About six or seven summers ago when I finally realized that a certain plant coming up in my garden was milkweed, I stopped pulling it out. That first year I had one or two plants. The second year I had a couple more and was pretty excited when I discovered monarch caterpillars on them and when one of those caterpillars spun its chrysalis on the side of my neighbor’s garage next to my garden—so amazing!

There are pinto beans growing in there somewhere

Since then I have been letting the milkweed grow wherever it wants and have been rewarded with caterpillars and butterflies. Last year there was a lot of milkweed in the garden, but this year, I have come to understand the weed part of milkweed. The stuff is coming up freaking everywhere! I am pulling out all the new little sprouts by the handfuls. When I was weeding one of the veg beds the other day I grabbed a bunch and pulled. It came up easily since they were all sprouting from a big seedpod that one of last year’s plants let go of.

I am being pretty ruthless in pulling them out while feeling guilty at the same time, as though I am killing a monarch for every sprout I remove. I am being careful to check for eggs and caterpillars. And even though I am pulling plants out by the dozens, I am leaving plenty behind so don’t worry.

The honeyberries were all picked last week. Now it’s strawberry season. And tart cherries. Picked all the cherries off the tree today. Marianne had already helped herself to every one she could hop up and grab and the songbirds were helping themselves to the rest so I picked every single one even though a few could have used another day or two on the tree.

Milkweed sprouts

The serviceberries are just beginning to color. In a week or two those should be ready to pick. I have the serviceberry in the chicken garden swathed in row cover fabric in a vain attempt to keep Marianne from eating all of them, which she very nearly did last year. I say it’s a vain attempt because when I went out to make sure they were all doing okay in this heat, Marianne popped out from under the fabric! So it isn’t going to stop her, but maybe it will deter her enough so I can get some of them for myself. I have another serviceberry in the main garden where she is not allowed right now, but it is small still and this is the first year it has had fruit on it.

The elderberry, also in the chicken garden, is starting to bloom. This means in a month or so when they get ripe, Marianne and I will be competing again. At least she has good taste.

The other chickens are all doing well. Did I ever mention that before we shut them out of the main garden, Margaret, aka Houdini, figured out she can squeeze under the gate at the side of the house and escape into the front yard? Yeah.

Imagine my surprise one afternoon when I look out my front window to see her happily scratching away under the maple tree! I may have shrieked. Margaret’s in the front yard! I yelled. And James jammed his feet into shoes, threw on his chickenman hat (I will have to tell you about the hat sometime) and ran outside. Margaret is, of course, oblivious to our panic and continues single-mindedly scratching away under the maple. When James opened the side gate and tried to scoot her through it into the backyard, she gave him a merry chase.

This is the third summer we have had the Dashwoods and not once did any of them think they could get under the gate. There is about a large hand’s width gap between the ground and the bottom of the gate, a tight squeeze for a fat chicken. But Margaret pulled it off more than once! Her being Houdini reincarnated, every temporary barrier we put up she figured out how to get around. Thankfully the other chickens are not as devious. Mrs. Dashwood is the only one who followed Margaret to the front yard, and then only once.

Now they are all confined to the chicken garden where Margaret regularly voices her complaints like only a very loud australorp can. I keep waiting for neighbors to complain about how loud she is, but no one has. Maybe they find her vocalizations amusing as well? Especially the one that sounds like she’s laughing. Cracks me up every single time.

So far no Japanese beetles. But then they may be delayed because the spring was late in coming. Hopefully without the honeycrisp to draw them, they will infest someone else’s garden this year. I have seen lots of tiny baby grasshoppers though, which does not bode well. But I also have lots of birds and dragonflies flitting through the garden, so perhaps they will help out with the hoppers. Time will tell.