Butterfly Inspiration in Mid-winter

I’m feeling warm in my cocoon of a cozy home when it is frigid and grey outdoors, looking at photos of milkweed and butterflies taken in summer time. The best Christmas gift was Sunwise Farm & Sanctuary’s certification as a Monarch Waystation. Thinking about the this and the butterfly cycle was the inspiration for the next Sunwise Celebrations, February 6.

Monarch Waystation Sign to post at the entry to Sunwise Farm and Sanctuary

Monarch Waystation Sign to post at the entry to Sunwise Farm and Sanctuary

When we first took stewardship of this land it had been overgrazed and the prime field had produced tobacco many years ago. I remember being dumbfounded when we dug our first garden beds that there were no earthworms. Over the years we added tons, literally, of compost and manure, created a grand buffet for hundreds of robins who give us our favorite song. Deliberate mowing around the first milkweed plants we spotted long ago resulted in hillsides that are milkweed gardens, host to a sky full of butterflies.

Our neighbor cuts and bales the hay in June when the milkweeds are about a foot tall. At first I was alarmed that it would decimate the crop. We have areas not accessible to the tractor, so I knew we would always have some plants. When the plants soared back into their fragrant fulfillment later in the summer I began to learn that it was serving the larvae to have the tender new leaves to eat. The butterflies have many flowers to gather nectar from, but the caterpillars need the milkweed. For the first time, last fall we harvested the seeds, and looked into how we could share them and found Monarch Watch.

Milkweed Field at Sunwise Farm & Sanctuary, Fall 2015

Milkweed Field at Sunwise Farm & Sanctuary, Fall 2015

Monarch Watch defines habitats: “Monarch Waystations are places that provide resources necessary for monarchs to produce successive generations and sustain their migration. Without milkweeds throughout their spring and summer breeding areas in North America, monarchs would not be able to produce the successive generations that culminate in the migration each fall. Similarly, without nectar from flowers these fall migratory monarch butterflies would be unable to make their long journey to overwintering grounds in Mexico. The need for host plants for larvae and energy sources for adults applies to all monarch and butterfly populations around the world.”

Our hope is to have more and more neighbors become waystations. Here are some helpful PDF’s from Monarch Watch: waystation-brochure, waystation_requirements, waystation_application.

The Four Stages of Butterfly life, drawings by Kathleen O'Brien

The Four Stages of Butterfly Cycle, drawings by Kathleen O’Brien for Mid-winter Celebration

Mid-winter Sunwise Celebration

To celebrate Sunwise Farm & Sanctuary’s certification as a Monarch Waystation we will discuss the butterflies’ 4 stages & adapt the concept to your creative life.  You will add your notes and collage of a map to guide you in your journey through the year to an illustrated booklet I provide.

Bring home Milkweed seeds gathered on the farm to begin your own Monarch Waystation, it can simply be one plant in a backyard, no need to own a farm.

The Class is from 1 – 4pm. I will provide all the materials,  the cost is $30. Please register by January 30 by calling 859 734 7731 or contacting me.

I am developing booklets based on the 4 Seasons – 4 Directions, like the one you will take home.  You may purchase ($10) last year’s chapter about Winter ~ North to add to your growing journal about lessons of the seasons and compass directions. Please contact me in advance if you want this.

Mating Monarchs for Sunwise Farm & Sanctuary Milkweed Seeds Label, get' em while you can...

Mating Monarchs at Sunwise Farm & Sanctuary on Milkweed Seeds Label, get’ em while you can…



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