Growing Things: Orchids

orchidbrown
This is a different type of orchid than most you see in stores, but I can’t remember what it is. It’s a big plant with lots of leaves.

One of the hardest things about the Hermits’ Rest is trying to plant things and make them grow. The area is most assuredly difficult for growing non-native flowers or most vegetables. No wonder I concentrate on what shows up naturally!

Ranch plant report

I’m sad to report that the early heat wave has fried my tomatoes and most of my flowers in the raised beds. But, zinnias and a marigold that popped up are fine, as are all the herbs (they look spectacular, actually, especially the bronze fennel). And the sunflowers I planted from last year’s seeds are definitely worth the price. I’ll have to take some pictures soon.

In the bed beside the house, free basil is, as usual, growing away, amid even more sunflowers. Hiding in there is some okra and random lavender that seems okay. At least all the sweet potato vines died out.

orchidpurple
This one stays in bloom a LONG time.

Back in Austin

At the Austin house, Anita is having great success on the lower deck with her succulents and cacti. I am having less success on the top deck, which gets a lot of sun, but there are things that are alive, and we did get our bougainvillea to survive the winter. It’s all happy.

This leads me to orchids. I am not the hugest orchid fan on earth (that would be my friend Lynn Molitor). But, I am sentimentally attached to them, because my mother’s main hobby during her last years in south Florida was raising orchids, and I have many great memories of her watering them and naming all the ones that were blooming (after Mom passed away, the orchids went to Lynn’s father, and eventually to Lynn, at least in spirit). So orchids remind me of my mom.

And inside our Bobcat Lair house, we apparently created the ideal location for houseplants of all kinds, especially orchids. I used to always have one blooming on my desk at work, then I’d take it home, so I now have a good number of orchid plants.

Much to my happiness, they seem to like the low-E glass in our windows, and have responded by blooming like crazy, with nothing more than watering and monthly fertilizing. They are all in east-facing windows, which don’t get burning sun thanks to the glazing.

orchidwhite
This one was originally dyed some horrid color, but of course comes out nice and white when left alone. It’s been blooming a lont time, so some of the flowers are showing their age.

In addition to the three blooming now (including my favorite, the brown one), there are two more getting ready to bloom, at least if the woman who cleans the house hasn’t watered them to death. I think those are probably the white phalaenopsis ones. We will see!

And yes, I know I need to learn what the danged orchids are called. I hope Lynn reads this and fills me in. Then I’ll update.

 

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Why Am I Here?

sunsetToday my husband and I were talking about our long-term personal goals. I said that my most important one right now is to remember to live in the moment. It’s becoming more and more of a habit over the past few years, and while my meditation practice has helped, I honestly give most of the credit to spending time at the Hermits’ Rest.

Being away from all the traffic, people, and noise in Austin is a real balm for my soul. And while there are things I must do, like feed the animals, water the plants, and such, even those chores provide me the opportunity to just enjoy what I have here. To me, nothing smells better than my horse on a hot day, and it’s hard to be all involved with outside issues when you are looking for beautiful eggs in the hen house.

Plus, the darned dogs make us smile all the time.

Part of what I like about this place is that it isn’t all fancy or full of spectacular beauty (I was comparing it to a friend’s hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where my dad came from and where the natural beauty is so thick it is almost overwhelming). You have to look for the amazing natural wonders in central Texas. And that looking makes you slow down and really SEE what’s around you.

That’s been a real gift for me. I’ve always been an observer, but the years spent on this ranch have helped me hone it to where I just can’t help but stop and really look at what’s going on around me every day. I think my mental health improvements alone have made the purchase of this land and construction of our house worth it! After all:

sign
I like the sign, even though it refers to “wild Apaches,” but since it’s humor, I forgive it. And actually a lot of the people who lived here before weren’t Apaches. They showed up later.

By the way, if you look at the limestone on the house, you’ll see it is full of fossil shells. This layer of the limestone is called the “rattlesnake” layer, because the fossil shells look like rattlesnake rattles. This limestone came from a quarry near Georgetown, Texas, which is not too far from us. I love being surrounded by fossils. I’ll post more on them another time.

This informally Zen-like goal of taking the time to enjoy where I am and who I am at any moment is why I am so fervent about protecting our natural areas, our plants, our wildlife, and all who live here. People need to connect to the earth. I think it’s a basic need.

What about where you live?¬† Is it easy to live in the moment? Can you find the beauty wherever you are? I hope so, because it’s everywhere (including the Bobcat Lair, our Austin house).

Katydid Awareness

katydid
Katydid on the garage entry thing in Austin.

My whole life I’ve heard about katydids but, I guess I’d never seen one in person until yesterday. I was driving into the parking lot at work, when I saw a bright green leaf, but the leaf turned out to be an insect.

I quickly parked my car and went over to see what it was. Of course I took a picture so I could upload it to iNaturalist. What a cool bug it was, too!

When I uploaded the photo, I saw lots of potential katydids, but I figured it was probably the most common one. That turned out to be wrong, as the person who reviewed it for iNaturalist said it was actually a Central Texas Leaf-Katydid, which is more rare and more local. That’s cool!

I also sent up two flowers to be identified after I got to the Hermits’ Rest yesterday. They are two of the more late-blooming wildflowers. I am pretty sure I got the ram’s horn right. That’s one I look forward to every year. We only have a few:

ramshorn
I guess I like these because although the flowers are delicate in appearance, they are really big.

The next plant I am not so sure of. We have quite a bit of it, but when I uploaded it to iNaturalist, there wasn’t much about this one, if, in fact, I identified it correctly. It appeared to be Lady Bird’s Centaury, which must be named after Lady Bird Johnson, right? It said it had not been reported yet. That sounds fishy to me, so I am awaiting a correction from one of the botany experts by morning. It’s great to have the opportunity to learn this way.

centaury
It was really windy when I took this, so I had to hold the plant.

Plant ID Help?

althea
I know what this is! It’s an althea or rose of sharon! Isn’t the color pretty?

A friend asked me to help identify two plants. I must admit that I have failed, which is irritating, since one of them I see all the time, but have no clue for ID. So, I am going to reach out to you, blog readers, for some help.

The first plant is a type of bunch grass. It’s in my friend’s yard in Spicewood, Texas, or thereabouts. The question is whether it’s a good plant, a native one that we want to encourage, or one that needs to go away, because it’s not native or useful in some other way. Here you go:

plant2
Yep, it makes clumps. And I don’t have a larger image.

Any of you Master Naturalists or botanists have an idea?

UPDATE: Stephanie Kendall (no relation) posited that it could be Texas bear grass. I’ll go with that until there’s another idea. It’s not growing in its native habitat, but it is on a limestone soil. It looks like it was planted there on purpose as a ground cover, which is one of the uses of bear grass.

The other one I see all the time on 360 in Austin, and anywhere that isn’t overly manicured. I have a close-up of the leaves, which I took. I tried to ID it with the PlantSnap application, but first it said it was a bromeliad, then a rose:

plant1b
This resembles a lot of things. But SnapPlant said it was a rose flower. That one I know is wrong.

Here’s the photo I got from my friend. Austin residents should find it familiar. But what is it? It’s not the thing with the pretty orchid-like flowers, but it does look like that one (which I also don’t remember the name of and haven’t looked up):

plant1
Okay, so what is it?

I hate to admit to being so clueless, but I am. I don’t even have good enough images to see if I can get help on iNaturalist, but I guess that will be next.

Help a gal out. Any clues?

UPDATE: Stephanie Kendall also identified this one. And I am sure she’s right that this plant is false willow¬†Baccharis neglecta. I love the name on that one! It’s because it tends to crop up on disturbed or neglected areas. I’ve been seeing this one for decades and wondered what it was.

Visitor Viewpoint

steve
My grad school best buddy, Steve, whispering sweet nothings to Alfred the Anatolian shepherd, while Carlton wags his tail.

Hi friends. I took a blogging break last week, but at least I got that newspaper article written. Big busy-ness at my full-time job combined with my part-time job, high school graduation, and entertaining guests meant I didn’t sit down at the computer for two whole days! That may be a record.

I really enjoyed the various guests. Yesterday, one of my oldest friends (the first person I met in grad school), Steve, and his husband Guy dropped by. We have visited them a few times in Las Cruces, but they hadn’t been here, so they stopped after visiting San Antonio.

Continue reading “Visitor Viewpoint”

In the News!

A quick share, because I am proud that the article I submitted last week to the Cameron Herald got published just as I wrote it, even with the informal parts intact. I was testing to see if light-heartedness would go over all right, and it did.

By the way, this is a fun paper to read, and subscriptions to the online version are very reasonable. What the heck, read about all the police activity and financial intrigue in a small town! Click the link above to subscribe.

I was a little disappointed to see that they used the photo of me grinning my head off rather than the one of Dr. Thoms, but I can see why they would want to feature local residents. The Thorndale paper also published the article, but with no pictures. I guess I am a byline collector, now.

Cameron_Herald_May_31_2018

My sister texted me to say I was in the newspaper. I said, yes, I know. Check the byline! It’s great to use my skills to volunteer for a good cause and help educate folks about the history of our area. We have it worked out where I and another volunteer alternate articles, so it’s not too much work, either.

Also…

Who can spot the typo?