Collards, Kale, Small White Cabbage Butterfly – Oh My!

With regular personal gardening sessions from the ‘beyond-green-thumb-talent’ at Victory Gardens, I’ve learned the growing part of an edible garden, and am knee deep into the harvesting part. Once harvesting starts so does the regular maintenance and nurturing of the plants that are providing food. It’s a good idea to keep an eye out for pests that want to gobble up your greens while you’re away doing other things.

The Small White Cabbage Butterfly (Pieris rapae) has been visiting my garden on a daily basis. I used to praise her random appearance, “Oh, look she likes to visit the collards, how sweet!”

White Cabbage Butterfly

Not quite so sweet, I have discovered. The offspring from the Small White Cabbage Butterfly is called an imported cabbageworm – meaning it’s not native to North America, and it does major damage to cabbage, kale, collards, and others from the Brassica (mustard) family.

“It was accidentally introduced to Québec, Canada around 1860 and spread rapidly throughout North America.”[1]

First, the lovely Small White Cabbage Butterfly visits the leaves and lays her eggs. This is what the egg sack looks like (see below; with size reference to a penny).

Egg from Small White Cabbage Butterfly

If you don’t pick it off, then it will mature into a green cabbage worm (below). At most stages of the life cycle it is very difficult to see the cabbageworm on the underside of the leaves. Their size and colouring is their self-defence. When you see the amount of damage one of these cabbageworm’s is capable, you would expect them to be very large (like the one pictured below). This is not always the case, so narrow your gaze and practice looking for very small.

Green Cabbageworm

The image below shows how the cabbageworm, as it begins to pupate, has spun a silk pad, attaching himself to the underside of the collard leaf. In this state it is very difficult to see the metamorphosis.


Luckily, I get unsolicited pest control from the birds that visit my garden. Lately, I’ve noticed more birds hanging around my Kale and Swiss Chard pots. I was wondering what they were doing…? Turns out they are my best helpers. It’s nice working cooperatively.


Two Birds: Pest Control

Though I appreciate the beauty of all beings, I can be found discouraging the Small White Cabbage Butterfly from landing on my cruciferous vegetables. However, the Small White Cabbage Butterfly does do her fair share of pollinating various flowers. There is always good with the bad. And maybe the point is to understand, like in all areas, that balance is key.

It is definitely a challenge to garden compassionately. I don’t like the idea of drowning insect pests because they all have a role to play in the balance of nature. And what to do with the eggs and cabbageworms that I remove from these leaves? I decided that I might collect them in a bucket and deliver them once a week to the chickens at a local farm, (who provide us with nourishing eggs), unless the birds from my garden get their beaks on them first.

Visit Wikipedia to read in greater detail and to see excellent photographs of the life cycle here. or here.

[1] Howe, William H.; editor, coordinating; al.], illustrator & twenty contributors—contributors, David L. Bauer … [et (1975). The Butterflies of North America. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard is a gorgeous plant to grow. Equally delicious and nutritious.

But what happens when your beautifully tended Swiss Chard leaves start to look pale, splotchy and dried out? There could be Leaf Miners burrowing between the leafs membranes.

Below is an image showing early onset.

Swiss Chard attacked by Leaf Miner Worms

It’s easy enough to scout these Leaf Miners before they even become miners. Catch them while they’re still young and just eggs. Barely noticeable to the naked eye, they look like tiny white dot. But under the magnification of a macro lens you can see their shape. They actually look like a grain of rice or a Tic-Tac® depending on your vintage or perspective. In the photo below you should be able to count eight eggs.

Leaf Miner Eggs

Two Leaf Miner Eggs

Use your finger or a tissue to gently wipe the eggs off your Chard leaves. If you don’t they will shape-shift and burrow into the leaves. How do they even get on your leaves in the first place? Well, these eggs are laid by a fly. Remarkable isn’t it? When the eggs hatch, the larvae turn into maggots which then burrow inside the leaves, hence the name Leaf Miners.

You can read Backyard Farming’s blog post about it here.

Tall Swiss Chard Stalk

Organic Pest Deterrent

Rocky Raccoon In the fall of 2014, I started planning to grow my own food. I knew that I couldn’t do it on my own, if I wanted to learn effectively in a short period of time, rather than through trial and error. I hired the expert edible gardeners at Victory Gardens in Vancouver for some one-on-one instruction. Now, it is May 2015 and I am already benefitting from their tutelage. I have been harvesting beautiful greens for eating. It is incredibly exciting to watch tiny organic seeds germinate into food producing sources of nourishment – all in my own backyard! Spinach garden The only challenge to date has been our raccoon family, who we adore and happily share our hedges. Some days the entire raccoon family can be seen sunbathing and napping on top of the hedge. Other times they pass through the garden in a cautious, delayed single file. Raccoon Family on Hedge The raccoons have not eaten any of my produce. Though they did spend the winter digging up a portion of our lawn for grubs. I thought it was wonderful; they were aerating our lawn. My husband wasn’t amused and tried to discourage them with a wire mesh ground cover (no plastic allowed) and a motion detecting sprinkler, which mostly sprayed us – forgetful that it was on. Since the hunt for grubs has been over for a few months, the raccoons have now turned their attention to the gorgeous earth worm laden soil where I’ve planted my brussels sprouts and kohlrabi seeds. For the last four days, each morning I would be disappointed to find that garden bed completely upended. Raccoon Garden 2 Raccoon Garden I put up a little wire fence to deter them. Hopeful. But it didn’t work. And the few little sprouts that were making their way to the surface were disturbed. I set everything right and planted a few more seeds. raccoon garden fence My husband, who is often in conversation with our seasoned and successful gardener-neighbour told me that he uses cayenne pepper. From my spice rack I pulled out the organic cayenne pepper and sprinkled some on the garden soil where the raccoons have been visiting.   The next morning? Everything was left untouched and the little sprouts are happily growing. Here is a link to an article describing some natural options for deterring pests in the garden. It’s a delicate balance because what deters the harmful insects and pests can also harm the beneficial.

What Were They Thinking?



What does this image say to you?compost sign

I posted this photo on Instagram and felt compelled to share it here, because I’m curious about what you have to say?

This is the compost sign used to direct elementary students to compost food scraps. Why are those images chosen to depict food that elementary kids would be eating? When I was a kid, those food items were considered treats; defined as something had on occasion not as a staple because they weren’t considered best foods for nourishing a growing body nor ideal for maintaining a healthy one.

These are lousy images to have on a compost sign anywhere, but especially at a school. Those food options are lousy choices at the best of times, but why showcase that kind of eating to young kids.

Imagine the subliminal message these youngsters are picking up!

Who chose this sign?

What do you think?

Meet Your Urban Farmer

This is Julia and Ludo of Urban Digs Farm presented in Meet your Urban Farmer series by Fire and Light Media

“Until 1946, half of all produce was grown in people’s back yards!”

Some sage advice? at 6:13 in the above video:

“Take responsibility for your own food.”

“If you really want food security grow your own food.”

“If you can’t grown your own food, then know your farmer.”

“Know where your food is coming from.”

“Don’t buy food from somebody you don’t know.”

“You don’t have to wait for the government to make legislation around genetically modified food.”

“If GMO is not in-line with your personal values? Then don’t buy that food.”

“If you don’t think chickens raised in tiny cages is a good idea? Then don’t buy those eggs.”

“We have all the power.”

“We don’t need to occupy anything but our own kitchens.”

“Vote at the cash register at the grocery store…better yet, don’t go there.”

“Buy food from your local farmers.”

“Value food for the true value of food.”

“Don’t do it by yourself.”

“If its worth doing its worth doing poorly the first time.”

“Beyond Organic”

Meet Joel Salatin from Polyface Farms: “Beyond Organic” farmer. The following quotes are taken from an article written in 2006 by Michael Pollan for Mother Jones. Joel Salatin “We ask for too much salvation by legislation.”

“Don’t you find it odd that people will put more work into choosing their mechanic or house contractor than they will into choosing the person who grows their food?”

“Greetings from the non-bar code people…”

“…whenever I hear people say clean food is expensive, I tell them it’s actually the cheapest food you can buy. That always gets their attention. Then I explain that, with our food, all of the costs are figured into the price. Society is not bearing the cost of water pollution, of antibiotic resistance, of food-borne illnesses, of crop subsidies, of subsidized oil and water—of all the hidden costs to the environment and the taxpayer that make cheap food seem cheap. No thinking person will tell you they don’t care about all that. I tell them the choice is simple: You can buy honestly priced food or you can buy irresponsibly priced food.”

“When someone drives up to the farm in a BMW and asks me why our eggs cost more, well, first I try not to get mad,” said Joel. “Frankly, any city person who doesn’t think I deserve a white-collar salary as a farmer doesn’t deserve my special food. Let them eat E. coli. But I don’t say that. Instead I take him outside and point at his car. ‘Sir, you clearly understand quality and are willing to pay for it. Well, food is no different: You get what you pay for.’

Still Standing After My 1st Fast

Yesterday, I chose to stand with thousands of people fasting for climate change on the first day of each month. My previous post explains my reasoning for participation. This post will explain how I did my first ever fast (on the first of October) and how I felt.

I felt very well the entire day. Our household starts to stir around 6am every morning (except weekends, which is by 7am). I did my usual bed stretches and my current version of a 4 minute-morning. Made the kids their breakfasts and walked briskly with Dot to the bus. Got home and did household chores, and some on line research. I had been drinking a natural amount of water throughout the morning – about 8oz each hour. By 10am, I started to feel a faint request from my stomach for a morning snack; I acknowledged it with a smile and carried on. By 11:30am, I started to feel that rumbling, more like demanding for lunch. I kissed that demand with some hot water and started contemplating what other liquid would be acceptable for my rules of this fast. Tea came to mind but then I remembered that the previous day I had made a batch of beef stock. By 1pm I drank an 8oz glass of hot beef stock. It was the most amazing drink. The homemade beef stock nourished me; I felt like a wilting plant that stands to attention when given water, I could sense my very own cells responding in that way. I chose beef stock over herbal tea because, being naturally low on iron I would need something substantial to sustain a clear mind, as I was running out the door to run errands before picking the kids up from school.

Shortly after 1pm I was out the door stopping at the Soap Dispensary to refill my liquid dish soap containers and got a great tip to try out a solid house soap for cleaning my pots – this soap will get it’s own post one day because it is remarkable. Photo below.

Solid Dish Soap

Then to the sewing machine store, followed by the butcher to pick up stewing beef (in my Life Without Plastic stainless steel container) for my family’s Irish Beef Stew dinner, which I modified from this recipe, using the already prepared homemade beef stock. By 3pm I had picked up Dot from school then 3:30pm had picked up my son. Just before 4pm I was back in the kitchen preparing the stew and of course my timing was off so had to prepare something else for the kids’ dinner. UGH. Silver lining…we could have it for breakfast…which we did, and it was worth the wait!

By 5pm I sipped another 8oz glass of hot beef stock. It was good. My husband and I had to go out to a school parent social organized for our daughter’s grade. There was a lot of beautiful food and drink laid out. I should have taken a photo to show you. I drank two glasses of sparkling water while I was there.

The only negative effects I felt, was by about 8:30pm I started to get chilled, and started talking faster than normal. By the time we got home I began my wind-down-for-the-evening routine, including my “before bed stretches” then was in bed reading by 9:30pm and lights out before 10pm.

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”


I was wondering how I was able to get through the day the way I had. With zero cravings or near slip ups. The answer is simple. I have been re-training my mind over these last few years. I don’t nibble or nosh randomly or with abandon. And with yesterdays fasting experience, I have now discovered that I have actually learned something worthwhile from the years of this self-discipline around being selective with food. Because I have been methodically eliminating suspicious foods from my diet for fixed periods of time (over the last few years), I have learned how to go without. I have trained myself to make choices; I choose to eat with my mind and with intention for the nutrition of my cells, rather than for taste alone, instant gratification or because of a demanding gut or weak mind. I don’t mindlessly slip food in my mouth while I make the kids their meals, partly because I don’t usually eat what they eat. I don’t nibble at socials just to be polite or because I can’t resist temptation. There is no marketing which subliminally controls me.

I know that I am on a different level than most, because most people tell me that they couldn’t do what I do. But, I counter, ‘of course you can, anyone can, humans have amazing minds, we are capable of so much’…”we don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” ‘

Be careful how you train. You reap what you sow.


Related Posts:

My First Fast For The Climate by Zero Waste Chef