Saturday, September 25, 2021

Birds and Butterflies at Cape May Point #monarchbutterfly

Viceroy Butterfly
Monarch or Viceroy?

As you know from my previous post, Fall Monarch butterfly migration is now underway. We predict that our newborn NJ Monarch is on the way to Cape May! We followed her lead to Cape May Point yesterday for a day trip, hoping to see lots of Monarchs. Cape May Point also happens to be one of the most popular sites for bird watching in North America. Since it is a major migratory route, we met birders from all over, including Ohio and Lancaster.

The Cape May State Park hiking trails were scenic, easy to walk; the day was picture perfect too. Yellow goldenrod was blooming throughout. Unfortunately, we didn't see very many Monarch butterflies. We did see Viceroy butterflies, which look very similar to Monarchs.

Viceroy butterflies have the exact same color as a Monarch: orange, black and white. To tell them apart, note the horizontal line on the bottom wings of the Viceroy (see above photo). Monarchs do not have that (see below photo). Another difference is that Viceroys are smaller in size. Viceroys also don't migrate.

Monarch butterfly on Zinnia

At the end of the day, we stopped by a residential property in a final effort to see a few Monarchs. We got the tip from a birder on one of the trails. The location was a residential home with a lovely front yard corner garden that featured colorful zinnias, cosmos and tall, orange Tithonia (Mexican sunflowers). 

Others gathered around too, all of us with our cameras shooting butterflies as if we've never seen a Monarch before! So fun though. Butterflies were all over. We heard that there were even more sightings in the morning.

And, special thanks to the good Samaritan videographer who gave us a ride to our car after we got lost coming off the trail. 

Mute Swans at Cape May Point

At the end of the trail we reached the dunes along the Delaware Bay and passed a beautiful pond with ducks, cranes and swans. Then we found ourselves at Cape May Point Lighthouse! The parking lots there were not the small parking lot off Seagrove Ave that our GPS took us to when we first arrived.

Happy Monarch Watching!

Related Links

Monarch or Viceroy?

Photos and blog post Copyright(C) Wind. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Monarch Migration underway! Today in our NJ garden a Monarch was born! #WindPhotography

Monarch just born

Monarch Migration Underway

Today, September 23rd in our New Jersey Fall garden, a beautiful Monarch butterfly was born! All a monarch needs is Milkweed for mama Monarch to lay her eggs on and for caterpillars to munch on before their magical metamorphosis. It can be a small area in your front or back yard that you do not mow. Native plants like Common Milkweed can be encouraged to grow there and viola, you will soon be supporting habitat for Monarch's!

I noticed a sea-foam-green, opaque, chrysalis in our Milkweed meadow on September 11th and was watching it and photographing it daily, while counting down until the big day. According to Journey North, the chrysalis stage takes 8-15 days; this miracle arrived just as expected.

Last night I noticed that the chrysalis was starting to turn blackish at the bottom. The chrysalis eventually turns transparent and the butterfly's vibrant wing colors of orange and black can be seen. When this happens you know that the butterfly will emerge soon. 

Monarch Chrysalis Hug

Sure enough, the monarch butterfly ripped through the clear, thimble-sized chrysalis this morning!
What wasn't expected was for it to arrive on my birthday! Yahoo!! What a great gift! It all happened before 9 am. I was glad that the timing worked out to be hours before the rain storm.

According to Journey North, most Monarch's are born in the spring and summer and live for only 2 to 6 weeks. This late summer/fall Monarch butterfly lives longer and it will migrate all the way from our front yard milkweed meadow in New Jersey and fly 2,000 miles to overwinter in Mexico.

Monarch's born in the Fall are the special generation that migrate to Mexico. See the links below to see my photos on Fine Art America and to learn more about this popular endangered butterfly.

Happy Fall!

Related Links 

Sightings Flowing In

Monarch Lifecycle

Link to my photo of Monarch Chrysalis

Link to Monarch Water Bottle photo

Blog post and photos Copyright(C) Wind. All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Savoy Cabbage stars in our next batch of probiotic-rich kraut! #gardencuizine #stonesoupblog

    Savoy - Our next Batch of Kraut!

Savory cabbage stars in our next batch of probiotic-rich sauerkraut that is fermenting now. Did you see my social media posts of the most picture-perfect head of Savoy Cabbage? We bought it from our local farmers market. You can use any type of cabbage for homemade sauerkraut.

The Savoy cabbage was farm fresh, yet didn't yield as much brine as the regular head of fresh cabbage that we used in the last batch. I decided to add a little extra brine after 9-days of fermenting.

Making sauerkraut is fun and easy. I used one head of cabbage (Savoy this time), sliced it thin. In a large bowl, non-iodized sea salt was massaged into it: 1 tablespoon of course salt (not iodized) per 2 lbs. of sliced cabbage. 

I divided the cabbage mixture into two large glass mason jars, covered and set aside to ferment. Every day I open the lids to release any gases and poke down the kraut using tongs. With the lid on tight, sometimes turning the jar upside down to let any brine flow to the top so the top layer won't get moldy.

After 9-days the kraut seemed like it needed more brine. To reduce the amount of trapped air in the jars, I combined the two jars into one jar and pressed down the cabbage firmly. A small batch of additional brine was added. The brine still did not reach up to the top of the shredded cabbage; but, by the next day there was more brine! 

I learned from Holly Howe (see link below), who explains in her blog post, that brine level changes along with temperature in your kitchen. Perhaps our kitchen was a bit warmer. Plus the additional salt brine may have helped.

See below for my small batch brine recipe: note: this may or may not be a good idea! Some say that added brine could make the kraut mushy. I hope not. At the 21-day mark, I will add a comment on texture and flavor. - check back!

Recipe for 1/2 cup extra Sauerkraut Brine

1/2 tsp Non-iodized course sea salt

1/2 cup Chlorine free water (I used filtered tap water)

Related Links

Kraut in a Jar by book author Holly Howe

10 Delicious Kraut Additions

Blog post and photos Copyright (C)Wind. All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Today in our South Jersey garden: beautiful blooms, Milkweed, Monarchs, Figs and ants! #GardenCuizine

Today in Our NJ Garden - zone 7a (was 6b)

September 5, 2021

Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of summer. "End of Summer" seemed like the perfect title to my above photograph taken today in our front garden of Black-eyed Susan's with Sweet Autumn Clematis. 

The highlight of my day today was to see both a Monarch caterpillar AND a Monarch butterfly!! The monarch caterpillar was resting on Common Milkweed in Harry's Milkweed Meadow and the Monarch butterfly was visiting a small patch of native hardy Ageratum. Of course, both got reported on Journey North's website as fall Monarch migration is officially underway! 

I snapped a few photos of the Monarch caterpillar and butterfly with my cell phone and when I went back with my good camera to get better pictures later in the day, they were gone.

Figs growing on one of our fig trees
Today, our veggie garden is bursting with blooming garlic chives, zinnias and cannas. We also have dahlias (not blooming yet), chia and peppers and heirloom tomatoes that will keep producing here and there until the first killing frost.

This is our best year ever for figs! Figs have to be picked as soon as they ripen. Both trees are producing figs. Today I picked two huge figs from our littlest fig tree (variety unknown). One fig had to be sacrificed to the ants; they beat us to it.

One quick note about when to pick figs. I had this question, "Will figs continue to ripen once picked?" I read that figs do not ripen after they are picked. However, we just discovered that they do continue to ripen. Our Chicago figs continue to ripen and get sweeter after they are picked. Now, we just need to improve our timing of picking figs before the ants march in.

Happy Labor Day!

Related Links

Journey North - report your Monarch Sightings!

Photos and blog post Copyright (C)Wind. All rights reserved.