Friday, July 31, 2009

Buckets of cenizo blooms

The phone rang a half hour ago. "Get your camera, Sheryl! I've got something I want to show you, and if it rains or the wind blows, it'll be GONE!" exclaimed my neighbor, Monta Knoll. She was breathless with excitement.

"OK, I'll be right over," I said, feeling a bit puzzled.

"No, I'll be in your driveway, waiting for you!" Monta responded.

So off we went, my camera in tow. A few minutes later, we pulled up to our Gem of the Hills Community Center, where I spotted the stunning sight right away–a huge cenizo (Leucophyllum frutescens) in FULL BLOOM! Wow! It's absolutely stunning. I've never seen a larger specimen! Most likely, our recent rains (which–sorry, Lord–haven't amounted to much) triggered the blooms.

"I just had to call you," Monta said, smiling as we headed back to the house. "You've got to put it on your blog!"

And I sure did, Monta. Thank you thank you thank you!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Close-up encounters

It's been too long. I haven't blogged for a few weeks. I just don't have the heart to take my camera outside and wander around. Too painful. We water our plants in the early morning, sometimes before daybreak. They're alive. That's pretty much it. The rest of the day we stay inside due to the heat.

I know nature works in cycles. This drought won't last forever. We've been through some before, although not this bad. The rains will return. They always do.

Wonderfully, this afternoon, I felt a little of my spirit return. I walked across the street to check on my neighbor's cat, Tack (short for "attack" cat), who primarily stays under the bed. All day. After I'd made sure her food and water dishes were full, I filled up two jugs and carried them outside to water some potted plants. As I poured water on some little yellow flowers, a pair of bees caught my eye. I paused and watched as one bee kept a territorial guard over the flowers. As soon as the other bee landed on a bloom, the guard bee would buzz over and literally bump it off. I laughed. I'd seen the same bee behavior around some of our salvia blooms. It's funny to watch.

Back at the house and before supper, I looked down the dining room floor and saw....

....this big, beautiful wolf spider lady. Isn't she gorgeous? Those are an assortment of dead isopods (pillbugs) around her. Please pay no mind to them! I'll clean them up. I promise!

Then I walked outside to hang a hummingbird feeder back up and spotted a mosquito-looking insect on the woolly butterfly bush. Hmmm. But it couldn't be a mosquito because it was feeding on a bloom! Time to get the camera, Sheryl. Time to investigate!

I'm guessing it's a longlegged fly species. However, it's feeding on a flower, not aphids or some other tiny insect. I may be incorrect in my guess. I need to do a little more research...

And boy, did it feel GREAT to feel curious and be in our Wildscape again!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hot but hydrated

Gulf coast toad
Bufo valliceps

Yet another day of 100+ temperatures lies ahead for us and wildlife as well. The half inch of rain last week was such a blessing, but more more more is needed. This morning, while selectively watering the back yard plants, I spotted not one but two toads, separately soaking in two of our ground-level bird baths. I know the treated city water can't be good for a toad's skin, but what other choice do they have right now?

I looked up the species and decided our back-yard residents must be Gulf coast toads. The dark lateral stripes along either sides of their bellies plus the light stripe running down their backs are the distinguishing marks.

Please keep praying for the rains to return, everyone! Central Texas is really suffering. So are parts of California.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009

Drops on the driveway

I can't believe it. There are drops on our driveway! Lots of them! I can even hear a little thunder. So, finally, after so very long, rain is falling! Not much but some. I pulled out a lawn chair, sat in the garage and just watched it for a little bit. Then I went in the house and got my camera.

In the past few weeks, I just haven't had the heart to blog. We put a little water on our plants, but that's all we can do. Other than mulch. And it's been way too hot to even do that. In the meantime, the plants have just wilted wilted wilted. The Gulf fritillary caterpillars have eaten all the passionflower leaves so I guess the little ones probably starved.

Wow, I can actually HEAR it raining outside now! Thank you, Lord! We need your moisture here so very, very much. Nature suffers more and more each day that goes by without rain. Personally, the sadness I see outside weighs me down so much.

Thank you, Lord, for this rain. Thank you.

UPDATE–James reported that we got a whole half-inch of rain! I walked around our Wildscape a while ago and just felt so amazed. Thanks to that little bit of wetness, most of the plants looked like they'd come back to life!

On one of our passionflower vines, I moved a middle-sized caterpillar to what was left of one leaf. Poor little guy. I hope he makes it to the chrysalis stage!!

Thank you, Lord, for the rain!!! Thank you so much!