Tag Archives: Field Work

Little bluestem with iPhone

On February 26, Saturday last, when in the field, I applied the iPhone to take photographs and upload for a field test: short bursts of field notes and photographs as I surveyed 53 acres of Cross Timbers prairie, creek and woodland. I attempted to snap a photograph and upload it with commentary as I went about my survey. While in the field, miles from cell towers, I was unable to coordinate photos and commentary. In addition, the “thumbing” of data on the iPhone was too slow. I was absorbing data much, much faster than I could thumb the phone. I did send a few in-the-field updates onto my blog, but later trashed them. I composed a long post with photographs taken with the Nikon when I got back to the ranch office.  In the field I did not think the photographs had been uploaded.

Today, however, as I was going through the media library on Sage to Meadow blog, I discovered that the photographs with the iPhone had been uploaded! I uploaded one photograph twice, thinking it had not been uploaded the first time. And, here it is, Little bluestem grass that is coming back on the prairie.

Little bluestem grass, Pecan Tree Pasture, Flying Hat Ranch, Texas, February 2011.

I think the utility of the iPhone in field work is evolving.  It is portable and lighter than a camera.  Composing commentary can exceed 140 characters.  It’s not going to replace the steno pad and camera, but it may have some further use.  I like the idea of field work live, or with a minimum of time lapse, as a light and useful activity.

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Filed under Bluestem Field Log, Plants and Shrubs

High grass in the pasture 1:46 pm

Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), Flying Hat Ranch, Texas, February 2011.

[February 27, 2011, added comment.  In my field work, the constant tools (carried in pockets or small rucksack) are stenographer’s pad, pens, tape measure, compass, topographical map and watch.  Close by in the pickup are engineering graph tablets, colored flags, binoculars and camera.  The camera is ofttimes carried around the neck.  I have also been using a GPS lately.  I’ve not used a laptop in the field, but I can see its utility with uploaded topo maps and data entry.  The iPhone may have some applications in field work, but the fundamental tools are steno pad, topo map, compass and tape measure.]

The experiment with in-the-field short note taking has come to an end.  I am back up at the ranch office and am writing on the desktop, not the iPhone.

The use of the iPhone in the field for short bursts of updates works, but the photographic uploads into my blog via iPhone did not work.  Part of the problem is that our ranch is way out in the brush and our cell towers are at Bluff Dale and Morgan Mill, Texas, miles and miles away.  For any extended commentary, a laptop with a wireless connection is much preferable to the iPhone although I will try the iPhone mode again.

While in the field today I kept a written journal and took photographs with another camera.  I am posting the photographs of high grass in the pasture.  The Big bluestem is “big,” reaching six-feet tall.  The Little bluestem is about three-feet tall.  For now, enjoy the field photographs.

 

Unidentified duck taking flight from the stock pond.

Still waters on the stock pond, ducks have taken flight to Blue's pond to the north.

A typical Cross Timbers life zone that has been harvested and cut for several generations. The tree grove is rebuilding itself.

Big bluestem, Flying Hat Ranch, Texas, February 2011.

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Filed under Bluestem Field Log (Live)

Field Log 6/18/2010 (Fawn)

North Erath County, Texas, Lat 32.43 N, Long -98.36 W, elev. 1,086 ft. Turkey Creek Quad.

Salt Creek Field Hike

Yesterday, Wendy, my daughter, and Olivia, my granddaughter, and I hiked through the grove on a short field trip.  I gave Olivia her first lesson in using the field compass: the arrow points north, where is north?  Show me.  She had been given a military field compass, basic structure.

Field discoveries and observations: mussel shell, dead wild turkey with feathers scattered, several Swallowtail butterflies and skeletal remains of small animals.  Rocks of various colors collected for Olivia’s “rock bag.”  Identification of poison ivy and sumac — to be avoided, of course.

The horses, Hija, Star and Fanny followed us closely until we got deep in the grove and then they galloped through the grove’s tall grasses.  They were curious of the little one, Olivia.  I gave instructions to walk deliberately and straight while the horses lingered with us, so as to let them clearly know where we were.  (Lilly was in the Broke Tree corral with her hay.)

Down in the grove we identified recently-imprinted deer tracks, but saw no deer.  I pointed out the sharper edge of the deer track indicated the direction the deer was walking.

Taking the F-150 to the Far Field

After the hike into Salt Creek bed and grove, the temperature climbed to the upper 80s F. and we came back to the barn and drove the F-150 to the far field, beyond the creek where I have nurtured native grasses for several years, including a recent spring planting of native grass and flower seeds.  The grasses were high and from a recent rain of 2.00 inches quite plush with green and erectness.  It was much too hot to amble across the grove into the pasture and return by foot.

Last week I had shredded a six-foot path in the grove and in the Pecan Tree Pasture for safety’s sake and mobility.  The Dooleys had told me that several copperheads and rattlesnakes had been found on their place.  The copperheads, Kelly Dooley said, had been attracted by the recent addition of a small pond with koi fish about their house.  They may deconstruct the small pond.  I have only seen grayish coachwhips on our place.

As we turned the F-150 onto the southern, shredded pathway, running east-west on the far southern side of the Pecan Tree Pasture, we looked down the path and at the far end and there was a fawn, about two-tenths of a mile away.  The fawn browsed leisurely along the path while, I presume, its mother lay in the tall native grasses.  It was quite small with large ears.

It was my first sighting of deer for several months.  We corroborated, as best we could, that it was deer and we turned the F-150 on the path I had shredded under the pecan tree.  Wendy wants to have a picnic lunch  under the pecan tree on Saturday.  I was still raving about the deer as we turned onto the highway to come back to the house.

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Notes:

Since settling here in 2003, the deer count has diminished drastically from a weekly count of 15 to zero.  Deer used to migrate from the Blue and Hall places to the east of us through our house pastures and into the grove and southern Pecan Tree Pasture.  The Halls cleared brush from their small acreage and eliminated cover for deer.

The distance for the sighting of the deer was two-tenths of a mile.  Wendy sighted the deer.  We had no binoculars so I could not bring the image closer.  My only reservations on a fully-positive identification were that I did not see the mother deer and there seemed to be a white stripe on the muzzle of the fawn, but that could have been an illusion from the angle of the sun (we were looking eastward).

I intend to let the grasses grow high near the edge of the highway to give a privacy hedge to shredded pathways.  As of now, the deer along the pathway can be observed from the highway.  Given the present disposition of blood sportsmen in our state, a sighting of one deer will result in leasing several deer blinds on contiguous land.  I have observed hunters placing apples on fence posts to attract deer onto land they have leased — not the ethic of most hunters I know.

I have some photos pertinent to field activity, but they were not taken yesterday on the field trip.

Yucca Blossoms in June (Photo by B. Matthews, 2010)

Olivia Needham with Star, Hija and Fanny (Photo by B. Matthews, June 2010)

Texas Groundsel (Photo by B. Matthews, May 2010)

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Filed under Field Log

Prairie Sandbur and Bull Nettle

Two New Discoveries of Flowering Plants

In my regular field work here on Flying Hat, two new discoveries were made this morning of Texas flowering plants.  One discovery  was the Texas Skeleton Weed (Lygodesmia texana), also known as Purple Dandelion, Flowering Straw.  The other discovery, this one rather exciting, was the Prairie Sandbur (Krameria lanceolata), also known by the name of Crameria, Ratany or Trailing Ratany.  Before we go to the Prairie Sandbur (accurate spelling), let’s look at the Texas Skeleton Weed, shall we?  (I’m beginning to sound like Mr. Rogers here.)

Texas Skeleton Weed

Texas Skeleton Weed, May 2010

This beautiful lavender flower is the Texas Skeleton Weed (Lygodesmia texana), also referred to as the Purple Dandelion, Flowering Straw.  These flowers appeared rather suddenly in the last two or three days.  The term skeleton is applied because of the  leafless stems and the odd angles of the stems, analogous to skeletal assemblies.  According to Loughmiller, Texas Wildflowers, “When the stems are broken, they exude sap which coagulates into a gum.”  The medicinal qualities of this plant are presently unknown to me.  I am currently searching my bookselves for my medicinal plant book for North America.  I do have Richard Evans Schultes, Hallucinogenic Plants, New York: Golden Press, 1976, but this Texas Skeleton Weed is not in it.  I don’t like the term, “weed.”  This plant is far to beautiful to be designated, “weed.”  Perhaps the Bull Nettle is a weed, but I even have my doubts about the construct of the botanical term, “weed” applied to it.  Weed carries a cultural signification of unwanted, not desirable or bad.  I know we use the term, “weed,” a great deal and I understand the context, but I think it should be dropped from the lexicon.

Prairie Sandbur

Prairie Sandbur Cluster, May 2010

Prairie Sandbur Close-up, May 2010

The Prairie Sandbur is the reddish flower in the photographs above.  It is also known as the Trailing Krameria, Ratany, Crameria and Trailing Ratany.  This is not the sandbur of the grass family.  The leaves and flowers grow from prostrate branches.  According to Loughmiller, this plant and flower is neither conspicuous nor abundant.  They state that the Prairie Sandbur does occur in many parts of the Trans-Pecos River area of Texas.  Our ranch is in the West Cross Timbers region of Texas.  We are Trans-Brazos by about 50 miles westward.  This Prairie Sandbur was found on the east side of Poprock Hill in a well-drained slope area.  This plant may be the rarest find on our place.  I have looked carefully about Poprock Hill and this is the only cluster!

Texas Bull Nettle, Stinging Nettle, Tread-Softly, Spurge Nettle or STAY AWAY FROM THIS THING!

I went out to the Pecan Tree Pasture this morning and hoed or cut out by the hoe some 100 or so Bull Nettles (Cnidoscolus texanus).  I still have about one more acre to hoe.

Bull Nettle (White Blossoms) in Pecan Tree Pasture, May 2010

Here you see the white blossoms of the Bull Nettle in the field.  Actually, hoeing the plant is rather easy since the vascular main stems are soft at this stage of growth, plus with all the rain we have had, the soil is soft.  This photograph is looking southward, towards the Old Bryant Place, and you can see that the pecan tree, for whom this pasture is named has dark-green foliage.

Single Bull Nettle Plant in Pecan Tree Pasture, May 2010

The Bull Nettle is a plant to be avoided.  The plant has leaves that are prickly as well as the stem and if you brush up against it, the nettles will sting.  Loughmiller says the effect of the nettles will last 30-45 minutes.  The stems, if broken, will exude a sap that some people discover, too late, is an allergen.

Today, I brushed up against a Bull Nettle once and I was wearing denim jeans (Wranglers), but the nettle penetrated the denim and I felt a sharp sting.  It was a light brushing, just once, but still burned.  I have a quick recovery to Bull Nettle in my system and the stinging lasted for about one minute.   My initial contact with Bull Nettle occurred when I was three or four-years old and I was with my mother and grandmother at the Sand Cemetery in Bend, Texas.  They were on a cemetery clean-up for our ancestors’ graves when I grabbed a Bull Nettle (trying to help) in my right hand.  It had a lovely blossom.  I really, really experienced pain, especially in the palm of my hand, and for several years, the palm would erupt in a rash.  I think that early exposure to Bull Nettle gave me a bit of tolerance, but not immunity.

The Bull Nettle has a personal and family history that goes back sixty-four years, to a time when we cleaned up the cemetery for the Morris, Baxter and Brazil families at Bend, Texas.  With the 400 or so Bull Nettles I have scooped out of my pasture, every Bull Nettle or so, I think of my family and how I came to be doing precisely this hoeing, on this cloudy day in Texas.

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Notes:

A fine source for identifying Texas wildflowers is Campbell and Lynn Loughmiller, “Texas Wildflowers: A Field Guide,” Austin: University of Texas Press, 1989.

I supplement my typing operations with cross-checking from other sources, particularly the online services listed under my page, “Native Shrub Identification Guide.”  The sources found online at the Ladybird Johnson Wildlife Center are quite valuable.

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Filed under Plants and Shrubs, Recollections 1942-1966

When Will Duck and Heron Return to the Pond?

Flying Hat Stock Pond

[Originally published on October 12, 2009.  This post has been updated to include commentary for the summer of 2010.]

The photograph above is our stock pond or cow tank that you read a lot about on my blog.  It is about fifteen-feet deep, but you can see from the photograph that it is down by three feet or so.  That’s not unusual.  The horses will wallow at one end of the tank, about where the camera is.

When will the ducks come to the pond this year?  Last year the first ducks arrived during October when there was a freeze line back up north of Mingus.

What will be the date of the first arrival this year?  I would like to build a duck blind so I can take photographs.

Sometimes ducks come during the summer and warm weather.  I think they must come from some of the large lakes around here like those on Celebrity Ranch and Possum Kingdom.

I would like to type the ducks and take photographs of them and post on the blog.

The health of wildlife is measured many ways.  One of the best ways is by a field count.  My field count is not graphed on paper, but daily observations occur.

I have seen no ducks for several months on the pond, not even the resident ducks that may stay year round at Celebrity or Possum Kingdom.

Just as important, I have not seen the Blue Herons alight on the south side of the pond for several weeks.

The health of the waterfowl on Flying Hat Ranch is unknown.  They are gone for the summer or have relocated.  I presume the Blue Heron will return.  I shall post about them when they browse in the pond.

The health of wildlife?  None are present for a field count.

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Filed under Ducks, Flying Hat Ranch