Monday, October 26, 2015

Compassion Informing Observation: the Butterfly Project

Many of you locals have probably visited or at least heard of the local butterfly guru, Louise Hallberg. She has a history of bringing caterpillars into her bathroom to protect them from the elements. So when Rob recently told me of the latest evolution of his "butterfly project," I thought to myself, perhaps others would be interested in hearing of his efforts. So here is what he has written for your amazement and enjoyment, too.The pictures are taken and provided here by Rob, as well as the text, of course.


With Cathie’s prodding, I am presenting my Swallowtail Butterfly experiment.  I am an observer of nature and its creatures.  Over the years I have watched the Swallowtails on their host plant of fennel.  The caterpillars seemed to be disappearing around mid-term in their development.  The few that did get quite close to maturity would also disappear.  It had to be the birds, so I decided to assist Mother Nature.

My first experiment was to erect a framed netting of the host plant.  I also moved new hatchlings under the cover.  Their development went well, but close to maturity, all would disappear at once.  I decided the Brown Towhee was the culprit because of their ground dwelling nature; they probably entered from underneath the netting, the most vulnerable area.

Next I brought the caterpillars into my sunroom where I kept a small fennel plant.  This seemed to work for a while for I got three caterpillars to the chrysalis stage. This was a bit more rewarding.  All of a sudden these new caterpillars disappeared.  I eventually observed a sparrow feeding on them. 
My new plan was to move the operation into the house.  My incubator became a bouquet of fennel which I picked fresh each day.

This also became a focal point of interest for everyone in the house.  I usually had two to three bouquets going at once with a total of five or six caterpillars on each clump.  I had to keep the mature ones separate from the tiny hatchlings or else they disappeared; I could only image their fate.

I inserted several 18 inch long plant stakes around the bouquets for the mature caterpillars to crawl up on to form their chrysalis.

Most cooperated but I did have a few escapees, most of which I easily found, but several are still in the house somewhere.

Once the chrysalis had formed on the plant stakes, I moved them to another location, forming now a stake bouquet.  The hatching of the cocoons was very thrilling.  

It took a half hour for the butterfly to fully expand and dry and another half hour before flying.

The butterflies always hatched in the morning and the hour of emergence gave me time to get them outside.  The few that I missed always flew to the light so I found them at the nearest window. They did not want to fly until they were in the sun.

The caterpillars took two weeks to reach maturity and form the chrysalis.  It was usually another eighteen days before they emerged as butterflies.  It was always a wonder to imagine how much butterfly could emerge from such a small cocoon.  This was truly the ultimate wonder.

I now have fourteen chrysalises that have not hatched.  The last one emerged in early August.  Now I have a new quandary; they must winter in the chrysalis stage.  Their host plant is in decline and unproductive so there is no more time for another life cycle.  Only the Monarchs migrate and winter in their adult stage.  Temperature cannot be the trigger for hatching for fall is usually the warmest time of the year.  I am to conclude that the lengthening daylight of spring has to be the activator for the butterfly to emerge.  I should not store the chrysalis in a closet for the winter as they will need exposure to daylight.  Proceeding on this premise, I am extremely excited to see what happens this coming spring.  Will some or all hatch?

Rob Bartlett has co-authored Balanced Destiny and more recently authored The Awakening of a Wizard. He also is excellent at trimming my hair to take advantage of the curliness that has appeared with the graying. Both Rob
and I are "green wood Monkeys" so I love visiting with him every few months as he takes excellent care of trimming my hair.

Thank you, Rob, for sharing your "Butterfly Project"

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Permaculture and Place

September 27, 2015 Full Moon (Super, Blood moon) eclipse resolving

When we bought and moved to MuRefuge in December, 1993, neither Dwight nor I had lived in one place for enough time to identify with "place," much less grown roots. "BE-ing" at MuRefuge was essential for me not only to live but to thrive: I was in the throes of recovering from a disabling autoimmune disease and healing from an infancy trauma. Out of this process came the title for this blog and each ensuing post: "BE-ing Rooted: a Practice in Essential Living."

Aristotle’s Physics"the potency of place must be a marvellous thing, 
and take precedence of all other things.”  
. . . . place is "that without which nothing else can exist”

BEFORE: Summer, 1994
Digging swales, a Permaculture idea for water catchment,
along our South property line designated by the fence.
Keith Johnson, who unfortunately no longer resides in Sonoma County, was the Permaculture resource we used here at MuRefuge. His way of proceeding was to gather individuals interested in the the topic he wanted to demonstrate and have a hands on workshop. Our water catchment system of swales was dug in a weekend workshop with very little money changing hands and loads of dirt moved.

The purpose of swales is to slow the flow of water so it can soak into the ground. By doing so the groundwater table can be elevated. The rapid flowing water would leave our property otherwise. These particular swales were dug more like a flowing river with bends and turns, replacing a concrete straight "ditch" along the fence line which diverted all the water to the property to our East. We call these bends and turns our wiggle waggles with peninsulas on which to plant. The first and second round of plantings did not take, however, the third depicted below did.

AFTER: Fall, 2015 depicting Oregon ash in the background
and Golden Currant (Ribes aurum) in front of the trees
and  California Fescue (Festuca californica) just
behind the reused concrete blocks used as stepping stones.
In the before picture I was standing in the far left corner of this after picture.

Golden flowering currant in all its very early Spring splendor.
Permaculture, as originally developed by Bill Mollison, is a way of viewing one's land
or property as becoming self sustaining for all the inhabitants of this particular spot on the planet  The elements (water, soil, air/wind) as well as the topography (the Feng Shui of MuRefuge is very good) are considered when planting, building or using the land in any way. I have found the concepts immensely helpful in many ways: a wind break to protect from the fierce wind whipping through the Wind Gap from the ocean to the inland way East of us, swales to slow the water flow across our property, planting nitrogen fixing plants to feed the soil as well as sheet mulching to also feed the soil by returning the mulched organic matter to the soil as well. Many of you know and have chuckled at my practice of mulching our tattered natural fabric clothes in this sheet mulching. This list is of course not exhaustive but gives you the reader an idea of how Permaculture was applied to MuRefuge.  

The big divergence from Permaculture at Mu Refuge was the plants themselves. Initially, many nonnatives were planted and most of them except the Italian alders have been removed. My committment to native vegetation has burgeoned over the years. Many native plants meet many of the same Permaculture requirements. For example there are native clovers that nitrogen fix just as well as nonnative ones, and native alders nitrogen fix just like their Italian sisters. If I had only know that in 1994 I would have planted native alders along our West fence/property line! Fortunately the Italian Stone Pine trees we also planted there did not like the wetness so they all blew over. These were replaced with Coast Live Oaks (Quercus agrifolia) which are thriving, providing food and shelter for native BEings to this area.

Two Coast Live Oaks growing in the Southwest corner of MuRefuge
We had the most beautiful little BEing visit our Great Room a few days past, when the sliding door's screen was left open for Shasta to come and go, while eating lunch. When I climbed up holding a towel to catch the wee one, I could clearly see the "distinctive white supercilium" of the Red breasted Nuthatch who left behind, when caught and released out of doors, 3 stunning little feathers.

BEing rooted in the place one lives allows one to connect with the cycles of seasons and thus the changes in everything that inhabits the place in which one is rooting. It seems to me the frequent disconnect from the natural cycle we have all felt at some time or other in our lives gives rise to the "human stupidity" that the bumper sticker on one of our neighbor's car states:

"Only two things are infinite:
the universe and human stupidity.
And I am not sure about the former."
Albert Einstein

At our own human stupidity may we each