A Good Time Was Had by All

By Sue Ann Kendall

Last Friday we held our December meeting at the Milam Community Theater building in Cameron, and instead of a speaker, we had a party! Members volunteered to decorate tables, and the themes were just beautiful.

Our party team did a great job planning the meal, which was provided by the Thorndale Meat Market (fantastic place to shop or cater your party). Guests enjoyed pork loin and prime rib, along with amazing potatoes and asparagus. Desserts were provided by Master Naturalists. I wanted to steal a couple, especially the amazing chocolate Bundt cake with cream cheese and cherries.

We had some quite good Texas wine donated, too, so it was festive! Of course, there were vegetarian and non-alcoholic options.

I didn’t get a good picture of the wine table but it’s back there.

We all had a great time at dinner with our friends, and had even more fun at the actual meeting, where everyone gave end of year reports. I didn’t know it was happening, so I didn’t give a blog report. I will post one here before the end of the year.

Judging from all the smiles I think fun was had.

Now for the big highlights. We honored some of our members for their service. This warmed all our hearts, I know. Linda Jo Conn was honored for 5,000 hours of volunteer service. Her enthusiasm inspires us all. We are so grateful for her ideas for activities that got us through the pandemic.

The next recognition was for your faithful blog contributor, Donna Lewis, who has attained the huge milestone of 10,000 volunteer hours! That’s truly a significant event! All those hours helping purple martins and sharing with the community earned her a beautiful pin and certificate. It was great to be there to honor her.

Next, I’d like to thank Carolyn Henderson for coming up with the idea to acknowledge people in the chapter who make big contributions, our previously unsung heroes. It was especially gratifying to see that the first award didn’t go to a member, but to Patricia Coombs, sister of our blogging friend Catherine! Patricia has been attending meetings to help with the hospitality and anything else she can help with. We are all grateful!

Thanks!

The next well-deserved thanks went out to Lisa Milewski, who has been serving as our volunteer hours coordinator for more years than she’d like to (who wants to learn the job and help out?). That woman, who you always see smiling with the president when achievements are handed out, has done an incredible job keeping track of our hours and making sure they are entered into the Volunteer Management System correctly. Plus, that smile!

The final award went to another tireless worker, and all-around fun guy, Don Travis. Don has been the group’s communications director for fifteen years and has spent many, many hours building out the chapter website. Besides that, he gets our speaker presentations on the shiny new chapter laptop and presented onscreen. He also helped greatly with our Zoom meetings during the pandemic (it was very helpful to me, while I was trying to hold the group together). Good work, Don. (He would also love a helper or replacement.)

We are very proud of what our small, isolated chapter has accomplished!

Congratulations!

After the meeting we had our annual white elephant gift exchange, which is always fun. Lots of stealing and action occurred, because there were some great gifts! Enjoy these photos of attendees and action. Sorry I couldn’t get everyone in. I tried! click a photo to see the whole thing.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Come Join Us

by Catherine Johnson

Progress is being made in the Milam Wildscape in preparation for Nature Days, which will be held every Saturday in November from 9:00-12 noon. Enjoy visiting Master Naturalists and visitors in a beautiful Autumn setting.

There will be refreshments, gifts, and native plants.  If you participate as a Master Naturalist, hours are available.

Rain Revives the Park

by Carolyn Henderson

The amounts of rain received over the last few days varies, but a stroll around Wilson Ledbetter Park on Sunday shows just how much a little rain can do.  

It’s green!

The 0.40 inches I received at my house was enough to elicit excitement because I had none for so long. The 2.5 inches friends a few miles down the road received also inflicted envy. Based on the location of Wilson Ledbetter Park and rain reports, I would estimate 0.50 inches there so far this week has really “greened” up the place. 

I was there a month ago and all grass was brown, almost no flowers bloomed, and trees were turning brown, too. Today, grass is green, several types of flowers are blooming and most of the trees look perkier

The bright yellow Rio Grande Copper Lily was popping up in many areas. Also blooming in the yellow category were Bitterweed, Spreading Fanpetals, and Texas Snakeweed. To be honest, Bitterweed never went into hibernation. Drought and 108 degrees didn’t faze it.

In the pink/purple category, Shaggy Portulaca, Tievine, and Texas Vervain were in bloom.  Violet Rueilla  and Purple Nightshade were abundant, but they never completely died off. The Whitemouth Dayflower, a vivid blue flower, was in abundant bloom both near and far away from the little lake. 

Texas Bull Nettle was really starting to put on medium sized white flowers. Try hard not to touch that one because all those nettles will really make your skin itch. Other whites were the Santa Maria Feverfew and Turkey Tangle Frogfruit. I would bet that Turkey Tangle Frogfruit could survive anything. It totally ignored the 8 days of below freezing temperatures and ice and the drought with excessively high temperatures.

All that color was popping out at me in a short stroll around the park. If the amount of rain forecast for this week materializes, I hope you’ll go out to Wilson Ledbetter and take it all in, too.

Peppervine fruit

The Bee Story

By Dorothy Mayer

So, I saw the following story online today (see screenshots from Facebook below). Some time ago, I’d likely have blown it off as a pretty farfetched tale. But I couldn’t help but think about an incident I experienced at my house a couple of years ago.

This story brought to mind about me seeing a wasp nest on our RV bumper about sixty feet from our house. I was worried about somebody getting stung, so I told Hubs that we should probably do something about them. So, he takes his handy pliers and pulls it off the bumper, as nothing was on it at the time. Then, he laid it on a little table by our porch swing that was 60 feet away from and out of sight of the RV bumper it came off. After that, we pretty much forgot about it.

Later that evening I happened to look over there and saw about three or four wasps back on it lying on that little table far away from that bumper we pulled it from. I was amazed that they’d looked for it and found it in a totally different place than it was supposed to be.

So, do I think this bee story is farfetched? I think not.

I think insects have way more sense than we realize. After all, we don’t know what we don’t know.

[saw]

To learn more about insects and all the other nature in Milam County, consider signing up for our next class! Contact ElCaminoRealMasterNaturalist@gmail.com and we’ll get you in touch with our new class team.

In Memory of Sam Jolly

Sam Jolly – 1969-2022

Our chapter was sad to learn that one of our long-time friends and member of our most recent 2020 graduating class, Sam Jolly, passed away on April 13.

Sam attended our meetings for many years before joining a class. He was always there to help his friends and neighbors with lifting objects, driving at night, or getting up and down the stairs when we met at the old church basement.

While he had many challenges from brain tumors that affected his memory for the past few years, he was always cheerful about them and didn’t let them stop him from learning, participating in activities, and helping out in any way he could.

As recently as last year, he built bee houses for our chapter that we gave away last year at an event we held at the Wildscape. He was always busy creating, teaching others, or photographing the world around him. You can see some of his photos on iNaturalist, and it’s worth taking a look. Some are just amazing.

Long-time friend Cindy Travis said:

Pipevine swallowtail near the end of its life, but still beautiful. Photo by Sam Jolly.

He had a good heart and we feel blessed to have had him close to us and our friends for most of his last years.

Cindy Travis, friend and former landlord

After moving from Milam County to be near his family for his last few months, Sam passed away. He has left his body to science. He was always generous that way.

Learn more about Sam and his life and family in his obituary. Please share your own thoughts, photos, and memories of Sam with Sue Ann at ecrmnsecretaryATgmail (figure it out) or in the comments, and she will add them to this post.

Here are some great pictures of Sam, most of which were sent to us by his son (as was the photo at top). We are grateful for more memories of our friend to enjoy.