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Rather an odd start to the season.


I haven't posted in months, and I have a myriad of valid reasons and poor excuses. I'll try to be concise and coherent in my attempt to catch up. First of all, it hasn't been particularly pleasant weather-wise around here. First it was cold and rainy - for days. Then it was sunny and warm, but an unnerving high wind blew day and night - for days. Now it's been unbearably hot and dry, with high winds - for days. As I write this, a powerful storm is barreling in. It's hugely welcome, if a bit threatening. The pollinators are here, and I'm fairly encouraged, but the wind has made it all but impossible to capture many shots. (Oh, yikes. Just had to reboot after a lightening bolt.)

Shannon and I are happy to see a fair amount of our first Ohio spiderwort coming up. So are the sweat bees, obviously. Unfortunately, the lupine came and went during the winds of hell, so I got nothing there. Except . . . THIS!

Our first golden northern bumble bee. I've been wanting to see one of these in our prairie for a few seasons now. I'd seen one at Rose's and a few at the Decorah Community Butterfly Garden, but that's it. This was probably the largest bumble bee I've ever seen. Absolutely gorgeous critter. We've only seen a handful of monarchs, but that doesn't seem to be too big an issue, at this point.

As of this a.m., I have 67 larvae. That's right, 67. Shannon and I went down on the 4th to the milkweed mecca in the waterway of the cornfield that surrounds our property. We found 37 eggs and 1st instars that day, and I found 27 more the next. Two were found in our prairie. I've actually had 71, but 2 eggs didn't hatch and 2 tiny cats died. I found one 5th instar when I was harvesting milkweed today. It'll be interesting to see if it's parasitized. I see there's been feeding down in the waterway, but I think the predators are taking the vast majority of the cats, because I can't find them on the plants where they've been chewing away. At this point, all of my 67 look healthy and are eating milkweed almost faster than I can gather it. I don't want to stress the plants too much, so it's a long process harvesting it, taking a leaf or 2 at a time from each plant. There's more and more coming up, though, which is very encouraging. It's been a long haul, getting our store together. Heat pressing is a daunting task, as the learning process is rather expensive. We aren't happy with the seed mix in the paper we were buying, so I've been experimenting, trying to get some decent stuff using mesic seeds from Seed Savers's prairie selection. I think I may have just found the answer to this paper thing. It takes a lot of clean recycled, shredded paper, and a lot of towels, and a hell of a lot of patience. The magic tool, though, appears to be a screen made from a terrarium top, no-see-um screen, and magnets, believe it or not. I still need a little more experience with this magic tool, however. And the jewelry. I started silversmithing again after not doing it for almost 25 years. I'm addicted. Again, the learning process is expensive, but a little tweaking here and there on the screwed up pieces can often save them from being a total loss. I sure hope people turn out to be as enthused about flowers and bugs as we are, cuz I'd be content sitting in my studio with a torch, silver sheets and wire, charms, and solder from dawn to dusk for days on end. Here are a couple of pieces in the style I most prefer to do.

​Martini time! Enjoy the beauty and the buzz that's coming up out there!


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