Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What we've been up to...

Yikes, I've been remiss in my blogging lately! So here I am to catch up some. Above, that's the chunk of live oak branch that fell during Tropical Storm Hermine a few weeks ago. As you can see, we're putting it to use in our Wildscape. Since it's late in the season, we planted some petunias. So far, they seem to be doing well.

Below is our brand new limestone patio. A crew did the work last weekend. It turned out pretty nice. Down the road, we may have it enlarged.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Totally random and off the subject...

Yesterday, someone emailed me, asking if I knew the source of an online interview with Rev. Rick Warren that's EVERYWHERE on the Internet. Anne C. had found a posting I'd written two years ago, asking the same question of journalist Paul Bradshaw. I'm a big believer in checking out sources and not assuming everything you read on the Net is accurately or even properly cited (if cited at all).

Bradshaw never bothered to respond, but my posting remains on his site. In 2008, I ended up getting my answer when I directly wrote someone with Warren's group. But I didn't file the information nor did I remember the answer. So I wrote Anne back and said I'd ask Warren's people again. Which I did.

Awhile ago, David Chrzan, Warren's chief of staff, wrote me back. Here is the proper source for the Warren article:

"The interview you’re referring to was conducted in February 2004 by Jim Dailey, the Executive Editor for Decision magazine, a publication of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association. The information that’s been circulating on the internet that Paul Bradshaw conducted this interview is incorrect. Here’s the link to the original article from Decision magazine’s November 2004 issue and you’re free to quote from it giving the proper credit."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Catch up time...

Two Sundays ago, my cousin, Kristen Perkins, spent the afternoon with us. While we were out in the back yard, walking around, she noticed something on the ground....a VERY tattered, big moth, attracting an arsenal of ants. I gently picked it up, blew the ants off, then set it atop some turk's cap leaves. When I checked back later, it was gone.

Fast forward four days when I happened to spot ANOTHER moth of the same species, which I think is an imperial (Eacles imperialiso). I'm guessing that this one was a male who caught whiff of our tattered moth, who was a girl sending out super-duper pheromones. Moths do that to attract mates. A year or so ago, James once brought home an imperial moth from a ranch located 10 miles away, and we set it out in the Wildscape. We were amazed when, a few days later, another imperial moth showed up!

Isn't nature just amazing?

Below is a photo of the large piece of oak limb that recently broke off during Tropical Storm Hermine. We decide that we'd incorporate the chunk into our Wildscape. We're going to plant some plants in it sometime. All that dark stuff is lovely squirrel poop, which will be incorporated as well!

Our Mexican salvia (Salvia mexicana) is finally blooming!

And the fruit on our American beautyberry is absolutely stunning!

Odd bee behavior

The other evening, James and I were sitting outside in the back yard, enjoying the cooler temps.

"What IS that sound?" I asked. "Do you hear that buzzing?" James nodded.

We got up and looked around but couldn't find anything. But we kept hearing the low humming. Finally, we got back up and kept looking.Then, we realized that the sound was coming from bees. Bees that were buzzing around the live oak limbs. Upon closer examination, we saw that the bees were visiting empty hulls from which acorns had dropped. Just for grins, I picked one and tasted the inside. Hmmm, slightly sweet!

This evening, in spite of the horse-sized mosquitoes, I managed to get one good photo of a bee visiting a live oak plus several other photos. Gotta document the behavior!

Time to ask for an expert's opinion!

UPDATE–SEPTEMBER 17, 2010– Sheryl: There may be something odd going on with your oaks, but the usual reason one encounters a lot of honey bees on oaks during the summer or fall is that they are harvesting honeydew–the sugary excretions–basically just sap–produced by various phloem feeding aphids, scales, and treehoppers.

John L. Neff
Central Texas Melittological Institute

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Good rain, bad break

It's nearly 7 p.m., and we're still getting rain from Tropical Storm Hermine (probably 4+ inches of rain so far). Which is good. Real good. However, when I looked out a front window this afternoon, this is what I saw....

...a bad break. A huge limb had broken off and fallen onto our garden beds. It was a very sad sight, like losing a piece of a dear friend. Right away, I e-mailed our county biologist with the Texas Forest Service, asking about whether we'd need to worry about painting the wound (a preventative measure against oak wilt).

Right away, Robert Edmonson responded: "Are you planning on sawing off the broken part and making a proper pruning cut? If so, paint it then. If not, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. It is best to paint all wounds; however, this time of year is the least likely to get oak wilt introduced into the tree via spore-carrying sap beetle."

That made us feel better. Because the break is WAY up in the tree. It'd be hard to find someone who help us get up there and get the cut painted.

When the rains let up some after supper, James ventured outside with his camera and got these photos. The picture below shows the INSIDE of the limb that fell. It was hollow and evidently a long-time squirrel den (complete with bathroom).

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Snow in September and June, too

A few weeks ago, James noticed a very pretty, variegated plant growing happily in a front bed, right next to our big common sunflower. "Do you know what it is?" he asked me. No, I said, "I'm going to wait and see how it flowers." That's all it took–one bloom–and I figured it out. "That's snow on the mountain," I told James.

If you're out and about driving, you'll see LOTS of snow on the mountain in bloom right now, especially in fields and pastures. I guess some bird dropped off some seeds in our yard because I've never seen it growing around here.

By the way, see if you can find the three critters in the photo above (click on it for a bigger view)...I didn't see the eight-legged one at first. She was lurking under the flowers.

In the meantime, our welcome rain of 1+ inches two days ago must have our resident green June beetles into action. They're flying and buzzing and bumping into everything right now. Maybe they just pupated?