A Plant for All Seasons

Inland Sea oats in August ~ Watson Rare Native Plant Preserve

The plant variously known as inland sea oats, inland wood oats, and Indian wood oats may have received those common names to help distinguish it from the ‘sea oats’ (Uniola paniculata) which grow in sandy coastal areas. 

Inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) aren’t found anywhere near the ocean. A clump-forming, upright grass, the plant grows along the rocky slopes of streams and rivers, in woodland areas, and in flood plains. A shade and drought tolerant ornamental grass that also can thrive in full sunlight, it’s often used for erosion control, and is prized by wildlife both for cover and for food.

Easily recognized because of its flat, drooping seed heads and arching stems, the plant is native to the eastern United States from Pennsylvania to Florida, and thrives as far west as Wisconsin and Texas. While it can become a little tatty at the very end of its growing cycle, it soon re-emerges, ready to delight the eye.

Inland Sea oats in December ~ Lost Maples State Natural Area

 

Comments always are welcome.

Something New, Something Familiar

Only one bird was swimming in the ponds at Lafitte’s Cove Nature Preserve yesterday: a winter resident — new to me — known as the Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola). According to the Audubon website, the bird’s common name is meant as a tribute to the buffalo, whose head it somewhat resembles.

The colorful male remained almost out of camera range on the other side of the pond, but I was able to capture a bit of the beautiful iridescence in its head and neck feathers.

Meanwhile, along Settegast Road, three early spring favorites were blooming. The blue-eyed grass, a member of the iris family, surprised me, although it appeared by mid-January last year.

Like Indian paintbrush, seaside goldenrod and crow poison can be found every month of the year, even after significant cold fronts. While no bees were visible, a bevy of tiny flies hovered around the blooms in the pleasant afternoon warmth.

Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium spp.)
Seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) with hoverfly
Crow poison (Nothoscordum bivalve )

 

Comments always are welcome.

Rolling Into the New Year

Rolling into Bandera, Texas ~ December 10, 2020

Increasingly, traditional New Year’s resolutions seem to be falling by the wayside, supplanted by the practice of choosing a specific word as a focus for the coming weeks and months.  The words vary as much as the people choosing them, of course. ‘Kindness,’ ‘hygge,’ ‘organize,’ and ‘persist’ all have been adopted by friends in the past.

I’ve never chosen a single word to guide my year, but I may have found a song worthy of holding onto in the coming months. The story of how that song came into my life is worth a short retelling.

I’d taken a long weekend to visit the Texas hill country in seach of fall color. Not long after I rounded the curve shown in the photo above, the alternator in my car went out. I reached a shop capable of doing the repair, but learned they didn’t have the correct alternator in stock. I’d have to wait until the next day to get back on the road. Still, they promised they could have the work completed by nine or ten o’clock in the morning, and that was fine.

On the other hand, I was stuck in a town I didn’t know with nothing but my wallet, my camera, and my phone; my other possessions were tucked into the bed and breakfast where I’d been staying — thirty miles away. After a good Samaritan overheard me discussing my plight with the shop owner, he put me in touch with a woman who managed local B&Bs, and she found a spot for me only a block off Bandera’s main street.

The auto repair shop was kind enough to provide transportation to my home-for-the-night. Once settled, I walked over to Main Street, sat down in front of a still under construction Best Western, and pondered my options. I happened to have the phone number of a blogger in town, so I called and asked him for dinner recommendations. “I’m across the street from two restaurants: Gringo’s and Mi Pueblo,” I said. “Which would you chose?” Gringo’s, it would be. I picked up a meal, stopped at the Dollar Store for a toothbrush, toothpaste, lipstick, and comb, and headed back to my temporary home.

The next morning, my car was ready to go at 9 a.m. A young man from the shop picked me up, I paid my bill, and headed down the road. After collecting my belongings from the bed and breakfast where I’d been expecting to stay, I was on my way home.

Then, forty miles down the road, every light on the car’s dashboard came on. My Princess coughed, vibrated, shuddered, and stopped. This time, I managed to make it into a parking lot at a convenience store, where I began again to ponder my options.

After a quick internet search, I found another auto shop five miles down the road that was willing to do a quick diagnosis. I called AAA, and in less than two hours their driver appeared, put my car up on his truck, and headed down the road to Bulverde. When we arrived, the mechanics confirmed what two Hispanic fellows in the parking lot had feared: the original repair had been poorly done, hoses had been left unsecured, the water pump was kaput, the radiator was empty, and my overheated engine had no compression. It was, as they say, a brick. “Hey!” one of my new friends said. “You’re going to need a new engine.”

Obviously, things became complicated, quickly. The owner of the shop that performed the original repairs agreed to have the car towed back to Bandera for another attempt at repairs. Homeless in the hill country, I found a room at the Bulverde Hampton Inn, and made arrangments for a rental car. The next afternoon, Enterprise picked me up, and after one more night in Bulverde, I drove back home to begin waiting to learn when my car would be roadworthy again.

Four days later, I was back on the road to Bandera. I dropped the rental car in Kerrville, had a friend drive me to Bandera, and picked up my car. Princess had a new engine (with sixty thousand fewer miles than her old one), a new radiator, a new water pump, new hoses, and a new alternator. The shop owner not only took responsibility for the damage, he wrote a check for the cost of the rental car. As he said, “We were the last ones to work on your car, and you only made it forty miles away from the shop. Our bad.”

On my third attempt to get home, I had nearly reached Rosenburg before the warning lights came on again. No longer shy about asking for automotive advice, I pulled into a Jiffy Lube. Their opinion was that I could make it home, but that I should have Toyota check things out. When I started up again, the warning lights were off, and I had no more problems.

I reached the Toyota dealership twenty minutes before closing time, and promised not to fall apart in their lobby if they’d only give me an appointment for the week before Christmas. They did, and the diagnosis was a single bad cell in the battery: enough to cause the ‘check engine’ light to come on even though the car would start. When they explained the battery was under warranty and I’d be responsible for only half the cost of a new one, all I could do was laugh.

Which brings me back to my song for 2021. After picking up my rental car in Bulverde, I discovered it had Sirius XM. When I clicked on the band and turned up the volume, I couldn’t stop laughing. Steve Winwood’s advice seemed especially apropos, and I decided to take it. The same advice may be useful somewhere down the road, now that I’m rolling again. Perhaps it will be useful to you.

 

Comments always are welcome.