Wednesday, July 14, 2010

If This Is Paradise I Wish I Had a Lawnmower

Indeed I do wish I had a lawnmower.  One that works.  I actually own three, but two of them are useless relics and one is at best semi-functional.  It's a Snapper riding mower, and a more capricious, cantankerous, and temperamental beast never existed.  Turning the key to start it would be too easy.  Instead I have to pull the rope starter - usually many, many, many times.  Even if I can get it running before my arm tires it's only a temporary situation.  I've been told the gas filter is probably clogging.  Anyway, it runs for a while (long enough to get about half my yard mowed) and then backfires, sputters, and dies.  As big as my yard is, I'm actually considering getting one of those antique non-motorized push mowers.  At least it would work dependably, and I wouldn't have to contend with dead starters, broken belts, gas leaks, etc. On the other hand, it would take me even longer to get all the damn grass cut.

The title of this post is from the song "(Nothing But) Flowers" by the Talking Heads.  I interpret the song to be about a green revolution that's gone a little too far.  It was playing on the radio last Saturday, when I took Lucy and Bryce back to the Shangri La Botanical Gardens in Orange (which, speaking of green revolutions, is the first building project in Texas to receive a "platinum certification" from the U.S. Green Building Council).  This time I went fully prepared, with a double stroller and icy drinks for the little ones.  Consequently, the kids held up longer and had more fun.  This time we made it as far as the heronry (or should that be egretry?), and from inside the blind Lucy and Bryce were able to watch Great Egrets feeding their young at close range.

Cicada killer wasps were swarming over the dirt embankment below the blind. These are big ground-nesting wasps, capable of carrying off large cicadas (bet they have a nasty sting!).  I've found a couple of their burrows close to our house.  Fortunately they seem to be less social and more solitary in their habits than most wasps.  They can be common in places with sandy soil, which they seem tp prefer for burrowing, but I was still surprised to see so many in one place.  Here's a picture of one:
It was a hot day (which goes without saying - this is Texas in July). Hot means good weather for reptiles, and we saw a few, including this large Texas Rat Snake.  It was a new species for me (and for the kids, of course).

Orange is one of the easier places in Southeast Texas for finding Fish Crows. This one was perched close to one of the garden paths, and was doing its nasal aw aw call, to dispel any doubt as to its identification.  Fish Crows are said to have smaller feet than American Crows - I'm not sure if that is evident in this picture.

This Red-shouldered Hawk was perched in an oak along one of the paths, and didn't seem much bothered by our proximity.  Broad-winged Hawks were also present on both of our recent trips to Shangri La, and I've seen Swallow-tailed Kite there in the past.  Seems to be a good place for raptors.
The kids were more impressed with the children's garden - particularly the gravel box with all the plastic toys in it.  In fact they threw a fit when I told them we had to leave.  Only three years old, and already I'm facing insurrection...
This picture was taken at the frog ponds on our previous visit to Shangri La.  I'm trying to create opportunities for Bryce and Lucy to explore and come in contact with nature.  At the frog ponds there are many discoveries to be made, and new amphibious friends to meet.

This afternoon, as I pulled into our driveway, I saw a Yellow-throated Warbler perch briefly in flowering shrubbery near our carport.  In the evening I heard Brown-headed Nuthatch in pines near the pond, and saw a few Purple Martins flying south. Great Crested Flycatcher and Summer Tanager continue to be heard in our neighborhood.  That's all the birds news for now.


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