightly tilted view of the new greenhouse after DH helped me move all of the "preciouses" in. And yes, I did just see The Hobbit.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Back in July, I came home to 5 large cardboard boxes in the driveway - a lavish and much appreciated gift from my husband and mother-in-law. It was a Rion greenhouse kit - designed and manufactured by those folks who have so much experience coaxing lush, productive vegetation out of harsh conditions.
The weather was far too hot back then to consider an extended outdoors project, so the boxes sat in the garage until this month. With the weather dipping into frosty numbers, construction of the greenhouse suddenly went from casual to crisis status.
Thanks to roof raising help from a group of friends, we got the majority of the construction completed just in time. Over the next week I'll share more details; but for now, I just wanted to publicly celebrate being able to open and close its doors, roof vents, and side louvres, and to share my sincere gratitude for Tom Farley, Sheryl Williams and her husband, Ed, all of whom gave up valuable weekend gardening time to help with the heavy lifting on our project.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
April 25, 2012 seems a long, long time ago. I was posting about the hawks in NYC and thinking this would be the year I posted at least once a month, hopefully more. Since then I've enjoyed some unforgettable gardens and the company of other garden bloggers at the Asheville SC Fling, said good-bye to two dear gardening friends who died far too soon, and lost two large trees that changed my primarily shady garden to one abundantly blessed with sun! Caught up in the whirlwind of events, there never seemed to be enough time to post about any of it.
But today I'm planning the memorial for one of those dear friends, Becky Waak. After constant wrangling of details for the past three days, I wanted to be still and consider some of those things that made her dear to me.
First, and possibly foremost, was her crystalline honesty. You always knew where she stood, and you knew just as clearly what you meant to her. Becky was the only person I've ever known who made me pale by comparison when it came to speaking her mind. There was also never a person more generous with her hugs or smiles. But if you hurt her, you didn't have to wonder long about that either.
She was an eternal optimist. Even as breast cancer savagely fought to take her life, to the end she believed she'd find a way to beat it. Each new course of treatment sent her back to the internet to read every medical paper or study available. She never stopped wanting to know everything about everything. When coupled with a desire to serve, the same insatiable curiosity that pushed her to get two college degrees also prompted her to become a Master Gardener upon retirement. She always wanted to stay on top of current best practices for drought resistant gardening, rainwater harvesting, poultry keeping, beekeeping, propagation, and greenhouse management - then volunteer to teach others.
She wanted to change the world. She never stopped believing fervently in helping anyone who might be less fortunate, perhaps because she had not come from privilege. As a girl in rural Texas, she saw few options modeled beyond the traditional roles for women of the time but found a path of her own anyway. As a young single parent, she created and taught a proud independence to her daughter. As a wife, she built a real and loving partnership with Roger. As a citizen, she worked and voted to ensure a better, safer, more peaceful world for all of us - not just a privileged few.
She never forgot that life is a team sport.
She never forgot that life is a team sport.
Becky was only 64. She really thought she'd have more time. Egalitarian to the end, whether you knew her or not, liked her or not, agreed with her or not, she's giving all of us the same gift. She'd want us to love with awareness of loss, live with the gratitude that comes from having nothing, and make decisions with all the functioning brain cells available to us - and to make time to play outside more often.
Thanks for everything, sweet friend.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
This blog leans toward gardening, but it rambles through a world full of wonder on the way. My post today is the result of meeting some fun, entertaining folks on a similar journey. If you've seen The Big Year, you've probably formed an opinion of birdwatchers. No matter. Having spent waaaaay too much time over the past couple of weeks hanging out with the other people glued to the New York Times hawk nest cam, I can attest to their broad range of interests and sharp wit. Regardless of our different time zones and backgrounds, it seems that sooner or later the chat turns to the common themes of music and/or food when the objects of our adoration do a face plant and go into food comas after their parents, Rosie and Bobby, have served up a good meal to the little eyases. (Go on, look it up. Like poikilothermic, it's a good word to know. Special thanks to JB for that one.)
|Boo and Scout on April 23, 2012|
The basic ratio is one pound of ricotta to 2 large eggs, 1/4 cup whole milk, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp.cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Typically, I use a 9" springform pan and triple the ratio as shown in the recipe below. But sometimes, I use a smaller individual springform and use the basic amounts. Even if you're using an expensive pan that says it can't leak, my advice is to cover the bottom and up the sides with a double layer of foil. Butter the inside of the pan generously and set aside. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees while mixing the ingredients.
3 pounds full fat ricotta ("whole milk ricotta")
6 eggs, extra large or large
3/4 cup milk, 2% or 4%
11/2 cups granulated sugar, or less if preferred
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
Prep your pan as described above. Whisk all ingredients together until smooth (or use an electric mixer if ricotta is very thick.) Pour into prepared pan and bake for approximately 1 1/2 hours. The center will puff up very slightly and the batter will be completely set.
Allow to stand at room temp at least one hour before refrigerating. I like to bake this the day before serving but it's not necessary. Enjoy!
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
As much as I enjoy watching the changes in my garden this time of year, this week brought a couple of real standouts. The larkspur thicket is hosting a NectarFest for several White-lined Sphinx Moths, also referred to as hummingbird moths, and the Manfreda 'Chocolate Chips' is competing for attention nearby.
The White-lined Sphinx Moth is one of three "hummingbird moths" species found in the Austin area. The shot above shows the wing colors, although in flight its wings seem to disappear. These moths zip and hover just like their namesake bird, and in my garden are often spotted just before dusk rather than at night. Although I'm not much of a photographer, I somehow managed to capture a close-up showing the long proboscis of this interesting creature.
My other current garden standout is one of the most interesting pass along plants I've ever received. A couple of years ago it migrated my way from Eleanor, another Austin garden blogger. It's a Manfreda undulata 'Chocolate Chips' with strappy foliage so striking, it wouldn't matter if it ever bloomed; but bloom it does. This year it produced four bloom spikes and enough scent to clear a large room. If you've never had a close encounter with this alien bloom, be warned the scent is similar to burning plastic with just the lightest hint of frightened skunk. But don't let that scare you off. Its scent is more than compensated for by its beauty. Having already established myself as a non-photographer, I refer you to the wonderful post on Pam Penick's blog "Digging" for more polished images of this amazing plant.
Having wasted much of my day (week, really) peeking in on the New York Times hawk cam, just wanted to share a few thoughts before turning in. Please leave a comment - I'd love to hear about the strange and wonderful things showing up in your garden right now.