Lick Creek Park

Back to the Park! (Sigyn Speaks)

The human female and I were talking the other day, about how it’s been so long since we went out to the park in the woods.  So today we’re going!

We have a little time before the tour group she’s leading shows up.  Come on, Loki, let’s look at the flowers around the Nature Center.  I can see from the parking lot that there are a lot of colorful things blooming!

This is the butterfly garden.

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I really like this fluffy blue stuff.

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I don’t think Loki is as impressed with it as I am.

Wow!  All the pink behind me is a native grass, Pink Muhly.  Isn’t it wonderful?

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The human female planted some in our front flower bed.  Sadly, Loki got to it, and it isn’t nearly this pretty.

Most people think Wooly Croton is a weed,

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but it’s fuzzy, and actually a nice place to sit.

This plant is its relative–an they’re both relatives of Poinsettias!

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If you mentally color some of these leaves bright red, you can see the resemblance.

Now these Pentas are good and red!  They’re not native, so I sort of wish the city hadn’t planted them, but the butterflies do like them.

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And, oh!  I wish you could smell this one!  It’s Mexican marigold and it smells like sweet licorice!

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Even if we don’t find many wildflowers in the woods today, just seeing all of this near the Center has been a real treat!

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A Long-Overdue Walk in the Woods, Part II: A Few Surprises

The tree-identifying has been snoring boringly along:  yaupon holly, winged elm,  yaupon,  yaupon, post oak… one mostly-naked tree after another.

But the Park has a few surprises up its planty sleeves.

The students are losing their collective tiny mind.  The human female has told them that there are PALM trees in the Park and they think she’s crazy.

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But here’s proof.  The human female is crazy, of course, but this is undeniably a palmetto.  Sigyn and I last saw these in East Texas.

Ah.  Here is a nice “pop” of color.  (That’s something the human female says.  I have no idea what she means, but this coralberry is certainly colorful.

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It’s only a foot tall, though, so dangling here just doesn’t have the thrill one can get with a taller species.

At last!  Some actual non-arboreal blossoms!  Sigyn likes this camphorweed, not only because it’s flowery, but because it is her favorite cheery yellow.

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It’s short too, but by the end of the season, it could be four feet tall.

(later)  We’ve been traipsing up and down all morning, and it is time for a break.

Clever Sigyn!   She has found us this lovely green and reddish resting place.

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The human female says it’s cancerweed.  What an ugly name for such a delightful plant.  It’s not moss, but it’ll do in a pinch.

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A Long-Overdue Walk in the Woods, Part I: Adventures in Tree ID

Sleipnir’s fetlocks!  The human female has ACTUALLY shoved her trotters into hiking boots and dragged her saggy fundament out into the woods.  She’s out at Lick Creek Park, helping some Honors Biology students who are learning how to run transects, census trees, and measure weird things like Diameter at Breast Height. (I don’t want to know.)

Because of all the cold weather and gray skies this winter, the local flora is LATE.  Things should be leaping into flower right about now, but nary a blossom is in sight.  The human female is having to dust off her knowledge of Trees in Winter Condition.  I’m letting all the talk of bud scales, leaf scars, and lentils go in one ear and out the other, but Sigyn is hanging on every syllable.

Oh, well, I guess I am hanging too.

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Now that I look, this is very interesting.  We have here crustose, fruticose, AND foliose lichens, all on one branch.  Not precisely plants, but they are at least green.

Now we are getting to the trees.  This is winged elm.  No leaves, but the twigs are good and weird.

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They are all flat, and.. bacony.

Hold!  What’s this?!  Finally, something in bloom!  And it’s not some tiny, timid, little spring wildflower, it’s a big tree!   Mexican plum doesn’t look like much when its wearing its leaves later on, but it’s surely showy now.

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Time for some serious dangling. Sigyn’s out of practice–we both are–but look at that form!

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She’s perfection.

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A Walk a Long Time Coming, Part II: The Fallout

No good walk goes unpunished.  No, wait.  That’s not right, is it?  Perhaps it is sort-of-right, because ever since Sigyn returned home from our walk in the woods the other day she doesn’t want to stop “doing nature.”  What is it you want today, my love?

Ah.

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What Sigyn wants is to roll around in crunchy fallen leaves on the back patio.  Yes, it’s fun, but it can also be a little itchy.

And what’s that you have there?  I do not recognize those.

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Persimmon seeds?  From the local, deliciously edible wild persimmon?  Excellent!  It would be nice to plant them and see if we can get a female tree to grow.  Where did you come by them?

You picked them up on our walk at the park?  I did not see them on the ground.   All I saw was the big pile of fur-filled coyote scat (those creatures will eat anything) and…

Oh, sweetie, tell me you didn’t…

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A Walk a Long Time Coming, Part I: Actual Real Live Nature

The human female’s stupid bum foot (not to mention her super-lazy bum) have conspired to keep her largely out of the woods and byways in the last year.  Today, however, she has traded her air-cast for a lace-up brace and jammed her pitiful trotters into her hiking boots.  The local chapter of Texas Master Nature Nerds has asked her to lead a field trip in her beloved Lick Creek Park, and she daren’t miss that.

We’ve had the first real cold front of the season and it’s a crisp, sunny morning.  Here and there, there are a few trees that have made a half-hearted attempt at fall color.

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A few have even been successful.

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Unfortunately, we are sitting in a cedar elm, and the leaves are scratchy as heck.

Sigyn, true to form, has found a holly to sit in.  Whatever she sits in, she seems to like hollies best.  The leaves are definitely smoother.

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Fruit’s not quite ripe yet, but that’s all right.  We’re not planning on eating it.

The fruit on this one is edible, but it’s a summer thing, so there isn’t any now.

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The human says it’s called gum bumelia or woolly-bucket.  Sigyn likes it because the leaves are fuzzy underneath.  Careful, dearest!  Fuzzy is not always friendly, and this one sometimes has thorns that can extremely poke-y.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah… The human female has been walking and talking for THREE HOURS NOW.  Isn’t there any way to make her shut up?  Great Frigga’s corset!  Now she’s pointing and squealing.  What on earth could be worth such a fuss?

Ah.  That explains it.  Sigyn, get someone to boost you up—we’ll want to get a photo of you with this one.

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Nodding ladies’ tresses, a dainty little terrestrial orchid that comes up in the woods in the fall.  It has a close cousin that is even rarer, and it’s out here too, but we haven’t found any today.

Still, it’s been good to get out of the house, hasn’t it?  The human female is sure to be stiff and balky tomorrow, but we could leave her home and come out again by ourselves.

Yes? It’s a date!

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Nerds in the Woods, Part V: The Best Part of the Whole Day

Fresh air and trees and bones and pelts are all very well, but it might be nice to see some actual live animals.

This is more like it!  The falconers say that the smaller bird is a merlin.

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She looks tiny, but they assure me she is fierce.  Her name is Freya, which is a proper Aesir name.  I approve.

I didn’t catch this fellow’s name.

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But isn’t he magnificent?   Be careful, Sigyn!   Birds of prey such as these are perfectly adapted to hunt small, cute prey.

Let’s see what else is going on.  Mmm.  Look!  This booth has balls of fresh mozzarella…

Oh, wait.  That’s not cheese.  It’s clay.  My mistake.  But what are they doing with it?

Ah.  You can make fossils.  

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I shall leave an imprint of my gloriousness for future generations to marvel at.  But this talk of cheese has made me hungry, and it is lunchtime, or near enough.  Let’s leave the human female to her t-shirts and leaves and go in search of something tasty.

Wait.  Is that…?  It is!  Look, Sigyn!   Do you see that woman’s shirt?  What a marvelous item of apparel!  What splendid garb!

I must get a photo of this!

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My minions:  They’re everywhere.

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Nerds in the Woods, Part III: Critters and Such

Several of the booths at this Lick Creek Park celebration have animal displays.   This is something which interests the both of us.  (She thinks animals are “cute;” I’m always on the lookout for vicious yet trainable species that can be conscripted into my army of conquest.)

No, Sigyn.  I’m no entomologist, but I’m fairly certain that big, shiny green beetles encased in lucite no longer want to play tag.

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She thinks this is a jungle gym or a play spaceship of some sort.  I really don’t have the heart to tell her it was part of someone’s back.

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She really is pretty brave around bones and skulls, provided they don’t look too much like their former wearers, all fuzzy and warm.  I’m looking at something—I think it may be a coyote—with an impressive set of teeth and room for some very large eyes.  Sigyn wants to know what the inside of her critter’s nose looks like.

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Be careful, dearest!  Remember the time you got trapped in the grizzly skull!

This booth also has some pelts for petting.

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Today will go down in history as the day Sigyn snorgled a skunk.

However, the fox skin, with its little face still attached, is more than a little upsetting.

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Don’t fret, dearest.  Um, foxes can shed their skins like snakes, and this is one that was just too small for this handsome boy.  He, um, donated it for educational purposes.  Yes, that’s it.

And this pelt-antler combination, I believe, came from that magnificent Midgardian beast…

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…the jackalope.

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