Rain, Rain, We Love Ya

If you’ve never lived in an area prone to drought, then this post might not mean that much to you.  However, for those of us who do, this is a praise to heavenly rain.

rainpondsMost of our tanks or ponds are full to capacity.  Hooray.  In Texas the ponds that have been dug are called tanks.  Every property out in the country needs several tanks because the hot summer dries them out.  Tanks provide water for cattle and wildlife as well as water for the volunteer fire departments.

Isn’t it gorgeous?

rainponds2This is a larger one.  It is not totally full, which is surprising since it usually gets the runoff from a ridge.  Runoff is vital for lakes and tanks in this area because there isn’t enough rainfall to fill them.

rainponds3Another benefit from the rain is the growth of grasses in the field.  All the wildflowers are icing on the cake.  This tiny little flower is about three fourths an inch across.  They are prevalent on our  land, but I don’t know their name.  Instead of groups of flowers, they pop up two or three together.

rainponds4This small tank was dug specifically for cattle to have access to water when gate to this area is closed.  When this tank is dry, water from a well fills a trough for the cows.

The wind makes it look like the surface of an ocean.

rainponds5I think these are Plains Coreopsis, which usually grow in large groups.

rainponds8The white flowers bent over by the wind are White Milkwort (Polygala alba).  Although they’re small, patches of them are attractive.

rainponds9Spring means Texas Thistle (Cirsium texanum) blooms.

rainpondsaPlains Black-foort Daisies (Melampodium leucanthus) is sometimes called Rock Daisy, for obvious reasons.

rainpondsbIt’s rare for us to have clusters of Indian Paintbrush (Gaillardia pulchella) on our property.   CORRECTION:  This is Indian BLANKET.   Don’t know where my head was when I wrote this.  The botantical name was correct.  Thanks to a reader for catching that.  Anyway, it’s nice to have several patches this year.  These are all growing in spots where grasses don’t grow, so they aren’t taking over pasture land.

rainpondscSure are pretty.

rainpondsd

rainpondseThis yellow flower (might be Four Nerve Daisy) has a really long stem with few leaves.  It has one or two blooms at a time.  The black centers laying on the ground at the end of stems (at lower left in picture) are spent flowers.  Waving in the breeze and growing in caliche, the sight of them reminds me of how sturdy some of these plants are.

rainpondsfgjpgMy favorite wildflower: Prairie Verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida) is called Sweet William around here.  It’s tough as nails, grows in cliche, rocky fields, and in pastures.  When it fills up a field, a sea of dark lavender is stunning.

rainpondshjpgAnother tank that will probably be dry by the end of summer.

rainpondsjpg.This is the same tank as the previous picture.  The wood on this dock was supposed to be a specially treated wood.  But the curling planks have always been a problem.

rainpondslpg.Spring also brings Prickly Pear Cactus blooms.  They are beautiful and their yellow flowers stand out in a field.

rainpondsmpg.Unfortunately, they spread like crazy and can make the land useless.

rainpondsoThe creek crossing before the road rises up toward our house has water.  Haven’t seen that in several years.

rainpondsnMore bright Indian Blankets.

rainpondsrtjpgThe silky fluff from the seed of Green Milkweed (Asclepias viridis) was used by pioneers to make candle wicks.  It was carded and spun like cotton and wool.  Milkweeds play an important role for Monarch butterflies.  They are the only plant used to lay their eggs.  Their caterpillars must have these leaves to eat.  There are several varieties of milkweed.  This is the one that is native here.

The large farms of the mid-west has wiped out most milkweeds, endangering the survival of monarchs.  Anyone who sprays herbicides on milkweeds contributes to the problem.

rainpondsrThe tank closest to our house.  The grass is over a foot tall.

rainpondsqIt was dug a couple of years ago and doesn’t hold water well.  The dead Walnut trees are the result of abuse to the roots while digging the tank.  Sigh.

We’re so grateful for the rains this month – almost 7 inches this May.  Wow.

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”       Henry Ford

Flowers, Weeds and Rocks

Out in the fields, among the caliche and rocks, small beauties await.  It takes a careful eye and patience to find them.

field5And their neighbors might not be that interesting or unusual.  The White Prickly Poppy (Argemone albiflora subsp. texana) lives among cactus as well as other drought loving plants.

field7The tall pokey stems discourage handling.

field2 Honeybees and other insects love the flower for their pollen.  But there is very little nectar.

field8Their thin petals are blown back and forth by the wind.

flowersfield2In the spring the ground near the barn was covered with two different kinds of flowers.  The above is one of them.

After searching through my 3 books for Texas wildflower identification, I still don’t know the name of the above plant.  I could not find a small white flower with four petals.

Anyone know?

flowersfield3This appears to be the same flower but with a pinkish tinge.

flowersfield5It’s easy to walk pass White Milkwort (Polygala alba) without noticing it.  However, in mass, they’re lovely.

flowersfield4I’ve wondered about putting some in a bouquet of flowers.  I haven’t tried it and don’t know how long they would last.

yardsummerstart9The Texas Thistle (Cirsium texanum) is a nice bright color.  I enjoy them when they are few in number.  But when they  take over a field, it is difficult to eradicate them.

yardsummerstartaThese were the subject of another search.  I thought they were a type of Bindweed, but they don’t fit the descriptions of that climbing vine.

yardsummerstartgThe small, open bush in front of the cedar is a Catclaw Acadia (Acacia greggii Gray).  They range from 3 to 10 feet tall, although all the ones around here are at the lower end of that.  They bloom from April to October.

yardsummerstarthThe thorns are shaped like the claws on a cat.  Small animals and birds nest under them for protection.

With the emphasis on xeriscape landscaping now, they are planted in some yards.

I’m hoping that it doesn’t take a lifetime to learn about all the native wildflowers because I started too late.

“What comes out of your mouth is determined by what goes into your mind.”  Zig Ziglar

Home of Sandstone Arches

Utah was the 45th state admitted to the union in 1896.  My curiosity about how that came about resulted in a web search.  The request for statehood came in 1849.  Between that time and 1896, the area was governed by federal appointees.  As we all know, that the area was settled by Mormons, and at that time they made up of 90% of the population.  Yet the appointees were almost all non-Mormons.

In 1862 the federal government passed the Anti-bigamy Act.  In 1890 the LDS president issued a Manifesto renouncing the practice of polygamy.  Then Mormons and non-Mormons worked together in D.C. to convince the government to grant statehood.

In terms of population, Utah is 34th.  Makes me wonder what the states are that have a smaller population because Utah seemed to be mostly wide open spaces.

The image I’ve always had of Utah was a desert scene with Najavo hogans scattered off in the distance and an old woman in a long black velvet skirt walking towards a young boy tending sheep.  Maybe that’s Hollywood’s influence.  What comes to your mind when you think of Utah?

utah

Bet this isn’t included.  These were in a flowerbed at McDonald’s just outside of Salt Lake City.  Surprises everywhere.

utah16This sandstone tower represents Utah more accurately.  This picture was taken while driving from Salt Lake City to Moab.  Mist is falling and the sky is overcast.

Heavy rain fell during the night as we slept.  There was a forecast of rain for all the next day in Moab.  So we decided to drive on.

utah7What a nice surprise to see this arch by the highway.  This somewhat compensated for not being able to visit Arches National Park.

utah13This is the left side of the arch structure.   Light rain continues.

utah15As we walk up towards the arch, wildflowers lie at our feet.  Maybe this is a native firecracker flower?

utah14This is Wilson Arch named after Joe Wilson, a pioneer who lived in a cabin nearby in Dry Valley.  This formation is known as entrada sandstone.  Briefly, this means that over a long period of time, the stone cracked and was saturated with water, which created fissures.  Ice formed in the fissures; then heat melted it causing the breakdown of the rock.  The wind eventually blew all all the small pieces away leaving the arch shape.

utah6Haven’t a clue what these little flowers are.

utah4This plant with the silvery leaves reminded me of Agarita.

utah3What a way to grab attention.  This was actually an advertisement for a store on the other side of the rock.  Note the four-wheeler parked on top and the truck on the road for size perspective.

utah11Small, scrubby pine typical of this arid land.

utah10

utah9Also, what one would expect to see here – thistle.

utah2One parting shot of Utah before we cross into Colorado.

colorado2Snow covered mountains.  We’re happy to be skirting the area by driving diagonally across the north eastern corner of Colorado.

colorado3

coloradoWeather makes an huge impact on us humans.  Acclimation and hardiness makes a difference, but we’re all affected by cold, heat, elevation, and other conditions on this planet.  Humbling thought.

“Climate is what we expect.  Weather is what we get.”  Mark Twain