Tussock Moth

•August 21, 2016 • 1 Comment

The Tussock Moths come in a variety of colors which is reflected in the caterpillars. Some are all white. Some prefer certain plants, such as a Douglas Fir.

Today’s topic is the Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar (aka Milkweed Tiger Moth) Euchaetes egle.

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The life cycle is pretty usual for a moths. Eggs are laid, caterpillars feed and grow, overwinter in a cocoon and emerge the following year as a moth to start the cycle again. What I found interesting is that first, they feed on Milkweed plants. So do Monarchs. The milkweed adds a chemical defense to both the caterpillar and the moth which deters predators from eating it.

Second, is their appetite. In a day, about 15 of the caterpillars turned a three foot tall milkweed plant into a skeleton!

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Rain Drops Keep Falling on my…

•May 30, 2016 • Leave a Comment

One recent morning I was walking around the yard. It had rained the night before and the air was still somewhat misty feeling. The various droplets on the plants around me caught my eye and soon afterwards I went and got the camera…

Leaf
A leaf near the garage. Notice the shape? The point helps to direct droplets to the tip so they can fall down near the plant and give the roots a drink.

Celindine
Drop on a greater Celandine leaf. This sap of this plant can be used as a topical medicine.

Seedum
Sedum. These succulents put on a great showing in early September and bring in many different bees and butterflies.

redleaf
The contrast of light to dark and the way the drops magnify the leaf veining really stood out to me.

crabapple
The crab apple trees were in full bloom.

strawberry
Recognize these three leaves? No, not poison ivy. This is strawberry.

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The ever present dandelion. Between edible and medicinal benefits of this plant coupled with the variety of photo opportunities it provides I can’t see how anyone would want to get rid of them!

Dand2
Another dandelion.

allium
Allium. Blooms into a tennis ball sized purple flower head. This bud is just a few days away from opening.

tulip
What would spring flowers be without some tulips?

Wild Edibles

•January 10, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I spent a substantial number of evenings in 2015 attending the various “Wild Edibles” classes put on at the Resiliency Institute. It was an eye opening experience to find out just how much, growing in our yards, parks, fields and forests is edible.

Granted you can’t just grab a plant and start chewing on it, well some you can, but the majority are only partially edible or need to be prepared a certain way first. While this may be concerning to some, keep in mind, you don’t eat the entire tomato plant, just a part of it. You don’t eat rhubarb without preparing only a specific part of it first.

After each class I’d wander our yard and discover a handful of new edibles each time. Creeping Charlie? Yep. Chickweed? Yep. Dandelion? Yep. Plantain? Yep. Even plants grown as ornamentals, like Bee Balm, are edible or perhaps more accurately can be used to make a very tasty tea.

Plantain

The three varieties of Plantain

 

It was even more of a surprise to find out things like Giant Ragweed are edible too. Specifically just the seeds are edible and contain 47% crude protein. If you want to know more see the write up on it at Eat the Weeds.

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Giant Ragweed

Two years ago I was wondering what these towering 15′ tall plants were in the small back part of our yard that we don’t mow. A bit over a year ago I learned what they were and with conventional thinking of “Ragweed, bad” chopped them down. Four months ago I learned they’re actually edible and now look at them in a new light.

 

Fall’s Rainbow of Colors

•November 8, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Fall colors are an amazing sight to behold. Common green changes into all ranges of yellows, oranges, browns and reds. However to say that it changes is somewhat incorrect.

For the most part, the colors in leaves are already there however the chlorophyll dominates and masks out the actual color of the leaf. In fall when the tree seals off the leaf and stops feeding it the chlorophyll dies off and the true colors of the leaves are finally revealed.

Scientifically speaking, it’s a bit more complicated than that and some colors, like reds, aren’t actually developed until the chlorophyll starts to fade. If you want to read all about these processes, take a look at How leaves change colors.

For me, I’m just happy to enjoy the colors and patterns. Presented as today’s entry is sampling of what was found in our yard this past week.

 

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Still blooming…

•November 4, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Chicago area, November 4th and 70+ degrees today… although in the last few weeks we’ve had at least a few nights where the temperature got down to the upper twenties and water dishes froze over. Still, many flowers made it through the frost and are still alive and providing for the late season pollen collectors.

Today’s entry include all I could find in our yard.

IMG_4868Marigold

IMG_4871Cosmos

IMG_4873Calendula

IMG_4875Basil

IMG_4876Comfrey

IMG_4880Hollyhock

IMG_4882Radish

IMG_4900Goldenrod

IMG_4904Pineapple Sage

IMG_4906Dandelion

IMG_4908Seedum

IMG_4910Calamintha

IMG_4912Mums

IMG_4915Water Chickweed

IMG_4916Lavender

IMG_4928Phlox (of some type)

IMG_4938Indian Strawberry

Giant Leaves – What is it?

•June 20, 2015 • Leave a Comment

A quick posting today. What bi-annual has giant leaves and is a widespread common plant? Although most people don’t know, it’s actually edible with younger leaves and the stalks eaten in the spring and the root can be sliced pickled resulting in something very similar to traditional pickles.

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To give a sense of size of the leaves, here’s my hand and forearm.

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Give up? It’s Burdock. We’ll be covering this more on our Suburban Farmacy site later this year. To learn more now, take a look at http://www.ediblewildfood.com/burdock.aspx.

A Home for Bees, Part 2

•June 13, 2015 • Leave a Comment

When you see a small pile of sawdust what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Now, if that sawdust is under a wooden fence or perhaps a wooden chair, would you change your answer?

There is a bee, similar in appearance to the bumble bee and in the same Apidae family, called the carpenter bee. Actually there are hundreds of different species of the carpenter bee around the world. See more at Wikipedia.

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Upon seeing the pile of sawdust I looked under the chair and sure enough, there was the tell tale hole.

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It was made by this bee.

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From our experience they are pretty much harmless. I’ve never had one come at me or try to sting or act aggressive in any way. At least not towards humans. They build their little holes and lay a few eggs in there after erecting thin walls between each egg. The walls are constructed with the wood particles that were originally removed. Woodpeckers and a few different fly larvae predate the bee’s larvae and the bees themselves are pollinators to many flowers.

Now I said they are not aggressive but that isn’t entirely true. To humans I’ve always seen them as harmless but with each other they’re a bunch of battling bugs. You’ll see one hover in the general area of its nest and quickly go after any other ones that approach too closely. They usually then return to just about the same place to hover again. For us, we can take advantage of this activity to know where they will be in the air, get the camera ready and then be able to get shots of them in flight while they’re hovering.

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