Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Celebrating National Learn About Butterflies Day - A Giveaway!

Although any day is a good day to eat pie (I'll take Dutch apple, please!), March 14th is designated National Pie Day. Actually, it's "Pi" day – the day we honor the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. This unique number in math never ends.

So far, it's been calculated to 22.4 trillion digits with no pattern repeats, and named for the Greek letter π. We usually say pi equals 3.14, so that's why March 14th has been chosen as the day to celebrate this imaginary number. (This might help you understand imaginary numbers. Or not.)

Now you understand why we are all eating pie today.

Today is also National Learn About Butterflies Day. That, I can get into, even more than pie. These days, I'm spending a good deal of time sharing information about butterflies, specifically, the monarch butterfly.

Monarchs are unique among their kind. They do things that no other butterflies do. You know, like travel up to 3000 miles to a place they've never been before – a very specific place – the same place their ancestors have gone for thousands of years.

Cerro Pelon monarch sanctuary, February 22, 2018

I just returned from visiting three of the monarch sanctuaries in Central Mexico, where these beautiful butterflies go to wait out the winter until it's time for them to make the return trip north. (They're heading north now!) As I stood high on the mountains in the sanctuaries (around 10,000 feet above sea level), I considered this insect and its story. I thought about just what it took for each of those thousands and thousands of monarchs to get to where they were at that very moment.

El Rosario monarch sanctuary, February 21, 2018

If you don't know about the unique life cycle (including the migration) of the monarch, you're missing one of nature's most fascinating phenomenons. I suggest that you pick up a copy of my book, THE MONARCH: Saving Our Most-Loved Butterfly, to learn about it. At a current price of $12.88 on Amazon, this 160-page hardcover book is a bargain, packed with facts, anecdotal stories, projects, plant and predator information, and resources for learning even more.

Today, in honor of National Learn About Butterflies day, I'm giving away one signed copy of my book. All you need to do is leave a comment on at least one of these places:

On this coming Sunday night, March 18, 2018, at midnight EDT, a random winner will be chosen from all the entries. You can enter on all three locations, which will increase your chances of winning, but only three total entries are permitted per person.
If you don't want to take your chances on this giveaway, signed copies of THE MONARCH are also available for purchase in my Etsy shop, Folio and Focus Co. Signed copies of my first book, Indoor Plant Decor: The Design Stylebook For Houseplants, are also available, as well as a unique handmade butterfly bracelet (only one left!).

Enter to win now, and then go have a piece of pie.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Niki Jabbour's VEGGIE GARDEN REMIX - Win One!

One of the best things about gardening is that there is an unlimited choice of things to grow. We tend to grow those things that we love, year after year, but it's always fun to try something new, too.

In 2008, I grew a lot of purple veggies. This
is Phaseolus vulgaris 'Purple Queen'.
One year, I decided to grow purple veggies. Researching what vegetables came in purple, I was surprised to find out how many there were. I already knew about eggplant and cabbage, of course, but there was also sweet corn, okra, potatoes, “green” beans, carrots, kohlrabi, lettuce, and several others.

Seeds were purchased and planted, and my purple vegetable garden was born.

When I would talk about my purple veggie garden, the number one question I got was, “Do the purple ones taste the same as the regular colored ones?” And the answer was yes. There was no discernible difference, other than slight variations you would expect from one cultivar to another, independent of color.

Besides being fun to do, I learned something along the way. Those purple beans magically turned green when they were cooked! We called them our magic beans.

For all of you adventurous gardeners, there's a new book that will have you salivating at all the wonderful and quirky choices available for growing. Niki Jabbour, star of growing year round, even though she lives in Nova Scotia, and author of bestselling The Year Round Vegetable Gardener, has written a fun new book – Niki Jabbour's Veggie Garden Remix.

This book is like looking at a catalog of 224 choices of a wide variety of edibles that you may not have thought about growing or may not have even known existed! But better than a plant catalog, Niki shares growing tips, plant origins, how and when to plant and harvest, different ways to use them, and a host of other information.

If your vegetable garden has become a little ho-hum, or you've lost a little enthusiasm for gardening in general, Niki's book can jump start it all again. How can you get bored growing things with names like 'Poona Kheera' (cucumber) and 'Orange Jelly' (turnip). I'm not a turnip fan, but ORANGE JELLY!

A carrot in parentheses!

I can think of no better way to begin this year's garden than flipping through this book and making a list of seeds that will elevate my veggie-growing space to stellar star status. It's like how I used to go through the Sears Christmas catalog the day it came and I made a list of all the toys I wanted. That was such fun, too.

We've been doing the Blue Apron thing for over a year now, and we've been introduced to some foods that we might otherwise not have known about. We found new foods to love, including some you'll find in Niki's book.

Win a copy of Veggie Garden Remix!

I was sent a complimentary copy of Niki's book and you could win a copy of your own! 

Just comment on this blog post by midnight, EST, on Sunday, February 25, 2018. One random commentor will get a copy of Niki Jabbour's Veggie Garden Remix sent to them from her publisher, Storey Books. Be sure to indicate how you'd like for me to contact you, in case you're the winner.

Good luck!


Niki Jabbour is the award-winning author of Niki Jabbours Veggie Garden Remix, The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener, and Groundbreaking Food Gardens. Her work is found in Fine Gardening, Garden Making, Birds & Blooms, Horticulture, and other publications, and she speaks widely on food gardening at events and shows across North America. She is the host and creator of The Weekend Gardener radio show. She lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and is online at

Monday, January 22, 2018

Listen to the Sounds of Monarch Butterfly Wings in the Cerro Pelon Reserve in Mexico!

I just learned of a project that allows you to hear sounds in various locations around the world. Called Locus Sonus, it is a French-based research network that focuses on the relationship between sound and space. It had its beginnings in 2005, and works in cooperation with several research labs throughout the world, including the School of the Art Institute (SAIC) in Chicago.

While I don't entirely understand their goal or purpose, what I do know is that they set up listening devices using open mics in places in order to capture their soundscape. Mainly an artistic endeavor, it relies on technology and science to operate.

Why am I interested in this? Because one of the locations where a microphone is located is in the Cerro Pelon monarch butterfly sanctuary in Michoacán, Mexico. By tuning in to this particular channel, you can hear the sounds of monarch butterfly wings, birds chirping, and wind through the trees in the location where the monarch butterflies were first found in their wintering location in 1975.

Click on graphic to enlarge soundmap. To go to the site, click here.

The listening map is located here and you can find the Cerro Pelon mic in Mexico and click on it. You'll want to have your sound turned up to its maximum level in order to hear the low level sounds.

The listening equipment is solar powered, so there will be times when no sound is being transmitted (at night, for example, which will be indicated by the darkened areas on the map) and the volume may vary. It's very new, so there will be times when equipment adjustments are being made. During those times, the microphone may not appear on the map. Check back later. It will be worth it!

Taking it all in at Sierra Chincua sanctuary, March 3rd, 2017.

Having been in a couple of the monarch sanctuaries myself, I can confirm that yes, it's very subtle, very quiet, which is the beauty in it, especially when you're in its midst. Just as in the actual location, you will not hear loud anything streaming through the microphone and you might be underwhelmed by what you hear. But make no mistake, you can hear those delicate wing flutters.

When the sun is out, the monarchs can be seen fluttering about, like
these, in El Rosario sanctuary on March 2nd, 2017.

Because the monarchs are much more active on sunny days, this will affect what you hear when listening in. If it's cloudy or rainy, you won't hear the sounds of butterfly wings, because the monarchs will be clustered together on the trees with very few, if any, flying around. So if you don't hear them at first try, go back and give it a listen on different days at different times. I got lucky and heard the wing flutters the first time I tuned in. 🦋


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