Saturday, August 18, 2007

Chasing Butterflies

Romie hooked the little trailer up to the back of the mower and we headed back to Cunningham's Ditch, which runs behind our house. It's called a ditch officially, but it's really a creek that feeds into Blue Creek just a little further east.

I walked beside him as he drove the mower and once we got between the creek and the cornfield, there was about 20 feet of wildflowers and weeds all the way back to the next field. We knew there was still quite a pile of rocks back there that Doug the Farmer had removed from his field, and we were in search of more for the edge of our new little pond.

What we didn't know was that this was 'The Place To Be' if you're a butterfly. Monarchs, Commas, Swallowtails, Cabbage Whites, Summer Azures, Pearl Crescents, Painted Ladies, and Clouded Sulphurs were flitting about by the dozens and it was amazing that we didn't get in their way.

I can understand why the butterflies liked it back here. The wildflowers were nearly waist-high in most places and if they got tired of food, the creek was right there to provide a drink. It was pretty secluded, too, and yes, we did see some that took advantage of that fact, if you know what I mean. Not that insects are shy about much of anything.

The first thing we found wasn't rocks. I walked through the weeds to get to the creek bank and came upon some berries. LOTS of them. At first I thought they might be blueberries, although that didn't seem likely. Then I noticed the leaves and the tendrils on the vines and they were growing in clusters that hung down. Grapes? I took a couple of leaves with me to look up online to make an identification.

We did find a few flattish rocks for the pond, so we loaded them up and headed back towards the house. Romie challenged me - "Let's count the butterflies on the way back. I'll count the Monarchs and you count the white ones. And make sure you don't count the same one twice." Ha. Ha. Ha.

When I got home, I determined that they were indeed wild grapes growing back there. We'd also seen a really nice Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) plant in full bloom and I had decided right then and there that it was coming to live in my garden for the Monarchs.

I returned to the creek with shovel, scissors, and bags in hand. Romie went with me and while I collected the grapes, he dug the milkweed.
Just as we left the field, I noticed a large wild gaura! Though it's native to our area, this was the first time I'd ever seen one and recognized it as such. Its blooms were spent and ready to fall off, so I wasn't able to get a picture of the bloom, but its unique growing form was familiar to me and I could see the flowers had been much the same as my hybrid gaura in my garden.

I got the milkweed planted and watered while Romie arranged the rocks around the pond. The grapes got washed and now I'll search for a recipe for making grape jam/jelly from wild grapes. I've never made jam or jelly in my life, so this will be a new experience!

We did some heavy pruning and late summer clean-up in the gardens today, too. The Morrow's honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii) at the back corner in Max's Garden is once again pretty bare. It's a vigorous grower and this is not the first time we've 'butchered' it like this. It looks kind of funny right now, but it won't for long. In fact, if we don't cut it like this, it would get out of control, just like it did before we made this garden around it.

We removed two of three young maple trees growing in a cluster in the middle of the garden, which we probably should have done years ago. Only one of them was growing in a nice shape, so we left that one. We also cut one large trunk of the white mulberry that came up volunteer three summers ago. It now has two and it looks much better.

I ripped out the cucumber vines and moved the trellis to storage for next year.
We'd not gotten any cucumbers from it that were actually edible, and the vines didn't even look good, so out they came, along with what was left of the second crop of spinach. Same thing for the scarlet runner bean vines, which were still blooming, but whose leaves had looked like swiss cheese for several weeks, thanks to the cucumber beetles. I was tempted to tear out the anemic nasturtiums too, but decided to give them a reprieve for now.

I spoke with my dad on the phone right after we'd finished our outside work and told him about finding the wild grapes. He said they used to grow everywhere around here years ago, especially on fence rows, but he hadn't come across any for quite some time. His dad had worked for the county and knew where all the good vines were. He and a friend of his would go out and pick bushels of them and make their own wine. I'd not heard that family story before!

It was a beautiful day today, with cooler temperatures and lower humidity and Romie and I both said it felt like fall, big time. I love these kind of days, but not what they portend. I think I'll just decide to live in the moment for the next month or two and worry about 'later' later.


Rosengeranium said...

What a lovely day! I wish we could have wild wine growing here in Sweden, but I guess I have to stay content with blueberries and strawberries.

Anonymous said...

That was such a pleasant story to read first thing this morning. Good luck with your jam making and, please, show pictures of your pond as it progresses.

Unknown said...

I don't know what's more fun... your day, or that you have such a great time with your significant other. :)

Nickie said...

wild grapes are great, my grandpa used too make wild grape jelly every year! Enjoy!

Cindy Garber Iverson said...

Oh the photo of the monarch is gorgeous! I just love it! Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

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