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.

Dancing Bees

by Catherine Johnson

These are the containers they put mead in when they sell it. You bring them back to get more, so it’s a great re-use example.

One thing we learned at a recent visit to Walker Honey Farm is that Mead is a mixture of honey, water, and yeast.  Many factors affect the taste, including the type of wildflowers bees visit.

We also learned that bees dance on the surface of the honey comb, which directs other bees to within 10 feet of sweet sources, which can cover a 16 square mile area.

Visiting Cameron City Parks

by Catherine Johnson

Our Let’s Get Outside project took us to Cameron City Park, 12 Street Park, Cameron and Airport Park, and O. J. Thomas Park. 

At Cameron City Park we saw natives, mushrooms , and former swimming pool.

12 St. Park has beautiful trees and a nice pond. 

Cameron Park has a fun pool and Airport Park great baseball fields.

O. J.  Thomas Park has swings and basketball hoops.  All were very well maintained and offer quiet, pretty places for recreation, walking, picnics, or observing nature. 

Bitterweed photo by Nick Moore on iNaturalist. Used with permission.

I focused on three small yellow wildflowers in order to learn to distinguish them–Bitterweed, Camphor weed, and Straggler Daisy.  The leaves are very different.

Bitterweed, camphor weed, and straggler daisy (left to right)

You will be amazed at how much you will know in a few years if you learn in small steps. Attending these latest walks were Linda Jo, Donna, Scott, Debra, Jackie T. , Connie, Pamela and Ruby, Kim and Catherine (me).  Most fun–eating together at Dairy Queen and listening to Connie’s (who was mayor of Cameron for many years) tales of the city’s history.

Monarchs and Other Butterflies

by Catherine Johnson

Next year we will continue our Milkweed/Monarch project and create a network for sharing milkweed, info and habitats. A recent Monarch seminar taught us how to raise milkweed from seed. We’ll create here a walk-in enclosure in the Milam Wildscape for the project.

To follow up on Lisa’s post yesterday, it turns out that 10% of caterpillars make it to butterflies and 10% of those survive full adulthood.  Two of my butterflies were born with wrinkled wings, so I fed them sugar water, took them for outside trips, and after a couple of weeks they passed peacefully. Other
options were to euthanize or leave outside. This way they had a good life.

Gulf fritilary chrysalis

We are watching Gulf Fritillary chrysalises  now.  They look like leaves to fool predators.

I Want to Get Away

by Catherine Johnson

Linda Jo Conn’s Let’s Get Outside activity for our Chapter is a respite for some — more to get away than to get outside.

Desert willow

We recently met at the Master Gardeners’ demonstration garden in Cameron and identified plants and wildlife. 

Beauty berry

The garden is kept up very nicely, and there were lots of butterflies and hummingbirds.

Under the gazebo we made plans for future events and learned more of the world around us. 

Then it got hot. Kim and I said goodbye to Linda Jo, Pamela, and Jackie T.  and finished our big day relaxing in the air conditioning at Texas Burger.