I thought most of my pollinator garden was done for. I could not afford to continue watering every day just to keep the plants alive. And yes, most of the plants are Texas natives. Still, the 100-plus degree temperatures were too much stress for the plants to bear.
I also put out sprinklers every evening around 6:00 pm for the tons of birds that came to cool off. It was so nice to see them bathing and just having a happy get together with their friends. But a very high electric bill was putting a dent in our budget. The plant watering would have to be limited, but the birds would still get their sprinkler party in the evening.
The watering caused our electricity to go up because the pump on our well is electric. I wish I had an old windmill to do the job, but they need maintenance also. In my younger days I could have climbed up on an old wooden windmill. If I were to fall off now, it would be bad. While I used to bounce, now I break.
Anyway, after about three inches of much needed rain last week, so much stuff popped up again that I thought was gone. YAY! Now for a few days all I have to do is clean and fill the bird baths.
We still need to keep thinking about and observing what plants did make it through the extreme weather, because this heat with no water may become the norm. What and how we garden must change. Just keep looking and learning.
Over here in northern Milam County, we’ve had some rain three days in a row, which has been a welcome relief after pretty much nothing since May. Today there was even a little bit of rain in our front pond (tank in Texan), which had dried up completely as of last week. This was too late for all the fish, who made all the egrets and herons happy as they all died. I assume more will show up.
Today I went out around our ranch, the Hermits’ Rest, to see what had made it through the drought. Was anything blooming? What insects are still there?
I can tell you that the bees survived just fine, and you can thank some humble plants for that. The turkey tangle frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) has not stopped blooming and has formed mats where the grass once was. Bees and wasps are all over it. The other plant that’s attracting so many bees you can hear it from a distance is the scarlet toothcup (Ammannia coccinea). Now, the latter is a bog plant, as is its friend the floating primrose-willow (Ludwigia peploides). We seem to have some kind of springy area that has supported them all summer, to the delight of the flying insects.
Other plants have been thriving. Of course, the silverleaf nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium) is fine. It’s like iron. In fact, some of them have fruit large enough that they look like cherry tomatoes! I wouldn’t eat them, though. I don’t trust anything named “nightshade.” The lesser balloon vine (Cardiospermum halicacabum), which just loves our ranch, is also plugging along happily. There are so many of the vines in the dried-up bed of Walker’s Creek that it smells like a Bed, Bath and Beyond store! I had no idea how fragrant those tiny flowers were until I encountered thousands of them in a confined space! The other thriving plant is the violet ruellia (Ruellia nudiflora), which is having a great year, according to Linda Jo Conn, our iNaturalist approval maven. One of our rental houses seems to have a purple carpet in the yard. Way to go, little flowers!
One more happy vine is the sorrelvine (Cissus trifolioata), which is more numerous than the smilax this year. It has some healthy-looking fruit, which I learned just this year is related to the grapes (none of which fruited here this year).
A few of our usual summer stalwarts are barely hanging on, though. There are many passion vines, but the flowers were looking pretty straggly until after the rain. They finally look normal. I have found one sad little Texas bindweed (Concolvulus equitans), a couple of prairie coneflowers/Mexican hats (Ratbida columnfera) (my photo is too blurry to share), a few velvetweed (Oenothera curtiflora), and sparse Lindheier’s doveweed (Croton lindheimeri) (it’s usually everywhere – in fact, my chickens had a tree version last year by the time it got cold). And there’s vervain (Verbena halei) and green poinsettia (the native one Euphorbia dentata).
Two plants are here in large numbers, but I didn’t recognize them at first. The asters (Synphyotrichum sp.) and the broomweed (Amphiachris dracunculoides) have had all their foliage eaten by the eight gazillion grasshoppers of the season, so it wasn’t until I found a few sad little blossoms that I realized what they were. Yes, it was a fine year for differential grasshoppers, obscure bird grasshoppers, and prairie boopies (look them up, I’m tired of typing in Latin).
Speaking of insects, in addition to the grasshoppers, we’ve had lots of dragonflies and damselflies this summer, and a variety of small crickets (not the usual giant annoying ones). The chickens love them all. The cicadas Donna wrote about recently are few and far between, but I’ve heard them.
One way I’m hoping we are attracting insects is the number of milkweed plants on the ranch. I’m happy to see lots and lots of zyzotes milkweed (Asclepias oenotheroides) and a good number of green antelope horn (Asclepias viridis) out in the fields. Even better, I’ve seen many dispersed seeds. Come on over, monarchs!
I’m glad some of our plants and animals have made it through the summer. I will be interested to see how many trees we lose in this drought. The previous one was very hard on the older trees on our property, which slowly keeled over from 2012-2015. I hope you got rain where you are, but not too much. Some of our chapter members had a hard time in the past couple of days. We are due for more rain, but I won’t complain. I miss the ponds and my horses miss the grass!
I saw something this morning that was very sad and showed just how the weather and our actions as humans can help or harm the other living creatures that share our earth.
I had just gone out (7:00 am) to my garden to fill up all the bird baths and water containers that I have out to help the birds and other creatures find water. I also put out bird seed.
Just as I opened the gate, I looked across the garden to see a Cottontail rabbit standing on its hindlegs to drink from a bird bath that was half empty. Its little ribs were showing the impact of the drought… I was very moved by the sight of it. I was happy that I had many low-level water containers already out in different areas.
This is why we need to put out more water containers for wildlife now. Some of these containers need to go on the ground for the mammals, snakes and others who cannot get up to a bird bath on a pedestal.
I am going to put more out today. I searched for anything I could use. Yes, even a frisbee can hold water.
You do not need to clean the containers every day. Just put fresh water in. You can clean the containers once a week or every few days.
Put the water under the shade if you can. Anything to keep it cooler. This goes for the Hummingbird feeders too.
Does putting water out for animals matter? YES, if you help even one living thing to survive, you have made a difference.
We have to start doing, not just thinking about doing something.
I hear this too often: don’t worry someone will do it… We are the someone. So, make a difference today.