Wildflowers

Wildflower season arrived early this year here on the farm. Late fall rains and a very mild winter allowed the plants to sprout earlier than normal. I noticed the first Indian paintbrush blooming in late February. By mid march the meadow had a red haze and a few bluebonnets were blooming. I’d say that the weekend of 26-27 March was our peak wildflower time. The first weekend in April is still very good for viewing and pictures however the red paintbrushes are starting to show their age. April 9-10 is the Chappell Hill Bluebonnet Festival which is the normal peak time for wildflower viewing.

The last couple of weekend we have had beautiful weather. That has brought out many lookers at wildflowers, most of them being complete assholes. They park on the cemetery and start walking ending up by our house. Others drive down our driveway turn around here and then stop to do their picture taking. If told they are on private property they get an attitude. I’m going to block the driveway with something tomorrow to see if that will stop them from going wherever they please.

The pictures below were taken over a period of several weeks. The meadow has the most flowers I’ve seen in 20 years. Click any picture to start a slide show with a caption for each picture.


Rain-Spring is Here

The Pacific storm that brought much need rain to California earlier in the week had moved into Northern Mexico. It stalled and pumped lots of moist tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico into Texas. As this moist air came ashore it mixed with the cooler air over land and gave us lots of rain. Here at the farm we received three inched but some places not too far from us received nine inches plus. Lots of flooding and streams in Southeast Texas are forecast to crest at record levels in a few days.

Here are a few pictures taken this morning. Check the captions to see what they are all about.

 

 


Tomatoes are Blooming

The tomatoes plants I bought and set in containers mid February are blooming. Several days ago I noticed the clusters that will become flowers and later tomatoes. The flowers I saw this morning was a surprised so I thought I’d take a picture. And while I had the camera out I decided to take a few more pics of the flowers starting to bloom on the meadow.


Results of a Warm Winter

So far we have had an exceptionally warm winter. Today, 3 March, our high temp was 84 degrees. Upper 70’s have been common for the last two weeks. The average date for a spring freeze for this area is mid March. We are just about there and I have my fingers crossed that we make it. A late freeze would do lots of damage to all the vegetation that is up, green and blooming.


I think that we will have an early and really good wild flower season this year. Rain last fall and through January of this year plus an exceptionally warm winter have set the stage for good show of wild flowers. Peak flowering will occur almost a month earlier than normal. Mother nature could surprise us with a late freeze but long range weather forecasts don’t support that, thanks to a very active El Nino.


My vegetable plants that I bought and/or started in the greenhouse are doing real well. Turnip, carrot and beet seeds planted in the garden came up fine. Beans and peas did not sprout. I had to replant them today.
(NOTE:Place mouse pointer on picture to read the caption. Click on the picture to see a slide show of the pictures.)


The Need to Plant Prevailed and I Planted

The weather this past week was very spring like- more like late March than mid February. Highs during the day were near 80 degrees and nightly lows in the upper 50’s. No rain and ground is getting dry. Surface cracks are starting to appear.
My garden was tilled and in rows so I started planting. First thing to go into the ground was turnips. I laid out flat soaker hoses on all the rows so each could get a good soaking and give the seed a chance to sprout. Next were carrots, beets and some sweet peas-snow and the regular variety.
The local big box store had some garden plants so I brought some home. Lettuce, Chinese cabbage and spinach were set out in a raised bed. Seven tomato and four sweet pepper plants were planted in containers and doing nicely in the greenhouse. Some peas and beans were started in peat pots and are to be planted in containers. I finished the week by planting pole and bush beans.
One week after planting the turnips are up. This morning I saw some tiny green leaves all in a straight row. It is either weeds are turnips- I believe its turnips.
This week I’m going to start cucumbers and squash in peat pots. It is usually best to plant them in directly in the garden however winter is not over and they don’t tolerate cold weather.


I Feel the Need to Plant Something in the Garden

But it is only the 5th day of February and Winter has a ways to go before it is finished. Never-the-less I have my garden tilled and all laid out with rows. I’m going back to row cropping for most of the vegetables. Will also have some in containers, which did well last fall and winter.
The weather has been very mild so far with only a couple of frosts. Temps haven’t gotten below the 30 degree mark and when it did go below 32 degrees only stayed below the freezing mark for an hour or so. On average we can expect the last frost to occur between March 1 and March 10. But there is always an exception and a hard freeze could happen at a later date.
The soil is starting to get somewhat dry. Have had only 1.45 inches of rain this year and most of that fell in the first part of January. We are in the middle of an El Nino weather event and no one knows what will happen and when weather wise.
Today I purchased some vegetable seeds and a few plants. Will need to pay close attention to the temps because most of the plants I bought will turn black within a hour of a frost. Will put then in containers so they can be moved to a warmer place just in case. The plants I purchased are lettuce, spinach, chinese cabbage, tomatoes and sweet peppers.


The pictures are of swiss chard, cabbage (have eaten 1 head), kale and the garden tilled and in rows. The curly leaf plants are kale and the red stalks are swiss chard.


A New Year-2016

Finally getting around to writing something in my blog! Time seems to be flying by and I have a pocket full of “round to-its”.

New Years in the Peters’ household is always routine, we stay home and don’t get in trouble. This year David was here and we went fishing in my stock pond. Two years ago I stocked the pond with 100 4 inch fingerling catfish. I had been feeding them commercial fish food and they were getting big. I caught one about six months ago that weighted over five pounds and hadn’t fished for them since. When David said he was coming I told him to bring his fishing gear and we would try to catch some.

New Years Eve we waited until about mid morning until it warmed a bit before we headed out, but it was still in the mid 40’s with a brisk north wind and overcast. Not your ideal fishing weather. I took some of the catfish food and threw a hand full into the water. It attracted a couple of fish before the wind blew the floating food up to the shore. By that time David had his line baited and in the water. Within a minute he connected with the first fish.

Catfish

I manned the landing net and David caught the fish. In 45 minutes he caught eight fish and we estimated, from the two we weighed, that we had about 60 pounds of live fish. The 24 inch long cooler was full and the last fish was touching the lid when I closed it.

We headed home to the less desirable part of fishing, cleaning them. We cleaned a table in the greenhouse and inside we could actually remove our jackets and be comfortable. Two hours later we had a lot of cleaned fish.

After lunch and a break we packaged, vacuum sealed and put them in the freezer-except for a meal of fried fish that evening.

These catfish are a cross between a channel cat and blue cat, same as the commercial catfish farms raise.

That was our New Years 2016.

 


Way Back When

Ant Lion aka Doodle Bug

This little creature captured and held my attention for many hours during my pre-teen years. I had no siblings to play with, neighbor kids were quite a bit older than me, my toy box had only one bought toy so I had to find things to do to occupy my time. I don’t ever remember being bored. My wants were like those of every other kid but in the post-depression days of the late 1930’s and early 40’s money was scarce. Food clothing and shelter had first dibs on what was available. Toys were way down at the bottom of the list.

Our house was wood frame with board and batten siding. It sat on concrete and wood blocks. The ground sloped where our house sat so on the west end the floor joist were about 18 inches off the ground and on the east end about three feet-just high enough for a little kid to get under and play. There was no skirting around the house so in the summer it was always shady, dry and cool. Here the dogs camped out as well as the cats and yours truly in his personal sand box. The dirt beneath the house had a layer of the black soil that had turned to powder, perfect for all sorts of imaginary construction work.

It was also the home of the Doodle Bug!

doodlebug homesIn the fine powder beneath the house were these little depressions. They were actually traps that the doodle bug made as well as his home. It stayed near the bottom beneath the powder. When an ant or some other small creature came along and got too close to the edge it would fall in. When it tried to climb out the sides were too steep and the powder gave way trapping it. This activity alerted the doodle bug that food was in the hole.

doodlebug1This vicious looking critter is the Doodle Bug aka Ant Lion. It is blind (no eyes) and creates its trap (home) and captures its prey by feeling the vibrations in the soil. Once the prey is in the mandibles the doodle bug disappears beneath the dirt and enjoys its meal.
The doodle bug creates its trap by pushing itself backwards under the soil and flipping the loose soil away with its head. It goes in a circle with a push back, then head flip until the trap is made. Takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete. Then it is a waiting game for dinner to come along. They don’t like it if other doodle bugs intrude and the fight is on if one does.

 

doodlebug_dimeCompared to a dime these creatures are not very big as you can see in the photo.

adult doodlebugThe doodle bug is actually the larva stage of the flying insect in this photo. It commonly called a “lacewing” and resembles a dragonfly. The lacewing is seldom seen since they are active late in the evening when they feed on pollen and nectar. After mating the female will stick its long abdomen into the powdery soil or sand and lays eggs. The eggs hatch into the doodle bug. After a while the doodle bug spins a cocoon around itself with fine thread and sand particles. A month later the adult lacewing emerges from the cocoon, makes its way to the surface and the cycle begins again.

Interesting fact: The doodle bug does not have an anus. It retains all of its metabolic waste in its body and then disposed it in the cocoon when it morphs into the lace wing.

The doodle bug is an interesting creature. I spent many an afternoon trying to fool one into thinking that a foreign object I put in his trap was an ant. It never would take the bait. I would get one out of his hole an put it on top of the loose soil and watch as he built a new trap. I also placed one in an occupied trap and watched the fun begin. The intruder usually made it out of the hole to safety. When something like a pebble or piece grass about the size of an ant was dropped in the trap the doodle bug would ignore it. After a while he would approach it and kick it out of his trap.

doodlebug pillbug

Another interesting creature that was in abundance under the house was the pill bug. They liked to hide under something such as a rock or leaves. When they felt threatened their segmented shells allowed them to roll into a ball protecting their soft undersides.