A Meal Fit For A Monarch

I had to take Rack out back.  If I didn’t I’d probably get dragged there by him, to the door.

Breakfast was done, it’s our way.  We go out back, do a perimeter search and poke around.  It gives me a chance to fret over my gardens.

My normal limit for working with the garden is dependent on my flock.  Flock of Mosquitoes, that is.  If they follow me around, I usually blow off staying in one place for very long. 

This was a morning where the winds were calm so I was very mobile.

I have a spot in the back of the yard where the hedges have stopped growing.  The Night Blooming Jasmine that was so perfect when we moved in here 9 years ago is now looking rather scruffy and there are holes in it where parts of the plant had died back.  One of the plants is pretty much gone.

Going into the shed and retrieving the clippers, there was work to be done.  

Before going back to the corner, I was going to trim back some of the Mexican Milkweed in the last pot on the irrigation chain.  That particular pot has one, and only one plant in it.  I can’t get anything else to grow in it, and I can’t even get a second milkweed seed to root in it.  Passive aggressive pot.

But there it is.  It goes through cycles.  Once the flowers come out, it gets discovered by the Monarch Butterflies that shuttle from here to the M.E. DePalma park.  I get to see them often, and any day I don’t see at least one Monarch, it’s a bit strange to me.

Of course it’s shredded.  The plant, if you could be generous enough to call it that, is mostly sticks with a few leaves.  One Monarch to Rule Them All was on it.  It isn’t that there weren’t multiple eggs, it is that the plant never gets large enough for more than one Monarch to grow past the size of a thick hair.

Darwin would be proud of this battle of the fittest, because that is all that ever make it past Caterpillar stage.

There it was dutifully eating away the last few leaves that were on the plant.  The next day the leaves, and the Caterpillar, would be gone.  I prefer to think it found a place to turn itself into a Jade Green Jewel of a chrysalis, but who knows.

I vowed to take the seeds out there and try to start another plant, but I doubt it will succeed.  Each time they get past a few inches, something comes along and eats it.  That would be why I put the stuff there in the first place, food for Monarchs.  If they don’t let it grow, well, that’s their choice.

At least this one had its chance. 

Maybe in that back corner.  The Jasmine doesn’t seem to like it, and that will be gone back there as soon as I get working on it.  It was one trash can full of dead limbs this time alone.

Doing the Duck Walk in Season

Lately, the ducks have been taking over.

I’d had a Momma Duck in my yard not too happy with my coming over to take a picture of her and her brood a while back.  It worked out for the best because I was able to herd them on their way instead of having them land in the pool.

Once they know there’s water back there, it gets difficult to move a duck family on.

But lately it’s gotten a bit busy around here.

Here being the nearby M.E. DePalma Park in Wilton Manors. 

I was walking Rack the McNab SuperDog (TM) out that way in the evening when his non existent herding skills came into play.

You see, leaving my block, there was a clutch of ducks that we flushed out of the garden in front of my door.  When they spotted us open the front door of the house, Momma gathered the brood and walked off into the sunset.  I think they ended up in the neighbor’s garden.  That’s where they usually go.

I was on the porch anyway giving Rack a “rinse”.  Dogs get “doggy” smelling after a while, and that rinse keeps his black parts black, the white parts white.

We didn’t give Momma Duck too much more thought until we hit the more-main street near me.  Walking down to the park, there was another brood doing whatever ducks do in the middle of the street.  That is, blocking it.

This being Florida I’m not surprised when some large woman in an oversized SUV got annoyed.  When she was finished pulling out the video camera and getting a few feet of video, she wanted to go.  Of course she leaned on the horn.

Momma Duck ignored her.  Good for Momma.  She was there first.

Momma Duck was fixated on something else.  Rack.

You see, Rack isn’t really too good at herding.  The ducks are there, but he ignores them.  Usually herding

ducks are tried out on Momma Duck and Brood to see how good of a herding dog a Puppy can be, and I suspect Rack is just too Beta of a Beta Dog to try.

Momma Duck didn’t know that at all.  

We kept walking closer and Momma had a choice.  Leave the street and head into the park, passing my path, or she could walk away from the park and head away.

Ducks aren’t really the smartest of beasts.  Momma first tried to hide under the truck, then walk back to the park, then walk off the street, finally.  

All the while, I kept walking closer to her with Rack.  Rack kept sniffing at everything else, but never really paid the ducks too much attention. 

Herding dog, yes, but trained? No. 

No worries, he had another chance later in the walk.  It seems any time these ducks see a herding dog, or a dog in general, they tend to walk away from them. 

That’s what happens here.  Walk your dog in the Dog Walk Hour and you end up clearing the streets. 

It’s not about how you herd, it’s how good you look while walking the walk!

Momma Duck and Her Chicks at M.E. DePalma Park

When you place a natural habitat near water, you’re going to get water fowl.

That’s a good thing.

It means that you live in a city that is Progressive enough to understand that Nature belongs where people do.  It means that your city is actively taking part in keeping a bit of the environment natural.  It also means that they’re watching out to make sure that you aren’t “Cheek-to-Jowl” with one tacky house slammed up against the next one.

Nobody likes that except for the real estate developers. 

I’m lucky enough to have this little gem near my own house.  M.E. DePalma Park.  I have the knock-off effect that the butterflies that I love to watch float over to my own yard and do whatever it is that Butterflies Do.

I suspect it has something to do with the nectar in my Bougainvillea wall, and the other flowers that I have here.  That and the Monarchs that are aggressively keeping my Mexican Milkweed trimmed down to sticks. 

Silly butterflies, but that is what I plant the stuff for.

It was one of those Dog Walks.  I seem to see the most interesting things on these walks, from natural to the human-space, as well as quite a lot of quirky things that go on here.  It’s an entertaining city to live in, Wilton Manors, Florida.

We walked past the little park that evening.  Me and my sidekick, Rack, the McNab SuperDog (TM).  If you want to get to meet the neighbors, get a dog and go for a walk between 5 and 7 any evening.

I was gathering my act together and Rack had spotted them.  My being self-absorbed in the work of tying a knot in a “dog bag”, and we all know how enthralling that can be, allowed Rack to pay attention to the hissing in the underbrush.  I stopped what I was doing and paid attention.

Momma Duck had taken up residence in the park under some trees in a partial thicket.  She’s been there long enough this year for me to believe that she laid the eggs there and would waddle down to the South Fork of the Middle River that keeps us happily separate from Fort Lauderdale, and find food.  She would then return and tend to her own flock.  There isn’t enough wildlife that would want to turn those eggs into an impromptu omelet here in town, so I’d say she’s safe where she is at.

Momma didn’t like my standing there getting my camera ready, and the babies wandered off one after another.  Finally Momma left, hissing at me. 

Seemed a little half-hearted, but these Muscovy Ducks are the distant descendants of pet ducks that had been brought in many years ago.  They’ve never been a nuisance that I have seen, and they do keep some of the other pests at bay. 

Or at least at river.

Having gotten my pictures, I told her goodbye and got ready to leave  She stopped hissing as soon as I made my comments, and went back to the business of tending to her little brood in the little corner of the little park in the middle of the little Island City.

Butterflies and Leis at M.E. DePalma Park

Have you ever come across something that was a bit incongrous?  Perhaps a little out of place, didn’t belong?

Then did you decide to let it be because it amused you?

Yep, that’s what I did.

One of the local bars had a second anniversary.  Rumor’s Bar on Wilton Drive.   I’ve had their food, the Reuben is worth the trip, and I keep hinting around that I would like to go back but … Oh I guess I should get off my lazy butt and use the drink chips I find all over town and get a meal while I am at it.

At any rate, when they had their party there had to have been a theme.  I walked past the place with Rack the McNab Superdog when it was in High Gear.  They have a tented area that now takes up part of the parking lot.  At the street side of the area, they hung all these garlands of silk flowers in bright colors.

I’m still finding them around town.  They’re the “pretty” ones, although I suppose that strictly speaking anything that isn’t where it belongs isn’t …

Never mind that thought, they’re just pretty.

People must have agreed because they took walks all over Wilton Drive.  There were Leis in trees, over shrubs, light poles, in fences, and at one point around my own dog’s neck.  There was a beautiful woman who decided that my dog needed to be decorated.

What freaked me out about that was the improbability of it.  Rack the Superdog is anything but Super around strangers.  You need to have a dog as an escort, and you have to have the right energy.  The second time he meets you it’s different.

We got home, I left the Lei with someone else who thought it was cute.  Rack being a herding breed thinks because we did something once, it becomes a Thing and it is therefore Required and I didn’t want to have to be putting a silk lei on my dog every time we go out for a walk.

It would be come Weird.  Herding Dog OCD aside.

The next morning, I was out at my normal predawn Stupid O’clock walk hour of 5AM and rounding the corner, something caught my eye in the M.E. DePalma Park.  I turned on the Torch Of Doom, my 1200 Lumen Flashlight, and pointed it in the park. 

All was quiet but someone had hung a Lei on the green Butterfly statue on the plinth at the back of the park.

I laughed at it’s positioning, but couldn’t bring myself to remove it.

In fact the next walk, for all the dozens of people who walk past it, the Lei was still there.

It’s been about a week now.  I should probably stop in there on the next dog walk and see what I should do about it.

Really. 

Banana Spider in HD

One day a while back I got antsy. 

Bored with my routine I took my camera and my cellphone and left for a walk with the dog.  If you have a dog and you don’t walk them, they get antsy too.  More importantly you’re missing a great chance to bond with your dog.  They will benefit from it and you will benefit more.

So Rack and I left.  I just couldn’t stare at the picture of Rio de Janerio on my wall any more that morning.  Looking out the right through the bougainvillea and the Spanish Moss wasn’t helping either.

It was still early and I had been up even earlier.  The house was otherwise quiet so why not go out and disturb the neighborhood by exploring?

Walking through, I eventually ended up at M.E. DePalma Park and took a bazillion pictures.  Or maybe about 100 pictures.  I do that sort of thing.  Take the camera, annoy people who could be there or elsewhere, and take pictures. 

Most of those pictures get deleted.  Out of focus, finger on the lens, subject matter uninteresting.  Who knows. 

Every so often there is a picture that talks to you.  Perhaps Screams At You would be a better description.
 

This wasn’t one of them.

There was a banana spider on a web near the street.  The street was a distraction, but that could be cropped.

After having looked at it for two months, literally, I started playing with it and ended up with this result.  Sure, there are stories of people getting totally freaked out by spiders.  Whole movies made with Arachnophobia as the title.  Forgetting that they’re beneficial insects, these people would eradicate them the same way I would have eradicated mosquitoes.

Just because.  The birds and spiders would eat something else if mosquitoes weren’t there.   Really.  Lets build a dome over Springfield and kill the mosquitoes.   Please, Marge, Can We?

Oh well I tried. 

But this spider.  Horn Rimmed Glasses colored legs.  Designed and patterned carapace that wouldn’t be out of place in an art museum or a fabric pattern.

I know people think they’re ridiculous and huge and scary.  I never felt that.  They have their own natural beauty and belong here.  They were here first after all.

Playing with the picture I found a proper “HD” framed size and saved it off.  I may have to master a DVD some day that this would work as a title card.   I could also slap it in the middle of a video as a frame and have people confused why there was a subliminal spider in their family video.

Who knows.  Don’t care.  It’s now probably dead and my memory, and now yours, are all we have left of it.  It’s now in my backgrounds directory and randomly will end up on my desktop for 10 minutes at a time.

I like the picture that I got.  Some won’t, but that won’t matter since it is here.  Like I say about this blog: “You get what you pay for”.  So have a spider.  Or Don’t.

The Monarch of the Plant Pot

Wandering around town at dawn, I noticed that there was something missing.

Not people, oddly enough we dog walkers have a habit of getting out early, wandering late, and basically slinking around town at strange hours.

I’ve walked Rack at 4AM more than once.

The nature park nearby, M.E. DePalma park, was missing them.

My backyard was picked fairly clean.

Some of the spots where I was “guerilla” planting them hadn’t taken either, or where they were they were eaten down to sticks.

You guessed it, my Mexican Milkweed is mostly absent. 

I have a reputation of scattering Milkweed Seeds far and near, and when I find the seeds, that is exactly what I do.  I remember these starbursts of silk floating on the breezes of my own childhood New Jersey Prairie that would land somewhere unseen from time to time.  Here, they don’t get a chance to get that far.  The insects that I plant them for are much too hungry for them and are eating them down to nubs and sticks.

It’s a cause and effect.  Give a Monarch a home and it will eat the home.  If there is no home, no Monarchs. That is why we plant the things anyway, for the Monarchs.

So whenever I find a seed pod on one of my plants, I watch over it.  If it survives to ripen, I snatch it and put it in a plastic bag or immediately scatter them.

I’m on a cleaning binge and I found one of those bags hidden in my kitchen from a while ago.  It had fallen behind the coffee maker on the counter, forgotten.

Walking out to the row of pots on the drip irrigation line that morning to plant the newly found seeds in the land, there was the culprit.  It could have been called the guest, just as easily.  A Monarch caterpillar climbing up the branch of the lone milkweed that had survived looking for a meal. 

Mmm Tasty, Tasty Milkweed.

I vowed to watch over that creature and see where it went but I wasn’t that lucky.  It had its meal, then climbed into a sheltered spot.  With luck it was undisturbed, even by me, and then flew off to grace another yard with it’s beauty in Orange and Black.

Four and a Half Years Later – M.E. DePalma Park

The South Florida environment that we know, tourists and most locals, is almost entirely artificial.

The green grass that grows as thick as a fine oriental rug under your feet needs fertilizer and constant watering.

The Hibiscus hedges need training and watering.

Palm Trees that grow in long rows down the streets of our cities aren’t from here.  Native Palms don’t tend to be planted locally and are mostly shorter growing.  When the natives grow, it’s because a bird has eaten the seed and dropped it somewhere and it will get pulled from the cultivated garden, just like I did an hour before now.

The point is that it’s also easy to tell when you end up in a natural environment here.  You literally can hear it.  The sounds of life are loud and plentiful.

When the rapacious developers leave some land alone, it’s because forward thinking municipalities have written into their codes that a certain area must be set aside as a preserve or a park. 

Even Natural areas need care here because we’ve made such a mess of things.

When there was a property left over from a developer here in Wilton Manors too small to build anything on it, the City moved to take ownership in part to repair some of the damage done by that developer to native species.  This was to become a vest pocket park devoted to Natives.

I remember sitting at the dedication of the park in February 2010 on a lawn chair in the middle of NE 7th Avenue thinking that this will be beautiful when it grows in.  At that point, it was an open expanse of a few pre-existing slash pine trees and a lot of mulch.

The story of that day is better left to the original tellers at the East Side Neighbor’s Association.

But it was created and cared for by M.E. DePalma, her friends and family, and the City of Wilton Manors.  It slowly grew to become an island of natural beauty.

I have the pleasure of walking past it almost every day.  The singing of birds, flocks of butterflies, and croaking of frogs is a constant companion to anyone who takes the time to walk to the back of that park and sit at the butterfly chair and commune with the place.

Even if you don’t take the time, this is a place where Florida’s wildlife has been allowed to return and it will visit you if you let it.  Just ask the little lizard that lives near the plinth who followed me around that day in September 2014.

But cared for it was.  In fact, I’m shocked just how beautiful the place has become over the years. 

It has become a riot of colors.  Flowers beyond my own knowledge nod their heads in the sun.  Spider webs dance on the breezes.  A chorus of Tree Frogs chip their greetings. 

This is a small reminder of the Florida that once was, and could be again.  In some areas, it has returned because some well educated people have allowed it.  Besides, it takes much less effort to allow Nature to reclaim what belongs than to force endless carpets of St. Augustine Grass to suck up the waters from the aquifers.

I am just fortunate enough to have this near me so that I can visit when I need to.