Monday, October 29, 2012

Glimpses of October From My Windows ~ Atmosphere and Light

Glimpses of October from my windows
misty morning skies wearing layers of shadowy waves 
melt between perfectly bright beautiful days of light 
and those of rain showers falling as trees unfasten colorful leaves
each floating and uniquely flying to a destiny akin to a runaway kite.

A one thousand foot wide mass of storm
moves towards this land with a voice of wind power
too strong to harness for energy, oh most frightening form.
October retreats trembling along with inhabitants along the coast and cone. 

For a moment . . .  a calm look back over days of magical autumnal brilliance.  

Mid October afternoon above and what the landscape looked like two days ago at sunrise below. 

Golden mid October above . . .  rosy sunrise two days ago below

Early October above and sunrise two days ago below

May all life within the reach of hurricane Sandy be safe. 

Post hurricane Sandy . . .

Frightening winds did cause concern but all here at Flower Hill Farm still stands firmly and amazingly we did not lose power.
My thoughts are for all those have suffered loss due to this monstrous storm.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Monarch Butterflies Wild About The Gardens

Throughout the summer and fall 
Monarchs and other butterflies readily flutter to native plants in the garden 
and seem to prefer them over most all others . . . 
with exception to our taller than usual butterfly bush.

Joe-pye weed, Eupatorium purpureum L. is a favorite plant of mine for its large sculptural quality. Butterflies, moths and bees love the sweets hidden within numerous tiny florets. 

Liatris is another favored native and great pollinator attractor. 

Ironweed, Veronia gigantea (perhaps) is also a prized native . . .  
offering beauty in its grand height and plenty of nectar for a multitude of butterflies and bees. 

A Monarch and Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly share a cluster of Ironweed blooms.

A Monarch and Painted Lady quietly feeding. 

The florets of Ironweed keep attracting butterflies into early fall. 

Sedum 'Autumn Joy' . . . though not a native . . . adds a bit of variety to the nectar palate. 

The last two of the Monarch butterflies finally decide it is time to emerge after four weeks in their chrysalises and I am able to release them out into the gardens. 
There are no other butterflies around on the chilly October day . . .  just last week  . . . as I usher them out on bracts of a native aster.

One is off! The other Monarch does later fly out into the lower field and I hope they were able to fly away further south that day for it got very cold overnight. 
And so . . . my Monarch butterfly series comes to a close . . . until another year. 
Millions are flying towards Mexico and perhaps some of the precious ones I was lucky to know will make it to the boreal forests high in the mountains beyond Mexico City. 
It was a wonderful butterfly season . . . I have a few more species to share.

Speaking of sharing . . . let me put in a plug for my latest Bestiary installment . . . you can see it at

  Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens.
All about the Wild Turkeys I have spied here at Flower Hill Farm. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle: A Metamorphosis ~ Part Four ~ Lift Off Towards Migration

Releasing Monarch butterflies is one of the greatest joys in the process of raising these beautiful fragile creatures. 
My Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle: A Metamorphosis . . .  continues with seeing the adult butterflies safely introduced into their environment and towards the first leg of their extraordinary migration.

When last we met . . . the Monarchs had mandibles for munching, six true legs and five pairs of prolegs for getting around and were cleverly composing a chrysalis within their striped skin. 
Then their exquisitely crafted chrysalises were revealed and hung by their cremaster for about two weeks 
(with exception to two chrysalises that are still hanging on in green in a bouquet by the window after four weeks.) 
It was a thrill to finally see the butterflies forming inside their clear casings. 
Finally, observing the tiny winged butterflies emerge from their chrysalises and hanging on, while their wings are pumped up and dried . . .  creates awe while stimulating the imagination and a keen sense of wonder at the marvels of nature.

Then the time comes to gently and very patiently hold out my fingers and hand bus for the butterflies to board and the releasing begins.
Now, with all new body parts functioning and familiar they turn their heads to and fro, while opening and closing bright wings, strengthening muscles and preparing for lift off to join many others of their kind on a journey completely unknown to them all.  

Skies are not always cerulean blue and I always say a little extra prayer, 
while whispering 'Good Luck', for those creatures that must fly out into a threatening canopy of sky.

Up and Away! What a thrill that first flight must be! 
Butterflies are nearsighted but can discern many colors with their complex compound eyes. 
They will discover many flowers along their way allowing them to recharge for their long and arduous flight to Mexico.

Another butterfly cuts into the sky . . . flying above the middle meadow garden.

Most days in September I wear butterflies. 
Above, on a day with soft, fluffy, cotton clouds and blue skies, 
I release four Monarch Butterflies out the Barn Studio doors into the North Garden. 

You can see one Monarch butterfly flying away just below the last one still clinging to my finger.

Some days I walk out into the gardens . . .  

sheltering the butterflies for awhile longer. 

This magical process goes on most of July, August and September. 
It is with a bit of sadness that I say goodbye to my last Monarch butterfly each year. 
I spend about a month with each of them . . . discovering the tiny eggs on milkweed that grows freely in my fields and gardens . . . two weeks of carefully caring for the capable caterpillars . . .  two weeks of admiring their jewel like chrysalises . . . then the final emergence and a few hours of knowing the butterflies close up . . . it is being uniquely connected to a special process of life unfolding within our mysterious world of nature. I cherish this seasonal ritual.

Each summer for nearly thirty years I have raised Monarch butterflies and written about their metamorphosis extensively. These are not scientific writings but close up observations of the life cycle from an artist/naturalist and farmers perspective. You can scroll down to the bottom of this page to see a cloud of words that together cover topics about mostly my land, gardens and the wildlife that share it with me. By clicking on 'Monarch Butterfly Metamorphosis' you might learn . . . in reverse . . . more about the Monarch Butterfly's life cycle and its momentous migration.

Seeing the Monarch butterflies I have raised join other butterflies and bees in the garden is the topic of my next installment of this series.

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