walkies

A Park, All Right, But I Don’t See Anyone Doing Any Research…

It’s a bright, crisp winter day, and the humans have been doing their best recently to become one with the sitting furniture, so here we all are for a bit of fresh air and sunshine and to make sure the lower extremities still function in an ambulatory fashion.

This is the Research Park on the west side of the University campus. It is quite park-like, but I don’t see anyone doing any research. Except maybe about how much bread a duck can hold.

Whatever you do, Sigyn, pray don’t you feed them too.

They’ll only follow you about, quacking pitifully, and the next thing you know you’ll be asking to bring all of them home with us. It would annoy the humans and terrify the cats which, you know, would be fun, but have you ever had to clean up after ducks? The only thing worse is geese. Oh, wait… *We* wouldn’t be the ones doing the cleaning! Hold onto the duck idea, but wait and see if there are geese. If we find geese, you can bring home as many as you like.

The artificial ponds here are connected by artificial waterways, some of which have little artificial waterfalls.

Sigyn? Sigyn? I’ve lost her. She can stand mesmerized, looking at moving water or machinery, for as long as you will let her. Come, my love. Let’s see what else there is to see. We can always come back if you want to stare at it some more.

What are these weird sticky-up things at the water’s edge?

The human female says they’re “tree knees.”

Pffft! I think she’s finally lost it. Next thing you know, she’ll be prattling on about “shrub toes” or something.

Oh, wait. Bald cypress? I have heard of these, now that I think about it. Strange, knee-endowed, deciduous conifers that like to live in or around water.

Also good for dangling. But isn’t the sun in your eyes, my dear? Why don’t you try dangling in the Chinese tallow tree? Let me enumerate the potential benefits: Just as good for dangling, extra colorful this time of year, and you won’t be so squinty.

Are you enjoying the walk, my love? It makes a nice change from the neighborhood, does it not? We shall have to come out here agai—

Shh! Hold very still! What is that white thing down by the water?

It’s a bird of some sort. I think it is looking for lunch… Quick, human female, take a photo of it so we can look it up later!

Sigh. I’m sure she just took a perfectly horrible photo, but we’ll see what we can do.

>|: [

A Very Poofy Walk (Sigyn speaks)

It has been a little rainy recently, and the human female has been busy, so we haven’t had the chance to go for a good walk very often. But today is bright and shiny and breezy and chilly, and there’s nothing that can keep the human female and me indoors! We’re exploring what Loki calls the “Neener Walk” today.

The flowers are almost all gone, and the fall color has faded or blown away. What’s left?

IT’S POOF SEASON!

A lot of the plants around here make fluff when they go to seed. I want to hug them all!

The goldenrod stalks are still pointy on top, they’re just not golden anymore.

Hug, hug, hug, hug!

The late-flowering thoroughwort is a little pricklier, but still a treat to nestle in.

Hee hee hee! It’s breezy enough that my bed is swaying! The asters are low to the ground and would be less likely to make someone seasick.

Oh, wait, this patch is even better!

Achoo! I sniffed up a little fluff there! Always a hazard of a walk this time of year.

Dandelions are mostly spring things, but you can find them in the fall and winter here too. Always time for making wishes!

It’s not just the daisy family things that have gone fuzzy, the grasses have been busy too! The silver bluestem won’t hold still for a photo, but it’s definitely puffy.

Little bluestem is a bit less floofy, but there is more of it. It used to be one of the main prairie grasses from south Texas all the way up into Canada, but there isn’t much prairie left.

The dry foliage is a nice, coppery color, don’t you think? The new shoots in spring will be blue-green.

I think the Grand Floof Prize goes to bushy bluestem! If you hug just one plant, it should be this one.

It’s so windy today. If I hang on tight, I bet I could get a ride! Back…

..and forth…

..and back again, over and over!

Whee! My walking buddy is making a little movie!

Oh, this walk was such fun! You should definitely go on a walk and see if you can find some fluff of your own!

: )

Making the Most of Fleeting Beauty

I can refuse my beloved Sigyn nothing, so here we are again, crunch, crunch, crunch, enjoying the little bit of fall color and drifting leaves that the thirtieth parallel affords.

The Virginia creeper seems to be trying to outdo all the other vines.

If it doesn’t feel like being red, sometimes it will opt for copper.

And if that doesn’t do it, there’s always the gradient effect.

About the only color it doesn’t do is lemon yellow. Good thing the little passionflower has that nailed down.

The trees and shrubs are vying for attention, too. Winged elm can’t seem to decide if it wants to be yellow or orange.

This one has settled on burnt orange,

which should be illegal in a town in which everything is required by law to be Aggie Maroon, but whatever.

Farkleberry is adhering to the maroon law as best it can. There are usually some maroon leaves in with the red ones.

(This year the fruits have hung on much longer than normal. Where were the birds that were supposed to have eaten them up over the summer?)

Shining Sumac can be counted on for a consistent, bright red.

SIgyn would be just as happy if everything were this color. I keep trying to explain that if everything were red, nothing would stand out and she’d grow tired of it quickly. She says that might be true but it would be “fun to try it out for a few days.”

The willows down by the mostly-dry-creek have gone enthusiastically yellow.

That photo doesn’t really do them justice.

The hickory, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be trying AT ALL.

Sigyn is trying to comfort it, assuring her that it is loved and valued for its sturdy wood and squirrel-treat nuts and that it is beautiful in its own way. My love, how can you appreciate any fall color with your rose-colored-glasses affixed so firmly to your lovely face?

The Bushy Bluestem has also opted for brown this year.

What it lacks in glamor it makes up in poofiness.

Where foliage fails, the fruit can sometimes be counted on to supply the color deficit. Beautyberry is always happy to provide that color that defies classification.

I don’t know what it looks like on your phone/computer/tablet, etc., but to my eyeballs, it’s a very, very obnoxious fuchsiamagentapurplepink not found anywhere else in nature except a rare species of sea slug that inhabits the waters off of Borneo.

(I made that last bit up. Might be true. Might not. Can’t be arsed to check.)

Greenbriar has luscious-looking fruit.

And let us not have that tiresome argument about whether black is a color or not. This isn’t optics, this is botany, and anyone who has played with the berries, pulling out their rubbery-snot innards to see how far they’ll stretch, can vouch for just how dyed their fingers are for the next day or so. It’s color. Case closed.

Well, this has been a lot of walking and a good deal of dangling and poking. Sigyn, see if you can find us a soft, pretty place to rest before we make the long trip back home.

Is she the best, or what?

>|: [

Ha! I was right!

Purple Sea Slug (Chromodoris sp.) | Sea slug, Slugs, Sea

We Find the Oddest Things

It’s time for another edition of “Weird Things We Find on Walks

Most days it’s house, house, tree, cheesy seasonal decorations, house, car, tree, etc. and our walks are pretty boring, unless we are specifically walking to go look at plants. But sometimes we find unusual plants and other whatnot, enough to keep the daily constitutional from becoming just a slog.

Today it’s another cucurbit, this one growing at the entrance to a subdivision, clambering over the sign. It has fruit about big enough to eat.

(2/3 of a Sigyn included for scale.)

Notice also, in the same planter, the roses blooming at this time of year. Silly roses! Don’t you know it’s FALL?!

Gardening in this part of Midgard makes NO sense.

Sigyn, look! Do you see that tree up ahead? It’s one of those that looks like it’s growing brains.

They’re not quite ripe yet, only about as big as a grapefruit, but still bigger than the human female’s brain. Let’s pick her one for a replacement, since the one she has doesn’t work very well.

Oooh! And here is another very excellent tree!

The human female says it is a honey locust, but I do not see any swarming insects, so perhaps she is mistaken.

The fruit look like flat, black bananas.

She says the pulp around the seeds is edible, but I’m not going to be the first to try it.

Great Frigga’s hairpins! Look at the trunk!

Ah. Sigyn has just reminded me that we have met this plant (or parts of it) before, on one of the human female’s “Nerds in the Woods” outings. I said it then and I’ll say it again–I really, really want a hedge of these around my palace (when I build it.) Let’s see the human female make it past that in an attempt to come pester me!

We often meet felines on our walks, and Sigyn and the human female have to stop and talk to/meow at every. single. one. Sometimes they try to encourage the cute ones to follow us home. (The Terror Twins would be thrilled, I’m sure).

Today, however, we have discovered a cat of a different sort:

Hmm. Long tail. That’s a sign of a good mouser. Might make a nice addition to the household at that. The vacant stare, though… And the way some of its paws don’t quite touch the planks…. I think, Sigyn, that this is no sort of ordinary feline, but rather some fell beast from some other reality or dimension… Mayhap something that slipped through from between worlds on All Hallows Eve. I think I shall bid this eldritch shadow-cat good day and go quietly home…

…looking over my shoulder the entire way…

>|: [

We Found Treasure on a Walk!

The weather has definitely improved. It is still warmer than optimum for a Frost Giant, but we are no longer flirting with triple digits, and the mornings are cool enough that our daily perambulations are no longer a penance.

The shift in the seasons can bring new things into prominence in the local flora. I wonder what we’ll find today?

We are down at one edge of the neighborhood. Not much interesting so far. This is–

Wait.

What tree is that?

It looks as if it is growing a whole crop of burnt orange superballs!

Ah. The human female says that this is one of the locally-native persimmon trees. We have run into this plant in the woods before. There are quite a few in the neighborhood, but I don’t recall any with fruit. I think I would have notice something like this before, don’t you, Sigyn?

Sigyn, stop! No, it’s not that I care whether you steal fruit from other people’s trees. Pfft. As far as I’m concerned, you could take all you want. No, it’s that while the fruits on the tree may look ripe and delicious, remember what the human female said—they’re not edible until after a frost or unless they’ve ripened enough to fall from the tree on their own. Otherwise, they’re very astringent and eating one is like trying to eat dry felt.

The ground under these two trees is littered with windfalls just lying there unappreciated. Is the human female going to…? She is! She is! She has gathered up a double handful. Ehehehehe! I always suspected she had a little larceny in her!

Poke, poke, poke. They’re so…soft… and squishy.

Like barely-contained pudding… What do they look like inside?

Orange, all the way through, and gooey. Sigyn’s going to taste one.

(nom nom nom) She says they taste like, “a combination of apricot, pumpkin, and mango.” In other words, they taste orange. (nibble, nibble…) They’re very sweet–much like dates in that regard. Not bad. Not bad at all. No wonder all the wildlife love them!

There are five big, flat seeds in each fruit. The human female, having long desired a tree or two in her yard, purposes, after eating the fruits, to wash the seeds and plant them.

Here’s where I come in. Persimmon trees are either male or female and, of course, only the females bear fruit. In the wild, male trees significantly outnumber the females. What do you suppose her chances are, if all of these seeds come up, that one of the trees will be female?

Let me rephrase that. If I am involved, what do you suppose her chances are of getting a female tree?

Or will she continue to being reduced to stealing the neighbors’ fruit?

>|: [

I Am Quite Famous in the Botanical Community

Sigyn, do you know what day it is? It’s go-to-the-outcrop-and-look-for-the-rare-plant day! The weather should be lovely, too, so grab your sunscreen and let’s go!

(a bit later)

Here we are. The human female is meeting two colleagues here. Between the three of them, they hope to get an accurate account of how many (if any) plants are blooming this year. Here comes one of the others now.

Ehehehee and neener, neener, neener! Do you know what his first utterance after “hello” was? Not, “How have you been?” Not, “How many do you think we’ll find this year?” Ha! No, what he said was, “Did Loki and his little friend come today?”

Yes, indeed we did, good sir, and thank you for putting the human female in her place!

Idunn’s little green apples! Our first Navasota false foxglove has met us right at the top rim of the outcrop, and it’s a big, well-branched one.

Now that we have all reminded ourselves what it looks like, we can start carefully quartering the outcrop and getting a good count.

Hmm. It looks as if this will not be a record-breaking year, number-wise, though it is certainly better than the worst year. Most of the plants are well-grown and flowering well, which is good to see. There’s a good growth of grass and a lot of leaf litter, however. That means it must be time to BURN this place again! Just name the day, humans, and I will be here with a torch and my fireproof cape. (Setting things on fire is FUN!)

It is like meeting old friends, seeing the usual fall plants right where we expect them to be.

The obedient plant is abundant this year. The flowers will stay in whatever position you put them in. While Sigyn dangles, I think I will try to arrange the flowers on the next plant over to spell out semaphore-wise, “the human female is a dork.” It will look something like this:

except with more pink and less yellow and red. It will be a lot of work and might take two or three plants to get in the entire message, but it will be worth it, and I will definitely have time, as it is taking the GPS forever to calculate the waypoints.

The holly at the top of the outcrop is in full fruit. Isn’t my color-coordinated sweetie cute?

Hello! What’s this? The human female says it is a wild petunia and she’s not sure she remembers seeing it out here before.

It’s not really a petunia. I guess someone thought it looked like one, though.

And this might be new, too.

It’s snow-on-the-prairie. There are only a few plants her, but I imagine that a whole roadside of it would look whitish. Great Frigga’s corset! Sigyn, do you see any mature fruit? I need seeds of this dreadfully! The human female says the sap is caustic and that’s she’s really, really sensitive to it! I want to plant it all over the yard and see if she really does swell up like a red, peeling balloon if she gets any on her. (All for science, of course.)

Oooh! What’s this? I thought junipers made little blue-green-gray fleshy cones and not these pointy, twiggy structures.

Ah. Not fruits. Sigyn, did you hear? The human female says there’s an evergreen bagworm caterpillar in each of these, all tucked up for the winter. Basically, bug hotels. Imagine if you built and lived in a case constructed of everything you ate! It’d be cherries and Cheetos and apples and…more than a little messy!

We have finished our survey of the sides of the outcrop and are ready to have a look at the top. We don’t expect to find any of the rare plant up here, but the human female says we might see other interesting plants.

There’s this. It smells vaguely minty and has small, purple, hand-puppet-shaped flowers.

The common name is “skullcap”, which doesn’t sound very nice but it is decidedly comfy to lie in. The human female is telling some tedious story now, how the little extra “flange on the calyx” is the same shape as an old-fashioned John Deere tractor seat, except that today’s students are used to tractors with enclosed cabs and AC and stereo and have no clue and..blah, blah, blah. How is anyone supposed to rest with you yapping away like that?

One last plant to look at before we wrap up the day’s investigations. I like this one! The flowers of the zizotes milkweed have a strange, alien-looking anatomy—and they have horns!

Supposedly, butterflies love them. If I hang here quietly, maybe I can catch one for Sigyn to cuddle. It’s definitely worth a wait!

>|: [

Here a Neener, There a Neener, Everywhere a Neener-neener, Part II: New Releases (and possibly some shoving)

Yesterday we looked at plants we’d already seen recently. Nice, but a bit BORING. Where are the new things? I checked the calendar. It is FALL now. Show me fall things!! I demand fall things!

Ah. This is better. False foxglove. Shows up like clockwork the third week of September.

Sigyn and I have a fondness for this plant. Well, one of it’s relatives, anyway—the rare one that grows on that outcrop to the east of us. I wonder if we’ll get to visit the outcrop again this year?

What does one call that color, anyway? Pink? Purple? Pirpkle? Whatever it is, it seems to be a theme. (Trust Texas to have non-traditional fall color!)

The Beautyberry is quite conspicuous in the understory.

Gaudy, but great for dangling. (The one at the house does not have any fruit this year, on account of I let the tree-removers drop a big oak tree on it earlier this year and it is in the process of recovering.)

The Beggar-ticks has flowers the same color, only a few shades paler.

It has typical bean-family flowers and makes interesting little legumes (one of which is visible at the left end of the stem). They’re scalloped and break up into single-seeded bits that are just covered with microscopic hooked hairs, which makes them perfect for being dispersed by furry animals or clothing. I will keep an eye on this extensive patch, come back in a few weeks when they’re good and ripe, gather up a pound or so of them, and do a little experiment to see what happens when you dump them in the washer with a load that includes socks, sweatpants, and towels. (I’m all about the science.)

Looks like the Woolly Croton is doing well this year.

It has separate male and female flowers and is very, very furry.

Hey, I have an idea! Let’s see how well the Beggar-ticks stick to the Croton! A wildflower cage-match. It’ll be brilliant! I can sell tickets. . .

Whatever else Sigyn does on a nature walk, if she gets a chance to sit in a holly, she calls it a perfect day. The fruit on this Possumhaw are about half-ripe.

A little further along the path we have yellow rather than pirpkle. Unless I’m mistaken (which I rarely am), we are looking at Camphorweed.

That’s the flower head in the photo, but the wispy foliage to the left belongs to Horseweed, and the leaves to the right to another something else. (Sigyn, are you going to play ‘He loves me; he loves me not’ with the flower? Because I can tell you, if the ‘He’ is me; he definitely, definitely DOES!)

The something else those leaves belong to is, I think, Climbing Hempvine. The human female says, “it’s our only local viney member of the sunflower family or Asteraceae.”

She also says it’s related to the Mistflower. I can see that. Both have the same fluffy flower heads. There is certainly a lot of it here, sprawling over shrubs and climbing trees. It likes wet feet, so I imagine it is very happy here in the ditch by the path.

(That’s it, human female… Lean out over the wet ditch just a little bit more for the photo and it will be my perfect day… A little bit more… One good shove…)

Odin’s eyepatch! I hate it when she catches me plotting and removes herself to safety. I really, really wanted to see her sopping wet and muddy today! Oh, well. Maybe I will have another chance for mischief on the way home…

Hmm. There’s more water next to the sidewalk on the way home, a big floody area by the part of the wetland they didn’t build Large, Ugly Apartments on. I could push her down the slope into the Bagpod bushes…

Nah. She likes the clusters of redorangeyellow flowers so much and enjoys popping the seeds out of the inflated legumes enough that she’d probably just sit happily in the water enjoying the plant.

She wouldn’t like being pushed into the Horsenettles though. They have lovely flowers, but they’re very prickly.

In fact–ouch!–this member of the Nightshade genus–ah!— is– ow!—very unpleasant to sit in! I think I shall vacate! Besides, the sun has risen enough that it has cleared the surrounding trees and buildings, and it’s making me all squinty.

I don’t like squinty.

>|: [

Here a Neener, There a Neener, Everywhere a Neener-neener, Part I: Reruns

We are once again making our daily constitutional an act of defiance against the supposedly private path belonging to the Large, Ugly Apartments. What floral delights are on display today?

Looks like some things we’ve seen before, for starters.

We have a few last, confused Evening Primroses. What is wrong with you? You should have finished months ago!

With the advent of (somewhat) cooler weather, the proper fall flora is beginning to come into its own. Some are plants that we’ve seen recently but which are now putting on a better show.

The Mistflower is nearly as exuberant as my beloved. It is breezy enough and Sigyn dangly enough that no part of this photo is in focus.

The St. Andrew’s Cross has cooperated with a nice bloom this morning.

(sniff, sniff) No scent that I can notice, though. You could put a little more effort into things, you know, Mr. Hypericum.

More Fuzzy Bean. It and Sigyn are climbing all over everything.

The Late-flowering thoroughwort, which we looked at back in July, when it had only a few blossoms, is just covered now.

The one in the human female’s front flowerbed is similarly clothed. It is literally weighed down with bloom and is nodding over the lawn–where it will spawn hundreds of vigorous and inconvenient seedlings next spring (with a little encouragement from me, of course.)

Finally, we have the brilliant, electric-blue Dayflower.

We never get tired of this plant. If the human female is nice to me, I might try to establish a colony at the home, just so we can have a glimpse of this color every day. Goodness knows she’ll never manage it on her own.

>|: [

Retirment, Now With More Neeners and a LOT More Dangling

One of the things the human female hopes to accomplish now that she has a lot of “free” time is more exercise. I’m all for exercise, as long as I don’t have to exert myself or sweat. For a Frost Giant, Texas in the summer is not ideal physical fitness time. (Why, oh why isn’t a tall glass of ice-cold lemonade a magical, fat-burning, muscle-building elixir? I should work on that in my free time…)

In any case, walking is something the human female, Sigyn, and I can all agree on, and since we all like to thumb our noses at the LUAs (Large, Ugly Apartments, the one a pond was filled in to construct), a Neener, Neener, Neener Walk along the path meant for residents of the LUAs is a frequent goal. Physical, botanical, and defiant all at once. I like that.

We haven’t gone twenty yards and Sigyn is already squeaking. What is is now, my love?

Oh. I see it. Blue Mist-flower. I agree, dearest. The flower heads do look like little pom-poms or tassels. The human female says the poofy, sticky-outy bits are the “styles.” She didn’t say what style, but I’d say it’s got a Boho-casual feel to it.

This yellow-flowered St. Andrew’s Cross shrub is one of Sigyn’s favorites. Tell us why, Sigyn.

“Its flowers are a very cheerful color, it has interesting shreddy bark, and it is small enough to be easily climbable so I can practice my dangling.” The human female says it’s a close cousin of the medicinal St. John’s Wort. Ugh! Too much talk of saints! I’m better than a saint–I am a god. Talk about me, instead.

More dangling is happening.

This pink-flowered Fuzzy Bean is a very common late-summer plant. It’s related to garden beans, but I don’t think you’d want to eat it. The human female says you can identify it by the fact that, “the keel is pointed and curved just like your horns, Loki.”

I am still trying to work out whether that is a compliment. Possibly I will have to smite her later.

This last plant is one that Sigyn and the human female have been trying to catch in flower for a while now. It is a Yellow Passionflower

We have encountered this plant before, in the local woods, but apparently they never get tired of looking at the blossoms. No blossoms today, but Sigyn thinks the fruits are “cute.”

We have reached the end of the path and the sun is growing hot. Sigyn, my heart, are you not dizzy from so much upsidedownness? Have you dangled sufficiently for one morning? Let us return to the house and work on that revitalizing lemonade…

>|: [

We Find Things on Walks (Sigyn Speaks)

The humans are mostly back on campus, so they don’t often have time for a walk in the morning these days.  Plus, it’s so hot lately!  I don’t mind too much, but Loki doesn’t handle heat well, so the success  of persuading him to venture out varies in direct proportion to the thermometer reading.

Still, it’s always fun to get out and about, and we always find such interesting things!

This black slug is actually pretty speedy!

found a slug

Loki wants to poke it.  Loki, leave it be!   Now  he wants to have a horn-measuring contest, but the slug has places to be and is hurrying off.

Today must be a special Mollusc Day!  Loki says this is just where the road repair crew got bored and creative with the crack-filling compound,

streetswirl

But I am pretty sure this is where snails come to dance–very slowly– in the moonlight.

The local purple wild petunias are blooming.

Ruellia-a

(a bit later)  There’s another !  It’s an escaped cultivated species, down in a little drainage!

ruellia-b

It’s so tall and pretty, but the human female says it’s invasive and someone should go pull it up.  Awww.  Do we have to?

We always see birds on the walk, and people with doggies.  Sometimes, if we get up early enough we can see…yes…we are in luck today!…

bunn!

Isn’t he cute?!  It’s not a good photo, I know.  I had to blow it up a lot.

Whenever I see a rabbit, my brain just sort of short-circuits and goes, “Bunnybunnybunnybunnybunnybunnybunny!”  

I very carefully never ask, but I’m pretty sure that when Loki sees a rabbit, he’s thinking, “stew.”

(a bit further on)

Squeee!  Look what is following us!

orange kitty

He’s so soft and orange and has such pretty eyes!

Please, can we keep him?

: )