I always liked the (apparently apocryphal) story of an English king with a stutter accidentally calling what was previously known as a “flutter by” a “butterfly”, and everyone else following suit so as not to embarrass the monarch. Based on some googling, it appears they’ve actually been called butterflies for some mysterious reason that reaches far back into the murky parts of language history. But I’ll stick with my stuttering king. Whatever you call them, I never get tired of the magic of metamorphosis, and as such I’m on the mailing list of Insect Lore, whose live insect kits are my absolute favorites. We’ve raised many caterpillars (both purchased and found) into butterflies in our butterfly garden, not to mention the generations of spotted lovelies who’ve come through our ladybug land. So when I got an email that it was caterpillar weather and painted ladies were on 2 for 1 special, I got on it. Two cups of teeny caterpillars arrived promptly 

 We put them in a warm spot by the gecko’s tank and they grew prodigiously 

 Within a few short weeks they were hanging in J’s from the lid of their cups 

 And soon after they had developed their beautiful golden chrysalises 

 My daughter carefully pinned the paper holding the pupae into the butterfly garden and we settled in to wait a bit more 

 One morning when the kids were at school, I noticed something exciting! 

 Almost all hatched on the same day. We enjoyed their fluttering for a few days, then released them into our garden


 Now what I’ve looked at their website for the links above, I see they have a praying mantis kit… Now I know what’s next!



For The Birds

With spring comes a renewed interest in the creatures that populate our garden. I finally got my act together to set up two bird-friendly projects I’ve been wanting to do for years. First, making nectar and hanging the beautiful hummingbird feeder my mother-in-law bought us years ago. 

 I followed the directions here. It is very important to be a responsible feeder, as any sort of contamination in the feeder can be fatal for the birds, and the nectar must be changed frequently. My animal-loving middle daughter has taken on the task of reminding me to check it daily. Hope someone finds it soon…


Next, a window-mounted nest box! I would love to join the children watching a pair of birds safely build their nest, lay eggs, and care for their hatchlings. The kids helped set it up 

 And we chose a quiet, warm window to mount it on upstairs 

Hopefully a house-hunting bird couple will find it a good fit and we’ll have bird family updates for you!


Frog Fantasies, Amphibian Dreams

I grew up in New York City, so all of my childhood dreams involved being in nature and discovering/catching small wild animals for pets. I remember once a naturalist on a field trip told us that salamanders and newts can be found under fallen logs. I turned over *every* log I saw after that. Flash forward 30 years to parenthood, living in Berkeley, turning over a stump in our yard and finding a SALAMANDER! Suffice it to say I was way more excited than my children.

When we moved in to our house there was a lily pond with gold fish in our garden. With three children to care for and no gardening experience, I had no idea what to do with it. The goldfish passed on(I never saw a corpse so I’m blaming raccoons), and I started dreaming of having a frog pond instead. Because frogs and salamanders in the yard? My parenting work would be done.

So last year when a friend told us about a neglected reflecting pool in a nearby park that had become a home to frogs and tadpoles, the kids and I went to take a look. We captured a bunch of tiny frogs, polliwogs and tadpoles, acclimated them to the water in our pond and set them free. We saw them for a week or two, then nothing! But I had faith they would return in the spring. And just a few days ago we heard it- nocturnal amphibian music coming from the yard- a frog came back! So of course we had to visit the reflecting pool and bring him some friends.  

 What’s amazing this year is that we went early enough to bring home the beginning of the life cycle in our little plastic carrier- eggs, tiny tadpoles, slightly larger ones and one mature frog.  

 We’ll keep the little guys in our habitat to watch them grow into polliwogs, then let them go in the pond in the hope that some of them will hang around, or come back to us next spring.

Hanging With Permie Poppins

Around the corner from the magical preschool my son attends, and my older daughters graduated from, there is a hillside permaculture paradise. At this Hillside Homestead, their former garden teacher Allison provides amazing small group garden sessions, full of mud and digging and picking and eating and making natural dyes and feeding goats and other wonders I couldn’t have imagined growing up as a city child. My son goes twice a week after school, and my daughters had a chance to spend the morning there with a friend who also has the week off. They made the very most of it! Allison is wonderful about sharing photos and videos of their adventures, the first photo is hers:  
 We always send extra clothes because thanks to the winter rain there is serious mud play to be had.

There’s also a giant African tortoise named Kitty across the street who we joined Allison to visit and feed after pick up  

Of course we had to wash our hands after tortoise petting, so Allison taught us about this amazing California native tree whose blossoms act like soap and make cleansing lather when mixed with water and friction.

  Knowing Allison (aka Permie Poppins) is a gift for both my children and me- she is so generous with her copious knowledge about flora and fauna. Not to mention the bounty from the hillside garden where she teaches- the source of my rhubarb and many other local fruit and veggie treasures. Today she sent us home with gorgeous chard and a rooted rose geranium my eldest daughter planted in her garden(to give it he best chance for survival!). And my lucky little fellow gets to go tomorrow!

Spring Saturday

Despite being a California transplant for nearly 20 years, I am always joyfully surprised by the way spring arrives in February. After a dry few years, this spring is finally the lush, green season I remember, and we took advantage of the sun and warmth to spend a lazy Saturday morning in the garden.

We picked some gloriously scented flowers(which come back yearly despite my decidedly brown thumb) and painted their portrait, then invested some hopeful time in planting seeds   


My eldest daughter has a resolutely green thumb, so I should probably have her plant everything, but I couldn’t resist scattering some California poppy seeds on a patch of soil, and pressing some nasturtiums into an empty raised bed. Fingers crossed. Do your job, little friend!