Why, Yes, It IS Hot

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The weather app says it’s hot.

After a period of vaguely okay weather, with some rainy days and nice things like that, it is now extra-July here in the middle of Texas.

Combine that heat with all that Saharan dust, and people are staying indoors in droves. In fact, if I had a Gratitude Journal, my only entry this week would say, “Air Conditioning!” I’ve been dealing with most annoying asthma symptoms all week.

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Be careful out there.

Mandi was trying to paint the inside of the house she’s remodeling this week, but it doesn’t have air conditioning yet. She now has heat exhaustion.

I’m being careful and plan to feed horses and chickens at sunset, and will probably drive over there rather than walk.

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Hey, It’s Dusty Out There

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Scary pale sunrise in Cameron this morning.

There has been a series of African dust storms coming over our area during the last few weeks. Right now, we’re in the middle of another one. They flow across the Atlantic, then up the Gulf of Mexico and into the middle of the US.

The good news is the dust makes mornings sort of cloudy and it stays cool just a little longer. The bad news is that if you are like me, and your lungs aren’t your strongest feature, you really should stay inside. Well, I did NOT stay inside all weekend, as you could tell from the photos of saddled up horses and such. I also spent a lot of time doing outdoor activities that I’ll cover in another post, and I sat on the porch a lot.

That has led me to unpleasant asthma symptoms, which I don’t get very often. It’s annoying. I don’t have bad asthma, but it will show up if I vacuum a lot or hang out where there’s a lot of sawdust in the air.

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It’s the middle of the day and it’s not cloudy. But the sky outside the office building is some wan bluish gray color rather than blue.

Seeing warnings about the dust danger really makes you think that these Saharan dust storms are pretty bad things. They send people fleeing indoors! They make our cars all dusty! The sky is sad!

But, I found the silver lining in the cloud of dust: supposedly the will significantly lower the chance of a big ole hurricane hitting the Houston area! Well, that’s not bad at all. I like rain, but I don’t like people I know getting flooded over and over again.

The dust is supposed to hang around for another month, so I guess I’ll just keep coughing if I go outdoors a lot. At least it usually isn’t this dusty when the storms come, which is actually every year!

Rain Brings Rain Lilies (and Bees)

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This is called a copper lily, but it’s in the rain lily family.

We had a big surprise rain event yesterday. No one was expecting it, but they were happy nonetheless. I hit some really hard rain in southern Milam County and was very glad for the rain mode in the car. There were waves on the road.

But the real topic today is rain lilies. Rain lilies (white ones) are a common plant around here. They pop up some time in summer, usually, in large masses after a good rain. I found it interesting that the Wildflower Center has two Latin names for rain lilies:
Cooperia pedunculata and Zephyranthes drummondii. Apparently, the ones that bloom in the spring are different from the ones that bloom in the fall (no clue what the summer ones are). It has some cool alternate names, too: Hill Country rain lily, Prairie lily, Rain lily, and Flor de mayo.

Here at the ranch, we have always had these really pretty yellow “rain lilies” that pop up around the same time as the white ones.

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Here they are in a field.

When they came up this year, of course the first thing I did was look them up on iNaturalist, which is how I found out they were called copper lilies or Rio Grande copper lilies (Habranthus tubispathus). It says they are escaped ornamental plants from Central America that have naturalized. I can’t imagine anyone planted them in our pasture, but who knows? They definitely seem to appear most often in Texas.

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Solstice Greetings (and Weather)

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It’s the Austin house (Bobcat Lair) showing lovely dark rain clouds. Ah.

It’s the longest day of the year, and from what I hear, the most fun holiday in Sweden. So, happy solstice, midsummer, or whatever you’re enjoying today.

Since rain in summer is so rare in these parts, I’m happy to report that it rained for three days in both Austin and Cameron this week. It wasn’t the flooding that happened on the Texas coast, but it was enough to help out the plants and at least slow the evaporation of the ponds/tanks at the ranch.

If you look carefully at this photo from yesterday of the pond behind the Hermits’ Rest house, you will see a lot of black around the edges. That’s where the water line has gone down. On the shallow edge of this one, it’s retreated at least six feet. The rain wasn’t enough to cause runoff, which is what fills the ponds, but at least an inch went in from direct rain.

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It’s dry, but could be lots worse. Notice at upper right there are some vultures riding the currents.

We still think it will be a long, dry summer. The heat already took care of most of my crops, but I think I’ll have some okra!

Tomorrow there will be a post about a marathon of citizen science I did yesterday, so stay tuned for more nature fun.

 

Visitor Viewpoint

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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.

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The Plague of Mud Daubers

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There are actually dozens and dozens of mud daubers in this photo. That’s what Carlton the Dogman is looking at.

Before I go any further, I must say it’s raining! When it rains to any significant extent once the hot weather starts, it’s worth mentioning. We will have some happy plants, and I set some seat cushions out to get cleaned, too (it’s free!).

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The rain chains are flowing, and the dirty cushions are getting a bath. Rain is our friend!

One thing the rain is washing away from those cushions will be mud dauber nests. We always have some here (ours are black-and-yellow mud daubers, Sceliphron caementarium), but this year they are especially abundant. I have always enjoyed watching these guys and find the places they make nests pretty funny sometimes. You never know where one will show up, like on a shovel, in the lawn mower, etc. They were all over those seat cushions, too. They use such nice, brown mud. Quite the construction workers!

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Bats and Termites and Flowers

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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.

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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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