New Beginnings

by Stefani on 8-February-2010

Blue Yonder - Seedlings

Happy new week, everyone!

I’m so excited today to share with you some new beginnings for us at Blue Yonder.

First, I’m delighted to say that I’m going to be contributing on occasion over at SimpleHomeschool. This site is one of the new blogs joining Simple Living Media, created specifically for people interested in creating simple, mindful, rich home learning environments. I’ve long been a fan of SimpleMom and SimpleKids, so joining their ranks is a real honor. The contributing teams at each of the blogs are made of some truly amazing women, and I cannot wait to follow along with them. I hope that you’ll join us and share your tips and stories about living simply as well.

Second, you can see by the photos here that we are well on our way to welcoming spring. In years past, it has always taken me by surprise. Spring seems to come for us VERY quickly, and invariably I’m behind before I’ve even gotten started. This year though, I have an eager little garden helper watching the calendar and prodding me along.

Got Milkweed

If you were following last year, you know that butterflies are a BIG deal in this house. My oldest son had three tanks of various caterpillars chomping and changing. He joined a local entomology chapter, researched his little heart out, and at one point was conversing via email with a real live lepidopterists about a flower color preference experiment that he was conducting with our winged friends.

Sadly though, our butterfly garden, as hard as we tried, was a miserable failure. We just started planting WAY too late. Our plants didn’t stand a chance at getting properly established during the hellish heat of summer. Draught and water restrictions did little to help. So this year, my young scientist is keeping me on the ball, and ahead of the game.

Waiting for the Dragons

Before we began planting, we revisited Gardens With Wings to research our local butterflies and their food preferences. Garden’s With Wings allows you to type in your area code to get a list of specific species of butterflies that frequent your area, and their food plant needs. (They also have a neat page that will help you identify the butterflies that you see)

For caterpillars we planted:

Sunflowers for the Bordered Patch
Milkweed for Monarchs (you can get free seeds at Live Monarch, and don’t forget to keep an eye on Journey North to follow the Monarch Migration!)
Snapdragons for the Buckeyes
Dill and Parsley for Swallowtails
False Nettle for Red Admirals
Passion Vine for Gulf Frittilaries and Julia Heliconians

And for the nectaring pleasure of the adult butterflies:

Coneflowers, Four O’clocks, Fireweels, Shasta Daisies, Lantana, Mexican Hats and Horsemint.

It’s awfully hard to wait for little plants to grow and the butterflies to appear though, now that the hopeful work of planting our seeds is done. So we’re busying ourselves with scouring the thrift shops for more tanks, checking Craigslist for a used tent (a necessity for the new and improved experiment plans that my guy has underway), and making and repairing butterfly nets. Come on spring!!!

*****
If you are interested in studying butterflies too, we hope that you’ll check out our Spring Book of Days. Book 2 includes lots of butterfly chasing fun!

Sarah :: greenclogs February 8, 2010 at 10:02 am

So cool! Annika wants a butterfly garden this year. Well, really she wants a butterfly collection, but we talked her into a garden instead, so we can keep the beauty alive. I’m off to check out that site now.

Stefani February 8, 2010 at 10:08 am

Well, just so you know, my butterfly man is also an avid collector. He has some rules about collecting though… only one specimen per species, and nothing rare or even uncommon in our area. He catches the butterflies, releases them into a tank and then positively identifies his finds and their prevalence here before it goes into the collection. He also likes to leave them in the tank with a host plant for a few days to see if it is a female bearing eggs. He often raises caterpillars to adulthood, sparing them from the wasps and birds, so he feels like keeping one for study is fair play. Good luck with the garden!

Eren February 8, 2010 at 10:21 am

Wooohooo! I hope we can plant some seeds indoors soon. A few more weeks here in VA. You’ll have a gazillion butterflies in no time.

Much love!

E

Stefani February 9, 2010 at 9:49 am

I hope so…. there are so many hopes hanging on the arrival of those winged things!
Stay warm, friend!

Allison February 8, 2010 at 10:25 am

Wow, lots of great links. Thanks!

Pam February 8, 2010 at 10:57 am

Hi Stefani. I admire your homeschooling style. I have two boys and I love that you offer so many wonderful hands-on experiences for your boys. I have wanted to get a butterfly garden started now for 2 years. Thank you for providing some simple resources for me to start with. Congratulations on your new endeavor with SimpleHomeschool, I will check that out later. I am also going to order your Spring Book of Days #2.

Stefani February 9, 2010 at 9:51 am

Hello Pam! Good luck with your garden!
And yes, learning is very hands on here…. more out of necessity than anything else. But then with two boys of your own, you know that they need action, and lots of it! I can’t decide if they are keeping me young or resulting in all the grey that I keep finding in the mirror. Probably some of both 🙂

melly in Maine February 8, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Ah spring! We are still very far from spring here in Maine. But none the less we are very much doing all we can to get ready. You know making lists and deciding what everyone MUST have in their special little gardens. We are actually starting to grow some herbs and other small house type plants this week our selves. As part of a ONE SMALL CHANGE over at http://www.hipmountainmama.com . Head on over and check it out you might enjoy it. xxxxxMelly in MAINE

Stefani February 9, 2010 at 9:51 am

I will check it out for sure. Thanks, Melly. Stay warm up there and hold strong. It will come. I promise!

Jennifer February 8, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Thrilled to see you at Simple Homeschool! What a great resource that site is going to be.

Marianna February 8, 2010 at 8:26 pm

I long for a butterfly garden. Like you I planted too late last year and my handful of plants promptly died!

I’m sure you’ve been, but just in case you haven’t, I highly reccomend the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in late spring/early summer. It is truly amazing. Your boys will be in heaven!

Stefani February 9, 2010 at 9:52 am

We have been, but it was late in the season. I’m glad that you reminded me because we definitely need to go earlier this year! I hope the garden fares better for you this year 🙂

Amy@Let's Explore February 8, 2010 at 9:44 pm

The Gardens With Wings site is awesome – thanks! We’re just getting ready to start some seeds as well…we are SO ready for spring!

Looking forward to reading your contributions over at Simple Homeschool, too! 🙂

Dan Staehr February 8, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Please check out more about butterflies at the International Butterfly Breeders Association web site, http://www.butterflybreeders.org. You might find a member near you who can help you with your butterfly garden as well as provide learning kits and much more!!

Dan Staehr
Executive Director
IBBA International Butterfly Breeders Association

elissa February 9, 2010 at 7:40 am

thanks for the butterfly links. SO jealous that you guys can already think about spring. i know, i know… just wait until the hot summer and all, but around here winter just goes ON and ON and ON. it’ll be may before i’m thinking spring. 😉

Stefani February 9, 2010 at 9:54 am

Oh hang in there hon. I know that feeling, like it will never EVER end and you just can’t take it anymore. Texas really does shine this time of year… and I try hard to remember that every September when I’m ready to disown my homeland altogether!

Be warm, friend!

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