Natural History Notes

Monday, October 24, 2011

growing grass once again needs management

We had an entirely unexpected 1/2" of hard rain with a thunderstorm about 2am yesterday. Last I had noticed, there was a 10% probability in the forecast. I, with a mindset fostered by months of drought, discounted this entirely. Thus my front driver's seat is a trifle damp, even now, a day and a half later. There was probably quite a bit of run-off, but I haven't been down to see the effects on the tank yet.

Here are notes from earlier this week (I see I am repeating myself about the thunderstorm.

Wednesday 19 October

A blustery day with cloudless sky, struggling to get up to 70°F. August just a horrible memory! My feet were cold last night regardless of the down.

Thursday 20 October

Pretty much a beautiful repeat of yesterday, with the wind calmed down. Even chillier last night; there might have been a very light frost, but I wasn’t up early enough to see. Probably not, though -- the portulaca in the front yard still looks just fine.

The yard was starting to look a bit shaggy, so I let Buddy in the last couple of days. There seems to be a lot more green regrowth in the yard than out on the hillside, probably because I watered it a few times so it was not in such really terrible shape. The horse-mowing is pretty good. He has neatly nibbled around the red sages and the yellow comps that he evidently doesn’t like. Unfortunately he doesn’t seem to like Johnson Grass either, so I am going to have to deal with the edge of the herb bed.

Sunday 22 October, 4am

Another lovely day, and I paid no attention to the forecast, which the last time I checked had a 10% chance of precipitation. Woke up at 1:40 am to a thunderstorm and a downpour, already so heavy I decided there was no point in going out and getting soaked to close the car window. Second-guessed myself in the half hour following. It did taper off after that, and by 4 am was completely over. Remains to be seen in the morning the state of the car seat.

The ground is really getting quite green with the new-sprouting grass, and the clumps of bluestem have several inches of new growth.

I forgot to look when I was at the Community Market yesterday to see if there were any new yellow rain lilies so late. This might bring out a few more, even in October, since so many plants are coming out as if it’s spring. The old-fashioned pink-and-yellow lantana at the entrance to the vegetable garden space has all new leaves and several flower heads.Tough old plant. The beautiful red one I got at the Discovery Garden sale last fall didn’t survive the winter (still in the pot), and if it had, I suspect it wouldn’t have made it through the summer. But I might get another anyway, it was so nice.

In the front yard, the scarlet sage and the turk's-cap, both rejuvenated by the cool weather and rain, are making a nice red show.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

oh, happy day!

Over a week's worth of entries in one wodge:

Wednesday 12 October

I had almost given up hope for rain Saturday by 9:30 at night when a tap-tap-tap started on the roof. For an hour or so it was like when the popcorn is nearly finished -- there’s a pop, and then a long pause, and you think it’s all done. Then a pop-pop as a few more go. This rain was like this, I kept thinking it was stopping, then a few more drops. Then after an hour or so it settled into a steady drizzle that lasted almost all night.

That gave us about an inch. Didn’t do much for the tank, because there was almost no runoff, but increased it a bit. Then about 9am it started up again, somewhat harder, till early afternoon, and added another inch to the total. I took a fairly unremarkable picture of the front yard, and Buddy in the background, in the rain at noon.

Monday afternoon on the way to the bee meeting, Carolyn couldn’t get over how washed and sparkling everything was, and how lovely the day felt.

Back in the early spring, when I was getting the new hive stand ready for the split that didn’t happen, I grubbed several dozen extremely crowded bulbs out of the fencerow where they were going to be right under it. A patch of garlic, and about 80 of what I thought were the Schoolhouse Lilies or Oxblood Lilies, the red rain lilies of September. I evidently missed a few, because three Red Spider Lilies (Lycoris), to my surprise, squeezed themselves up out of the corner of the space to bloom. The bulbs that I dug up had been in a paper bag by the front door all summer. They were still plump and healthy, so I took seven bags of ten each to bee meeting, as well as the cut flowers.

Gave some to Carolyn and Kay, and Kurt raffled off the rest.

Yesterday, Tuesday, I didn’t even look at the forecast, so I was astonished to wake up about 3:30 this morning to more rain. For half an hour it was very gentle, though distant lightning was flickering. Then suddenly the lightning and thunder were on top of us, and the rain a downpour. Eventually I went back to sleep. This morning is sunny and cool, the broken clouds have all blown on off, and we got another 1-3/4 inches! Now the tank is quite noticeably bigger; ought to be good for another month of drought at least (not that I am hoping for any such thing).

The pond margin has come up to pretty much cover all of the flat cracked plain that I about lost my shoe in before.

At least one crawdad has survived and excavated a new chimney.

There are tiny little white flowers blooming on tho silt flats around the water.

The hillside of bare dirt and dead straw is covered with green dots of germinated seeds. Don’t know what KIND of seeds, but green, anyway.

Back before the rain, when the path to the pond was just dust, Alabaster could turn from a pretty white cat into a goblin in an instant. All it took was a quick wriggle in the dust on her back.

The younger red chicken has hurt her right leg and is limping very badly. Up around the middle of the leg there is a big clumpy scab. I can’t tell just what is wrong. I don’t see how it can possibly be a varmint bite. I wonder if she could have gotten herself caught behind a tie rod or something. She is eating scratch eagerly. Undecided what to do, if anything.

Tuesday 18 Oct

Chilly this morning, down near or below 50° - a cold front blew through energetically about nine last night, with wind and thunder and lots of lightning, and a fairly vigorous, if brief, rain. Less than a quarter of an inch, but a nice reinforcement. It comes to nearly four inches for October so far. It’s still pretty windy this morning. Still below 60° at noon. So odd to actually welcome the sunny spots on the floor for putting one’s feet into.

Now I am going to go into the library and FINALLY get these posts up.

Oh, and one more wildlife photo. This is the second scorpion that has shown up in the sink. This one was evidently killed by the hot water I was running to wash dishes before I got the sink cleared out and saw it. Some arthropods (roaches, for instance) are very sensitive to hot tap water.

A couple of weeks ago, when I was hastily rinsing out the dishes to give the cats "gushie-fud" before going off to Ikea with Mary, I felt a sharp pain in the side of my fingertip as I started scrubbing with the scratcher. Turned out to be an inch-long scorpion on it. I had a dish of soda right there, so I immediately plastered it with wet soda, shortly reinforced with aloe vera. It hurt for maybe ten minutes, not very badly, and then was virtually unnoticeable. Never made any mark to speak of. I'm sure a bigger one would be worse, but I was fairly relieved to discover that they are not nearly as dangerous as I had feared.

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Saturday, October 08, 2011

it's closer.. . . .

Here's this afternoon's 4pm radar. The storms keep boiling up on the radar animation, and then sliding off north to Oklahoma almost as fast as they propagate. But the whole system is getting nearer.

Outside, there are tall clouds in the west, but it is still sunny here.

Even if this system doesn't manage to reach us, we may actually have another chance tomorrow:

The shortwave is eventually expected to kick out to
the northeast during the day on Sunday and move further east than
what was expected yesterday at this time. With this in mind think
that the heavy precipitation axis will set up further east and
actually has a good chance of setting up just west of Interstate
35 by Sunday afternoon. If this pans out this would spread
anywhere from 1 to 3 inches of much needed rainfall over at least
half of the County Warning Area by Monday morning. With the expected easterly
shift of the heavy precipitation axis...went ahead with 70 to 80
percent chance of storms from the metroplex and west Sunday
afternoon and Sunday night.

So still hoping ...

Thursday, October 06, 2011

hoping harder

They aren't taking the thunderstorm chances out of the forecast, they have actually increased them. The $64,000 question is just how far to the east the low-pressure trough will be able to push, because there is a big ridge of high pressure in the east. That precipitation forecast graphic has an awfully narrow line
separating nothing-much quarter-inch rains from substantial two to four-inchers. And just where that transition falls will make all the difference.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

hope, hope, hope

Says the NWS meteorologist at 3 this morning

With the increasing moisture over the next several
days...rain chances will be good for areas west of Interstate 35
where the best lift will be located. The GFS and Canadian models
are in decent agreement with the placement of the
trough...although some discrepancies can be noted with the
strength of the system. The European model (ecmwf) remains mostly dry for North
Texas with the bulk of the precipitation staying to the west. Will lean
more with the wetter solutions as the atmosphere should be primed
and ready for precipitation as the lift enters North Texas. The best
chances fore precipitation will be Saturday night into Sunday west of
Interstate 35. Rain chances will end Monday as the upper trough
exits to the north.

Will post this weekend to report any drops...

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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

pond about to dry up

The stocktank ("farm pond," for furriners) is MUCH smaller than it was a week or so ago. It is obviously down to where the bottom is almost level, so that I doubt it is more than a few inches deep. You can see the silt-flats a fraction of an inch underwater stretching out some feet from the margin.

If we fail to get enough rain to create some runoff, I think it will not last more than another week. And rain remains unlikely. There are 10% and 20% chances of thunderstorms listed in the weekend forecast, but the meteorologist's discussions indicates that he thinks he will be taking them out as the week progresses, if the models continue to run as he expects. West of us it may rain. To the north, in Oklahoma and the plains states, it is quite likely to. Here -- not so much.

I saw the heron circling over me, crying out a deep "cro-o-o-oak," but I was unable to catch a picture of it, only of tracks in the mud.

I attempted to stride across the end of the pond to get a measure, assuming that where the large cracks were was dry mud. Wrong.

The pond is surrounded by a pattern of deep fissures. The clay of this lower level of the bed is obviously extremely sensitive to drying, and begins to shrink, opening huge cracks, while still pretty soft.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

goodbye to a tree

Last April, the oak tree that has framed the view on the back deck at 711 for forty years fell down. Remarkably, it damaged nothing vital. The railing next to it was smashed, and the corner of the deck bench broken. It brought down the remaining bit of the fiberglass awning, and the clothesline was pulled off the wall, without damaging the wall.

Chuck, who worked for an outfit that contracted with powerlines to cut trees, agreed to cut it up and get it off the deck. He and Eddie got the upper branches cut and freed the oak tree to the east that they were resting on. And he made a few little tentative cuts in the trunk, but never did any more. Then he and Kristin moved out without notice. And the tree lay there, all summer in the 100° heat, drying out.

This morning, with just the little 16" chainsaw, all by himself, Eddie cut it into sections and rolled them off the deck. Here he poses in well-deserved triumph.

There's a good deal of winter heat there, before I finally say goodbye to the tree completely. And considerable work still to split the sections into burnable pieces. But that was a really fine morning's work!