Dewberry Time!

dewberries
Just look at that deliciousness (and puppy)

Dewberries are the unofficial plant mascot of Cameron, Texas. They are truly abundant here, judging from all the photos I’m seeing. Cameron even used to have a Dewberry Festival, which featured all sorts of delicious things made with these perky fruits. I miss it.

Here’s what our friends at Wikipedia have to say:

The dewberries are a group of species in the genus Rubus, section Rubus, closely related to the blackberries. They are small trailing (rather than upright or high-arching) brambles with aggregate fruits, reminiscent of the raspberry, but are usually purple to black instead of red. Unlike many other Rubus species, dewberries are dioecious, having separate male and female plants.

That male and female plant part explains why I keep seeing bushes with no fruit! Aha!

We are lucky to have lots of dewberries here at the Hermits’ Rest, though I’d never really done much with them before, other than snack on them. That’s because I never went out looking for them when they were completely ripe. This year, after all that foraging talk, I vowed to do better.

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May Day!

horse nettle
Here is some horse nettle to help you celebrate May Day.

Today is one of my favorite holidays! It’s May Day, or Beltane in the Celtic tradition. It’s a day when traditionally folks left baskets of flowers on friends’ and relatives’ doorsteps. It’s also a day to celebrate all those happy forest creatures out there having babies, birds building nests (hello to our barn swallows), and generally the fertility of spring.

Mockingbird Real Estate Failure

In Hermit’s Rest fertility news, we have been watching some mockingbirds try to build a nest in their favorite location, where they’ve been trying for at least the past three years. Where’s that? Sigh. One of the tractors. This year I think it’s the backhoe. They even follow it when Lee moves it. They like the high part where the bucket bends. It’s not a place that is great for successful bird parenting. We always feel bad for them and hope they eventually find another spot.

News, as in Paper

I did get my first article for the Master Naturalists in the Cameron newspaper last week. They didn’t put in any photos, which doesn’t surprise me, and it was on the back page, but it WAS the article. I think I’m supposed to write another one soon. With all this new puppy stuff, writing is not as easy as I’d like.

And I am sorry about how HUGE this is. There are so many names in the article that it’s hard to read (I was supposed to mention EVERY person who was there. Yow.)

newspaper_article_418
Yeah, I’m sure you’re real impressed.

 

 

A Walk around the Pasture

Texas_thistle
Texas thistle next to the old burial plot fence.

Some new flowers are blooming around our property, and since we have a new puppy, I figured today would be a good day to walk around and check out the area. It brings such joy to walk with the dogs, since they jump in the pond and swim, run around in the tall grass and find dead things, and of course, roll in hog poop.

nature_dogs
Alfred the Anatolian shepherd dog, and Carlton the white mutt explore their wild kingdom, also known as a hay meadow.

My mission was to take some pictures to upload to iNaturalist (I am sunasak there) to get some volunteer hours, and add to my collection of plants and animals here at the Hermits’ Rest. I was able to get photos of a great egret and barn swallows, which was good, since I still don’t have a camera with a birding lens.

As for plants, I got some nice shots of Indian blanket (gaillardia), Texas thistle, wild garlic, white clover, hedge parsley (ugh), and the pretty curly dock we have with the bright pink seed heads. Sure, these aren’t real exciting, but I do want to record all, not just the showy ones. (There is lots of grass, but I need to get better at grass identification.)

indian_blanket
Gaillardia is one of my favorite wildflowers.

I do love walking around here, but I equally love just sitting on the front or back porch and watching the wildlife, dogs, and weather. Spring is pretty awesome at the Hermits’ Rest.

PS: Don’t forget these blog posts always appear on the Hermits’ Rest Facebook page, along with more photos and goofy things. Please “like” us there, too!

Random Observations, a Puppy, and a ‘Possum

dandelion
Face it: this thing is beautiful.

Observations

I guess I should note what I’ve been seeing and hearing lately. There have been some great song birds at both my houses. There is a Chuck Will’s Widow somewhere near our Austin house, and their call is so cool (they say their name, loudly). You never see the bird, but you sure hear them! Ours are in the greenbelt across the road.

There’s another bird out there I can’t identify. It’s like a louder bobwhite call, without the first note. Bobwites go bob-bob-WHITE! And this bird goes bob-WHITE bob-WHITE! It’s a night-time bird, too. I’ll have to ask one of my birder friends for help with this one.

At the ranch, the prickly pear cactus has started blooming, and some of those supposedly delicious dewberries are starting to ripen. Since Sean Wall keeps saying how good they are, I guess I’ll make a cobbler this year. We certainly have enough of them.

Most of what we see in the pastures and fields are many, many dandelions, along with all the pollinaors thereof. No way am I getting rid of these delicious and useful plants!

The bluebonnets are fading, but the Indian blankets are coming on strong, and some of the Mexican hats have started. Plus, my tomato plants are fruiting. That’s all fine!

carlton
Just a blue-eyed boy.

The puppy

Yes, the Dogs of Hermits’ Rest have a new member. I adopted Carlton from the Cameron dog pound, which has to be the nicest dang dog pound on earth. Sandra, the dogcatcher, is a real animal lover and lavishes all the doggies in the pound with love and attention. She even works on training them.

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Bats and Termites and Flowers

jasmine
This is a very old jasmine vine, judging from the width of its trunk (which doesn’t show up in this pho! And it sure smells good.

I’ve added flowers to today’s post to make it a little more cheerful. My urban home in Austin is on a hill near Bull Creek, and  surrounded by greenbelts. That means there’s plenty of native flora and fauna, plus some darned nice things someone planted once. I’m glad I got to enjoy the scent of the very sturdy jasmine vine behind our house, and the nice collection of cedar sage in the limestone outcropping next to our house.

sage
A lot of people walk their dogs by here, so this lovely planting brings joy to many.

What about the bats?

Well, the guy from the pest control company came by today. At first he thought the scat on my deck was from a rodent, but I pointed out how it’s arranged in a row and encouraged him to look up bat guano on his phone. He agreed we do have bats, and guessed they are mostly hanging out in the cavernous space where nothing else is in the chimney.

I began to imagine a growing smell, so I was pleased when he said they can block the holes in the flashing, put an “exit cone” in, and wait until all the bats have left to finish sealing it. The cone lets bats exit, but not re-enter. That would be nice.

Why so sad?

Unfortunately, when Francisco the bat man was looking for evidence of flying mammals he discovered evidence of burrowing insects that only occationally fly. Dang it, we have termites, and they are in the NEW wood, so they haven’t been there long.

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Plant ID with a Pro!

woods
Monique Reed (center) along with El Camino Real Chapter Master Naturalists at the Hermits’ Rest ranch woodland area.

April 14 2018 was an exciting day at the Hermits’ Rest. It was chilly most of the day and incredibly windy ALL day, but that didn’t stop an intrepid band of El Camino Real Chapter Master Naturalists, along with genuine botanist Monique Reed from Texas A&M, to scour the ranch for plants.

Why did we do that?

It turns out that not all that many plants of Milam County have been documented in the SM Tracy Herbarium, and as citizen scientists, we want to help. Our band was led by Nancy Webber, who has done an amazing job documenting what plants are documented, as well as what is still needed. She and another couple of the Master Naturalists who came along have a great working knowledge of the local flora.

However, Monique Reed has an entire Latin dictionary’s worth of plant names in her head. It was amazing to watch her work. There was only one plant that she didn’t at least get a clue about (the “mysterious carrot-like plant”). She looked high and low, from the largest osage orange tree (Maclura pomifera) to the teeniest, and I mean teeniest, little flowers imaginable. She spent quite some time kneeling in the dirt seeing “what’s down there.”

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Getting Started

redbud
The young redbud tree near the cabin on the Wild Hermits property.

Hey! Today I made a few pages for this site, including one for Sightings, which is on the main menu, and some sub-pages on birds and mammals I’ve seen since I’ve been coming out to the Hermits’ Rest. That’s been since 2011, the year of the Big Drought.

I thought I’d also practice writing down what I saw and did each week (you see, I’m there half time; the other half of each week I’m in Austin, leaving my spouse to guard the place).

Bird Sightings, April 6-8

The big excitement of the week was multiple flocks of snow geese going overhead. They flew low enough to easily identify their black wing tips. They also weren’t making all the noise the cranes make, and were lower than cranes tend to be.

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