Farm kids find the simplest ways to entertain themselves.  Making hay is hard work, but building forts while putting that hay up in our barn was tons of fun.  (There were only regular small bales back then and, sad to say, there are very few places that still make them today.)  Rolling down our steep hills was also a form of great joy, and then there was the Milkweed plant.

It is a weed, so, as such,  most farmers would destroy them in favor of their paying crop.  We played with ours, which, I think, made our father a bit mad.  If you broke open the stem, it produced a milky substance that was very sticky (just try to mess with the plant without getting sticky!?!  Can’t happen.), but our favorite part was the pods.

It is a strong and pretty plant that produces a heavy bushy type of flower during the summer and is best known as the perfect food for the Monarch butterflies.  Then as the summer ends and fall begins, they grow these pods.  The pods are filled with tons of little brown seeds, and each seed is attached to a very light and feathery stem.  This is where dad would get mad.

We would break open the pods and purposefully pull out all the seeds on their feathers and throw them up into the air.  We would pretend they were little fairies floating all around us.  Pretty obvious why dad didn’t like it, but also pretty sure Mom Nature loved us for it. just sent me this email:

Milkweed Plant: A Truly Remarkable Wild Vegetable

Discover the Many and Varied Milkweed Plant Uses, Including Sustenance for Butterflies

It is a perfect read, especially since I have never looked at them as a veggie, but they needed to add the joy that it can bring to little kids as one of its best benefits.

On a side note, I need to thank our neighbors.  They own big fields of paying crops (including crops that go into cow bellies) but have never stopped to ask us to get rid of them.  The plant was not originally on our farm.  The first one showed up in our front yard about five years ago, and my sister and I protected it.  No, we did not pop open the pod and watch the fairies dance (but it was a thought); it did that all on its own.  We just encouraged it to grow and enjoyed watching it feed our honeybees, butterflies, and other beneficial bugs.

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Being a small farmer/gardener and doing it all as chemical free and natural as can be, I watch all the signs.

  • Weather: Current, future and even past.
  • News: Any changes current or future that may affect what I grow and why.
  • Critters: This is my biggie! I watch what the wild and natural critters are doing around me.

This third point leads me to today’s post.  I read a lot and have “cut the cord” so I read even more now.  I get my news online and in print.  When I turned on my cell phone this morning, one of the first articles was this:

Since it is about the insects, one of my three main critter groups, I had to check it out.  WARNING:  If you follow these things like I do, and if you are a gardener of any type, is a bit disturbing.

multiple insects The Insect Apocalypse Is Here – The New York Times

Sune Boye Riis was on a bike ride with his youngest son, enjoying the sun slanting over the fields and woodlands near their home north of Copenhagen, when it suddenly occurred to him that …

We have a Bee Keeper that comes up every spring, unloads 600+ colonies of bees, and for three days distributes them around the northeast corner of Colorado.  Those three days are a ton of fun.  BEES EVERYWHERE!  I set out extra dishes of sugar-water so they can get a drink and a boost after their long trek.  I love that; once things settle down, they will land on me while I garden.  I leave them alone, they leave me alone, and all gardening is mutual love.

Then I received another article which caught my attention.  Again, it has to do with things that affect me – like weather (which has been way off whack this year):

Global Ocean Circulation Keeps Slowing Down: Here’s What It Means

Trevor Nace Contributor Science

I know a ton of people out there do not believe in climate change, I am NOT one of those.  I think it is a very real thing and it worries me. I have read some articles on historical documents and found that part of the problem with the past cold spells may have had to do with things just like this.  Part of the reason they are tracking it so much more closely now.  When you are a natural farmer/gardener, you try to grow in the best possible means available.  When the weather decides to turn cold – and stay there – it’s hard to get a good handle on your crops.  We cover when necessary, but to keep them covered for extended periods can also be a problem.  We also do manual pollination, especially in our greenhouse.  This is time-consuming but very necessary.  Yes, we have some insects in there that help – but not enough, and usually not bees.

I hope reading this you will join me in being conscious of your surroundings.  Please feel free to share with me if you have anything like this going on in your neck of the woods.  I am also interested in finding out how others are handling things like missing pollinators and extreme periods of unusual cold.  Thank you for reading and thank you for sharing!

flower and bee

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Do you know what your kids are singing?  Especially your very young kids?  Now I am no spring chicken anymore, but I know that one of the first things that kids learn is music – specifically singing.  They are taught at the youngest age to do simple rhyming song.

  • Oh, Dear, What Can the Matter Be?
  • Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
  • One that my sister was taught was Chicken Riding? I, personally, had never heard it before or after she sang it (sometimes I think she just made it up to keep me guessing?!)
  • Itsy, Bitsy Spider – and so on.

The one children’s song that came to mind this morning is about one of my favorite creatures – the Bumble Bee.  “I caught a little baby bumblebee, won’t my mommy be so proud of me.”  (It’s kind of tragic at the same time – stings the kid, gets squashed, makes a mess of the shirt, and in the end, the kid gets into trouble…ahh, kids songs?!)

We have honey bees that are brought up from New Mexico every spring.  A company (friends) has our permission to pull their huge semi-truck onto our property.  Park it there, unload, and distribute over 600 colonies of bees.  It takes about three days to get them all spread out here in northeastern Colorado.  Then in the fall, they do the reverse.  We have extra free great pollinators all summer long.  (They should be here in the next couple of weeks.)

We also spend a fair amount of time every spring adding more (or new) good-bug-friendly plants to our yards and gardens.  The first few years on our little slice of heaven were kind of sad.  A few spots out front with a few flowers in them, but nothing to really attract our good bug buddies.  I can still remember the first time I saw a Praying Mantis.  Got so happy I cried a bit!

Over the years and our continuous work, we have managed to attract all types of garden helpers.

  • More Praying Mantis (green & brown – for those that do not know – female and male in our territory.)
  • Walking Sticks
  • The continued Honey Bees
  • Humming Birds.
  • An ever-growing variety of wild birds.
  • Lacewings
  • Ladybugs
  • Soldier bugs
  • And a variety of beetles.

The one that is closest to me, in more ways than one, is the bees.  We have several varieties here now.  The one that I did not see until just last year was the Bumble Bee.  I didn’t even think about it until I read this email: Mother Nature Network (MNN)

Bumblebee gets a helping hand from Endangered Species Act

I didn’t know they were on the endangered species list?  I know the Honeybees have been declining, so we help them as much as possible, but it never dawned on me that the Bumblebee is was having issues as well.

Maybe they should start teaching kid song to save things like the bumble bee instead of squashing it?  Maybe we could help starting now?

music notes 1

There was a little baby Bumblebee.

So I sat real still as I could be.

The Bumblebee came and sat on me.

Oh, what a wonderful thing to see.

Then he turned and smiled with glee.

Don’t ya just love those Bumblebees!

music notes 2

(Can’t write right now, because I can’t stop laughing at myself!)

Ok, so I cannot write a song, but you get the picture.  The idea of teaching our kids not to be afraid of things like Bumblebees, Honeybees, and Spiders just appeals to me.  I though, have my work cut out for me with my grandson.  He is a big giant panzie!  He can’t wait for summer, but asks every day if the snakes are out yet?  If I say yes, it is time, then he won’t go outside – grrr!

silly friendly snake

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Gardens and gardening is a never ending adventure for me.  Every time I go out to them, I find something wonderful and amazing.  Today is her day:


She is a common garden spider for out here.  The funny part is the first five years on our little piece of heaven; we did not see any of them?  Then, in the 6 year, they were everywhere.  We had a fun one that made a next on the old chicken shed.  The front of it was all chicken wire to let the sun in, and she found that to be a perfect spot for feeding.  We also have one of our well pumps right beside that spot.  Well, we would go to water the animals and turn on that pump, and she would spaz out. She was a massive predator!  The minute her web wiggled, even a tiny bit, she was all over it.  Most of the day she was very lazy and just hung out in the middle sunning herself.  But the first time I was trying to untangle the hose for the chicken water and splashed her web – I freaked out (my turn I guess, haha).  She came bolting across to where I hit her web, and I must have jumped back a foot at least!  They are not a small spider:


My fingers are right behind her in this shot, and she is not even full grown yet! Eeek!!  Her body alone gets about as big as a ping-pong ball, and those legs stretch out about three inches from that.  She actually has a pretty silver streaking going on, but I was at the wrong angle for the picture to properly show that.

Considering how aggressive she is toward bad bugs, how she doesn’t bother me if I don’t bother her, and I caught her eating a wasp – she is welcome to stay and call the greenhouse home!  Now I just need to remember that she is in there because this web is up as high as my head, and the place we turn on the swamp cooler pump is right behind her.  Would hate to not be paying attention and have her right on my face – double EEEK!!!  Happy gardening you all – and keep your heads up!
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Can You See Me Now?

It was a warm spring evening (have to start this like some weird scary novel).  My sister and I were enjoying our relaxing moment when we spotted it!  Then we spotted “them” and ran to investigate further.

So you see it?

HB moth 2 6-10-16.jpg

They move like a stealth fighter. Fast, bobbing, weaving, one moment there, the next gone.  Here is a better shot:

HB moth 1 6-10-16

A Hummingbird Moth – actually two of them on this honeysuckle bush.  We spotted them just as the sun was disappearing, at first we thought, it was a hummingbird.  But it is a bit early for those cuties.  So this was pretty cool.  It was really hard to get these pics since they dart about so.  My sister said I should just sit still on the ground by them.  I was covered in dirt and filthy from working in the gardens all day, and my shirt alone looked like this:

my filthy shirt 6-10-16

So I did, and it worked.  Guess you have to look and smell like a plant before they will sit fairly still for a photo opp?

Oh, and F.Y.I. – I like wearing oversized men’s tee shirts in the summer, but I have to pin up the neckline, or everything goes down the shirt (weeds, dirt, bugs you name it).  So this is what you are seeing.  No time to sew, just pin it and it works.  In a couple of months I will have torn and trashed this shirt to the point of no return, so no biggy.  AND – no I am not a neat prissy gardener!  I get down and dirty into it.  My good bugs like me this way.

Happy Spring Gardening!


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By George, I Think We Got It – Maybe?

Well, we finally got to it.  Cleaned up the first major plot (it’s about 20’ long, 2-1/2’ wide) using the “weedless gardening method”.  Corn, beans, and cucs (The Three Sisters) are in here.  We are about a month late on the corn, so it will be interesting to see how it grows.

corn beans cucs weedless plot.jpg

The high grassy area next to this one is actually 2 more plots and two more walkways.  I still find it amazing how fast the weeds can come back.  The posts to the east of that area mark where the raspberries are.  We just started them a couple of years ago, but they are also filled with weeds.  East of that is three more walkways with two rows of field fencing (for those that do not know – that is fence about 4 feet high made up of 4”x4” squares, non-electric) which once held dozens of heirloom tomato plants.  We have the plants safe in the greenhouse, but they must come out soon – getting too big for their britches in there, sneaky buggers.

The potatoes that I started the weedless gardening method on are doing outstanding, even by the horseradish:

horseraddish n tadders 6-2-16.jpg

There are weeds around the plot, but only a small amount actually in the plot.  The potatoes are about 10” high already- woohoo.  Oh, and, yes, that is our horseradish at the top.  It is getting ready to flower, which is a first for us.  We have had it for several years now.  IT decided where “it” was going to be planted (true story).  We had it about 10 feet to the east of this spot originally.  It began spreading to the west all on its own.  Not as bad as the mint, mind you, but moving non-the-less. (Hee hee, maybe I should write a scary movie based on this? Lol).  It finally settled here, so we created a plot just for it.  Happily, it has not tried to run away to another spot since settling here.

Then we have these wild beauties:

widdows tears 6-2-16.jpg

We call them Widows Tears.  The pinkish/purple stems explode open first, looking like they are done – but wait – a green pod forms on the ends of the stems and this beautiful blue flower with yellow center opens up.  They do not last long, but the bees love them.  There are not thousands of them, but they do manage to scatter about a lot.

This is one of the bee favs:

catnip mint 6-2-16.jpg

It’s catnip mint (also a fav for our barn kitties when I am not in the garden).  Can you spot the bee?  There were several bees at that corner of the plant (stands about 2 feet high), but they would not stop moving about – grrr, ha ha!

This amazing thing (amazing that it is alive) resides in the front yard:

orange bush 6-2-16.jpg

A local hardware store was going to throw away some end-of-year stuff a couple of years back.  We happened to be there and made an offer on several of the bushes.  Most looked like they were dead, but we managed to salvage several.  This wonder is one of the saved.  Have no clue what it is, but it is about 4 feet high, and it gets these beautiful white/yellow flowers about the size of a quarter.  They smell like oranges?!  One of the others that we saved was the blue sea mist that all the butterflies loved last fall (here is the post: Where did they all come from?. If you want to see our little miracle bush.)

Well, here are my wishes for you all today:

  • No more severe storms, pretty sure we are all fed up with them (time to do our naked dance around the fire pit in the middle of the night – eeek, oh no – no one wants to see that!)
  • All the plants that you are putting in late like ours, will grow excellently (is that a word?)
  • You get just enough rain and sunshine to stuff your pantries with your own food in the fall.
  • And, most important, you have fun doing it all!

Well, I’m going back out now to try to tackle the other ½ of our 5 acres – me and my “Knight in Shining Armor” –  riding John Deere mower – woo hoo!  Nothing runs like a Deere, especially me!

Happy Green Thumbing!

burgandy bearded iris 5-30-16.jpg

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I would love to get some input here please!

Has anyone else noticed any weather, seasonal, insect, reptile, bird, or critter changes?  I’m not really talking about the change in an insect or animal itself, but more in their natural movements.

We have noticed lots of little changes over the last few years.  Small things like when the Robins show up in spring (This last year they never left, and we had a very unusual winter here.).  We already have seen a full size flying grasshopper, and a large number of butterflies – – they are not supposed to be here for a while yet?  Usually the tiny baby browns show up first.  Then the multi-colored one-inch-ers (yes that is a word in my dictionary – ha ha).  But not this year, the big ones are just here – AND FLYING?!

flying hopper 1    flying hopper 2

The weather has been strange enough, but the oddities in the critters is just wacko (yep, another Rachels’ dictionary addition).

  • Mega blizzards in April that did not go away in 3-days or less.
  • An opossum right up in our yard just after one of those blizzards.
  • Grasshoppers at least a month too soon.
  • Robins that never left.
  • Barn Swallows before all the leaves on the trees are out.
  • No foxes or coyote’s – not a sound.

These are just a few of the strange things we have noticed.

I know that some can be blamed on the ocean current patterns, but that seems to mainly affect the weather.  I also know about tectonic plate shifts.  That may be why there have been (or seems to be) more volcanoes erupting.  But how do you explain all the critters?


Their natural instincts are way better than mine.  I just get the feeling that they are trying to tell me, or us, something and we are not listening.

see and understand sign

So, my hope here is that some of you will have a response for me.  Are you having the same issues?  Have you even noticed anything different?

Ok, before you all freak out and want to have me committed, NO – I AM NOT A DOOMSDAY PREPPER!  I do believe in being prepared (it’s the 4-H-er in me), but no end of the world stuff yet (Oh and we love watching The Walking Dead – the human condition side of it is awesome!).  I/we do things like canning, buying in bulk on major stuff like coffee, sugar, flour, toilet paper etc.  We have our own chickens for meat and eggs.  A cow is in our field right now and half of it will be in our freezer by winter.

We are striving to get off the grid, just because we like to be independent.  Everything takes time and money to obtain, so we just move along one step at a time.  But the critters are freaking me out!  Normal patterns do not seem “normal” anymore.

Please let me know that I’m not crazy (ok, just tell me gently if I am – LOL)!  Do you see what I see?

owl peek


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We spend the weekend cleaning up the yard.  I say weekend, but it was really just Sunday.  Everything we touched on Saturday, just blew somewhere else.  (Some days I get really tired of the wind – grrr!  Sure, now-but in a couple of months I will be praying for a breeze – LOL!)  While cleaning up, I was not even thinking about all the “little critters” I was messing with.  They decided to remind me! 

This was on my hallway wall when I woke up:

1st moth in house 3-7-16

Our first Miller Moth – oh joy (she says sarcastically)!  I have extremely thick kinky hair and the buggers love to get stuck in it!  Nothing makes you say yuck faster than hearing the crunching of trying to get one untangled from your head – ugh!

I had placed all my dusty/dirty clothes into the wash last night.  I knew I was kicking up some old weeds when I was mowing some spots, but I just didn’t realize how many bugs I was scaring up as well.  One of these was at the bottom of my washer when the load was done:

soldier bug      stink bug         squash bug

Soldier Bug – good             Stink Bug – BAD                   Squash Bug – BAD


stink bug-look-a-likes

I say one of these, as it was so mushed from the wash that I couldn’t tell which type it was?  The first – Soldier Bug – is a goodie, but hard to tell from the Stink Bug (baddie).  The Squash Bug (also a baddie) has a completely different look but, when it is mush in your Kleenex, looks the same as the others (yucky!!)

The Soldier bug is also called a “Spinney” soldier bug, and it does look a lot more jagged than its counterpart, the stink bug.  Oh, and if you have ever had the unfortunate opportunity to get nailed by a Stink Bug, you will understand why it is named that – NASTY!  It is definitely a very different smell – blah!

My point for you all to ponder is – was it dead or alive before it went into the wash?  I have seen tons of Box Elder Beetles, a few flies, wasps, honey bees (this one is normal as we have boxes that stay on our property year around – think it helps to bring them out early?), and just yesterday a Ladybug!  I just didn’t think these three bugs would be out until it actually got warmer and stayed (like maybe June – haha, wishful thinking)?

So I have already started my “natural bug defense training” on my other blog,  My plan on that one is to figure out which are the worst bugs out there, and how many different natural ways there are to either keep them at bay or destroy them all together.  We are a live-and-let-live kinda farm, but offense is the best defense.  So, ugly nasties beware – I am on the hunt for you all this year!

me fighting bad bugs (And yes – I do look like this when I am chasing down bad bugs in the gardens! LOL)



We never clean up our leaves at the end of fall. They keep all of our flower beds, trees, and bushes nice and cozy until spring and add some great nutrients. Well, since it has been so abnormally warm out, we decided to start spring cleaning early.

The patio is always the first because it is where we do our resting and relaxing time. It took us 6 years to lay all the free brick (all we had to do was fetch it, clean it and place it)! We also didn’t follow normal patio ideas. We decided to go with the flow of the landscape instead of level it all off flat.

It turned out marvelous, however this year’s storms left us with an abundance of leaves and they were mashed down really well over everything.  Well, when spring cleaning hits, it’s time to find all the planting beds again. The whole front yard was still full of left-overs. The dill stalks, small bushes, and end-of-season flower left-overs all collect up the blown, mushy leaves. This made it hard to tell a plot from a brick.

The majority of the patio was easily picked up and swept. The area around the pond is a very different story. I got down on hand and knees (not easy to do after having both knees replaced – ouch) and worked my way slowly across the area. There are several smaller plots, as well as a couple of large ones.

So, it’s about 60 degrees, the sun is on me, I decided that sitting on the brick was easier than kneeling, and I was singing a song ( “If I had a million dollars” by the Barenaked Ladies – for those of you wondering) and working away. My method requires a small hand/whisk broom, gloves, a good pliers and my handy-dandy weed between the bricks tool (it’s like a razor or knife, but “L” shaped with a handle for easy manipulation). I was using my hand and broom to push back debris, then pile the excess to be shipped off to burn. Carefully checking each plot to make sure I left a heavy mulch layer, just because our nights still drop below freezing. Singing and working and lifted back a big pile of leaves and this is what I found:

DSC_0002 (1)

The tall spout is up about 2 inches! I was shocked! This normally does not happen until about the end of March (in a good year) or sometime in April – but here it is the middle of February!

I cleared out a bit in another nearby plot and discovered tulip sprouts – up about 1inch. What is going on?

The Boxelder bugs (or beetles) have been all over the south end of the house for the last 2 weeks. Not just one or two, but dozens:


From what I have seen and know of these bugs, the only thing they seem to invade are our Elms. They are supposed to prefer Maple and Ash, neither of which is on our property – AND – they are not supposed to be out yet! When they are out, they prefer the sunny south side of our home. Occasionally I will find one or two inside the house, but that is very rare. Maybe because we encourage our spiders – LOL!

funny spider

We have a new skylight in our kitchen and all forms of critters love it – especially the spiders “It’s dinner time, chomp, chomp, chomp!” And we do not have to cook for them – woo hoo!

I know it’s been a wicked and wild winter again, but this is getting down right freakie-deekie! Always makes me a bit worried about what summer will bring – snow? LOL

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I believe it is our job as humans to take care of the other creatures we share the planet with – yes, even spiders (yucky!).

brown spider pic

We try to keep at least one or 2 spiders in our home (as long as they stay up on the ceiling out of reach) to help control flies and other bothersome pests. We have Bull Snakes which help to keep the rodent population down (as long as I don’t confront one while weeding, I’m cool with it). We have free-range fowl that help to keep the grasshopper population at bay (just gotta watch the turkeys – they will steal your hot peppers, and the ducks will take up residence between the tomato plants and pluck the fruit at the peak of ripeness – jerks!).

We have learned a ton of natural gardening methods to deter all different kinds of critters. We would prefer to deter, then eliminate. However, once in a while, you get something that you just do not want anywhere on your property! For us, that is the Yellow Jacket Wasp!

yellow jacket wasp pic

I know it is our job as humans to tend to the creatures of the planet, but I have a real hard time when it comes to the Yellow Jacket. It is a mean monster that will sting for no reason, and do it over and over and over again. The poor Honey bee loses its guts if it stings you! I am pretty sure I wouldn’t want to sting anything if it meant having my insides pulled out – yucky and OUCH!

Please don’t confuse them with our wonderful Honey Bees:

honey bee pic

I am posting pics of both at a fairly close distance so you can learn the differences. We also love our Mason Bees

mason bee pic

I call them my Fuzzy Bees. They are about the same size as a black fly (another nasty pest), but they are all fuzzy looking here. I have heard that some are black; I have never seen a black one, just our creamy tan little cuties (yes, I love it when they rest on me – too fun!)

Then we also have what is called a Mud Wasp (also called Mud Dauber or Dirt Digger):

mud wasp

(Don’t let this pic fool you – they are only about ½ inch long when full grown, would rather walk and flick their wings they fly around after you.) Do NOT confuse them with the mean wasp family as they are not a baddy but a goodie. They usually travel alone and eat the baddies in your gardens. They like to hang around buildings collecting mud for their nests. Ours made a home between the bricks on the patio off the east porch steps. We also have a small crack in the steps when the house shifted, and she will fly from patio to porch and back. Never hurt any of us, have seen her attack a daddy long legs spider, and a pill bug. So she can stay!

In all fairness, I went to Wikipedia, which then led me to UC Davis Edu. This finally gave me the answer to my question – What are they good for? According to this article – little to nothing, which is what I thought. They are very predatory and will keep other pests away, however; I have seen them take out a Honey Bee hive (ticked me off!). So unless one of my readers can give me a good reason to keep them around, I will continue to eliminate them every chance I get!

I was weeding around a wagon of ours, it had some pretty tall grasses and some picker weeds – time for it all to go. I felt a burning sensation on the back of my hand (yep – no gloves, stupid me!) and when I pulled my hand up and flipped it over – 3 of the nasty monsters were going to town on my hand – grrr! I brushed them off and stomped on them, then went to the pump, got some cold water and made a mud pack. Slapped it on my hand which, by now, was about doubled in size and tight as a drum! Please note that I am not allergic to these buggers, or bees for that matter, but their sting is that bad!

So my takeaway today is “kill the hornet, kill the hornet, kill the hornet” (you have to sing that to the Bugs Bunny Opera episode – Elmer is a Viking, Bugs is Brunhilda – hee hee)Whats opera doc

(FYI – One of my all-time favorite Cartoons!)


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