Craig Clyde’s “Flowers on Timpanogos”

July 27, 2013

Photo by Craig Clyde, who explained:

Spent the night on the north end of Mount Timpanogos at 10,000 feet, by myself, taking it all in.

Flowers on the north end of Utah's Mt. Timpanogos, about 10,000 feet up. Photo by Craig Clyde.

Flowers on the north end of Utah’s Mt. Timpanogos, about 10,000 feet up. Photo by Craig Clyde.

Photo from July 25, 2013. Flowers include “Blue-pod Lupine, Narrow Goldenrod, Giant Red Paintbrush and Mountain Bluebells.”

Contact him for prints for framing.

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Turk’s Cap, native Texas flower in 90 seconds

June 26, 2012

Short piece from Texas Parks & Wildlife:

Turk’s cap is a native Texas shrub that attracts hummingbirds, butterflies and moths. This easy-to-care for plant is named for the shape of its small blooms. To learn more about Texas native species and habitats, see http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/wildlife_diversity/

Must admit I was unaware it’s a Texas native, though Kathryn has had it in all of our Texas gardens.  I love the blossoms.  I wish our local hummingbirds loved it as much as the photo in the video shows, but we have other plants they love and a feeder.  Butterflies like it, too.

Few other plants equal the intense red of the flowers.  Turk’s cap requires less water than many less spectacular, non-native plants.  Ours keep coming back year after year.  What more do you want in a good garden plant?

I wish my photos were so good as those used in the film.

More, and related material:


Sky islands in Yosemite National Park

September 19, 2011

Nature Notes #16 from the good people at Yosemite National Park:  Sky Islands.

Throughout the Sierra Nevada, high flat plateaus are found at elevations around twelve and thirteen thousand feet. These isolated sky islands are the home to unique plant communities that are found nowhere else.


Watching the drought roll in at Colorado Bend State Park

July 6, 2011

It took me a couple of tries to figure it out — last week when I told people Kathryn and I were off to Colorado Bend State Park to spend time on the river, several people commented about how much cooler it would be there.

What?  West of Killeen about an hour, ten miles of dusty road outside of Bend, Texas (population 1,637), Colorado Bend is not cooler than Dallas.  It was over 100° F every day we were there, stayed well above 90° most  of the nights.

Kathryn Knowles checking wildflowers, Colorado River, Texas

Kathryn studied wildflowers at a spring at the side of the Colorado River during a break from kayaking; this spring's flow was reduced, but still moist enough to create a near-oasis.

Our well-wishers were geographically confused.  They thought we were headed to the Colorado River in Colorado, not the Colorado River in Texas, which is not the same river at all.  I didn’t bother to check the temperatures in Colorado, but one might be assured that it was cooler along the Colorado River in Colorado than it was along the Colorado River in Texas.

It was a return trip.  We stumbled into the park 16 years ago with the kids, for just an afternoon visit.  The dipping pools  in the canyon fed by Spicewood Springs captivated us.  It took a while to get back, and then the kids were off doing their own thing.

So, just a quick weekend of hiking/camping/kayaking/soaking/stargazing/bird watching/botanical and geological study.   Park officials closed the bat caves to human traffic in hope of keeping White Nose Syndrome from the bats; we didn’t bother to sign up for the crawling cave tour through another.

Ed Darrell at Colorado Bend State Park, Texas

The author, still working to master that Go-Pro camera on the hat -- some spectacular shots, but I don't have the movie software to use it all; you know it's hot when SPF 75 sunscreen is not enough.

What did we see?  Drought has a firm grip on Texas, especially in the Hill Country, especially outside of Dallas.  The Colorado River  is mostly spring fed; many of the springs are dry.  No water significant water flowed through the park while we  were there — kayak put-ins have been reduced to the downriver-most ramp, and the bottom of the boat launch ramp is three feet above water.  Gorman Falls attracts visitors and scientists, but the springs feeding it are about spent this year — just a few trickles came over the cliff usually completely inundated with mineral-laden waters.

Drought produces odd things.  The forest canopy around the park — and through most of the Hill Country we saw — is splattered with the gray wood of dead trees, many of which at least leafed out earlier this spring.  The loss to forests is astonishing.  Deer don’t breed well in droughts; deer around the campsites boldly challenge campers for access to grasses they’d ignore in other seasons.  One ranger said he hadn’t seen more than about three fawns from this past spring, a 75% to 90% reduction in deer young (Eastern White Tail, the little guys).  Raccoons are aggressively seeking food from humans, tearing into tents and challenging campers for food they can smell (lock your food in the car!).  Colorado Bend is famous for songbirds, including the endangered Golden Cheeked Warbler, and the elusive, spectacular painted bunting.  But the most commonly-sighted birds this year are turkey vultures, dining on the young that didn’t make it healthy into the summer and won’t survive until fall.

Warming denialists’ claims of “not so bad a drought” ring out as dangerous, wild delusion.  (By actual measurement, Texas average rainfall the past nine months was 8.5 inches, the driest ever recorded in Texas, shattering the old record drought of 1917).

Great trip.  Kathryn’s menu planning was spectacular.  The old Coleman stove  — a quarter century old, now, with fuel almost that old — performed like a champ even without the maintenance it needs (later this week).  Other than the hot nights, it was stellar.

Stellar.  Yeah.  Stars were grand.  It was New Moon, a happy accident.  A topic for another post, later.  Think, “Iridium.”

So posting was slow over the weekend.  How far out in the Hill Country were we?  Neither one of us could get a bar on our phones.  We were so far out the Verizon Wireless guy was using smoke signals.

Thoreau was right, you know.


Lorrie Otto, environmental warrior

June 9, 2010

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel carries the news that Lorrie Otto has died.

When DDT spraying killed birds and bats in her yard, Lorrie Otto went to work to stop the destruction.  Otto won.  Someone should step up to take her place, in each of the things she did.

‘Nature Lady’ Otto helped lead DDT fight

Lorrie Otto leads Natural Landscape Tour in Milwaukee - Journal-Sentinel photo by Michael Sears

Caption from the Journal-Sentinel: Lorrie Otto (left) leads the "Natural Landscape Tour" along the banks of Lake Michigan in the 9700 block of N. Lake Drive. A video crew from NBC News photographed the event for a segment. Journal-Sentinel photo by Michael Sears

She began with natural yards, progressed to national causes

By Amy Rabideau Silvers of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: June 2, 2010

Lorrie Otto understood that it wasn’t nice to mess with Mother Nature.

And so the woman known as “the Nature Lady” planted her Bayside yard with native species and wildflowers – fighting for the right to keep her land natural and teaching others how to do the same. She rose to become an environmental warrior, a leader in the battle to ban DDT in Wisconsin and then nationally.

She shared her vision that average people could make a difference by eliminating the standard lawn for more ecological alternatives. The well-manicured lawn was not, she said, a healthy green space.

“They look like golf courses,” Otto once said, then corrected herself. “They look like cemeteries.”

Otto died of natural causes Saturday in Bellingham, Wash., where she moved in 2008 to be near her daughter. She was 90.

Otto served as a founder and leader with groups including Citizens Natural Resources Association of Wisconsin, the Riveredge Nature Center and Wild Ones. She became a nationally recognized naturalist and speaker, called “the godmother of natural landscaping.” Media credits include everything from Martha Stewart Living to “NBC Nightly News.”

“In recent years, a New Yorker article credited her and Rachel Carson for leading the movement,” said daughter Tricia Otto, referring to the author of the famous book “Silent Spring.”

Lorrie Otto, Milwaukee environmental activist, in 1999 - Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal photo

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel photo: Lorrie Otto, shown in 1999, kept a lively prairie garden.

Otto was named to the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame in 1999. The Schlitz Audubon Center’s annual natural yards tour is named in her honor.

“If suburbia were landscaped with meadows, prairies, thickets or forests, or combinations of these, then the water would sparkle, fish would be good to eat again, birds would sing and human spirits would soar,” Otto said.

She was born Mary Lorraine Stoeber, taking the name Lorrie after marriage. She grew up on a family dairy farm in Middleton and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

During World War II, she saw an advertisement for the Women Airforce Service Pilots – what the ad called the “Cream of the Crop” – her daughter said.

“You had to be college-educated and have a pilot’s license,” Tricia said. “She went to the local airport and, with her own money, became a pilot.”

WASP pilots were civilians and the first women to fly American military planes. Just before she graduated, the war was coming to an end and the program quickly disbanded. She married her high school sweetheart, Owen Otto, and they settled in Bayside about 1952.

For Otto, the battles for natural landscaping and against DDT began in her own yard.

The former farm girl planted the family’s yard in a natural way, mostly to create “an enchanting place for my children to play.”

Soon Otto was confronting what she called “the lawn police” in Bayside. One day, a crew arrived and mowed part of her yard. She fought back, proving that her yard might look wild but that it did not contain weeds.

“She was so passionate,” Tricia said. “She would appear in court as an expert witness to defend someone whose yard was being persecuted.”

In the late 1950s, she learned of plans to develop the Fairy Chasm woodland area in her area. “She finally triumphed in 1969, when the Nature Conservancy purchased Fairy Chasm,” according to a copyrighted article by the National Wildlife Federation.

Those were also the days of routine DDT spraying, first to kill mosquitoes and then to kill the beetles destroying elm trees.

“Robins would go into convulsions. . . . I’d see the dead robins near the road,” she told The Milwaukee Journal in 1992. “Red bats would be dangling dead in the rosebushes.”

“She carried big bushel baskets of dead robins into village hall,” Tricia said. The official response ranged from indifferent to angry. “They said, ‘What do you want, lady, birds or trees?’ ”

Otto took the fight to the state level, finally deciding to sue. She contacted the Environmental Defense Fund, a fledgling out-of-state group that won a national reputation for action in Wisconsin. In 1970, Wisconsin banned the use of DDT. The federal ban was approved in 1972.

“She invited scientists from all over the country to her house, and they worked on the paper to present to Congress to get the ban on DDT,” said Dorothy Boyer, a friend and president of the Milwaukee North chapter of Wild Ones. “She had scientists sleeping in sleeping bags in her living room.”

Years later, she was still making new friends and encouraging others. One younger couple, Susannah and Lon Roesselet, began their own natural landscaping in Bayside a few years ago.

“One day the doorbell rang and this little white-haired woman was there, saying, ‘Hello, my name is Lorrie Otto,’ ” Susannah Roesselet said. “We knew about her. She stepped in and became our mentor. Our entire yard is now natural; she is everywhere. She’ll be missed, but she left her mark.”

When Otto finally had to leave her own home, she moved to Washington state to live with her daughter on a hundred acres of natural land.

“She was just having a ball,” Tricia said. “Living here, she said, you could believe the world was happy and whole.”

And Otto made plans for her own last plot of land, delighted to find a green burial cemetery and planting flowers on what would be her own grave. She will be buried without benefit of embalming or chemicals, returning to the earth she loved.

Otto is also survived by her sister, Betty Larson.

A Wisconsin gathering is being planned by friends.


Red eared sliders

May 31, 2010

Red-eared sliders, turtles at Texas Discovery Gardens - photo by Ed Darrell

Red-eared sliders cluster together to catch the sun on a spring day at Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park in Dallas. Photo by Ed Darrell, 2010

Red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans), a common aquatic turtle in the southern U.S., caught sunning themselves at the Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park in Dallas.


Wildflower Monday: Calfornia poppies

May 17, 2010

California poppies, near Bitter Creek - photo by Amanda Holland

California poppies, near Bitter Creek - photo by Amanda Holland

Kathryn got stuck in traffic on Spur 408 Friday evening.  She happily reported that a few bluebonnets remain, covered by now-taller grasses.  We’re in the seventh week of our Texas wildflower panorama.

But Amanda Holland’s shot of California poppies in the wild hills near Bitter Creek caught my eye.  Amanda’s out saving birds — the best photos of the wild almost always come while you’re on the way to do great stuff, I think.  That’s a good reason to find a job that gets you out of doors, and into the wild.

Notice that, even in the wild, in near-wilderness, there are still signs of human actions.  See the contrails?


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