June 10th, 2008

woods, Elizabeth, camera, April

Nose to the Grindstone: on the novel

Finished revisions the editor requested on the story, and sent it off this evening after yet another reading (but I always miss something--what was it this time?)

Then supper,  some tinkering with photos, some looking up of species (the mysterious butterfly I photographed today was a Goatweed Butterfly, rather worn, perched on a young pecan.  The big zebra-striped moth appeared on the window-screen again.  I've only seen it from underneath, as it comes to the screen, but I described it as carefully as I could and sent that off to the lepidoptera list (I can't photograph it from inside--it won't hold still for a flash-less picture and the flash reflects from the glass.)

And then, as Richard went to bed, and the Excedrin kicked in and eased various discomforts,  I turned on the music and pulled up the novel files.  Fixed something in one that research with the fencing group showed me last week wasn't right...and felt like opening another.   And then...wow...1100+ words came zipping along, pretty much in character.  And when that spate eased, I looked in email and one of the lep experts told me it was probably an Ilia Underwing moth, which is what I'd suspected.  Ha!

And now it's 1 am and I need to sleep.   Busy day--almost 2 hours on the tractor, mowing, before noon and after the dew dried off, in addition to some yard work and the writing work.

But it feels good to be back on the novel.   It doesn't want to be interrupted (though it's going to be interrupted again to do another novella that's on contract...and it will probably give me heck then, too.)
woods, Elizabeth, camera, April

80 acres: Small beauties

Today's small beauty (the one I caught in the camera with a working SD card, anyway) was this rather plain looking butterfly...a Goatweed Butterfly, whose wings are plain below, but oddly angled, and orange on top.  This one is worn, as the softening of the angle-wing and the tattered margin of the forewing show.


Nonetheless, in the closeup, full-size, it's an exquisite little object, the color showing faintly through from the dorsal surface of the wings, every vein distinct, the antennae tipped with fire-orange.  It's not as showy as some of the others, but the surprise of the top-color when it flies is a delight.

Like all but the strongest fliers, it preferred to perch today, in the hot dry wind that was blowing.   The only ones I saw in the open were giant swallowtails (very few) and one or two late monarchs.  All the weaker fliers were in the lee of the house, in or near trees and shrubbery.  I saw a question-mark, but couldn't get it to perch in the open where I could photograph it. 

woods, Elizabeth, camera, April

80 acres: Hot days on the tractor

So it's hot and dry and windy (and has been for several weeks now) so fire danger is way up.  Time for the fire-lane mowing.   We have highway frontage (where fires most commonly start) so yesterday I went up there and mowed everything I could reach, six or eight swathes wide.  There are trees right on the fenceline with drooping limbs that the big tractor couldn't get under.  This morning R- went with the small "lawn" tractor (it rarely sees a lawn) because he could get under that and mow right to the fenceline.  It's slower--its mower deck is narrower and it doesn't go as fast or handle the big stuff--but it's very handy to have a "clean-up tool" mower as well as the tractor and brush hog. 

Meanwhile, I was widening the lane near the dry woods (something we'd prefer not to lose to a grass fire), widening the north fencerow path, and along the edge of the creek woods on this side of the creek, and the south fencerow path.   Those have to be kept short not just as little  firebreaks (they're really not wide enough to do much good) but also so we can walk safely...see a snake before we step on it.   Especially the ones with rattles on the tail.   Sitting up on Bombadil, I can see more than the stuff immediately at my feet when I'm walking, and despite the very dry, hot weather, and the lack of rain, there's a lot of good stuff going on.   As the old, planted King Ranch Bluestem dies off (which it does, eventually) native grasses and forbs are returning, and the KRB thatch is helping protect the soil from (for instance) last spring's torrential rains that washed away inches of two upslope neighbors' soil and this year's drought and very high winds that would otherwise blow some of it away.   It looks ugly right now, especially in the areas that just died this past year where the natives don't have a lot of penetrance, but where the die-back is older, and especially where I shredded it last winter, there's a lot of recovery, both grasses and forbs filling in.   This was an experiment--not the way you read about doing it in the prairie restoration books.   Most of the books are written for a different climate than ours--hundreds of miles north of here, with higher average annual rainfalls and shorter growing seasons.  I understood the principles but tried an adaptation for our climate and so far it's working. Time will tell.

Blooming today in the grassland (haven't checked any of the wooded areas): pink evening primrose, two or three species of milkweed, claspleaf coneflower, Texas star, Mexican hat (Ratibita sp., several), brown-eyed Susan, prairie bluets, bluebonnets (very late--most are gone), gaillardia,  Texas bluebells (the big purple gentian we have), prairie verbena, blue vervain, white gaura, false gaura, Texas parsley (mostly over), frogfruit, lemon horsemint, common sunflower.   Rising up to bloom a little later: ironweed, Maximilian sunflower, gayfeather, frostweed (in fencerows), goldenrod, the later milkweeds. 

Nothing looks as bad as when we bought it, or as good as it looks in wet years.   It's HOT out there...we've been in triple digits, setting one record after another, for over a week (and 10-15 degrees above normal all through May.)   I'll mow another section tomorrow morning before the heat sets in.