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

Country Lanes

Texas has five distinctive areas:  the Panhandle with extreme cold winters and dry barren landscapes; East Texas with plentiful rainfall and deep woods; Central Texas with tree covered hills and mild weather; West Texas with dry, sandy flat land and little rain; and South Texas with harsh desert conditions, some rocky mountains and flat lands.

We like to consider ourselves as being at the top of the Hill Country or Central Texas.  That’s stretching the truth a little – actually, a lot.  Truthfully, we have some characteristics like West Texas such as the dry climate, but we also have hills and trees and other plants like the Hill Country but colder winters.

All this to explain more about life in Texas than you may have wanted to know.

Countylanes4As we pull out of our gate this time of the year, these small native Redbuds are in our view.  They are small because the county machines chop them down every year or every other year.

Countylanes5Up close the buzzing of the bees is loud.

Countylanes6But they flew away when I approached them, so I didn’t get a picture of them.  I guess it’s a good thing rather than being attacked.

CountylanesFurther down our county road these bushes bloom in the spring.

Countylanes16jpgA botanist friend is willing to identify plants for me from pictures.  He tells me that are seven native plum trees in our area making identification difficult.  But this one is Sand Plum (Prunus gracilis).

Countylanes16jpgHe said it blooms later in the spring than others.  Thanks, Jack, for the info.

Countylanes3Spider web?  Information from a reader:  this is a pupa from a Tent Caterpillar

Countylanes7When I took this picture, I thought the red on this Ocotillo was berries.  But they look like flowers in this picture; they do bloom in March, so I’m not sure which it is.  Ocotillo is indigenous to the desert southwest in the US.  It is also called Candlewood, Slimwood, Coachwhip, Vine Cactus, Flaming Sword, and Jacob’s Staff.

It grows here because the rocky soil provides good drainage, and the summers are hot.

Correction:  this might be a different variety of an Ocotillo  or a Pencil Cactus or something else entirely.  Anyone know?

Countylanes8Little patches of Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) dot the countryside.  It’s near the end of their blooming season.

Countylanes10The Green Milkweed (Asclepias asperula) is abundant in our area.  The larvae of monarch butterflies eat only milkweed providing a necessary nutrient needed to develop.

The silky fluff from the seed was used by pioneers to make candle wicks.  They would card it and then spin it like cotton.

Countylanes11The White Prickly Poppy (Argemone albiflora) or Texas prickly poppy oblviously gets its name from the stems.   Their stems are short now, but most will be a foot and a half tall in the summer time.

Countylanes123jpgThe native Americans used this plant in medicines.  What kind, I don’t know.

Countylanes12Among all the other more prominent wildflowers are a few Wine Cups (Callirhoe involucrata).  They are a hardy, drought tolerant native to Texas and the central US. They are a full sun bloomer with the flowers closing each evening.  The dark color is spectacular.  I would love to see a full patch of them, but that’s rare here in nature.

“May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day.” Native American Proverb