This Summer, let's take a short walk from the pond and over to the garden. For it is here where, in the Spring, my son and I planted milkweed seeds to see if we could raise Monarch butterflies.

Were we successful? Read on!

First, let's stop for a look at Catarina's herb garden! This is where we grow basil, chives, lavender, lemon balm, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, sage, tarragon, and thyme. Many a fine meal started right here! And behind all those delicious herbs, you can see six tomato plants coming up.

Immediately to the right of the garden is our next stop. Here you will see 2 clusters of milkweed. The larger plants in front came from seeds given to me by a friend, and the batch off to the right were grown from seeds I purchased on Ebay for a couple dollars.

That photo on the right was taken in mid-August. The milkweed grew quickly, but we never saw any caterpillars on them. I did notice a butterfly darting up and down above the plants after taking this photo, but didn't think anything of it. We then took a drive up to Buffalo for my dads 80th birthday. Upon our return, we discovered...

Monarch Caterpillars!!

At first, we counted only 5 or 6. But then we started looked from the ground up at the underside of the plant -- at one point counting 12 caterpillars -- all methodically chewing away on the milkweed leaves. And they have voracious appetites too; only bare stems were left on many branches! I guess the milkweed expects this though, because within a few days, delicious new leaves were coming forth!

But then the caterpillar count started decreasing. There were 9, and then 5, and then just a few caterpillars remained. Where were they going? Was something eating them?! And then there were only 2 left... something had to be done!

So I jumped into action. I drove a bamboo post into the middle of the milkweed patch and glued a piece of cardboard to the top of it. I wrapped a screen around it and put one of the 2 remaining caterpillars inside. Nothing was going to happen to this one! After it marched around for a while, it attached itself to the underside of the cardboard 'roof' with some silk and curled up into a 'J' shape.

The next morning, we came out to look at it and found a chrysalis!

Inside here, an amazing transformation will take place...

So that we could all keep an eye on it, I removed the cardboard from the bamboo post and moved it into the house. We put it on top of a vase and kept it by the window, checking it every day, several times per day!

On September 15th, after about 10 days in there, I glanced over at the jar and, instead of a chrysalis, I saw a beautiful Monarch butterfly! When it comes out, the butterfly has to pump up its wings with fluid (you can see some of it dripped to the bottom of the bowl). Then after that, it needs to dry off its wings before it can take to the air.

It was a sunny morning, so we moved the butterfly out to the garden. It walked across our fingers and we left it on a flower of a butterfly bush. Here it sat here for maybe 20 minutes, fanning its wings, cleaning its antennae and trying to work its mouth (a long coiled tube).

And then it flew!

It's first flight was from the butterfly bush to my shirt! REALLY! It held on to my shirt for maybe half minute while Catarina ran to get the camera again... too late! It flew over to the pear tree. And then, after one more short flight to the arborvitae (this picture), it flew up and away.

That same morning, about 15 feet away from the milkweed plants, I discovered another butterfly clinging to a chrysalis and stretching its wings. I'm guessing the rest of them were all out there somewhere too!

Anyway, I think everyone should plant some milkweed in their yard and then watch nature at its finest. It's a spectacular show, and fun for the whole family!!

In the Fall, the local nurseries had their usual 50% off sale and we just had to pick up a few perennials. We planted a "Variegated Honeysuckle" over by the shed, and in the low-center of this photo, you can see our first tropical plant! This is a Needle Palm, supposedly hardy to zone 5 (we're in zone 6). For the first couple of years, we're supposed to wrap it in burlap to help it through the Winter.

Oh! If you look along the left border of this picture, you can see one of the bird houses the kids built a couple years ago.

On December 5th, we got our first snowfall of the year! Just a couple inches, but hopefully a sign of things to come!! Did I mention I like snow?

And if you look closely at the center of this photo, there behind the pond you can see a triangular-shaped mound of snow... that's the Needle Palm all wrapped up for the Winter!

What's up for next year? Well, I'm planning to start a new gardening-related hobby! My in-laws came to visit this Fall, and my father-in-law built and painted the boxes you see here.

But what am I planning to do with these?!

For the answer to that, you'll just have to come back next year!!!

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