Tuesday, October 28, 2014

New nightshade and milkweed!

This past weekend, I attended the Texas Master Naturalist state conference at MO Ranch near Hunt, Texas. I always enjoy meeting and visiting with other Naturalists and nature experts. For instance, I got to see my friend, wildlife biologist Ricky Linex, who's with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Saturday morning, I took his "Plant ID by Family Association" class. As part of his program, he had rooted specimens of a mystery species that we keyed out as a class. They turned out to be Texas nightshade. You might guess what I was wishing and hoping...

"If any of y'all want to take these home, go right ahead," Ricky drawled. (I LOVE to him talk...his accent is REAL TEXAN.) "Just plant'em, and they should take off."  

Oh, happy day! I INSTANTLY raised my hand! Needless to say, I bagged three nightshades with roots.

At the conference's silent auction, someone brought native plants, including four species of milkweed. (Another "Oh, happy day!") We already have antelope horn in our Meadow but not swamp, slim or green. I jotted down a bid for each. Later, another lady outbid me on all of them. Hmmm. I didn't want to be mean. Maybe I should just concentrate on "winning" one? So back in my room, I checked out the three species online and learned that only green milkweed (Asclepias viridis) occurs in our area. Long story short, I got to take home my green milkweed baby! 

I planted all my new friends yesterday in our Wildscape. Welcome to our home, y'all! And thank you, Ricky!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Lost Ladybug Project


Spotted this tiny lady beetle on my arm last Saturday while attending the Texas Master Naturalist state meet at MO Ranch near Hunt. He/she's been confirmed by the Lost Ladybug Project experts as a Brachiacantha quadripunctata. You can see my other contributions to this citizen science project here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sue's suet recipe

Here's an email from Sue K. with our Texas Master Naturalist Highland Lakes Chapter:

I am seeing a lot of our fall and winter birds on migration starting to show up at our feeders and out in the lake! This is my very favorite time of the year and we can start counting birds again for the Cornell lab of Ornithology. So it is also time for y'all to start making suet if you haven't already. I am sending out my recipe and the birds will love you for making it for them. Don't forget that FeederWatch starts on November 8th. Happy fall, y'all, and start counting those birds!

Suet Recipe
1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 cup of lard

2 cups of quick cook oats

2 cups of corn meal

1 cup of flour

Melt lard and peanut butter in microwave or over low heat. Stir in remaining ingredients and pour into square freezer containers about 1/2 inch thick to fit your suet baskets. Store in freezer until ready to use. This makes about six suet cakes. If you want to add nuts to this recipe the birds love the addition.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Friday outing to our land

Zizotes milkweed going to seed!
Plenty of healthy antelope horns, another milkweed.

We LOVE our Indiangrass!

A mystery species.....probably sweet everlasting
(Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium).

Lindheimer muhly is also gorgeous and TALL.

A teeny tiny mystery species.

A greenbrier without thorns?

And a MAGNIFICENT twist leaf yucca!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Master Gardeners tour our gardens

Carol Rankin and Glenn Bishop gave us a copy of How to Grow More Than Rocks in Blanco County, Texas, published this year by the Master Gardener Association of Blanco County.
This afternoon, we enjoyed hosting the monthly meeting for members of the Blanco County Master Gardeners. Everyone arrived at 1 p.m., then James and I gave garden tours. Afterward, they held their business meeting. The weather was PERFECT! Thank you for sharing our Texas Wildscape with us!

James helped set up chairs. I counted more than 20 heads.
They loved our new patio and fire pit.
I gave a brief overview of our native gardens and how to certify for a Texas Wildscape.

I warned our neighbors that there'd be lots of parked cars along our street today!

During the meeting, members discussed their first Gardening FUNdamentals event held last Saturday at the Blanco High School. (I was there during the morning half to share about spiders and had a great time.) They're planning to host another one next fall. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Brick patio update (we've got a fire pit!)

Our newest garden addition is, I'd say, officially complete! Last week, Matt Rios with Matt's Custom Welding in Fredericksburg delivered our custom-made gas fire pit. See the emblems he had cut out in each quadrant? They represent our Texas Wildscape! With James' approval, I selected: a lizard to symbolize the lizards, frogs, snakes, and other crawly critters that inhabit our gardens; a hummingbird for our birds; a leaf for the plants and trees; and OF COURSE a SPIDER for the insects, butterflies, caterpillars, spiders and other buggy creatures (the spider's for ME, too!). Matt did a really nice job on our pit.

Today, we drove up to Progress Waste Solutions (IESI) south of Johnson City to pick up some crushed glass to go around the fire pit. The glass is free; you just have to take your own containers and load it up yourself. As you can see, they've got TONS of it! Then James arranged it around the pit's base. Looks pretty good! 

New additions (native plant sale!)

Well, folks, I wasn't gonna do it. I even told James that I wouldn't. "James, you're in luck this year," I said. "You don't have to go to the October native plant sale at the Wildflower Center." I just figured whatever we'd plant probably wouldn't make it over the winter. Then I looked back at last fall's purchases....we only lost two.

So off we went Sunday morning! As always, we had the best time. Here are our new additions:
Golden dalea (2)  
Salvia greggi 'Raspberry'
Snapdragon vine 'Red' (2)

(also a baby yellow yucca and tahoka daisy)

I also received a tropical butterflyweed from the Blanco County Master Gardeners chapter Saturday (I talked about spiders with visitors during the morning half of their Gardening FUNdamentals). Thank you!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Monarch kids!

Look what I just spotted on our butterflyweed! Not one but TWO monarch caterpillars! Ran into the house to grab my point-and-shoot. That's when I noticed the second child. Yay! I think they're close to pupating. They're definitely very well fed, as you can see. 

I also took a short video (posted below) of some strange "head knocking" behavior. I'll ask some experts what they think about that and get back to you.