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  • Archive for May, 2013

    Hohenberger Farmstead: Old San Antonio Road

    If you’ve ever driven around Texas for any length of time you’ll likely find yourself passing a brown sign pointing to a historical marker off to the side of the road. Many times it just faces a field, but sometimes they are in front of actual buildings. Chris and I were driving from Fredericksburg to Old Tunnel State Park on the Old San Antonio Road when we saw a long stone wall that went on for perhaps a mile. Then we came upon this house and since we had a bit of time to kill before getting to the state park I had Chris turn around so we could check out the building.

    Hohenberger Farmstead: Old San Antonio Road
    Stone walls are not common in Texas like they are in parts of the northeastern US. If you are to find them then the Hill Country would be an area to see them as this area is rich rocks.

    Hohenberger Farmstead: Old San Antonio Road
    We couldn’t tell if someone actually lived there or if it was run by a historical society, but we did see modern wind chimes on the front porch.

    Hohenberger Farmstead: Old San Antonio Road
    I was glad we stopped. Before we arrived at this stop we’d passed the old town of Grapetown and saw several old buildings there as we whizzed past on the highway.

    More information on the Hohenbergers. Worth a stop if you are in this area!

    Over the weekend Chris and I went to the Texas Hill Country near Boerne to do some hiking and exploring of the area. We happened upon a rainy weekend, complete with some flooding in the San Antonio area. Because of this some of the areas we wanted to go to were closed. As I was planning our trip I found a small park on Google Earth called Old Tunnel State Park. So on Sunday night as we drove back from Fredericksburg to our motel in Comfort we took the Old San Antonio Road to the state park. I really wasn’t expecting a lot of people but boy, was I wrong! The place ended up being very packed by the time we were done with the bat emergence at nearly 9pm. We arrived at around 7pm and were very glad to have as it enabled us to get seating in the lower amphitheater area, thus providing us with perfect bat viewing!

    oldtunnelwma
    Chris and I walked down to the old tunnel, the first one in Texas, to scope out the area. We could see some bats flying around towards the back of the tunnel but none were emerging as we were over an hour early. Plus, no one is allowed that far down during the emergence—darn! We walked shortly down one of their hiking trails, but we weren’t in hiking clothes so we didn’t wander far.

    A park ranger gave an excellent program discussing the local history, talking about the bats and why they have colonized the tunnel. It was interesting to hear that the pregnant mothers actually leave for a month or so to give birth in another cave. Apparently the tunnel with its two openings doesn’t allow the body heat of the bat mass to heat up the area warm enough for the bats to give birth and the pups to survive. The ranger said they needed 105* in the cave and that temperature wouldn’t be reached in the tunnel. The park and other bat researchers have tried to figure out which cave they are migrating to for birthing and they believe they’ve pinpointed a cave somewhere near Mason but aren’t for certain. Either way, the females and their pups come back about six weeks after birth to the tunnel, just about the time the males fly up from Mexico. Then, this is the peak mass of bat emergence with up to 3 million bats emerging at night!

    There’s also another couple of thousand of cave myotis bats that also occupy the cave but are distinctly separate in their roosting habits. At least bats know how to share space!


    Chris took this video, his is a little bit lighter than mine and he used a lens that cropped closer.


    I should have upped my ISO but didn’t realize it was dark when I was looking at the screen on the camera. Anyway, this shows the bats emerging from the tunnel, rising up and then hanging a left through the trees, and then out and over the canopy. It would be really cool to see this from a mile or two down the road! When we left and proceeded to drive south we saw several bats flying low and high above the road so I think watching them from this direction would be really fun to see!

    hillcountry
    This tiny state park is highly recommended and if you are in the area definitely stop in for the presentation and emergence! Get there at least an hour early to guarantee a seat down low. You can skip paying and stay at the very top, but Chris went up towards the end to see what he could see above the trees and the visibility was not good.

    Chris and I were in the Texas Hill Country this weekend and we had a rainy day on Sunday. Instead of hiking we chose to go to a cave, Cave Without A Name and then scoped out some of their short trails afterward. We came up to a sinkhole and what I thought was a spiderweb, but I quickly realized it was a pulsating and moving mass of daddy long legs! Chris got a close up of them so I could tell if they were actually harvestmen or actually spiders and this particular group was harvestmen. So, they are arachnids but not spiders. But still creepy nonetheless…creepy in a fascinating kind of way.

    Gladiolus dalenii

    Gladiolus dalenii

    Gladiolus dalenii

    Gladiolus dalenii

    Gladiolus dalenii

    Gladiolus dalenii

    I first came across this species of gladioli at our local nursery only I wasn’t sure what type or variety they were. Initially I thought they were a hybrid but later on I found out otherwise. In fact it is a species plant instead of a hybrid, originally from tropical Africa. It was at the Mercer Arboretum March Mart Plant Sale where I bought the plant that ended up in our flower bed. It was modestly priced, right up my alley. Hopefully the plant will send out extra corms that I can spread around in the bed for next spring. Gladioli are one of my favorite bulbs so having a small collection of varieties would be perfect for me. In fact, I’m really stoked to see the variety of species in this genus! Yes, I’m pretty much drooling over these! Check out the first one, the orchid-like Gladiolus ceresianus!

    pesto4
    The collards were starting to bolt and I decided that I wasn’t in mood for boiling up lots of collards for dinner one night and instead wanted to do something different. In passing on a blog somewhere I’d remembered reading about collard green pesto. Sure enough there were a lot of recipes and I decided on this one to experiment with. I modified it using walnuts instead of pecans and eliminating the olives, but for the most part I followed the directions. Pesto is forgiving and very pliable, I think you could use any kind of green for a different result.

    pesto3
    All of the collard leaves were not picked, but I did get a giant handful of them. Once you blanch the greens, they soften up quite a bit and easier to blend. Note, I also took the ribs off of the leaves.

    pesto2
    Blends up well!

    pesto1
    That bunch of collards and the rest of the ingredients only made six little tubs! I think I could probably get three more with what is left outside on the plants. I’m trying to let the plants go to seed so I can save seeds for fall use.

    I definitely recommend trying some pesto made with collards sometime; I think chard or kale would be nice as well!

    peach2
    Our 5-in-1 peach/nectarine tree flowered earlier this spring and now has a few fruits on it. I think there is one nectarine but the peach limb has produced the most fruit so far. Technically I think you are supposed to pick the fruit off the first year in the ground in an effort to get the tree to have better growth but with only three or four fruits we decided to leave them on.

    peach1
    I guess in another month or so I’ll get to taste the peaches and savor our teeny harvest.

    dill

    I shared the View From The Potting Bench last week, but here’s what is actually going on *on* the potting bench.

    pottingbench
    This potting bench was actually here when we arrived. It really needs to be rebuilt and fixed. The legs of the table are bent in a few areas and it isn’t quite stable. I miss the potting bench we had in Florida. I found it via Freecycle and picked it up from someone else when we lived in Pembroke Pines. They had two at the time, a small and large one, but I was only able to take the larger one as it would only fit on our little porch at our townhouse there. Then we sold the bench when we had our great plant sale before we left Florida. It was a little bittersweet to get that go so I was definitely happy to see the potting bench stayed when the people who sold our house to us moved out.

    sweetpotatoes
    I started the sweet potatoes a week or two ago and they had been residing on the floor of our porch. However, the feral cats had been drinking from the cups and I would come home each day to find them knocked over. I figured they would have better success if I moved them to the potting bench, but I’m pretty sure the cats still jump up there too.

    jackpulpit
    Chris found a place online that sold jack-in-the-pulpit bulbils and bought a bunch. Now we have a flat of jack-in-the-pulpits that will eventually be planted in the new section of our flower garden when it gets built. It should also be noted that the deer love the greens from these.

    I really love the light surrounding this potting bench, particularly in the winter when the leaves are off the trees.

    gaillardia

    Gaillardia pulchella, aka: Indian Blanket or Firewheel, is one of my favorite natives. It blooms for much of the year in warmer parts of Texas and other areas of the south. They’ve been blooming very well for the last few weeks and another patch of them we put in our main garden is about to start blooming as well. We just bought a hybrid variety that is mostly yellow at a nursery. I could probably get into Indian Blanket hybrid varieties and become a collector of these flowers like we have with Salvia.

    I’m over at Sprout Dispatch today showing off what is growing in the vegetable garden. Come over and say hello!

    pottingbenchview

    Last night I spent an hour or so working around the potting bench, cleaning up seed trays and 4″ pots that hadn’t sprouted or that had already been transplanted. I started a round of more seeds from our stash, trying to germinate some old seeds in an effort to get some new plants for the garden but also an effort to get a fresh batch seeds from that too. Some of that effort is probably futile as some of the seeds are many years old and are likely not going to germinate at all. Oh well.

    I find myself outside until 8pm these days, working until almost dark and then coming in for dinner if I can stand waiting until that late. Right now I feel semi-caught up, if there is such a thing, but of course next week will come along and there will be another round of weeds to pull, seedlings to transplant, and deer to curse at for eating some new blossom.

    I’m just waiting for that fig tree to fruit so I can eat dinner outside.

    kiowa blackberry
    The ‘Kiowa’ blackberries gave me two tasty little snacks on my way through the yard as I took photos last night. The deer have been doing some light browsing too I saw. Doesn’t the spines hurt their mouth? I guess that still doesn’t stop them from eating my roses!

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