More Sneaky Tiny Monarch Caterpillars

We are still finding Monarch butterfly eggs and caterpillars! I thought I would show you some more of these teeny tiny guys and how they like to keep me on my toes by sneaking off while I’m cleaning their “hotels” (or the little containers they are currently living in). Take a look at just how tiny the caterpillars are when they first hatch. See the dime? Look how small they are in comparison to a dime! Can you find 3 caterpillars in this picture?

Here’s one of them a little closer up. Compare it to the print on the newspaper. Wow!

It’s not surprising that I have trouble keeping track of them, is it? They also like to hide on the underside of a milkweed leaf.

Can you spy the caterpillar hiding inside the rolled up leaf?

I write down how many caterpillars are inside each “hotel” so I can make sure I find all of them. And I have to unroll every little piece of milkweed leaf to find them. This picture is after the leaf was unrolled.

This picture just looks like a dried up, rolled up leaf right? Should I just throw it away?

NO! Look who was hiding inside!! 🙂

Ok, now THIS guy was feeling VERY adventurous for a baby that is less than a day old!! He crawled out of his “hotel” even when the lid was on! Can you find him? He looks like a little line on the top of the lid. Oh my!

Now this caterpillar was one that I found outside when he was already this big. He was just sitting on a leaf, not moving while I got a new “hotel” ready for him. Until I walked away for a couple of seconds to get something I needed. And then he tried to make a run for it!! Haha! Don’t worry…when I offered him a milkweed leaf to crawl onto he was quite happy to come back. 😉 He thought the leaf tasted very yummy!

One more picture for today…this caterpillar was quite a fast crawler and he also made a break for it when I stepped away for a few seconds. He went happily back inside with the fresh milkweed leaves. Maybe he was just checking to see if any of the other “hotels” looked better than his? 😉

Did you enjoy reading about some of my caterpillars adventures? You might think raising caterpillars till they become butterflies would be rather boring, but it’s really not! I think they are rather funny and I love talking to them (“Hey, you! Get back here!”) and feeding them and watching them grow. 🙂

Monarch New Beginnings

It’s that most wonderful time of the year again! No, I’m not talking about Christmas. It’s the time of year when the Monarch butterflies have come back into the United States from wintering over in Mexico. The females are laying eggs on their favorite plants and people all over are doing their part to help the Monarch caterpillars survive to become butterflies. The number of Monarch butterflies has greatly declined over the last decade. It’s a great feeling to know you are helping to preserve these beautiful butterflies! And so, let’s take a peek at how the process gets started. Monarchs like the Milkweed plants and the female Monarch butterflies will lay their eggs on Milkweed. Here are a couple types of Milkweed that grow around where we live in Ohio.

Common Milkweed. This plant will grow wild along roadsides and its fun to watch as you travel around and see how many Common Milkweed plants you can find.

Swamp Milkweed. This plant I purchased from a greenhouse and planted in my flowerbed in hopes of bringing the Monarch butterflies close by where we could see and help them.

Butterfly Milkweed. This plant I also bought at a store and planted in my flowerbed in hopes of drawing the Monarchs here. Aren’t the little orange flowers so pretty?

When you see these types of milkweed plants, look at the leaves and see if you see any Monarch caterpillars crawling around on them. They are often on the under side of the leaves. What does a Monarch caterpillar look like? Here is a picture of some Monarch caterpillars that are partially grown.

But I’m getting the cart before the horse! Whoa, back up there! When you see milkweed plants, not only should you look for the Monarch caterpillars, but you should look for their eggs. They are usually on the bottom side of the leaves too. They are super tiny so they are easy to miss seeing. Can you find the egg in this picture?

Yep, that little dot on the leaf over on the left hand side of the picture is a Monarch caterpillar egg. 🙂 We’ll call the egg the first step in the process. So the next step is when the egg hatches. The caterpillar that hatches from that tiny egg is so small it can be very hard to see it. I tried to take a close up picture of one that had just hatched. It’s rather hard to make it out, but that black dot is the caterpillar’s head.

The baby caterpillar will first eat the egg it hatched from and then they will look around for some milkweed to munch on. Milkweed is the only plant that a Monarch caterpillar will eat. There are 4 caterpillars in this next picture. Can you find all 4? 2 of them are super little! The other 2 have been around for a few days.

Here is another picture of a caterpillar that is really small, but bigger than the newly hatched ones. You can also see 3 more caterpillars that are older.

So now you know what plants to look at to see if you can find any Monarch caterpillars or eggs. And you know how super super tiny they are when they hatch. We’ll take a look at watching them grow on another day’s blog post. Happy hunting! 🙂

Where Do Green Beans Come From?

If you live in a big city, you may not have seen where green beans come from except for a can of green beans, like this one, or a bag of frozen green beans from a grocery store.

If you live in the country, your family might grow green beans in your garden just like our family does. So for those of you who’ve never had the chance to experience growing your own green beans, I’d like to give you a peek into what that looks like. It all starts with preparing an area of dirt or a garden box so you have a place to plant the green bean seeds. You will see green bean seeds in lots of stores in the spring time. There are different types of green beans, but this is the kind we are growing this year.

Here’s a closer up picture of the seeds.

We planted our green bean seeds on May 25th this year and they grew into large plants that look like this:

If you gently move the leaves aside and look underneath, you can see green beans growing there! And they are ready to pick!

I picked a bunch of the green beans off the plants and brought them inside our house.

The way I learned to prepare green beans is to start by laying a piece of newspaper across your lap and add a small pile of beans to it.

Here’s what a fresh green bean, straight from the garden, looks like:

Notice that the bean has a little pointy portion that sticks out on each end. We snip or break both ends off.

Then we snap or break the bean into several pieces. The number of pieces it’s broken into depends on how long the bean is. Here’s about the size we break them into:

Our big pile of green beans yielded this amount of snapped green beans:

The next thing that happens to the green beans is to put them in a dishpan with water and gently scrub them a little between your hands to get them clean.

Now it’s time to cook them! We put them in a large pan and add some water and put the pan on the stove and turn the heat on. We cook them until they soften to our desired tenderness, which might vary from one person to the next.

I’m not sure these pictures actually show the difference, but the beans will change color somewhat as they cook.

The green beans are finally ready to eat! How do you like to eat your green beans? I like them with butter melted on them and sprinkled with some salt! Yum!! They are also very delicious cooked with some ham.

If you have never done your own green beans from “scratch”, I’d like to suggest you look for some fresh green beans in your grocery store or at a nearby farmer’s market. It’s a great experience for kids and adults to prepare their own fresh green beans. (Mind you, after you’ve done several bushels of green beans at one time, it does get rather tiring! Been there, done that! Lol) I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into fresh green beans straight from the garden! 🙂

Very Cool Imperial Moth

Yesterday evening when I was walking up our front steps, I saw something strange looking hanging on the side of one of the steps.

At first it looked like just a blob to me, but when I looked closer I thought it was some kind of an insect, but a very weird looking one.

After studying it for a few minutes, I began to think it might be a moth, but I had never seen one like that. I have raised Monarch butterflies for a couple of years now, so I’ve seen them hatch out from their chrysalis and their wings are folded up and their body is fat with fluids. The Monarch slowly pumps the fluid into their folded up wings and they slowly expand to look like the butterfly wings you would normally see. I started thinking the wrinkly blob part might be wings from a newly hatched moth.

Our family has a lot of interest in plants and butterflies/moths and other wild animals, so I sent a text with pictures to some of our kids to see if they knew what it was. Sure enough, our daughter-in-law thought it might be an Imperial moth. After doing a little research online, I think she is right. They can have over 6″ wingspan so they aren’t exactly little moths! One of the types of host plants that they like are maple trees and there is a maple tree right above the steps we found this guy hanging on. I watched him and waited for a while and I was finally rewarded by seeing his wings expand! (I’m saying “he” but I have no idea if it’s a male or female.)

He was so cool looking!

I watched and waited a while longer and he finally opened his wings up part way!

It was starting to get dark by this time and even though I kept checking on him, I didn’t get to see him open his wings all the way. But the wind was blowing and I got a picture of him that lets you see underneath to where there is another part of his wings.

Look at this picture I found online of an Imperial moth. It looks very much like a leaf in the Fall!

I’m rather sad to say that he was gone this morning when we went outside. But what a neat experience! So keep your eyes open when you are outside because you might just see something new and interesting like an Imperial moth! 🙂

If you would like to read more about the Imperial moth, here’s a nice article from Wikipedia:

Bird Watching With Kids

A hobby we have enjoyed for many years is watching the birds around our house. Our kids and grandkids have also enjoyed watching the birds that come to our bird feeders. We have fun trying to figure out what each bird is. There are many books available that can help with that and now there are even apps for that purpose. Look for books and apps for your area of the world.

You don’t have to be fancy to put out birdseed to feed the birds. We have used regular bird feeders before but now the tree that we used to hang them from is no longer there. So we have improvised and we still have lots of birds showing up! As you’ll see in the pictures, we are using an old piece of Tupperware that we were going to throw away. Lol We hope to make a better setup, but this is good for now.

What do you feed birds? Here are a couple of charts that can help you decide, but if you want to just buy one type of bird seed I would recommend the Black Oil Sunflower seeds. Many kinds birds will eat those. You will notice a half of an orange in the pictures and that is there to attract the Baltimore Orioles.

Different places in the U.S. will have different birds that live there. And you might have some birds only in the summer and others in the winter and some that live by you year-round. We are in northern Ohio. I’d like to share some pictures of some of the birds that have visited us this year. 🙂 The pictures aren’t spectacular because they were taken with my iPhone through a window, but it will give you an idea of what some birds look like.

#1.) House Finch. This is a male house finch and a female house finch. The male is a brighter red color while the female is more brown. They live in Ohio year-round.

#2.) Dark-eyed Junco. They are a dark gray on top and have white underneath. Juncos live here during the Winter and then migrate to Canada for the summer months.

#3.) White-crowned Sparrow. Notice the black and white stripes on the top of its head. These spend the winter in Ohio but then in the Spring they migrate on up to Canada where they spend the summer. The last day for us to see them here this year was May 17th.

#4.) Northern Cardinal. This beautiful bird is the state bird for Ohio and Indiana and maybe other states too. The first picture with the bright red bird is a male Northern Cardinal. The second picture is of a female that is also beautiful but in a different way. The females beak can be bright orange. Northern Cardinals live in Ohio year-round.

#5.) Black-capped Chickadee or a Carolina Chickadee. It’s very hard to tell the difference between the two kinds of Chickadees so by looking at the map of where each type lives, we can guess that it’s more likely for us to have a Carolina Chickadee here. They are a small quick bird and they don’t seem to stay at the feeder for very long at a time.

#6.) You’re right, that’s not a bird! Haha! But he does come to our bird feeder quite often. We jokingly call him an Alvin-bird. (After Alvin the Chipmunk) Don’t be surprised if you have some unexpected visitors to your feeders! We also have had squirrels, raccoons and even a groundhog show up!

#7.) Common Grackle. I try not to be partial to certain birds, but these guys can be rather annoying. They are a big bird and they scare the other birds away from the feeder which of course seems rather unfriendly. But they are just birds and they get hungry too so I try to be nice to them. 😉 Their body is black and their heads seem to be “shiny” looking. (Iridescent)

#8.) American Goldfinch. I just love these little guys! The male is a brighter yellow than the female but they are so pretty that it cheers me up to see them. They like to come to a feeder with thistle seeds in it, but we don’t have one yet this year. I was happy to see them come to this feeder too. 🙂

#9.) Song Sparrow. There are several types of Sparrows and this one is called a Song Sparrow. Notice the stripes on its chest and belly. That’s one difference between them and some other Sparrows. They live in Ohio year-round.

#10.) Mourning Dove. This is a little larger bird and they make a cooing sound that sometimes is mistaken for an owl. They also live in Ohio year-round.

#11.) Eastern Towhee. Here is a favorite of mine. They are supposedly common around us but we actually don’t see very many of them. The map shows them to be in southern Ohio year-round, but in our area only during the summer.

#12.) House Sparrows. You can also see the Eastern Towhee here again, but look at the other 2 birds. The bird the farthest to the left is the male House Sparrow and the other one is a female. We have a LOT of these around! The male has black around its eyes, down its throat and a patch on its breast. They will sit in the feeder and chatter away at each other and I enjoy watching them.

#13.) Brown-headed Cowbird. This is a pair of Brown-headed Cowbirds. Again, the male is the darker colored one and the female is lighter. Notice the body of the male is black while his head is brown. These are in Ohio year-round. An interesting fact about them is that they will lay their eggs in another bird’s nest and their babies are raised by other birds. Sometimes the baby Cowbirds are bigger than the birds raising and feeding them!

#14.) Tufted Titmouse. They are another favorite of mine. They seem dainty and I like the little crest on their head, kind of like a Northern Cardinal. They are quick and don’t stay at the feeder too long, just like the Chickadees. They visit us year-round.

#15.) White-breasted Nuthatch. Sorry this is a bad picture, but these little guys are super fast and I’ve had trouble getting their picture. They are very fun to watch as they will walk down a tree head first! They are a blue-gray color with white on their breast and head and around their eyes. They are here year-round.

#16.) Red-breasted Nuthatch. This bird looks similar to the White-breasted Nuthatch but notice that it has a black stripe on the side on it head passing through its eye area. They are usually a little more pale orange on their breast than this one is. He is smaller than the White-breasted Nuthatch, but he will walk upside down on trees too and they both have long beaks. They winter in Ohio, but spend their summers in Canada.

#17.) Blue Jay. These are beautiful birds with their blue and white coloring, but they can be a bit loud and bossy to other birds. They have a dark line around their throat which makes them look like they are wearing a necklace. 🙂 They live in Ohio year-round.

#18.) Brown Thrasher. Here is another bird that I like to watch. They started out staying mostly out in the yard away from the house but gradually came closer and closer until now they come right up into the feeder. They are a large bird with rusty brown coloring and a long tail, long beak and stripes on their breast. They are in Ohio only in the summer.

We have other birds visiting us that I haven’t been able to get a good picture of and some of the birds here don’t come up to our feeder. We’ve seen American Robins, Northern Mockingbirds (big favorite!), European Starlings, Barn Swallows, Chimney Swifts (some of these live in our chimney each summer!), Red-winged Blackbirds, Baltimore Orioles (beautiful orange and black birds), Chipping Sparrows and probably more I’m not thinking of at the moment.

It’s amazing to me to watch a bird crack a seed open, break the shell off and eat the kernel by just using their mouth! We would use our hands, wouldn’t we? A very sweet thing that you might see especially in the Spring, is a male bird feeding a seed to his female mate. 🙂 It’s hard to get me stopped once I start talking about birds, but I’ll let this be all for this time! I hope you will try feeding the birds in your area and you will have a new hobby to enjoy with your kids! 🙂

Eggshell Garden Hatchlings

I came across the cutest little garden project today that kids (and adults!) will love to do! Just had to share it with you here! It’s from the Burpee seed company. Look at these adorable little guys!

seed starting image

You can find all the details and directions at:

I think I need to make some of these!! 🙂 How about you? Enjoy!

Who is Hiding in Our Garage?

We found a surprise visitor hanging out in our garage yesterday! It was not a person. I will give you a few hints and see if you can guess what it is. It’s an animal…it has 4 legs and a tail…it’s dark green and it doesn’t make much noise but it did hiss at us when my husband, Grandpa Rick, picked it up. They move very slowly…can you guess what it is? Do you need another clue? It carries its house with it. Now I’m sure you guessed it right! Look at the picture below to see who surprised us…

A turtle!! Did you guess a turtle? It pulled it’s head and legs inside it’s shell. We think it’s a painted turtle but I actually don’t know much about turtles. The biggest mystery is how did it get inside our garage? Hmm…the garage doors are usually closed unless we need to bring the tractor out. Maybe it snuck in when Grandpa Rick mowed the grass.

Since it couldn’t survive if it stayed inside our garage, Grandpa Rick picked it up using his heavy gloves. Turtles can carry a germ called salmonella so we need to be careful about washing our hands after touching them. Also, we didn’t know if the turtle might try to bite him, so it seemed the best idea to wear gloves while moving it. We found a nice spot of grass away from where it might get stepped on or run over and set it down.

I think it was glad to be back in the grass instead of on the hard cement, but it was still rather scared of us. We must look pretty big to it! It tried to hide down inside the grass but you can still see most of it. Notice it’s one back foot and its cute little tail!

We went away and left it alone so it could move onto it’s next destination. This morning it was gone. So long, turtle friend! It was nice to meet you! We hope you have a good and happy life free in nature! 🙂

A New Batch of Kittens!

For your reading enjoyment, here is a little story I wrote a few years ago about a wonderful experience I had as a child. 🙂

“Nita, wake up! It’s time!”

“What?” I said sleepily, struggling to get my eyes open. “Time for what?”

“Spice is having her kittens,” my mom replied. “Do you want to come and watch?”

Kittens! Oh, my, yes! Of course, I wanted to watch! As I scrambled out of the tangle of my covers, I realized it was still the middle of the night. Wow, I’d never been up at this time before! And just think…our very own kittens! I eagerly grabbed my pink bathrobe and matching slippers to ward off the October chill. I pushed my long brown hair back as I followed my mom down the darkened hallway to our dimly lighted kitchen. She cautioned me to move slowly and quietly so I wouldn’t startle Spice. Underneath our wooden kitchen table in a brown cardboard box was our beautiful calico cat. My two older sisters were already sitting on the linoleum floor when I knelt quietly down beside them. Dad appeared with my three brothers and soon all six of us kids were jostling for position around the box to take in this amazing sight.

“What’s that little thing Spice is licking?”, asked my younger brother, Mark, as we all peered into the box at a little egg-shaped blob lying beside our pet.

“It’s a kitten”, said Sherry, laughing. I guess since she was the oldest of us kids, she knew more about these things.

“It doesn’t look like a kitten”, said Mark doubtfully. I wanted to agree with him but with four older siblings sitting right there beside me, I decided to keep my thoughts to myself. How could that slimy looking thing be a kitten?

We watched in fascination as Spice licked and licked. Sure enough, as the slimy stuff was cleaned away, we began to see orange and white fur emerge. It WAS a kitten!

“Listen!”, said my sister, Susie. “Hear that? Spice has got her motor running!” We sat in total silence and listened to our new mama purr her happiness. When the tiny kitten let out a loud “Mew!”, we laughed softly at such a big sound coming from such a tiny baby.

We spent the next couple hours huddled drowsily together on the kitchen floor as Spice delivered five wiggly little bundles of fur. Our fingers itched to hold their silky softness, but Mom said we had to wait to hold them until they were a little older.

“We have a problem”, said my brother, Roger. “There are six of us and only five kittens. When we play with them, one of us won’t get to hold a kitten.”

My brother, Keith, the problem solver of the family, calmly remarked, “It works out just fine. This way, one of us will get to hold Spice.”

With that problem solved, Mom and Dad chased us off to bed again. As I snuggled under my warm covers, I smiled as I thought of how much fun we would have with our new little family.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little story about a new litter of kittens. The pictures are not of Spice and her babies, but they are pictures of another new batch of kittens that were born about a week ago. Our grandchildren stayed up very late to watch them come into the world and it reminded me of my own experience with new kittens. 🙂

Tiny Monarch Caterpillars Grow FAST!

Remember these cute TINY little guys we looked at last week? There are 2 on the top left and 1 at the bottom. If you missed that blog post, you can find it here:

You are not going to believe how fast they grow!! Check out this picture that was taken yesterday, August 27, 2020.

Can you say WHOA!! Now they look like fat little sausages! That’s because they eat a LOT of Milkweed leaves! If you find a Monarch caterpillar and you would like to raise it inside your house, just make sure that you have access to lots of Milkweed leaves for them to eat. They will only eat Milkweed leaves.

Would you like to see where we found a bunch of our caterpillars this year? Some were on this Swamp Milkweed plant. Swamp Milkweed plants grow pretty tall and they have pink flowers in the Spring. Can you find 3 caterpillars in this picture?

We found more caterpillars on this Butterfly Milkweed plant. Butterfly Milkweed plants don’t grow as tall as the Swamp Milkweed and they have pretty orange flowers in the Spring. Can you find 3 caterpillars in this picture too? One of them is hiding down low on the right side of the picture. 😉

Sometimes we have found caterpillars on the Common Milkweed plants. This is what it looks like. It’s leaves are much bigger than the other 2 Milkweed plants and it also has pink flowers in the Spring.

When we bring the caterpillars inside our house, they live in a cozy little apartment with a couple of sticks to climb on and Milkweed leaves to eat. We place a damp paper towel on the bottom of the apartment to make it easier to clean up after them every day. They also poop a lot!

We had 4 apartments but we kept finding more caterpillars and eggs so we added more apartments!

We house up to 3 caterpillars in each apartment. They eat and grow and poop to their hearts’ content until one day, it’s time for the next stage in their life cycle. They climb to the top of the apartment or on a stick and then they J-hang. Don’t they look like the letter J hanging there?

Usually about a day after they start to J-hang, they will go into their chrysalis. But that’s a topic for another day! Check back next week when we’ll explore the next phase in their transformation! 🙂

It’s Butterfly Time Again!

It’s that time of year again when you might find those cool looking yellow and black striped Monarch butterfly caterpillars! We found our first one a couple weeks ago.

I brought the caterpillar inside and gave it it’s own cool apartment to live in. I gave it plenty of fresh milkweed leaves to munch on with a few drops of water on them and a stick for climbing to the top of its apartment . Within just a couple of days, it had gone into its chrysalis.

Then the waiting and watching began. Yesterday I noticed that the chrysalis was turning a darker color so I knew that the time for hatching was getting close. This morning when I got up, this is what I saw:

Hello, world! The new Monarch butterfly has arrived! 🙂

This Monarch butterfly is a girl. After giving her a few hours to plump up her wings and dry off, I took her outside. As soon as I walked outside, she started fluttering excitedly around in her apartment! She was ready to go! I took the lid off, let her crawl up onto my finger and she flew off before I could even get her completely out of the apartment. Good bye, beautiful lady! We wish you well! 🙂

The plight of the Monarch butterfly concerns all of us. Their population is really struggling. Their numbers are down 53% over last year for the ones that winter in Mexico. Those that overwintered in California this last year have decreased by 86%! So we need to try and help them as much as we can. Planting native nectar plants such as the common milkweed, swamp milkweed and butterfly milkweed. And avoid using pesticides. Let’s all help preserve these beautiful creatures!