Frustrations

Does this also happen to you? I have been thinking and writing and re-writing a blog post for hours now and it just doesn’t work. So I finally deleted everything……. 😦

It was quit philosophical, about consumerism, capitalism and even something about Hannah Arendt…….but then I thought that I didn’t have anything new to say. Everybody already knows that too much buying, to many food miles etc. aren’t a good thing.

So I think I will just post some pictures of homegrown food and some repair work.

Of the seedlings of mustard seeds that I grew for my herb quark ….

Of the leek that unexpectedly appeared next to the one I grew from a leek left over (and wrote about some time ago)…..

And my bag after some extreme mending (did you know that is a thing: “extreme mending“?)

So much for now….. and I hope this is just a kind of writer’s block……. :-/

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Seeds

Lately I have been listening to some podcasts about gardening from Roots and All. (If you’re interested in gardening I can really recommend it!)

One of the podcasts was about wildlife gardening and about how you can make your garden more attractive for wildlife. That’s not a new thought of course, and if you’ve read some of my older posts, you might have noticed that I try to make my balcony insect and bird friendly. But listening to it motivated me to think about it some more.

I try to put plants and flowers on my balcony that are interesting for insects. But after reading that lots of plants you can buy are treated with insecticides, it seems counterproductive to plant these for their well being ….. :-/

So I thought that I could just collect some seeds of wildflowers – just a tiny amount and not of endangered species as I don’t want to harm their survival!!!!

On our walk last Sunday I found this……

(And a similar one already had a visitor 😉 )

I’m not sure how this part of the flower is called and I have been searching the internet, but I think it’s called the receptacle…..?

So this must be the receptacle of a greater knapweed.

I took one home, dried it, and had a closer look…..

Can you see it? This flower is an Asteraceae, just like the daisy I wrote about some time ago. What looks like a single flower in reality are lots of little flowers. So “one” flower produces lots of seeds.

And here is one of them.

I love how the pappus looks (the spiky “hairs”) 🙂

Okay, so I want to sow these seeds on my balcony. But now a new problem arises, as I don’t now if I should sow them now or in spring. I’m not sure how this plant does it. Are the seeds released now, or does it stay this way all over winter and releases them in spring?

It seems every time I start to do something new, new questions arise :-/ 🙂 But that’s good, isn’t it? So I can keep on learning and exploring………

Far and near

I’m still reading the book I wrote about two posts ago….

It’s (among other things) about love and reciprocity to your natural surroundings. About that you’re a part of the nature you live in. It has set me thinking a lot.

I have heard and read about how astronauts started to love earth (more) after seeing her from space – a little blue planet. And that pictures of it helped the environmental movement to get people motivated to protect this great, tiny, blue planet Earth.

But sometimes the thought that you should rescue the whole earth is just to overwhelming. Maybe it would be better to concentrate on your direct surroundings, so you can feel a kind of relationship to it. So that you start to notice if something changes, if something disappears, or something new appears. Maybe you’ll start appreciating it more.

Green woodpecker seen from my balcony

I’ve also read somewhere about not going on big (holiday)trips, but to try to be more open for microadventures. I’m not sure, if it would be such a good idea if everybody would start sleeping in their sleeping bag in the forest, but I think it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to try to appreciate more of the small things nearby. (I must confess that I have done my part in traveling around the world, when I was younger…..)

And combining these two thoughts: if we wouldn’t travel all around the world so much, but would stay more at home and open our eyes for the nature around us, maybe then we would start to know, love and protect it more. And if everybody would protect their own surroundings, then we could – maybe – in sum protect the whole big blue planet together.

Okay, maybe I’m just blathering around……. but sometimes I like to write a bit about what is going through my head 😉

Common liverwort

In almost all the flowerpots on our balcony you can find lots of common liverwort – also called umbrella liverwort.

First I thought it looked a bit ugly – mostly because it’s just not the plant that’s intended to grow there, I think. But after taking a closer look, it’s kind of cute…..

It has these umbrellas and little cups.

So I started looking some things up on the internet.

First I learned that the green “thing” that looks like a kind of leaf, is called thallus. And what you see at the bottom of the thallus and looks like roots, is called rhizoids.

On top of these thalli are these small little cups:

They are called gemmae cups, because the little green things inside of them are called gemmae.

Gemmae are haploid babies (maybe clones would be a better description) of the plant. If rain hits the cup, some of the gemmae are released and where they hit the soil, they can grow rhizoids and grow into a new liverwort. I think that’s the reason why I have loads of them…..

So that’s how the asexual reproduction of common liverworts works.

For the sexual reproduction you need the little umbrellas. There are female and male umbrellas. Last year I had only male liverwort on my balcony, but this year I was exited to find female ones as well (that’s when I decided to write this post 🙂 ).

On the left you can see the male and on the right the female plant.

The little umbrellas are called gametophores. You can see they differ in form. The male ones are more like a disk. Inside the disk there are antheridia and in these the sperm is produced, which comes out of small openings on top of the disk. I couldn’t really see these, so there’s no picture of them……

The female gametophores look like little stars. They have archegonia in which the ova are produced. They are on the bottom side of these stars. Here’s a close up……..

I also found one where I think fertilization might already have occured….. You can see the husk (I’m not sure if that’s the right word, maybe involucrum is better (or maybe that’s not even English 😦 )) and in the middle you see something yellow. I think this must be where the spores are or have been……

Interesting is, that the spores also are haploid. We humans are diploid creatures, but this liverwort only is diploid inside the female plant after fertilization, when the sporophyte is formed. The spores themselves are again haploid as is the liverwort I found in the flowerpots……..

Sooooooo…….. this was a bit complicated …… at least for me …. 😉 I hope, I got everything right. If you find some errors, please tell me!!

Reciprocity

I’ve started reading the book “Braiding Sweetgrass” from Robin Wall Kimmerer. I haven’t finished it yet, but it already got me thinking….

She writes in one of her first chapters about the gifts we receive from nature. She writes for example about the little strawberries she found in the forest as a girl and how it felt like a gift. She also speaks about the importance of gifts for her Native American ancestors. About how gifts created relationships, because they knew that gifts would be reciprocated. Not in the way you do when you buy something, in that case you just exchange the good and the money and there’s no relationship required. Reciprocity means that you reward a gift with something you give back, not immediately but later and mostly with something else than the first gift. As far as I know, it’s because of the fact that you don’t respond immediately, that the relationship is formed.

So if you see strawberries as gifts from nature – or all the other things we use from our natural surroundings – if you see all these things as gifts, then it makes you think about the fact that nature isn’t something we can just use as we like, but that we’re part of a bigger whole and that we should do our part and give nature something back in return – somehow…..

And then I started to get kind of worried…..what am I giving back? I couldn’t think of anything. Well, I exhale….and plants need carbon dioxide, right? But we have too much of that already 😦

So, what else? I’m doing my best to not use too many resources, but that’s not the same as giving something back.

And then I stepped on my little balcony and saw that here I’m doing little things which could be interpreted as doing something back. Planting plants is good for the plants ( 🙂 ) and for the insects. Today I found this little fellow on my snow pea. And I think it’s a nice idea to share it with him 🙂

And you might have read my posts about the insect hotel. Lately I found that not only the holes in the wood are taken, but also in the one I made of reed.

I’ve read on another blog, that Hylaes (some kind of bees) close their breeding sites like this.

And then I’ve also seen this Gasteruptiidae . First I thought it was an Ichneumonidae (they are a parasitoid wasp family), but one of the commenters told me otherwise (thanks 🙂 ). They lay their own eggs in the cells with the eggs/larvae of the bees.

So that’s a bit sad for the bees, but it’s part of the natural world where everything has it’s place and lives from and with each other.

But still……I have the feeling I’m not really doing my part to reciprocate what I have been given from nature…… The good thing is, that as you don’t have to give something back immediately but later, it might be not to late to act.

How about you? And what could someone do, who doesn’t even have a little balcony? How can we give something back?

Explorations

You sometimes read about early botanists and entomologists who traveled the world or just walked around in surrounding fields and woods with nets and botanical boxes, who discovered all kinds of insects and plants. I don’t know about you, but I always found this idea fascinating 🙂

But I think I’m kind of doing something similar. But I use my camera instead of boxes and nets. And I don’t find anything new to the world, but sometimes I see things that look a bit weird – at least in my opinion.

It often feels like being on a kind of photo safari…..

Here are some insects I’ve found lately.

I knew this was a hover fly, but couldn’t find which one it was. So I posted a picture of this one on Flickr and someone suggested that it could be a female long hover fly (Sphaerophoria scripta) and I think he could be right! I hadn’t thought about the fact that male and female insects sometimes look different.

And this is known as a thick-legged flower beetle – I wonder how it got that name 😉

This one I like very much. It was sooooooo tiny, I almost missed it. It’s about one millimeter big. I think it must be a kind of lake fly. I really like its hair do!

And sometimes I see things like this:

I don’t know what happened, but its abdomen is missing 😦

And this spider also looks weird to me. It looks like it’s carrying something on its back, don’t you think? I know some spiders have their eggs on their back, but I’m not sure if that’s what we’re seeing here. Do you know? If so, please tell …..

And then I saw something shining on a green plant

It looked like tiny pearls. I don’t think it’s part of the plant – maybe some insect eggs?

And this one I only saw at home looking at my pictures. It looks a bit grumpy I think 🙂

Balcony experiments

Yesterday I have been reading some of the posts of naturaufdembalkon (which is a really nice blog btw 🙂 ) about what is happening on her balcony. And that reminded me to do some updates about the things that are going on on ours.

You might remember our insect hotel? Last time I wrote about it some of the bigger holes were used by mason bees. They tried to get into the smaller ones, but couldn’t. But lately I saw that some of the smaller holes are occupied now too. We didn’t see what kind of bees laid their eggs into them, but they are closed now!

Another thing I’ve tried, is to “plant” some leek. I had read somewhere that you could grow leek from the remains of the leek you use for cooking. The leek you buy in the supermarket has some roots on one end. So this time I didn’t use as much of the leek for cooking as I normally do and put the remains in a glass of water and later in a flowerpot with soil. I hoped I could harvest fresh leek after a couple of weeks.

And it did start to grow! But after a while it started to form a flower stalk……

And now this is almost 70 cm high – but still not blooming.

I tried the same thing with a carrot. I don’t think there will grow another carrot (but I’ve been proven wrong several times now 😉 ), but the green is growing. And I’ve read that you can eat the greens of carrots too – just like the leaves of radishes, kohlrabi and other vegetables (NOT from tomato’s!).

I also think I might have some news about my worms: I found this in the vermicomposter….

It could be a worm egg. At least this is how they look and I can’t remember putting any vegetable remains into it, that looked like this. I’ll keep you informed!

And the other thing new on our balcony is this bird feeder installation my husband build.

We hope it will attract some of the birds which live in the trees you can see in the background so we can take some nice pictures of them. Until now we have seen a great tit and a blue tit visiting it, but probably other birds have been there too as we can’t watch it all day long……

And he has also built a sort of cage to protect my strawberries so the birds don’t start eating them 🙂

How is your balcony looking? Maybe you want to share some of your stories?