I've had multiple people
email to ask if they could use my Japanese Knotweed drawing in various
non-profit ways. I'm always glad for anyone to use the images on
this site as long as they're not making money off them and include a
URL like the one shown here to credit the source.
In fact, I went so far
as to scan the image again to make a high quality version, which you can download
Apparently, kids will be coloring printouts at the Sudbury Weed
Education and Eradication Team's Halloween fair this month. I can
see how Japanese Knotweed would put a shiver of fear down any
been outdone by a one ounce bird. All year, I've been struggling
to decipher the mysteries of incubation
then keeping the chicks
alive until they're ready to fend for themselves.
with little fuss, our song sparrow
has hatched all four of
her eggs and raised them until they're nearly fledged. I see
perched here and there with insects in her mouth at least once a day,
and the chicks were so well fed that they only cracked their eyes
when I stuck the camera lens down onto the nest.
All this despite a
variety of disasters that I did nothing to
avert. I forgot to mention the nest before Mark mowed the garden,
but its location tucked up against a stump saved the day. The
cats both came down to frolic in the mule garden as I planted there
last week and our dog is always patrolling, but none caught the
scent. Despite all of these potential catastrophes, four eggs
turn into four chicks with nary a
loss. Maybe I should ask my favorite sparrow if she's willing to
take on an apprentice?
Of course, if you enroll
in the witness protection program (aka practice Mullerian
mimicry), I guess
you want to be mistaken for someone else?
I should have realized
that our habitat is just right for viceroys --- full of willows to host
their caterpillars --- and less prime for monarchs. I find it
hard to complain about this beautiful insect's identity when he opens
his wings and the light shines through like sun in a stained glass
Our chicken waterer makes the perfect gift for
the homesteader who's sick of poopy chores.
I was walking down to
the far end of the furthest garden patch to check on our three week old
chicks, and at first I thought the little bird flitting out from under
my feet was a baby chicken that had hopped through a gap in the fence
to explore the outside world. But it flew up and away into the
bushes --- a sparrow, not a chick.
"What were you doing
down there?" I asked. (Yes, I do talk to birds, snakes, toads,
and plants in the garden.) I crouched down to look into the grass
that had grown up in a hard-to-mow spot beside a small stump and gasped
in delight. Four tiny, speckled eggs, mere feet away from my
oldest cucumber patch.
I barely caught a
glimpse of the mother, but I'll assume she was a song sparrow since
they're our most common yard sparrows at this time of year. If
so, I only have to keep the mower away from her nest for the next three
weeks --- 12 to 13 days of incubation, then 10 days of chick rearing
before the mother turns the youngsters over to their dad and moves on
to brood number two. (At this time of year, it might even be
brood 3.) Sounds a bit like the way I
foisted off my own chick-rearing duties on a hen last month....
Have you been hearing reports
about the periodic cicadas and wonder if they'll show up in your neck
of the woods? I stumbled across a great website --- magicicada.org --- that includes answers to
every question you may have (and probably several you didn't even think
to ask) about the currently active cicadas. For those of you who
are technically inclined, 2011's edition is brood XIX, which is a type
of thirteen year cicada that lives in the areas pictured on the map
Go here and input your state and
county to find out when periodical cicadas have been sighted in your neck
of the woods. In general, 13 year cicadas live in the south while
17 year cicadas are found in the north, but the Appalachian Mountains
count as "the north" by cicada standards. Scott County, Virginia,
(where I live) had 17 year cicadas flying in 2008, which means we
aren't slated for another showing until around 2025. I guess I'd
better practice patience.
Our chicken waterer keeps the backyard flock
hydrated with a minimum of mess.
Although it's a bit off
topic, I hope you'll forgive me plugging my newest ebook. The
May edition of Weekend
Homesteader is now available for 99 cents in
Amazon's Kindle store! The series presents a simple and cheap
project for every weekend of the year to provide stepping stones on
your path to true self-sufficiency. As the introduction says:
ebook, and others in the series, are full of short projects that
you can use to dip your toes into the vast ocean of homesteading
without getting overwhelmed. They're geared toward folks who need
to fit homesteading into a few hours each weekend and would like to
have fun while doing it. The projects cover growing your own
food, eating the bounty, preparing for emergency power outages, and
achieving financial independence. You won't be completely
deleting your reliance on the grocery store after reading this
series, but you will be plucking low-hanging (and delicious!) fruits
of your own garden by the time the exercises are complete.
your husband hasn't been toeing the party line and peeing
on the compost pile when you see clusters of swallowtails like
this. I don't mind foregoing the garden fertility for such a dose
We live remarkably close
to nature despite all of our mowing and weeding and manipulating the
environment around our trailer. For example, a chorus frog moved
into the drainage ditch beside the East Wing last week and yesterday a
toad joined him. Blobby clusters of chorus frog eggs and long
strands of toad eggs now grace the puddle, and I can't decide whether
to hope this spring's relentless rain eases up so that we no longer
have to wade through ankle-deep mud, or whether I
want it to keep raining so the tadpoles-to-be will turn into
At night, a spider comes
to spin her web outside our kitchen window. I watch as she teases
long strands of silk out of her abdomen and ponder how much we change
the natural world just by turning on a light to read by. In the
end, I decide that I'm heartened by knowing that our disturbances don't
just help the invasives, but also give our frogs and
spiders a spot to thrive.
Our chicken waterer turns daily chicken
husbandry from a chore to a pleasure.
cut my teeth on the conventional theory of invasive plants and
animals --- they
outcompete native species and cause a decline in diversity.
Species like kudzu are able to run amok in our climate because they
have no native diseases and predators to keep them under control, so
they can swallow up whole hillsides. The solution is eradication
--- rip out every kudzu plant you see.
Lately, though, I've
read several thought-provoking analyses of the invasive
situation. In Edible Forest Gardens, Dave Jacke and Eric
Toensmeier assert that invasives only gain a foothold if the ecosystem
is already out of whack. According to these permaculturalists, the answer is not to spend
weeks weeding Japanese stiltgrass out of your woods, but to discover
what man-made change has made the invasive able to take over in the
first place. In their eyes, my original view of invasive control
is like sticking a band-aid on an ecosystem suffering from chicken pox.
Raffles' recent New York Times article considers invasives in yet
another light. Raffles looks at species over a geologic time
frame and reminds us that many of our "native" plants and animals
originated elsewhere. Nature is constantly in flux, wiping out
species that aren't able to deal with changing conditions while
replacing them with hardier cousins. Taking a purely
preservationist view of the earth --- trying to turn our current
species assemblage into a static museum --- is bound to fail because
species would migrate and die out even if we hadn't stirred the pot.
I think that both of
these modern analyses of invasive species have merit...and
problems. I love the idea of looking for and trying to fix the
underlying problems that promote the spread of invasives, but what if
the problem is forest fragmentation and can't be dealt with on the
personal scale? Should we just throw up our hands and let our
biodiverse woodlands turn into a monoculture?
although Hugh Raffles' has a very good point about species flux over
the course of geologic time, it's also true that extinction rates are
currently at an all-time high, presumably because of human
meddling. Raffles' argument is also strongly colored by his
recent experience becoming an American citizen, and I think that he
needs to be a bit more careful about drawing parallels between people
immigrating and whole species moving in.
When it comes right down
to it, my difference of opinion with all three of these commentators is
responsibility --- I think that humanity is ethically bound to take
responsibility for the environmental devastation we've caused.
Looking at the bigger picture is always a good idea, but not if the
exercise enables us to say "that kudzu-coated hillside isn't really our
fault." We broke it, so we should do everything we can to fix it,
especially if we can come up with innovative answers like Peter Becker's
Japanese Knotweed elimination campaign.
Our chicken waterer is the POOP-free alternative
for the modern chicken coop.
I posted a slew of photos of native
pollinators over on
my homestead blog, but couldn't resist adding one more over here.
This bumblebee moth is a sphinx moth that mimics bumblebees, and I had
the wool pulled over my eyes when I watched the insect from a
distance. Up close, though, the moth is clearly un-bee-like in
shape, and even more so in habit --- the bumblebee moth hovers in front
of flowers instead of landing to suck up its dinner.
The bumblebee moth is
also known as the clearwing moth, the hummingbird moth, and the bee
hawk-moth. The moths are easy to identify to the genus level (Hemaris) because they fly in the
daytime and hover in front of flowers, but it's tougher to get close
enough to tell the four North American species apart. Check out Bugguide for more information on
Our chicken waterer is the POOP-free alternative
that thousands of backyard chicken keepers swear by.