I have been thinking about wild places lately and by that I don’t mean the wilderness that surrounds me just steps from my gardens. I am thinking more about those untended places that grow scrub grasses and bushes. I remember reading years ago that people in Europe always left sections of their backyards wild. The mystical among them thought it would be good karma to leave space for the wee folk and fairies. Others might have garnered that these wild spaces were very valuable real estate for other reasons. Wild spaces are homes to birds, insects, butterflies, bees and other pollinators that are crucial for the crops that feed us. It’s about having a balanced ecosystem.
What got me thinking about all this was seeing that at the corners of our fields and in the untended places the milkweed have returned and along with them the monarch butterflies.
When we first moved here our field had been left to revert to its wild state. It was overgrown and alive with milkweed, Joe-Pye weed and goldenrod in the late summer. I remember the air being full of the silky seeds from the milkweed pods on breezy fall days. This changed as we became managers of our field and plowed it to grow vegetables and then after that had it cut once or twice a year for hay. The floods these last few years have left the edges of the field difficult to cut and they have once again returned to their wild state.
I think all of this is a very good thing for our property and for the eco-system we are trying to nurture. As an added bonus, the wild areas at this time of year are very, very beautiful. They are dominated by goldenrod and Joe-Pye weed, a truly magnificent combination of mustard yellow and rose-lavender. In certain lights the blending of the two just takes my breath away.
I have been checking out the health of the newly returned milkweed plants and have noticed that they have already formed the green cob-like pods. I was also looking for signs that the monarchs I have seen around are laying their eggs for their last transformation. There is a bit of urgency now because the newly hatched butterflies will have a long migration ahead of them before the cold weather sets in.
I found a leaf in the field that appears to have an egg on the underside of its leaf and have brought it home so that you and I can watch this miracle happen. If you have never seen a monarch pupa, you are in for a big treat. Let’s hope that I have found the egg I am looking for.