Friday, May 27, 2011

Monarchs Are Emerging From Their Chrysalis

Yesterday 7 monarchs emerged from their chrysalis. They remain in the usually green chrysalis for 11-14 days. Sometime during the end of this period, the chrysalis shell clears up and the butterfly can be seen tightly wrapped inside, as seen below

Then, after waiting patiently, the shell cracks and the emerging butterfly pulls itself out into the world. The whole process takes about two minutes.

Once the monarch has completely emerged, the swollen abdomen starts pumping fluid into the stunted looking wings.
It will hang upside down for several hours until the wings are hardened off.

Then it flies off, generally in a northward direction looking for food, a mate, and milkweed. This generation will only live for about two weeks as an adult.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ira B Jones Elementary School Visits The Farm

Vicki Hall's 4th grade class arrives for a tour of the Hop'n Blueberry Farm and butterflies

The kids get to see freshly hatched monarchs in the caterpillar house.

After listening to my monarch metamorphosis and migration, and seeing videos that I have made for U-Tube with caterpillars and chrysalis' hatching, the kids were eager to visit the fight house that now has 6 species of native butterflies in it and is loaded with flowers and plants that have eggs and caterpillars on them.

The butterfly house offers a close encounter with the butterfly

The farm really enjoyed these eager-to-learn students and we hope that they can take back with them some reason to help keep butterflies and other pollinators free from insecticides. This is a must for small farms across Buncombe County that are dependent on this process to keep native plants ready for the next generation.

And, we hope that the plight of the migrating monarch will have some support in future with this next generation of learned scholars.

We offer tours regularly from now until October of the farm. Bring yourself, your family, or your friends out to learn about butterflies, alternative crops like hops, milkweed, or ramps. The farm itself is just a magnificently scenic place to visit if you just want to enjoy a family farm that is located in one of the most picturesque spots in Western North Carolina.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Very Busy Time On The Farm

I have recently declared all out war here on the farm against all predators. Seems I have all kinds of problems, least of which are weeds! I have been on constant weed pulling patrol lately, tending each plant separately. Lets see, that's 250 blueberries, and 140 hop plants, and, 500 feet of butterfly nectar plants! My hands and knees are never without dirt on them.

I recently noticed a new problem with my new blueberry starts that I rooted from soft stems last year. They were whacked off at the base. I quickly contacted both Bill Cline, NCSU Blueberry Expert, and our very own Sue Collucci, dual Ag Extension agent for Henderson and Buncombe counties and small fruits and disease expert. Now these are people we can be proud to have as part of our agricultural community. Contact your state representatives to keep these jobs from being lost!

Yep, both agreed that varmints were to blame. Rabbits in particular. I got tons of rabbits. Seems that they just love to chew on soft hardwood tissue, just to piss you off it seems, cause it appears that they even leave the leaves? The incriminating evidence is the angular cuts on the stem as these two photos show.

Now, I will have to either cage the plants as they are put into the field, or, it's rabbit stew at the farm!!

My next varmint seems to be my neighbors now. They have increased traffic on my property and have diverted water breaks that lead to my irrigation system without my permission. It has caused me much headache and damage. They are city folk that don't realize what farming is all about or respect private property. I now have to repair my system and seek some retribution from these irresponsible actions. If I don't already have enough to do!!!

My first school group arrives this week. I will post the news from that later this week. Then the farm is booked for the most of June during the weekend, which is a good thing. I will have my annual family reunion, followed by a booked party, then the Family Farm Tour at the end of the month sponsored by ASAP.

Whooo, if you read all of this, think of how I must feel!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hop'n Blueberry Farm in Mountian Express Magazine

Cinthia Milner did a very accurate article on the farm this week, May 17, 2011. Check it out at the news stand now or online at www.

Oh yes, and the monarchs are coming again. I have my 5 instar caterpillars changing into chrysalis for the last few days. I have 30 in the house and 100's in the milkweed field. Can't wait for the grand opening on May 20, 2011. I will have a very large selection of all phases of butterflies at the butterfly house.

Come see us!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Farmers Life

I really want to know if there is a farmer out there that doesn't know as much about the weather, or better, more, than our local news forecasters do? If you don't, then you better try and find yourself another occupation.

Thankfully, weather has been a hobby of mine since I was around 7 years old. I have been keeping weather records for 35 years every day. I am just about as aware of what is going to happen as Ben Franklin flying kites, but yesterday fooled me.

We had a storm roar through here that gave me about a 45 minute warning. I had just listened to the news and there was no indication of an approaching storm, but I could plainly see the shift in wind direction, temperature, and cloud formations to know that I better get moving.

I had just finished winding some of my hops and stopped winding the rest, knowing a wind was coming and could easily break the delicately wound vines. I turned off my gravity feed irrigation system from the creek by the house, and barely got my wheelbarrows turned over when the storm hit with fury.

Lightning the length of the state of Florida streaked form cloud to ground, winds briefly topping 45 mph, and pea size hail along with 1.1 inches of rain in 35 minutes hit the farm taking a toil.

Damage was moderate here on the farm. All the remaining blooms on my blueberries were knocked off and 15 hop vines were broken off of the twine. Oh well, I have lost approximately 10 pounds of blueberries ( I didn't have that many here that I allowed to bloom) and probably about 20 pounds of hops were lost--new hop vines will come back, but will cone up before full growth of the vines.

I am showing a picture of my blueberry bush damage with some blueberries present and some with flower damage.

There is crop insurance that you can get on some of your crops. If you are in full production and have substantial investment in your crops, you may want to consider getting some. Be aware of the weather, and by all means listen to what is going on out there. Severe weather is on the increase, don't think for a minute that this will change. There is even a possibility of frost tonight!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Monarch Eggs Hatching

I do believe that I work harder on the weekends than I do during the week, which means only one thing--I get no rest. This weekend was no exception, especially with the giant honeydew list my wife Martha had for me. Actually, it was OK with me.

Have you ever heard of the saying,"the shoemaker's daughter goes barefoot"? For me, it is a common occurrence. There is so much weeding and fixing and cussing going on here at the farm, that I have little time to do those things right next to the house. Martha strongly suggested that we do them today, and how could I resist her puppy dog pleas.

So, I put off working on stringing up the hops, at least for the first half of the day , and got busy on her list. All was not that bad. As I was watering the milkweed seedlings I have growing here, I was able to get some really good shots of some monarch eggs and caterpillar hatching.

The monarchs, during the last two weeks, have laid hundreds of eggs on my milkweed and the cats are emerging and eating there way to wings. I got some good still shots of them emerging from the egg. The first meal they have is the egg shell.

I am showing three pictures here, the first on is of a monarch egg close to hatching, note the black head at the top of the egg sack. The second one shows the newly hatched caterpillar after it has eaten it's way through the egg shell . Red arrow is the egg shell, yellow arrow is the newly emerged caterpillar. The third shot shows just how small the caterpillar is. I am looking forward to opening the butterfly flight house in a couple of weeks, with butterflies, caterpillars, and eggs galore. Be sure to come and see us.