Tag Archives: Prickly Pear

Cactus Illusion

We had a scare today.  At 11:30 a.m., I trained the binoculars on the pasture beyond the arena to check on Lilly and Star who were turned out today.

There is a special spot along side the fence and under a mesquite tree that Lilly likes to loaf, and when I looked at her favorite spot, it appeared that she was on her back, legs stuck along the posts of the fence and injured.  Maybe even comatose from stress and the heat.

I yelled at Brenda to put her boots on, “Pronto!”  She did and we climbed in the pickup and I quickly drove by the barn to get rope, halter and blankets.

We drove rapidly through the pasture gate and sped alongside the pond under the live oak trees.  Rounding the curve, Brenda said, “There she is, in the grove, under the live oak tree, standing up!  She’s not by the fence!”

Sure enough, Lilly loafed under a tree, head down, drowsy-like.

What I saw from the house was the reflection of the sun off a stand of prickly pear cactus.  The paddles of the cactus were long enough to appear as Lilly’s legs and the shine seemed like Lilly’s white coat.  I had looked carefully, but I had seen a crisis in the stand of cactus, not reality.

I was embarrassed at the panic, but what could I say?  “Sorry, Brenda, I didn’t mean to get you upset.”  She understood.

This heat is affecting my brain pan.  It’s okay, we have siestas, the horses are well-fed and cool under the trees and this is summer in west Texas.

Taking a cue from an Irish saying, “If we waited for the rain to stop, we’d never get anything done.”  Well, here in Texas, if we waited for it to cool off, we’d never get anything done.

But, I can do without cactus illusions.


Filed under Adventure, Horses, Lilly

Field Log 5/30/2010 (Coneflowers)

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

General Log

Weather has been hot, 90 deg. F. plus, last few days.  Air is almost completely calm.  Some slight breeze from the south.

Grass is drying up, browning.  Seeds are become ripe and falling off.

This week, Shiney goes for sale at Shawnee, Oklahoma.  We leave on Thursday, come back on Sunday.  The most important objective is guarantee that Shiney will have a good home, regardless of the auction price.

F-250 in shop for air conditioner repair.  Have been looking at new and used F-250s to purchase.  The trucks have been repaired frequently in the last week, ranging from oil pumps to the F-150 bearings and now the air conditioner.

Barn Swallows and Feeding Wild Birds by Hand (A Method Observed)

In the evening, Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) encircle our ranch house on Poprock Hill and feed on mosquitoes and flies.  A nest of barn swallows have hatched fledglings on our back porch.  Notice the characteristic sharply-notched tail.  This photograph was taken in the morning.  If I sit quietly on the porch, the swallows will angle under the eve of the porch and fly within three or four feet of where I am sitting.  Last year, a resident wren that fed about the porch landed on my hat and pecked around on my hat for about a minute until it flew off.   I will set the camera up for remote operation and see if I can photograph the wren on my hat.  When I lived in Paris, I was always intrigued by the young man at Notre Dame that would sit in a chair about the sidewalk and hedge and have the sparrows feed out of his hand.  The method he used was to look away from the birds and extend his arm back from his body (like in handing off a baton) so that the birds did not see his eyes or mouth (specific threat areas for birds).  The young man was neither monk nor priest, but a lad that loved birds.

Barn Swallow in Flight, Photo by J. Matthews

Wildflower Photography and Hoe Downing with Bull Nettle (Not a Dance)

On May 23, 2010, Brenda and I drove the F-150 to Pecan Tree Pasture for her to photograph wild flowers and for me to hoe down Bull Nettle.

Wild Flowers alongside SH 108 at Gate 3 Entrance, Photo by B. Matthews

Lemon Horsemint, Photo by B. Matthews

This blossoming plant is the Lemon horsemint (Monarda citriodora Cerv. ex Lag.)  It is also known as the Lemon beebalm, Horsemint, Purple horsemint or Plains horsemint.  Several stands of this plant are about the place.  Over near the pecan tree, a few blossoms are present.  The biggest stand of Lemon horsemint is back up by the barn, about an old hearth location that goes back for several decades, perhaps prehistoric.  The Lemon horsemint is attractive to butterflies and bees.

Clasping Coneflower, Photo by B. Matthews

This yellow-leafed blossom is the Clasping Coneflower (Dracopis amplexicaulis).  It is also know as Clasping-leaf Coneflower.  It differs from the Black-eyed Susan and Mexican Hat.  This particular species has medicinal qualities: the Cherokee used the  juice of root for earache and a tea, made from the leaves, was used as a tonic and diuretic.

Unidentified Plant and Blossom (Now Identified)

Bush Vetchling or Manystem Pea, Photo by B. Matthews

Here we have an unidentified plant and blossom.  (See update for identification in next paragraph.)  I first thought it a Skull-cap (Scutellaria drummondii), but I am not sure.  Like my previous analysis regarding the Mariposa and Wine-cup, I must go back over to the pecan tree area and re-photograph and take a sample of the full plant, not merely the blossom.  One of the interesting aspects of posting this photograph and determining genus and species is that I look more closely at the photograph to make sure I get it right, and upon looking closer at the photograph, I see bean pods that I did not notice while I was in the field — see if you can spot the pods.

Update:  The unidentified plant and blossom is the Bush Vetchling or Manystem Pea from the Lathyrus genus, more than likely the species montanus or nissolia.  The Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center lists several species including polymorphus and brachycalyx ssp. zionis. Thank you, Grethe Bachmann of Thrya Blog and Flora and Fauna Blog for the identification.  I never would have found it since it does not appear the two general sources of plants I use for identification.  You can go to Grethe’s blogs by linkage from my blogroll on my Homepage.

Texas Prickly Pear, Photo by B. Matthews

This is the blossom of the Texas Prickly Pear (Opuntia engelmannii var. lindheimeri).  The blossoms are especially brilliant.

Indian Blankets with Shelton Rock Hills, Photo by B. Matthews

This is a stand of Indian Blankets with the Shelton Rock Hills (north and south) in the background.  The direction of the camera is west.  To the right (north) is The Grove and Salt Creek.

With this hot weather, the horses go back to the stables for shade and water.  I attend to them at about 6:00 p.m. everyday.

Jack Matthews with Hoe and Clasping Coneflower (2010), Photo by B. Matthews

I am actually in a much, much better mood than what this photograph belies.  In the pasture, I’ve been hoeing a few Bull Nettle down and it is rather hot, late in the morning.  Note the large stand of Big Bluestem grass to my left.  I’ve been careful to keep the Big Bluestem from getting shredded for several years and now it grows higher than me in the field.  Please also note the tool on my left side.  That is a hoe.  Not machinery, a manual tool.  Kinda Luddite-ish, don’t you think?


Filed under Field Log, Plants and Shrubs

Field Log 4/16/2010

North Erath County, Texas, 32.43 lat., -98.36 long. Elev. 1,086 ft.  Turkey Creek Quad.

Light mist this morning.  Probably 0.20 inch of rain since yesterday.

Lilly, Star and Fanny browse front pasture.  Lilly shows age with slower gait and right back leg limp.  Sweet Hija still at ESMS on Brazos.  Shiney is at Jimmie Hardin’s in Aubrey, Texas, for ground training and conditioning for Triangle Sale, Shawnee, Oklahoma, June 5, 2010.  Miss the little guy more than I thought I would.

Pasture grasses are erupting well.  Vetch in far field is waist-high in places.

This week, Mourning Doves (Zenaidura macroura) are cooing.  No calls before then, but noticed their presence.  This morning the doves were ground feeding in the front yard.  From Peterson: has a pointed tail, most widespread dove in the West.  As to the call, Peterson says it is a “hollow mournful ooah, cooo, cooo, coo. At a distance only the three coo‘s are audible.”  The color of the dove in our front yard was a reddish-gray with black spots.  The two dove would ground feed a moment, then hunker down in the grass and loaf.  I must have watched them for ten minutes and then had to come back to office and work on college Blackboard classes.  I will have to focus on their call to hear the 00ah.  I am practicing on imitating their call better.

We have a larger dove that is whitish that appears in late summer.  It is untyped.  The two dove will perch on the power pole by the barn and watch me feed the horses.

The following are some photographs I took this morning.

Vetch and Clouds Far Field, April 2010

Prickly Pear Bush, April 2010

Cactus Fruit, April 2010

These photographs were taken last week.

Round Pen and Twin Mountains in Distance, April 2010

Harris' Hawks at Play, April 2010

Field grasses obscure pasture lanes.  Minimum shredding planned this year, indicative of lower carbon footprint.  In addition, taller grasses can harbor wildlife.  Hand cut mesquite brush this season, using clippers and large cutters.  Lessen vehicle use in pastures.

Lilly, Star and Fanny have browsed their way to the front pasture and are now standing close together, switching their tails to keep the flies away.  They have all this space to lounge around in and they prefer to stand together with their bodies almost touching.  Herd animals.  I worry about Lilly during the night and have corralled her so she can avoid predators.  One mountain lion sighting three months ago on SH 108 near Gibson place.

I must get the duct tape down in the barn and duct tape my Peterson’s Field Guide.  The binding is coming off.


Filed under Field Log