Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Birds near and far

At dusk last night I was thrilled to see the cardinal parents feeding a fledgling out in my backyard. As mom and dad were seeing to her needs, three adolescent males - likely from an earlier brood - came to check out my flower bed and feast on lantana berries. They were a motley group, not fully red. They squabbled over the berries but they seemed to be evenly matched. Everyone got their share.
While this is happening here in Austin, 2000 miles away my ex-husband is hosting a robin's nest in the ficus tree on his back porch. She's not camera shy as you can see.
Mom picks the perfect spot

And lays her eggs

She patiently broods

The babies are here!

First meal from mom.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Eyes of Texas

It's Tuesday and that means class number three of the Sustainable Landscaping course I'm taking at the Wildflower Center thru their Go Native U courses. I was running a little late and rushed past the plants and ponds to get to the classroom. I stepped into the Visitor's Gallery and decided to take a couple of seconds and put away my keys and sunglasses. The Visitor's Gallery is a large room that is used for all kinds of things, like gatherings preceding a public speaker or silent auctions, as well as its day to day purpose - a place to display currently blooming flowers, and other functions. But as I stepped in this evening it was completely empty. I went about my busy-ness, mindless to my surroundings. Mindless until I heard The Eyes of Texas coming out of invisible speakers. I put everything down, took in the empty room, and listened to the entire song. When I turned to go down the stairs to the classroom, there was the photo of Ladybird Johnson. I am so, so grateful to her and grateful to be back in Texas.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Slimy Saturday; movie Sunday

Warning, this blogpost contains graphic images!
Yesterday I went to the Natural Gardener and bought plants for my Hell Strip (as Cheryl calls it). I thought I might put them out today but it's looking more like it will happen tomorrow. At the Natural Gardener I bought a new copy of an old book I had years ago - Worms Eat My Garbage. I came home and started flipping thru it and was inspired to sort thru my worm compost bin. I laid out some clear plastic and dumped the contents of the bin on it. Then I separated the black pile of compost into about a dozen piles. The worms wriggled down to the bottom of each pile to escape the light. I sorted thru those piles for about an hour and a half. Here is one (yes, only one) pile of worms I scooped up for a photo op.

Yikes! I took the compost they had created and put some of it in a bed where I put out the three tomato plants that my friend Marie had given me. The rest will have a similar fate in a few days as I make new beds. Then I got the bin ready for the worms to do their work by layering shredded newspaper and topsoil and tossing a fresh pile of peach skins for them to start working on.

And as if that wasn't enough creepy fun for one weekend, I found this when I was digging to prep the bed for tomatoes. This is the second one of these I've found in the yard. I've gotta' find out what they are. But that's for later because my son is taking me to see Star Trek - the new movie. Nature later, movie now.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A day of volunteering

It’s early on a Sunday morning. I went to bed super early last night after an exhausting day of volunteering. I spent three hours in the morning with Theresa and Gloria, climbing up and down some very rugged terrain, searching for invasive plants on one of the BCP tracts. At one point we thought we might have to scale a wall but we found a way around it. At the top of that was a mesa with a little stand of flax amidst a pile of limestone rocks. Small pockets of moss took advantage of the sun. After a short breather, we started our descent. For all that efforts of the morning, we found one 3 ft. tall nandina. We cataloged it and denuded it of blooms and berries. At a point on our descent I saw the most beautiful little spider. It was probably in the Theridiidae family, no more than 3 mm, lying belly up in its tangled web amongst branches. It was green with a shiny copper spot on its belly. It was worth all the pain and discomfort of the day to see that little creature. Here are some photos of our BCP invasive hunt:

Devil's shoestring. Not an invasive plant.

Daddy Longlegs

Gloria trying to scale a rock wall. Ha!

Theresa and Gloria identifying a plant

Orange mushrooms in the leaf litter

Life persists

After we completed our survey, I drove home and had a quick lunch, shower, and 20 min power nap. Then it was off to the Wildflower Center for an afternoon of vegetation surveying on their research plots. The plots we surveyed were quite a distance from the center so we got to ride on “gators”, the motorized Kawasaki 4 wheelers they use to get around out there. The ride to and fro was a delight. Imagine perfect weather, tall stands of purple three awn grasses bent over in the breeze, spots of color everywhere from the blooming wildflowers, all accented with bright yellow prickly pear blooms. There were just a handful of us and we were all ready to start our weekends so we got down to business and surveyed our plots. I’m pretty sure I can now distinguish these grasses: purple three awn, spear grass, love grass, fall witch grass, and side oats gramma. Plus the “bad” grasses like King Ranch Bluestem, Johnson grass, and rescue grass.

My ride out to the research plot - one of the gators

The real experts return from the field - Dick and Jeannine (foreground) work at WFC and seem to know everything - but in a nice way.