Milkweed, a Caterpillar, and Lots of Aphids

August 9th, 2017

Last week I noticed that my milkweed wasn’t looking quite right. The lower leaves were turning yellow and dropping. And most of the flowers had gone missing. The heat of the past days?

Milkweed and aphids

I took a quick look and one of the problems seemed to be aphids. When I was nearly finished spraying the aphids, I saw a caterpillar. Concerned that I might have accidentally sprayed the caterpillar, I gave the it a bit of a shower. Shortly after its shower, the caterpillar began to move quickly down the stem. And then it seemed to disappear.


I looked for it for three days. Couldn’t find it until maybe today. I found this caterpillar in the same location.


Coincidence or the same caterpillar?

I would like to believe that it is the same caterpillar. That the spray that I used on the milkweed had not harmed it. And it appears that the caterpillar loves the milkweed flowers.


Unfortunately, the spray didn’t take care of the aphid problem. This is what I found today.


Gosh there are a lot of them, but it is interesting that the bodies are yellow with black legs.

Previous posts on Milkweed and caterpillars–

Monarch Caterpillars and Milkweed

Milkweed and Ants

Planted Seedlings From Unidentified Seeds

August 3rd, 2017

Seedlings From Unidentified Seeds


A Seedling Prior to Planting

In order to quickly see the seedlings after planting, I added a small bamboo marker. The markers seemed to disappear into the garden, so I decided to add a bit of color.


Dipped the Top of the First Bamboo Marker in Paint


Second Marker–Applied Paint With Brush Below Top to Allow for Finger Hold


Popped Brush in Ground to Prevent Contamination


Three Days after Planting
Most of the Seedlings Look Like This


One of Two Survivors

Previous post on a recent attempt to grow plants from the mystery seed followed by a photo of the seed and a plant.



What I Found Today

August 3rd, 2017

Fungi 1

Fungi 2

Fungi 3

Aphids and Other Damage

August 1st, 2017

Recently noticed that this plant had aphids.

Plant with Aphids


I sprayed the plant with a solution of 8 ounces of water, 8 ounces of alcohol, and 1 tablespoon of Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castile Soap.

Succulent Damage

After the Application of Alcohol/Soap Solution

Other Damaged Plants

Succulent Damage

A ding and Suntan

Succulent Damage

Leaf Tip Damage

Succulent Damage

Sun Damage and More

Succulent Damage

Accidentally bumped this plant and two section fell off. But that isn’t really damage.
It is one way succulents can be propagated.

Succulent Damage

Popped the two pieces in the ground. Now I wait for them to root.

Plantel Plant Trays and Zenport Ring Knife

August 1st, 2017

I recently attended the Santa Barbara County Fair in Santa Maria, CA. When I wandered through the horticulture displays I saw a sign for free plants. Plantel Nurseries was giving away vegetable plants. I snagged a few plants-kale, chard, lettuces, and celery.

When I returned home I immediately planted them in pots. While I was planting them I got to thinking about the Plantel plant trays. The cells were smaller than those of the typical plant trays available at the neighborhood nurseries.

I visited the Plantel website and was directed to Peaceful Valley Farm Supply.

Plantel Plant Trays

While I was visiting their site I found the Zenport Ring Knife.

Zenport Ring Knife

This is an image of the Zenport Ring Knife from the Peaceful Valley Farm Supply website.

I thought that it might be useful when I am working on a project that has loads of binding and cutting of yarn and cord. I wasn’t sure what size to order. One reviewer stated the ring runs small. I ordered two sizes, both were too large. So, I bound them a bit.

Zenport Ring Knife

The top ring knife is bound with a bamboo yarn and will be used for clean projects.
The bottom is bound with waxed linen cord for ease of cleaning and will be used for gardening.
Wrapping the ring makes the tool more comfortable to wear.

I am not recommending that anyone else should attempt this at home.
Using tools inappropriately can be dangerous.

Zenport Ring Knife

I attempted to use the knife ring as instructed, but it was awkward and difficult.

Zenport Ring Knife

I flipped the ring knife and it was easy peasy cutting. I had better control of the blade.

Even though it appears that the blade can come in contact with my hand, it does not.

I am not recommending that anyone else should attempt this at home.
Using tools inappropriately can be dangerous.


July 30th, 2017

Today I removed the soil from my Taxus to find this–


Over 20 years in the ground, with plenty of space to spread its roots.

So, why didn’t it?

Maybe it will become part of an art piece.

Dark Chocolate Bars

July 26th, 2017

Being a vegan is difficult. Reading labels has become a common occurrence whenever I go shopping. A company label can state their product is not tested on animals, but are any of the ingredients used in their product tested on animals? What about their parent company? Do they perform animal testing on other lines? Or do they claim to be cruelty-free, but perform animal tests on products to be marketed in China?

There are animal ingredients tucked into many products. I was looking for a vegan margarine for baking and found that a company lists fish oil as one of its ingredients. It is astounding how often animal ingredients are tucked into products.

Is organic produce sold at the local Farmers’ Market vegan? Maybe not. I asked a couple of farmers and they told me that they use fish emulsion fertilizer.

What is a vegan to do? You just do the best that you can. I have also come to count on the leaping bunny and the certified vegan logos. And websites like Leaping Bunny.

I found this great illustration of cruelty-free logos at The Little Foxes site.

Cruelty Free Logos

What was the purpose of this post? I was in the local Target looking for a bar of dark chocolate. I happened on this dark chocolate and mint bar.

Chocolate Mint Bar

I love mint, but often anything with mint has egg whites. I didn’t see egg whites on the ingredients list, so I bought it.

When I visited the Equal Exchange Co-Op website, I found that the chocolate bar is vegan! Simple pleasure and also is fair trade.

Endangered Species Bar

The Endangered Species, Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & Almonds bar is also vegan.

One additional fact, combined the two bars were only $5.49. It is not unusual for a vegan chocolate bar to be at least $4-$5 each, sometimes loads more.

Restacked Mantel Wood

July 23rd, 2017

Our neighbor gave me a pair of columns that she had been using as part of a table. Each column is 29″ x 8.5″ x 9″ and solid concrete.


Columns on Hand Truck

Before placing them in the garden I made a couple of decisions. The first…the bottom should be the top.


Left Side Was How The Columns Had Been Used
The Right Side is the Proper Orientation

The thin section at the bottom will not be visible. So, the only thing that bothers me is the tulip-like doodad. Just too fussy.

Column Doodad

When I began converting the courtyard form exotic plants to drought tolerant plants, one of the first decisions was to remove the wallpieces and to paint the walls grey. It is difficult to tell from the photos taken in my studio, but the columns were too stark, too bright even in the shade.


The Whiteness of the Columns is Emphasized When Placed Next to the Grey Wall

Originally I wanted to break off some hunks before aging them, but thought I would wait to see how they looked with a found wood mantel. I snagged some ash from a friend’s actual fireplace to use, if I decide to fix the columns up a bit more.

Column Fixed Up

For 4 days, I had 3 pieces of wood stacked on top of the columns to help me decide if three boards had enough visual weight to work with the top of the columns.

Mantel Wood

The boards are not quite as wide as the columns. And they could not sit against the wall because of the wallpiece/trellises. Each layer will have two pieces of wood to make the proper width, with a 2″ overhang in the front.

Planning to strap the wood together with metal…aluminum or copper shim. I can patina copper, but the current appearance of the materials is a bit too clean for my typical gritty surface work. The width of the metal will probably be two thirds of the section at the now top of the columns.

When I was making my morning cocoa, thought I would take one last look before cutting the wood.

This is what I found–

Mantel Wood

The wood is nicely stacked in the opposite order it had been stacked on the columns. Lucky that the stack did not break plants or the stone defining the space for the hearth.

I phoned my husband to inquire if he had moved the wood. He had not. He seems to believe that an animal could have been responsible for the restacking. His best guess–opossum. We did catch a couple opossums over the years in our humane trap when we were attempting to catch squirrels.

This was the most recent captured opossum.

Opossum in Trap

And after it was released–

Released Opossum in Trap


Opossum After Release Stayed in the Wisteria for Several Hours

I restacked the wood on the columns and attempted to reproduce what I found this morning. Every time resulted in a messy stack.

Mantel Wood

So what did happen? Did an animal (opossum) drop down from the oak tree and cause the restacking?



The reddish brown stalk is from a volunteer that I think is a variety of mullein. It is nearly ready to harvest.

I have been fond of mullein since I used it in my Greta piece, part of my MFA exhibition.

An additional note…the garden was sloping when I began planning for the faux fireplace. I leveled it by adding soil that I removed from the now rock/succulent garden. I also added gravel under each of the columns. I had to build up the right side with nearly 4″ of gravel more than uncer the left column.

I leveled the garden area, each column, and the columns together. Then I placed a single piece of wood on the columns and leveled the lot. Pretty sure the faux fireplace will appear level and straight when it is completed.

Can’t wait to see it with snake plant (Sansevieria) inside for faux flames. I have wanted to use snake plant for flames ever since I viewed Blue Velvet.

Blue Velvet Snake Plants

A Quick Screenshot From the Film Blue Velvet

My plan is to plant the snake plant directly in the garden inside the faux fireplace. The weather is so mild, for the most part, on the California Central Coast. And since they will be protected, they should thrive.

May be Paeonia californica not Paeonia brownii

July 19th, 2017

I thought that when I collected seeds from Paeonia plants during a hike in SLO California, I originally thought they were Paeonia brownii. Recently I have come to believe that I made a mistake and the plants were actually Paeonia californica.

This is an image of the seeds I collected.

Paeonia Seeds

I went to the Jepson Herbarium to check it out.

Paeonia californica

Paeonia brownii

Currently there are a couple of Paeonia seedlings growing in my succulent garden.

Paeonia Seedlings

Paeonia Seedlings


California Native Plant Society

Crassula and Hydathodes

July 15th, 2017

I am currently reading Fred Dortort’s book, The Timber Press Guide to Succulent Plants of the World: A Comprehensive Reference to More than 2000 Species.

The book is filled with interesting information and loads of gorgeous images of plants. I was curious about hydathodes. The description from the book follows: their leaves are dotted with hydathodes, a kind of pore that enables wet-growing plants to expel water, but which dry-growing crassulas have reversed, turning them into water-absorbing organs.

I can visualize, but what do hydathodes really look like?

When I was editing photos for a previous post, I noticed what appeared to be pin pricks on the leaves of my new addition, a Crassula capitella Red Pagoda.

Red Pagoda

Example of Hydathodes on Crassula capitella Red Pagoda

It is exciting to read something interesting and then to see an example of it in person.