Wild and Beautiful

In the pastures and along the roads, nature is showing its color.

It’s easy to walk right past Algarita (Berberis trifoliolata) because it’s flowers and berries are so small.

When you step up close, the scent of the yellow flowers, the patterns of the crisscross  branches, and the shape of the leaves become noticeable.  But, beware, it is prickly.

The red berries, which are edible and are used for jelly, are just starting to form.  Usually, it blooms from February to April.

To see many of the flowers this time of the year, one must look down.  The flowers of Prairie Fleabane (Erigeron modestus) are tiny:  about 1/2″ to 3/4″ across.  Everyone I spotted had a bug on it.

There are two varieties of Rain Lilies in Texas.  The ones that bloom in the spring are Cooperia pedunculata and have shorter floral tubes.

Water from one of the tanks is still spilling over even though we haven’t had any significant amounts of rain recently.

The bright yellow of the Fringed Puccoon (Lithospermum incisum) is the only reason one would notice this small plant.  All these small flowers can easily be trampled without seeing them.

Fringed Puccoon was used by the native tribes and early settlers to make dye from the roots.  The roots also has medicinal properties.  The Blackfeet people burned the dried leaves and flowers as an incense.

My old pals, Sweet William or Prairie Verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida) are back.  I love these pretty little flowers that are so plentiful.

Driving between Goldthwaite and San Saba, I just had to stop to snap a picture of  this massive field of bright yellow.  This photo only shows about one third of the field.

I think the plants are Bastard Cabbage (Rapistrum Rusosum).  Although the solid yellow fields are pretty, the plants are extremely invasive and unwanted.

Not sure, but think this is a native blackberry bush that just showed up outside our gate.

Native Redbuds (Cercis canadensis var. texensis) seem to be springing up everywhere.

To see their beauty, get up close enough to hear all the bees.

And to see the two different shades of pink  that make up their blossoms.

Nature is offering the first colors and beauty this time of the year.

“Be selective in your battles.  Sometimes peace is better than being right.” unknown author

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Ready or Not

Most years everyone would be anxious for signs of spring.  This year, however, since trees and plants are leafing out so early, we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop – a late freeze.

earlyearlyspringIn Brownwood there are lots of Mexican Plum trees (Prunus mexicana) covered in blossoms.  The plums on this native tree are small and hard but make good jams and jellies.

earlyearlyspring1So pretty.

earlyearlyspring2Along the highway near us, the native Redbuds (Cercis canadensis var. texensisare) are flowering.

earlyearlyspring6In our yard a Cherry Laurel  (Prunus laurocerasus) is covered with racemes.   I read recently that Cherry Laurels will not grow in alkaline soil, and if it is growing, it will die at some point.  I definitely hope that person is wrong.

This one came from a sucker in my friend’s yard 12 years ago.  I would really hate to lose it because it’s evergreen and a nice shape.  Plus, it provides a thick shade.

earlyearlyspring7Although I couldn’t see them, inside the tree bees were loudly buzzing.

earlyearlyspringdIn the field between the house and the barn is this jumble of small shrubs.  The blooming Algarita (Mahonia trifoliolata) caught my eye.

earlyearlyspring4To the right of it is a Mesquite, I think.  When they leaf out, that is an omen that there will be no more freezes this winter.  It doesn’t have a single leaf on it.

earlyearlyspringeThe shape of the Algarita leaves with the sharp tips are pretty, but those and their thorns make it a look, don’t touch bush.  Some brave souls gather the berries for tea jelly.

earlyearlyspringaSpotted a few Sweet Williams or Prairie Verbenas the other day as we were out walking.  Their toughness makes me smile.  In a few weeks, there will be clusters of them in all the fields.

earlyearlyspring9Last fall we scrapped a place in the field to plant wildflower seeds.  The directions from the owner of Wild Seed Farms in Fredricksburg were to rough up the ground, toss the seeds, and then move the top soil around a little.  Soon we’ll know if we were successful.

earlyearlyspring8I’m thinking or hoping that the little plant in the center of this picture is a Bluebonnet.  The leaves look right.

earlyearlyspringfAlso, in that field are rows of Irises.  These were planting years ago.  Some years there are lots of flowers.  Other years, not so much.  I’m not as faithful about fertilizing them as I used to be.

Guarding them is a vulture made from a shovel.  I found this at a second hand place in Brownwood.  It’s call This Old House and is on the highway 279 to Brownwood Lake.  They have several pots and yard art pieces as well as furniture and knick-knacks.

“Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.”   unknown

A Walk Following Freezes

One sunny afternoon a couple of weeks ago, we took a walk through some pastures.

winterwalkLots of tall dried Broomweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae) or Broom snakeweed to get through.  Fortunately, cows had made a passable path.

Bloomweed is a prenniel with small yellow flowers from June to October.  It can take over pastures preventing grasses from growing.

It is also toxic to cattle, sheep, and goats.  So Broomweed is not a desirable plant.

winterwalk2Lots of dead grasses shine in the late afternoon sun.

winterwalk3An old plow use to till the soil.  I think.

winterwalk4Don’t know what decade this is from.

winterwalk5Garden chairs like this rusting one can often be seen in “antique” stores.

winterwalk8

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winterwalk9This tiny Prairie Verbena still blooming was a surprise.  They are hardy, though.

winterwalkaA Live Oak that has succumbed to Oak Wilt.  A sad reality that is widespread in Texas.

winterwalkb Agarita (Mahonia trifoliolata) is an evergreen.  I recently read that it’s a good barrier shrub because it is so prickly.

winterwalkcAn overturned old deer blind lies next to a Live Oak.  The low sun provides interesting shadows.

winterwalkdAt the bottom of this dead oak is a deep hole – probably a fox lair.

winterwalkeOne area of our property has some Post Oak trees.  Those are not common here, so the soil must have just enough sand to suit their needs.  Post Oaks are finicky and don’t like human interference.  But their leaf production is prolific.

winterwalkiBare branches with a pretty form.

The small sign beside this tree is one of a Burma Shave style of old road signs.  Our group states that “Life is too short to live in the Metroplex.  Amazing Grace Ranch.”  Although we lived in the metroplex of Ft. Worth/Dallas for over 30 years, our personal lifestyle choice now embraces country living.

winterwalkhThis wagon is from the 1880’s.  Love to muse on where it traveled and what it meant to the survival of someone.

winterwalkj

winterwalkgThis iron brace may have been added later.

Beauty is all around us, even in stark winter.

“Nostalgia is a file that removes the rough edges from the good old days.”  Doug Larson

Orange Ouch

On a walk through the fields recently, we noticed that the Algaritas (Berberis trifoliolata) are in bloom.  It is usually spelled Agaritas, although around here, most people pronounce the “l”.  Other names include Wild Currant and Laredo Mahonia.

algarita2 Agarita is an evergreen shrub that grows 3′ to 10′ tall, although I have never seen them taller 5′.  It grows well in dry, rocky soil in the central and western parts of the state.  The blooms appear from February to April.  The berries usually come later: sometimes as late as June.

algarita The leaves look a little like hollies with three leaflets.  The lobes on the leaves have sharp points.algarita3The flowers, even though they’re small, provide nectar for bees.  Birds eat the fruit.  The berries were also used by the pioneers to make jelly and wine.  The early settlers made a yellow dye from the roots.

Some specialty shops still sell agarita jelly.  Heavy gloves required for gathering the berries, I;m sure.

deerblindAn old deer blind blown over by our strong winds.

algarita4Nearby are some sharp barbs that have an agarita plant growing in them.  So I’m not sure if the barbs are part of a dead agarita or something else.

It has been suggested by gardening experts that we should plant agaritas in our yard.  I’ve never seen them in nurseries.  Then recently in a question and answer column in a gardening magazine, someone asked about a source for agaritas.  The answer said that they are difficult to dig up and transplant because their roots grow down so deep.  Most native Texas plants do so they can reach some moisture.

Having them in the fields is enough for me.  They’re pretty in their native environment.  And I don’t need another plant in the yard that reaches out to scratch me.

“Temper never mellows with age, and a sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use.”  Washington Irving