Friday, June 19, 2015

Five Photos, Five Stories: Day 1

Like a lost ribbon fluttering in the wind, the western tiger swallowtail is easy to spot but hard to catch with the camera. This one perches at the edge of a gopher hole.

Todd and Bootsy have shared yard duties -- kill gophers. These critters destroy trees, pastures and gardens. Yet we have a self-imposed no chemical policy. I'm an organic gardener so we employ the hose and cat for gopher pest control.

Gophers can dig up a wide swath of soil in a single night. They mound dirt like burgeoning volcanoes. Wherever the gophers destroy land, knapweed sprouts. This noxious weed is one I battle by hand, spade and moth. I can't say I've been successful, but without access to burn and till our pastures it's the best I can do without harming the pond eco-system.

The hose is Todd's weapon of choice and he floods the burrows as soon as we see a hill emerge. Bootsy often leaves me head-bounties and I can tell the gopher head from other rodents. They make a good team, the Hub and Barn Cat, but it's not a perfect process. Poison would be more effective, but it kills more than rodents.

Yet the gentle Lepidoptera resting in the barren space is why I don't use chemicals to combat pests and weeds. Though others might look with disdain at my weedy or hill-ridden land, butterflies, birds and bumblebees proliferate here.

Sometimes, I think we need to adjust what is beautiful. I'd rather have swallowtails than a perfect lawn. 

The photos in this series will focus on pollinators and garden helpers, as I learn to improve my organic gardening skills. A big thank you to Norah Colvin for inviting me to participate in the Five Photos, Five Stories challenge. This is Day 1 and I nominate Ruchira Khanna to take up the challenge when she returns from vacation and if she is so obliged to participate.

The rules of the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:
1) Post a photo each day for five consecutive days.
2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to the individual.
3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is fun, not a command performance!


  1. What a beautiful butterfly, Charli. Sarah posted a butterfly photo in one of her responses to this challenge too - and I didn't!
    I didn't realise what a pest those gophers could be. It sounds like they do a lot of damage. I think wombats and bandicoots might do similar damage over my way, but none in my local area.
    I admire your determination to be an organic gardener and to not use chemical pesticides. I share your love of wild spaces with flowers, birds and butterflies. Elmira Pond sounds an amazing place, the lyricism and imagery in your words make it so. One day I hope I can visit. :)

    1. I've been trying to get a photo of a swallowtail for three years! They never seem to pause in their flitting. Maybe it was enjoying the warm bare earth the way the cat likes to lay in my garden after I till the soil. It's dry this summer and seems to enhance the work of pests. Not sure I'd want to battle the likes of bandicoots or wombats either! I'll have to cope with my losses and focus on the beauty that emerges in between. I do hope you visit one day, too!

  2. Wow, fab photo, and beautiful butterfly, Charli, don't think we get those here – but don't get gophers either. Sound annoying blighters.

    1. I chuckle at the thought of tackling gophers like snails, and tossing them over the fence into my neighbor's ranch! :-) I was excited to get the photo finally. Swallowtails are so majestic with their colors and patterns. The Hub found a luna moth while I was away and she was magnificent, too, but alas, no photo!