Saturday, December 15, 2018

Headline news!

 We made the front page of the Blanco County News this past week!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Suet for our feathered friends

We had another freeze last night. Which reminded me to do something that I'd been wanting to do: Make suet for the birds. So this morning I made a small batch (recipe below) and hung up a feeder. Within MINUTES, a titmouse showed up! 

No-Melt Suet
1/4 cup lard

1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup cornmeal
In a glass container, soften lard and peanut butter in the microwave. Mix well; add dry ingredients and mix well some more. Chill in refrigerator until firm. Form into small balls. Store extras in the refrigerator. (I used plain peanut butter this morning.)

Through-the-window photo by James...thank you, James!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Rescue adventures

Common buckeye
This afternoon I returned to the grape hyacinth site to collect more morning glory seeds. A buckeye on the nearly bare ground caught my eye. I nearly cried. Such beauty in such desolate surroundings. This vacant lot is just that–a long-ignored plot of land that contains dirt piles, rocks, broken glass, assorted native and weedy plants, the sweet little bulbs, and a population of an uncommon morning glory species.

While squatting down to pick seedpods, some odd-looking plants startled me. See them in the photo above? Then I got a closer look–it was a big bird grasshopper!
I scooped up the grasshopper and set it on the slope of a nearby dirt pile. "If you're still there on my way out, you can go home with me," I said. "It's up to you." I figured since the lot will be paved over in the near future, I might as well save some critters, too.
In between collecting, I spotted a wasp I'd seen there before. Meet Compsocryptus texensis, a harmless ichneumoid wasp. Females, like this one, have long ovipositors, which can be mistaken for stingers. I think they're beautiful, too.
After half an hour, I decided to call it quits and head home. Yes, my grasshopper friend was still on the dirt pile, waiting for me. So off we went!

Together, we walked out to the Meadow, where I released it.

While collecting seeds close to where the grasshopper was, I saw a dime-sized mama wolf spider scuttling through the dead vines. She was carrying a tiny egg sac in her spinnerets. You can probably guess what happened next. Yes, I scooted her into my plastic collection bag. Then I carefully carried the bag back to my car, where I gently laid the bag on the back seat. Then I grabbed an envelope to replace the plastic bag and went back to collecting.
After I released the grasshopper, then it was her turn. (In left photo, she's in top right hand corner of the plastic bag.)
 Alas, she was missing two legs.

I released my spider friend in the back yard, where the foliage is still fairly thick. Now her progeny will be protected in our Wildscape. Welcome!

Beware the dastardly ligustrum

I've hated despicable wax-leaf ligustrum (Ligustrum japonicum) since I was a kid. And that was even before I learned how invasive this terrible species can be. Back then, my father–like a lot of homeowners in the 1960s–planted them around our yard in Corpus Christi. Several times a year, Dad hedged them, and we kids had to carry the leggy trimmings across the street to a vacant lot. Oh, how I hated yard work and THEM! 

Fast forward to now, and I'm extremely aggravated with horrible ligustrums because they're sprouting EVERYWHERE in our Wildscape. I think the recent abundant rains must have provided optimum germinating conditions for the heinous seeds. At any rate, I'm pulling as many as I can as fast as I can.

They're pretty darn good at blending into other foliage. Can you spot the wicked ligustrum in the grouping above?
 There it is.
Going, going.....
At LEAST reprehensible wax-leaf ligustrums are easy and effortless to yank up. That's the ONLY good thing about 'em!

Where there's a crack, there's a way

Sometimes, what we do to save a piece of nature, can seem a bit extreme. Then, out of the blue, nature surprises us with an incredible miracle, and we stand by amazed. This surprising story stems from our grape hyacinth bulb rescue, which included discovery of a rare population of Edwards Plateau morning-glory
When I spotted what I believed to be Hill Country rain lilies (Cooperia pedunculata) that morning, James got out his shovel and dug up the ones I couldn't get with my hand trowel. The bulbs were HUGE. On the last one, James hit rock. He kept digging and hit MORE rock. Around and around he dug until he finally lifted up the limestone boulder. The bulb was growing INSIDE THE ROCK! A paper-thin seed had somehow slipped inside a crack, germinated, and kept growing, probably for years. How could we ever save it?

"Oh, forget it, James," I said. "It's not worth all this work."

"No, I'm not giving up now!" he replied.     

So James kept digging and digging and digging.

Finally, he unearthed the rock, bulb and all. At first, he offered to bust the rock apart to retrieve the bulb. But I thought a bit. "Can we take the whole thing?" I proposed. Without so much of a grimace, he agreed. Then James lifted up the rock and set it in the back seat of his Corolla. Later, he guessimated that the rock must have weighed at least 50 pounds.

Back at home, he dug a hole in a bed and set the rock, bulb and all, in the ground. So now we have a Hill Country rain lily grouping, complete with boulder, in our Wildscape. We'll see what happens next spring!