Sunday, November 29, 2015

'Bout Time for that Ol' Turtle

Some things simply go more slowly than others. For example, turtles. For example, this concrete turtle that was given to me by my parents a while ago. Just how much is "a while"? Well, my father passed away in 2002, and it was long before that.

During that while, it would cross my mind that I should do something to dress up the little guy. But I never got around to it. So instead of having it hang around and remind me of my failings, I put it in the side yard - officially, my neighbors' side yard (you have to understand that their "side yard" is all of about 3' wide and butts up against our driveway. Our side yard is equally narrow.) and let the weeds hide it. Perhaps the turtle might even wander off?

Eventually, it became obvious that the turtle wasn't going anywhere, and the side yard, our side at least, needed a facelift. A drought-tolerant facelift. So why not include the turtle in the project, too? Give him a make-over for his little home?

A few bits of glass tile, some gem stones, a bowl of leftover grout and now this fellow with the shiny new mosaic shell is the guardian of the door to our house's crawl space. And my neighbors didn't even notice.

Dr. Science says:
Well, turtles are slow because they don’t have to be fast. They’re herbivores, so they don’t have to chase their food. They have nice, thick shells, which means that most predators simply don’t bother with them. So, they don’t have to chase food, and they don’t have to run away from predators, so there isn’t any reason for them to be anything except slow.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme: Parsley

Anise Swallowtail Caterpillar

Parsley. Admit it. A bit over-rated, or maybe just over-used. But also essential. Imagine the Falafel Plate at Bongo Burger without parsley (or without some endless football game, for that matter). Yeah, go with the parsley.

Growing parsley in the garden is pretty easy, if you can first get the seeds to germinate. In the small micro-climate of the three or four houses near mine, there is a parsley variety which we (my neighbor Sari and I) have named "Olivia's parsley".

Yes, quite a number of years ago Olivia Freitas (who is no longer with us) grew parsley, and with time, wind and luck, her parsley spread to many of the nearby yards. Since the plants haven't been cultivated in years, it has had to grow up on its own, oftentimes in deep shade and without much water. So, a drought and shade tolerant parsley? Could be useful, in an over-rated kinda way...

Last year, I saved some seeds from an Olivia parsley but didn't get around to planting them. I'm hoping that next year I will be able to grow them out and re-start the local landrace. Anyone interested?

You betcha. I believe that this particular fan up top is an Anise Swallowtail wannabe. And the ones below are its younger cousins*. I still find all these creepy-crawly things more than a bit yucky, but not everyone can be a cute baby.

*I'm sure you are better informed than I am, but I honestly had no idea that caterpillars, yes, even caterpillars, could change form and/or color so dramatically while still remaining larval. I'm not sure that it makes them less icky, but it does make them more interesting.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Plant Splurge #1: Asclepius physocarpa

There are certain plants that I see here and there, in real life or on the glossy pages of catalogues - and  I want them. Sometimes it works out, sometimes, not.

(Lust. Inexplicable to outsiders, but utterly consuming for the luster. And who knows about the lustee? Or is that even relevant, unless one really goes off the deep end...)

This year I indulged in a milkweed plant, Asclepias physocarpa, aka the "Family Jewels Tree" ("Bishop's Balls" in the U.K.). It's obvious how it got so named: those round, hairy seedpods which even sport that oh-so fashionable color, lime green.

But I am not the only one who is extremely interested in this plant. Members of the milkweed family serve as host plants for the struggling monarch butterflies.

So guess who just became hosts: