Monday, July 28, 2008

Hot summer days, occasional summer rain

The day after my last post was published, we finally got a rain that was more than a sprinkle. Hurricane Dolly came ashore, and though we were far from the eye, we got some much needed rain from rain-bands that spiraled out from the center. The total here at the ranch was 2.01 on the official rain-gauge by the corrals. It was not enough to change the water level significantly in ponds, but the response of grass is noticeable. Our offical rainfall for the year is now is 8.6 inches.

This photo was taken on July 6, before the rain from Hurricane Dolly.

This photo was taken on July 31, after the 2 inches of rain from Hurricane Dolly, and the emergence of green is quite striking.

This photo was taken on July 30, and shows how the new sprouts of Little bluestem arise at the base of last year's plants. In winter and during droughts their vital juices remain in the roots, and when the weather is appropriate they sprout anew.

The three pictures below show Carter Tank last July, in December, and this July. This is a large tank with a relatively small watershed, so it takes a lot of rain to fill it up, even when the ground becomes saturated. These pictures clearly show what happens when we get below average rainfall for 12 months.

Carter Tank in July of 2007 when it was almost full after a very wet winter and spring.

Carter Tank in December of 2007. Very little rain fell during the fall months and the tank level was 12 feet lower than in July.

Carter Tank is almost empty on July 30, 2008 after a very dry winter and spring. The recent rain didn't produce enough runoff to make a noticeable difference.

Recently when I was out walking I noticed a number of woody plants with immature seeds or fruit. I usually notice fruit when it is ripe and has interesting colors, but this year I'm trying to get pictures of fruit at different stages .

Carolina Buckthorn (Rhamnus caroliniana) has green fruit until it turns red in late summer. They remain red for a couple of months and finally turn black in October.

This photograph of a Shin Oak (Quercus sinuata) shows acorns developing.

Native grapes (Vitex sp.) are all over the ranch. I'm not sure whether these will be red, purple, or green when they're mature.

One of our former teachers here at Selah came by for a visit. Lew Hunnicutt is now a dean at Frank Phillips College at the Allen Campus, at Perryton in the Texas panhandle. Lew is on the left, Justin Duke on the right.

Aiden gets a smooch from Buttercup, Colleen's Basset-hound, as we visit at Madrone Lake.

Kathy Wilson (aka Kathleen Marie [artist]) enjoys swimming in the clear water of Madrone Lake. In spite of the intense heat we have been having, the water is still cool and refreshing.

Aiden is a very social young man. Whenever I hold up a camera he says, "Cheese".

A visit to the Chiroptorium for an emergence is always enjoyed. J. David and I never get tired of seeing the bats stream out of the cave and disappear into the sky. It is especially nice at this time of year because they emerge when it is still daylight. They stay out during the night searching for food and return in the morning. Females with young still in the nursery area come back in the middle of the night to nurse their youngster, and then go out again.

The bats formed a really nice column Tuesday evening 7/22. The researchers have been doing monthly census counts but they haven't sent us the numbers yet for June and July. In May there were around 110,000 bats. We think that the babies will be starting to fly soon.

Out on a walk I noticed this amazing Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) vine up in this tree. You can see the big vines clinging with their tenticles to the the trunk . Their 3 part leaves (trifoliate) are very large. Poison ivy is often growing on the ground, or maybe I just notice it there because I'm usually looking down to make sure I don't step on a snake or into poison ivy which I am very allergic to. (Urushiol is the allergenic oleoresin found in the sap of poison ivy, can stay on clothes or shoes indefinitely, so you can give yourself a bad case from touching them. You can even get it from petting a dog that rolled in poison ivy).

Not much is blooming here right now, but I have noticed the Fall Gumweed (Grindelia lanceolata) which adds a spot of yellow along the road near the Center.

Wild Buckwheat (Eriogonum annuum) stands 2 to 6 feet tall. A wooly white fuzz (pubescence) covers the stems and leaves. In this picture you only see the tiny flowers, which are usually at the top of the plant so they stick out above the tall grasses in a field, and are easy to spot.

For a night or two after the rain from Dolly, there were lots of clouds, and the sunsets were spectacular.

All photographs by Margaret Bamberger.

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