Blog of the El Camino Real Chapter, Texas Master Naturalists, Milam County, Texas
Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall
The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog. I work with Hermit Haus Redevelopment to help people quickly sell their houses. I do their social media! I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I'm also a tech writer in Austin, secretly.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
I just wanted to share with you all the interesting thing I found while driving down County Road 140 this week. That’s the road that Fannin/Ballpark Road becomes when it crossed 485 in Cameron. I drive there every day, since our ranch is just the other side of Walker’s Creek, for those of you who know the area.
I saw it Thursday when I was driving home, but was too tired to stop. Then I kept forgetting to pull over. Finally, yesterday when I was in no hurry whatsoever, my friend and I pulled over to investigate.
It’s a rattlesnake, judging from the size, and missing its head. My teen companion who had on better shoes looked around for evidence of the head, but found none.
From the way it’s draped, we figure someone put it on the fence as a warning. I used to see (much bigger) rattlesnakes draped over fences when I was a little girl in central Florida. When they’d build new neighborhoods, construction workers would have to be really careful of them. My dad said they put them on the fences as a warning. Other people I’ve talked to say they’ve seen coyotes like that. Ugh.
The thing is, I used to see entire snakes, not skeletons. Where did the rest of it go? Did someone skin it first? How did the vultures, or whoever it was, get all the meat off and just leave the bones just as they were?
Do any of you Master Naturalist friends have any ideas? Please share!
PS: I’d love to blog about YOUR nature sights and finds. Send them to Suna by email, photo, text, or piece of paper. I’ll blog them! To prove it, the next one came from a photo of a piece of paper!
This is the time of year when everything is crispy and shriveled. But still, you can see life moving along, if you look carefully.
After talking to Linda Jo Conn last week about how many shriveled images were being uploaded to iNaturalist now, I got curious as to what floral beauty I could find at my place, the Hermits’ Rest Ranch.
So, my dogs and I set out to see what we could find. I looked in a meadow, a woodland border, and a riparian area. The pond still has plenty of marsh marigolds in it, but I can’t safely get to them for photos.
Most of the flowering plants right now seem to have two characteristics: very few or very thin leaves and small blossoms. The two most common examples are the prairie broomweed and yard aster, both of which look practically leafless and have tiny flowers.
In slightly shadier areas I saw a few rather tired looking prairie false foxgloves, a flower I’ve always enjoyed running into. They also have sparsely flowered plants with few leaves. I am guessing all three of these plants are high on drought tolerance lists.
I know the Mexican ruellia that’s still hanging on does well in droughts, because it did well at my Austin house, too, throwing those seeds out all over my xeriscaped garden. They are hard to get rid of, which for the most part is a feature I value a lot in a plant.
Other plants I saw were turkey tangle frogfruit, which has been going strong all year, and a lot of pretty grasses. Since I stink at grass ID, I just look at the fluffy ones, watch the ones that blow in the wind wander around the area, and admire the dignified nodding stalks.
I know others in our Chapter have been out looking for flowers, such as Conni Jo, who found a lot of flowers to photograph for the wilfdlower brochure we’re putting together. Have any of you others seen any stalwart bloomers out there braving the heat and dryness? Let us know. Share some pictures!