Everyone needs a Project!

Every year around November after we’ve gotten all the beds mulched and the yard winter-ready, I start dreaming about next year’s Project. It’s one of my favorite winter activities – and it involves lots of research, note taking and seed catalogs. Each Project facilitates a certain goal – like attracting more hummingbirds. That was the first year we moved here. Then it was making an oasis for bumblebees, then attracting Monarchs and this year (as you’ve probably guessed) it was nighttime pollinators, like moths and bats.

A Cecropia moth – huge *and* cuddly looking

And of course once you’ve created a sanctuary for hummingbirds or an oasis for bumblebees, you can’t *not* do it the next year too. So my Projects are cumulative, which is a lot of fun for me, and a lot of work for Gene. But what am I supposed to do, disappoint an entire legion of bumblebees by telling them “Oh, sorry – you guys are just too 2019. I’ve moved on.” So obviously I recreate everything from years past, and put in my order for more raised beds to be built to accommodate all the new plants.

Unlike literally everything else I planted last year – the milkweed came back! Which didn’t stop me from getting more, just in case. Gene is always saying “One is none and two is one”… he should be proud of me.

I grow almost everything from seeds because I’m frugal* that way, although I did break the bank just a bit when I vastly underestimated just how much space my newly sprouted seeds would take once they’d been growing for a month or two and needed to be transplanted.

By the time June rolled around, I had a basement with a row of new grow lights hanging from the ceiling, a couple tables covered with a huge piece of plywood, and a grumbling husband who probably got a bit tired of being informed that he was “doing this for the bees – think of the beeeeeeees.”

At any rate, it was all worth it – we’ve attracted an amazing variety of moths. I chose plants that both host the caterpillars and bloom at night, and I love puttering around in the morning looking at them all. They hide in the leaves or bask in the sunshine, waiting for the dance party to start when Gene turns on the porch light after dark.

I’m having a hard time picking my favorite moth, each one is so cool in its own way. There’s this cheerful fellow, a Giant Tiger Moth, who looks like a rug from IKEA:

And then the Honey Locust Moth, who hangs about looking like a dead leaf:

And then there’s this one, that I’m still trying to identify – despite nerding out and getting three different identification guides, including one that’s laminated and folds out like a map. It’s aptly named “Moths In Your Pocket” and I won’t say that I take it everywhere, even though it’s totally true. But I digress. Check this out – he sleeps by curling up into a roll and clinging to a stem:

That level of dedication to napping should be applauded.

Peak moth season is already winding down, but hopefully I did my homework correctly and they’ll overwinter here – which means I’ll require a bigger deck to accommodate all the plants we’re going to need…

*I did the math – it’s way more frugal to buy 5 exotic morning glory seeds for $10 than it is to fly to Japan to get them. Another reason Gene should be proud of me – I saved us a ton of money!

I’m back!!!

Well, not like I actually went anywhere. But I do apologize for the egregiously long time period in between posts. In 3 days it would have been a year, which is shameful. And this time I can’t blame my long absence on a 2,000+ mile relocation!

What I can blame it on is Gene – work got crazy busy (being a one-woman department tends to have that effect) and in his words “we only have one computer in this house and you need to share it.” So after hogging the computer all day, *just* as I was about to start writing a post he’d shoo me away from the desk. But I’m focusing on work/life balance now – and have lots of news!

I figured I’d start right where I left off – busting out the Shop Vac and wreaking some havoc. This year’s crop of black jackets are wily. They’ll buzz all around the hose, but somehow avoid the vortex. So now I have to hold it steady, anticipate where they’re going to be, then jerk the hose suddenly in that direction. Sometimes it works… and sometimes I miss having petunias where petunias used to be.

But at least I’m not the only one with a wasp problem. I was helping out my parents in the city last weekend and figured I’d run by the big nursery to see if they had any replacement plastic flowers for the hummingbird feeders (Shoppie is a hungry beast), and there was another couple wandering the bird aisle. It’s not that big of an aisle, and after awhile our attempts to maintain a 6-foot distance whilst examining all the options got comical, and we started chatting. Turns out they were considering a $40 “guaranteed wasp proof” feeder, and I was all, “Oh no! There’s no need to spend that kind of money on a hummingbird feeder. What you do is, you get yourself an industrial strength Shop Vac… and then you lurk.” They ended up getting the feeder, but I’m pretty sure they were into the idea.

But wasps aside, this year’s Hummingbird Sanctuary was a resounding success. And thanks to all my nighttime pollinator research, we’ve managed to attract all different kinds of amazing moths with the night phlox, impatiens and white petunias I planted. Including – finally – one of my bucket list moths: the Luna.

That same weekend I was at my parent’s place Gene texted with news of another bucket list moth sighting: the Snowberry Clearwing. That pretty much made it official – I miss *all* the cool stuff. It seems like whenever he’s driving somewhere, he sees amazing wildlife, like moose and bears and wolves.

Just a half mile from our house! Not pictured – me.

Whenever I’m driving somewhere, I see skunks that have decided to take a nap disturbingly close to the center line and that’s about it. He says it would probably help if I left the house more. And he’s not wrong – I basically only leave to visit my parents twice a month or take one of the dogs to the vet (has anyone ever owned more high-maintenance pups? I submit to you they have not.) I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that the pandemic hasn’t changed our lives – apparently we only shop at essential stores, and we aren’t exactly known for socializing. Whenever the urge to see and be seen gets strong, I dust off my best hoodie and we head to the feed store. Just kidding – I don’t actually dust it off first.

But the pandemic did have one unexpected silver lining – amazing deals on riding lawn mowers. Our John Deere one broke (and I can’t imagine why, it’s not like my “eh, I bet I can mow over that” philosophy could ever backfire) and since it was getting progressively more difficult for me to steer it thanks to my wrists, Gene surprised me with a brand new Zero Turn mower for my birthday.

Life changing.

I can *finally* mow those cool lines into our lawn. Not that anyone apart from the UPS guy is ever around to appreciate such artistry, but still. Our lawn looks like a golf course. If a golf course used no weed prevention whatsoever and let chickens, geese, screeching guinea hens and the occasional escaped goat roam around. And best of all there’s no steering wheel – you drive it with two joystick type controls, and it feels like you’re cruising about in the world’s coolest lawn chair. At first I was a bit terrified of it, because video games have never been my strong suit and you’re sitting on a lot of power. But once I got a little more confident… I got a little cocky.

On the plus side, I managed to get it stuck right before it went in the creek – and I avoided mowing down the milkweeds I’d just transplanted by at least half an inch. Besides, Gene’s always looking for any excuse to bust out the tractor.