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 in Milano, Texas.

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.

Busy Weekend for Us

This past weekend our Chapter members were busy learning and sharing what they learned.

The Chapter members who are also members of the El Camino Real de las Tejas National Trail Association attended their conference on Friday and Saturday. They shared our new wildflowers of Milam County brochure with all the attendees. (I was unable to go, so I don’t have any photos.)

Viewing the photos of the land conference attendees got to see in person.

Yesterday they did field trips of Milam County sites that were on the trail, including the property of Joyce and Mike Conner, Cedar Hill Ranch, which has some important sites on it. They also went to Sugarloaf Mountain and Rancheria Grande. Many thanks to our chapter members who volunteered to help out with the tour.

Chapter members tell a visitor about what we do.

Meanwhile, other members put together a lovely exhibit of plant samples for the herbarium that members of our group helped collect. It was located at the at the Milam County Historical Museum.

Plant samples for use in herbaria.

There was also a display of beautiful photographs Christopher Talbot’s A Photographic Journey of the Trail exhibit. The photos were quite impressive, including a photo of the Graham Swale that Ann Collins and Connie Anderle claimed was theirs, because they are from the Graham family. So yes, fun was had.

Ann Collins and her “family swale.”

Ann, Donna, Linda Jo, and Scott did a great job answering questions and passing out material. After the tour was over, the trail conference attendees came to enjoy the exhibits. Lots of people came in, since the Steak, Stein and Wine Fest was also going on. It was a fine way to do some outreach, and the weather was just perfect.

Invasive or Inviting: The Wild Morning Glory

By Larry Kocian. Adopted from a Facebook post on Milam County Veggie and Plant Exchange, September 22, 2019.

Free from nature, these vines (also known as tie vine —Impomoea cordatotriloba) make an appearance in late spring, early summer. In mid- to late summer and into autumn, they are showy with their purple/lavender colors.

Tie vine is just as pretty as hybrid morning glories, just with smaller blossoms.

Some people say invasive. I say not, because they are easily controlled by going into the garden and removing/sculpting them. I let mine climb, and they do climb into the mimosa trees. I do control some when they wrap in the wrong place or too much on a particular plant/tree.

My point is that most natural occurring plants that are labeled invasive are not at all. I always encourage everyone who reads this to go outside and get to know your garden. It’s very therapeutic.

Continue reading “Invasive or Inviting: The Wild Morning Glory”

Mystery of the Fuzzy Mat Plant

Since this post features one of our members, I thought I would share it here, too – Sue Ann

The Hermits' Rest

Sometimes you see something so often that you forget it is interesting. That’s the case for a weird plant I’ve been seeing on our driveway ever since we built it. It always looked like bits of cotton had gotten into one of the usual spurges that line our driveway.

Here’s the plant from a distance. You can barely distinguish it from the road base.

I finally got it into my head to take a photo of it an upload it to iNaturalist, so I could figure out what it was. I took the photo on our cutting board, hoping for better contrast.

Well, that didn’t go well at all. The plant simply does NOT photograph well, and the recognition algorithms couldn’t figure out what the thing was at all. It was guessing owls and such. I tried for a better photo, but didn’t get much further.

View original post 222 more words

Keyhole Gardens: September 2019 Chapter Meeting

by Sue Ann Kendall

We had a large turnout for this month’s meeting, where Linda Friedrickson and Aloma Clayton spoke on keyhole gardening (modified raised bed). They are members of the Little River Basin Master Gardeners, so many of our members who are in both organizations already knew them. Both of these women have lots of knowledge about keyhole gardens, and Linda even built one this year at her new property.

Here’s the book!

The book to read if you want to learn more is Soiled Rotten, by Deb Tolman, who is a fascinating person currently living in Texas and basing her life on creative recycling and reuse. Linda pointed out that keyhole gardens are a perfect example of Tolman’s philosophy, because you can build then from discarded material. Tolman makes gardens out of all sorts of things, including an abandoned speedboat.

Aloma and Linda appreciating their speaker gifts.

History

Aloma started the presentation all off by giving us the history of keyhole gardens.

They started in southern and eastern Africa, because trees were all gone and the soil depleted from years of mismanagement. It was a mess. Africans starved while we wasted our food.

Linda giving her presentation.

Mahaha Mafou (not sure of spelling) in Lesotho (luh-soo-too) invented keyhole gardens to feed her family. She made hers from rocks with characteristic shape. They were popularized by CARE (an NGO) and USAID (US government), who helped spread it. They did this throughout the 1980s and on. It spread throughout eastern and southern Africa.

Continue reading “Keyhole Gardens: September 2019 Chapter Meeting”

Observations of the Bird Station During a Summer Visit

from the notebook of Ann Collins

August, 2019

Our chapter mascot shows up on my property.

The Bird Station is an important component for my wildlife exemption. Plus its just a great place to enjoy the woods and the wildlife.

Since there are lots of ferns, I feel I must water often. It gets a couple of hours of water about every four days. It’s very hot and there’s no rain at all!

When the August temperature gets to 100 degrees, plants simply cook; they just about curl up and die or go dormant.

Every year I plant more and more ferns. This year I want to plant some flowering trees, red bud, camellias, and maybe a few azaleas. I can’t help myself!

Continue reading “Observations of the Bird Station During a Summer Visit”