Creating a Community Butterfly Garden

A woman in our community started a butterfly club and it attracted many members. The first activities included planting plants and flowers in their own yards that caterpillars and butterflies liked. They progressed from that to getting butterfly larvae to hatch and release. The next project was creating a butterfly garden for the whole community to enjoy.

Photo by Virginia Allain

They found a sunny, well-drained location adjacent to a lake and got permission from the community to use the land for a butterfly garden. This fun and rewarding project provides important habitats for local butterfly species. It became a pleasant place for people to go to see butterflies and we take our visitors to see it too.

Steps for Creating a Butterfly Garden

Identify the butterfly species in your area: Research which butterfly species are native to your region and which plants they prefer. Consider planting a variety of host plants for caterpillars and nectar plants for adult butterflies.

  1. Plan your garden: Draw a layout of your garden and decide which plants to include. Choose a mix of native wildflowers and shrubs that bloom at different times throughout the year to provide a continuous source of nectar for the butterflies.
  2. Prepare the soil: Clear any existing vegetation and loosen the soil to a depth of 6-8 inches. Add compost or other organic matter to improve the soil quality.
  3. Plant your garden: Start with small plants, either seedlings or transplants. Water them well after planting and mulch around the base to retain moisture.
  4. Maintain your garden: Water your plants regularly and remove any weeds or dead plants. Avoid the use of pesticides that would harm the caterpillars and butterflies. Encourage community members to get involved in caring for the garden, and consider holding educational events or workshops.
  5. Monitor butterfly activity: Observe which butterfly species visit your garden and make note of their behavior. This can help you identify any areas for improvement in your garden design or maintenance.
  6. You can enhance the garden for visitors by adding a bench, plant labels, and mulched paths for strolling through the garden.

Creating a community butterfly garden can be a great way to bring people together while also providing important habitats for local butterfly species. With some planning and effort, you can create a beautiful and thriving garden that benefits both people and wildlife.

It would be a great project for a garden club, a scout troop, a 4-H club, or a school activity.

Plants That Butterflies Like

Butterflies have specific host plants on which they lay their eggs, and they also need nectar plants for feeding. Here are some examples of plants that butterflies like:

Host plants:

  • Milkweed (for monarch butterflies)
  • Pipevine (for pipevine swallowtail butterflies)
  • Parsley (for black swallowtail butterflies)
  • Fennel (for black swallowtail butterflies)
  • Dill (for black swallowtail butterflies)
  • Passionflower (for gulf fritillary butterflies)
  • Pawpaw (for zebra swallowtail butterflies)
  • Spicebush (for spicebush swallowtail butterflies)

Nectar plants:

  • Butterfly bush (Buddleja spp.)
  • Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.)
  • Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia spp.)
  • Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium spp.)
  • Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)
  • Lantana (Lantana spp.)
  • Verbena (Verbena spp.)
  • Milkweed (Asclepias spp.)

It’s important to choose plants that are native to your area, as they are better adapted to local growing conditions and provide a more natural food source for butterflies. A mix of both host and nectar plants will attract a variety of butterfly species to your garden.

If nothing ever changed, there would be no such things as butterflies.

The Little Free Library

Mom and Dad would have loved the concept of the Little Free Libraries, but I don’t think the idea had reached their small town yet. They always had a box near the back door where their already-read books ended up if they weren’t authors that they kept. It filled quickly as they were voracious readers.

The books went home with their daughters or were donated to the library book sale or taken to a paperback trade-in store when there was one in their community. More books continually arrived from discoveries at yard sales or brought by their daughters when they visited.

A continuous supply of books was always coming in and out of the house plus their old favorites filled the commodious bookshelves that Clyde constructed to fit the long wall in their living room. Still, they would have found pleasure in dropping off books to a Little Free Library to share their love of reading with others who might not have a ready supply of books.

How to Start a Little Free Library in Your Community

  1. Choose a location: The first step in setting up a Little Book Library is to choose a location. It can be anywhere you think people will be interested in borrowing books, such as your front yard, a local park, or a community center. Check that it is OK to put one there.
  2. Build or buy a bookshelf: You can either build your own Little Book Library or purchase one online. There are many resources available online for building a bookshelf, including free plans and tutorials. It needs to be weatherproof.
  3. Decorate the bookshelf: Once you have your bookshelf, you can decorate it to make it more attractive and eye-catching. Paint it a bright color, add some artwork or decorations, and make sure it is easily visible to people passing by.
  4. Stock it with books: Now it’s time to add books to your Little Book Library. You can start with books from your own collection, ask friends and family to donate books or you can purchase books from a secondhand bookstore or thrift store.
  5. Spread the word: Let your community know about your Little Book Library by posting about it on social media, putting up flyers in the area, and telling your neighbors. You can also add your Little Book Library to the official Little Free Library world map.
  6. Maintain the bookshelf: Make sure to check on your Little Book Library regularly to ensure it is in good condition and well-stocked with books. You may need to clean it, add more books, or make repairs as necessary.

By following these steps, you can set up a Little Book Library that will bring joy and literacy to your community.

Oatmeal on a Cold Morning

I remember Mama making a big pot of oatmeal on wintery Kansas mornings. It took a good amount to feed eight people. One kid was designated to tend the toast to go with the oatmeal. It was cooked on the oven rack and had to be watched so the toast didn’t burn. Another kid would set the table with the bowls and tableware. Toppings for the oatmeal included sugar and brown sugar then thick cream from our Jersey cow was poured over it. The toast was liberally spread with our homemade butter.

It made a good stick-to-your-ribs breakfast that prepared us for our morning chores of feeding and watering the rabbits and chickens before we walked up the long driveway to catch the school bus. Dad would be heading out for work on the drilling rig and a filling, hot breakfast was necessary.

It’s not uncommon to feel nostalgic about certain foods that we enjoyed during our childhood, such as oatmeal, thick cream, and brown sugar for breakfast. These foods may have been associated with pleasant memories and feelings of comfort, security, and love, which we sometimes try to recreate or relive as adults. I call it comfort food.

Oatmeal, in particular, is a classic breakfast food that has been enjoyed by generations of families. It’s a warm, hearty, and filling dish that is rich in fiber, protein, and essential nutrients, such as iron, magnesium, and zinc. Keeping in mind that the thick cream and sugars are high in calories and saturated fat that can have negative health effects. Since I’m not exercising enough these days to counter that, I’ve had to modify my oatmeal toppings.

Oatmeal is easier to prepare these days with quick oats, some water, and a zap in the microwave. Then I top it with some fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, and a sugar substitute. We make our own trail mix with a variety of seeds and nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans) so that’s easy to sprinkle over the hot oatmeal. For fruit, I think strawberries, banana slices, blueberries, blackberries, and even pineapple chunks go well with the flavor of oatmeal.

If you’re feeling nostalgic for oatmeal, thick cream, and brown sugar, why not try recreating this classic breakfast dish with a healthier twist? You can use low-fat milk or plant-based milk instead of cream, and swap brown sugar for natural sweeteners, such as mashed bananas, dates, or honey. You can also experiment with different types of grains, such as quinoa, buckwheat, or millet, to add variety and nutrition to your breakfast routine.