Finally, we’ve got a little color around here!

butterflyFor my 40th(!) birthday, Gene finally relented on his “edible plants only” stance and he and Bess Bess installed a huge butterfly garden in the front yard! It’s beautiful, complete with watering, feeding, sheltering and basking stations – everything a butterfly needs at every stage of development. The yellow and black swallowtail has relocated from the back deck to the front yard, and was quickly joined by three happy bumble bees who spend the vast majority of their day buzzing from bloom to bloom.

DSC03743Naturally I’ve already taken hundreds of pictures, even though it’s a little unnerving to stand close by when the bees zip right by your face in their haste to do some pollinating. Bess Bess did a ton of research on how to set it up, and decided on planting everything in huge swatches of color. It’s going to be gorgeous once everything grows up.

In other news, I dragged Bess Bess to Petco with me to find some live plants my fish tank, and we brought home an African Butterfly fish (in keeping with my birthday theme). He’s really cool – he hangs at the top of the tank all day, and eats live insects.

butterfly fishThe feeding schedule has proven slightly problematic, since according to the internet he either eats several times a day, or requires “heavy feeding” twice a week. Either way, that’s a lot of bugs. Since I’ve never backed down from a challenge, I’ve taken to prowling around the gardens with a huge fish net, trying to swipe bugs out of the air. When I stalk any wayward flies that blunder into our house, I’ll even add a whispered audio commentary, just like the other famous hunters do on all those shows Gene watches.

beeWhile there’s no lack of bugs around here, finding suitable sacrificial insects is tough. I refuse to feed him any beneficial insects, like dragonflies, bees, or butterflies. Likewise, anything cute and adorable is spared, like ladybugs and those bright blue walking sticks. So that pretty much leaves wasps and flies, and since the last thing I want is for an angry wasp to escape my net on its way to the tank, that pretty much leaves flies. I’ve since learned the hard way that flies can survive being dunked underwater, but at least chasing them around the house is good exercise.

I’m not the only fearsome predator out hunting dinner – in other amazing news, my preying mantismantis egg sac hatched! They’re already huge, I saw one yesterday that was about three inches long. I was watering the strawberries right by the greenhouse and happened to spot her hanging from a leaf. They have incredible camouflage, and I love the way they sway back and forth while they wait for something juicy to wander within striking distance.

A pen big enough for two…

DSC03439With the weather in the high 80s and worse, I decided that Porculous the Cherished would be happier out in the pasture, where he has room to run around and hide in the cool grass and other assorted flora. So Gene and Abby moved some panels into the back and created a huge pen, complete with mud pits, tons of hidey-holes, and of course a feeding and treat station. Gene even created a rolling gate by screwing two casters onto a pallet, so it’s easy for me to go in and out.

Porculous absolutely loves it. He runs laps around the fence perimeter, stretches out happily in the mud, and comes trotting up to the gate the second he hears me come out of the house. And even better, Porculous and Skeeterhe’s got a roommate to share it all with. Skeeter decided he’d much rather live here, so he found his way back from Abby’s house two days ago. I didn’t have the heart to take him back there after he went all Incredible Journey and found his way home, even though he decimated my romanescu and broccoli bed for the fifth time on his way back. (Apparently my addition of the fencing to the raised bed didn’t even slow him down. Guess I should have spent more than $2 on it.) He came running up to me in the back yard, and was promptly greeted with head scratches, a bowl of kibble, and all the wheat thins he could eat. I missed him more than I realized.

ShyIt only took him a few hours to move in to Porculous’s new digs. Now the two share dinner and treats, and lounge around next to each other in the shade. It’s really cute, especially since they’re almost the same size. Shy and Wool are both fascinated by Porculous, now that he’s out where they can see him. Shy spends a good portion of the day just staring at him. Which is kind of odd, since they’ve both seen pigs before. Apparently Porculous is more interesting than most – just one more reason to keep him around! Now I just have to convince Gene…

I’m anticipating a rather large problem….

So now that our pork supplies have dwindled in the garage freezer, Gene decided we could raise another pig. A few days ago we came happy pighome with 7-week-old Porculous the Tasty, and I’ve already fallen in love. He climbs in my lap and eats fresh watermelon, he loves apples, and he’ll bury his head in a bag of frozen peas and corn. He also demands back scritchies and tummy rubs, and has the most adorable little snout on the planet. I don’t care if he’ll turn into a 900-lb boar if we don’t butcher him, at least he’ll be the world’s friendliest one.

So needless to say, he needs a name change. I’m thinking Porculous the Adored, or Porculous the Cuddler. Right now he’s living in the Bunny treatsRanch (more on that later), where he and I can get to know each other. So far he associates me with treats, since I never come in there empty handed. In about a week, we will put him out in the large fenced area, where he’ll have a ton of shady cool areas, muddy areas, and lots of trees to rub against. Plus he can hang out with Wool and Shy, who both seem utterly fascinated by him already.

So if you’re wondering where Skeeter and Mac are since Porculous moved into the Bunny Ranch, don’t worry. They’re down at Abby’s. She decided to take them in after they decimated my raised beds in the front. Four times in a row. Not only did they chow down on all the veggie starts I’d sprouted from seed, they also ate through almost $200 worth of starts from my favorite garden store. So now I’m about two months behind where I should be, and Abigail is already harvesting broccoli. But her raised beds are covered, so they should be safe. And the bunnies are really happy – Mac has bonded with her rabbit, and it’s fun to watch all three huge rabbits rampaging around her yard.

In other critter news, the pups are enjoying the heatwave we’ve been having. Ceri in ceriparticular loves summer – because she gets to play Sprinkler. When she looks out the window and sees me setting up the sprinkler (because this year I’ve decided I’m going to pretend we’re the type of people who care about the front lawn – we’ll see how long that lasts) she goes absolutely nuts. It sounds like an elephant is trying to knock down the front door. She could play in the water for hours, to the point where I’m almost afraid she might drown herself. She puts her whole mouth over the jet of water, and it sprays about a 40′ radius. But I literally have to drag her away from it. It doesn’t even work to turn it off, she’ll just chew on the hose until more water comes out.

DSC03507Chupi, on the other hand, has discovered a family of chipmunks living in a stack of pallets in our driveway. (They’re decorative pallets, don’t judge). He’ll circle the stack for hours, peering through each level and barking whenever he sees one moving. To be honest, I’d rather they live in the pallets than where they chose to make their home last year, which was in the air filter of our Nissan. I found out when I took it in for an oil change and the tech came out and told me there was a nest in the filter, complete with mummified chipmunk. Then he asked me if I wanted a new filter. Is there really more than one answer to that question?

Anyway, the chipmunks don’t seem to mind having aDSC03519 vicious predator lurking outside their home. In fact, I think they rather enjoy taunting him. And Chupi definitely enjoys the chase.