Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Meet Senna

Sept. 8, 2023
This is little Senna. She is a Lindheimer's senna (Senna lindheimeriana). I germinated her from seed a couple of months ago. She was the only one to sprout from among three different species of legumes that I stuck in pots. She and I are very close. Whenever I go to my mother's house, Senna goes with me. In the car, I set her snugly between my legs. I watch over her very closely. Just ask James or my mother.

Sept. 26, 2023

Senna is descended from a Lindheimer's senna that grew on a ranch near the Devil's Backbone in Hays County. I also have another Lindheimer's senna that lives in a pot on our front porch. I gathered the senna seeds when my daughter was renting the upstairs apartment of a barndominium on the ranch back in 2018. 
For the last couple of years, my front-porch senna has been producing its own seed. And it will again this year. I hope to plant this older senna in our gardens next spring. But I'm a little hesitant because we bought and planted a Lindheimer's senna in April 2013, and it later died. I should feel more positive because a herd of deer live in our neighborhood, and they don't bother my senna. As you can see from the photos. Aren't the blooms just beautiful? And they smell good, too!


A sad mystery

Look what I happened to find on our back patio a few days ago....a deceased Texas blind snake (Leptotyphlops dulcis). The mystery to me is that it apparently tied itself in knots around a piece of grass. Then died? I have no clue. But I found a little box for its body and placed it my cigar box of nature treasures. Poor thing.


Below is a blind snake (found on The Reptile Database) that's coiled similarly to mine.....

Saturday, August 5, 2023

Useful Wild Plants

Scooter Cheater (Photo courtesy of Useful Wild Plants)

Years ago Scooter Cheatham asked a classroom of high school sophomores to figure out how plants play a role in everything around them. As an example, he challenged them to connect plants to a pair of scissors. The Austin students, hoping for an easy answer, contacted the manufacturer. “There are no plants in our scissors,” a representative emailed back.

The response forced the teens to do their research. Ultimately “they learned that the manufacturing of steel to make scissors requires coal,” Cheatham says. “The orange plastic handles are derived from petrochemicals. The students also realized that the company representative was as ‘plant blind’ as everyone else about the importance of plants in our lives.”

They matter so much, in fact, that Cheatham has made them his lifelong mission. Plants support our food, health and industry—even contributing to the formation of coal and petrochemicals. For more than 50 years, he and his collaborators have worked to compile the ultimate reference encyclopedia: The Useful Wild Plants of Texas, the Southeastern and Southwestern United States, the Southern Plains, and Northern Mexico. ……..

To continue reading my Texas Co-op Power magazine article (August 2023), link to "Make Your Shelf Useful." 

P.S. Of course, I had to purchase all four volumes. 

From one extreme to another

So far, I have NOT been impressed with this decade! Last January and February, I meant to post about our rough ice storm. But I never could bring myself to write about those days. It was hard. Lots of tree damage and downed lines. James took these photos in our yard and dug the images out for me this morning to post. I thought, Man, what a year of contrasts. From one extreme to another.

We had nice spring rains, and everything bloomed with happiness. Then BOOM – now we're in the midst of a rough summer with high temperatures and no rain. Breaks my heart when I go outside and see my native plant friends suffering. We've been on strict water regs so we haven't been able to hand water with the hose very much. In years past, we drug the hose around to keep plants alive as needed through July and August. I use the A/C drip water in our bucket to put around where I can. I hope God sends rains soon. Everyone is sure praying for that!

And now here's where we are...

I know our Blanco crabapple tree will survive, but it's suffering, too.


Monday, July 17, 2023

Knock, knock (Part 2)

[Disclaimer: Read blog post "Something's not right– Part 1" FIRST.]

Folks, the oddest thing happened this morning. Someone knocked at our front door. Image my surprise when I saw the BLANCO MAYOR standing on our porch!

* * *

Mayor: "Good morning, ma'am. Sorry to bother you, but I'm here on official business. It's been reported that you have an abundance of [cough, cough] moonscapes in your yard?"

Me: Moonscapes? 

Mayor: Yes, ma'am. That's what I was told. 

Me: Hmmm, moonscapes. [Scratches chin] Who told you that?

Mayor: I'm not at liberty to say, ma'am. [Whispers] Top secret, ma'am.

Me: Oh, okay. Moonscapes, hmmm–

Mayor: [Nods]


Mayor: Yes, yes? Don't keep me on pins and needles, ma'am.

Me: Those are ANTLION DENS–

Mayor: Ants? Lions? Dens? [looks aghast]

Me: [SMILES] Oh, yes. Don't worry, they're quite harmless and quite cool. Come on in. [Holds door open] I'll tell you all about them. How about some sweet tea?

Mayor: Well, that sounds lovely, ma'am. But hold on – I gotta call The President back. Oops!– [Covers mouth with hand]


* * * 

Antlions (Myrmeleon sp.)


Above: A juvenile bug fell into a den this morning in our front yard.


Above: That same bug somehow escapes into the cone while the antlion continues to knock out dirt. 

This summer's extreme heat and dry conditions have apparently boosted the number of antlion larvae in our yard. This morning, as I sidestepped as many dens as I could, I thought how communities of their upside-down cones reminded me of the moon. Moonscapes, I thought. And a fun idea was born.... 

Check out these antlion videos:

Antlion Death Trap

This Antlion is a Devious, Cold-Blooded Killer

Antlion Traps and Devours Victim

From larva...

...to adult!

"Something's not right–" (Part 1)

Radio conversation overheard this morning:

International Space Station (ISS): "ISS to NASA. Something odd to report. Do you read us?"

NASA: "Yes, ISS, we read you. Hey, ya homies, whaz up? Havin' fun up there?" 

ISS: "Uh– We just passed over Blanco, Texas, NASA. It appears that something's not quite right down there–"

NASA: "Like what? Do we need to notify the White House?" [Chuckle]

ISS: "Uh, hold off on that for now–"

NASA: "Well, what do you see? Must not be that big of a deal."

ISS: "Moonscapes–"

NASA: "Moonscapes, ISS? Hey, is this your cocktail hour up there?" [Snicker]

ISS: "No. [Unintelligible words] YES, NASA. We repeat MOONSCAPES. LOTS of moonscapes. Especially in one area on Ninth Street."

NASA: "Okay, okay, don't get your panties in a wad. Got some images for us?" [More snickers]

ISS: Just sent. Should be in your inbox now–"


Radio silence–

ISS: "Hello? ISS to NASA? You still read us?

More radio silence–

ISS: "Hello, hello?"

Continued radio silence–

ISS: "Guys, I think NASA hung up on us–"

NASA: "No, we're still here, ISS. Images received. Uh, [cough, cough] we're on this like June on a bug. Have a call into the Blanco mayor and The President, too. We'll have this issue resolved ASAP. Good job, ISS."

ISS: Ten four, NASA. Thanks so much for your (unintelligible words) help. Over and OUT." 



Friday, July 14, 2023

The Flies of Texas

After nearly two years in the works, my article, "The Flies of Texas," has been published in July 2023 issue of Texas Parks & Wildlife. According to my mother, who's kept meticulous notes from the start, this is my 115th article for the publication. My first stories were published in 1989 under then editor David Baxter, who gave me my first shots at magazine writing. Thank you, Mr. Baxter! (I recently wrote him a personal note.)

To date, I've documented 115 fly species in our yard using iNaturalist. Here are just a few of my fly images that didn't make the issue...

Cactus fly

Geron sp.

Fruit fly Trupanea sp.

Elephant mosquito

Eastern hornet fly

Clubbed mydas flies (making more)

Bicolored plushback

Australian sheep blow fly
Robbery fly (Efferia sp.) with fly cuisine