Tag Archives: Flora and Fauna

Norman Clyde and Life on Mountain Trails

Norman Clyde taught, read, guided mountain climbs and rescues.  “Norman Clyde still guided parties into the Sierra into the 1960s, when he was in his seventies. In the 1950s and 1960s, he lived by himself at the old Baker ranch-house on Baker Creek near Big Pine. Because he was trained in the classics, Norman Clyde loved to read books in Latin and Greek. At the Baker ranch-house, Clyde had thousands of rare classical books. At age 80, he was still sleeping outside the ranch-house on a mattress and sleeping bag, as long as it was fair weather.”

The above photograph on the cover of the magazine, Climbing, I have kept since a friend of mine, Mark Garlin, gave me the magazine in 1972.  Norman Clyde died later that year, December, 1972, at the age of 87.  I have kept the magazine at my ready shelf since that time because of my love of climbing mountains and the presence of strength and fortitude in Clyde’s face and posture.  Despite age, he has tools of his love and trade beside him:  rope, ice axe, and rucksack.

When I have climbed mountains by way of trail and path, not rope nor ice axe, I have met young and old, educated and not, rich and poor, and men and women who love the outdoors and the challenge of a good climb.  Without fail, those that are on the trail take an interest in the columbine and rushing waters and all the conifers in high country.  Oh, the trees: ponderosa pine, spruce, juniper, pinion.  There is learning in the austere mountain trail that is both external and internal.  In the external, one sees and usually identifies geological formations, the topography, the magpies and jays, and the trees.  Internally, the lessons run deep and are formative, even in old age.

Norman Clyde in the photograph above was in his eighties.  The perseverance in his climbing is found off the slopes in building strawbale compounds (as my good friend, Jimmy Henley, was doing at the time of his death in his seventies), performing the arts, climbing trees as a trimmer, and pursuing goals in getting a degree.  If ever you think you are too old, think of Norman Clyde on the front cover, the mountains behind and the tools of his adventure about him.  Clyde will climb until his body fails.

As I wrote, I keep Clyde’s photograph on my ready shelf.  If he can climb at his age, I can hike and build fence and mountaineer at my age.  As I climb in the high country, three questions arise:  What am I doing here?  What should I do?  And, how do I know?  The answers are simple and complex.  I am hiking.  I am hiking.  I know I am hiking in this moment at my pace, walking among the trees, hearing birds, seeing and hearing rushing waters, touching ground, seeing the sky as I meet others on the trail.  Those are my three answers.  In a sense, those are everyone’s answers.  Until our bodies fail.   Norman Clyde, front cover, Norma Clyde, front cover….

*******

Photograph of Norman Clyde by David Hiser.

Quote in first paragraph from Wikipedia, “Norman Clyde,” accessed Aug. 23, 2016.

The three questions in the last paragraph are derivative from my course in philosophy at University of Texas at Austin, 1961.  On the Philosophy Department’s website page (at least a couple of years ago) those questions were posed in a slightly different way.

I climbed with Mark Garlin, my friend who gave me the magazine.  He lectured at the Air Force Academy in the 1970s on climbing and survival in the mountains.

 

 

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Filed under Adventure, Juniper, Recollections 1966-1990, Recollections 1990-

Xeriscaping

Your Guide to Planning Drought Friendly Landscaping

By Mary Sauer

[I now have a house in the city and may apply these techniques to the landscape.  I still have 29 acres of farmland and pasture near Mingus, Texas.  Check out the links to this company.  Full disclosure:  I am not getting any monetary compensation from re-publishing Mary Sauer’s article.  I find it helpful in saving water and, as Frank Waters wrote, “living with the land” respectfully.]

When you live in an area prone to droughts, the decisions you make regarding your landscaping can either promote water conservation and sustainable living or they can promote water waste. Specific areas of the country experience months of dry weather, with very little rain providing natural hydration for lawns and landscaping elements. The good news is, there are plenty of attractive and ecologically responsible landscaping options that are perfect for areas prone to droughts.

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Alternatives to Lawns of Green

One of the biggest challenges faced in areas that experience droughts is finding an alternative to lawns comprised largely of grass. Green lawns require a large amount of water on a daily basis. In some areas of the country, city governments are placing strict regulations on the amount of space that can be occupied by grass in hopes of lessening water waste and promoting more sustainable landscaping.

Xeriscaping is a popular landscaping practice that completely eliminates landscaping elements that require water beyond what their environment naturally provides. These options include the use of stones, ornamental grass, native flowers, succulents, and plants with a reputation for surviving with very little maintenance.

When it comes to landscaping, stones are as drought friendly as it gets. Obviously, stones require no water. With the countless shape, color, and size options occurring in nature, it is easy to create a beautiful and visually interesting space. Additionally, with a little research, you should be able to find stones that have been harvested with minimal negative impact on their environment.

Certain flowers and plants need very little water to thrive in areas prone to drought. The simplest place to start is with flowers that occur naturally in your region. Native flowers will thrive, even during a drought, and won’t require you to indulge in wasteful water use habits to keep them alive. One of our favorites is the Lewisia Cotyledon, or Sunset Strain, a dainty, pink flower with evergreen foliage that is native to California and Oregon. Certain ornamental grasses also do very well during droughts, and many are larger enough to take the place of thirsty shrubs. Lastly, succulents actually do best with just a small amount of water, and are ideal for use in areas that regularly deal with droughts.

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Use Grey Water to Hydrate Your Landscaping

If you do have certain elements in your landscaping that require regular hydrating, there are alternative methods for watering that are less wasteful. Grey water is any water that you are already using during your day-to-day life that you are reusing a second time. Consider catching the water used while showering, washing dishes, or doing laundry and reusing it to water your lawn.

 At Modernize, we are passionate about empowering homeowners like you to find beautiful yet sustainable ways to create a home that truly captures your personality and meets your needs. Just because you live in a region that receives very little rain doesn’t mean you have to give up on having a beautiful lawn—by using these tips, your new landscaping will be more unique and exotic than ever before!

 

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Filed under Flying Hat Ranch, Life in Balance, Plants and Shrubs

Rain at Flying Hat in central Texas

Within the last month, rain fell on central Texas and upon my place, Flying Hat Ranch, or ranchito.  My former professor, Donald Worcester of TCU, used to say of his 142 acres near Fort Worth was a “ranchito,” due to its size and to the calculations of John Wesley Powell, noted surveyor of the West in the nineteenth century, who opined that a ranch in the semi-arid West should be at least 2,560 acres to run cattle and attain self-sufficient for a family.  So, notwithstanding a definition of terms, my 53 acre ranchito has received rain.  And, we are forecast for more rain starting at 4:00 p.m. today.

Since the flourishing of grass and trees this spring, I have observed large eruptions of milkweed.  More milkweed has grown about the pastures and especially the roadways, such as Texas State Highways 16 and 114, than I have ever seen since moving here in 2000.  In certain places, where I would seasonally see ten blossoms of milkweed, I now see a hundred.  Monarch butterflies, however, have not passed by here.  I see one or two in my grove, but no more than that–for now.

Rain and milkweed abound.  Yet, there is a different caliber of field news.  Worms have destroyed many elm trees on the ranchito.  I saw an elm tree covered in worm strands down by the grove, encased like a cocoon.  I have not counted the loss precisely, but my elm tree loss is between fifty and a hundred trees.  Some elms survived the worm infestation and remain hardy; others have partially damaged limbs.  I shall bring out the axe and chainsaw to harvest the dead trees.

I am closing with a video of my petting a wild, juvenile cottontail rabbit.  I have seen its parents in the tall grass, not far from where I rescued the roadrunner from the water trough.  Yes, I know as you do, cycles of life and death on ranches, farms, cities, and this good earth.  And, lately, rain has fallen.

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Filed under Flying Hat Ranch, Salt Creek, Texas

Milkweed for Monarchs at My Place

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Milkweed Clusters

I have located three milkweed clusters since 2003 on my place–central Texas, Erath County. Today I sought the three clusters again, one directly in front of the house, one alongside the road to the barn, and the cluster in the far field, one-quarter of a mile away. I found only the cluster photographed above–the cluster beside the road to the barn.  I found no milkweed in the far field nor in the front yard.  I believe that this spring has been mild so far and some heat is needed to bring out other patches of milkweed. Today, as I walked the fields, I discovered a large Monarch in the grove that soared out of the grass and into the sky above the trees.  A huge Monarch, one the largest I have ever seen.  Then as I finished my field trip, in the front yard, a Monarch flitted above the cut-leaf daisy and lawn grass. Two Monarchs, one patch of milkweed that has ten clusters of blossoms (you can only see seven in the above photograph)–definitely an event to be recorded for 2015. I will continue to monitor the milkweed and Monarchs, posting the field trips I take to far and near fields on my place.

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Filed under Life in Balance, Monarch Butterfly

Rosemary and Star

IMG_3308Here in central Texas, Erath County, we remain in a drought.  Since Christmas, however, rain has fallen and we do not have to boil our water before drinking.  The date for near-complete water extinction has been extended into the future.  No specific date for extinction has been given, but the February 15th date for extinction is no longer in effect.

In the photograph above, I hold a rosemary blossom, indicative of moisture in the air and soil about the large rosemary bush on the west side of the ranch house.  The scent of rosemary lingers on my fingers as I type.  I use the rosemary for several recipes, but I favor its use when I prepare a sauce for steaks or lamb chops.

* * *

Before Christmas, my good horse Star died of colic.  The old boy was fourteen years old and in his becoming ill, the first veterinary I called to the ranch said he was a strong, stoical horse in that he did not lash out at us, his handlers.  Star was diagnosed at six in the evening and had to be put down at two o’clock the next morning at the Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery compound in Weatherford, Texas, where he was surrounded by three female veterinarians who took control and managed his passing.  Without being sentimental, I still look out my porch windows, even today, to see where Star is in the pasture.  Is he loafing under the mesquites?  I know he is not there, but I still look.

Star

Star Bars Moore will be just fine.

Star Bars Moore APHA 808164, loafing in arena pasture under mesquites.

Star Bars Moore APHA 808164, loafing in arena pasture under mesquites.

 

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Filed under Life in Balance, Plants and Shrubs, Star

Monarch Migration Plunges to Lowest Level in Decades – NYTimes.com

Monarch Migration Plunges to Lowest Level in Decades – NYTimes.com.

But an equally alarming source of the decline, both Mr. Taylor and Mr. Vidal said, is the explosive increase in American farmland planted in soybean and corn genetically modified to tolerate herbicides.

The American Midwest’s corn belt is a critical feeding ground for monarchs, which once found a ready source of milkweed growing between the rows of millions of acres of soybean and corn. But the ubiquitous use of herbicide-tolerant crops has enabled farmers to wipe out the milkweed, and with it much of the butterflies’ food supply.

“That habitat is virtually gone. We’ve lost well over 120 million acres, and probably closer to 150 million acres,” Mr. Taylor said.

A rapid expansion of farmland — more than 25 million new acres in the United States since 2007 — has eaten away grasslands and conservation reserves that supplied the monarchs with milkweed, he said.

The monarchs’ migration is seen as a natural marvel and, for Mexico, a huge tourist attraction. But naturalists regard the butterflies as a forward indicator of the health of the food chain. Fewer butterflies probably means there are fewer other insects that are food for birds, and fewer birds for larger predators.

Here on my ranchito I have seen no monarchs this year.  It is a little early for their migration through central Texas (at least here in north Erath County, Texas), and I will hold off making any conclusive statements about their pattern for several more weeks.

I have only a few sprouts of milkweed on my 53 acres.  I know precisely where the milkweed is and seek to keep it flourishing for the butterflies.

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Filed under Life Out of Balance, Monarch Butterfly

Ranchito blossoms: Flowers of Flying Hat (14-19)

In my continuing task of photographing all different species of blossoms for one year on Flying Hat Ranchito (less than 2560 acres in western America), I have six new pictures to post, only two have I identified.  I thought it better to start posting the ranchito blossoms even though identification is lacking because I don’t want to archive these beautiful plants and I think posting the unidentified will stimulate me to do further research, or possibly you-as-reader have a quick classification in mind.

This time last year, my posts focused on the wildfires and drought.  Today, pastures are green — there is some browning already — and county fire bans in my area are lifted.

14. Milkweed

15. Nightshade

16. Texas vervain (Verbena halei)

17. Unknown

18. Unknown

19. Annual Phlox, periwinkle

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Filed under Flowers of Flying Hat, Wild Flowers of Texas, Wildfire

Vacation chores

My Spring vacation ends today.  Tomorrow back to work, teaching.  On the list of chores for ‘vacation,’ several tasks were accomplished, some were not.  I changed the flatbed tire, carted the Case DX-55 for repair and managed cleanup in the corrals.  The tractor remains in the shop for repair.  The barn alleyway remains unpaved with rain coming tomorrow.  I shall have to wade through mud after the rain.

The unexpected came up.  I shopped for a lower-gas-mileage car, preparing to trade in the white F-250 (I’ll be left with Old Bull, the gray 2002, F-250).  Shopping for a new car ate up two days of the seven-day vacation.  Is that not the norm?  I did not purchase a new vehicle.

* * *

I spotted a male Western Bluebird yesterday perched on a yucca-flower stalk, occasionally turning around on the dead pods, flexing its wings.

This morning I saw two monarch butterflies, one in the grove and one near the house.  They fly higher than treetops.

* * *

Spring arrives in a couple of days.

* * *

I have continued to photograph each new flower I see on the ranchito.  I’ve not identified all of them, but they have been photographed.  Yellow predominates as blossom color.  Here are clover with yellow blossoms and a pale-leaf yucca whorl.  The pale-leaf I am confident in identifying, but as to clover, have you ever looked up how many clovers there are?  There are several genus and species listed on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website.  This clover abundantly erupts on the ranchito.

 

 

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Filed under Birds, Succulents, Wild Flowers of Texas

Yes, I know it’s a sparrow, but what kind?

Of course you know how it all starts out. Going to do one thing, then end up doing another! The rain ceased today, this morning actually, and I walked to the pond the see if it was overflowing (it was, but that’s another post). As I walked by the brush pile I had stacked for several years, I saw these birds flitting in the old mesquite stems and thorns. I thought: Ah, more white-crowned sparrows. I know you. I see you all the time.

Wrong.  I got back to the house, downloaded or uploaded the pics and they aren’t white-crowned, they have rufous coloring on their top.  How did I see white in the field?  Okay, I was mistaken.  Not the first time, nor the last.  Fair enough, I go to the Peterson’s.  There are several species of sparrows!  I knew that, but what rufous is it?  Ruffous-crowned, Ruffous-winged?  I finally broke down and went to the photo editor that I have, the Hewlett-Packard all-encompassing uber-editor to enlarge the photo and get some closer definition of attributes.  I take photographs with the full pixel rating: seven, eight megabytes of pixels so I can enlarge and view detail.  Yes, I know.  I am running out of space on my desktop after three years of blogging.  And, this is what I enlarged:


I go back and forth in my Peterson’s looking at all the sparrows, even the larks for goodness sakes. Tail is rounded, mustache? What’s a mustache on a bird?  I go to my Audubon field guide, but it does not even list any rufous sparrows. Oh, it’s an eastern region Audubon.  Figure that, will you?

I getting really frustrated not finding any attribute that is a definite signature until I look at the beak.  The beak.  It’s pink or brownish and the identity is finally achieved.  It is a Field sparrow with rusty cap, pink bill — a Spizella pusillad.*  It’s note is a tsee, having a ‘querulous’ quality.  Thanks to Peterson’s, I am relieved of puzzlement and doubt.

Starting out to check the pond, I end up spending time identifying a bird.  You know, the one with a pink beak and querulous quality to its note.

*Notes, corrections and additions:

For possible error in identity, please see the comments from Caralee and Rubia below.  The link provided by Caralee shows the Rufous-winged Sparrow in several colored photographs that correspond to my photographs of a ‘Field sparrow.’  A factor analysis is in progress to resolve identity.

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Filed under Birds, Field Sparrow

Flowers of Flying Hat (6-8): Sow thistle is not a weed.

Far field clouds, March 2012.

6. False Garlic, Crow Poison (Nothoscordum bivalve), March 2012.

This False Garlic flowers early and there are several colonies clustered together throughout the ranchito.  This False Garlic is closed and due to the rains and cold yesterday and today, I do not have an open flower to illustrate — but, I shall.  This is found in the lane to County Road 114, and other colonies are about the gate between the arena and the grove pasture.

7. Sow Thistle (Sonchus asper), March 2012.

Sow Thistle appears to be a weed, but it is not.  Authorities claim the milk of this plant relieves eye ailments.  I wonder if I could apply this to my left eye?  I think not.  I’ll rely upon Dr. Callanan, but then again…. This appeared one afternoon and then its flowers have closed.  This Sow Thistle inhabits the disturbed soil underneath the live oak tree to the southeast of the house.  I have read much about the categorization of ‘weed’ versus ‘plant.’  The term ‘weed’ seems culture-specific, a term of dislike, marginal.  Goats, sheep and cattle eat this with relish.  To them, it seems, this is a plant, not an obnoxious weed.  One person’s plant is another person’s weed?

8. Unknown.

These little-bitty guys erupt on the top terrace and emerge as small, almost unnoticeable flowers. As of today, I have failed to find their name, and I also need a closeup to gain greater resolution of their attributes. Today it is raining and the blossoms are closed.

More Violet ruellia, violet wild petunia (Ruellia nudiflora).

This is a another photograph of violet wild petunia, previously identified.  It has erupted in large numbers along Interstate 20 from Mingus to Abilene.

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Filed under Flowers of Flying Hat