So much saving going on around here…

So far we’ve released 7 monarchs, and there are 13 more chrysalises in various stages – plus at least 10 caterpillars still munching! I’m pretty sure I saw some eggs on the leaves too.

I’ve added “build an addition” to Gene’s summer to do list. He can even work on it right under the carport, as the overly protective pair of robins have moved on after their last brood fledged.

But monarchs aren’t the only species we’re giving an assist to – thanks to the hundreds of tadpoles my friend Jennifer discovered in her cow’s stock tank yesterday, now I’ve got a Tadpole Nursery!

There were way too many to survive where they were, so we moved about half of them to our house, where they now reside in a huge plastic bucket filled with rain, creek, and well water – in addition to as many buckets of trough water as Gene would let me put in the truck.

Today I gave them a handful of chopped up chard as a treat, and it was a huge hit. So as I’m dining on chicken tenders washed down with a rum & Coke, they’re eating leafy greens. I think we can all learn a little something from nature.

In other news, the geese have found a new favorite basking spot – on the front deck, directly in front of the porch door. Every time I go back into the house, they want to follow me. So they end up just parked there, soaking up the sunshine. The highlight of their day is when I take Ceri and Chupi to check the mail. I end up rolling 5 deep – with a 3 geese escort.

At any rate, I think it’s super cute that they wait for me to come out of the house. Gene, not so much. Instead of letting their love for us melt his heart, he chooses to focus on what they leave behind. Which, in all honesty, is hard to miss. Literally. You have to open the door then try to jump over 3 steps to avoid stepping in it.

I’ve added “hose off deck” to my list of daily chores. Gene got me a professional grade water wand thing that has a really powerful jet on it, and you’d think since my favorite side gig is pressure washing cedar logs I’d be a lot better at cleaning the deck. But since I went nuts with the potted flowers, it’s kind of hard to get a good angle on the piles. I found that out the hard way, when to my horror I pressure washed a huge goose turd underneath the porch door. Shudder. I bet the next time the porch hits 90 degrees I’m going to wish I hadn’t done that…

Guess I’ll cross that off my bucket list…

Finally, FINALLY, I got firsthand confirmation that we do indeed have a bear problem. Every single time Gene saw a bear, I was either sound asleep or down at my parent’s place helping out. It got to the point where I started asking him if he’d seen any bears lately, while simultaneously making that utterly obnoxious “air quotes” gesture around the word ‘bears’. Then as a matter of practicality I just shortened it to calling them air bears. As in, “oooh did you see any air bears out there?”

It’s not that I didn’t believe Gene, it’s that he told me that literally no one whose wives bought them an ATV had a bear problem. Which of course prompted me to ask him if he’d been sneaking outside in the dead of night to break all the bird feeders. Not that he’d have to sneak, I go to bed pretty early.

At any rate, the other night I happened to notice the motion light go off on the deck. Ten minutes later when Law & Order ended, I decided I should probably get off the couch and look out the window to check it out – and IT WAS A BEAR!!!! I was so excited I didn’t know if I should grab my camera or my phone, so I ended up with both. Gene had to yank me back by my hood as I was charging out the porch door, intent on fulfilling my biggest life goal to date – bear selfie.

Instead, he insisted he go first. Well, technically the gun barrel led the way, then it was him, and me dragging up the rear, as usual. I was supposed to be looking for mama bear since Gene always saw them together… and let’s just say I’m perhaps not the best person to watch your six. I was too intent on staring at the bear in front of us, to the point where I didn’t even remember I was holding a camera.

First off, that thing was huge. I can’t believe it was the “small one”. Secondly, they’re very strangely proportioned. In my head I was thinking they were cute, bumbly little furry squares that ambled around eating honey, but this one was had really long legs and could move at a disconcertingly quick clip. So much so that I’ve decided I’ll hold off on the selfie until I find one that’s hibernating.

The only time I was truly afraid was when the bear ambled past the Monarch Sanctuary. I mean he got within a few inches of my babies… and well, let’s just say someone’s gonna see the mama bear come out if he knocked that over.

To date, I’ve had three butterflies emerge! That’s a record already, and there are still 9 more chrysalises and a ton of caterpillars. Taking them out of the sanctuary once their wings are dry is a little unnerving, as their tiny little feet are kinda spiky. I thought they’d be super light, but you can feel their feet dig in.

Speaking of digging in, I spent so much time watching for the exact moment the butterflies emerged that the robins took offense.

One of them landed on my head and grabbed my hair in its talons. (Gene says I really shouldn’t call them “talons” but he’s not the one who had a robin stuck to his head so he doesn’t understand.)

I have zero doubt if that bear ever stands up under the carport, that robin’s going to do something about it.


The Sanctuary Is A Resounding Success!

I have to say the Monarch Sanctuary is working even better than I thought it would, and I had pretty high hopes. So far there are 12 chrysalises, and about 10 more caterpillars happily chowing down thanks to a restocking run to Jennifer’s.

Should be a few monarchs emerging any day now, which I’m excited about. I’ve noticed a few hanging around outside the sanctuary, trying to get inside to lay more eggs. I tried putting a pot of milkweed in front of it, which worked great until I looked out the office window and noticed the geese had discovered it and started chowing down.

monarch flyingThe monarch had just laid a bunch of eggs, so that was far from ideal and necessitated a panicked flight out of the house. I’ve also been checking on the cocoons after every rainstorm, but the sanctuary is far enough back that not much water or wind blows in on them.

I’ve had to be vigilant about checking the sanctuary for predators, too. So far I’ve escorted a spider and some weird triangular bug out. I didn’t realize that beetles eat caterpillars, or that they’ll latch onto the cocoons and do terrible things, but I guess that’s nature. I also didn’t realize that birds eat butterflies until Gene pointed out a flycatcher with colorful wings sticking out from either side of its beak. It’s a rough world for butterflies, but at least they’re getting a good start on life.

Sadly, we’ve inadvertently taken out a few ourselves, by way of the F150’s grill. Gene had to pop the hood on it yesterday, and expose the filter that’s behind the grill. It looked like modern art. Wings, striped torsos, heads that were identifiable by species – it was horrible. Festively colored, but horrible. I knew northern Minnesota had a ton of bugs, but I didn’t need that kind of proof.

Much more zen than squashed butterflies, you’re welcome.

I was going to snap a picture because one of my great joys in life is making Bess Bess say “ewwwww”, but I didn’t want the tow truck driver to think I was some kind of psycho who rejoices in the demise of butterflies trying to cross the highway. Gene had been picking up the tiller from Duluth and was on his way home when the truck broke down on the highway, so I had gone to pick him up.

Of course the truck picked the hottest day of the year so far to blow the alternator, so when the tow guy got there he was in a mood most foul. I cheerfully said hello, because who isn’t thrilled when the tow guy finally arrives? He stared at me, then growled, “It’s freaking hot”, except he didn’t say freaking. Then he unhooked our truck, got back in his, and left. Without saying another single word.

Then 10 minutes later we managed to lock the keys in the truck while it was running, and had to call AAA again. Gene said if they dispatched the same driver I should try to give him a hug to see if we could make him roar, but it was a different, much more cheerful guy.

That whole debacle took up about 5 hours, so when we got back home I decided to spend some time with the monarchs. While I love watching them, I’m torn because it vexes the robins who have their nest directly above the Sanctuary under the roof of the carport. It’s prime real estate, and they don’t like sharing it. They’ve buzzed my head, and they’ll perch on whatever surface is nearby and screech at me. You may not have known robins can screech, but indeed they can. The pair is on their second brood, and I realized why they’ve suddenly started to mind my presence so much – 3 more chicks hatched!