Monday, August 25, 2014

Summer Post - and Status of the Hens

The garden looks pretty ratty on August 25 2014, here in North Texas, but I thought I would enter a garden journal post with the latest happenings.

The Jujube tree has plenty of fruit this season - at least it gives some color to the garden. 

The texture is similar to an apple.  I made a jujube pie last year using an apple pie recipe.  In my opinion, it wasn't as good as an apple pie, but if you want to use your fruit, it is good enough for eating purposes!

The pear tree is heavy with fruit this year, we have never made pear jam, but since we had such good luck making our peach preserves earlier this year, I think we may try making some pear butter.  I'll probably write a post on whether I was successful.

Amazingly enough, the recent cool fronts and rain here in North Texas spurred my tomato plants to start blooming and producing fruit again.  I have tons of Tommy toes for the fall!

The Persimmon tree is also heavy with fruit even though the tree itself doesn't look very healthy.  We may lose it after this season.

I have some awesome news.  Two weeks after the bobcat attack (where two of my chickens were killed during the night), the first white hen, Claire, (she went missing that day and we assumed the bobcat got her first), came back!  She must have flown over the fence and escaped!  My question - how in the world did she survive for two weeks without chicken feed and water?  Not only was the bobcat out there, but there are plenty of neighbor's dogs and coyotes that could have gotten her as well. 

Jonie is so happy to have her friend back.  They are inseparable.  Claire will put herself to bed each night in the chicken tractor, however, Joanie still refuses to go by herself!  She still sits in the back porch window ledge every evening and I have to carry her over to the chicken tractor.  She has not gotten over the bobcat going in their tractor during the night and killing two of her flock.  Needless to say, neither hen is laying now - the heat and the trauma have had their effect.

I cut my sunflower heads down - they are drying on the back porch.

The Turk's cap is blooming and attracting hummingbirds.

The Belinda's Dream rose is blooming now.  The blooms are not as large and pretty as they are in the springtime, but it is a flower nonetheless in the current heatwave - I'll take it.

The Trumpet Vine pods are pretty large.  After researching whether they are poisonous - I'm still not sure!  I found a post on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center web site about it.  My final conclusion - do not eat, and do not give to animals to eat, just in case.  They are interesting to look at though!

It is Cicada season now - do you hear them at your house?  They are LOUD!  I wrote a post about their interesting lifecycle last year - check it out!

A Cow Killer in the garden - they feed on Cicada Killer wasps.

And finally, a Ladybug was visiting my garden this week too.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Eastern Hercules Beetle and Other Garden Life - August 2014

August finds the temperatures creeping up to the 100's now.  There's still plenty of life being lived around here though.  My daughter found this beautiful (and deceased) female eastern Hercules beetle in Tyler (East Texas piney woods) this week.  Tyler is about 85 miles east of my location, but the terrain is very different.  It is rolling hills with sandy soil.  There are lots of pines and hardwood trees there.  Tyler's environment is more characteristic of the eastern U.S.  The range of this beetle ends in east Texas. 

When I was researching this beetle, I looked at pictures of its grubs (larvae) - they are HUGE compared to the typical June bug beetle. 

She had tiny hairs all the way around her body.

Here is a link to a video of a large and active male Eastern Hercules beetle.

A female ruby throated hummingbird is visiting the flame acanthus.

A gulf fritillary butterfly

Another garden spider.  I am seeing more of them this year than last year.  See the trademark zigzag pattern on the web?

I had never noticed the cool pattern on its stomach.

This is a very small butterfly (1 1/4" across) that is pretty beat up - I don't remember seeing it around here before.  It is a Pearl Crescent butterfly.

Unidentified dragonfly - I'll update the post when I find it.

This is a Widow dragonfly.  I actually posted this picture last month - however, I wanted to compare it to the picture of the dragonfly I took this week (above).  Not only is the pattern on the wings different, the body color is different.

The Echinacea (purple coneflower) is in bloom now.  The butterflies like this flower.  Here is a link to an interesting video about the use of Echinacea - they use the entire plant.

The sunflowers growing in my garden are starting to droop in this photo - it won't be long before I harvest them.

It has very large leaves - notice the leaf size compared to my hand - it totally covers it.

Very large heads - I'll be harvesting the seeds soon.

We had some lovely clouds near sunset this week.  This one looked like a kind of starship - I love the way the sun-rays shine through the right side!

Same set of clouds at a different angle - see the silver lining?

This is also the same set of clouds later - there were beautiful sun-rays.  I took the picture with my cell phone through a car windshield.  I wish I could have stopped and gotten out.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Early August 2014 - Usually the HOT Time of Year!

This time of year I am more reluctant to go out and see nature at work in my yard, due to the heat.  However, it just so happens that we had an unusual cool front come through North Texas.  Luckily we got 1 1/2" of rain!

I'll start my garden journal off with a picture of my cantaloupe harvest.  I picked about 2/3 of them this morning.  I also picked the last of the cucumbers for this season.  We'll probably pull the cucumber vines up today.  I'll be taking some of these into work to give to friends.

When we were in California this summer on vacation we stopped at several fruit and vegetable roadside stands.  One of the new things we tried was dried cantaloupe.   It was delicious.  So we decided to dry our own.

On to the latest happenings in my yard this week.   I found this interesting bug on my Black Japanese Pine tree.  It is an Assassin bug.  Note how the bug matches the tree bark perfectly - excellent camouflage.   According to the TX A & M web site, this is a good predator bug because it eats many garden pests.  Do not kill it.  See the link for more information.

After reading about the bug I learned they have a very PAINFUL sting.  What was I doing chasing this bug around with my finger so I could get a picture?

I had an earlier post on bagworms decimating my Bald Cypress trees.  See link:   I also found bagworms invading other shrubs in my yard this week.  Notice how their bags reflect what they are eating.  So very irritating...The first photo is a bagworm on my rose bush.  Its bag reflects the rose's leaves.

Here is a combo bagworm that has been munching on both my expensive smoke tree while previously dining on the bald cypress - see the cypress's needles on the top.

On to a happier topic.  The sunflowers are beginning to bloom.  I hope to roast the seeds this year.  I'll cover that in a later post.

The bumblebees love them - they are covered in pollen!

Note the seed distribution in this close up shot and how it reflects the Fibonacci number.   Watch this wonderful video on the topic - see the sunflower in the video!

While I was taking pictures of some blooming blue sage I initially thought I saw a bumblebee.  On closer inspection I realized it was a Robber fly.  Notice how it mimics the bee!

 The remaining Silverado Sage in my yard is blooming well now.   I lost some of them this past winter due to the extreme cold snap we had. 

 These shrubs always attract bees.

Cactus and succulents always survive in the heat.  Here is an Agave (the plant from which tequila is made).  Note the wasp nest on one of the leaves.  We have a huge number of grasshoppers this year, they have decimated the iris leaves in front.

The cows tongue prickly pear and spineless prickly pear cactus are getting large.  I cut them back every winter.  In the foreground are the branches of a Pomegranate bush.  The cold winter killed the main trunk of the tree, but its coming up from the roots.  When it gets a little bigger I'll start pruning it back in the shape of a tree again.

I captured this Black Swallowtail butterfly sipping nectar on my salvia greggii this morning. 

Seeing the butterfly reminded to go out into the garden and see if I had any of its caterpillars on my Dill - They were there!

I got a front shot of it eating the dill.

For more information about wildlife in the Dallas Fort Worth area I wanted to share a cool web site I found.    DFW Urban Wildlife

And finally, I am sharing a couple of pictures of my lone survivor from last week's bobcat attack.  This is Jonie - my beautiful black hen.  She is very wary now and has begun regularly staying on the back porch.

In the late evening she begins sitting in the chair on the back porch up next to the window so she can watch us.  She won't put herself up at night (like she used to) in the chicken tractor.  I have to carry her over there and then lock up the door behind her.