Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Adventuring

Posted: October 17, 2011 in family and friends, nature, texas
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To me, even the littlest step into nature can provide an escape… but in the eyes of children, you can bet that it provides a grand adventure.
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I have developed a seedy new habit… Whenever I see a robust and bustling garden, I have an insatiable desire to loot it.  Always begging for seeds and offspring plants at any opportunity presented.

In my third year of gardening, I can say that my style has been largely inspired by my Aunt Pam’s “tough and adaptable, natural and Texas native” planting creed.

This au naturel style is abundantly clear when meandering down her thyme covered stone steps… the entrance to her whimsical, butterfly-peppered sanctuary… filled with patches of periwinkle Plumbago, pungent Spearmint, and happy little clumps of Blackfoot Daisies. Continue walking, and the crunch of the crushed rock underfoot will fill your ears as you explore the P-shaped path of her little prairie garden… Strange old world herbs, utilized by long ago pioneers, bushing to the right… trailing Vinca (occasionally blooming with bell-shaped lilac flowers) ever so slightly grappling up the wall of her house for more space than the floor of the garden will allow it… Autumn Sage and Turk’s Cap to satisfy the greedy hummingbirds buzzing around them, all held ransom by a border of redbud trees and tall red yuccas (that always seem to be blooming with their ferocious crimson spires reaching towards the sky.)

Even in negligence, this garden would survive. In fact, without the dutiful hand of a keeper, the “daughter plants”, as my aunt would say, and “grand-daughters” …would pop up wherever the breeze or birds directed them to take hold.

I'm obsessed with my little rock garden, filled with different types of Sedum, Iceplants, Torch Cactus, Salvia, and Skullcap

This lovey Rock Rose seems to be doing well in my West facing garden of fire… for now.

This is what I want to emulate in my own garden. NATURE’S beauty. Not the fake, pointy, manicured nail of perfection. While cookie-cutter gardens are very beautiful, the maintenance involved seems tortured and insincere. I don’t need voluptuous ‘Knockout Roses’ and begonias to be satisfied with myself, er uh, I mean… my garden. 😉 It sometimes feels like I am surrounded by prisons of conformity and compliance.

                

 

But I also know, that when my garden is lush and thriving… I would do the same for my friends and family. Share in the joy of gardening.  Let the grand daughters go play in someone elses yard! 

I have also taken to collecting seeds from my own plants, and I relish discussing each variety. So far I have Salvia greggii, ‘Winecup’, ‘Nana’ Coreopsis, two types of ‘Rock Rose’, and I even took seed from my ‘Batface’.

Rock Rose and the White Crab Spider

Citronella Plant and the Lynx Spider

Will I ever have daughter, even grand-daughter plants in my garden?! I certainly hope so.

3 year old Salvia greggii ~ one of my FAVORITES

 

Quiet, Strong, and Proud

Posted: February 28, 2011 in nature, texas
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If you would know strength and patience,
welcome the company of trees.
~Hal Borland


Trees are so beautiful.  Barren and desolate in the winter… Reborn, neon, and untainted in the Spring.

Like a long lonely stream
I keep runnin’ towards a dream
Movin’ on, movin’ on
Like a branch on a tree
I keep reachin’ to be free
Movin’ on, movin’ on

‘Cause there’s a place in the sun
Where there’s hope for ev’ryone
Where my poor restless heart’s gotta run
There’s a place in the sun
And before my life is done
Got to find me a place in the sun

Like an old dusty road
I get weary from the load
Movin’ on, movin’ on
Like this tired troubled earth
I’ve been rollin’ since my birth
Movin’ on, movin’ on

There’s a place in the sun
Where there’s hope for ev’ryone
Where my poor restless heart’s gotta run
There’s a place in the sun
And before my life is done
Got to find me a place in the sun

You know when times are bad
And you’re feeling sad
I want you to always remember

Yes, there’s a place in the sun
Where there’s hope for ev’ryone
Where my poor restless heart’s gotta run
There’s a place in the sun
Where there’s hope for ev’ryone
Where my poor restless heart’s gotta run
There’s a place in the sun
Where there’s hope for ev’ryone…

~Stevie Wonder

Riley and I tumbled around a few ideas for what mural to paint in his room… from a “Skateboarder” theme to a “Surfer” theme… but I just couldn’t find the inspiration for either.  All I kept envisioning in my head was a forsaken vessel enveloped by a huge Kraken.  Probably not ideal for a 5 year old… but the idea mutated from giant scary Kraken to the heart of Riley’s soon to be mural:  the Octopus aka “Devilfish,” as they were sometimes called.

Drawing octopi just flows out so easily for me… like the graceful and awe inspiring dance of an octopus floating through the water, arms undulating in sinuous wavelike motion.  They are so beautiful!!!

WHAT IS IN A NAME?
from wikipedia: The octopus is a cephalopod mollusc of the order Octopoda. Octopuses have two eyes and four pairs of arms, and like other cephalopods they are bilaterally symmetric. An octopus has a hard beak, with its mouth at the center point of the arms. Octopuses have no internal or external skeleton (although some species have a vestigial remnant of a shell inside their mantle), allowing them to squeeze through tight places. Octopuses are among the most intelligent and behaviorally flexible of all invertebrates.

The octopus inhabits many diverse regions of the ocean, including coral reefs, pelagic waters, and the ocean floor. They have numerous strategies for defending themselves against predators, including the expulsion of ink, the use of camouflage and deimatic displays, their ability to jet quickly through the water, and their ability to hide. An octopus trails its eight arms behind it as it swims. All octopuses are venomous, but only one group, the blue-ringed octopuses, is known to be deadly to humans.

In the larger sense, there are around 300 recognized octopus species, which is over one-third of the total number of known cephalopod species. The term octopus may also be used to refer only to those creatures in the genus Octopus.

From www.octopus.com:
Each of the octopus’s arms have two rows of suction cups each of which has ‘taste sensors’ to allow it to identify food. It is able to distinguish different textures and tastes with these sensors. With the ability to regenerate lost arms and an eye on each side of its head Octopi are hardy predators with unique self defence mechanisms and very good eyesight. Octopuses have acute vision and are able to detect colors. Just like the human eye, the octopus eye consists of a light-sensitive retina, lens and two fluid-filled chambers. They are however deaf due to the fact that they lack hearing organs.

Most Octopi have a globe-shaped ‘head’ or mantle that contains all the vital organs and mouth which hold a sharp beak which is used to kill and decimate prey. The brain is highly developed and they are able to learn fast. Their skin is smooth and ranges in color most normally from a tan to light brown with some coloration, but many are able to change colors by contracting skin cells filled with pigments to allow it to hide when hunting for prey. Some Octopi can even mimic other fish and objects, and their defensive arsenal includes the ability to squirt an ink like substance at an attacker to mask their getaway.

With life spans of approximately two years Octopus are often confused with squid, another Cephalopoda which has two longer arms called ‘tentacles’ – in an octopus all eight appendages are of a similar length and are called ‘arms’ not legs.

Living primarily in dens which provide refuge from predators including other octopi and various fish their staple consists primarily of crustaceans and molluscs such as crabs and scallops. This diet is supplemented by other bivalves, snails, fish and even other octopi. They gain access to shelled prey either by pulling it apart, biting it with their beak to break it apart or by drilling through the shell and secreting a toxin to dissolve the connective tissues.

Although difficult to maintain in captivity it is not unheard of for some people to keep them as pets, although they are very sensitive and their short life span discourages many would-be owners, as does the ability to escape from even well secured tanks due to their well known problem-solving abilities and high intelligence, which has been compared to that of an average house cat. They also are a food source in many parts of the world and some species are even bred and raised exclusively for that purpose.

A misconception is that octopi eat their own arms when stressed – but studies have show that this behaviour is caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system although stress may allow the virus to attack more readily.

There are over 160 different species of Octopus, broken into two large groups:
• Cirrata: Finned octopi that live at depths between 1,000 and 24,000 feet
• Incirrata: non-finned shallow water dwellers
Octopus have a sharp beak that it uses to crack shells and inject poisons and digestive fluids into shellfish and other prey.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octopus_(genus)
Species links!!! 🙂

Common House Gecko – (Hemidactylus frentatus) Originally from Asia, these geckos spread globally by ships and then adapted to the climates of South America and the southern parts of N. America, 3 to 6 inches in length, nocturnally feeding around areas of easy prey; such as areas with an abundance of bugs due to lights on buildings and houses, translucent beige spotted bodies with striping on the tail help them camouflage to brick and siding, large circular pads on their feet help them to cling to walls and even ceilings… We have lots of these little cuties on our house. Over the spring and summer months we would watch a group (of up to four) feed on our bathroom window when the moths and flies would drone to the light at night. I’ve photographed many House Geckos, but I’ve only held two (not counting all the geckos I cared for at Planet Pet). The first was a small adolescent that had probably been in the house for days without a substantial source of food… I cornered him and took him outside. The second was an adult that I spotted outside on the brick just before a summer storm… I still can’t believe I caught him! All he had to do was climb out of reach… but he didn’t. He just kept circling the same column until I was able to gently grasp him in my hand and pluck him from the wall.  After a few pictures, I finally let him go and he did not hesitate to run out of my reach this time. As I watched him go, I felt like he had shared something special with me.  I love Geckos… they seem so gentle and soft, fragile almost.  Geckos will easily drop their tail if they are threatened… I learned my lesson with a Giant Day Gecko at the pet store.  I felt horrible.  Sometimes they recover and heal without any problems, and sometimes they don’t survive it.  The tail regenerates, but is never the same.
  
Texas Spiny Lizard –
(Sceloporus olivaceus) 7 to 11 inches in length, usually grey to beige in color with some black spotting or stripes, males usually have blue patches on the sides of their belly, long toes with sharp claws for climbing bark and rough terrain, sometimes mistaken for Horned Lizards because of their spiny appearance.

The Spinies I’ve seen on nature walks and in my garden are VERY fast. I’ve only caught a few because of their ability to climb out of range in a split second… and they tend to be shy, staying in brushy, safe areas. I will say that I run into these guys more after a rain. They seem to love basking in the sun with the added humidity. Their natural habitat is in areas with mesquite trees. When challenging each other for territory, the males will have push up contests… until one gives up and runs away. Predators of these little guys include: Roadrunners, snakes, raptors, coyotes and foxes.

The first lizard that Riley ever held was a Spiny… it ran up his arm, then his back, and onto his head.  My cousin found one laying a clutch of eggs in a hole dug out of her rocky garden ledge.  I was thrilled when I finally spotted this female in my garden!  She’s SO shy… she won’t let me anywhere near her.  Especially after I tried to catch her by my Star Jasmine one day. Ha!      

  

 
Green Anole – (Anolis carolinensis) 6 to 8 inches in length, found in warm humid climates in North and South America, long slender tails and toes, ability to camouflage in ranges of color from green to grayish brown… but healthy, non-threatened adults are usually bright green, males have a large pink flap of skin called a dewlap under their jaw that they aggressively display during courtship or territory disputes… raising their head up and down and sometimes appearing to shake it back and forth. I usually find these guys in houseplants, green vegetation, or more tropical areas. These are pretty easy to catch… aside from the booger that I chased around at my cousins for a half-hour.  Anoles seem to be the ballsiest of the three, and after the initial shock of being captured they will hang out for a while.
  

I’ve never been bitten by a wild lizard, only lizards bred in captivity… and then, only twice. Seems like I should move on to snakes, since I’ve caught all of the usual lizard suspects in our area. I still hope to eventually spot a true Horned Lizard in the wild. (Phrynosoma cornutum), also known as the Horny Toad. Fun fact: they squirt a stream of blood, mixed with a foul smelling secretion out of their eye… into the eyes and nose of their predators, to keep from being lunch. Pretty darn cool.

Zombie Fire Ants

Posted: April 17, 2010 in nature, texas
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Four species of parasitic flys have been introduced to Texas since 1999 to control the South American Fire Ant population. These tiny flys lay an egg on the ant and then the maggot enters the ant’s head and eats the brain… but the ants don’t die. They wander around aimless until they eventually run out of juice and their heads fall off.  Are we playing with fire? Ants do provide a service in the garden, but I think I’m pro Zombie Ants… for two reasons. 
1) Fire Ants are mean little SOBs and infest electric boxes, soccer fields, and, in one case that I know of, cars! 
2) Zombies are IN right now.