Long Branch Garden Tour

The ‘rearing’ of a Monarch

The ‘rearing’ of a Monarch

For the zealous gardener there is nothing more edifying and complimentary to one’s  splendors of cultivation  than a kaleidoscope of butterflies. The fluters of butterflies have been revered in history, art, music, myths and magic for tens of thousands of years. To the indigenous cultures the butterfly is a symbol of change, joy and color. And the exquisite butterfly is considered a miracle of transformation and resurrection. 

In Southern Etobicoke we are blessed with a multitude of butterflies from the regal ‘Monarch’ to the giant ‘Tiger Eye’ to the tiny ‘Wild Indigo Duskywing’.  Each butterfly has it’s own unique four cycle life journey from larvae , caterpillar, chrysalis to a six legged and winged marvel of nature.

My own particular affection to butterflies began as a young lad growing up on 5 acres on the Sturgeon River in Tay Township.  At the time collecting butterflies was a popular summer activity but not me.  No I had started and now what is a growing and in many parts of the world a necessity, the ‘rearing’ of butterflies.

It all started when one day Mr.Lawson who had an adjacent farm to our property informed me that his livestock of dairy cattle were allergic to the poisonous Milkweed.  My parents allowed Mr.Lawson to harvest and bale the hay on our property for his livestock so getting rid of any milkweed in our pasture would be a help to him.

The Milkweed is the staple food, home and breeding bastion for the Monarch.  So out with my little red wagon and shovel I started to dig up healthy Milkweed plants and transplant them out of danger from the giant baling machine.  With in a week or so the Milkweed was a living populous of the familiar yellow and black striped monarch caterpillars  Soon my caterpillar farm was eating the milkweed almost as fast as I could find new mature specimens  to transplant.

Then one day the ravaging of milky succulent leaves stopped.  Underneath the existing leaves  the most wondrous phase of a monarchs life was happening, the caterpillars were transforming into chrysalises.  ‘Metamorphosis’ is without a doubt, one of natures most mystifying  and  magical acts.  In the next 7-10 days the second phase of metamorphosis occurred when the stately Monarchs ( named after The Prince Orange of Holland) started emerging.

As soon as the butterflies had dried their gleaming orange wings, off they flew to gather nectar from flowers, trees and milkweed and blooms and pods.  My summer of ‘rearing’ Monarch butterflies was complete. Moreover the joy for an eight year old is to this day, something you can’t put into words .   Like great music the only ‘way’ is to experience for yourself.

Today the Monarch butterfly is endangered so any campaigns to help rearing Monarch or other butterflies for that matter, is something every gardeners needs to consider.  If you would like to rear Monarchs you’ll need a safe and sunny place in your garden to transplant Milkweed or plant the seeds from their pods.   Once planted the Monarchs will do the rest.

I say safe because the Milkweed as mentioned earlier is poisonous to animals and pets.  Interestingly the toxins in the sticky white milky sap is eaten only by the Monarch caterpillar and it’s toxicity is carried through its entire adult life.   The colorful vibrant orange is to warn predators that the Monarch butterfly (as it was in its caterpillar state) is poisonous too!

So Happy rearing!

Bill Zufelt  

 

Sorrel soup

 

Sorrel is a slender herbaceous perennial plant about 60 cm (24 in) high, with roots that run deep into the ground, as well as juicy stems and edible, arrow-shaped leaves. The leaves, when consumed raw, have a tart, lemon-y taste. 

Rumex acetosa occurs in grassland habitats throughout Europe from the northern Mediterranean coast to northern Scandinavia and in parts of Central Asia. It occurs as an introduced species in parts of New Zealand, Australia and North America.

Common sorrel has been cultivated for centuries. The leaves may be pureed in soups and sauces or added to salads; they have a flavour that is similar to kiwifruit or sour wild strawberries. The plant’s sharp taste is due to oxalic acid.

Sorrel is used in a number of dishes including stews, soups and salads.  The Troisgros bothers of France invented “salmon escalope” with sorrel sauce in 1962 which was emblematic of French nouvelle cuisine.

We grow common (aka French) sorrel in our garden.  It is a hardy cold weather preferring plant that grows quickly in early spring.  Its growth slows down during the heat of summer then picks up again in the fall.  Sorrel is one of the last plants to succumb to frost in November.  

We use it to prepare Sorrel soup in the spring and fall.  Europe has several versions of this soup.  Ours is a simple potato based soup we believe comes from France.  The silky green soup has a tart lemony flavor. The tartness can be enhance or reduced depending on the amount of raw sorrel leaves you add before pureeing.

Sorrel Soup

Ingredients

Sorrel; 2 – 3 spinach sized bunches

1- 2 Onions

1 – 2 Med Potatoes

Water to cover potatoes

Seasoning (Salt, 1 stock cube)

Chicken stock 

  • These amounts are for about 2 – 3 bunches of sorrel, each bunch the size of a supermarket size spinach bunch
  • Wash well (most leaves are pretty clean but a few get dusty if they are near the ground. There are also a few bugs on some leaves)
  • Remove largest stems 
  • saute 1 – 2 chopped onions in butter, about 5 min until translucent
  • Add 1 or 2 med sized chopped potatoes and water to just cover
  • Simmer until potatoes are soft
  • Turn off heat, mix in 2/3 of the washed sorrel, it will ‘melt’ like spinach although the colour will change
  • Add whatever seasonings you normally use, eg salt and a stock cube, for instance
  • Let cool
  • When cool add in the remaining raw sorrel
  • Whiz with a hand blender.  Add chicken stock to ease mixing.
  • Adjust seasoning – sometimes we add lemon juice to ‘up’ the tartness
  • Tip – remove the very largest stems of the sorrel before adding into the soup, as supposedly they can have a hair-like texture. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. Not sure how much difference it makes.
  • Tip – For a less tarty soup melt more sorrel in the potatoes and add less raw sorrel during blending

LEGS Plant Exchange

Lake shore Environmental Gardening Society (LEGS)

LEG’s is offering a plant exchange in south Etobicoke at select locations from May 15 to June 15.

Look for the green Plant Library and Exchange sign.

 

Mimico Baptist Church
80 Hillside Ave.
Look for picnic tables on the lawn
Monday to Friday
10 a.m. – 4 p. m.

The Healing Muse Apothecary
2859 Lakeshore Blvd. West
Outside the store
Tuesday to Saturday
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

North East Corner of Park Blvd. and Long Branch Avenue
only on the dates indicated below:
Sat. May 30, Sun. May 31; Sat. Jun 6, Sun. Jun 7; Sat. Jun 13 & Sun. Jun 14
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

The LEG’s blog has a great deal of gardening information and is well worth a visit or two.

Mid May Flowers

More blooms appear during mid May.  New flowers and growth continues to march along despite the cool wet weather we’ve had. 

We seem to have a very dramatic seasonal change here in Southern Ontario from cold to warm.  There doesn’t seem to be a gradual change in temperature with most days warming a bit.  Instead a dramatic change seems to occur over the span of a week.    The timing of the change varies from year to year.  I recall several years when  the warm weather would start in early May.  This year it was late.  This year we jumped from cool days with highs of 12 C or lower right to warm temperatures of  20+ C in the span of a few days.  There seem to be very few days with highs around the calculated average in the mid teens.  Until this week (May 18 – 23) we had to dress for cold weather most evenings on our daily walk.  This week it finally warmed up and it will stay warm, we hope,  until almost October.  

 

How does your garden grow?

It has taken me many years to realize that gardening is more than digging earth and planting seeds. 

Gardening is not about showing off, or being the best. 
Gardening is not about perfection, or conformity. 

For me gardening is an expression of love. It is how I nurture and tend to the life that either found its way naturally, or was lovingly introduced into the environment that I call my home. 

The biggest step is always in creating a space where life can spring forward and reveal itself in all of its glorious diversity. Striping back the layers of tar and concrete that we have placed seemingly everywhere around us to make life convenient. Incapable of supporting life, this black void, hot tar, molten lava we are so willing to allow to smother the life energy of our earth. Mother. I could cry, I have cried. But the earth pushes through in time, and with our help sooner.

Gardening is my therapy. It connects me to a deeper part of myself. The timeless, fragile, ever changing, finite, earth dependent, humble parts of myself. Relentlessly reminding me of how time marches on. As I witness the rise and fall of each season flow naturally, one into the other, expanding my awareness of the delicate preciousness of life, in all of its forms. I am blessed.

My garden teaches me patience and how to be gentle and compassionate.  Sometimes I am tested physically, even exhausted from the work that is my calling. At all times I am rewarded, in more ways that I know.  This silent, stoic, truthful awareness is revealed; slowly, patiently, unfolding like the petals of a glorious rose blossoming into the fullness of all that it is with the loving support of its mother. A mother I call my garden, my teacher, my companion and my love. Yes, my garden grows with love.

 

Laura – May 6, 2020