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.

Lexington Senior Butterfly Garden Update

photos by Sharon Sweet

Today, Sharon Sweet shares some photos of the butterfly garden project she and Wesley created five or six years ago at the senior center in Lexington, along with a bonus bluebonnet photo, because, well, who can resist those? We hope you enjoy this photo essay.

It has really grown in nicely.
The flowers really add a lot to the formerly bare wall.

This log is on the Willow City loop, outside of Fredericksburg.

Bluebonnets growing out of a log.

Amy in My Garden

by Donna Lewis

Spring is upon us. It’s March. So I have been spending the last six weeks getting the garden cleaned up, ready for the pollinators: raking leaves, trimming bushes, and pulling up dead plants so I can put the pollinator seeds in.

This year, I had an early visitor to the garden – “Amy” the nine-banded armadillo. Dasypus novemcinctusSomehow, she managed to get inside the garden fencing and the garden gates.

One of Amy’s kin. Photo from USDA.

Now, Amy didn’t just stroll around looking at my plants No, she decided to dig a little here and there.

Amy has been visiting the garden for about four weeks now. All of my efforts to persuade her to stay outside the garden and dig in the pasture have failed.

So, I ask the question, whose garden is it?

Continue reading “Amy in My Garden”

Good Intentions with Wrens

by Dorothy Cook Mayer

Disclosure: Dorothy didn’t really write this, so blame any inaccuracies on Sue Ann.

I found some older baby Carolina wrens at my house a few days ago, with no parents in sight. They were hungry! I waited to see if parents would arrive, but didn’t see them. I’d seen them earlier, but they seem to have disappeared.

Thanks for the food, Dorothy!

So, like a good Master Naturalist, I looked up what to do with them and called and talked to a lady at a rescue organization. I got some of the meal worms that you feed to chickens, and the babies loved them.

I brought them to our Chapter Meeting, so I could feed them whenever they got to peeping. The good thing is they slept pretty often. Everyone seemed to enjoy seeing them and the chirping just added sound effects to Donna Lewis’s presentation on purple martins, anyway.

We enjoyed the Chapter Meeting, but are glad to be home.

The next day I took them to a rescue organization. They told me the babies probably were not abandoned, and they’d do better back at home, so I dutifully took them back. I didn’t believe she was right, but did as told and put them back in the nest.

I actually finally saw a bird that looked like it was coming to check on them and did a quick u-turn upon seeing me.

The reason I felt so strongly they’d been abandoned is because I started watching so closely at only seven days old. It turns out the parents check on and feed the chicks less and less to encourage them to fledge. I suppose that process begins way earlier than I’d have thought. So, I learned something, and they survived me, I suppose.

I do wish the rescue lady would have told me to return them to the nest via one of my initial phone calls. But, at least I now know where the place is and can share that information with others, when needed.

A Spring Outing

by Catherine Johnson

Gary and I went to an auction near Cameron, because I wanted to see if I could get some neat things for the Wildscape and an antique stove Rosie wanted.

And for once Gary wanted to go, because it was at an old homestead with farm equipment and such. It had some big wheel spokes I was interested in and windows etc. 

When we arrived, lots of people were there, even though an alert had sounded for tornadoes. So we walked around, I registered and got my number.  There was tons of neat stuff like enamel ware, quilts, cast iron sinks, as well as  a whole house and many out buildings. 

The weather got worse with pouring rain and wind, but the auctioneers said they would proceed. We were under a tent, and it got so bad the top flew off and Gary and others were trying to hold it on. It blew off and then the posts fell down and we all huddled in one garage as the auction continued.  The auctioneer told us to beware of rattlesnakes as they had already killed a lot.  

Catherine and Gary with some of their haul from the rainy auction

The auctioneer and helpers were great. You had to think quick so as not to overbid or lose a bid, which we did.  There were both a lot of high bids and some good deals. 

We went for antiques but left with Gary’s huge meat saw (!!) and my fertilizer spreader (I use them for mobile planters) and the most gigantic shop vac, which you can see in the picture. 

Auctions would be fun in good weather, and I learned to bring a chair, bring snacks, wear boots, how to bid, and more. I said goodbye to my wheel spokes and  on the way back, my huge vac flew across the back seat and Gary stopped, wrapped it and put it the bed! 

Afterward

When we got home, it cleared up. After we got home, we learned of the tornado that hit nearby Franklin, Texas. Our hearts go out to all the families involved, and we are glad that so many local emergency workers were able to go there and help out.

A Story about Phlox

by Sue Ann Kendall

This is a post I wrote to my ranch blog, but since all the flowers are where we have our Chapter Meetings, I thought I’d share it with my Master Naturalist friends, too.

Ah, Phlox drummondii. Here’s a Texas native I have lifelong memories about.

When I was young, in the good old 1960s, these grew in great abundance in north central Florida, along the roadsides. There would be miles and miles of phlox blurring into a riot of pinks and purples.

Lucky for me, my mother loved to look at these wildflowers as much as I did. She’d ask my dad to please take us for a ride so she could get herself some phlox.

She’d take pitchers full of water in the car, and when she spotted the ideal field of phlox, she’d shout out for Dad to stop NOW!

We’d all pile out and brave the bees and ants (at least this was pre-fire ant) to pick huge bunches of these flowers. We had to be careful not to pull up the roots.

Back in the car, I’d marvel at all the colors and patterns in the blossoms. So much variety! I don’t think they lasted long in Mom’s vases, but they made her happy.

While the area where I live doesn’t have phlox, I’m happy that you only have to drive a few miles east to see some. It’s not like the old days in Florida, but they are pretty.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these flowers from the field next to Milano Methodist Church. They sure sent me down memory lane.

What’s a wildflower that brings YOU memories? Send Sue Ann your stories, in email, on Facebook, or on a piece of paper.