Natural History Notes

Friday, September 30, 2011

scorched on purpose

The plumber’s torch may be too imprecise for fine-scale jewelry work, but it works just fine at scorching grassburs.

I’ve been being careful not to walk in one part of the front yard for some time now. At first I had only noticed one grassbur rosette, some of the developing heads of which I picked and threw away. But I watered the front yard, and that has let a bunch more come up.

So today I took the torch and spent 15-20 minutes scorching the centers of the rosettes and the green seed heads. I hope I gave them enough flame to kill the cells. I’ll wait a few days and see what they look like.

This horrible summer has mostly been too dry for the grassburs to survive. Well, I'll take my silver linings where I can find them.



About ten days ago in the evening I walked down to check on the pond, and was lucky enough in my inconspicuous approach to see three ducks floating around on it, and a great blue heron. The heron was standing about halfway out from the edge to the middle, and looked about shin-deep; obviously the water's pretty shallow.

I went carefully sneaking down the next evening with the camera, but no birds were in evidence. Just the poor shrunken little puddle, with a dead young pine on the dam. I guess I am lucky that the big pine on the dam top has survived (so far).

The clouds in the west were quite dramatic, but not of course to the point of producing any actual, you know, water.

This little bitterweed is growing in the rocks on the east side that are normally underwater. It is probably only flowering because of the one 5/8" rain we got back early in the month.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Weathermen changed their minds

Or maybe the weather changed IT'S mind. Today's discussion says,

"Looking ahead to the the second half of next week...the nation
could be in for a significant pattern shift as upper level high
pressure builds to the east and a deep trough develops across the
west. If this solution verifies it could bring increasing rain
chances to North Texas before the end of next week. "

Sure hope they are right about that rain. One afternoon of drizzle isn't going to make it.

The last rain of any really significant quantity was three months ago, on June 21st about 3 am. It was a nice 2-inch rain. The only problem was that it was accompanied by the worst hail I have ever seen, practically covering the ground here in the dark outside the back kitchen door.

So much hail accumulated in a pile where it slid off the roof in the valley by the rain-barrel, that the pile of ice did not melt till the sun hit it at noon, even though the morning temps were in the nineties, Here it is around 9am, along with all the oak twigs it brought down. Vegetation was just flattened. My thyme never recovered, and gave up before the heat broke, even though it was watered.

The hailstones were large enough, and blown hard enough by the very strong west winds of the storm, that the gallery glass wall now has three holes in it, after surviving 60 years. And the screen on the west end of the upstairs porch was all pulled out of its staples.

The frostweeds were pretty severely impacted by the hail; those big leaves of theirs were fairly well shredded. There are not nearly as many around the premises as last year, but a few ragged ones have survived the drought so far and are about to bloom. I have seen fields of snow-on-the-prairie in bloom, on the way over to McKinney. Don't know how it manages it. A few other fall flowers are showing up in the wake of that little drizzle we had last week. But mostly the ground is pretty bare.

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Monday, September 26, 2011


Robin McKinley does lots more than just write some of the best fantasy around. She gardens, cares for sighthounds, protects bats in her eaves, writes a daily blog without fail (unlike me), takes singing and piano lessons, composes, AND RINGS CHANGES ON BELLS. See Sayers' The Nine Tailors re the last.

The problem - her home ring, the "New Arcadia Bels," are badly in need of expensive restoration. In aid of the fundraising effort, she is selling and auctioning all sorts of goodies -- first editions, out-of-print books (often the same thing), doodles, an original musical composition.

The auction runs through Sunday 9 October.

And to read all about the goodies, check various back posts on the blog.

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Sunday 25 September 2011

It’s coming ba-a-a-ack!

The high pressure ridge that made our lives a misery this summer is going to make a return, just when we thought it was safe to enjoy the weather. Not as bad as before, though, after all it IS late September. (Of course, it was 104°F on September 29 once, too.) Well, anyway, we had a two-week break of what the weatherman called “seasonal” temperatures. I called it downright cold, a few mornings ago when it was 52°. There wasn’t anything handy that was warm enough to wear!

Says Cavanaugh of the FW weather office: “Western continental US upper ridge should expand back east over Texas Friday into next weekend ... This turn of events will likely shut down any rain chances by next weekend with above normal temperatures continuing.” Bah!

It’s depressing that we continue to get no rain - one nice slow 0.6” drizzle last week, and a few drops a couple of days ago, is not enough to pull anything through, and lots of the vegetation is either outright dead or on its last legs.

It does make good weather for the solar oven, though. I used it quite a lot this summer. It’s not surprising it can hit 250° on a sunny 106° day. Today was just about 90° though, and it did that well. Nice clear atmosphere. Yummy supper. Not quite the supper illustrated, which was some weeks ago, and included eggplant.

Tonight was farmers’ market squash, pepper, potatoes, and a piece of chicken, plus some oregano from my tiny herb patch (that has been watered enough to get a big patch of Johnson grass next to it -- better do some weeding before the herbs get overwhelmed).

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