Bird and Bee Wildscape Is in Bloom

by Carolyn Henderson

The El Camino Real Chapter wildscape at the Bird and Bee Farm is in bloom and looking particularly well-groomed this week.

Owners of the Bird and Bee Farm, Gene and Cindy Rek, who also happen to be official Texas Master Naturalists now, have received special recognition for their agricultural practices from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The TCEQ came out last Tuesday to film a video and interview the Reks about their operations, and the Wildscape got a little recognition, too.

Tim Siegmund, TPWD biologist and our friend, helped the Reks convert their pastures to native grasses.

The Reks, Catherine Johnson and family, and several members of our chapter worked hard to make the place presentable for the filming. Luckily, several of the native plants in the wildscape also decided to bloom in time for the filming.

The Reks will receive their award in May at a TCEQ banquet, where the short video will be shown. The video will then be viewable to the public via the TCEQ website and You Tube. We will post it here when it’s available.

In the meantime, look at what’s blooming at the wildscape! (Sorry the blogmaster can’t remember the names of all the flowers – she’s old.)

Pulling Weeds at the Wildscape

by Carolyn Henderson

Aren’t all weeds native? Ha!

Scott inspects all those weeds

Weeds were the call of the day when a dedicated group of El Camino Real Texas Master Naturalist members showed up at the Birds and Bees Wildscape Saturday. There were plenty of them calling.

Eric gets the malabar spinach area under control

Members Gene and Cindy Rek own the Bird and Bee Farm, and they have allotted space to ECRTMN to grow a wildscape for use in educating people and spreading native plants to interested citizens. They are converting the acreage they have to native plants and grasses. These efforts have brought about an award from the Texas Environmental Quality Commission.

Catherine, Debra, and Cindy talk weeds

The TEQC is going to come out and video interviews with the Reks and a couple other members of ECRTMN. Catherine Johnson, manager of the ECR part, called for a clean-up day to make the wildscape more presentable for its “two minutes” of fame. More information on the award will be discussed when more is known about it.

Donna weeds, prunes, and imparts plant information

Catherine, Donna Lewis, Scott Berger, Linda Burgess, Eric Neubauer, Debra Sorenson, Alan Rudd and his son, Adam, Cindy Rek, Jackie Thornton, and I knocked out a good portion of the clean-up but had to avoid some for ant treatments. Bees, unusual flies, spiders, and a few butterflies were already there, too. There are not yet many flowers. Everything is slow coming back this year, and I believe that is statewide, according to Texas Nature Trackers – TMN. In another week or so, I believe it will be in full growth mode.

Linda volunteered for weed dumping. She took many trips.

Alan and Adam finished a storage building they had started at the wildscape. It is a great building for the site, and now all the planting pots that we save to share with others will not blow all over the place.

There was also a good amount of fellowship – especially around the table where all the goodies were that Catherine baked and brought for us. We went home having eaten a lot of chocolate and honey tea from Cindy.

Food and fun!

There’s more to be done in a short period of time, so if any members have time and an urge to pull weeds (Catherine treated the two spaces that had ant problems), the gate is usually open.

Talking Trash and Texas History

Linda Jo Conn

The suggested “Let’s Get Outside!” ECRTMN chapter activity for the first week in January was to pick up litter at a roadside park or other public area.  Granted, it is not that exciting a task but with the Covid numbers still a concern, it was an activity that could be performed in solitude at any convenient time.    

Today was my day to “get outside”.  It was cool and overcast but fortunately, there was not an icy wind gusting from the north.  

After attending the hybrid ECR chapter board meeting in Cameron, I drove down FM 2095 to Gause and turned east on Hwy 79 toward the Brazos River and the Milam and Robertson County line. Just before the river, there is a pullover with a couple of granite monuments and a row of large crepe myrtle trees.  

One of the monuments commemorates the former site of the town of Nashville surveyed in the fall of 1835 as the capital of Sterling C. Robertson’s colony and named for Nashville, Tennessee, where Robertson and many of his colonists had formerly lived.  The location also commemorates the first Texas home of George C. Childress, the chairman of the committee who drafted the Texas Declaration of Independence.    

The monuments

The other monument was erected by the Texas Society of DAR in 1991 to commemorate the DAR Centennial Park.  According to the inscription: “In 1936 the Sarah McCalla Chapter DAR of Cameron created a park (about ¾ mile upriver) at the site of old Nashville to commemorate the Texas State Centennial.  The red rock DAR monument to the left was in that park which is now inaccessible.”  The red rock monument referred to was vandalized and is no longer on the site.  The inscription continues: “Sterling C. Robertson who is buried in the old Nashville Cemetery was moved to the Texas State Cemetery in Austin in 1935.” The monument commemorates the Centennial of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution 1890-1990.

I do not travel this highway very often, but when I do, I usually stop to check the site out.  Usually, there has been plenty of litter in the area, but today, there was not an inordinate amount so my workload was light. I found nothing exciting or valuable; just the usual beer bottles, aluminum cans, cigarette butts, and some miscellaneous paper items.  My haul was a Walmart bag stuffed full and a few large pieces of metal. I am intrigued by the mention of the Nashville cemetery and the former park.  I plan to do some research and will return to visit the cemetery in the spring.  

The haul of trash.

The area behind the monuments is now covered with rosettes of Texas Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) and it will certainly be worth the trip. 

Bluebonnets!

The Wildscape at the End of 2021

by Catherine Johnson

A good day was spent at the Wildscape at the Bird and Bee Farm between Rockdale and Milano, on the last day of 2021.

There are many cats!

In March, the Wildscape will be three years old, and no one knew what it would become.  It has been a place of happy times, learning, sharing, and surprises.

There were also some losses, including the favorite Garden cat Macaroni. 

Farewell, friend.

Much is planned for the new year. Already, another big building has been built for expanding the Rio Grande Turkeys. 

These are chickens, not turkeys, of course.

This last day of the year was spent with friends and relatives, including Master Naturalist Alan and son Adam building a great garden shed.   

Working on the shed.

Enjoy what is holding on.

Still blooming just before the first hard freeze hit.

What’s Blooming at the Wildscape?

by Carolyn Henderson

The Bird and Bee Farm Wildscape continues to produce butterfly- and bee-attracting blooms this November and people to take a look at what our chapter does there.

Monarch on white butterfly bush

The purple and white Butterfly Bushes are still in bloom as is the Tropical Sage. Those two seem to be the favorites of the pollinating crowd right now. Tropical Milkweed is also in bloom, but it’s not desired by either butterflies or bees of the three varieties there last Saturday. Indian Blankets, roses, Turks Cap of two colors, lantana, and a mystery bloom are also putting out lots of flowers. See the picture of the mystery bloom and take a guess.

Catherine Johnson, main manager of the Wildscape, has organized plant give-aways to anyone who wants to prep their own butterfly flower bed for next spring. It started last Saturday and will continue through Saturday, November 13, and Saturday, November 20. Hours are 9 to 12. Several people from out of town went home with Texas native plants for their gardens last Saturday. The Wildscape is on FM 334 between Milano and Rockdale.

If you don’t want to plant them, you can help dig them up and distribute them to patrons for service hours.

Rio Grande turkeys, guinea fowl, and a hen or two.

Enjoy the flowers while helping the pollinators spring through fall next year.