“We can reclaim biodiversity and habitats within human landscapes.”
– Thomas Rainer
That scaly fellow swaying from our coast rosemary (Westringia) is a San Diego Alligator lizard. He was kicking it in the bush midday, most likely on the hunt for the airborne critters visiting the purple flowers that bloom winter through spring. It’s been cold here for LA, and I suspect food is tricky to come by. The sighting was a victory of sorts. One year ago, our yard was a dirt hole. Now, there’s a lot of things like that lizard creeping, crawling and flying around here. The yard is alive, and I don’t mind saying, I’m proud of that fact. Turning our property into habitat has been a dream since the day we set eyes on the place. I feel strongly about this. In fact, if I could, I’d make it a law: Anyone lucky enough to own a home with any amount of land should be required to make 50% of that property habitat for the local flora and fauna. That’s right, a law, punishable by death…or…no internet access.
Caught this late-season Monarch caterpillar as he wandered along our retaining wall, into the brush, making his pilgrimage to his final transformation…Of course Sian named him “Charles”.
For reasons no one really knows, Monarch caterpillars often travel fairly vast distances away from the milkweed to pupate. Charles here was about 10 feet from the milkweed plant he had been feeding and living on.
Late season Monarch caterpillars are often darker than their summer kin. The increased width of the black bands allows them to absorb more heat as days get colder and shorter.
This Charles survived last week’s storm and dips into the 40’s, but his journey is just getting started. Later, Charles.
Spend 15 minutes researching global pollinator decline and the ensuing economic impact, and I think you’ll agree the Red States and Blue States are all facing a staggering economic tsunami if we don’t take a tip from the UK, fast. So, dig: Inspiring move by the British government in the BBC News today. Thanks, in no small part to the efforts of the good people at Friends of The Earth and an organization called BUGLIFE, the UK has passed a $900 million dollar, 10 year strategy to increase pollinator habitat in the UK. Interestingly, Europe is way ahead of the US on this issue, and is taking big strides to help, that’s right, bugs, knowing that pollinators are responsible for $207 billion in agriculture, world-wide, annually. That’s something our Republican majority, those protectors of the heartland, should see as a real throwdown. Let’s get ‘er done, boys and girls!
Seth Brundle: You have to leave now, and never come back here. Have you ever heard of insect politics? Neither have I. Insects… don’t have politics. They’re very… brutal. No compassion, no compromise. We can’t trust the insect. I’d like to become the first… insect politician. Y’see, I’d like to, but… I’m afraid, uh…
When we bought our house , our yard was a sloppy rectangle of dead pomegranate trees, dried earth and a riddle of busted pipes. Sian was 6 months pregnant, so the priority was that which lay under the new roof, but my heart was focused on the yard. I was, my wife might say, obsessed. Well, I had a dream. I dreamed of creating a magical, urban jungle that my daughter could get lost in, critters would flock (or crawl) to, and friends would wander, drinks in hand, fully inspired. I dreamed of creating a habitat that would be boldly in-sync with the great Mediterranean Chaparral ecosystem that surrounds Los Angeles, and be a model for bridging man and nature in the 21st Century. Ten months later, I’m not even close. Nature, it turns out, has no regard for my wants. Continue reading Welcome to The Jungle…Hard Lessons From a Small Garden→
A little while back, I wrote about the decimation of the Monarch butterfly population in my garden at the hands of a Chinese Mantis. Well, behold the lady in question, all three inches of her. With huge spiked claws 1/3 her body length and wide-set eyes with a binocular field of vision, this non-native, invasive lady is built to kill.
And so, as much as I hate her for her impact on the already struggling Monarch migration, I must admit, she’s terrifyingly cool to stare at…especially given the hair raising way she stares back.
My wife writes on a TV show that shoots in New York City. Twice a year or so, she needs to be on set for about 3 weeks. Up until Niko was born, this meant I got to wander Manhattan and Brooklyn, eat a lot of food, and meet old friends for drinks. Post-Niko, I can’t wheel around so freely. Luckily, the 26th street entrance to the High Line Park is three blocks away from where we stay, and I’ve taken to walking the length of it daily. I’m not alone. The staggering success of this post-industrial eyesore turned iconic city park is renowned world-wide, and evident from the throngs of locals and visitors alike wandering it’s 1.5 mile length, cameras pressed to faces, shooting in all directions, rain or shine.
Floating above Chelsea, The High Line sublimely removes you from, and gives you a richer context for, the city you are in. It reminds me of the utopian designs imagined by Buckminster Fuller, of a city living in balance and harmony, saved by smart, conscious design. From its forested start at Gansevoort Street all the way to wild weeds of 31st Street, The High Line has a singular ability to constantly reframe Manhattan historically, architecturally and, most important from my perspective, naturally. Among all that the High Line is, an often overlooked thing is plant and animal habitat on a scale I didn’t think was possible in Manhattan. From spring into fall, the flowering plants of the High Line are vibrating with pollinators like honey bees, wasps, Monarch butterflies and Swallowtail butterflies, to name a few.
Charles and Charles flew the nest today. Both Monarchs hatched this morning, between 7 am and 10 am. We let them take a few hours to fill out their wings before releasing them. Needless to say, a pretty cool thing to watch them fly off. Aniko, in true Aniko form, expressed her delight by nearly pinching them to death, but Sian successfully intervened, and no butterflies were handicapped in the making of this post.
So, that’s a total of three Monarch’s returned to the migration. We hope. It’s a tough journey for those critters under the best of circumstances, and these days, circumstances aren’t their best. Don’t forget, next year, plant milkweed and raise Monarch’s. Keep the flowers flowering and the fruit fruity.