Mysteries and Owies

It’s a dark and stormy day, just right for tales of mystery and pain. My first mystery was actually painful.

You could smell ozone in the air as I went to feed horses this evening. Kathleen’s cow wondered why I was sitting on the ground taking pictures of buttercups when I should have been going hone.

Mystery Time

You know people make fun of Texans for wearing cowboy boots, right? Well, there’s a good reason. A good portion of the things here bite, stick, prick, or otherwise harm you, and feet are prime targets. Here are some prickly things I can see just walking around: prickly sow thistle, milk thistle, and bull thistle. Birds love them. Feet don’t.

Some thorny things should be found in trees, like mesquite branches. So how did this happen?

A pretty sturdy mesquite twig that was on the ground…
…was completely buried in my walking shoe.

Yeah, if I’d been wearing my cowboy boots at the tack room, as usual, I would not have felt that thorn in my foot! Thank goodness I didn’t step hard. How did it get there? There are no mesquite tree close by. Mysterious.

My guess is that it was in my square bale of hay. It was sharply cut like a baler did it. Ow! That’s my guess, anyway, because mesquite trees keep trying to grow up in our fields.

A Chilly Mystery

At least the second mystery over by the tack room isn’t prickly. First, for a week or more, we have been finding the fairly heavy doormat in front of the tack room door moved away from the door. We keep moving it back, but it keeps moving away!

That’s way too heavy for Big Red, even though she’s a strong hen.

Yesterday, I saw something jump out of the corner of my eye. Maybe the little barn cat? Maybe a raccoon? But why? I was pondering this when I went inside this afternoon as I was checking on the horses.

That was when I faced yet another mystery. The tack room, which is normally pretty warm, was really cold. That was weird to me. I looked at the air conditioner unit. It said 70!! What? That is unheard of! Ralph has it set at 76, and the rest of us are NOT authorized to change it.

Ralph said he didn’t go in there today, though he’d come by. Sara wasn’t home. Uh. I had never touched that thing until I put it back to 76 today.

Whew. Normal.

Now this is a real mystery. That chicken can’t open the door, nor can the clever equines. Who did it? Why?

Do we have a mat-moving, temperature meddling guest? No one knows!

I’ll keep you posted, but in the meantime, I’ll happily report that the blue-eyed grass burst into bloom today. More spring beauty awaits.

The Mystery Fig

Allow me to return to the original purpose of this blog, which was to document my nature observations and Master Naturalist activities. I want to share that I finally solved our Bobcat Lair fruit mystery.

For a few weeks we’ve been seeing these weird fruits in the road and in the grass near our house. Anita and the neighbors had been baffled. A plant identification mystery!

What the heck?

Finally, last week, Anita and neighbor Angela determined that they were coming from across the street from us, where new owners had recently trimmed back some overgrown shrubbery. That’s been letting more fruit be seen. And it appeared to be coming from…a cedar (Ashe juniper) tree?

Tree is just to the right of the lights. We had never seen the porch lights on or Christmas lights here before recently.

Looking harder, at the tree we realized there was something non-juniper-esque in there, which we never could see before. Well, we couldn’t see the house, either.

There it is!

I took a photo of the fruit, which resembled a fig or a banana or a cashew to us. It was identified on iNaturalist as a snail. Nope. I posted to our chapter Facebook group and a couple people said a fig. But it didn’t feel like a fig.

The picture that looks a lot like a snail.

So, today I took more photos, including the leaves, by crawling in the neighbor yard. Hmm. That tree could be a big vine.

I also got more fruit and cut one open. Hey, there were lots and lots of tiny seeds in there! Like a fig. Okay, so I have fig and vine.

The inside. Spongy pulp and teeny seeds.

I uploaded all my photos, and finally found a match. And it’s both a fig and a vine.

It doesn’t always have small leaves.

This seems to be a weird plant. It often has tiny leaves, but also parts with large leaves. I think the one across the street has both. (Look at what’s growing on the tree trunk above.) And those weird pulpy fruit! They are not like figs you eat. And they are in the mulberry family?

I looked into it more. Mulberries are a big family. So is ficus. Breadfruit is also one. Here’s more from Wikipedia (donate to them) about our new figgy friend:

But what the heck is a liana? I have a friend named Liana…what is she named for? It’s a woody, bridgy viney thing.

Do any of you know more about these plants? Interesting, huh?

Mysterious Evening

You’ll just have to imagine along with me as I talk about last night. So, Mandi texted me last night to ask if we were okay. Um, yeah…

She’d been seeing weird green lights that seemed to be coming from our house (she’s right down the road). What? So, Lee and I went outside to see if anything was going on.

Oh wow. We were so glad we went out. I totally forgot to investigate the weird light issue, because I was completely immersed in the night. The frogs and crickets were so loud it felt like a concert. And I heard coyotes and a barred owl.

Our spooky house.

We managed to get far enough away from the house and garage that all the lights stayed off. The only annoying light was way over at the barn. Ah, darkness.

Lee looked for the mystery light while Mandi drove around to see if she could spot a light source. All she saw was some light down the next road. Maybe they were having fun setting off flares?

I didn’t care, because I had the sky. It’s really inspiring to look at the night sky in a really dark place. Mars is at its closest right now and was really red. I could even get a photo on the phone!

It’s the only object that showed up. Go Mars!

I brilliantly thought to bring my binoculars out. That’s something you should do, if you’re ever in a dark-sky area. First, Mars was visible as an actual disk. Second, the Milky Way stretched across the sky. Pointing the binoculars up there was like suddenly being immersed in the galaxy. So many stars.

Just a good pair of binoculars made so much of a difference! It was magical, right there on our own land.

Sadly, I blinded Lee by turning my flashlight on to find my way back. Poor guy! But otherwise we had fun.

Another blinding light, yesterday’s hazy sunset.

I encourage you to get out of your house and find a dark and empty place, then look and listen. It’s a pandemic-friendly activity!