Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Made with love...

i really love simple toys. Handmade, knitted, crocheted and wooden. i love them more than my kids, as they, like most kids...are far more drawn to bright colored plastic, anything with batteries..that lights up and makes annoying noises. However, that never stopped me from making them toys. So in our home, we have a happy mix of both.

Every great once in a while, they surprise me and put down the Legos and the Little people and pull out the toys that i made for them.

Sage preparing her tea party.

The tea pot and cakes were Yule gifts i made her last year.

The dolls were made for her, before she was even born.

Sage spent over an hour sharing tea and cakes with her friends the mermaid, faerie and gnome. It's moments like these, i can't help but smile.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rescue peeps

A day or so after our new chicks hatched both hens abandoned their nests, to take care of the surviving chicks. They take them out of the coop to scratch around in the yard and teach them to hunt for bugs. i had gone out that day to remove all of the old/unhatched eggs and was surprized to find a newly hatched and half dead looking chick laying on the floor of the coop. She was bloody from being pecked at, and her feathery down was dry but caked to her. There was no sign of a shell. We have a couple hens that are egg eaters if the eggs are not removed quickly from the nests, and we believe one of the hens actually ate the egg away...causing the chick ( that would have otherwise died) to hatch.

i brought the chick in the house and created a makeshift brooding box, to keep her warm and comfortable until she died.

i didn't take pictures when we first brought her in, because i never expected her to survive. However she did, and is doing well! We named her Lucky, because she is truly lucky to be here.

Our second little rescue chick, Bumbleberry, was brought in a day after Lucky. We believe he was stomped on by one of the larger birds. Kenan found him laying on his back in the mud outside the coop, both eyes swollen shut and dried blood around his head and beak. He was in really rough shape, and again we didn't really expect him to survive.

However, both chicks bounced back, and were comforted by each others company. The first night we had just Lucky inside she peeped all night, even though she had food and water and the temp was good...she was lonely. She would quiet as soon as i spoke to her. Once Bumbleberry was put in the brooder with her, she would cuddle up to him and they both stayed quiet all night.

We kept the chicks inside in the brooder for about a week, then decided to try and re-introduce them back with mama. i was really happy to see that she accepted both chicks, somewhat amazing as she had never even met Lucky before. Hens can often be very brutal to chicks that are not their own, and will peck them to death.

i re-introduded the chicks slowly, allowing them a few hours with mama, and then back in brooder for the night. After a few days of this, i realized they were ready to go back in the coop. i admit i was a bit worried about Lucky, who was smaller and more fragile than the other two chicks. She seemed to have a hard time keeping up, and with the amount of predators in the area...she would have no chance if left behind.

So, we were all very amused to see that Lucky has taken to hitching a ride on mama back anytime she feels she can't keep up.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Afternoon walk.

This afternoon, the kids and i took a walk down the road to pick up trash and recyclables, scope out the wild blackberries and look for monarch caterpillars on the milkweed patch at the bottom of the hill. So we set out, equipped with trash bag and gloves, bug house and berry basket.

Sequoia wanted a bandanna to hold his hair back, and so of course Sage needed one too. :)
It's is only about 1/2 mile to the bottom of the hill, but we picked up enough trash and soda/beer cans to fill our garbage bag. We could have easily filled a second, had i brought one.

The kids are both very enthusiast about picking up litter. We've been doing this since they were tiny. Sage liked to spot and then yell each time she found something, and then Sequoia would collect it.

We found a few blackberry along the way, though not many. The kids had stopped and eaten them all before we made it home. :)
We checked all the milkweed on our way down, and didn't see any caterpillars. When checked the large milkweed patch at the bottom of the hill and were disappointed
that we still hadn't found any. So we headed back up the hill. About half way up, i wanted to check the milkweed one last time..and somehow spotted a tiny 1/2" caterpillar on one of the leaves. So we gathered him up, to bring home.

i found a young milkweed plant and snipped of the top section to bring back to feed our caterpillar. If you place it in some water it will stay fresh for several days. Then you need to replace the leaves with some fresh milkweed to keep your caterpillar happy.

While examining our milkweed, i was delighted to find two monarch eggs! Not long after discovering them, one hatched! If you click the picture above, you can see one egg and one newly hatched monarch caterpillar. This impression in the leaf is where the egg was, after the monarch hatches...it eats it's egg. This little caterpillar is only about 2 mm long. We look forward to watching them grow, and transform.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Butterfly morning.

So it's probably no surprise to anyone that we love butterflies. We have butterfly attracting plants and flowers planted all over our yard and garden. It is not at all uncommon to walk outside and be able to count numerous butterflies, of every size, shape and color. i love sitting outside in the morning, and watching them flutter about.
This morning on my butterfly bush, i counted over 20 butterflies. In just a few minutes time i captured pictures of several different kinds, and even spotted someone new.

This is a female Diana Fritillary butterfly, and this is the first time i have ever seen one. It looks very similar to many butterflies we frequently see, so it took me a minute to realize it was something new. It was the little black spots on the wings that gave it away. We had a difficult time identifying it, because it looked very similar to a red spotted purple, and i thought it must be in a similar family. It is actually a type of fritillary, and the males look quite different from the females. The pattern is the same, but the males are a dusty orange. i am very eager to spot one of those as well, now that i know they are in this area. It's always very exciting to find something new after all these years of chasing butterflies.

This lovely monarch has been fluttering about for the last two days and i'm quite certain this is the one that we released.

American painted lady and silver spotted skipper, although they are both looking a bit weathered.

This American painted lady is a bit more vibrant.

Spicebush swallowtail, we have several of these fluttering around. They are smaller and usually darker than the Black Eastern Tiger swallowtails. They look similar to Black swallowtails, but lack the defined double row of spots.

Eastern Tiger swallowtail black form (female).

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

Red spotted purple.

hummingbird moth, not a butterfly...but still a common visitor to the butterfly bush.

Fritillary and Spicebush swallowtail.

Three of the many fritillaries that frequent my yard.

Butterfly line up! Fritillary, Eastern tiger swallowtail and monarch. Everytime i approach the bush, they swirl around me and seem to dance with each other before setting back down on the flowers.

This is just one more simple reminder that life is beautiful.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Monarch Emerging.

Last week we watched our monarch caterpillar transform into it's chrysalis, it was amazing to watch and kept the kids quite mesmerized. We've been watching our chrysalis for any sign that it was getting to close to emerging.

A few days before, we begin to see the faint colors of a monarch inside.

On the morning that it emerges, the chrysalis becomes transparent and the butterfly inside is quite obvious. When we saw this we knew that our monarch would be emerging at anytime.

Only a few minutes after i took the picture of the translucent chrysalis, i glanced over and saw the chrysalis split. The kids gathered round and we watched in amazement as our monarch emerged.

It dropped out head first, but held on with it's feet. It abdomen is very swelled when it first emerges.

As it begins to uncurl it's wings, the blood from it's abdomen is pumped into the wings. So the abdomen becomes thin and narrow, as the blood is redistributed.

It takes a few minutes for it's wings to uncurl and stretch out.

Once the wings are out, it sits in this position for about an hour or so to let them dry. Then we bring her outside to release.

Sage begged me to put it on her nose, like the swallowtail a few weeks ago. Always a classic picture in our household. :)

Time to fly little monarch! Fare thee well!

It flew away, but didn't go far. She seemed quite happy to hop from flower to flower in our garden. For the last two days while we are outside playing, we see her flutter by while dancing with swallowtails and fritilaries. Sequoia is certain that it is 'our monarch' that we keep seeing fly by. It always makes us smile.