Monday, August 28, 2017

More monarch larvae pics

I took another look at the monarch larvae on the butterfly weed today.  Here are some more pics.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Monarch larva?

This evening as I strolled around the yard, I noticed 5 or 6 butterfly larvae on the butterfly weed.  I fetched my camera and took a shot.  I think this is a monarch larva.
You can see it is munching on the seed pod of the butterfly weed.  I am absolutely delighted to see these larvae.  There are lots of eggs as well. (Update--I think the eggs I saw were milkweed bug eggs).
I usually see a monarch or two around in the fall, but perhaps this year I will have several.  I will try to keep an eye out and see if I can watch these develop.
(Here is another one munching on a leaf.)

Monday, August 21, 2017

Viewing the eclipse indirectly

Where we are located, the eclipse covered somewhere around 92% of the sun.  It was noticeably dark inside the house.  Outside, it seemed like an eerie haze.  Since I did not have eclipse glasses, I watched the eclipse indirectly so as not to damage my eyes.  Someone on the local news channel showed a colander just like the one I have, so I set that on a couple of stools above a white piece of paper on the sidewalk and looked at the points of light that came through the holes.
I was actually more impressed with the light shining through the tree leaves and the little crescents made that way.  The shadow of sycamore leaves on the sidewalk, the maple leaves on the car, and especially the shadow of the crepe myrtle leaves against the grill cover showed little crescents where the sunlight was being eclipsed by the moon.


The outlines seem to show best where there are only small points of light coming through (though I really don't understand that exactly).  I formed a small opening between my thumb and forefinger, and you can see a crescent shape there as well.
What fascinated me even more than that was just the shadow of my outstretched hand.  When I turned it a certain way, I could see a little shadow at the base of space between each finger. 
I like to think I held the experience in my hand.
Hope you had a good experience today or at least get to enjoy some of the awesome pictures that will be available on TV and internet.



Monday, August 14, 2017

Disease resistance

It doesn't take long gardening to encounter pests and disease.  One of the attributes plant breeders and gardeners take into account in selecting plants is disease resistance.  Now, I will note, resistance doesn't mean absolute immunity.  It does mean the plant is less likely to get that disease than a plant that is not resistant.  Specifically, in tomato plants, you will find abbreviations following the plant variety name; these abbreviations stand for what pests and diseases the tomato is resistant to.  My 'Early Girl' tomatoes have F and V which means they are resistant to fusarium and verticillium wilt.
Unfortunately, if the disease pressure is high enough, even resistant varieties can succumb to a disease.  That's what happened here.  I came out one day in mid-July and noticed a lot of leaves on the tomato plant that had turned yellow almost overnight.  This is what fusarium wilt looks like on a tomato plant. 
Fusarium wilt is caused by a fungus in the soil.  It is common and long lived.  The plus side is that we've enjoyed tomatoes for almost 2 months.  There are still some tomatoes on the other 2 vines, though those vines seem to be declining as well.  I've pulled up the first diseased vine and put it on the burn pile.  I hope to plant a few fall carrots where that tomato vine was.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Improvised dehydrator

In some situations, it makes sense to simply use what is available.  I don't do much dehydrating of fruits or veggies, so I don't own a dehydrator.  I could buy one new or look for one at a thrift store, but I could just use my car as a dehydrator.  I once read in a magazine that someone used their old pickup, with the windows rolled down a little, to dry apples.  I liked the idea and have used it for figs.  I did also put a little netting over the windows to keep out the insects.  I think this netting is probably some I've had for ages (as in leftover from my wedding veil).  I secured it with magnets that have collected on the fridge.
Here are three trays of figs as seen through the back window of the car.
 Here is the netting and a couple of magnets holding the netting over the partially open window.
Here is the final product, combined onto one tray.  (The trays are those little rattan paper plate holders that I had been given, and I used one sheet of paper towel over the rattan.) 
I will keep the dried figs in the freezer, so it is not crucial how much moisture is left.  If they were to be stored at room temperature, they would have to be dry enough not to mold.  I did test a few figs by eating them at various stages of the process.  It actually probably got too warm in the car, but a partially dried, partially cooked fig, still warm, is quite delicious!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Monarch on butterfly weed

The butterfly weed (milkweed family) was living up to its name today, and I caught a picture of a monarch and a pearl crescent butterfly on it.  I think it has had more blooms on the places I cut for a bouquet a month or so ago.

This has been a great year for this native perennial.