Save the Monarch: Plant a Milkweed!

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Last year Ms. Jeannie traveled approximately 13,000 miles via car over the course of 52 weeks. Last year the North American monarch butterfly traveled 3,000 miles via wing over the course of nine weeks. Ms. Jeannie mainly drove around her neighborhood and her city with a few side trips around the state. Butterfly flew halfway across the North American continent, traveling through at least six United States, one Canadian province, and half of Mexico.

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On average last year Ms. Jeannie traveled about 39 miles a day via car. On average last year, Butterfly traveled 47 miles per day via wing on her two and half month road trip. Ms. Jeannie’s car runs on gasoline which brought her to the fill-up station about 120 times over the course of the year. Butterfly runs on nectar which brought her to the fill-up station about eight times during the course of her journey.

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Ms. Jeannie’s car is an incredible piece of machinery able to get her from here to there on a whim’s notice.  But Ms. Jeannie’s car is nothing compared to the flying machine that encapsulates the strength and stamina of a migrating monarch. Butterfly’s migration is one of nature’s most epic adventures, which is why you’ll find a photo of her pinned to Ms. Jeannie’s true adventurers board on Pinterest. That’s the place where all of history’s great travelers and outside-of-the-box thinkers congregate and where Ms. Jeannie heads when she needs a little inspiration.

A partal list of true adventurers. Clockwise from top left: Photographer Imogen Cunningham, Elizabeth Taylor, Monarch Butterfly, Explorer Tom Crean, Aviator Anne Morrow Lindbergh and Explorer Jacques Cousteau. To visit Ms. Jeannie's board and see all the adventurers click the photo.
A partial list of true adventurers… clockwise from top left: photographer Imogen Cunningham, actress Elizabeth Taylor, epic traveler Monarch Butterfly, explorer Tom Crean, aviator Anne Morrow Lindbergh and explorer Jacques Cousteau. To visit Ms. Jeannie’s board and see all the adventurers click the photo.

Along with all icons who undertake brave and unbelievable feats there is almost always a strong support system behind them.  Julia Child had her husband Paul, Jacques Cousteau had a research foundation, Anne Frank had her diary. And so it goes with butterflies. Monarch has the milkweed.

Vintage 1953 botanical print of the showy milkweed painted by Mary Vaux Walcott.
This vintage 1953 botanical print of the showy milkweed painted by Mary Vaux Walcott is availiable in Ms. Jeannie’s shop. 

Bright, beautiful and stately in size (up to 6 feet tall!), the milkweed plant is where Butterfly takes refuge. It’s the one place that not only offers a safe and idyllic spot to lay her eggs but it also offers the only source of nourishment to her babies in the form of a food when the wee ones are in the larval stage.

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It’s the fill-up station for the winged world delicates!  There used to be billions of monarch butterflies floating around our skies, but now there are only millions. Their significant decline in numbers is due in part to the disappearance of the milkweed plant. Commercial farming and urbanization has cleared the earth in important areas along the migratory trail of the butterflies and the resting spots where they congregate making it increasingly more difficult for monarch butterflies to reach maturity.

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Not having enough milkweed plants to butterflies is like not having enough gas stations for cars. Each needs the other and each won’t operate without the help of the other.  So this is where you come in… as a cheerleader, support staffer, tribe member and all around champion of the mighty monarch you can make an immediate difference in the life of a winged wonder by planting milkweed seeds in your garden or your balcony flower pots or by scattering seeds in grass lots around your neighborhood. It doesn’t matter if you live in California, or New York, Arizona or Maine all milkweed plantings in all states help one cause. You’ll be sustaining the lives of migrating butterflies as well as assisting other pollinators that bring so much benefit to so many other creatures both in and out of the garden.

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There’s also an added bonus to being helpful. Milkweed flowers are beautiful! Available in a range of colors from red orange to pink to pale peach they are named after the milk colored latex coursing through their stems (a defense mechanism), which makes them unattractive to chewing worms.

Vintage Wildflower Guide published in 1948 by Edgar T. Wherry. Read more about this book here.
There was lots of interesting milkweed information in this vintage wildflower guide published in 1948 by Edgar T. Wherry. Read more about this book here.

Much prettier than any gas station or rest stop area for cars, these fill-up stations for butterflies have been around since the 17th century and contain over 140 different varieties. As a family they are known as Asclepias with a petal layout complexity most closely associated to that of orchids.  As one of nature’s most intricate flowers they are made up of a collection of petals on a spray of delicate stems that eventually meet in one main stalk – sort of like the flower head of Queen Anne’s Lace or a loose version of the flowering garlic bulb. Leaves also range in color depending on the variety from silver green to dark emerald.

seed pods!

When the milkweed goes to seed it forms a pod of white silky hairlike plumes that launch on a breezy day, spreading seed around the neighborhood like pin-sized snowdrops. Imagine a whole gigantic field blowing in the wind at once – it would a veritable summer storm of beauty!

Easy to grow and care for, you can find seeds for under $2.00 a pack at Botanical Interests (Ms. Jeannie’s favorite seed company) or at your local garden center. March – May are perfect times to plant Milkweed in time for fall harvest and fall migration.

Seed starting indoors!
Seed starting indoors!

If you are a travel lover like Ms. Jeannie, you’ll appreciate the need to help our fellow flying friends get to where they need to go. Road trippers need to look out for one another on the highways of life, so Ms. Jeannie hopes that you will join her this summer in the great garden challenge – Milkweed for the Monarchs! Throughout the spring and summer she’ll be keeping you updated on her butterfly garden’s progress. It would be incredible if you did too:)

To see just how exciting it is to help and host butterflies, visit Ms. Jeannie’s 2013 archives when the season of the swallowtails unfolded week by week right here on the blog.

Happy helping dear readers!

*All butterfly photos courtesy of pinterest.

 

 

 

Seedlings and Snakes: Let the Season Begin!

It was exactly two weeks ago today that Ms. Jeannie got going on her spring garden with the official planting of the seeds. And now here we are just 14 days later with sprouts that look like dancers…

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The cucumbers and the snow peas are winning the race towards bloom day…

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And the okra is not far behind…

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Even the lone zinnia in the rescued and re-purposed pitcher has come to surface. Not doubt happy to have such an exotic home!

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It is always fun to watch how each kind of seed unfurls…

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The dill is dainty…

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…while wax beans look downright pre-historic…

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And then there was the sighting of an actual pre-historic…

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“Just a baby,” said Mr. Jeannie Ology. This “baby” indeed, was three feet long, which was plenty long for the likes of Ms. Jeannie. Hopefully this little one will be gracious enough to stay out of the greenhouse!

Earthbound: Stories From Underground

Last summer when Ms. Jeannie posted about the giant hercules beetle larvae poking their way out of the ground she mentioned that on first glance she mistook them for old doorknobs. Sometimes that actually happens. One of the joys of digging around in the dirt in Georgia is unearthing unexpected treasures.

Gifts from the ground.
Gifts from the ground.

A few weeks ago, Ms. Jeannie was visiting a fiend and helping with some garden projects. When digging up some dirt for potting soil in a far corner of her friend’s yard, she unearthed the above items, all within just a 20 minute time span.

There was old farm equipment in the form of a hefty tractor gear, and some nuts and bolts and pins…

Old farm equipment parts.
The gear looks like the sun, doesn’t it?

There were old pottery pieces…

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Ms. Jeannie loves to find these most. She has a collection of hundreds of pieces which one day she will do something crafty with. The pottery usually swims to the surface after a heavy rain and you can find it almost everywhere around historic places – usually in the sandy parts of pathways or the bald spots of grassy areas like lawns and gardens.

She likes these pieces best because they are delicate and pretty and they tell fascinating little stories about the area they were found in. The pieces with the red flowers are from a turn of the 20th century shaving mug. There is also a china plate (the blue pieces), ironstone pottery (the cream colored pieces) and earthenware pottery – double-glazed  on each side which means it was used for some sort of food or water storage.

On that same dig Ms. Jeannie also found an old medicine bottle (perfectly intact!), the top spout of another bottle and the top of an old canning crock from the early 1900’s… (notice the date of 1892!)

Housewares!
Housewares!

This is what the entire crock would have originally looked like…

A complete, fully intact  version a Weir Jar from Swan Creek Vintage (click for more info)
An antique Weir Jar from
Swan Creek Cottage (click for more info)

These crocks were used for pickle storage, and then became reuseable for other things like, honey, jam, butter, etc.  Because Ms. Jeannie found these in the dirt next to the medicine bottle she most likely uncovered a bit of an old garbage pile. Back in the day before trash pick-up and garbage trucks, people would designate one area of their property as the trash heap and they would either collect in a mound and burn it, or dig a big hole in the ground, toss in their unwanteds (empty bottles used jars, clothing, shoes, broken dishes, equipment, etc.) and let nature takes it course of breaking it down. Obviously the heavy duty items never break down but once dirt and leaves and other natural debris cover up the pile it was an out of sight/out of mind situation.

The final thing Ms. Jeannie found was this aluminum pitcher dating to about the 1960’s…

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It was fully intact but a little squashed,…

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But because it has this fun aqua-teal ish color to it…

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Ms. Jeannie thought it would make a very fun, very rustic flower container! Mr. Jeannie Ology hammered it back out into shape, scrubbed it down and voila…

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Taking center stage in the greenhouse, it’s a new home for soon to be zinnias! Ms. Jeannie planted red zinnia seeds in the pitcher so when they bloom it will be a pretty contrast against the aqua and rust. If all goes according to plan it will be an interesting conversation piece.  From trash to treasure, a love story.  You just never know, dear readers, what gifts the earth will give back to you:)

 

 

In the Garden: How To Make Seed Starting Pots Out of Old Newspapers

Happy April everyone! Now that gardening season is upon us all, Ms. Jeannie wanted to share a little garden project with you that she has deemed most helpful.

In the past Ms. Jeannie has always started her seedlings off in composted cardboard pots like this, which are supposed to be able to break down in the soil, pot and all, once you plant your seedlings in the garden…

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They are great at providing good vessels for growing seedlings but Ms. Jeannie always finds that once she plants them in the ground – they never fully disintegrate. She’s either left with a top ring to the pot or a chunk of side wall that inhibits the roots of the plant from growing out in one direction or another.

So this year, she’s trying a new seed starting option…the newspaper pot!

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Handmade newspaper pots for seed starting.

Because most newspapers are now printed with soy based inks, you can plant these cups directly in the ground once your seedlings are ready to be planted. They are fun, easy and inexpensive to make. Plus you are doing your part to recycle and also adding some compost to your garden!

Each pot takes about 4 minutes to make, so you can have a collection in under an hour and be well on your way to starting your spring garden.

Here is what you will need:

The ingrediants for your recycled garden containers
The ingredients for your recycled garden containers

2 four page sections of newspaper

A 40z straight body juice glass (this is important to have a straight body juice glass as opposed to using a tapered or flared glass)

Step 1.

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Unfold your newspaper to full length. Place both sections on top of each other.

Step 2:

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Fold newspaper in half length wise making sure to line up the edges.

Step 3:

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Next, take your glass (open end of glass pointing down) and place the bottom half of it on the edge of the newspaper and begin to roll the newspaper around the glass, making sure to keep the glass straight as you roll. This is where using a tapered glass is tricky, because the taper makes the glass roll in non-linear directions.

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Continue rolling the glass all the way down the length of the newspaper. Once you reach the end, tuck the newspaper into the open end of the glass

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So that it should like this…

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Step 4:

Next pull the glass out of the newspaper, this might take a minute if you rolled your glass really tight – you might have to sort of wiggle the glass out of the paper.

Once you remove the glass, you will wind up with a newspaper tube that looks like this…news9

Step 5:

Take your glass in your right hand, and place your paper cup on the table (in above manner). Insert the bottom of the glass into the paper opening and crush down the crinkled up paper in the bottom of the pot, which forms a floor for the container.

Pull your glass back out and the bottom of the pot should look something like this…

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If you flip your pot over the bottom will look like this…

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Flip your pot back around and you will be ready to fill it with gardening soil and seeds!

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Ms. Jeannie placed her seed pots on a mesh screen frame so that air could get to it from all sides, but you can use any old tray if you like. By using two sections of newspaper you can now water your seedlings without your paper pot falling apart. If you just used one section of newspaper the pot would be too flimsy.

As soon as your seedlings get a few inches tall you can plant the whole paper package in the ground! Ms. Jeannie has planted spinach seeds in her pots which she will then transfer to terracotta container planters when they are ready.

By mid-May, she should be knee deep in fresh spinach!

She’ll keep you posted on the progress!

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The Yin & Yang of January

This morning, Ms. Jeannie woke up to this on one side of the yard:

Frost as thick as a blanket!
Frost as thick as a blanket!

and this on the other side of the yard…

The crocus' are here!
the blooming of the crocus’!

Isn’t it amazing that two conditions like this can co-exist at the same time? She could almost hear Mother Nature asking – “…and which do you prefer Ms. Jeannie? The gift of winter or the gift of spring?”

Ms. Jeannie picks Spring! She’s looking forward to new year of gardening adventures! What about you?

Garden Update: Day 31

Well my dears, in what surely must be some sort of record, the sunflowers have grown an amazing 11 inches since our last garden update 14 days ago.

11 inches in 14 days! Ms. Jeannie’s going to need to get a longer ruler!

That’s about 3/4 of an inch per day!

Over 14″ inches tall as of today!

How exciting! Ms. Jeannie’s not trying to rush the days – but she can’t wait until they flower:)

Just to refresh- the target bloom date is Ms. Jeannie’s birthday – June 16th. A month and a half away. If they continue on this growing rate they will be about 55″ inches tall in mid-June, which would put that at about 4.5′ feet tall.

According to the seed packet, this Moulin Rouge variety of red sunflower reaches an average height of  6′ feet tall, so we don’t quite know yet if Ms. Jeannie will have that birthday bouquet or not. Oh the garden suspense!

Garden Update: Day 16

Today marks day 16 of the garden growing process. Ms. Jeannie woke to find the very tips of her little sunflower seedlings just barely peeking over the brim of their vintage water trough container…

Just peeking!

She brought her ruler along with her when she went out to water this morning.  The seedlings are just a hair under 3″ inches tall now.

The most amazing part though is that on some of them the leaf span is almost 6″ inches wide! Goodness gracious they are growing up and out!