Sunday, August 09, 2015

How to hatch monarch eggs into butterflies

Two of my friends have recently been hatching monarchs and I thought this might be a fun and exciting experience for us. Harriet has been really into bugs ever since she got a bug explorer outfit and kit from her Uncle Dave for her birthday so this seemed like the perfect thing for us to do. I did a little internet research and came across a bunch of sites that gave us the info we needed to get started. 

First find monarch eggs. They lay them on the underside of milkweed leaves and it takes a keen eye, but once you spot the first one, and know what you're looking for, you see them everywhere. I wrapped the leaf end in wet paper towel and covered that with tin foil to keep it wet so it wouldn't dry out.
Next after a few days it will hatch into the tiniest thing you have ever seen. This is a very close up shot. They will grow noticeably bigger each day.  I put them in my turtle's old cage with some paper towel lining the bottom. They need the paper towel replaced each day because of all the droppings.

Harriet in her bug explorer outfit getting some fresh milkweed for those hungry caterpillars.

It was so much fun watching these guys grow and move. Even Eloise loves it and runs over to the cage each morning to see them. They will shed their skin numerous times for the next week or more.  Eventually they will get very colorful like the ones above and have white dots on their feet and that means they are in fifth instar stage, the last one before chrysalis making. This whole process from egg to fifth instar takes 10-14 days.

This is the first time they leave the milkweed and they go and find the perfect spot to make their chrysalis. They make a bit of silk with their mouth that they will hang upside down from.

Next stage: J form. They curl up and get ready to shed their skin again and become a chrysalis. We never got to see them actually doing it, but we did see many of them become discolored and look like they were almost dead. This means they are very close to chrysalis making.

I love these cuties, particularly the gold gots and gold line at the top. We looked it up and the gold dots are little areas that let the chrysalis breathe. Air vents. 

This stage lasts for 10-14 days. The whole process from egg to butterfly takes about a month.

A few hours away from hatching out.

Right before emerging it goes from black to clear. 

Harriet spotted the happening at breakfast one morning. It was so thrilling to see it emerge. Here you can see that the wings haven't expanded yet.

It has emerged! It needs about 4+ hours for the wings to dry out before being able to fly.

The release! To date we have released seven, have two more chrysalises and five more caterpillars still eating away. We have learned so much and have loved every minute of doing this as a family. Hopefully we can inspire others to do this too.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Garden update

The garden is bursting once again this year. Here a few pictures from it.

Peppers, peppers, peppers. Steve and I switch beds this year and he is during mostly hot peppers for canning.
 I have been growing this Asian climbing spinach and I wouldn't do it again. Not a huge fan of the waxy spinach leaves. Also growing green beans up this trellis. I also brussel sprouts, basil, numerous herbs, broccoli (which is done), snap peas, beets, onions and kale.

 These beets just look awful, but they appear to be growing so who knows.
 We have loved eating the sugar snap peas right off the vine.

 The lace worms have really had a field day yet again this year with my kale. I have tried to be vigilant, but appear to be losing the battle. It still tastes fine though and we have more than enough.

This is the newest addition to the backyard (thought of by Steve). It is a sunshade (purchased online) for the brutal midday sun in the summer. We used to have some shade from the tree next door, but that has been gone for two years and we have no one where hide from the sun back there. This does a good job of shading at least something so we can hang out and not fry up.  It is hung from three bolts that are screwed into the house, garage and a part of the pergola. We take it down each night or if it a weekend and no rain or wind is predicted we just leave it up.

buzz. Honey bee and a bumble bee living in harmony.

We are having an amazing year with both of our apple trees. Only problem is the squirrels. As you can see, we have set up a trap below, but no success. Hoping to get at least 50 apples, I can just taste them now....

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Midsummer hive report

Things have been going well in the hives. Earlier in the summer we had a major problem with one of them not thriving, but Chris our mentor came over and helped us fix it. She rearranged some of the frames and things have seemed to even out. The west hive is still outperforming the east hive, but maybe that is because it gets more direct sun throughout the day, who knows. Both queens are still laying (see the little eggs in the picture above) and we have the supers on the west hive. We don't really think we will get much honey this year since a lot of the nectar is on the decline at this point in the growing season, but who knows. For sure no honey from the east hive. Looks like both hives will have enough food (honey and nectar) for the hives to survive over the winter and that is basically all we care about at this point. Photos taken mostly by Bryce.
 Capped brood.
 Traffic jam into the hive.
 Inspecting the hives.

 Stealing a frame and enjoying the honey.
 Looking for eggs.
 Marking the queen.
Success! Now it will be much easier to spot her. We were only able to mark the queen in the west hive since we didn't find the other one the day of marking.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Day 3: The day that nearly killed us

It's hard to put into words how exhausting this last day of the trip was... but I'll try. It was super humid, sunny, 90+ degrees, we walked over 10 miles while each taking turns pushing the double stroller that had over 55 lbs of kids in it and we were in Manhattan. I think the picture is pretty complete now. It should be noted that the girls were quite good under the circumstances, they just got a little cranky once and a while.

 Harriet loved taking the subway and holding on to the poles instead of sitting.

We started off at the High Line, a place we have been many times. Above was a cool lego building thing they had for everyone to participate in. The High Line is in it's last phase of construction and so it was longer this time, but there is much work to be done. Problem is now if you go to the very end it shoots you out in the middle of nowhere. 

Here's an art installation that looked like pop cans all stacked up. 

So we kept walking and moving and went to Bryant Park. Everyone was out for lunch and it was bustling. We rested here for a bit by taking our second carousel ride in two days. This time Eloise wasn't sleeping so she gave it a go. She appeared to take it just as seriously as Harriet had the day before.
Steve really wanted to go to Carnegie Deli for lunch to check it off his bucket list so the rest of us grabbed lunch and we kept walking north. Only to find out that the deli is closed for renovations. 

Here's a full shot of that beast of a stroller with Adam and me trudging along. I borrowed it from a friend for this trip and it was an absolute necessity. We clearly couldn't have covered the ground we did with just a single stroller because Harriet wouldn't have made it. The trade off though is a sit 'n stand stroller that is cumbersome and not easy to take up and down the subway stairs. Most of the time it was easier to just keep walking. Adam was really a trooper to help us out with this and push it and haul it up and down the stairs when necessary. How do new yorkers with two kids and no car get around you ask? My observations were that they kept the smaller kid in a light stroller and the older kid was always on a scooter. Genius. Ok, enough about strollers, back to the trip...
Next stop, the Plaza Hotel. When we started out the day we hadn't planned on stopping here, but we just kind of happened here as we kept walking. Most everyone is familiar with the Eloise books and lots of tourists were here (like us) taking pictures.
We were all hot and tired and Eloise needed a nap so we took her to Ari's parents' place on the Upper East Side. Steve stayed with her while she slept while Adam and I took Harriet to an Egyptian-themed splash pad in Central Park right next door to the Met. We were there for hours and she loved playing and just cooling off. Pretty sure this was the highlight of her trip.

After work was done we met up with Ari in Central Park. She looks so fresh faced compared to the rest of us who look hot, sweaty and somewhat defeated from the heat.

It's fun to look at the comparison picture of Harriet two years ago when we were at this same spot.  She looks a lot more grown up and plus, now Eloise. Before we headed back to Brooklyn we ate at this cute diner called Neil's Coffee Shop on Lexington, just what we needed to sustain us for our ride back.

So in summary, we had a great trip and loved seeing our friends and family and we would do it all again. We had lots of wonderful experiences and saw a lot, but it was just a lot logistically to deal with everything that goes along with bringing two little kids on vacation. Naps, finding a rental car big enough to hold our stroller, a carsickness incident, hauling all this stuff around with us and a lost baby carrier at the airport that I had to sprint back for at security before the plane was almost done boarding to go home (to name a few things). You get the idea here – it is tiring just being a parent in our own environment and vacationing just brings it to the next insane level.

It was nice to be back in our beds after seven nights of all sleeping in the same room together. At the beginning of the trip it was a bit rocky all being together, but by the end we were just fine and probably too exhausted to notice one another and slept well even in tight quarters. It's always nice to be home.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Day 2: Brooklyn Parks

The first part of our day we spent at the Brooklyn Bridge Park. It is (once again) a very kid-friendly area with tons to do. Phased construction began on this expansive park in 2008 and it looked like it was near completion with some new condos still being worked on. The park is made up of six piers that have been converted into different areas of recreation. One has sand volleyball, another soccer, another basketball, weight lifting, rolling skating, racquetball... you get the idea.

Shooting some hoops while Jay Z's Empire state of mind blares on the loudspeakers. Below, not a bad view from the playing field! 
 Eloise found a buddy with the same sense of style.

As you walk along between the piers there are parks for kids, a swimming pool, art installations, splash pads, a carousel, beautifully-landscaped walkways, cafes and all with a view of Manhattan.
I loved the art all around as we walked. This water tower structure above and the house on the top photo were done by the same artist.

Mirror labyrinth is an art sculpture that was in the shape of a nautilus shell and was a real mind bender. You keep thinking you see someone, but then it was just their reflection. Pretty awesome, unless you are a person trying to keep track of your little kids in there.

Harriet took her carousel ride very seriously. I forgot to take a pic of the glass building it was housed it, but it is pretty cool looking.

A new location to fly her kite.
These benches seemed to be everywhere and the artist even made a scavenger hunt for people to find all 12 of them. They were done by the same artist who did the mirror labyrinth.

After a long, hot morning going through the park we had lunch at an amazing pizza place. Then walked through a lot of more Brooklyn, before kind of giving in to the heat and getting a Uber.

At the end of the day we were hot and so we went to a splash pad in Prospect Park. It seemed more like a giant concrete slab with a couple arches of water on the edge, but it was both enjoyable and refreshing. Harriet, more so than Eloise, was just thrilled about it. 
Dusk at the pad. Ari wandering in the middle.

After this thing shut down, we headed over to Celebrate Brooklyn, one of a series of free concerts throughout the summer. We listened to a little reggae and then headed home. Once again, exhausted.