Saturday, September 27, 2008

Tonight's Music

Seven Spanish Angels, by Ray Charles and Willie Nelson.

Cause it's freakin awesome and you should give it a listen (might need to give it a minute to load, but trust me, it's worth it).

Friday, September 26, 2008

An Exciting Find!

I was weeding the perimeter of our garden fence by hand today (I do this because I love to let Morning Glories grow up the fence, and the weed eater is an indescriminate killer), and lookie what I found!

The praying mantis is one of my most favorite insects. I found a very young mantis in my driveway earlier this year and very carefully transferred it to my garden.

I can't say if this is the same one, but I like to think that it is :)

So I called my Jaybird to tell him about my find, and he said, "Oh yeah! There's a mantis egg sac on one of our blueberry bushes!"

Well! How's that for Christmas in September? I'm not really sure if the egg sac, or "ootheca" has already hatched or is ready to overwinter for hatching next spring when the weather turns warm again, but either way, I'm thrilled! Mantids are voracious predators of harmful garden insects, and let's just face it; they're positively fascinating in every conceivable way!

The Life Cycle of the Praying Mantis

Bookmark and Share

Aye Carumba!

I'm normally pretty appreciative of the insect life around me, and out here in the boondocks there is a plethora of it to appreciate. But this takes the cake! I went out to pick the last of my blueberries and caught a glimpse of this, um, caterpop, and almost did a back flip! Isn't it cool and yet horrible at the same time? Kinda makes you think of a creeped out appetizer-on-a-stick, doesn't it? :D

I did a little research, and I think these are "Yellownecked Caterpillars" (Datana ministra), destroyer of oak leaves and other United States hardwoods, not to mention shade and ornamental trees >:-(

And this, from the Forest Health Protection, Southern Region: Newly hatched larvae skeltonize the leaf; older larvae devour all except the leaf stalk. Individual trees, or even stands, may be defoliated during late summer and early fall. Since defoliation is confined to the late part of the growing season, little damage is caused to the tree.

See the way they've arched their backs, throwing their heads and tails up into the air? When disturbed, the creepy little larvae use this as a defensive measure to prevent parasitism by various wasps and flies. I think it looks pretty funny. Like bug yoga.

Moths appear during June and July and deposit white eggs in masses of 50 to 100 on the undersides of the leaves. Larvae feed in groups, reportedly maturing in August and September. Mature larvae are fuzzy and black with white stripes. I hate to thell them but they're running late. They're really gonna have to get on the stick to make it by October (pun intended! heh..) Mature larvae drop to the soil and pupate at depths of 2 to 4 inches (50 to 100 mm), where they spend the winter. There is one generation per year, and since their natural enemies generally keep infestations in check and they apparently don't really cause much damage, I'm just going to leave the little suckers alone, and see if the freakshow returns next year! ;)

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mr. Monarch Butterfly

I wonder where you've been, and where you're going.

I hope you enjoyed your visit to my garden!

You're a bit tattered and torn, but beautiful still, and always welcome here. I hope I'll see you again soon.

Bookmark and Share

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

I found this caterpillar in my dill earlier in the summer, and lucky for me it's still there! I hope it stays and gifts us with the opportunity to watch his/her transformation. It's going to be a gorgeous Black Swallowtail. Also called the Parsley Caterpillar, young Black Swallowtail caterpillars are black with a white saddle, later becoming smooth and green with black bands and yellow spots, growing to approximately 2 inches. It has an orange osmeterium, a fleshy organ found in the prothoracic segment of caterpillar larvae of Swallowtail butterflies including Birdwings. This organ emits smelly compounds believed to be pheromones. Normally hidden, this forked structure can be everted when the caterpillar is threatened, and used to emit a foul-smelling secretion containing terpenes. These chemicals are bad tasting to predators and vary from species to species.

The Black Swallowtail eats Queen Anne's lace, carrot, parsley and dill, of course. It overwinters as a chrysalis and is found in southern Canada and throughout the eastern United States, as well as the south-western states and Mexico.

Isn't it beautiful? :)

Bookmark and Share

Feedin' Time!

My youngest daughter, Ava, positively loves animals, and chickens in particular. She goes to the barn with me every single day to feed and water them and gather eggs, and has a pet chicken she named, "Lolly", that allows my girl to pick her up and carry her around like a baby. It's very cute!

So here we are, at the gate, and everyone is here to greet us with their usual enthusiasm!

And, they're off!

Feeding frenzy!

Ava and Lolly, BFF.

There's nothing better than life on a farm! :)

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Calendula, or Pot Marigold, is probably one of the most useful medicinal herbs. It comes from the daisy, or Asteraceae family. The name Calendula comes from the Latin kalendae, meaning "first day of the month", presumably because the calendula flowers are present during the first days of it's blooming calender months, normally from May to November. Other folk names include "Bride of the Sun", "Marybud", and "Summer's Bride". Although a native to the Mediterranean, the bright and cheerful calendula is now cultivated throughout the world for its beauty, garden virtues, and valuable medicinal qualities. Calendula officinalis is edible and was in fact first cultivated for food use. It adds color and flavor to soups, stews, cereals and rice dishes and the petals are pleasant on salads.

Medicinal preparations are usually made from the fresh wilted or dried flower petals or the entire flower head and may include Tea, Wound Dressings, Mouth/Throat Gargle, Tinctures, Compresses, Washes, Infused Oils, Essential Oils, and Ointments, Creams and Salves.

WARNING ~ Calendula preparations should not be used over an existing infection as it may stimulate tissue growth and heal over the infected site.

Externally, calendula's strong antibiotic action and immunostimulant properties painlessly promote healing of minor wounds by reducing inflammation and pus formation. Calendula is also a strong Antifungal, Anti-inflammatory, Antimicrobial, Antioxidant, Antiseptic, and Astringent, among others. The flowers have reportedly shown slight anti-tumor activity. Its medicinal uses are legendary and includes but are not limited to:

Externally: Abscesses, Boils, Bruises, Burns/Scalds, Cold Sores, Cuts, Diaper Rash, Hemorrhoids, Inflamed Eyes, Scar Tissue, Sores, Sprains, Stings, Sties, Varicose Veins, Warts, Wounds.

Internally: (Do not use calendula internally without professional medical supervision): Bronchial Troubles, Crohn’s Disease, Diarrhea, Endometriosis, Fevers, Fibroids, Gastritis, Indigestion, Liver Congestion, Menstrual Irregularity, Mouth Ulcers, Nausea, Pelvic Inflammation, Stomach Cramps, Ulcers (gastric/duodenal).

In The Garden

Calendula is an easy to grow, somewhat hardy annual that prefers full sun in rich, well-drained soil but will tolerate most average or slightly poor soils in zones 3-10. Most will bloom reliably all summer.

Calendula is deer resistant but attractive to bees, butterflies and some birds.

Transplant with plenty of organic compost and add a general purpose organic fertilizer once a month. Mulch for moisture retention and weed control.

Sow seeds in the spring but once established calendula will generally self-sow.
Seeds need dark to germinate so take care to cover.

Grows up to 2 feet in height. Water once or twice weekly during dry spells. Once your plants bloom, deadhead or snip dead blooms off to keep them attractive and encourage new blooms.

Calendula is light frost tolerant but will not survive heavy frosts or freezes.

Folklore Uses

-Pick Marigolds at noon when the sun is high and hot to strengthen and comfort the heart.

-Marigold garlands strewn under your bed will protect you while you sleep and make your dreams come true.

Make Your Own Calendula Infused Oil for a soothing skin treatment.

1/4 c. dried Calendula flowers
1/2 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Put flowers into a pint-sized canning jar. Add the olive oil and stir well. Cover the jar with a lid and place it in a sunny window. When the oil turns deep, golden yellow (1-2 weeks), strain the oil through several layers of cheesecloth into a container to remove all the flowers. Place into a container with a tight fitting lid. Store in a cool, dark place. Will stay fresh for approximately one year.

Bookmark and Share

Common Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)

Common, or Eastern Ninebark takes her name from her unusual but beautiful, peeling bark. I bought one for two dollars at the Master Gardener's Annual Plant Sale in May and put her in my garden, before I did some reasearch and realized she's going to get too big - as in up to ten feet wide and tall - for her plot. I'm planning on moving her to a place where she can really spread out this Fall.

A membef of the Rosaceae, or Rose, family, Ninebark is a deciduous, hardy, spring-blooming shrub, but mine didn't bloom this year so we'll have to wait and find out about her flowers first-hand next Spring.. I can't wait to see them! It is native from to Quebec to Tennessee and is cold hardy to Zone 2. It has a medium growth rate and gorgeous yellow to bronze autumn foliage. Mine was wildharvested and will blend perfectly with my "Wild & Wooly" yard and garden theme ;)

I don't know much about Ninebark yet, but I've read that it can be propagated from cuttings or seeds, which germinate without pre-treatment. It transplants easily and apparently grows well in a wide variety of light, moisture, and acidity, making it a very hardy, friendly, adaptable shrub to grow.

Common Ninebark's spring-blooming flowers are an excellent nectar source, and the red fruits which appear in Autumn are eaten by many species of birds (some species flower and fruit in the same period). Physocarpus monogynus, or Mountain Ninebark, of the Southwestern US was used by Indians to relieve pain – the roots were boiled to softness and placed on sores and lesions as a poultice.

Bookmark and Share

Updated Spilanthes (Toothache Plant) Post

Check it out! My Spilanthes has fully matured and she's glorious! I updated my original post with the new pics so all of the information would remain together.

I hope you enjoy them! :D