… or perhaps I should say flitting, as in flitting by. That is the case with butterflies anyway. We have to seize the opportunity to enjoy their presence, as we really only have a few short months every year to do so.
Here in the Midwest, we have four distinct seasons (or we used to – grrr). During those dark and dreary, and brutally cold Michigan Winters, the allure of long summer days, baking in the sun or spending time on the water is what often keeps us going. We glom onto all that Summer has to offer here in the Great Lakes State, not unlike a moth is drawn to a flame, or a butterfly will gravitate to the most colorful and beautiful blooms in a garden.
The rainy, not to mention hot and steamy, weather has Michiganders bemoaning climate change and declaring it to be a bit of a bummer Summer. We expected more – even craved it, after our lackluster Spring. I’ve already witnessed leaves fluttering to the ground, yet I’ve had only one goldfinch sighting, and zero glimpses of hummingbirds hovering about – even the butterflies have been scarce in the ‘hood, or at the Park.
Except for the other day.
Well, this was an unexpected surprise.
I remember reading a quote many years ago by naturalist Henry David Thoreau about happiness and a butterfly, so I searched for it to use in this post:
“Happiness is like a butterfly, the more you chase it, the more it will evade you, but if you notice the other things around you, it will gently come and sit on your shoulder.”
I was at Council Point Park the other morning, just doing my steps and enjoying the trek, when another walker came along, pointed to my shoulder and said “did you know you have a butterfly on your shoulder?” I immediately swiveled my head around, and sure enough, there was a Red Admiral butterfly perched prettily on my white tee-shirt. Now, I often have more colorful, even tropical-looking, shirts I wear during those steamy hot days, and I could have understood if that butterfly honed in on one of those “flowers” … but a white tee-shirt? At any rate, it settled there, daintily opening and closing its wings. Janet, the other walker, said “look at that, its outside wings are brown and it would blend into a tree – its coloring even looks like a brown leaf!” Then the Red Admiral spread those wings to reveal its true colors: black lower wings, orange stripes and white dots. For a second or two, I thought “should I have Janet take a picture of it on my shoulder?” Then I decided that butterfly’s visit was fleeting and it would soon flutter off.
But I was wrong (no, it’s not the first time).
That butterfly decided to go for a free ride. It clung to my shoulder while I kept glancing back, craning my neck to get a glimpse of it in my peripheral vision, while it was opening and closing its wings and just enjoying the view. Unbelievably, that Red Admiral butterfly stayed there on my shoulder for about a mile and a half before it finally took off.
Maybe in a few months I’ll twist my neck around and discover a Monarch resting there, because we have many milkweed plants along the perimeter path.
Today I was treated to more eye candy.
That’s because today was the annual Felty Farm’s Butterfly Garden Open House which is held at Verne and Randy Felty’s home in Southgate, Michigan. They are kind-hearted souls, who use their beautiful backyard that is brimming with blooms, to enlighten visitors on pollinator friendly practices, while benefiting several local animal rescue groups.
For the small price of a donation of some items coveted by these local animal welfare groups, such as The River Rouge Animal Shelter, Lucky Day Animal Rescue and 4 PAWS Sake, you can step into this butterfly haven which is tended to with a lot of hard work and TLC by Verne and Randy Felty.
Verne Felty, the hostess of this event, published the list of the various needs, wants and desires by these groups recently on her Facebook page. When I arrived at noon, the grass and driveway were already piled high with grocery bags filled with items tailored to each group’s needs.
Here was my contribution – paper plates used for feeding their smallest charges, peanut butter for Kong treats and I re-gifted my dog leash and jerky treats that I received at the Mutt Strut 5K event back in May.
But wait a minute … for this small donation, you too, will be benefiting. Oh, it’s not just the eye candy, but you will have a warm and fuzzy feeling from helping our less-fortunate, furry and four-legged friends, and you also get three chances to win one of many raffle prizes which have been donated by various local businesses and creative folks in the Downriver area.
The last time I attended, I won a charm shaped like the Mitten State (the nickname for Michigan) that is made out of prized Petoskey stone, a rock that people in this state collect on the sandy beaches of northern Michigan. These stones are rough fossilized coral and people polish them in tumbling kits to use as paperweights, or sometimes, like here, they are fashioned into jewelry.
I did not attend last year’s event because of the extreme heat – it was in the 90s and high humidity and I had already been on a six-mile walk that morning, but my friend Ann Marie went and said it was wall-to-wall people, despite those sultry temps. At the 2017 event, (my first time), I enjoyed myself immensely. I took many pictures, then wrote a post about the yard, including the Koi fish pond, creative and artsy yard sculptures and the flowers, then sent it to Verne Felty. There was eye candy everywhere your eyes landed, and that’s not even counting the butterflies: I have a picture of a Red Admiral butterfly in that post, so here it is if you’d care to read it:
Verne Felty commented on that post and has since contacted me to advise when subsequent events will be held – in fact she will host two events this year, today, plus one in Fall to witness the Monarch butterflies. As you see in the post referenced above, this yard is a Monarch Waystation, an area of the backyard is solely dedicated to nurturing Monarch butterflies, because, as you may know, milkweed is the sustenance for the beautiful Monarch butterflies.
“Christmas in July” was today’s theme at Felty Farm.
I arrived early enough to seek out Verne Felty so I could introduce myself before she got too busy. I wanted to meet the person whose picture-perfect front and back yards are a showcase, and who is doing such a wonderful and selfless deed to benefit our furry pals. I even wore my Mutt Strut tee-shirt, to show that even though I nurture no four-legged pals at my house, I’m all in for helping out the less fortunate furry friends.
Now for the highlights of today’s event.
Upon entering Felty Farm, you really don’t know what to look at first – there are beautiful flowers, and a whole lot of creative yard art here in the form of statuary, wood, but mostly metal.
There are signs to make you smile and/or nod your head in agreement.
There are informative and cautionary signs like this one.
As I meandered along, mixing and mingling with others on the mulch paths and wooden boardwalk, I was admiring the many flowers. Even if you don’t delight in butterflies for some reason, it was a treat to see all the colorful blooms. I recognized many of them, and, according to a recent local news story about today’s event, Felty Farm’s butterfly-preferred blooms include phlox, butterfly bushes, Mexican sunflowers, Joe-Pye weed, latanas, zinnias and coneflowers. The Monarchs are treated to a trio of milkweed varieties including common, tropical and swamp milkweed.
Tucked here, there and everywhere are a variety of angels, bikes and birdhouses …
… as well as an assortment of other yard art.
The wind chimes that were hanging around the yard tinkled pleasantly in the very slight breeze. A beautiful pond with a waterfall and many Koi fish was popular, as we all took in the peace and beauty of the fish leisurely swimming and looking up at us, perhaps for handouts?
I took this picture of the woman near the entrance of the backyard – be sure to check out her sign which I have enlarged.
When I asked Verne and Randy if I could take their picture, I said if it did not turn out well, I would have to use “The Bloomers Lady” to represent Verne.
The stars of the show.
So, who would be the stars of this event? Verne and Randy? The people who attended and gave selflessly to benefit animal welfare? Maybe it was the butterflies and bees that drifted lazily around the flowers?
It was a hot and sunny day, one where you would think many butterflies would be sipping sweet nectar from all those flowers. I did see a couple of Cabbage Whites and a few Monarchs as well. Surprisingly, there was just one pair of Monarchs that flitted from flower to flower. One admirer, who stood patiently with his camera, its long lens trained on the colorful blooms and a solitary butterfly that kept hiding behind a leaf in the shade, finally turned to me and said “it’s a little bit of a diva, don’t you think?” I agreed saying “it is just trying our patience in the hot sun to see how badly we really want to take the photograph.” Well, we were both rewarded with a few butterfly photos.
We lucked out to find a few bumblebees buzzing over the milkweed and coneflowers too.
As mentioned above, I understand a special open butterfly garden event catered specifically to Monarchs will take place at Felty Farm in September before they flit and flutter their way to their sunny and warm Winter homes and we collectively will hunker down, with the furnace blaring, just counting the days ‘til Summer returns.