Thursday, April 24, 2014

My journey with the monarchs: No.2

Originally . . . I had really wanted to plan all of this out, from beginning
to end before sharing this series, but time has just not allowed for that.
Instead, I sit here flying by the seat of my pants hoping that I can convey
what is in my heart, and any lessons that I learned along the way.
when I forget something, and I'm sure I will, I'll be back to share
when I remember, deal?

(you can find the first in this series, here)

Milkweed: Loss of Habitat

The milkweed plant (genus Asclepias) is the only host plant that a monarch will lay their eggs on and eat as larva. And, their habitat as well as the monarch itself has severely declined. In fact, the Monarch Population Status, the overwintering numbers from Mexico this past fall were the lowest ever recorded since they started counting them 20 year ago.

I remember last November, around Thanksgiving, reading an article that showed up in my Facebook feed and I got a pit in my stomach. You see, they estimate that a billion or more monarchs once made the 2,500 mile trip along the migration route and although each year it varies and sometimes extremely, the size of their migration has over the last decade been in a steep and steady decline. In 2012 there were just over 60 million monarchs that made it to their overwintering sites, which was a record low, until this past fall when only 33 million butterflies made it covering only 1.65 acres.

Two years ago, here in Texas we had a massive drought which became a problem as they migrated back through to Mexico most likely not finding any nectar to survive the trip. And before that there was a catastrophic weather event in Mexico while they were overwintering that killed millions upon millions of butterflies that would never make the trip back north. Even this spring has proven to be difficult with prolonged cold temperatures. But, their dwindling numbers go well beyond the things that we cannot control.

But probably the most detrimental to the monarch has been their loss of habitat. The expansion of row crops, namely corn and soybean where the milkweed grew,  is now being planted with crops that are herbicide (roundup) resistant. When the farmers plowed the fields to keep weeds at bay, the milkweed would just eventually grow back, but now with all the chemicals they have all but been wiped out. Some states have lost up to 90% of their native milkweed.

The monarch has shown in the past that they can over a several year period, and with good weather, bounce back. But how can they continue to do that if there is less and less milkweed each year. 

And you know what? There is a direct correlation between the introduction of Monsanto's GMO corn and soybeans, the loss of milkweed, and the decline of the monarch. 

Right here, right now, the best chance that the monarch has is for each of us to plant milkweed in our gardens along with nectar plants. You can find milkweed plant & seed suppliers here

Their mortality rate in the wild, without any of these other obstacles is about 90-95 %, maybe even a little more. Besides all of the other obstacles, the red wasps and assassin bugs here love to eat them, and they become hosts to a multitude of parasitoids, and diseases. Then there is the problem with things like aphids, spider mites, and thrips which can all cause problems with the quality of the milkweed itself.

I had a friend ask me the other day why I bring the caterpillars inside, why didn't I just leave them outside where they belong? Last year I raised and released over 400 monarch butterflies and according to statistics, if left to their own in nature that would have equated to about 30-40 butterflies. I live in Texas, and we are a very important corridor in the migration both north and south. Some of the very first eggs are laid here, to be the next generation to continue their incredible journey north. And then finally it's the 4th or 5th generation of this amazing butterfly, that will begin the longest migration of any insect as they journey south 2,500 miles to a place it has never been, to overwinter and begin the cycle again the next spring. 

For me their story is about hope and renewal and beauty through change. For me, it's a little miracle. So I bring them inside to give them a fighting chance until they can fight it again on their own. 

We all need a little help now and again, don't we?
(No 3 in the series can be found here)

Until next time -
Love, Kim


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Dear Mother Earth,

despite mankind's heavy footprint
you still find it in your heart to give us treasures.
I pray today that the people of Earth will take
notice, and give thanks. Amen!

The ocean is a treasure in itself supplying us with precious jewels as well as food and sources for healing. But maybe even more importantly it supplies us with half of the earth's oxygen. Did you know that both humans and the planets surface are made up of over 70% water?

{KK 1301}

The ocean also supplies seaweed that washes ashore and dries and blows inland, building sand dunes that protect barrier Islands from hurricane surges and provides habitat to nesting shorebirds and sea turtles and even snakes.  

The honey bee provides us with the very important service of pollination and with the ever increasing usage of pesticides we find them in great danger.  

The dragonfly and their incredible hovering motions date back 300 million years ago. They are not only beneficial to humans by consuming mosquitoes, but extremely important indicators in the health of our ecosystems and the overall quality of our environment. 

Our trees supply us with another source of our oxygen, protection for wildlife, as well as provide us with materials for human shelter. They shade and cool us, and even help control noise pollution.

And as Emerson says, "The earth laughs in flowers." Flowering plants (angiosperms) make up the most diverse groups of plants on our planet. They not only provide shelter and food for the organisms that live on them, but they provide us with our greatest source of food. And did you know. . . 25% of all plant species are threatened with extinction? 

We ALL journey this earth together.

We are the guardians of this planet, but our most required elements have been polluted, wasted and ignored.

We simply cannot afford to take these resources for granted.

It seems simple enough. Instead, we have complicated it....for ourselves.

We need to teach our children to be mindful by educating and encouraging them about what it means to preserve, conserve and protect our beautiful earth if we want them to have a future in it.

"We seek a renewed stirring of life for the earth
we plead that what we are capable of doing is
not always what we ought to do.
We urge that all people now determine
that a wide untrammeled freedom shall remain
to testify that this generation has love for the next.
If we want to succeed in that, we might show, meanwhile,
a little more love for this one, and for each other." - Nancy Newhall, from Earth Prayers

And before I go enjoy this Earth day, I want to share a challenge that Terri from my collaborative blog, Focusing on Life, gave us yesterday (for today). She said, "Take your best shot of our environment -- how you see it, what you treasure about it, the things you would never want to see fade away -- and then share them through our Flickr group." 

So I invite all of you my friends, who also love this earth and take beautiful inspiring photos to grab your cameras and capture some of the beauty around you and share it with us so that we can celebrate it together!! XO

Love, Kim


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Not in front of . . .

. . . but behind, very behind.

I've had a really hard time keeping up these past few weeks,
so today,  I am surrendering to it.

"The key is not to prioritize what's on the schedule, 
but to schedule your priorities."  - Stephen Covey

SO, instead of the intended post of part 2 in my monarch series, (which will resume next week),
I have a whole lotta random to share.

1. I'm so very sad that Nancy over at A Rural Journal has decided that she has come to the end of the blogging road. I so understand and admire the difficult decision, but she will be missed.

2. I finished my last bible study class bible study EVER, Beth Moore, Living Beyond Yourself: Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit. Her bible studies are very powerful and this was NO exception. We conclude each study day with a video from Beth and let's just say this last one brought us to our knees, literally to our knees - it was a sight, and overwhelming heart experience.

3. I have just four more classes left to finish this piece I've been working on . . . there has been a lot of sawing going on. All of the small flowers are actually charms and just being used to help design here. The hardest part of finishing this piece will be choosing and coordinating colors for all the flowers. I see a gardener's color wheel in my future. The flowers will be cold connected with bolts to a back plate, which they are temporarily on now, and the back plate will have an aged patina of some kind. I think I would really like to etch some words into the back as well and I still need to decide what design I'm going to pierce out of the back plate as well. . . . and then there is the decision of what kind of chain to use. If I can't find one that feels right, I may have to make my own. 

4. As I'm sitting here typing I have my black swallowtail chrysalis sitting next to me, I can't decide if it's going to emerge today or tomorrow? So I'm ready just in case!! ;)

5. And speaking of caterpillars . . . .I have very sad news. The almost 100 monarch eggs I started with had equated to just 14 that made it to a chrysalis. I kept checking on them right after they hatched and was finding day and two day old cats dead, hanging by just a thread from the leaves. As days went by, I was seeing less and less cats, but no clue why. When they are small they can play hide and seek like no ones business, so I didn't panic . . . until last week when I came home to a caterpillar apocalypse. Big, beautiful, chunky caterpillars days away from pupating found hanging limp, some from a thread and some inverted in a "v" shape and most dripping green liquid like they were melting. It. Was. Horrible!! There were many tears shed at my house last week. Upon hours of research I think I know why they died. There are so many diseases that these cats can get...but there is a very deadly virus called NPV that can wipe out the entire lot of them on the plants. When one gets it (and it's something found naturally in the wild) it can contaminate the leaves with it's frass (poo) or any of the green liquid that leaves crystals behind. Another caterpillar walks though it or eats a crystal containing the virus and it just keeps on going like the energizer bunny. So not only did I lose most all of those caterpillars, but I also had to throw away all contaminated plants - $100 worth! I also made the very tough decision, although I have drug my feet, to euthanize all remaining chrysalis to be on the safe side. My heart is broken . . . 

6. Our church does a Good Friday experience where they invite artists to submit work with a small blurb about what inspired the piece. This year I did a series from seed to butterfly in photos (8 in all) and all framed together in one frame. But this year of all years they gave us a 120 word maximum, rofl! Can you imagine me, trying to reduce what I wrote (before I realized) down to 120 words. Last night was the artist's reception before they open it to the church members and public on Friday and as I had second guessed myself on what I shared and wrote, I was very pleased that it was well received. Since I have never entered a juried competition before, this might have given me a little confidence to try. 

7. Oh, and one more . . . it's pretty safe to say that I take more photographs than I could probably share here if I posted everyday. The hubby and I went to the beach a few weeks back, after we ate in Galveston, for a sunset walk. Just as it was getting too dark to see anything on the beach, we got in the car to leave. The sky was just starting to turn these beautiful colors, but it wasn't until we got past the houses that I saw this. It was one of those, "honey I have to find a spot to to photograph this." So racing against the clock of time we found this perfect spot to pull over so that I could get out. But word of advice, remember to put your camera back to auto focus after taking (purposeful) blurry shots because even though you keep snapping and they look good on the back of your screen, you will be very disappointed when a bunch of them just weren't in sharp focus.

Well, if I haven't already lost you with the length of this post, I wish you and your family and very blessed Easter. Our girl is coming home today and I can't believe in a matter of weeks we will be going to get her and all her things to bring her back for the summer. Where has this school year gone?

Love, Kim

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Perfectly imperfect . . .

"I've learned recently to love imperfection a lot because it shines such a big light on God's grace.
And if someone has grace for you that's when you feel their love the most and they see you for
who you are and they love you anyway."     -Lacey Mosley

With Kim's theme this week being {perfectly imperfect} it immediately brought to mind my treasure bowl of broken shells and reminded me that I've never shared why they're my favorites. And with this week being the celebration of Good Friday and Easter I thought this would be a good time to share that.

I've always been drawn to the shells that are broken and worn, perhaps not even realizing why. And then one day while beach combing I came across one that spoke to me in a thousand unspoken words. I'm not sure why it was this one as I've picked up and carried home with me more broken shells than I can say.

{KK frosted-overlay}

I wish you could hold this shell as it has such a wonderful smoothness to it and I've often wondered, how long it might take to smooth the rough and broken edges on its journey. But you know, what I love about these broken shells are the details that you can see on the inside that you wouldn't notice or know were there if it weren't broken. It could just be a beautiful color or texture or the secret chambers that are revealed like a window into its soul...if a shell were to have one.

And I think to myself, God the artist, He created each of us to be a masterpiece. . .full of our own beautiful colors and textures and yes, even our own secret chambers.

And even though many of those details that are revealed can be beautiful he knew there would be parts that were broken and that we would need mending, and because of His Grace and ultimate love, would send his Son to pay the price for our brokenness and to smooth the rough edges if we would let Him so that we could finish our journey perfectly imperfect.

Love, Kim

sharing with Texture Tuesday, Sweet Shot Tuesday

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

For the love of . . .

. . . a journey,

one by design and one a leap of faith.

A parallel journey of two thousand miles that began being carried by the breeze.

"All glory comes from daring to begin." - Eugene F Ware

Once upon a time . . . several years ago in a galaxy far, far away I bought a milkweed plant and patiently waited. Now, our mosquitoes get so bad here that sometimes in order to go out and tend to plants in the garden I would have to use a mosquito fogger. Little did I know at the time, but there were two caterpillars on that milkweed . . . they died . . . I felt horrible. And that was the end of that for that summer as I couldn't find any more milkweed.

Fast forward to last year when my metals instructor gave me some cuttings of her milkweed to root and then to hopefully plant. I had put them in some water in a bucket and crossed my fingers. I kept checking on them but no roots, and they weren't looking very good. They had become infested with aphids and so I had decided to just pitch them and go buy some milkweed from my nursery, when I discovered to my surprise, two monarch caterpillars. A couple of more plants, complete with a few more caterpillars and some eggs and I had the start of a new journey.

At about the same time our family would begin a different journey when our son became very ill and eventually diagnosed with a form of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The caterpillars weren't a coincidence, but a reminder that I don't have to travel two thousand miles to be transformed. . . I just need faith, and it only need be the size of a mustard seed.

I have loved everything about this process, this journey . . .starting with this seed and the beautiful way it was designed to blow in the breeze. To be carried away from the plant and to multiply. And, grow they will where they land.

{kk -revolution and just a touch}

Once a flower on the plant is pollinated it will go to seed and grow a pod. This plant definitely had some pollinating visitors. It's important to leave the pod on the plant until the seem opens up or they may not be
viable seeds when planted. The pod will start to change color and texture, but you will want to watch closely
unless you don't mind seeds blowing and growing everywhere. 

They produce their seeds in follicles that are arranged in an overlapping manner. When the seeds mature the pod will begin to open and as the silky white filament-like hairs become more dry, the pod will explode and the seeds . . . carried away by the wind.


And from that seed this beautiful plant will grow. There are more than 100 species of milkweed suited for different growing conditions. Here in Texas the Asclepias Curassavica is the species that I get from my nursery, also known as Tropical Milkweed.

When life throws those curve balls, and we know it does, we need to be able to go with the flow. More times than not, these milkweed seed will find themselves quite a distance from where they started, but will grow where they land anyway, because the monarch depends on it.

And often, when we find ourselves in chaos, far from where we started and our lives will depend on being able to grow where we land. And I don't know about you, but sometimes my first reaction is to find a way around the chaos when really, going "through" it is where the real growth is.

Sometimes going through it is the shorter distance than trying to find a way around it.
That, and a leap of faith the size of a mustard seed.

Stay tuned, next up more about the plant and an egg. . . here.

Happy Tuesday,
Love, Kim

Sharing with Texture Tuesday, Sweet Shot Tuesday

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A quirky selfie . . .

"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."
-Oscar Wilde

{Our prompt for photo art Friday is quirky selfie}

Sheesh, it's a full time job just trying to be me, who has time to try and be someone else? Really . . . 
I sometimes struggle just to do me very well. You know, we are always our own worst enemy.

And on those days that I don't get in my own way with that mighty brick wall or allow others to put it up for me, I do feel like I could do anything. Okay, well maybe not anything, but certainly a lot.

I thought about just doing something else for today, because after all I went to bed really late last night
and had nothing planned at all and didn't get my 8 hours of beauty sleep or feel like taking a shower first thing when I woke up or washing the mascara off my face because I was too lazy to do it last night.

So, that's when you grab a hat to cover your bed head, and search for the sunglasses that you never wear anymore to cover the dark circles and smeared mascara, and put on some lipstick.

But what do you take your own picture of you doing? Ahhh, yes, doing something you love...looking at and for caterpillars on your milkweed. {They are officially 1 week old today!} 

Hi, my name is Kim, and I'm a nature nerd . . . and proud of it! ;)

And because some others have said it better than I, I want to share some random quotes I found:

1. "I think everybody is weird. We should all celebrate our individuality and not be embarrassed or ashamed of it." - Johnny Depp  

Yes Johnny I agree, we all have a weird factor, we should accept that in others as well as ourselves.

2. "Be yourself. Be true to that, to your heart. Patience. See what happens if you step back instead of bounding forward." -Nora Roberts

Yep, it's awfully hard to be true to yourself if you are always running faster than yourself. I like patience, and I like slow, and I like quiet.

3. "The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."
-Steve Jobs

No, I won't be changing the world like Steve Jobs, but if I can change the mind of just one person's attitude
towards nature, turn their fear of something into curiosity, and their curiosity into passion that will then
change another's mind . . . then yes, I believe I can change the world.

4. "I want to think again of dangerous and noble things. I want to be light and frolicsome. I want to be improbable and beautiful and afraid of nothing as though I had wings." - Mary Oliver

Yes, I want to be alive like the spirit in a child.

5. "Oh, never mind the fashion. When one has a style of one's own, it is always 20 times better."
- Margaret Olipahant

In other words, dance to the beat of your own drum, because fashion is way overrated.

In a nut shell . . . weird is good, let's celebrate it! Be patient it's where you will find yourself. We are all just crazy enough and that makes us capable of changing the world . . . the question is "will we?" If you've  lost your wings, you've forgotten about the child in you, but when you start dancing to the beat of your own drum you may just find them! And last but not least, looking through rose colored glasses isn't a bad thing, it just depends on what you see on the other side.

May you soar into the weekend! ;)
Love, Kim

Create-with-joy, Random Five Friday

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Photo-heart connection, March

"Yes, I did, I mean I painted er, in a kind of abstract
expressionist way, because of course that was exciting."

-David Hockney

Several weeks ago I decided to try my luck after a lot of overcast and rainy days, to go to the sunrise. It was still just dark enough not to have a good take on it, and besides, eight miles can change everything on the other end. But, when I got to that other end of those eight miles it was pretty clear that the sun would be missing from my morning.

So, I took a slight detour, not just in direction, but in thought. I switched from one of frustration to one of thinking and seeing in a different way. A way of seeing that has become more familiar and one where the absence of good light doesn't matter as much.

One, that captures the feeling you get when your eyes go into a blurry blank stare, where you see intangible shapes and colors, yet simplicity in composition. You know the kind, where you don't want to break the connection because it teeters on the edge of exciting, and that dreamlike state of reality.

I have been completely fascinated by and love the way that it transforms ordinary into extraordinary and not just in subject matter but in mood. It has subjective expression which is intended to encompass and engage through parts of a subjects reality without always being realistic. And I think what attracts me the most is the ambiguity and openness in the process. One that speaks to me in a world that wants to be closed minded and very specific in its rules, and where it offers complete freedom in a space where contemplation and meditation is my intention.

Yep, it's a lesson to just go anyway even though you can't see the other side, because there is always a fall back plan, or a fall forward. It all depends on how you look at it.

You'll also find me today over at Focusing on Life, (it will post at 3 AM Central) where I have the pleasure of announcing our new theme for the month. We would love for you to join our Flickr group and add your themed photos - each week for the month of April I will be choosing a photo for our Focus on You page. 

Love, Kim

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