Monarch update

I check our caterpillars at least once a day.

monarch caterpillar

measurements taken two days apart

They eat a lot of milkweed leaves and need fresh leaves daily.

When I went to measure them today, I found one caterpillar on the ‘roof’ of the jar, as if it’s ready to pupate. I seem to remember the frass being larger before the caterpillars went into pupation, but then again, it’s been a couple years since I observed monarchs in our home. The other two caterpillars are still munching away on their leaves. I’m not sure what to expect for timing.

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We’re having a baby monarch!

Where’s that cigar? Again, we have hatchlings. Not a queen bee, but six monarch larvae. I’m measuring them every day.

day 1: 5mm; day 2: 6 mm; day 3: 8 mm

day 1: 5mm; day 2: 6 mm; day 3: 8 mm

In case you’re wondering, we keep them in a large jar.

monarch caterpillars jar 1

I think the jar is from my grandpa. We use it only for monarch larvae.

If they become adults during monarch tagging days, we’ll take them to that group for tagging. Otherwise, we’ll set them free for another person to tag.

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Is it honey?

In today’s Federal Register, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) of the Department of Agriculture (USDA)  announced that it seeks comments on how interested the public would be in a federal honey standard. When I sell honey to customers, I frequently get comments about the superior taste of local honey compared to “store honey.”

I believe that our population has been away from the land long enough to be disconnected from its food. I watched Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and saw school students who had no idea from where their food came. Butter comes from a cow, not corn. Corn dogs do not come from a plant; that would be a cattail. (Watch the video here.)

6 oz honey bear crop

Maybe the bear bottle is the reason for kids to think that honey comes from bears

My own mother-in-law, raised in a deeply urban setting, believed that she could buy honey harvested from both bumble bees and honey bees. Bumble bees do make honey, but not enough for humans to harvest without endangering the colony. Honey for humans comes only from honey bees. I am sure I could think of more examples of this disconnect.  I feel extremely thankful that I live where I do and was able to have a garden and involve my kids in apple picking, pumpkin hunting, turning cream into butter, and foraging for numerous fruits and nuts.

I have seen food service packets of honey where the ingredients say that they are filled with syrup even though the packet is labeled ‘honey.’ I would love to see ethical labeling and an honest society. If you are interested in supporting the cause of a federal honey standard, you can start with background here, then follow the directions below.

From today’s Federal Register:

Comments must be received by September 19, 2014. [emphasis added]

Interested persons are invited to submit written comments via the Internet at or to Brian E. Griffin, Standardization Branch, Specialty Crops Inspection Division, Fruit and Vegetable Program, Agricultural Marketing Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Room 0709-South Building; STOP 0247, Washington, DC 20250; telephone (202) 720-5021; fax (202) 690-1527,  email Comments should make reference to the date and page number of this issue of the Federal Register and will be made available for public inspection at the above office during regular business hours.

Please be advised that all comments submitted in response to this notice will be included in the record and will be made available to the public on the Internet via Also, the identity of the individuals or entities submitting the comments will be made public.

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Our state fair is a great state fair

I can’t say it better, so I quote State Fair, the musical:

Our state fair is a great state fair,
Don’t miss it, don’t even be late.
It’s dollars to donuts 
That our state fair 
Is the best state fair in our state.

state fair window display julia blog

Prepping for my window display. That fan on the table? We are storing my college girl’s stuff for a couple weeks in any open and available space in the house.

I entered a competition again. I like to have a kid or me enter an underrepresented division. The kids have entered Seed Art. Last year, I chose Corn Art. This year, I focused on Apiary.

Usually I research the division for a couple years before entering. I didn’t this year. What was attractive about the Apiary division is the fee and the deadline. $1 or $4 is very low to enter a competition at the fair. Also, I get tired of seeing the same people enter year after year after year. I looked at Apiary results from 2007 – 2013 and found that truly, the many of same people enter the same competitions every year. [That's quite annoying to me.] When promoting honey and beekeeping to new audiences, a new perspective is a constant need. So the open call of the premium book sounded great to me.

Now, when will I get to visit the fair?

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