Wednesday, January 2, 2019

A Moment for Wildlife Wednesday January 2019

I almost missed this amazing wildlife moment.

On the weekend before Christmas I attended a family event with my cousins in Houston.  To avoid driving back in the dark I stayed at my sister's home in a rural area outside the small town of Chappell Hill, Texas.  It was dusk when I pulled into their drive intending to grab my stuff and head inside.  Fortunately I heard a sound which caused me to turn around and look.


Hawks!  Possibly a hundred or more roosting in a row of trees highlighted by sunset.  All those dots in the trees are hawks and even the tree on the far left is filled with them.  This behavior is known as "communal roosting" and it is common among smaller birds like starlings.  Very little information is available regarding communal roosting on this scale for larger territorial hunters like Hawks and Eagles.  While I was not certain they were hawks that evening I did observe many hawks hunting over the nearby fields the next morning.

My still photos did not turn out well due to darkness but I did get several videos with audio of the gentle flapping sound that alerted me to this spectacular moment.



Then I moved a little closer





As we head into 2019 I wish for more moments like this.

Wildlife Wednesday is hosted by Tina at "My Gardener Says...." on the first Wednesday of each month where you will find more blogger's wildlife posts linked in the comments section.  Today she shares her memories of a stunning photo from space which made us all stop and see our planet in a different way some years ago.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy 2019

2019 could be "the year."  Meaning it looks like we'll be on bloom watch for the huge Agave ovatifolia which has anchored the front landscaping for nearly a decade, and presented an opportunity for decorating during the holiday season.


At 6' diameter this silvery agave has grown well past the advertised standard 4' range to reach its known maximum width.  The middle has noticeably thickened in the last year or so.  This spring will mark nine years in the garden and I'd estimate it was five years old when planted in 2010.  Agaves can live longer than 15 years but we've had a lot of rain recently which has forced blooms in many agaves around town.  


Shortly after beginning my blog in 2011 I had the bright idea to drape blue lights on the agave.  Two strands of 60 LED lights covered its three foot diameter and it made a nice photo.  


I've decorated it with blue lights every year since.  For several years I used blue and white snowflake lights for fun while thinking I would never see real snow in December.  The joke turned real in our bizarre early December 2017 snowfall.

The snowflake lights quit working shortly after the big snow so I switched to fairy lights.   This year I needed three 10m strands of 100 fairy lights which works out to over 90ft of lights!  Could it be the last year for this agave and that many lights?

Not to worry though, I have one in waiting, about three feet diameter.  Cue Lion King circle of life....


The original arrived with a rare pup tucked (the one shown above) down among the roots.  We carefully removed and nurtured it the last eight years or so.  A few years ago we moved it to full sun so it will be ready just in case.  Obviously smaller at this point, it is larger than the original when we planted it and I'm sure this baby will grow into the beauty its parent has been.


No point in being blue about it.  As disappointing as it will be, Agave bloom watch for 2019 (or hopefully later) is the realistic view.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

On this Merry Christmas Night!

A little Christmas fun.  The train belonged to my parents.  One thing led to another and so we ended up with a Christmas village and train beneath the tree in the kitchen.  The tree is decorated with cookie cutters--some quite old, some new.


Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!  Woo-Woo!


Saturday, December 22, 2018

Decking the Halls!

When it comes to Christmas decorating, I'm very traditional.  I've collected so many ornaments over the years that we alternate tree themes each year.  This is the year for our Fox and Grapes tree.  We began with a few fox ornaments and kept adding until there were enough to fill an entire 12' tree.  The grapes were inspired by the Aesop Fable and a lesson in being content with what you have.

This year it's bring on the bling with a tree bright with gold ribbons.


Collecting fox ornaments has been much easier recently as foxes have become more popular.  I'll share a few of my favorite and newly added fox ornaments.  This year's addition is a MacKenzie-Childs fox dressed for a masquerade ball.


There's a second MacKenzie-Childs fox from two years ago.


Radko is a good source for fox ornaments.  This one is a new ebay find.


I found a cute fox bearing gifts at Hobby Lobby.



A faux magnolia wreath was a fun thrift shop find still in its original Restoration Hardware box.  The wall color is "Dried Chili Pepper" but it also works great as a Christmas backdrop.  We use all faux greenery because real greenery is hard to find and doesn't last long in our climate anyway.


New this year are two trees in the dining room bay window to hold even more ornaments.  The chandelier is perfect for holding a wreath with ornaments which belonged to my grandmother hanging from ribbons. 



Almost ready for holiday dinner.  I'll be heading over to Houston tomorrow to see my sister and cousins and then back on Christmas Eve to celebrate at home.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Cathedral Park Meditation Walk: A Calm Walk in the City

I recently enjoyed an evening walk at Cathedral Park just off busy Broadway Street north of downtown San Antonio. Cathedral Park is home to the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas and they welcome the public to enjoy their serene spaces.  In a town with one of the most famous "Walks" in the world, it's nice to also enjoy some of our less famous and quieter walking trails.  The steep walk up from the parking lot gets you started and your reward is this pretty rose arbor to start the trail.


Trinity Fountain gently bubbles to one side.   Details of the walk, including a plant list, are on their website.


Volunteers maintain the planters and much of the other areas of the park.


At the top of the hill a potted "Hollywood Juniper" is very sculptural against the pretty pink chapel wall.  I was here one day when the tiny chapel was open and it's as pretty inside as out.


Benches for pausing are positioned along the way.


Very San Antonio arch and gate at the side of the chapel.


Circular benches for a circular trail around the lawn in front of the chapel.


Baptismal Fount for outdoor ceremonies.


This enormous Live Oak tree is estimated at 200 years old.  The main tree trunk is on the right and you see and branches hug the ground, supported by rocks.


Walking under the old Live Oak the pink chapel comes into view so we're about to go full circle.


Beautiful to just stand under this giant tree.


The balcony is a "sunrise overlook" which appears to be under repair.


After exploring the more formal parts of the garden there are steps leading downhill to wooded areas and natural trails.



Nice detail on this iron railing.


A "Great Lawn" is just around that bend and several neighbors were ending their evening with a quiet walk.



From the parking lot you can also turn right down the hill to follow a natural trail through the woods.



One of several fountains in the park.


Birdbath cut from a limestone rock is going in my idea file.


Our destination was an event at the pavilion.



The treehouse/screened room is a beautiful space for a small gathering of garden-minded folks.


Views from the bridge show masses of purple heart, a favorite and easily grown plant in San Antonio.




Tiled inset on a nearby wall.


The theme continues with butterflies on this cross inside the treehouse pavilion.


The bird feeder arm swings in for filling.


More details in the copper sconces.



Walking back to the parking lot we encounter a rustic bridge.


It's fun to enjoy different relaxing, yet challenging walking trails in our city.

Find more information Cathedral Park website.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Wildlife Wednesday December 2018

It's the first Wednesday of December and time for a late fall look at wildlife in the garden hosted by Tina at "My Gardener Says..."  This is all about caterpillars (mostly).  When we lived in colder climates it was common to hear predictions for the coming winter based on the width of woolly caterpillar stripes.  Woolly Bear caterpillars are typically black front and back with a belted orange stripe around the middle.  As the folklore goes, the wider the orange stripe the milder the winter and conversely, a narrower stripe means a colder winter.  With that in mind, let us consult our fuzzy friends about the coming winter's forecast.

So what does it mean if the caterpillar is all black with no orange stripe?  Hmmmm, not an auspicious start....



This one?  Black with a touch of orange.  Hedging our bets, are we?



And this one?  Equally ambivalent.



Or one that is almost entirely orange?  I like it a lot, but it seems like the caterpillar equivalent of a member of the Optimist's Society.


What if the orange and black stripes run lengthwise instead of around?  More orange than black?


Or more black than orange?



What about this gray one with black stripe?



Maybe they are trying to cover all the weather bases.  This is Texas after all so we can predict deep freezes with ice and possibly snow followed closely by hot weather before another freeze sets in.  Hot days will give way to 40-50 degree drops and blanket us with three days of below freezing weather before going back up just as fast as it dropped.  We will have an early freeze (check that one off already) and probably a late freeze in early April.  There will be whole weeks where we need no heat or air conditioning.  So the caterpillars are all correct!

Fact is none of those shown above are the famous woolly caterpillar which always has an orange belt stripe of varying dimension.  Another interesting fact is most common caterpillar ID sites don't feature fuzzy caterpillars.  The best I could do is figure out all of the above are moth caterpillars and you should not pick them up unless you are sure which one.  While the Woolly Bear is safe, others may carry venom which would be a nasty surprise.  A friend recently felt a sharp sting while gardening and later determined she had been stung by an Asp caterpillar.  Her description of long-lasting nerve pain was similar to a scorpion sting.  Ouch!

A few more sightings from last month are this White-striped longtail moth.  A fairly descriptive name.


Shadows on a Gulf Fritillary


A checkered butterfly enjoying the last wildflowers of the season.


Nice pose but I don't remember.....What are you looking at???



White-tailed bucks are feeling frisky and running all over the neighborhood in such a way that we must be careful when driving or walking.  Most of the year the bucks are cautious animals hiding in the woods until the fall season when their hormones go nuts and they take surprising risks of being seen by hunters or hit by a car.  A deer can cause as much damage as another vehicle or worse.


His attention is directed at this lady who will play hard-to-get until she is ready.  He will circle for as long as it takes.


That's the wildlife wrap for 2018.

Check out Tina's post at "My Gardener Says..." for more wildlife in the garden.