Dear Sunday Letter friends,
September is here, and I’m glad about it. I look forward to harvest time on the farm, the promise of cooler temperatures and turning leaves, twisty-stemmed pumpkins, and, yay, college football. With my favorite holidays waiting on the horizon so close we begin to count down—oh yeah, I’m a happy camper.
Of course, we still have a few days of summer left, but once school starts back it’s as though a switch flips in my mind. My focus turns from vacation and roasted marshmallows to tailgates and chili.
And even during a week of 90° temperatures, there’s already a touch of fall in the air.
The first Razorback game of the season yesterday = a fabulous time. It had been a while since we’d been to a game, and the energy and spirit sure did my soul good. Friends of friends invited us to sit in their box—oh yes!—air-conditioning, a delectable food spread, and drinks galore. Masks were required upon entry, but other than that, life felt normal again. (As normal as it can feel when attending the first football game of the season without sweating.)
After the game, we went home, I switched into my Baylor gear and represented my alma mater (even though we couldn’t get the game).
Both my teams are undefeated as of this morning! 😎
Have you ever noticed grass-carrying wasps? They have nested in my rue plant. After cutting back the spent blossoms, the remaining cane is hollow; this is exactly what grass-carrying wasps look for in a home.
This particular grass-carrying bee (Isodentia mexicana) is a solitary wasp that builds its nest inside the hollow cavity of a plant stem. After adding dead insects such as crickets to the nest for its larva, it lays eggs and plugs the hole with grass to keep its home dry and safe from other predators.
Their nests are easy to spot—the grass is a tell-tale sign, a ‘do not disturb’ sign, so to speak.
A few hours after I noticed the nests in my rue plant, I actually watched a grass-carrying wasp building a nest inside the hollow end of a bamboo teepee constructed last spring for my hyacinth bean. I stood only a foot or so away and took several photographs of her going into the bamboo and coming back out.
These solitary wasps are not aggressive if left alone.
I often use pieces of bamboo for stakes in the garden, so naturally, after seeing this bee, I looked at all the bamboo in various places. Sure enough, I found evidence of other grass-carrying wasps.
Like bees, when wasps nectar on flowers, they move pollen from one plant to another. Attracting pollinators of all varieties is one of the many benefits of not using pesticides in the garden.
If you want to know more about this particular insect, THIS ARTICLE from Wild Pollinator Partners is fascinating.
Yesterday, I released my forty-first butterfly of the summer! So far, I’ve raised thirty-five monarch butterflies and six eastern black swallowtails. I have a few more to go, although the process has definitely slowed as the season comes to a close.
I’ve learned that even though an adult monarch can lay up to 400 eggs (!) only 10% of monarch eggs live to reach the butterfly stage. It’s crazy to think of those I’ve raised, only three or four would have survived in the wild of my backyard. (I know this statistic is true—I saw many, many meet their demise due to various predators found in nature.)
Nature knows what she’s doing, yet lately her battle has been complicated by humans. Hopefully my little project has helped boost the monarch population in a positive way.
Monarchs born in September and October are fourth generation monarchs. These beauties are charged with migrating to Mexico and keeping the cycle going for another year.
Fallen Leaf Art
Even though fall hasn’t officially arrived yet, many of the trees in our neighborhood have begun to change color. I’ve not noticed much yet in the way of red or orange, but there are plenty of yellow leaves already.
And with the changing color, comes my fallen leaf art. (Last year I sure had fun with this; therefore, the tradition continues.)
Here’s my first one for this season:
For the center of the sunflower, I used dried crepe myrtle flower pods circled by a piece of burgundy grass, the sunflower petals are various yellow leaves, and the stem is that of a coneflower.
Things Momma Says:
Don’t catch ‘the covid’ at the game.
Have a great week everyone, and thanks for reading today’s Sunday Letter.
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.