Monday, March 3, 2008

Looking at 2007, A Year in Pictures

2007 Rain Total Was 44.59" at Bamberger Ranch

2007 was a very interesting year. We started it with low water in Madrone Lake, some dry or very low tanks or ponds, and had no water flowing in our creeks. The springs were flowing but at a low rate. We were concerned about trees and other plants, because in the fall of '06 they were showing signs of stress. When we heard that an El Nino was forming in the Pacific Ocean we were happy to hear that rain was most likely on the way. We had close to 21" total for 2006, but combined with less than average rainfall (average is 28"/year) in 2005 and 2006 we showed a real water shortage. We started getting rain in the fall, 2.53" in September, 2.74" in October, none in November and 1.94" in December, for a total of 7.21" for September to December.

The year of 2007 brought real rain starting in January, with 8.32 inches for the month. There was no rain in February, 9.23" in March, 2.55" in April, 5.94" in May, 3.56" in June, 6.85" in July, 3.13 in August, 2.56" in September, 0.86" in October, 0.91 in November, and 0.68 in December, for a total of 44.59 inches for the year.

Pictures Month by Month:

In mid-January we had an ice storm which was beautiful to look at, but it was hard on many trees and caused a lot of broken limbs. I feel excited like a kid when I look out and see ice and snow. I grew up in New Orleans, so I didn't see much snow growing up.

In February a friend offered to have a tree moved for us as a gift. The tree digging equipment had been in use on his place and we gratefully accepted his generous offer. We picked out two small White Shin oaks (Quercus sinuata) and had them moved to the field in front of Hes' Country Store where we have examples of most of the species of trees that grow naturally on the ranch as well as a few native trees that have been introduced on the ranch. They are doing very well in their new spot. Thank you JM.

In early March the Texas Redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis) trees bloom and provide bright pink color against the drab winter landscape. The larger tree is a Madrone (Arbutus xalapensis) that has red bark and evergreen leaves. Both of them are natives and grow here. This Madrone tree was here when the big lake was built in 1987, and Madrone Lake was named for it.

In April our Snowbells bloom. The Sycamore-leaf Snowbell (Styrax platanifolius) is found in valleys and along creeks here, and is pictured above. I was standing underneath the tree, and the blooms are hanging down over my head. The Texas Snowbell (Styrax platanifolius
var. texana) is a federally listed endangered plant. They are found in the watersheds of the Nueces and Devil's River, as well as along some creeks that feed into them. The plants look almost identical, except that the Sycamore-leaf Snowbell has a smooth green underleaf, and the Texas Snowbell has a fine white fuzz on the underside of their leaves. J David has been working to save the Texas Snowbell by growing them from seed in our greenhouse and planting them in corrals (to protect them from deer and goats) in the areas where they grow naturally. Hopefully the end result of the reintroduction project will be to de-list the plant because there will be so many healthy plants growing, that it will no longer be endangered. Check the spring issue of "Wildflower" the magazine of the Lady Bird Wildflower Center for an article titled "Saving the Snowbell" about J David and his volunteers.

In early May the book about J David and the story of the creation of The Bamberger Ranch Preserve, called "Water From Stone" was realeased by A&M Press. The author, Jeffrey Greene is married to my sister Mary and they live in France. J David is on the left of the poster of the front of the book, Jeffrey stands on the right side behind me. He came here to help promote the book and we spent most of the month on the road doing talks, slide shows, and selling and signing books.

By June Madrone Lake was full. During the summer of 2006 the level of the water dropped to five or six feet lower than its normal level. It is a marvelous swimming lake, especially when it is full.

At the beginning of July the ranch had received more than the average amount of rainfall since the first of the year. In this picture we are looking down into Big Valley which was very green at that time. The creeks were running, and wildflowers were plentiful.

Also during July Cory, our dog who climbs trees trying to catch squirrels (so far he hasn't), or some other critter that he is sure is in the tree, at times gets himself into tight spots. On this day he couldn't turn around and J David is trying to figure out how to get him down. Cory is a wonderful dog, but a bit silly at times.

At the end of July we had a gathering at the house. While we were cleaning up the patio look who hiding under a decorative wooden pot holder - a Diamond-backed Rattlesnake! Fortunately for us it seemed to be a calm snake, and didn't strike. Steven, the ranch biologist came up and moved it (very carefully) into a garbage can. J David took it to another part of the ranch where there were no houses, and released it.

Early in August we were driving around and saw these storm clouds over Carter Tank. I demanded that we stop the truck so I could get a picture. One of the great things about wet years is dramatic clouds.

In September the water is still warm enough for swimming in Madrone Lake. Our friends had a wonderful time jumping off of the swimming deck.

Early in October grasses are starting to bloom and put on their seeds. With such a wet growing season, grasses were unusually tall. The seed heads of the Yellow Indian-grass (Sorghastrum nutans) that J David is standing next to are more than six feet tall.

In November some of our trees turn pretty colors. Big Tooth Maples (Acer grandidentatum) can turn yellow, gold, orange or red. This maple at Madrone Lake seems to have gold and orange.

Sallie Delahoussaye a wildlife rehabilitator, sometimes releases hawks and owls at Selah. She came out late in December on a cold day to release this Eastern Screech Owl, who was anxious to be free again. Sallie works hard to keep injured birds of prey in a safe clean environment while they heal. She sees that they receive good medical care and proper food for good nutrition. Before she releases them she needs to know that they can fly and hunt on their own.

Each Christmas season I set up my little village on the mantle over the fireplace. I also celebrate the season by having friends over to a pot luck dinner. If the weather isn't too horrible, we take a hike in the afternoon. I often have the gathering on the Winter Solstice, which is the shortest day of the year.

1 comment:

CJ said...

Hi Margaret, Great Pictures! I especially liked the storm clouds over the water. Glad to find your blog so I can enjoy the views from San Antonio. Carol Johnson