Castor Bean | Still Strong | Update 4

Update 4: September 14, 2014

Links to the Original post, Update 1, and Updates 2 & 3.

The plant is now just short of 3 meters (~10 ft) tall. This view gives some perspective to the side of the house. The rain barrel is 1 meter tall.


Prickly pods bearing three beans each are abundant. The structure is 0.5 meters tall (~1.5 ft). The tops of two other stalks are also bearing bean pods. It will take a while for them to dry. We’ve had over 15 cm (6″) of rain the past two weeks. That is not typical for the midwest in September. This is our 4th wettest summer on record in Iowa. The bean plant and everything else continues to thrive on the moisture. I’m getting tired of mowing the lawn.


I watched an episode of Breaking Bad this week. Walter was intent on eliminating a drug lord by extracting ricin from castor beans. They dramatized the handling of the beans only using tweezers. They aren’t nearly as toxic as the show suggested. I don’t plan on testing that out.

Before winter, I will clear the garden. The seed beans will be collected and disposed of so animals and children will not be able to access them.


Such a Beautiful Day

by Melanie and Jim

The weather changes a lot in Iowa. It is one of the features of our state we like. Now and then, we enjoy some of the most splendid and beautiful days. It was like that recently with absolutely clear skies, very light breeze, and 72˚F. We changed clothes and drove a few miles to a favorite place, FW Kent County Park. We hiked around the central lake and then around a smaller pond in the northeast corner. Total distance was about 2 miles. Not far. But, it was a beautiful day. Not much needs to be said. The pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy!

Central Lake

Smaller Pond

Castor Bean | Fell Over | Updates 2 & 3

Update 3: September 5, 2014

I stood it up yesterday morning, packed the soil around the root ball, watered it well, and tied it to a sturdy steel post. It looks as if nothing happened.

Twenty four hours after being down on the ground. It looks good.

Twenty four hours after being down on the ground. It looks good.

Update 2: September 4, 2014

Update 1 is here.

We had another inch of rain last night. That is twice this week. It is unusual for Iowa in the month of September to have that much rain. It made the ground soft. On our return from a morning walk, we noticed this unfortunate sight by the house. The castor bean fell over early this morning from the rain and wind. What a sad sight.



It had been tied to a wooden stake as a precaution for this reason. That stake was too short now. It needed a strong metal fence post. I went to the back and got one. You can see it driven into the ground behind the toppled plant.

More on this update below…

Cowbird | Nearby As I Mowed

I mowed the lawn today. During my second swath through the side yard, I noticed a small bird fly down into the clippings not very far from me. Sometimes a barnswallow will fly nearby trying to catch insects scared up by the mower. They are fun to watch as they are excellent low level flyers. But, this bird flew over and landed within two feet of the discharge side of the mower. It was getting blasted by the clippings. Now and then, it picked up something in its beak.

I stopped several times to avoid running over it. It seemed unafraid. I reached down to see if it would come to my hand. It looked cautiously and hopped a little farther away. As soon as I started moving the mower, it got right back into the clippings discharge. Strange bird with a death wish or something.

I left the mower and ran inside for the camera. I called for Melanie to come out and see. I stood next to the mower handle and recorded this short clip. It hopped up toward me. You can see the shadow of the handle and hear the mower.

Later, I tried to ID the bird. It appears to be a juvenile female brown headed cowbird. Here are more pictures from the Google machine.

Castor Bean | Growing Taller | Update 1

Update: August 25, 2014

The castor bean plant is now over 7 feet tall. This picture is from the same spot as one take in the previous post two weeks ago. See farther down this page. Click on the image to see a much larger version.

Over 7 feet tall August 24, 2014

Over 7 feet tall August 24, 2014 – click to enlarge

Show me more of this huge plant.

Frog | Hunting On The Window

Last evening while watching TV, we noticed a movement on the window. It was a small tree frog about 2″ long. It had climbed up the glass stalking a moth attracted to the light from our room lamp. You can see the lamp faintly reflected. The window is about 16 feet above the ground.

We grabbed a camera and got this unusual perspective. Its toes look tangled with cobwebs. Afterward, it climbed over to another window and continued the hunt.

Just hanging around.

Just hanging around.

Morning Sky | Jupiter-Venus Conjunction

Melanie McNeil:

Get up get up!!

Originally posted on JAR Blog...:

Plan to rise before sunrise on several mornings between August 16 – 23. Check the weather forecast to see if clear skies are expected. If they are, you might witness one of the most beautiful pairings of planets for this year. Each morning, Jupiter and Venus appear close and a different distance apart. On the morning of August 18th, they will be closest to each other, about the width of a full moon.

If you have reliably clear morning skies, a series of photographs would be an interesting project. The details and helpful directions about the conjunction are in this video from Science @ NASA. Enjoy the show.

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