It’s that time for Monarch Butterflies and milkweed. This week, and I’m sure I’m not alone, I was struck by the coolness of the early mornings and one afternoon, the sky looked like a November storm. Of course, this happens every summer but yet we all seem surprised when it does. Thoughts shift from endless summer days to action for fall and winter preparation by mid-August.
We are not alone in this progression. The birds, insects, mammals and plants are all winding up their summer actions. To me, August is the month when all of this becomes obvious to me. The seeds start to form on plants, the birds and butterflies gather for their impending migrations and others bulk up for the cold months ahead (this is the action, I most like).
One day last week, I was on a bike ride before work. It was about 8 am. The sun was heating the rain-soaked countryside, creating a heavy dew and thick humid air. As I rode along, I surveyed the roadside ditch. After I crossed a culvert, I counted the telephone poles, looking to find the place where I had found a patch of Swamp Milkweed last fall. There, in the bottom of the ditch, was a long line of vibrant pinkish-mauve flower heads. It looks like there will be a bumper crop.
Monarch Butterflies are as reliant on the Swamp Milkweed as they are on the Common Milkweed, but it seems to be much less prevalent. So I’m trying to help create a few more wild patches. Last September, I had responsibly harvested a small portion of the seed pods, not wanting to reduce size and health of this patch.
After the Monarchs migrate I will harvest at few of the seed pods.
Last year, I scattered seed in moist patches of exposed clay soil. I’m haphazard in my seeding process: I collect native plants seeds and then scatter them in bare areas in our gully. Some are thriving in a passive regenerative way. I do little, but hope for the best.
As well as using my cycling adventures to scout and collect native seeds, I incorporate those local, natural and historic features into the creation of our barn quilt designs. This month I have painted a Monarch Butterfly pattern with a background of milkweed colours. And I am making a donation of $5 for every person to attends a Monarch & Milkweed Barn Quilt Experience to a Monarch Restoration Program. It’s a little action, but isn’t that what always changes the world?