If It’s Not Drought, It’s Flooding

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You can see more water behind the main pond.  Before everything grew up while that part of the pond was dry, it was all one view of water. The driveway you see is the dam that made the pond.

The weather patterns here in Milam County have been a topic of my blog posts and Facebook rants for as long as we’ve been coming out here (and our first visit was in 2010 or 2011). This year has been a great example.

This year, we had a very wet spring, followed by over a month of no rain in summer, with large cracks developing in the ground and very brown foliage. We were worrying that the ponds would evaporate again like they did in the Big Drought of 2011.

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Most of the time, this is just grass. Once the pond is full, runoff usually makes a little stream that goes to the deep area where there was an old spring that used to be the beginning of the real stream. I’m wondering if our springs will come back at some point.

Quickly, this condition was followed by what has seemed to be never-ending dampness and mild weather all through the autumn. We’ll have a few nice days, and then the sky opens up again.

I was happy that the Master Naturalist Conference coincided with a break in the weather so we could do all our field trips, but right after that, it’s been dark and wet again. My Geometry post has images of the fog in Austin from this week; in fact, three days in a row there was enough fog to make driving a bit scary.

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This culvert is intended to keep the pond from overfilling and washing away the dam. Since it overfilled a couple of times, we now also have a back-up culvert. It’s engaged once this year.

Here at the Hermits’ Rest it was just as foggy, and there was a lot more rain than in Austin. When I arrived to the ranch yesterday, it had just rained a lot, and Walker’s Creek was at the top of its banks. The arroyo was flowing away, and the dogs had a blast running through the output of the dam culvert.

Last night, just as we went to bed, another downpour began. There was .8″ over night, which made almost two inches in 24 hours.

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That sliver of water to the left of the driveway just before the gate usually can’t be seen from the house (by short people like me, anyway).

Usually you can’t see the front pond from the house, because the water level is too low. This view through the second-floor window (and screen) shows you it was visible this morning!

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Don’t the screens and the blinds add an air of mystery to the very full back pond? I usually doesn’t go all the way to that black thing at right (which is an old well or something).

The back pond had even spread farther to the east than usual.

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View from the car. The creek is usually about ten feet wide. It’s been lots worse, though.

And the creek was flowing into the flood plain meadow. I tell you what, I am glad to be enjoying some sunshine this afternoon as I take a break from work to type this! Maybe the ground will be a little less soggy when I head out to feed animals.

Looking Forward to a Master Naturalist Weekend

I’m all a-twitter about getting to go to my first Texas Master Naturalist conference in Georgetown this weekend. I’ll get to spend time with my friends from the El Camino Real chapter, and meet lots of new and interesting folks, I hope.

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Hey look, a land snail! I find them fascinating!

I made Anita laugh a lot when I got so excited about an email last night that I had to run downstairs to ACT on it. What was it? Why, it was a notice that a spot had opened up in the session on “The Land Snails of Texas.” I have NO idea why she thought my excitement was sort of hilarious. I really want to know more about those snails I see everywhere, especially on the walls of the Dutchtowne Cafe in Cameron.

Of course, snails aren’t ALL I’m looking forward to. I also get to go look at a cave in the neighborhood where I used to live, the Brushy Creek/Avery Ranch area that straddles Austin, Cedar Park, and Round Rock. We always knew there were caves in the limestone below the area, but when one collapsed recently, it became big news (the article I link to here has lots of cool pictures of the cave before it got all cemented up)! The one we are going to look at is NOT directly under any houses, and is apparently a good size. I love the karst and limestone, I guess because I lived on it for 20 years.

You readers will like that I am going to two sessions on taking better photos of plants and wildlife. I hope to learn some iPhone techniques and to take good notes on what I can do when I get my other camera going.

I’ll share more of what I learn in the coming days.

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It’s dreary in north Austin today, but at least I have my reminders to breathe and exhale. And happy plants.

And as for the weather

It’s all rainy AGAIN. Austin has been under a boil order since Monday, which is a pain, but it’s not like we were hit by a tornado or hurricane or anything. The hope is that clearing will happen for the weekend and all the outdoor activities. There’s a real good chance!

At least it’s cooled off and we’ve enjoyed 50s and 60s outside for the last couple of days. That’s nice. Ahhh.

 

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.

Continue reading “Why, Yes, It IS Hot”

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.

Continue reading “Rain Brings Rain Lilies (and Bees)”

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.

Continue reading “Visitor Viewpoint”