nature

A Brief Winter Walk

It’s been foggy a lot in this part of Midgard lately. The humans have ventured out on a rare sunny day to see what’s going on in the local woods.

By Idunn’s little apples!  There is a ubiquitous abundance of holly berries this year!

hollydangle

¡ǝlƃuɐp pooƃ ɐ ɹoɟ ʇods ʇɔǝɟɹǝd puɐ ʎɐp ʇɔǝɟɹǝd ɐ s,ʇᴉ ʇɐɥʇ sʞuᴉɥʇ uʎƃᴉS

It’s not just hollies that can be dangled in.

heterothecadangle

Camphorweed does just as well.  Sigyn is beyond excited–we’ve been here scarcely a quarter of an hour and she’s had the chance to dangle in plants with both her favorite colors!

(poke, poke, poke.)  Not all plants are large enough to climb in, though.  This one is growing right in the middle of the trail, and it’s very, very teeny.

tinyplant

Sigyn has fallen in love with it.   Don’t hug it, Sweetie.  The human female says it can have spiny fruit.

Oooo!   We have found A Mysterious Hole in this creek bank!

a hole

I wouldn’t go in, if I were you…  But, human female–you feel free to stick a finger in and tell us if there’s a snake or sharp-toothed rodent or something in there, all right?

We’ve been walking and poking at things for a while now.  Time for a rest.

mysleepnumberis moss

My sleep number is “moss.”

Clever Sigyn has found a different moss.

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Sigyn doesn’t know if this one’s a moss or a liverwort.

liverwort

All this green stuff looks alike to me.  Possibly one of the human female’s plant-nerd friends could sort them out, but I really don’t care.

We’re headed to the Sedge Meadow.  I like the Sedge Meadow.  It’s all green and dapply.

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Sweet Glittering Bifrost!  What’s this?

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I had heard the City was Doing Something, but I wasn’t sure what…

But, since I’m a god, barricades and notices don’t apply to me.  Come along, Sigyn.  Leave the puny mortals here obeying all the signs like good little sheep and let’s you and I keep going.

Have fun staring at the signage!  We’re going to go pet sedges.

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What Sigyn Did With All the Colored Leaves

Sigyn came home from our walk yesterday with a double armful of colored leaves.  She and the human female have shut themselves up in the craft room and are Doing Something with them.   I’ve been instructed not to look until it’s all finished, and I can hear the occasional giggle from behind the closed door.

I’m patient.  I can wait.

It’s finished? I can look now?

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Sigyn!  That is really beautiful!

What happens if we turn the lightbox on?

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Really, really lovely.  In this season of giving thanks, I am SO thankful for you, my dear.

And now let’s have some leftover pie!

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A Very Colorful Fall Walk

The recent local weather (hot cold hot cold rainy sunny cold hot again), while making wardrobe deliberations a maddening ordeal with at best a 50-50 percent chance of success, have had an unexpected effect.  The local flora, famous for not giving a fig for seasonal expectations and remaining green until January, has decided, for once, to oblige Sigyn’s longing for a colored autumn.

We have therefore embarked upon a tour of the yard, the surrounding neighborhood, and the park at the end of the street, in order to take in all the offerings on this bright and sunny afternoon.

crapemyrtle

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cedar elm

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pecan

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woolly bucket or gum bumelia (both ludicrous names)

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upland swamp privet (an oxymoron if I ever heard one)

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yaupon holly

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post oak

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aster

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winged elm

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farkleberry

fall-color-9-vaccinium

bitterweed

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more asters

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more yaupon

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ditto (can you tell Sigyn really likes holly?)

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greenbriar

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a whole galaxy of asters  (Time for a little rest.  Dangling is hard work)

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white mulberry

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miniature dragon

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poison ivy  (Go on, human female, pat the pretty plant!)

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more mulberry

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copperleaf (Aptly named, I’d say.)

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More elmage

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honey locust

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bald cypress

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yet more elms

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many shot of a truly splendid farkleberry

fall-color-vacciniumfall color-vaccinium2fall-color-more vaccinium

blackjack oak

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They say some medieval craftsman invented stained glass.  I’m not so sure.

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A Fall Scramble, Part II: Thar She Blows (Whatever The Heck That Means)

The human female is becoming a bit concerned because she hasn’t seen any of her rare flowers  yet.  I think it is one of those things, though, that you have to see the first one, and then, once your eye is trained, you start to see them everywhere.

Augh!  Now she’s squealing abominably.  I suppose that means she’s spotted some.  Yes, there they are, hiding in the tall grass.

agalinis-grass

Sigyn says she has learned how to tell the rare ones from the common ones.  The flowers can be the same color on both, but the common ones have wider leaves, and the flowers have almost no stalk at all.  It’s an over-all thickish sort of plant.

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The rare ones have very narrow leaves and long flower stalks, so that the whole plant is open and airy, sort of tricky to spot if it’s not in flower.

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There are some differences in the flowers, too, but you have to be as big a plant nerd as the human female to understand.  I don’t pretend to, nor do I listen when she rattles on and on about “anther placement” and “calyx sinuses” and “stigma color.”  As  Future Ruler of Midgard, such details are beneath my notice.  I’ll have minions for that.

Odin’s eyepatch! Now that she’s spotted them, the human female now proposes to walk over every inch of the outcrop and count the rare plants.  I don’t know whether to hope that there aren’t very many this year so that this will all be over quickly, or to hope that the rare plant is having a good year, even knowing that it will mean listening to the idiot woman try to remember what comes after “threety-eleven.”

This is, unfortunately, going to involve some clambering.  Sigyn insists on doing it all herself.

need-a-hand

But my love, would you not appreciate a magical boost?  Maybe just a little one?

(a bit later)

We have reached the top and completed our survey, having counted about one hundred plants, which makes this a good-ish year, though not a great one.  Now we are free to look about at other members of the flora.

This wafer-ash is also known as hop tree, presumably because of the flat fruits.  (Apparently someone thought it looked like beer-brewing hops and the name stuck.  I don’t see it myself.)

ptelea

It is very good for dangling, though the foliage is looking rather tattered.  The human female says this tree is a relative of oranges and lemons and, as such, is considered  yummy by the giant swallowtail caterpillar.  Sigyn says she would like to see one of those caterpillars.  However, they are camouflaged to look like bird droppings, and I’ve no real desire to go poking piles of bird poop to see which ones are wiggly and have legs.

But here is a good one for you, love!  (No poop-poking required!)

swallowtail-thelesperma

I actually learned this one because it has such marvelous horns.  It is the larval stage of the pipevine swallowtail.  It ought to be munching on pipevine; I’ve no idea what it thinks it is doing with this greenthread.

There really is a splendid view from up here.  I can see a good portion of the county, though the removal of a few junipers would improve the vista even more.

topview

Sigyn and the human female are still oohing and aahing and speaking in slanty names, enthusing over fall favorites such as this blue sage.

salvia azurea

I, on the other hand, propose to divest myself of my hot and heavy (though noble!) helmet and relax on this pat of moss while they fossick about.

sleepnumbermoss

Who knows?  I might even doze.  Being magnificent and knowledgeable about caterpillars is hard work. Wake me when it is time to go home.

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A Fall Scramble, Part I: Here We Are Again

It is Autumn here in the northern part of Midgard–or at least, that’s what the calendar says.  I’ve been tinkering with the weather, alternating hot and cold days so that everyone has the sniffles and no one knows what to wear or what to serve for dinner.  Woolly hat or shorts and flip-flops?  Cool salad or hearty stew!  Ehehehehe!  The mortals are all cOnFUseD and there’s no end to the see-sawing in sight.

But, by the calendar, the rare plant that the human female discovered, and which she keeps an eye on, ought to be blooming.  She’s grabbed her boots and sunscreen and insect repellent and is heading for the outcrop in the next county over where the plant is to be found— if it’s up.  It is one of my warm days, and I could certainly do without being cooped up in the car with the human female for twenty minutes each way, but Sigyn really, really likes “botanizing,” so she is going.  And if Sigyn is going, I am going, because I don’t trust the human female in the field one tiny little bit.  With me along, there’s a much better chance that my sweetie comes home in one smiling piece.

(laterish)

And here we are at what the human female calls, “an outcropping of calcareous Oligocene sandstone of the Oakville formation” and what I call, “a tilty chunk of inconvenient climbiness.”

The first plant to greet us is the very conspicuous, electric blue dayflower.  It’s fairly common in this part of Midgard.  There are even some back at the house.

dayflower

They look better out here than coming up around the compost heap, though.

The human female is checking to see if the “usual suspect” plants are up where they normally are.  The redwhisker clammy-weed is right where it is every year.  The bright sun is washing out the pale pink of the petals and the bright red of the stamens.

cleome

It really is very sticky to the touch.  Sigyn, be careful as you go—I don’t know how well the sticky comes out of red velvet.

Ugh.  It really is uncomfortably warm and bright today.

hotouthere

Here is a plant I don’t recall seeing out here before.  Look at the fat, funny leaves!  The human female says it’s a cousin of the moss roses that people grow in pots.

portulaca-2

Step into the voluminous shade the human female is casting, and let us see if we can get a better photo.

portulaca

Those really are tiny flowers!  Sadly, too small for Sigyn to try on as a hat.

Great Frigga’s hairpins!  If you thought that was a tiny flower, dearest, come look at this one!

heliotropium-tenellum

Heliotropium tenellum.”  It just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

This one’s not much bigger.  It’s one of the broomweeds, the human female says, either Gutierrezia texana or Amphichyris dracunculoides.

broomweed

I’m of the opinion that if she’s going to call herself a botanist, she should KNOW which one it is.  She’s making noises about tiny “pappus” this and “receptacle” that and saying that she needs to look at various bits under a microscope.  Flimsy excuses, woman, and if you need a microscope, you bring it on your various traipse-alongs, because I am not going to tote it for you.  Nor will I waste my magic summoning something you should have thought of in the first place.  Besides, I think you make up all those slanty, sciency names anyhow.

Time for some climbing!  Autumn is definitely the season for yellow daisy-family things, and here is another.  If you can believe the human female, it is part of the whole golden aster mish-mash, and it goes by the improbable name of Heterotheca subaxillaris.   The common name, camphorweed, is much less of a mouthful.

heterotheca

Sigyn, after sniffing its gland-dotted foliage, confirms that it does, in fact, smell a little granny’s-closety.

Stand over there next to that pale purple one, my love.

ruellia

Look at that!  The flowers are more than a Sigyn long!  If it didn’t have just the one blossom, I would pick it for you and make you the pointiest hat ever!

Norns’ nighties!  Are we really only halfway up?  This hill goes on forever.

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Nerds in the Woods 2019, Part III: Sometimes Nature is Soft and Sometimes It is Sad and Sometimes it Slithers

I have grown bored of crayons.  Sigyn, don’t you want to walk around and see what the other booths have on offer?  After all, it might be educational

The Bird Team has a charming display of nests and eggs.

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No, Sigyn, I do not think these will hatch.

There is also a clever bird game. One uses an electric stylus to touch the metal stud of a bird photo and then the stud next to its name, the object being to correctly identify the winged things and get a colored light, not a buzzer.

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Sigyn, of course, has zeroed in on the bright red cardinal, a bird she knows very well.  I have correctly identified the mockingbird, an avian after my own heart.  They really are superb mimics!  I have hopes of training the ones in our home neighborhood to say, “You’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny!” whenever the human female appears and to repeat, “Thor is a poophead,” at intervals in between.

The Mammal table lets one trace animal tracks and color them in.  I am reminded of the time I put a raccoon under the hood of the human female’s car.  That was one of my best pranks!  I still laugh every time I think about it.

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Raccoons have such cute feet.  They look like little baby hands.  They have handsome fur as well.

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No, Sigyn, please do not cry!  Of course this fellow was not killed for his skin!  Nor was it taken from his body after his spirit went to join his ancestors in Procyanid Valhalla.  It, um, was just really hot one day and he took it off to cool down and, erm, go swimming.  He…forgot where he put it, yes, that’s just what he did, and he went and bought himself a new one.  So you see, it is absolutely not tragic and you can just go ahead and enjoy petting it.

(Good thing I think quickly and have a silver tongue, else my beloved would be most distressed.)

Let us proceed to the next table.  I have heard that they have live reptiles–and you know I cannot resist a good snake!

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And that is a VERY good snake!  Come to Loki, you sleek black beauty!  The human female can have her plants and Sigyn her crayons and tin buses.  THIS is what Nerds in the Woods is all about!

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Nerds in the Woods 2019, Part I: Poking at Plants

Longtime readers may recall that Sigyn and I have on more than one occasion accompanied the human female to the annual Nerds in the Woods gathering.  This is a one- or two-day event, during which nerdy naturalists seek to catalog all of the various bloomy, flappy, squiggly, crawly and otherwise organic entities in the local Lick Creek Park.

In the Olden Days, the human female used to head up the plant team.  She spared no efforts, traipsing to remote parts of the part to compile her long lists of herbiage, things with (no doubt made-up) names like “daisy fleabane,” pinweed,” “forked blue curls,” and “rosettegrass.”  Several years ago, I tipped the organizers of the event off to just how hard she worked her fellow volunteers and how tedious she is with her constant bragging about how there are “more plants in the park than anything else, blah, blah, blah…”  So they stopped inviting her.  She volunteered to help out.  They unvolunteered her.  Cue moping, which was more tedious than the endless stream of botanical trivialities.

This year, much to my astonishment and dismay, the local chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas asked her to sit in at their table.  Oh, foolish mortals.  You will now never be free of this tiresome limpet!  Remind me to point and laugh later, when you are ready to stuff socks in her mouth to shut her up,  and remind you that you brought it on yourselves. 

Come Sigyn, let us accompany her.  I know that you are capable of strolling through the woods without nattering on, so for your sake, I will subject myself to a car ride with her.  We can always sneak away from her when we get there.

We are now here.  The NPSOT table is plunked down in the middle of a big patch of this:

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Whatever “this” is…  Do you recognize it, my love?

By Idunn’s little apples!  Sigyn says it is heartwing sorrel, a useful plant to know because the leaves are edible.  I would never have guessed.  My sweetie always knows the best things!  She even says she knows of a good recipe for potato-sorrel soup, something involving heavy cream, chicken stock, potatoes, and this little bit of the wild herbiness.  (You know, once chopped up, one bit of greenery looks much like the next.  I wonder if I could make the human female a pottage of lawn clippings and get her to eat it, telling her it was this?  I bet she’d be half a bowl in before she suspected anything amiss…)

Now the human female is wandering away from the table, tallying up the various species in evidence today.  She and Sigyn have zeroed in on this bright pink posy.

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The human female says it’s a prairie gentian.  It’s not very big, but Sigyn is even less big, so she needs a boost to see the yellow markings on the petals.  There are at least seven species in that photo–it’s a good year for wildflowers!

Come my love, let us leave the human female to her clipboard and census-taking.  While she’s peering at grasses and sedges, let us make our escape.  See–over there?  The electric blue of your favorite, spiderwort.

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The camera scarcely does them justice!

And it would not be spring without the annual Sigyn-admiring-the-scarlet-pimpernel picture.

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Sigyn is making happy squeaky noises at the minuscule yellow Sisyrinchium with the maroon eye-ring too.  She likes the flowers that are “Sigyn-sized.”  Be careful, though, dearest, as some dog-walkers have not heeded the injunction about cleaning up after their pets.  There are fire ants about, as well.

Ah.  No fire ants and no doggie “presents” up here in this juniper tree.  No, nothing but shade and sunshine and a nice breeze and some curious blue-gray berries.

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Yes, dearest, I know they’re not really berries.  They’re “fleshy female cones, each with one to four seeds and a covering of grayish wax. They have traditionally been used to season meat, especially game, and some kinds provide the flavoring for gin.”

What?  I’m not allowed to know botanical facts?  You wound me!  I am a man of many talents and much knowledge!

Also, the human female leaves her books lying about and sometimes I am really bored.

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