Saturday, July 23, 2011

The sacrifices I have to make...

When the garden center suggested planting specific flowers to attract butterflies, I planted them... no where did they mention that my Curly Parsley would have to be sacrificed!
Every year my garden gets better and better.  This year we were able to figure out a workable sprinkler system, and lo and behold... we have green grass!  The honeysuckles came and went, not before blessing my yard and my senses with their wonderful sweetness.  I love the smell of honeysuckle!  The rambling bush has taken over the old fence - yes, the rickety one from when I was a kid - and made well use of it.  Okay, it is not a beautiful new age trellis, but I challenge anyone to diminish its merit in my garden oasis.  
 Most of my springtime flowers are gone.  The goal for the rest of the summer, is to have my plants survive.  Every year they die due to the extreme heat.  So far so good.  Especially my Purple Cone Flowers.  For all you want-to-be herbalists, this is where Echenacia comes from.
I hang my laundry on the line and watch for butterflies on my mammoth Purple Cone Flowers.  Chores are so rough these days.... 
The rest of my garden is doing really well too.  So far this year I have blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and after 4 years of pruning, watering and babying - my grapes are finally here!  I have no idea how they taste yet, for all I know I could have been raising sour grapes all this time.  I suppose if nothing else the birds will have a feast.  (...and I do like birds, so I suppose it’s all good.)
Then there’s the vegetable garden.  This years crop - peas, cucumbers, dill, and parsley.  At least there was parsley...
I went back to water one morning and all my parsley was gone.  This, mind you was a lot of parsley.  I was hoping to make a parsley salad... well, that idea went out the window.  Or, should I say... into the belly of the beasts.  The butterfly beasts.  
I sat and inspected the damage.  The closer I looked, the more I had to acknowledge that the sacrifice of my parsley offered a bigger gift.  One that my darling daughter would surely appreciate.  I called to her from the yard, ‘Charleeee, come on out here.’  She could tell from my voice it was something she might want to see.  From outside I could hear her bounding down the stairs.  The back door opened carefully.  My children have learned to heed the moment when it comes to Mommy and her excitement over nature... one never knows what is in store.  ‘Come on out honey.  Come look at this!’
Down the ramp with a skip, running across my greeeeennn grass to my use-to-be parsley area, Charlee kneeled down besides me to see what I was looking at.  

You MUST enlarge this.  Check out the feet.  :)
Now just to put this into perspective, every year Charlee asks for caterpillars.  We have two huge net terrariums to house them until they morph.  Well, this year we hit the mother load!  Absolutely gorgeous creatures camouflaged themselves on what was left of my salad.  Charlee did not know what to do first.  She dropped to her knees to get a really close look... then got up to get the magnifying glass... then decided against that, ran back and asked “Please, can I put them all in my butterfly cage?!”  
I barely finished saying yes and she was off to find them.  
Rather than try to remove each caterpillar, we used scissors to cut what was left of my parsley (boo hoo) stems with each critter attached.  Into the cage went the first, then the second, then third, then....... all the way to ten, count them, ten beautiful possibilities to look forward to.
You know what else I had to look forward to...?  Going to the store to buy more parsley!  We were sure we knew what the caterpillars liked to eat... and since there was noooooo moooorreee in my garden... off to the supermarket went I.  
Charlee carried the cage around for a while.  Adding sticks and organizing - as though the brood was interested in their new furnishings... beyond the fact that they were now in a CAGE.  No amount of parsley or sticks was going to suffice.

It is here that I must take a moment to point out the reasons behind Charlee’s logic, for she is saving each parsley-thief from a wayward demise - via becoming a tasty snack for our less-than-patient, soon-to-be-grape-eating, fine-feathered-friends.  A lesson she witnessed the hard way... After nurturing and carefully caring for a brood of store bought caterpillars, the long awaited day came.  It was time to release her first official offspring.  The three of us stood on the back deck patiently waiting and prodding the Painted Lady out of the cage.  Into the air she flew, as we all oooh’d and aaah’d.  Up, up, up... twirling and swirling in glorious first flight... climbing on invisible eddies of air..........  RIGHT INTO the BEAK of a hungry fine-feathered-fiend! (Yes, fiend... definitely not friend!)   As though we offered a butterfly banquet, this bird swooped right in.  It was a painful moment.  Alex yelled out in horror, then shook his head in disbelief.  He stomped his way into the house, not wanting to watch any longer.  Charlee stood there, the moment like stone.  Her mouth open but no sound... until the bird was gone... along with her pride and joy.  As for Motherhood Memories... I could have done without this one.... (and lets not forget the story about ‘Mary Moth.’)

It took some time... a long time... but Charlee came to the only conclusion she could.  “Everything has to eat.”  This being said, she could not find a suitable theory for the poor Painted Lady,  “It was not fair that she did not get even one day of freedom!”  
This current brood sat every night safely by Charlee’s bedside.  Every morning, before anything else, she inspected the cage.  A new batch of parsley was offered and the waiting game commenced.... This went on for days.  
Then it happened.  Charlee woke up and began the head count, 1, 2, 3... never making it to 10.  There on the roof of the cage was the first cocoon.  My I-am-not-a-morning-person child burst out of her bedroom at 6:45 am with a booming announcement.  “There’s a COCOON!   MOMMY, there’s a CocOON!”   
This was now the new morning ritual.  Ten times I had the pleasure of my daughters pleasure.
I have to say, even after purchasing the caterpillars for the cage, I never got to see one actually creating a cocoon.  This time I did.  Very cool!  Such a delicate task.  I find it amazing that they hang from such a fine line... but then again, don’t we all?
Once the feedings stopped, I sort of forgot about them.  Not before trying to find out what kind of butterfly’s we stumbled upon... Uh?!!  Do you know how many different kinds of caterpillars there are?!!  Good Grief.  I decided to exercise a little patience and enjoy the surprise... you know like waiting till you deliver to find out the sex of your baby.  Why do we always have to know everything?  Why?!
The days passed.  Summer camp started.  I opened the bedroom door to rouse my sleeping beauty, and saw fluttering in the cage another.  And a beauty it was!  (Forego the sleeping part... this guy wanted out.)   There was no problem getting Charlee to wake up this morning.  She navigated, in her wobbly, groggy state, onto her knees to inspect closely thru the netting.  From the tangled mound of her bed sheets she insisted “Ohhhh, we have to let it go.”  She is such a great kid.  I never have to explain the ‘we can’t keep it’ rule.  She gets that nature needs to be in nature.  
We stood on the front lawn, once again waiting patiently for the doorway to be found.  The proverbial window of opportunity for all.  Once again, the butterfly’s opening performance was full of swirls and twirls.  Air eddies lifted her in unmistakable breezy steps.  Up, up, up...  (Envision this for a moment... enjoy the bliss... Now insert the scary theme music from Jaws.)  Cue the fiend... and the anxiety... and the yelling.  As if it would matter, we all started to shriek at the eyes that were clearly eyeing our friend.  Our screaming worked, the fine-feathered-friend - thankfully - flew away!  The focus shifted back to the butterfly.  Alex called out, “Fly!  Go, don’t just sit there!  Go!”   I let out a wary “Oh, No?!”  (Seriously?  Do we have to do this moment again?!)  We scanned the skies for more fiends.  I had a brief thought of getting a tennis racket, or the hose, to ward off any unfriendly flighty attempts... then I reminded myself that I love birds.  Remember me?  A want-to-be avid birdwatcher... minus the time.  
Settled into the leaves of the nearest tree, we decided our butterfly was as safe as she could be... for now.  The rest was up to her.

So far we have released 6 magnificent - and I do mean MAGNIFICENT - creatures.  One is more beautiful than the next.  (Click on the images to enlarge them, it's worth the view!)

...and she's off.

If you scan by the brown leaf in the center,  you can see her...
And the next...

Freckles... just like me.  :)

And the next....

And next...
How awesome that this mammoth beauty came from that little bleached out wrapper!


Even the underside was beautiful!

And lastly... proof that siblings can exist on the same planet!  Of course there has to be a worthy common cause....

** This was written outside on a beautiful sunny day - under my new canopy - with Toots at my feet... that is unless she spotted a lizard.  Then all bets were off.......