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  • Archive for September, 2013



    Feeling the need to be a little creative these days I decided to try doing leaf portraits, similar to the fruit and vegetable portraits I did last year. I’m actually planning on incorporating more of the tree into the portraits such as any interesting twigs, seeds, and flowers if they are available. I did this rough draft of a southern red oak from leaves I collected on the way to my car at my office. There were enough diverse leaf shapes that I thought they would be interesting.

    A couple of things I need to change up is to get a bigger white background. I thought I had a large poster board somewhere but alas, I can’t find it. Then I need to do a bit better with my lighting to get rid of the shadows on the edges and where the leaf is…Chris gave me some ideas and I need to experiment.

    But, I’m liking the results so far! Expect more in the future.

    Little Gem Magnolia

    Little Gem Magnolia

    Little Gem Magnolia

    Little Gem Magnolia

    Little Gem Magnolia

    It’s the season for magnolias to be fruiting and opening up to show their candy sized red seeds. This is our ‘Little Gem’ and all of the other species trees in the area are doing the same thing. Someday in the future our short 4-5′ tree will be tall and grand….someday.

    We have a new section of garden to plant and one of the areas includes a shady spot under our fig tree. Because that area is also semi-protected, being on the south side of the house, it means we can plant some not-so-cold-tolerant species like this ginger.

    Chris and I were dazzled by this ‘Dancing Ladies’ ginger, Globba winitii.

    And the same species, different variety, called ‘White Dragon’.

    I’m thinking we may end up trying to find some cold hardy ground orchids to put in as well, maybe a cymbidium or the like. But I’m loving the tinge of tropical and Florida that I can bring into our garden! Now, to see how they handle winter come January!


    Chris called me out to the garden the other night to say a really cool and interesting fungus was coming out. All it takes is a good rain like we had on Friday for all of the interesting fungi to come up around the yard, especially in the wood mulch in the garden.


    It was mostly fully developed on Sunday and it wasn’t until I was up close and taking photos that I noticed the flies. I did not notice a smell that would attract the flies but after doing my Google search for identification I determined that since its common name is stinkhorn, that they are normally stinky. My Google search was roundabout too—something along the lines of ‘orange fungus folded over’ and looking through the images. I first landed on Pseudocolus fusiformis, which looks similar but Wikipedia offered up similar appearing species and that led me to Clathrus. Of course I’m not 100% sure this is the exact Clathrus species, but it certainly seems like it.

    I love interesting fungal finds! If you like interesting fungus too, Leigh is always up to something interesting, creating knitted fungus art!

    Carolina anole sleeping (until I woke it up) on our baobab tree.

    Bumblebees are drinking heavily from the white firewheel flowers.

    After growing all summer the Brugmansia are finally going to flower.

    A new addition to the garden, chocolate plant—Pseuderanthemum alatum.

    Isis sleeping in the front flower bed.

    Starfish cactus sending out a bloom.

    I’m over at Sprout Dispatch today writing about what’s in the veggie garden. Come say hello!

    Formosa lilly with love bugs

    Blackberry lilies

    Hyacinth bean pod

    Ruby prowling in the garden

    On this last day of summer, the light was nearly perfect in the afternoon. Morning started off cloudy and grey, a bit of mist here and there. We only received a little over an inch of rain throughout all of the storms that came through with our first cool front of the season. Other areas received 4+ inches, something I was hoping for to fill our pond back up. Instead the pond is still muddy in a few areas, though I know all of the vegetation was excited for a heavy drink of water. Chris and I did errands most of the day, stopping at plant nurseries and the farmers market. My usual place for getting eggs was already out—we were late in getting there—but by chance someone was walking by, man clad in cowboy jeans and a denim shirt, who said he had eggs. Expecting that he was a vendor it turned out he was actually in town to deliver eggs to some friends and other customers and decided to see what the farmers market had. We met his wife and chatted with them for a bit. They live further out into the country and have, I think they said 200, free ranging chickens. A bursting hobby, they started selling eggs to friends and a restaurant in town. We gave them $4 for 18 eggs and I thought that was a fair deal for free range eggs. We left with their phone number to call when we needed more to schedule a pick up. It would be cool to go out and see their farm sometime.

    And then of course we bought plants at the nurseries and then came home to sunny skies beaming through the pine trees. Crows made a ruckus in the skies around us, with hummingbirds zipping around from feeder to feeder, their wings beating furiously as they sped over our heads. I know some people are superstitious about crows, but I love them. They, along with barred owls and red shouldered hawks, are my favorite birds to hear in the southern forests.

    Tomorrow is fall!!

    Over the weekend I drove up to Fort Worth to see Patrice and Justin who are currently the Gear and Go Tour ambassadors for Backpacker magazine. You might remember them from our trip to Guadalupe National Park nearly two years ago at Thanksgiving or our first encounter with them in The Whites on the Appalachian Trail where they gave us trail magic and we met them after they had been following our journey from Georgia to Maine.

    Anyway those two have been traveling the country this summer giving presentations at various outdoor stores and they were stopping three times in Texas. Fort Worth was going to be the best opportunity for me to see them, as their trip to Houston will be brief before they have to head out to New Mexico for a presentation there.

    My dad was game for going for a short day hike and we decided that Dinosaur Valley State Park offered the best hiking within a short drive, though we did think about the Fort Worth Nature Center too. We mostly hiked the Cedar Brake Outer Loop Trail but cut off the far northern reaches and used the Black Capped Vireo Trail to get to a different section of the Cedar Brake Outer Loop Trail to finish out the hike at the Paluxy River bed, where the dinosaur tracks are located. I’d say it was six-ish miles that we hiked that morning.

    Dry, dry, dry! There were a couple of other hikers were encountered but it was mostly trail bikers doing long loops.

    Note the bike guys in the background; Friendly riders, too.

    One of the views we first saw. Most of the area was socked in by the Juniper trees but there were a few other spots where we got a glimpse of the area.

    Patrice and I were walking up front at first until we realized we were breaking trail and the spider webs along with it. She borrowed a pole from Justin and finally, though, the bike guys came through which meant we were home free the rest of the way.



    Patrice still breaking trail as we walked into the morning sun.

    A great set of prickly pear cactus.





    Coming down the trail with one of the other views we saw.

    North-central Texas rolling hills! Not too much terrain in this area but this area is one of the places for it.

    An Eryngium species giving a bit of color on the hike.

    After we came down from the hills on the west side of the park we walked along an old roadway adjacent to a field. It was here that gave a good perspective on the terrain.

    It’s not the mountains, but it’s the best we’ve got in that area I suppose. You make do with what you’re given in a certain area!

    Coming back down to the Paluxy in a different area. This is where the dinosaur prints are!

    The last time I was here three years ago there were people swimming in the river. Now, not so much.

    Down the dry river bed in search of tracks…

    And we found some!




    After checking out the tracks we headed back to trailhead parking lot across the park from where we were at and then drove back over to the picnic area to eat lunch. Patrice and Justin told us some of their stories from their travels this summer and talked about their future possibilities and adventures.

    We took them back to their super-awesome ride for the tour, their home and transportation on the road. I think they have really appreciated having it their first go-round out there as Backpacker ambassadors.

    They still have several more stops before they are through for the year, maybe your town is on the list?



    You can see Patrice’s recent post that includes a few photos from our hike here. It was great to see them since I know that our paths won’t cross often! I know that my dad and I had a great time chatting with them and stretching our legs a bit for a hike!

    We’ve been seeing the hummingbirds here and there all summer but September is their big month, the month they start heavily flying back through before they make their way back for central America to spend the winter.

    They stop here to feast before making the long flight over the Gulf of Mexico. A lot of bird interested folks like to ply them with sugar water to help them with energy before they are gone for the winter.

    I finally put two feeders up last week but my neighbor down the street had his 10+ feeders up for a week or two before that. At the height of the season there are dozens of birds flocking to his feeders. It’s a crazy sight to see!

    I went out of town over the weekend and on Friday night as I was getting ready I emptied the feeders because they had already been up for a few days and to avoid growing bacteria in the water I either needed to empty it out or refill it with fresh food. I didn’t think I had time to refill them so I drained them. As I was washing them out two birds came over to where they had been hanging and hovered for a few seconds as if to say “Where’s our food?” Needless to say I refilled one for them. Silly birds, making me feel guilty!

    Last night I was sitting out about three feet from the feeder working on something else on the porch and a couple of birds came by. I think I’ll try taking a couple of closer photos of them sometime this week.


    Heading east down the Middle Lake Trail (not to be confused with the Middle Lake Hiking Trail), I came to the Deep Gully Trail. To the north it was another wide dirt roadway, to the south I saw a fairly well worn but slightly overgrown singletrack. Feeling adventurous I decided to try the singletrack. Worst case, if it dead ended I’d just turn around.

    Planted pine stood in rows, sometimes not very obvious, and other times you noticed that this was a managed forest.

    I’m at a loss for identifying this pea. I was thinking Centrosema or Clitoria but I really just don’t know. I saw some down by our pond too, so maybe I need to get a plant out to identify it.

    American Elm
    There’s something delicious about the blue sky and light in autumn, the way it comes through trees. I know it isn’t autumn but it just feels like it already.

    Ulmus alata
    Winged elm, Ulmus alata, is easy to spot with the growths that form along the branches of the tree.

    Ulmus alata

    I was enticed to go off trail just a bit, dive into the woods a little and explore. I really wanted to walk further but not without a GPS; not that I would really get lost because I could walk south or north and hit a dirt road, but I still wanted the reassurance of a GPS to get back. But, in the future I think this area warrants off trail explorations.


    I really want to call this oak Quercus lyrata, anyone want to help me out?

    Velvety undersides, very large shade leaves.


    Diospyros virginiana
    Diospyros virginiana, common persimmon.

    Diospyros virginiana
    Unripe persimmons

    RCW Insert
    Shortly after finding the persimmon I found myself in a red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) recruitment cluster. The box in the tree is an insert to assist the birds in nesting. They are extremely slow at building cavities, especially in their preferred tree of old-growth longleaf pine, and paired with open pine habitat loss these birds are extremely endangered. More information here..

    RCW Insert
    The area, really a lot of the forest I was in, needed a good burning in the open pine areas. I did not see any RCWs while standing in the cluster.

    RCW Insert
    Trees with a cavity, insert or natural, are marked….usually.

    RCW Insert
    This cavity was inhabited with bees. I watched many fly in and out, hovering around the entrance.

    RCW Insert
    Some more information about the birds in their range in Texas.

    I found a good video about RCWs shot at the forest too:

    I will definitely be visiting this forest again soon to explore even further south inside the park. It’s nice to have something this wild in a suburban setting.

    Middle Lake
    When I arrived at Middle Lake I saw several fishermen on the south end. I spotted a park bench on the east side of the lake and had to wade through calf deep grass to get there. A path was not worn well in this direction. Lake levels were down due to the summer and drought so I put my camera back down on the bench and edged closer to the water.

    I looked to the north and noticed more cypress trees, deciding that it was worth going off and exploring.

    A berm separated the lake and the smaller pond behind it to the north. The pond was down as well and provided a better space to walk, the berm being overgrown and all, so down I went to the shoreline.

    The cypress were decorated beautifully in lichen and fungus. Lovely!

    Carolina Anole
    A carolina anole posed long enough for a shot before jumping off into the grass.

    Yellow bladderwort dotted the mud bottom. Had there been water in the pond here, the bladderwort would have been floating.

    However, it is now resigned to sitting idly by on the mud until some rain shows up around here.


    Lots of good fungus growing around the pond!

    Leigh might like these!

    Elephantopus carolinianus
    The berm continued around the pond, slowly becoming more overgrown as I continued further. Eventually I had to bail off to the side and walk around back to the far east side of the pond instead of attempting to bushwhack through the berm. This is one of the varieties of Elephantopus, maybe tomentosus or carolinianus. Looks hairy so perhaps it was the former.

    variegated beautyberry
    I found a small portion of a variegated beautyberry. Which, smack my head, I forgot to take photos of the gorgeous violet berries! They are in full glory right now, too! I really think this bush had a virus as the rest of it had a yellowing/streaking thing going and this was the only part that was variegated well.

    This spider web entranced me for a few minutes, but I still wasn’t able to capture the light in this area well.

    Once I finished up around the lake I headed east down one of the dirt road/trails and then ditched off into what turned out to be a decent single-track leading to another dirt road/trail. I’ll share that and wrap up my explorations in the next post.

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