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A couple days ago I stopped feeding the silkworms to force them to cocoon. I had been basically denuding the mulberry tree a neighbor had generously allowed me to prune from, and was ready for the silkworms to be DONE. (And, to be clear, they were ready; they would happily have eaten more but did not need to. They had been in the fifth instar for 8-9 days.)

The process from there is simple: after food is withdrawn, the caterpillars will move off the leaves (or what used to be the leaves) and start climbing up. I made them a pile of toilet paper tubes to cocoon in, because they are cheap and plentiful (we collected them for a few months). They climb up and look around for a good spot, trying out a few tubes and spots until they find one that feels just right.


The little guys find a tube they like and make a silk mesh to hang themselves in before they start the cocoon in earnest. Also, one last poop, for posterity:

Caterpillar starting to cocoon

And another one, this one in the process of expelling the contents of its gut.

One last poop for posterity

There are a hundred different ways of making places for silkworms to cocoon. Professionals and more serious growers put them in a folded chickenwire mesh structure. Lots of people use egg cartons (we have another use for those). Plenty of people use toilet paper tubes, mostly set vertically in a box. I put mine horizontally and made a stack. They don't seem to mind too much.

A few of the caterpillars started climbing up on the toilet paper tubes I gave them right away. But nobody chose a spot until Sunday morning. This is one of the first cocoons, a day later:

Newly formed cocoon

This is one of the Ken's Yellow cocoons. The colour is just in the gum on the outside of the silk: if you process it normally, you will end up with white silk. Or you can leave the gum on and have a stiff, yellow silk.

A yellow cocoon

It takes a silkworm about 2 days to spin a complete cocoon, and they stay in the cocoon for about a week before emerging. I don't want these guys to emerge as moths, but I do want them to spin as much silk as possible, so on Friday I will be baking them in the oven to kill them in place. Then I can reel the silk off the cocoons.



OK, not exactly toddlers, but the silkworms are growing quickly. It's lots of fun to sit and watch them walk around and eat.

Older silkworms

See those little dots of black stuff? That's caterpillar poop. You can also see that they're doing a nice job of eating the leaves. They seem to prefer some leaves and will all cluster on those ones, for reasons that are not obvious to me (since I've been putting leaves of same size and age down for them).

I'm using a piece of netting to give them fresh leaves, so they climb up through the net onto the new leaves and I can just lift it out and remove the old leaves.

Only maybe I'm replacing leaves too often, because usually I also have to move several worms off the old leaves at the bottom of the box. On the other hand, I don't want to encourage rot or mold, so changing the leaves more often seems like a good idea. At this point I'm changing them once a day, which doesn't seem like overkill.

Tinier worms

Some eggs have just hatched recently, so I have a mix of larger and smaller worms. I can't decide if I'm going to hate myself for keeping them all jumbled together in one box, but that's what I'm doing.



This morning, the silkworms hatched out.

Silkworms on a leaf, day one

They're teeeny tiny and sometimes they just lie there, and I spent much of the day worrying about them.

Tiny silkworms on a leaf

They haven't make huge inroads on the leaves I gave them, but I'm not sure I would notice, given how tiny they are.

Tomorrow I will move them to a covered plastic container, but for now the little box I had the eggs in works just fine.

Under the Bed


I had the dogs with me in SLO this week, because Noel was at dance camp and Rosie has a nasty hot spot (read: weeping sore) on her head that needed tending. Mostly they just sleep during the day: Goldie gets locked in the crate because she is bad when unsupervised, but Rosie will sleep on her dog bed on the floor or right by the door where she can look out at the yard.

I went out on a field trip with my studio yesterday, and when I came home, this is what I saw:

Dog paws

I don't know if it was cooler under there, or if she just wanted the comforting feeling of being in a den (that's why dogs like crates, after all). But Rosie was asleep under the bed, and she spent the rest of the evening and most of this morning there.


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Dog Love

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We drove up to Sacramento today to pick up the dogs from dog camp, where we sent them during a last-minute trip to Minnesota. We could have had them come back on the dog bus, but that would mean a dogless weekend, and my not getting to see them until next weekend.

They had a little trouble getting comfortable in the back seat of the car while we dealt with unpleasant traffic. Of course I took photos of them in their distress.

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Kitty in the Arbitratium


My irrigation lab got out early this morning, and I was left with an unplanned three hour gap in my schedule. So I walked up to the arboretum for some exercise (past the baby horsies). Rain and meetings and other things have conspired to keep me from getting to walk up there recently, so it was a nice treat.

And I met this nice kitty, who came trotting up the path and insisted that I sit down and scritch her. She was the colour of dark coffee, with nice chartreuse eyes.

Espresso kitty

After a bit of petting and socializing, she stretched, sat up, and headed off for a busy day of hunting lizards.


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Dog Emotions


Some people think dogs don't have emotions like us: love, hate, jealousy, affection. I can't imagine they've ever spent time with dogs when they say or write things like that.

Rosie and Goldie have gotten much closer in the last few months. I think Goldie thinks of Rosie as her puppy, because she will often throw Rosie to the floor (she outweighs her by nearly ten pounds) and groom her the way she would a puppy. Especially cleaning inside her ears, which elicits little groans of happiness from Rosie.

At first when we brought Goldie into the household, we were worried that they would never be friends. But time and a return of Goldie's pre-puppy energy has made a big difference, and now they like each other quite a bit.

Snuggled up

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Good Dog!


The people next door in SLO have a dog named Mac who they are trying to train. Rosie and Goldie are spending the week at the beach, and it was warm today, so we are all sitting around reading about California water law listening to Mac's training session. And every command Mac gets, the girls obey, even when Mac doesn't. So they have done "sit" and "down" and "stay" over and over for the last half hour, each time hopefully looking at me, as if to say, "See, we know this stuff. Where're our cookies?"

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More Beach Time


We all like piccies of the dogs on the beach.

Rosie found a tennis ball and she and I spent most of the time playing catch. Here she is waiting for me to kick it for her (she prefers a kicked ball to a thrown ball). Check out the surf behind her.

Rosie's ball

It was a really beautiful day: warm and sunny on the beach as opposed to the usual kind of foggy. The surf was high, and the tide was coming in, so there was a lot of running around and splashing in the water then suddenly being overtaken by a huge wave. Good fun for dogs.

Running in the waves

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Starfish Day

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It was Starfish Day at the beach yesterday. Lots of them all over the tide pools. Dozens, as opposed to the usual four or five. Lots of pink ones in addition to the usual orange. That's technical starfish language, there, folks.

First starfish

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