Wednesday, April 25, 2012

the hopyard takes shape again

Guests Nadir and Julie, from near Lyons, France via New Caledonia and some other exotic places, have recreated the hop trellis and got the little guys pointed upwards once again. Hops die back completely in October and start fresh from their big (and growing) root systems each March. Except for some particularly rowdy varieties (Cascade, I'm looking at you ...) we're ahead of the curve; the bines (hop-speak for vines) are just at the launch point. Julie is a nurse and Nadir a physical therapist. Both speak excellent English and have been easy house guests and effective workers.

Julie and Nadir found us through a program called Help Exchange, an organization which links travelers with host sites, many of them non-profits in need of labor and in position to provide meals and housing. We are newly subscribed to "HelpEx" and these two are the first that have found us that way.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

me too!

This western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) wanted to be on the internet too, so I yielded and with the last post have now posted photos of the three common large butterflies in the garden at this point. Papilo rutulus needs willows (we have several different species) and alder (we have none) as host plants.

This individual is missing the central portion of its tail, which would have had a patch of brilliant red amid spots of irridescent blue, as well as the lower extensions of each wing. This pattern is read by many birds as eyes and antennae, leading them to confuse tail with head and end up munching on a bit of membrane instead of the body of the butterfly.
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Sunday, April 15, 2012


By Mikael, wwoofer from Denmark, we are reminded that the Danish word for butterfly is, curiously, "sommerfugl," literally "summerbird." Above is a pipevine swallowtail (battus philenor), below a painted lady (vanessa cardui). Each was so seduced by our lilac in full bloom that it was largely oblivious to the camera. The host plant (necessary for egg-laying and pupal development) of the pipevine swallowtail is the pipevine (Aristolochia californica); we have an abundant patch under a nearby oak. The pipeline swallowtail is poisonous to birds due to chemicals derived from the pipevine by the larvae. Host plants for the painted lady are the various milkweeds, of which we have many. It has been a very good spring for butterflies so far.

With Mikael's help I stay abreast of the demands of the season - or at least don't fall too far behind! We've weeded the hops, cleared the green manure crop from the summer garden area, built Galt's largest compost pile (roughly 6x6x30), and potted up 100+ tomato plants. He will continue his migration north soon, and we will miss him.

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