It’s been a bit since I’ve done a Friday Five, so here are five good things for your Friday!
+The Wild Wander show on YouTube—primarily based in north Florida, the episodes are only a few minutes long, though this last one was about 15 minutes. All of them share some kind of interesting natural history feature about north Florida. It’s a show you could find on NatGeo or Animal Planet!
Easter weekend has zoomed on by but we had a great weekend at home for Easter. In fact, our first Easter at home! We’ve either gone to my parents or camping for Easter since Forest was born so this was a nice change! And of course lots of egg hunting in the backyard!
And these Chocolate Banana Bread muffins—they are so good! Highly recommend as I’ve made them twice now! (I turn mine into muffins as they bake shorter, about 17-20 minutes).
+A loose tooth that finally fell out! The tooth fairy’s first visit! This thing had been loose since January and hanging by a thread for about a week before it came out. He was eating Doritos and bam, his tooth fell out!
(The video takes a second to load…)
+And this post from Julie Zickefoose about an injured skunk in her yard. Adorable! And probably stinky, too!
A couple weeks ago I noticed something chowing down on our Turk’s cap hibiscus and took a few photos thinking they were caterpillars. I wasn’t having any luck with iNaturalist so I grabbed the caterpillar book and started flipping through. A few Families gave me some ideas but then I continued to hit a dead end.
That’s when I took to Googling caterpillars and Turk’s cap hibiscus and started sifting through the images. There was a photo of a sawfly larvae and then I recalled another iNaturalist entry sometime in the last year where someone had thought it to be a caterpillar but it turned out to be a saw fly. I can’t recall if it was on a Turk’s cap or another plant but I adjusted my settings in iNaturalist to Class Insecta and bam! that helped out a lot because the first suggestion was hibiscus sawfly! A few more Googles and iNaturalist comparisons and I felt confident that’s what this was.
I’ve seen them eating the hibiscus in the past but they never decimate it and I always move on. Same as this year—they’ve already moved on to the rest of their life cycle. It was just a really neat encounter to see and a little bit of sleuthing yielded the answer to who they were!
The green milkweed patch around the corner from our house has been the highlight of these weeks in isolation. Someone mowed the empty lot this year which was good. I had been contemplating doing it myself because grass and shrubs were encroaching on the milkweed and I wanted to increase the milkweed habitat. This year the milkweed is thriving!
This lot is where I’ve primarily gone to get milkweed for the monarch caterpillars the last few years. I’m raising 16 caterpillars this season, eggs harvested from our tropical milkweed. Our tropical milkweed is of course too small at the moment to handle the onslaught of caterpillar chomping so I moved the eggs I could find.
This patch is just so lovely! I’m also trying not to get too attached because Chris informed me there’s a chance that the owners may sell it. I had been wondering about that. There’s an old house pad and driveway at the site. A few years ago our county jacked up the land values which made everyone who had been holding on to adjacent acreage, even just half an acre, up and try to sell their property. That has changed the face of our little community because now everyone is cramming in more houses. The property directly across the street from us has been affected and it seems this lot may be too. Drive the prices up to increase development to increase their tax base to increase money to increase highway development to increase box stores…and on and on and on.
Skipping over more glacier photos to jump to Denali for a bit…
The morning of Forest’s fifth birthday we woke up very early at our hotel in Eagle River, north of Anchorage. Coincidentally our friend Eliana had been staying at a friend’s house in Eagle River as well so that made our ability to pick her up and take her with us to Denali a lot easier. The night before we’d met up in Anchorage to have dinner and as we told her our plans for the rest of the week she abandoned her plans to do some prep work for an upcoming photography show and because some field work in remote Alaska had been postponed, she opted to join in.
We got on the road heading north for a several hour drive to Denali, stopping in Wasilla for breakfast. Morning had dawned rather grey and cloudy as seen in some of those early photos and then in Wasilla it seemed like it might clear up for a few miles only to return to the grey it had been. Along the way we passed signs of the wildfires that had raged in the weeks prior and that was heartbreaking to see.
Somewhere between the turnoff for Talkeenta and Cantwell we pulled over next to a stream for Forest to go and water a tree—well, I think we all watered trees—and stretch our legs for a moment. We managed to walk around for a few minutes and all that did was make me very excited about what we would be getting to explore when we made it to Denali. For lunch we stopped at the Creekside Cafe next to where we would be staying for the next couple of nights. The food was delicious and I believe we managed to find something Forest would eat! Once we got off the ship I knew we would have more trouble finding things for Forest to eat the deeper we got into Alaska. I’m pretty sure he had a hot dog here! If we had gotten a whiff of food prices in Anchorage and other places we had stopped in on the cruise, we got an even heftier dose of it here!
Bellies filled, we were onward to Denali!
A year or two ago I purchased this gulf coast penstemon from a nursery. Or maybe I started it from seed. I honestly can’t recall at this time. But I’ve been watching the basal rosettes of this particular plant and several others and biding my time for blooms. Every so often the deer come by and chomp the leaves and set the plants back and I figured I would never get to see the blooms. It really is trial and error here with the deer. You can’t take anything labeled “deer resistant” at face value. I have begun to notice which plant families are actually more deer resistant and have been heavily leaning on those while also sneaking in more palatable plants and hoping for the best.
This year the deer *crossing fingers and not jinxing myself* spent more time away. Maybe because we’ve been home a lot in the last month, I’m not sure. But the gulf coast penstemon sent up a flower spike and I kept anxiously watching every day. And then blooms! So exciting! If it sets seed I’ll throw some out into the garden for self sowing and then also try to sow some in pots and see what ends up working out better.
Hurray for a native plant with gorgeous blooms and hopefully it will thrive in the garden for years to come!
Dusting off another one of those draft posts and OMG will you look at this kid??? Almost 3 years old—this hike was done in early August 2017, weeks before Hurricane Harvey. Forest turned three a month later. Those chubby little legs and oversized backpack—*insert crying emoji here*.
Burroughs Park is a Harris county park located just south of Spring Creek, the dividing line for Montgomery and Harris counties. It is a large park with areas for soccer and baseball games, several playgrounds, a dog park, and a large pond with walking paths. In the back portion of the park is an undeveloped tract of land with trails that you can get several miles of hiking in and for that reason I love being able to visit this park and it isn’t terribly far from our house. I’ve written about it several times before but I never managed to share this post. Probably going to chalk that up to Harvey happening and not finding the interest in writing at that point in time.
It looks like the park is still open for hiking and basic walking but all of the accessories like playgrounds, benches, and probably the restrooms are closed. I’m kind of tempted to drive over one day just to see how busy it actually is as it might be worth adding to the local hiking bucket of places to go.
Let’s see what else we found that day besides an adorable toddler?
There are always little delights of nature everywhere you look, even in places you think might not have them.
If you are a blogger like me you may have a stash of drafts sitting in your writing platform waiting to be published. Many of mine will never see the light of day but I thought I should dig this one out and blow the dust off of it and share some photos from a few years ago that I intended to post but never did! One or two might have made it into a wrap-up post about a camping trip but I believe the majority haven’t been shared. It’s mostly an eye-candy post, to feast your eyes on the beauty of the lepidopterans!
Looks like state parks are potentially opening back up here next week after being closed for about two weeks. There will be caveats in visiting and I’m not sure if we will visit any or not. We shall see! Until then I’m on the lookout around the yard and have been seeing plenty.
Onward to the butterflies…
On Good Friday we made our escape—we hit the Lone Star Trail in Sam Houston National Forest. I was going stir crazy and as much as I love being at home and can make things work, I wanted to see “outside”—outside itself but outside as in an area greater than our neighborhood. Plus, I was missing wildflower season and I wanted to attempt to see more flowers before the heat of summer settled in. Very local and in-town locations I knew would be busier and we wanted to avoid those places. After seeing some other folks in other areas of the state and country go hiking and often at empty trailheads, I knew there was a good chance we could make it work.
First off, we avoided the main trailheads on FM 149 north of Montgomery. When we drove by there were just a handful of cars in there so it wasn’t likely a big deal, but I told Chris we could just go down the LST where it intersected a forest service road/residential inholding road near where we take our yearly photos with Forest. I have yet to see a car parked there! And sure enough we were the only ones there and no one else was seen on our hike.
The night before we’d had a thunderstorm come through the area with us getting the southern edge of it and only a few bits of gusty wind. As we approached the forest boundaries it was clear the storm was rougher up there with downed trees and debris littering the sides of the road. A forest service employee was at one of the trailhead parking lots working to clear the debris and down the drive to where we went hiking there were five or six down trees that had been cleared from the road earlier that morning. I was definitely glad we missed the bulk of that storm!
I was already the person holding up the hike because I was taking wildflower photos and I held it up even longer when I stopped in my tracks after I saw this redring milkweed, Asclepias variegata! We had only seen it one other time in Angelina National Forest in east Texas and I was very elated to find this. Chris and Forest were 100 yards ahead of me and I was just having a grand old time taking photos of this milkweed. Sam Houston is pretty much its western edge for this species.
We had actually done a short part of this section of trail in the fall of 2018 but turned around when a light rain shower came through that we weren’t prepared for. This time we managed to do about a 3.5 mile out and back.
The beginning of this trail is high and dry and then slopes down to split from the LST to the Little Lake Creek Loop. We hung a right onto the LLCL and that section is significantly sloppier with section of mud and water puddling. You can either carefully go through or some areas you can skirt the edges.
All in all it was an excellent late afternoon on the trail. We have more rain in the forecast this weekend but we may see if we can squeeze in another time at some point before or after the rain. It is definitely good for boosting the morale around here!
It’s been a good spring for the irises down by the pond. The species plants of Iris virginica have really thrived and grown into large clumps over the last few years. Chris has also been adding various cultivars of Louisiana iris as well and those have really added some color to the pond fringe! Don’t ask about specific names because those are long gone but we can still admire the form and colors of these flowers.
The front ROW ditch where we’d also planted various Louisiana irises over the years has not resulted in any blooms this year, though the plants themselves have spread well. A good cleaning up around the plants should probably occur sometime this summer, getting rid of any other vegetation crowding out the rhizomes a bit. Though, now that I think about it I haven’t actually looked to see if there might be any flower stalks forming up there and should check next time I remember when I’m out that direction.
Not a big post, just wanted to share the colors going on the last few weeks!