Sunday, August 24, 2008

A good fishing trip

I took a break the other afternoon and went fly fishing at Jack Long Falls outside of Kingsland on the Llano River. It's such a beautiful place with granite boulders sticking up out of the river and clear cool water running over the granite sand bottom. The fishing was slow but the scenery more than made up for it. There were quite a few wild flowers blooming in the heat and my fishing buddy fished away as I checked out the more interesting plants on the bank.

With the extra moisture in the ground on the river banks there were plants blooming that normally don't bloom now. Some just looked great and I thought I would share.

Lazy Daisy

Scarlet Gentian

Brown Eyed Susan [I think]

Drummond Phlox

I found this magnificent Trumpet Creeper or Cross Vine, I'm not sure which. It was truly stunning growing up an old dead Willow tree and the orange color could be seen from a long way off. I wanted it badly.

On the way back to the truck I climbed the bank to see what might be blooming on higher ground and came upon a huge field of Snow on the Prairie. Growing as thick as it was made it quite dramatic.
My fishing partner was wading his way back down stream, oblivious to my wanderings about, looking at the plant life. He was still casting his fly as I sat on the bank throwing twigs in the water and watching the Longear Sunfish come up to inspect them. Although a great friend and an all around decent person, I realized that although we were both fishermen I was an outdoorsman and he was just a fisherman. I have hunted and fished my whole life and have many friends, almost all who hunt and fish, but I am the only true outdoorsman that I know. They know of the animals they hunt and the fishes they pursue but that is the extent of their outdoor knowledge. They have no desire to learn more about nature than what they need to know. I have had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge of nature my whole life. I can't stand to move through nature and not know about the birds, the animals and the plants around me. So my little wild flower tour was great fun, a learning experience and very enjoyable.

When I got to the truck I learned that my friend hadn't caught very many fish. He thought it too hot and that we wasted our evening as the fish were not biting that well. I thought of the flowers I had seen and the pictures I had captured and knew it was only a wasted trip if you were a fisherman and not an outdoorsman.

The two Acanthus

A friend gave me a Flame Acanthus earlier this year thinking I would like it as I use a lot of natives in my gardens. I thanked her and said yes I would, not mentioning I already had a huge one and had to pull up dozens of volunteers every year. It was a good size and I decided to plant it right next to the other. I thought that spot needed more bush and two would work just fine.

The original bush bloomed right on time, drawing hummers by the score. The second, nary a bloom. I thought it might be a dud, and yes I believe in dud plants as I've had several. Well low and behold the other started to bloom just as the first was beginning to fade. The blooms also seemed to be an intense red instead of the orange color of the original and the petals were shorter and fuller as well. I certainly didn't see anything wrong with this, more blooms over a longer period, great. The hummers certainly didn't mind as they are still working it over. After their initial flush of blooms they have both bloomed sporadically all summer long, not bothered by the heat in the least. Now that's a good plant for Texas.

The original plant is on the right, orange and spindly blooms and the new one is on the left. My curiosity was piqued and I wanted to know why the difference. I went to Mitch Mitchlamore at Texas Natives. He is mainly into native trees but he knows a lot about most native plants. He thinks the orange one is actually the true native and the other has been changed for nurseries to sell as the color is more vibrant.

I dug the original on a friend's ranch in the far southwestern edge of the hill country so I know it is a true native. Now Mitch wants all the volunteers as he has been unable to find a supplier. As any true gardener would I'm potting them for him as fast as I find them.

And with that another garden mystery has been solved-I think.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Be careful out there

You never know when you will find danger in the garden. I was reminded this week and last.

With this dry, hot weather the wild life moves more as water as well as food is harder to find. With ponds, I realize that the water that is here is home to many frogs and draws birds, mice, rats and other small wild life. All of these things are way down on the food chain so I am always on the alert for the animals that eat them. While pulling up dead plants I found one of those animals. No real danger to me but maybe to my wife or the dogs.

It is a Coral snake and I used to catch them by hand all the time as a kid and sell them to a professor for the research they were doing on making an anti venom. When he found out we were catching them by hand he wouldn't buy any more. We were never bit but we had a friend who was bitten while gardening. She said it was very painful but Coral snake bites are usually not considered life threatening.

A couple of weeks ago my younger brother was bitten by a Copperhead while on the back porch. My older brother and his wife took him to the closest hospital, I think it was Gonzalles. Copperhead bites aren't considered life threatening, so no one was too concerned. But after getting a dose of anti venom David just kept getting worse. They had to helo him to San Antonio to find out what was wrong. This was at midnight and he didn't get out of intensive care till 2:00 the next day.Through testing they found that he was diabetic.[he didn't know] That bite would have killed him if they hadn't found out and started an insulin IV. So for some any snake bite can be deadly.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Night time flowers

I was in the garden the other night, just poking around, looking at the bugs that were working for me in the slightly cooler temps and I noticed that the Daturas had decided to bloom again. The whole of the plant looked quite pathetic but the blooms were as gorgeous as ever. The aroma was heavenly and had that whole corner of the garden infused in nasal delight. I just had to take pictures.

Some were completely open and others were just opening up.

You can see in the background that the leaves are perky and standing out well. The next morning at around 10:00 the plant looked almost like it wouldn't make the day as the heat had already climbed.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Yikes! No water

One evening last week I was watering and thinking, thinking about water. I was thinking how my watering was just keeping my plants alive until we could get a good soaking rain. Oh sure, some of the natives had blooms on them, but even they didn't look great. I worked my way around to the row of roses and noticed how well the Mutabilis looked and how stressed the Belinda's Dream looked. I was standing there giving Ol' Belinda a little extra water and the water just slowed down and stopped. I looked back toward the faucet to see if there was a kink and saw none. What the hell, where's my water? I went to the pump house/green house and checked for water in the big cistern, nada.

After checking the start capacitor and run capacitor and for voltage going down the hole with a multimeter I knew, it was the pump in the ground, 320' down in the ground. Pumps usually go bad from pumping dry and over heating. When we had the well drilled in 1986 the static pressure in the ground had pushed water up the well to within 55' of the surface. In 2000 we had to pull the pump and the water level had dropped to 85'. I couldn't imagine the water had dropped another 235'. There are so many people that move to the country and get a well and use water like there is no tomorrow because there is no rationing on wells. The man across the road runs his well 24/7 to keep his stock tank full. [To non-Texans a stock tank is a pond.] A man down the road runs several sprinklers on his native grass lawn all day and all night. But even with this kind of careless and down right stupid use of water, I couldn't believe the level of my drinking water could drop that much. Well folks, I'm here to tell you it can and it did.

After the recent small showers I had about 500 gallons in the rain water collection cistern. Having that water made the last few days easily bearable. We showered in the yard as there are no neighbor's. Lyn would keep a bucket of water next to the toilet and after flushing, pour it in the back and be ready for the next flush. I took a five gallon jug down to the feed store and filled it up with good water to fill water bottles up for drinking. Now to get the well working.
The well man showed up early today and got right to work. After getting his boom up they got started pulling it out, taking off pipe one joint at a time.

Got it out and found out the pump was fried. Leroy, the well guy, decides we need to go 200' deeper to make sure I have good water for, hopefully, a long time to come. New regulations call for a different kind of wire. The control box needs to be changed out to a new protected one so this doesn't happen again. Total bill is nearly four thousand dollars. Ouch! I might have to add on to my rain water collection capacity.

But at least Leroy could get to it fairly quickly and we didn't have to go too long without running water. And they did it in this heat. Leroy is not a young man or a small one either. I just hoped he wouldn't keel over in the heat before he finished.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Where's the Lady Bugs?

Where are the lady bugs when you need them? Read this next paragraph in a condescending, almost baby talk inner voice.

Oooohhhh, lady bugs, they're so cute, they're so orange, they have little black spots, they eat aphids, they're gooood.

I noticed that my wife's Persian Shields in the big pots on the front porch had a little aphid problem started. Not bad, just the start of one. Not to worry, the pest patrol would be out as the evening faded toward dark. Lady bugs? No, not lady bugs. I've hardly seen a lady bug this year. [More condescending tone inner voice here.] It's too hot for cute little lady bugs. This would be the ugly, long legged, not cute, scour the garden at night kind of pest patrol, Grand Daddy Long Legs.

You see them in their clustered masses under the edges of the porch or roof during the heat of the day. What are they doing there? Waiting. Yes waiting, waiting for dark when the hunting is good.

I didn't realize how valuable they were until I started spending time in my gardens at night. It all started with watching the Sphinx moths flitting around the Daturas. Kind of like night time hummers if you will. I started looking around in my gardens more at night. And what did I find? Grand Daddy Long Legs scouring the garden looking for little bugs to eat. They were literally every where, through the beans, up the corn and on the tomatoes. But they were also on the ornamental as well. That is when I realized what a true resource I had and I've got lots of them. Unfortunately, the Leopard frogs eat some of them. But it seems I've got plenty so they can have some. I know I've got a whole lot more of them than the cute little lady bugs.

Oh, and the Persian Shields, I checked the next day and there was nary an aphid to be found.