Summer Days: Observing profound transformation right before our eyes.

Kids are out of school and summer is in full swing. It’s only been a few weeks, but we, including the flora and fauna are settled right into the rhythm of its abundant days and balmy nights. Our milkweed is finally growing well beyond it’s primary leaves, we have a resident owl in our front yard box, the daddy cardinals and mother woodpeckers are feeding and fledging their babes in our yard, our coreopsis and other wildflower varieties are maturing to seed… and I can finally find some time to write about it (and more in future posts).

In the interim, just a few days before school let out our caterpillar decided it was time to finish its bulking, drop its final load and find its roost.

Eating several fresh cuttings from our outdoor fennel plant per day, the kiddos and I watched the caterpillar crawl around the plant to pick up scat balls with its mandibles and literally chuck them across the enclosure. After searching a few articles, I found this from the entomology department of the University of Florida which apparently does a lot of research on these particular butterflies, stating that “some insect parasitoids locate their hosts by volatile chemicals in their feces...” – so this guy’s developed a knack for thwarting evil-doers by literally throwing off its scent! True entertainment for all three of my kids. They are still giggling about it. I’m giddy about the evolutionary trait. Insects blow my mind every day.
Searching for the great beyond… surely there must be more than this clear box?! Black Swallowtails are said to prefer metamorphosing in spots far beyond their original hatching grounds, unlike their Monarch counterparts. Sorry, Bub. (*Note the big stain on paper towel – I was fortunate to not have to clean its final load off the terrarium floor.)
Finding its resting spot and starting to spin its Velcro®.
Suspended…note the delicate cords.
My middle kid seems to be the most enamored by it all. It is just another mind blowing miracle in our every day lives. So why not be?
And after a day of rest. (And housecleaning by my self.)
Here it is approximately one week later. What is going on in there!?! This miracle may take up to several months to hatch. But given the season, we’re betting on a few weeks. Oh how I wish I had the technology to snap time-lapse images of its internal transformation… maybe our kids will help utilize it.

Earlier on, my sick child helped me clean out the worm composter while she was home from school recovering from a fever. Very exciting business on her part – she’d been begging me for months. Beware of what might be just gross pictures to the average person below. But we think there’s another pretty amazing transformation going on in our funky buckets.

Creating another level to our 5 gal. bucket worm condo.
Drilling ventilation holes.
Example of an already vented lid. A kindergartner could do this!
Holes drilled in the bottom of the new bucket to allow for ventilation and drainage of “worm tea.” Yum! Yum!
The tea. Just a smidge.
Completely odorless – ask my kid who gags at the thought of her siblings using the bathroom. This stuff is anti-fungal (, wards off pest insects by providing plants with increased levels of chitinase (read all about it here:, and is nutrient rich for your garden. I dilute with water, then spray it wherever need be. My newly planted tomato leaves were suffering some kind of fungal rot, but quickly bounced back after receiving their tonic. It must be good because dude, they sell the stuff on Amazon: Worm Tea Gone Commercial. Though I can’t vouch for stuff that’s not fresh from the can. See below!
Castings from the bottom of one of the buckets (through ventilation holes) – remind yourself these buckets were in desperate need of emptying and redistributing. The worm population was O.O.C.
Bedding for the new condos.
Sorting the worms from the castings. My daughter’s absolute favorite part. There were so many “cocoons” – I literally just had to toss them in the garden. They are red wigglers. So we didn’t feel like we were doing any harm.
See “Ask Mr. Smarty Pants” on
Mind you, this is all that remains after loads of chopped (and sometimes frozen) fruit and veg nibblings, coffee grounds, tea leaves, crushed egg shells, newspaper, shredded paperboard, dryer lint, etc. These little ones have transformed our trash into not so stinky garbage and given it back to our garden in the most miraculous way.

I picked up these crazy gang of annelids from a veterinarian friend who was growing an abundance in her own high level vermi-condo, but she started off with something like this bag of 1,200 from your Big Brother provider.

I use the cheap 5 gallon buckets to create my condos and keep them in a cool dry place. As long as you follow the recipe and researched guidelines, they do not smell and do not attract any pests. As long as you provide the appropriate proportion of dry bedding and chopped organic wet food (and of course a temperature regulated environment with good ventilation), it is a slow breakdown that you can literally forget about for several weeks at a time. My worm enabling friend uses this multilevel stacking system with a drain spout as she prefers that ease of maintenance. I don’t mind putting my kids to work and getting our hands a little dirty with our humble setup. As for their classrooms, I wish every one of them kept something like this side-by-side viewer!

Every one of their peers should appreciate where their organic (and inorganic) garbage goes and its amazing potential. For an in-depth breakdown of how to vermicompost in the classroom (and at home!) from Cornell University, check out this article:

I also like KidsGrowingStrong.Org‘s info, especially it’s poster reference sourced from the Blog – great kid teaching tool!



  1. Pingback: Our First Black Swallowtail Butterfly Emerges and Takes Flight – NatureMomTexas

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