When I was a kid on the farm in Illinois, milkweed floss was magical. They were tiny silken fairies, they carried secret messages high into the sky, they were hidden treasures, shreds of silver among the autumn grasses. WW2 was over, kapok was available again, and kids no longer collected milkweed pods to stuff lifejackets and save our sailors' lives.
But they were magical to me--and they still are, for milkweed can save Monarch butterflies. That's why I welcomed the widely-publicized plea to gardeners to plant milkweed. And why I was startled to learn recently that the plan is backfiring and that the tropical milkweed gardeners have been urged to plant, Asclepias curassavica (Mexican butterfly weed) is actually dangerous to Monarchs.
Don't take chances. If you're planting milkweed to improve Monarch habitat, do your research and choose a native milkweed that grows locally, in your area. Don't plant this beautiful exotic import. You may be endangering the very butterflies you're hoping to save.
UPDATE 10/5: a note from Master Gardener Sandy Lentz (thanks, Sandy!) prompts me to tell you that the danger to the Monarchs is more severe in Zones 8-11, where this tropical plant winters over. All of us, though, need to be more aware of the ecological impact of non-native exotics and learn to prefer native plants in the habitats we create.
Book report. Lots of exciting things happening in my writing life these days. A Wilder Rose is under consideration for a TV movie option. I'm beyond thrilled by this development (and wouldn't Rose Wilder Lane be amazed?). I'll keep you posted as the project goes forward.
Another project is going forward, on schedule. Loving Eleanor came back from Sally Furgeson, my wonderful copyeditor, and flew off to New York, to the formatters--one more step on the path to becoming a book. The publication date: February 1, 2016.
And the 2017 China Bayles mystery, The Last Chance Olive Ranch, is well underway. I need to get it finished early, because of all the book activities around the February launch of Loving Eleanor.
Homestead report. No measurable rain since July, so I've decided not to put in a veggie garden. We've been hoping that the current El Nino would have an early impact, but we haven't seen it here. The latest drought monitor puts us back into "severe drought."
Our little laying flock continues to prosper, however, so if we won't have fresh veggies, we'll at least have fresh eggs. The Barred Rocks should start laying in another 4-6 weeks. Not sure about the Buffie: she's older and may be out of the laying habit. She's molting now, frayed and unbeautiful, but if a chicken can be called sweet, she's a sweet chicken, patient with all the young upstarts around her.
I spend too much time watching the chickens, yes. But if you could come and watch with me, you would understand why.
Reading note: I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty beats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them, under the wind-rent clouds, upstream and down.--Annie Dillard