Category: Nature

Random Thoughts: As If Alligators and Tornadoes Weren’t Enough to Worry About

I’m a worrier. I never thought I was, but it’s been brought to my attention that I am.

Sometimes, there are things that need to be worried about. Like snakes.

There is something supremely icky to me about snakes. Growing up in Texas, one learns about the danger of snakes at an early age. Aside from the small garter snakes we find in the garden in the spring, I haven’t actually seen many in the wild. After a visit to the zoo once, however, and being amazed at how many snakes I was unable to spot right under my nose because of their incredible camouflage, I know they’re out there.

And it’s even worse than I thought.

A few weeks ago I read two articles I haven’t been able to shake. The articles were both about Burmese pythons killing off native animals such as racoons, bobcats, opossums, and rabbits in the Florida Everglades. We’re not talking minor decreases in these populations either, we’re talking numbers as high as a 90% decrease in some of the animal populations.

Other than the obvious environmental impact, I can’t help but wonder 1) who keeps pythons as pets, and 2) who is sick enough to let them slither out into the wild?

Does anyone else find these reports somewhat alarming? I don’t live in Florida, but I know these types of things have a way of spreading. If I did live in Florida, and anywhere near the Everglades, I probably wouldn’t step foot outside my house after dark for the remainder of my life.

I was a Girl Scout and have spent years camping around the country, and snakes aren’t something I worry about too much. They’re generally shy and do their best to stay away from people. But a python? I have visions of 20 ft long snakes as thick as a human body hanging from the trees, slithering under porches and hiding in garbage cans, ready to swallow me whole. <shiver, or should I say slither?>

It gets worse. When I searched for a photo of a python to include here, just to give you an idea of their true size, I came across another article in a blog that states there are now pythons in Kansas. I was right, they are already spreading. As if tornadoes aren’t enough to worry about out on the Great Plains!

This certainly goes into the I Had No Idea file.

Burmese python that was found in the Everglades

Invaders: How Burmese Pythons are Devouring the Everglades

Pythons Linked to Florida Everglades Mammal Decline

Rogue Flowers in January

We’ve had a fairly mild winter this year in North Texas. No surprise, really, after the hottest summer on record. I was surprised to discover, however, that there are still a few rogue flowers trying to push out a few more blooms in the cooler temps.  While playing with the dogs in the back yard the other day, a flash of golden orange appeared in the wildflower patch. I believe it’s Calendula, one of my favorite flowers from the summer.

Last spring I bought a packet of wildflower seeds and spread them out along a fence, along with some giant sunflower seeds. Of course it stormed a few days after I spread the seed, and a lot of them washed away. It was fun to see what flowers survived the deluge and would appear throughout the summer. There were quite a few Black Eyed Susans and Sweet Alyssum (which is also still blooming in January), but one of my favorites were the Calendulas. Their large, showy, dark green leaves are impressive on their own, and stand out amongst the more fragile wildflowers. The color of the flowers are a beautiful deep, golden orange.

The other flower that made a reappearance last week was a Blanket Flower, otherwise known as Arizona Sun. It’s trying really hard to bloom, but I think the cold nights were too much for it. It’s a little sad looking, especially in the rain.

This winter has been so mild, in fact, that I’m still able to grow lettuce in my vegetable garden. I’ve been covering them on cold nights with a sheet of clear plastic and, except for an attack of hungry caterpillars that nearly did them in, they’re growing splendidly. The bricks on the sides and down the middle are to gather heat during the day, but also to keep the plastic off the lettuce when it’s covered.

In my book, you can never have enough flowers in your life, so these unexpected rogue flowers were a real treat this week.

Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons: The Need for Wildness

Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks are two of my favorite places on earth. I’ve spent many summers there, camping and hiking and visiting my daughter, who was a park ranger in Yellowstone for several summers, then a geologist in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Going to Yellowstone every summer was like going to church, meeting God everywhere you turned. Even though it’s one of the most visited national parks in the nation, once you leave the main road you truly are in a wild, untamed place.

Being there, to me at least, is like returning to sanity. Things make sense and the world is as it should be. When life back home becomes crazy with busyness and stress, I close my eyes and turn my thoughts to Yellowstone. Just knowing it’s there is enough.

Tibetans say that Mount Meru is the center of the universe; in my world, the center is Yellowstone.

We need the wild for renewal.

Tetons

We need the wild to remind us who we are.

Sepulcher Moutain, Yellowstone

We need the wild to keep us from getting lost.

Bison Cows and Calves

We need the wild to keep us humble.

Bison Swimming Across the Yellowstone River

We need the wild to remind us what is real.

Dissipating Rain in Yellowstone

We need the wild to take our breath away.

Yellowstone Lake

We need the wild to show us what we’re most afraid of.

Grizzly Bear

We need the wild as a guide, showing us we don’t need anything more than we already have.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

We need the wild to show us the way to stillness.

Alkaline Ridge, Wyoming

We need the wild to remind us that life goes on without us.

Fox

Before the Heat, There Were Flowers

We made it all the way to 40 straight days of triple digit temperatures here in Dallas, two days away from tying the record.  Most of us were somewhat sad we didn’t at least tie the record because we wanted something to show for our Summer of Misery, like a medal at the end of a marathon.  Oh well.  Little did we know that we hadn’t yet crossed the finish line.  Yesterday we officially claimed the #2 spot for total number of days at or above 100 degrees.  We’re at 57 days so far and need to reach 69 to tie.

I’m hoping we don’t make it to 69.  Chances are we will.

The potentially hottest Texas summer on record also happened to coincide with the summer we decided to start a garden.  We had a bumper crop of tomatoes, green beans, lettuce, zucchini, and herbs in June, but the only things that have been able to withstand the intense heat have been the peppers (jalapeno, habanero, cayenne), okra, and watermelons.  Several of the watermelons split from the intense heat before they were ripe, but the okra is thriving.  I love okra, but have never eaten so much okra in my life.

Before the extreme heat, while the vegetable garden was in its infancy, we had flowers.  Beautiful, vibrant, abundant flowers.  Here’s to the memory of those flowers and cooler days.