Warm Summer Evenings At The Pond

The weather has been unseasonably warm so far and we have decided to take advantage of these sultry evenings to sit by the pond and enjoy a sun downers. The gentle breeze is better here than on the back deck where we have found it to be too stiflingly hot. The sheltering trees and cool water are a welcome respite after a day of work cleaning the pond and bog. Covered in mud, sweat and bug-spray we brought out some libations and snacks to enjoy the gentle evening air. We settled down to enjoy our days accomplishments.

The pond has been so lovely lately. The sunset allowed the glowing night sky to be reflected in the mirror-like water. Such a special treat. Dragonflies glided silently around us, picking up an errant mosquito for a last chance meal of the day before settling inside sheltering leaves of a nearby tree or shrub for a nights rest.

The lotuses cheerfully greet us as we walk by with our chairs and snacks. They have been blooming abundantly this year since we re-potted them. With their roots able to find more room to wander, we got paid handsomely for our efforts with the most amount of blooms ever.

Just a week before a drenching storm had gifted us with a 2 inches of rain which allowed the grass to green up for a week or two. What a relief that was! These days the fields go brown so quickly from the heat and drought.

The views are so rewarding.

As nighttime falls the garden takes on a whole new feel and atmosphere. Bats fly overhead, frogs climb out from beneath rocks and crevices to hunt for beetles that only emerge when it is dark out. We turn on our pond lights and enjoy show.

Sadie naturally enjoys the evening too. Acting as a convenient vacuum, cleaning up any crumbs we may have dropped from our late evening picnic, stealing them from hopeful ants silently laying in wait under rocks for us to leave to scavenge the last remaining dregs that Sadie may have missed. As our snacks run out she settles down nearby to enjoy the wildlife getting ready for their night time adventures. She has always enjoyed lying on the soft grass every so often casting a hopeful glance back at us just case there is still some food left.

Texas Snow!!

It hasn’t snowed this much for over a hundred years! What a beautiful sight. When it snows down here we folks get excited!!

Sadie wasn’t too happy about it at first. Looking at me like:”What the heck is this mom??”

She looks so forlorn in this picture.

But she finally got used to it and enjoyed exploring the white wonderland while we hunted for wildlife tracks in the snow.

On a side note, doesn’t the Little Bluestem grass, (which is auburn right now) look stunning next to the white of the snow?

The cool air even put a little pep in her step.

Bluebirds were so shocked they came to the feeder and snacked on some peanuts. They rarely feed at the bird feeders since they usually snack on berries or insects. But I guess peanuts were an easier source of energy.

After a couple of hours it really started piling up… well, as much as piling up down here means. Up north piling up means 6+ inches, and they’re laughing at us right now. But it was enough to start bending down tree branches and piling up on the patio and get us to start losing our minds.

There was some serious blue ice forming too! This is very rare ice. Only shows up once in a 1000 years. 😉

The veggie garden looked so pretty even though I don’t have much growing there this year. The soil is off, and I need to send in a sample to get tested to see what needs fixing. I know the tests will reveal that the ph is too high, but I am interested in what else is causing the stunted growth.

The veggie garden roof looks really good from the top. I’ve been using the sunny days staining all the posts again. They were starting to look ratty. The cool winter temps are perfect for climbing up the ladder and getting splattered by stain. It’s been taking some time and I have yet to finish. Now I’ll have to wait for several days for things to dry up a bit. That’s OK by me! I am not enjoying the chore that much. 😏

I really love the snow outlining all the fencing.

The pond won’t freeze thank goodness…. The little fishes and tadpoles in it are cold though. Not much action happening in there right now.

It’s a bit nippy to be sitting on the patio, but what a view! Just 8 hours earlier we had brown drab grass to look at.

The front driveway looked just as amazing. Tree limbs weighed down by wet snow. Why does everything look so much prettier with a dusting of snow?

Thankfully I turned the fountains off or else this would have been an icy mess.

While I was wandering around taking pictures Dick was busy cleaning the driveway. Ten years ago he promised that he would shovel the 300 foot driveway if it ever snowed. So here he is at last doing as he promised – with a makeshift snow shovel, hurrying before it all melts. 😂

The solar panels weren’t producing that much energy, considering the cloud cover and the fact that they were covered in snow. But surprisingly they actually did put out a little bit. That all ended after 2 inches were done falling on them.

Good old Texas under 2 inches of snow. It didn’t last long but gave us a much needed diversion and some happy exploring.

Something pretty to distract while we wait..

Its times like these (and I have not experienced one quite like this before) that we need some good distraction to make us feel a little more connected again. Or maybe it is not a distraction, but a reminder that we all have a connection to the earth that keeps us grounded and safe and strong. We belong here and it is a good time to remember to respect and take care of this place – our home – and to love it so we can feel safe. Earth has many gifts she shares if we take the time to look more closely. They are there every day. Now is such a great time to look more closely.

A Mexican Buckeye blooming this time of year attracts all the pollinators day and night. In fact there are so many more moths at night than bees and butterflies during the day.

Taking a walk in the yard everyday is one of the most rewarding things I can do at this time. I find myself being grateful for this pretty place. The saying: ‘Build it and they will come” holds true when it comes to gardening. I will edit it and say, “Plant it and they will come”. For me this refers to the bees, butterflies, birds and all critters that make a home in this place.

Thankfully spring came early this year and starting my stroll out in the backyard we found the Redbud and Mexican Buckeye trees in full bloom without having a killing frost to wilt their pretty blooms.

This cardinal was posing so beautifully for me in the Redbud tree.

In the front yard the Blackhaw viburnum also bloomed earlier than usual….

And the Monarchs were delighted. Last fall, when we usually have a plethora of monarchs and other butterflies migrate through this area, there were none. I was so sad to see so few for the first time and wondered why. Perhaps they took a different route southward. Possibly more toward the east or west of here. But thankfully this spring has seen a bumper crop of butterflies. At least 15 to 20 Monarchs have been spotted so far starting in February.That is the most of any year I have ever seen.

They took advantage of all the early bloomers in the area and thankfully I have planted many over the years.

A “First Monarch” on a Redbud tree.

They nectared on Redbuds and Mexican Plums as well as other aromatic spring blooming shrubs.

As the Antelope horn milkweed – the only plant monarchs will lay an egg on and so named because the seed heads look like horns – started to sprout, we started to find tiny eggs deposited on the leaves.

The tiny white dot is a monarch butterfly egg.

Pretty soon the monarch caterpillars were roaming around….

The world’s eye view of a monarch caterpillar.

Other butterflies also took shelter in the milkweed, like this pretty little sulfur.

And these Large Milkweed bugs are aptly named since they are feeding on the milkweed blooms which are excellent pollinator plants. Many butterflies and bees find it irresistible too.

Even a crane fly found the milkweeds a handy spot to hunker down in. Contrary to popular belief, crane flies are not giant mosquitoes, even though they look very similar to those blood sucking evil critters.

Wandering around to the front yard the Wild Onion has been blooming profusely too. It is a early starter in the year, cropping up before the taller grasses and wildflowers begin to grow and shade it out. To beat the rush they bloom, get pollinated and go to seed well before the others are even half as tall. It is a welcome early year color after a grey winter.

Monarch on wild onion blooms.

Next to milkweed it makes such a pretty spring show.

Moving along, the side yard is finally covered in bluebonnets and poppies. These were seeded 3 years ago and have become so profuse they have filled in the area all the way to the old cowboy fence.

Prairie Verbena adds a spark of lavender to the fields and butterflies also appreciate this nectar plant early in the year.

The front yard looks so nice and green and the Kidneywood is also finally sprouting fresh green leaves.

Always my faithful companion, Sadie will follow me around the yard, until she finds a delicious smell to investigate or gets too hot and wanders inside to leave me exploring by myself.

Alone, I stroll behind the cowboy fence to inspect the Eve’s necklace, which has been struggling to thrive for many years. Each summer I walk past it and wonder if it is the last summer it will be alive. Then the next year it will pop out it’s lovely orchid like blooms again and try its very best to grow. I am smitten by its blooms and have tried to save this tree for many years. I have added compost, fertilizer, additional summer waterings, yet nothing has helped. This year at the suggestion of an arborist I have added leaf mulch to its root zone area, in the hopes that the extra covering will protect its roots from the hot sun and the resultant decomposing leaf nutrients will gently feed its roots and bring this tree to better health. But it might just be in the wrong location and will have to be moved.

Turns out I was not alone after all. While admiring the lovely blooms on the tree I failed to pay close attention to where I was walking. Something that is not a smart thing to do in Texas, as stealthy snakes and other creepy things are already active this time of year. Luckily I looked down before I moved one more step forward and noted a coiled up snake keeping a very tense eye on me. One step more and it wouldn’t have been pretty. Luckily, this was just a harmless Banded Watersnake. They get to be about 4 feet long. I count my lucky angels that it was not something much more venomous.

This guy was hunkered down tight for the evening. Judging from his milky eye he was either getting ready to shed his skin, or already had. I can see why he chose this spot to nestle down in: Lots of cover for protection and one look up, and these lovely Eve Necklace blooms were in his sight.

Moving along to the backyard on the patio I always fill a planter with winter blooming edibles for a patch of cheer on those dreary winter days. The Calendula blooms have been such a welcome sight.

It is planted with snapdragons and violas for color.

And coming around the corner to end my walk, I find my not so faithful companion next to the bluebonnets transfixed by something I cannot even see. I’m sure she has found a squirrel or rabbit to keep an eye on.

Summer stunner 2

What a sighting from my back windows this afternoon! Lack of rainfall this summer has brought all kinds of wildlife to the water bowls I keep full around my yard this time of year. It’s been so hot I have to fill them twice daily! These young bucks were very shy and one glimpse of me through the window and they took off over the fence.

Summer has been dry but that has not stopped the wildlife around here. It’s a daily adventure walking around the yard to see what things are up to. Bumblebees have been all over the place. Some years they I barely see 2 or 3, but this year they have been active since May. A happy sight indeed.

The Rock Rose has been a helpful nectar source in dry times….

And a stunner, helping dress up the old ‘decorative’ log in the front path.

New varieties of Purslane were available at the garden cente.. I just couldn’t resist this candy colored one!

The picture below was taken in early summer. We’d had plenty of rain and everything was looking fresh and green. I have been experimenting with container plants this year. While this one looked pretty good that day, it was eaten down to the nub by the deer the very next morning. Grrrrr!

The fountain is a welcome gurgling attractant for the birds looking for a cooling bath. I made some good use of some blue-green broken glass I found.

New varieties of Coreopsis were purchased last year and I love them!

They flowered well into the end of July this year. I am hoping they will come back for a short fall display too.

Fragrant Passionflower was another splurge this year. However I only got to smell this guy once before a Gulf Fritillary butterfly laid its eggs on it and the caterpillars polished it off!
Within 2 weeks they had eaten this beauty all the way to the ground. It has recovered many times only to be eaten down again.

This is the newly hatched Gulf Fritillary and that stick used to have the plant growing on it. 😀

Spring blooms lasted well into summer this year, thanks to copious rains.

This lovely annual Winecup made a stunning display all they way to August.

And my pathways and driveway were a sight to behold! Now they’re all gone and only brown sticks remain.

Rock Penstemon was a beauty this year too!

And some amazing new-to-me dragonflies visited my pond. A Widow skimmer.

Such interesting shapes were everywhere!

And the waterlilies have been showing off. I have been fertilizing the heck out of them as an experiment this year. Twice a month as apposed to once monthly, and it has paid off.

The lotus has flowered 5 times this year.

And the night blooming waterlilies…well they speak for themselves.

Black swallowtail butterflies have been consistent residents this year due to the huge fennel I have growing in my veggie garden. I will have to cut it down this year as it is getting much too big for the garden. I have a younger one coming up for next years crop.

The ever present squirrels have found ways to amuse us and themselves….

And the Leopard frog population has rebounded by stunning amounts since late winter when all of them died in my pond due to the lack of sunlight and oxygen in the pond. All efforts to save them were in vain. Thankfully the tadpoles had survived without issue and they grew into these lovely creatures.

Just another display of lotus fabulousness….

Not to be outdone by the fireworks display of Nymphaea Frosted pink waterlily.

Gulf coast toads have also made a comeback this year. Such incredible singers on warm summer evenings. They have particularly loved all the potted plants on the patio this year, taking advantage of the water in the trays to stay cool during the heat of the midday sun.

He’s pretty much what I looked like after digging a hole for the new Youpon Holly going in the back field.

Of warmer days remembered

Its winter here and nature is in its hibernation state. Not much is happening out there besides lovely birds at the bird feeders and hundreds of robins foraging in the fields. (That’s for a later blog entry.) So while trapped inside on a gloomy, chilly day it is good to remember the warmer days when things were sunnier and much more colorful

When the vista view of the fence by the garage garden down to the fence beckons you to wonder further down.

Sunny Coreopsis by the garden wall.

When tiny frogs hide under moss in a little water container for the lilies.

When torrential summer rainstorms make an overloaded water tank pee into the backyard. 😀

When the red coloring of a beautiful cardinal compliments your patio begonia plants while he’s inspecting it from the comfort of your outdoor furniture. He even looks beautiful through the blurry mesh of the screen.

When late winter planted seedling potatoes yield luscious, delicious taters made even more delicious with butter.

When Lesser Goldfinches and Painted Bunting share a bubbling fountain because it is hot outside.

And when the cardinal just takes it all over! #kingofthefountain

When voracious hummingbirds try out a new nifty feeder filled with fresh sugar water.

When swallowtail caterpillars get ready to pupate on the nearest grassy reed.

And when that same caterpillar finally hatches into a adult butterfly and you get lucky enough to catch the magical moment!

When even the flowers from different species hanging out together show us that maybe all of us can get along.

When the garden patio just looks so summery and welcoming, calling you to sit in the shade and relax.

And the Hyacinth Bean is in full spectacular bloom.

When the pond garden is just stunning with abundant color and bloom.

And when its so hot that thirsty deer nervously come to your birdbaths just outside your window!

When praying mantis adults get showered with the water hose and have droplets hanging from their eyes which he slowly has to remove so he can spot his next meal buzzing by.

And all you want to do is sit under a shady tree and relax by the pond.

But for now we’re stuck inside all bundled up on the sofa waiting for nature to wake up like Sadie here with a look that says: “What do you mean I have to get up right now!?”