Sigyn Speaks

It’s December, So Time to Check for Fall Color, Part II: More Than Just Leaves (Sigyn Speaks)

We’ve had to walk a long way to find so many colorful leaves. But it’s a lovely day, and it feels so good to be outdoors that no one minds. (Well, maybe Loki has been complaining a little bit. The human female says that’s how she knows he’s still breathing. Rude, but a teeny bit true…)

Most of the flowers are long past flowering. This Goldenrod is wearing its furry winter underwear now.

One gust of wind or one good sneeze and we could have acres sown with seed! Acres of yellow next fall! Wouldn’t that be fun!

A few Black-eyed Susans are still out.

I hope the pollinators have noticed they’re here, or they will be lonely. : (

The Bitterweed is actually fairly common right now.

It flowers so prolifically that it’s hard to find a month when it’s not in bloom.

Not all the flowers are yellow.

The Blue Mistflower is easy to spot. There’s nothing else quite that color, especially this time of year!

Loki, look! What is that over there? It’s not blooming, but it looks…different.

Wow! The human female says this is a Grape Fern and that they’re not at all common out here. The leaves at the base are sterile, she says, and the sticky-uppy part is a fertile frond with little round balls of spore-producing tissue. Hence the “grape” part of the name. Hee hee hee! Loki licked it before she explained that…

Oh, my goodness! Oh, my goodness!

Buttercups! It’s entirely the wrong time of year for these, but aren’t they pretty? Loki, did you have something to do with messing up their timing?

We have almost finished our loop trail and are walking back along the Great Desolation (the water treatment plant right-of-way). Oh! We are stopping to look at this plant.

The random red and maroon leaves first attracted our attention, but now we are all scratching our heads trying to figure out what it is. It has pointy leaves and is very, very flat, with roots at every node. Whatever it is, there is a quite a bit of it. Since this is a disturbed area, it could be anything, from just about anywhere! I mean, this is where we found the white-flowered Bidens, the first record for this county. We’ve made a note to come and look at it in the spring to see if we can identify it.

There’s always something fun to look at in this park. I hope we can come again soon!

: )

Making New Friends (Sigyn Speaks*)

I’m so excited!!! We are going on another walk around the neighborhood. There has been more rain than usual recently, and all the little desert wildflowers are blooming! Loki says they’re just “weeds”, but look!

This is caltrop. I really like this plant!

Ferny, fluffy leaves and sunny yellow flowers that draw loads of butterflies! What more could you want?

“I like that the fruits are spiny and stick in people’s shoes.”

This little Sida is yellow, too, and also has five petals, but the leaves are very different.

It and this globemallow belong to the cotton family. Isn’t that neat?

Nothing else is quite that color. The flowers can fade to purplish.

“I like plants with flowers that start out the color they mean to go on, like this nightshade. And it’s spiny. Bonus!”

I think there might be two kinds of bindweed here! One has white flowers

And one has pink.

That might just be natural variation, though. Either way, they’re good for dangling!

Loki thinks this dodder is a better vine.

“It’s parasitic, and therefore inherently cool.”

There are plenty of yellow composites out today. This paper flower is really striking! The petals turn pale and dry up–just like paper!

We’re not sure what this one is–but it’s fun to lounge around in!

Loki says he knows what this plant is:

“It’s a chili pequin. These little fruits are going to be hotter than Muspelheim. Let’s take some home and put them in the human female’s lunch…”

That’s not very nice! But we could look to see if any of these prickly pear fruit are ripe and take those. You can eat them fresh or make candy or jelly out of them, if you take the prickles off.

Oooh! What is this fun little plant?!

The flowers look like they are made out of crepe paper!

Hee hee hee! Our resident expert says it’s Heliotropium convolvulaceum. What a big name for such a dainty plant!

Oh, now here are some really pretty and unusual ones! They’re in the Nyctaginaceae or four o’clock family.

What looks like one flower is actually a cluster of several, and what look like petals are actually sepals!

Here’s another kind, with tiny flowers and grayish leaves:

We don’t have a key to the Chihuahuan desert plants with us on this trip, but they might be a sort of Allionia. Sometimes it’s fun not to know all the names and just appreciate the plants because they’re pretty!

Who knew the desert could be so bloomy!

: )

*With occasional interjections by your favorite diminutive Frost Giant

Okay, Loki, That’s Enough (Sigyn Speaks)

One of the best parts about going to church is the singing. I love to sing! They took the touched-by-everyone hymnals out of the pews when the pandemic hit, but they’re nice enough to make song sheets every Sunday, which is very sweet of them.

If you know the tune, it’s very easy to sing along.

Oh, goody! The closing hymn today is number 7 on the songsheet, “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling“. I like that one!


Number 7 is actually “On and On“…?

(flip, flip) Oh, here it is!

Hee hee hee! It’s number 7 too! It looks like someone got a little confused numbering the songs. Bless their heart!

Uh, oh.

What is number 4 doing up above one of the number 7’s?

The whole handout is wonky!

The front has 1, 2, and 3, which is fine, but, inside, the numbers go 6, 5, 4, and 7, with the other 7 and 8 on the back!

Loki! Did you do this?!”

“We had an agreement! I don’t try to convert you, and you don’t mess with things in my church! What do you have to say for yourself?”

“I gave the human female a compulsive earworm, and now whenever she gets to this part, she has to sing ‘grapefruit‘ instead. It’s really funny.”


: (

Mail Mischief (Sigyn Speaks)

Oh, goody! A catalog came in today’s mail! I just love catalogs! They’re so full of possibility! For a short, shining moment, you can dream about having anything you want!

The church goods catalog has Christmas things already! I’m so excited! Christmas is my very favorite holiday. Except for Easter. And Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving’s good too!

Oh, how fun! Come look, Loki! They made a Nativity set in the shape of a tree! Isn’t that clever?

I wonder what’s on the front of the book?

Sigh. Loki, I know that, as a Norse god, you don’t really get the point of Advent and Christmas, but would you kindly take the Mail Mangling Curse off the mailbox? Please and Thank You.

: (

A Painted Adventure, Part III: Prettier and Prettier! (Sigyn Speaks)

Whew! Our little group of three vehicles was a little late to our third painted church, but we found it! Praha used to be called something else, but the Czech settlers renamed it after Prague. I didn’t get a photo of the outside since it was raining. It is partly made out of limestone quarried not too far from here.

Assumption of the Blessed Mother, Praha has a barrel-vaulted ceiling that is painted wood. And the painting is all plants!

It’s supposed to look like the Garden of Eden, and it does! If you look very closely, one of the cathedrals in Prague is painted there too. There is another very fancy altar–which the guide says was made by the same company that made the last one we saw. Imagine hauling that all the way from San Antonio! The altar rail and pulpit are very fancy. They had been put away in storage but were found when the church was restored. Wasn’t that lucky?

The font is very ornate, too.

There is a LOT of gilding in here. It must have taken months to redo it all!

I quite like this band of stenciling on the walls.

More flowers!

Our last church is built of red brick with some white stone accents. St. Mary’s/ Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in High Hill is regarded as the “Queen of Painted Churches”–and it’s not hard to see why!

Everywhere you look, there is some scroll-y foliage. (Scrolly foliage, scrolly foliage, scrolly foliage–that’s fun to say!) The guide says the ceiling is done with panels of painted wallpaper that were made “back East.” The pillars are painted to look like marble and there are a lot of statues–lady saints on one side and gentlemen on the other. The altar is from the same company again! I guess they made a specialty of making big altars for little churches.

Oooh! Look at the arch! It has everything–scrolly foliage, words, pictures, and some lovely blue flowers underneath.

The windows here are very fine. They are from three dates–1899, 1909, and 1930–which is why they don’t all exactly match.

Look how pretty! The human male is taking lots and lots of photos. I hope he gets a good one of the flowers in this design!

I hope Loki is happy in the car with his book, because I could just sit and look at this place all day.

Sigh. We can’t stay too long, though. The guide has to close up the church. It’s time to get back in the car and head for home. We could try going back a different way, or we take the same route we came. Let’s go the same way, please! I want to look at all of the funny animal yard art around Round Top, because I’m sure I missed something on the way down!

What a FUN day!

: )

A Painted Adventure! Part I: We’re Off! (Sigyn Speaks)

Ohmyohmyohmy!!! The humans are going on a trip! It’s a day trip only, but still! And they said I can come! Loki, do you want to come too?

“Where are we going?”

We’re going to drive and go look at some pretty, old painted churches built by Czech and German settlers in the middle of the state. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Don’t you want to–

“No. I don’t ‘do’ churches. You know that.”

But! But you could help me look at wildflowers on the way and help navigate, and there will be lunch, and…”

“And I could make sure you get back here in one piece afterwards. Very well. I’ll come, but I’m bringing a book or something. Don’t expect me to go inside anywhere.”

Okay! We’re caravaning from the church here and heading west. We have directions with road names and mileages, but no town names, so navigation is going to be key…

Loki! Did you really have to make the lead vehicle miss a turn, making all the cars go the wrong way, and then drive off waay above the speed limit?

“Yes. Yes, I really did.”

Well, we are all back on course now. It’s very pretty country we’re driving through, and the area around Round Top is full of antique marts and places with weird junk and sculptures that would be worth a trip on their own. And there’s a lovely twisty bit of road near La Grange that is just gorgeous!

(a bit later)

We picked up a local tour guide in Schulenberg, and we’ve now driven to our first church, SS. Cyril and Methodius in a tiny, tiny town called Dubina. There it is! Isn’t it pretty, Loki?

“If you say so. Go on. I’ll be fine here.”

Oh, pretty! The ceiling is full of stars, and there are plants painted and stenciled all around!

That is a very fancy altar! There is an interesting picture on the wall by the next pew.

Oh, I guess the two fellows on this plastic-protected banner must be Cyril and Methodius.

They show up together a lot. Hee hee hee! I can never remember which is which.

Can you believe that everything on the walls and ceiling was whitewashed over at some point? Then, not too long ago, they decided to restore it.

Some of the art is stenciled and some is stenciled and then painted.

This is my favorite bit. I like the white flowers–they remind me of little white bluets!

Loki, that was really beautiful inside! You should come with us to see the next one!

“No, thank you.”

Silly Loki. He doesn’t know what he’s missing! I’m pretty sure the building wouldn’t really implode if he stepped through the doors…

( a bit later)

This church is St. John the Baptist in Ammannsville. These little towns used to be bigger. Now there’s not much more than the church here!

You can tell it dates from about the same time as the other one.

Squeee! This one is all PINK inside!

The tour guide says the paint is on canvas applied to the walls and ceiling, rather than painted wood. That is interesting! He also pointed out the pinch-clamp hooks for men’s hats on the pews on this side of the church. They used to make men and women sit on different sides. Isn’t that silly?

The artwork is more Art Nouveau and less primitive, with lots of shadowing to make all the foliage and ornaments really stand out. And the “marble” columns aren’t really stone–they’ve just been painted to look that way!

There’s some stenciling on the lower part of the walls.

It must have taken forever to paint all of this, even with stencils! There is some nice stained glass, too.

That was so much fun!!! But now it’s lunch time. Loki, are you ready to go get something to eat?

“Of course, my love. That is the one part of today’s agenda I can truly get behind.”

More later!

: )

A Whole Walkful of Tiny, Pretty Things! (Sigyn Speaks)

Oh, my goodness! The weather has been just beautiful lately! The mornings are nice and cool and the afternoons are sunny and the flowers are just loving it! (Some rain hasn’t hurt, either!)

The human female and I are going for a walk around the neighborhood just to see what’s up. It’s too late for bluets : ( but there is sure to be something nice.

Starting with our very own lawn!

The evening primroses are pinker than they look in the photo, and they are everywhere!

So is the lyre-leaf sage. The ones coming up around the corner by the hose are nearly white, but the ones that have popped up in the lawn are purple, purple, purple.

What’s even nicer is that they’re perennial! Where they are this year, they are very likely to be again next year. When they’re done flowering, I will help the human female transplant them into the flower bed so they don’t get mowed.

That’s what’s good about the spring flora. A lot of it is short enough to pass under a mower largely unscathed. I can see the winecups in the grass of the park before we even get there.

You’d think the bright fuchsia would clash with the nearly-orange scarlet pimpernel (hee hee hee! I almost wrote “pumpernickel”!) but it doesn’t. It just makes a sort of earthbound fiesta.

The blue-eyed grass is open from about midday onwards.

The flowers are always a purply-blue, but in its miniature cousin, the flowers can be yellow, pink, lavender, pale blue, or a sort of bright arctic white, usually with a maroonish eye-ring.

They like a sandy soil, and so do herb sherard and the dwarf dandelions.

Whole sections of the lawn here are lavender and yellow orange. I just never get tired of the dwarf dandelions!

Another sand lover is this eny-weeny member of the carnation family.

I think it’s thyme-leaved sandwort, but I will have to pick a flower and take it home to key out, because there are several species that all look very much alike.

Speaking of itty-bitty white things, look at this dogshade!

It looks like lace, doesn’t it? A lot of the carrot family plants have flowers like this. It’s a good year for this plant–I’m seeing it everywhere! And do you know what? The flowers are sweetly scented! There is enough of it that you can smell these plants just walking by!

We’ve gone around the whole block now and I think we’ve seen just about ev—-

Ooooh! What’s that yellow up ahead?!

You could be forgiven for thinking this is one of the bur-clovers or sweet-clovers, but it’s one of the true clovers, specifically low hop clover, an introduction from Europe. The flowers fade and get all paper-baggy as they age. I like it not only because it’s such a cheerful color, but because the leaflets are heart-shaped and fold up to look like green snowflakes! I just want to give it a hug! But I won’t hug the little barley by my left hand, because it has long awns and is on the far end of the poke-you-in-the-eye scale.

Oh, haven’t we had just the BEST walk? Thanks for coming with me, and always remember to keep an eye on the ground, because you never know what precious jewels will be hidden down there!

: )

And What About the Cultivated Plants? (Sigyn Speaks)

I had such fun saying hello to all the bluets and such yesterday! And since it’s impossible to have too many flowers in one’s life, today I am going to pay a call to some of the cultivated plants in the neighborhood. A good many of them were hit very hard by the recent ice and snow : ( , but I bet something is blooming!

Look, Loki! Right in the front yard!

Daffodils! Don’t they look like ballerinas in pretty tutus?

Our friend Richard, who lives several blocks away, is also enjoying his spring-flowering bulbs.

Squeeee! They are exactly my favorite colors! And look how big they are next to me!

Oh! I need to run back to the house! There’s one more thing I want to check on!

It did! It did! It did come back!

All the leaves there were died in the ice storm and I thought it was all dead, but look! The one surviving hollyhock has put up two new leaves! It’s biennial, so maybe it will flower this year! I wonder what color it will be!

Is there anything as exciting as spring? I don’t think so!

: )