Tag Archives: Monarchs

Balance — monarchs, milkweed and horses

Leading edge monarch in Spring 2011, north Erath County, Texas.

Earlier this week on the first full day of Spring 2011, I received a communication from Journey North that the monarchs “were pouring out of Mexico” and that the leading edges were entering Oklahoma, about a 100 miles from our place in north Erath County, Texas.  A day before the e-mail, I had seen a monarch in our front field feasting on nectar of wild verbena, but I did not have my camera to take a picture.

The next day, March 23, 2011, I spotted this leading edge monarch in our live oak tree out in front of our house.  Twenty-three live oak trees live on the knoll of our home, a hill really, that is known as Poprock Hill in local folklore.  These trees have been the roosting place for monarchs, I am sure, for several generations.  We have seen monarchs every year since we have moved here and last year I snapped pictures for the blog of a large roost of monarchs in the Fall as they flew to Mexico.

I have known of butterflies all of my life, but only in the last fifteen years have I begun to look deeply into the ecology of where I live in north Erath County, Texas.  This blog I write, Sage to Meadow, has become a platform for me to the rest of the world, a medium of communicating my love of nature, its greens and browns, births and deaths that encompass us all.  Butterflies such as the monarch abound where I live and I did not know milkweed was a prime source of its nutrition.

Milkweed, like many other things, is an example of nature’s complexity and diversity, for although it is a prime source of food for butterflies, its over-indulgence by horses and cattle is toxic and may result in death if untreated.  When I learned of that last year, I quickly researched  the milkweed and its correlation with horses and found that adequate grass and grain prevents the livestock from consuming large quantities of milkweed.

So, the lesson here is balance for farmers and ranchers.  Keep good stands of grass in the field, do not overgraze, and horses and man and butterflies can co-exist.  It’s not the final lesson of life, but it’s one of the best lessons to acquire — for the monarchs can continue to find food to and from Mexico, horses will graze elsewhere and be pacified, and we will be able to look upon all their beauty and grace as we observe from close and far away the interconnectedness of us all.

 

Green-flowered Milkweed (Asclepias asperula), May 2010, north Erath County, Texas.

 

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Filed under Horses, Life in Balance, Monarch Butterfly

Sunset with monarch tree

It was about this tree, to the right, that a solitary monarch flew out in the warm wind today.

I had to mow the yards about the ranch house this afternoon.  Brown grass ignites quickly when the wind is strong and humidity low.  I leave strips of dead vegetation — grass, shrubs, even broom grass — for small birds flitting among the stalks and even a field mouse running through the arbor they find protective.

As I mowed about this live oak tree, pictured first and above, a solitary monarch butterfly came out flapping, perturbed it seemed at the roar of motor.  It is November 21, 2010, and the monarch needs to be across the Rio Grande!  Not here!  The butterfly flitted around the tree.  There is flowering verbena still in the pastures for their food.  I mowed around the patches of verbena this afternoon before I saw the monarch.  I hoped the monarch would go back and roost.  It was close to the sunset.

After mowing, I fed Star and Lilly and fetched the camera, hoping I could find the monarch and present incontrovertible evidence that they are still migrating.  The tree is relatively large and many options for a sleep-over are convenient for the monarch, and after searching for five minutes or so, I gave up trying to find the little guy and took a photograph of the tree, having to use the flash.  The monarch may be in the photo or it flew southward, to the left of the light, for Mexico and warmer climes.

The monarch would have angled far left of this sunset. Mexico is about 300 miles due south, but the standard roosts for the monarch are much farther.

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Filed under Life in Balance

The other side of nature

The other side of nature. A rather intense blizzard, Christmas time, Texas High Plains, 2009.

We turn our heads, even raise our hand to eye so as to blind us to the other side of nature — fierce cold.

Winter storms force cattle to turn their backsides to the wind and drift — drift until warm temperatures encounter their travel.  But during the worst of blizzards, cattle bunch into box canyons, fences and fast-flowing streams that terminate their travel, even their lives.  The worst of western blizzards came in 1888, destroying like a monster from Hades the free range of the American West that never arose again.

The photograph inserted shows the blizzard of 2009 that stranded motorists and brought out the National Guard to the Texas High Plains.  Brenda and I drove through the storm.  Livestock perished, not like 1888, but many perished despite the efforts of cattlemen and helicopters dropping hay from the heavens, manna for cattle.  We put chains on the pickup in Roscoe and took them off in Slaton, slowly making our way to Lubbock, then Santa Fe.

I drive at least two times, sometimes four times a week, between Mingus, Texas, and Abilene, a journey of 87.2 miles from my ranch house to Cisco College.  As I travel, I see good and warm things, but I also see a tableau of death, regardless of cold Winter or warm Spring.  I do not write about the tooth and claw — only one post in a year have I written about the other side of nature — because it is most unpleasant and I have been taught by my family to look the other way, grit my teeth, bow my back and work on, carry on, even pick up sticks and rocks from the corral to forget and cover the other side of nature, raising a hand to the eye.

I was taught by my family to keep death and blood away, the least semblance of pain is to be endured against happiness and pleasure receding too quickly in our lives.  I learned in college that my family’s philosophy was stoicism, remembering vaguely the word, but daily that conduct.  I write this blog about nature and how she covers us second by second, year by year, like a quilt on a cold winter’s night, a softness and heaviness at the same time, installing comfort into our harried house.  The warmth erases pain and anguish.  But, there is another side that we all must endure.

There is an extraction, a debt, that inevitably must be paid.  As I drive the 87.2 miles to Abilene and back to Mingus, I see, even hear the debt being paid in blood and tissue.  How many deer, raccoons, skunks, possums, coyotes, dogs, cats, field mice, ravens, hawks, snakes, fox, moths and monarch butterflies can I continue to see killed along the roads?  I see the remains; I am even a part of making the remains.  The only debt I hear paid is the lovely monarch butterfly that hits my windshield, leaving a yellow stain that I cannot wash off until the day ends.  The monarch strikes my windshield and I cringe.  I think, quite often, that my salary, forcing my travel to Abilene, is not worth the agony and groans that I feel and emit as I see and hear the other side of nature.

I write of horses prancing, birds singing, dogs playing and armadillos browsing with slow gait, rooting and eating contentedly.  Then, why write this post, why bring up the other side of nature?  Death and blood and stench of flesh?  I’m not sure, but to bring up the other side of nature seems to balance my exuberance downward.  Downward to the way-things-are and away from illusion, closer to truth.  My work is affected.  As I drive the interstate to Abilene I see the panic of deer running across the road, jumping the fence to safety, to daily heaven.  I walk into class to lecture and the gravitas of it all weighs me down to essentials:  why are we here, what are we doing, what are the models we want to imitate, what are the models we wish to avoid?  I don’t waste time for I am doing my best to answer those questions for that day.

As I come back home to Mingus, I think:  I am here to groom my horse, play with my dog, feed my cats, tend my pastures, grow plants for monarchs to feed upon, protect the deer in my domain and love my life and wife.  Taking my hand from my eyes, I see life as gift once more as it is balanced against the other side.

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Notes:

I often have Brenda read my stuff before I publish it.  She read this and said, “Very good, but very heavy.  They’re going to say you haven’t had your anti-depressant.”   We laughed.  She understood what I was trying to say in the post.  I told her that I have been wanting to write this post for a long time.  One of the reasons I support wildlife corridors is the death I see on my travels to Abilene.  There’s a place along Baird Hill that needs protection.  I see drivers trying to avoid the wildlife.  Many succeed in avoiding the critters.  Drivers aren’t all talking on the cell phone.

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Filed under Baird Hill Pond, Deer, Dogs, Life in Balance, Life Out of Balance