Tuesday, June 30, 2020

A reader writes

 
Earlier today, I received this e-mail (below) from a reader. His kind words blew me away and made my day. To be honest, I nearly cried because I was touched and honored. Thank you for sharing, sir!

"I enjoy your blog so much! I’m currently 'wilding' my yard from lawn to mostly natives and wildlife-tasty plants. My change came about largely because of your blog and the 'Oh gee, oh wow!' attitude you have to critters. I’m even enjoying my snails, who much prefer my bulbine to my roses. I’d never have thought to let them be before I encountered your enthusiastic blog. Before, I just had a typical yard–lawn and mustache hedge. It looked just like the neighbors' and had no reference to Texas except when it came time to pay the city for water. Now there is zero lawn-grass, and my neighbors have had nothing but complements. Thanks for the inspiration." 

P.S. I just have to mention my good friend, Jeff B. from Houston. He’s a long-time blog reader of mine, and he’ll tell you that this blog has inspired him as well. Thank you, everyone!!!!!! 

Seeding our rural land

Last Sunday afternoon, James and I drove our to our rural land northwest of Blanco. He spends a LOT of time out there, clearing cedar and making paths. I wanted to spread some antelope horn seeds that I'd harvested from the Meadow. We already have the  species out there, but I'm hoping more will grow. We've also found Texas milkweed and zizotes milkweed on our land. 

Here's just a few cool plants and critters I found during our Sunday outing....
 Two-striped mermiria (I think) that landed on me
 Texas bush-clover
 One of two HUGE great mulleins
 Green lynx on great mullein

Friday, June 26, 2020

When ironweeds cross?

 
So several of these volunteers popped up in the back yard near our ironweeds and Blanco crabapple tree. What were they? Four o'clocks? No. Hmmm, what could they be?  
In the meantime, our western ironweed (Vernonia baldwinii) has grown like gangbusters this summer. Look how tall they are compared to Prima! Oh, yes, that's Ms. Prima Donna de Hearn. She claimed us 10 days after we buried our last elderly cat last Feburary. She reigns as queen of this place now.
Our western ironweed from another angle.
 A close up of the western ironweed's leaves and flowers.
Now take a look at our woolly ironweed (Vernonia lindheimeri), which is also growing quite well. Prima insisted on being in another picture. She's a snowshoe calico with blue eyes.
A close up of the woolly ironweed's leaves and flowers.
Now take another look (above) at our volunteer plant. Then check out its leaves and flowers below....it's an IRONWEED. But the leaves are wider than a woolly ironweed. I have no clue what happened. Do you?

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Deer, be gone!

Part of this story starts with a little ice plant that I bought earlier this month at Blanco Gardens here in town. I love to keep one ice plant in a pot in the back yard during the summer. Well, last week, I bent over to walk over my ice plant and THIS (photo above) is what I found! NOTHING! Something had eaten ALL OF IT.

I was not happy. 

Right away, James and I concluded who to blame–DEER!

The other part of this story is...for more than 12 years, we enjoyed our deer-free back yard encircled by a chain-link fence. We could plant any plant we wanted back there, and the deer didn't bother it. A few times, we even dug up nibbled plants from the front yard and transplanted them to a safe haven in the back yard.

WELL.....

Our happy deer-free zone ended probably late last year. Evidently, one learned how to hop the fence, and a few others followed, always during the dark of night. Then last week, we saw a doe leisurely strolling down a garden path IN THE AFTERNOON. She looked like she was in heaven. James chased her out. 

It was time to DO SOMETHING! 

The front yard is theirs. The back yard is OURS.

Here what James figured out and implemented:

He purchased 6-foot studded T-posts at Tractor Supply that he wired to the fence poles every 10 feet. We ordered three packages of Fencer Wire (2x100-feet 14-gauge welded wire fence with 2x4-inch mesh) from Home Depot. He then wired that to the poles. For gates, he wired on metal trellises. Everything looks great and should do the job.



So guess what I did today? I went back to Blanco Gardens and bought me another ice plant. So, THERE, deer!

Monday, June 15, 2020

Gift bags in the Meadow update

I'm happy to report that the organza gift bags that I tied around the antelope-horn seedpods at the end of May worked! They kept the milkbugs out and the seeds from dispersing when the pods popped open. So I've been able to harvest a hefty amount of seeds. I'm also reusing the bags and putting them around pearl milkweed seedpods.
Some milkbugs got into this bag, but I untied the bag and removed them. I bet they hatched inside the bag.





Cenizos in bloom!

You know what that means!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Gift bags in the Meadow

This year, we have a healthy crop of seedpods on our antelope-horns (Asclepias asperula) in the Meadow. We also usually have a healthy population of large milkweed bugs (Oncopeltus fasicatus), which love to feed on our milkweeds. I understand they need to make a living, too, but I'd like to have as many seeds as I can get. That said, I'm trying out an idea that Janna B. suggested a few years ago. I purchased a package of 50 4x6-inch organza gift bags. As you can see, we covered and tied the bags over a good number of seedpods. The bags allow air to circulate but hopefully keep the bugs out. We shall see!


Thursday, May 7, 2020

The next day (wasp saga Part 2)

This morning, I checked, and the wasp lady was still on the unplugged fountain. I turned on the fountain, and she didn't mind the rushing water at all. When I looked later, she was gone. 

A few minutes, I checked the fountain for fun, and THERE SHE WAS AGAIN, enjoying the water (see video). She's crazy! 

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Wasp on the fountain

GRAB A TOWEL! After supper, I was filling up bird baths when I noticed something hanging onto the fountain finial. What the heck was it? An umbrella paper wasp, enjoying the water! I took some videos and photos. Then James and I went out to have our evening sit in the Meadow. That was after 6 p.m. 

When we returned after 7:30 p.m., the wasp was still hanging out in the water! Check out the videos. She reminded me of the tumbling flower beetle I discovered doing the same thing last June. So crazy!







Cover photo and feature May 2020

This is one of the biggest highlights of my professional career–having one of my photographs appear on the cover of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. More so because of my deep love for spiders and also because I've written for the magazine for more than 30 years. Don't you love how art director Nathan Adams made my photo of an Argiope aurantia from our yard even more special? 

Here's a link to my article, "In My Backyard: How Planting Natives and  Paying Attention Opened My Eyes To The Universe That Lives In My Yard."

Oh, and here's a fun "behind the scenes" post about how the staff changed up and turned out the May issue so fast because of the pandemic. I helped!
Melissodes bees roosting

My video debut

So our local librarian asked if I'd do a nature-related video for kids during these stay-home days. I agreed. And went all out. I should have kept it simple. Instead, I learned how to use iMovie. I think I put in 8 or more hours producing this 5-minute episode. I haven't been inspired to do another one. Yet. We'll see.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Milkweed survey 2020

I'm working to get an accurate head count of antelope-horns in the Meadow. I think it's 15.