Welcome to Our Blog

Hello, friends. This blog is where the El Camino Real Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists shares news, articles, and reflections. You’ll find our posts right under this introduction. We encourage your comments and likes, and of course, shares!

Texas Parks and Wildlife
AgriLife Extension

The Texas Master Naturalist program is sponsored by Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

Our chapter meets monthly on the second Thursday of the month. Because of the pandemic, we are meeting via Zoom. Contact us for more information on attending meetings and our future plans.

Our Mission: To develop a corps of well-informed volunteers to provide education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities for the State of Texas.

Donna’s Garden Starting in January and Going All the Way to December of 2021

by Donna Lewis

I was asked to show the progress of my pollinator garden as the year goes on and to say a few things about what I do as it goes forward.

Bonus dog!

As you can imagine, I can only mention a few things, because gardening is an ongoing project every day. Each year the garden is different. Sometimes Mother Nature supplies plenty of water and wind born native plant seeds. But sometimes she decides to hold on to her precious water. You must be observant.

Sleepy vines

Just the water alone can determine what plants will be successful.

Right now the garden is asleep, as it should be. The leaves protect many things beside the plants. They are the blanket that keeps things warm. There are butterfly chrysalis that stay there until Spring tells them it’s time to wake up. So, removing the leaf litter too soon can steal from the garden the very animals you are hoping to see. Timing is everything!

Leaf litter is on duty.

Is there a rigid rule that I use to know when it’s time to clean up the garden?

NO!!!   If I knew that I would be famous.

Keeping the good kind of litter in its place.

I usually start now to just tidy up a few things. Nothing major. We all know that the last freeze has not happened, and we don’t know when it will.

Last year’s stems.

I had to pick up the mess the storm left just a week ago. Many limbs and bushes were broken. I cleaned all that up and removed it.

We’ll see what comes back in this circle!

In January, as in all months, you want to keep the water sources for your birds clean. My bird feeders are not inside the garden, but just outside it. That keeps the seed debris, rats, and feral cats from living in the garden.

Lots of water options

Soon as it warms up, I will begin to see what vines, bushes, and plants are reborn. Some gave their life for the garden last year, and I will have to reseed or replant them again.      The real miracle of gardening is about to start again.

A great place for birds to hang out.

Is it a lot of physical work? Yes it is. But, to me nothing you love to do is really work. My goal as always is not just to have a retreat to renew myself, but to help the wild things that share the planet with us.

I always try to learn what they need, and that’s what I put in the garden.

So, we’ll watch the garden blossom together.

Rest on a bench while Donna’s garden rests!

Flora and Fauna at Walker’s Creek Cemetery

by Sue Ann Kendall, your blog editor

Many thanks go out to Linda Jo Conn, who suggested that our chapter members should get outside and visit a local cemetery. I have missed doing iNaturalist stuff and actually getting volunteer hours for it SO much since we’ve been asked not to make observations on our own property, which rules out the 600 acres around me. But, ha! There’s a cemetery right down the road, just oozing with history and life.

A different photo of the entrance, since my personal blog post on the headstones had my other entrance photo.

Yesterday was a pleasant, if rather damp day, so I took off, camera in hand, to go see what I could see at Walker’s Creek cemetery.

The main entrance. They really want you to know this is an older cemetery.

I actually didn’t make it off the Hermits’ Rest Ranch before I had to observe something. Look who was hanging out right beside the rake I use to get the gate to open when I’m not in the car!

Now that I have a firm grip on the fact that I need to check the head first, I knew this was an old friend, the water snake who lives in our front pond. I was surprised to see this one out in January. It made me wonder what other January life I’d find down the road.

I walked past Walker’s Creek, and checked out the damage from the recent flooding. I scared a very large red-eared slider while I was peering over to see if I could see any tracks in the mud, which also scared me. But, I was lucky and found tracks AND a skull, which I’m guessing is a coyote. Oh boy, I was already having a good time.

NOTE! You can click any of the small photos to see them larger, throughout this blog.

I made it to the cemetery and started taking pictures of plants. One thing that’s helpful is that most of these are the same plants I have down the road, so I could recognize them. At least I found a couple of different ones. Also, I quickly realized that, since the cemetery is regularly mowed and well maintained (ish), the most interesting stuff would be on the borders, so I declared anything within a yard of the fence was part of the cemetery. Heck, I was in charge of this solo expedition, right?

By the way, this post won’t have a lot of photos of graves. I wrote a long blog on the headstones and what I figured out about the past culture of the area where I live now on my Hermits’ Rest blog. If you like grave facts, check it out.

Click the “read more” to see lots of photos! And remember, if you want to know scientific names or details about any of my observations, you can check them out on my iNaturalist observations page. You can see if I got the IDs right, too.

Continue reading “Flora and Fauna at Walker’s Creek Cemetery”

Pied Piper of Gophers

by Donna Lewis

Yesterday, I was outside walking around picking up debris from our recent snow and ice storm, when I felt something following me. I looked down, and this really big Pocket Gopher was creeping along about a foot behind me. I stopped, it stopped. I started walking again, and so did it. It didn’t look injured so I could not figure out why it was out of the ground.

I think Donna has some food.

I tried to gently herd it back to a protected area, but it just kept by me. My dogs were in the house, or it would have really been in danger.

This went on for about 30 minutes, until I finally moved it under a huge pile of limbs from the storm. It went under and I did not see it come out again.

This is my GOOD side!

Maybe he knew I wouldn’t hurt him??? This is the second time this year this has happened.    If I could just get them to follow me out of my garden, I would really have some nature power…

Lucky for me I had my camera on the porch so I got a great  photo of him.

Goodbye my little friend…

A Visit to Hamilton Chapel Cemetery

by Catherine Johnson

As part of our “Let’s Get Outside” activities, I visited Hamilton Chapel Cemetery.  It is located before you get to Champions Drive [in Milam County], and where I live was part of the Hamilton community.

Entrance to Hamilton Chapel Cemetery

In 1860 Mr. Hamilton donated land for a church, school and cemetery.  Gravesites include a woman who was a citizen of the Republic of Texas. 

Nancy Anders, citizen of the Texas Republic

Also, Hicks Carlisle and his parents are buried there. Hicks and his brother James volunteered for World War I in 1917. Both were killed in France on the same day in 1918. They received many heroic awards. 

Old graves behind a fence of the style common in this area

A tribute to a young boy reads, “How much light , How much joy, is buried with a Darling Boy.”

Grave detail

The entry road had been improved and clearing started. It is a peaceful place of nature and worthy of maintaining.

Graves
Wonder what these were for?
Oaks at the cemetery

The Cemeteries of Burlington

by Marian Buegeler

At the January chapter meeting of the ECRMN we had a presentation on cemeteries from Dr. Alston Thoms.  Afterward, we were encouraged to visit a historic cemetery, of our choosing, in Milam County.  Since I have relatives interred at St. Michael’s I decided to start there.  Now, don’t think I’m an overachiever because I visited two. They are side-by-side and could be mistaken for one cemetery. 

I have been to this cemetery many times over the years but I have never taken the time to walk through and really look at the headstones.  Some of them are truly unique!

St. Michael’s Cemetery

St Michael’s Cemetery was established in 1893 and has huge, elaborate monuments and large family plots with several generations interred in each.  Although this cemetery was established in 1893, some of the graves predate its establishment because it began as a private family cemetery.  As you walk the grounds, you see the same family names time and again.  Even so, I chose to focus my attention on the graves of those who served this country in the Armed Forces.

The founders of the town
Veterans in St. Michael’s
Some of the Veterans in the Burlington cemetery

Burlington Cemetery

Burlington Cemetery was established in 1917 and like St Michael’s, you will see the same family names throughout. But, again I focused my attention to those who served this country.

The cemetery for Burlington’s non-Catholics
Headstones of some Veterans