Post image for “Mountains & Meteors”

“Mountains & Meteors”

by ESP on February 1, 2016 · 1 comment

 gulf muhly grass

I found this huge Differential Grasshopper

Melanoplus differentialis


swaying around in a patch of Gulf Muhly.

I could hear groans and one “really dad”? emanating from the back seat as I rolled effortlessly out of my truck, camera in hand, to stalk the creature in the middle of a rather public walkway on Wimberley high street.


We took a walk down the now serene Blanco River. 


The habitat is still recovering from the devastating flooding of last may when the river rose 30 feet in less than three hours.

Flood Damage

We climbed over and under lots of smaller trees that had been pushed over as the river experienced rises that exceeded 20 feet in one hour.

cypress tree

Most of the old cypresses had weathered the storm with only a few cuts and bruises,


though this image from last year shows some were not so lucky.

I wonder if these were cypresses?

Chihuahuan Desert

We recently took a trip out to Marfa (west Texas) in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert to visit friends 


and play in the snow…yes snow!


She wasted no time generating a chilling family.

Marfa is situated in the high desert of the Trans-Pecos between the Davis Mountains and Big Bend National Park.


It is famous for its contemporary art scene and of course the mysterious Marfa lights which unfortunately I did not get to experience on this trip.

I hope the artist does not take offense to the title tag I placed on the image.


“Mulder, I cannot believe is was 1999 when we made that episode about the Marfa lights.”

“Just five more miniseries to go Scully.”

 We took many walks and encountered plenty of interesting minimalist desertscapes, some


appeared to be an extension of the street.


Nassella trumpuissima?

Yucca faxoniana

After a close encounter with a Spanish Dagger,

Yucca faxoniana



and a few more snowballs in my back,


Marfa, Texas

it was time for some liquid refreshment (courtesy of El Cosmico) and then up into the Davis mountains for a spot of hiking.







Eagles soared effortlessly overhead, things on the ground were a little different.


The views around this area are staggering but you had better watch where you are walking, everything in this terrain is out to get you.

Davis Mountains


Dasylirion texanum


grow like weeds at this altitude,

rock-faceeven out of rock faces!

The Chihuahuan Indians made use of the plant by fermenting sotol juice into a beer-like alcoholic beverage as early as 800 years ago. The outer leaves are removed to reveal the central core, the core can be cooked, shredded, fermented and distilled.

sotol4-smPhoto by Phil Dering

These pulpy cores were also baked and pounded into chewy patties which could be dried and stored.


The Indians also used the straight flowering stems of the plant as lances and spears with an attached stone or metal point.

We DID tell you it was going to be cold.

Davis Mountains

An occasional high pitched squeal would give away the position of these perfectly camouflaged smaller cane cholla cacti lurking in the native grasses.


The larger ones were not so much of an issue.


At the top of the trailhead we had a glass of vino and observed and tried to identify (with the help of our very informative local field guides) lichen and scat aka: (King Richard the 3rd’s)  see: 

King Richard III

Occasionally the scat was on the lichen making it unclear as to which field guide to use first.


From up hear we could see Indian Lodge,


a pueblo style lodge constructed by the CCC in the 30’s.


In the far distance we could see the McDonald Observatory.



A short car ride later and we were standing inside UT’s Frank N. Bash visitors center staring at a rather large iron meteorite that was found 15 miles northwest of the observatory by a seven year old.

Frank N. Bash visitors center

It is made up almost entirely of iron and nickel.


Mountains to meteors…thanks for a great trip L & N.


Time to charge up the iPads, avoid the tumbleweeds (I had no idea how big they could get) and hit the very straight roads back to Austin just in time for my daughters birthday present.


Tumbleweed Chandelier by Jean Landry, Marfa.

Photo by Susan Simmons

She had been excited and looking forward to seeing her YouTube idol Colleen Ballinger (Miranda Sings) perform her show for months,


and tonight was the night – a sell out show at the Paramount.

Colleen Ballinger

She had no idea she was going to meet her!

My return home was significantly less glamorous…



Stay Tuned For:

“Seeds & Weeds”


All material © 2016 for eastsidepatch. Unauthorized
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and
punishable by late (and extremely unpleasant)
14th century planet Earth techniques.

“Victorians Gone Wild”

by ESP on November 2, 2015 · 2 comments

 lily pad


“Evaluation, Mr. Spock.”


“Fascinating. I believe this is the early stages of the unfurling of a Victoria amazonica lily pad found in the still waters of all the great rivers of the South American continent such as the tributaries of the Amazon, Earth. The first published description of the genus was by John Lindley in 1837, along with his colleague he concl…”



“Yes, yes…but we need to know what it wants, what it desires…

why…why it has armed itself with rows…of defensive spines?”

defensive spines

“And why were people from the Victorian era obsessed with standing on them,


…a primitive teleportation device?

Spock I need answers!”


Victoria amazonica

This Victoria amazonica water lily stopped us in our tracks at the Hill Country Water Gardens and this is a small one! The leaves of the giant Amazon water lily can grow over 2.5m (8’) across.

To answer Kirk’s question, the sharp spines on the flower buds, leaf stalks, and underside of leaves are a defense mechanism for fish and other animals like chomping manatees.

The flowers of this water lily are pollinated at night by a specific type of scarab beetle (Cylocephata castaneal) in an amazing process…

Cylocephata castaneal

 photo extracted from

…this is how it works:

The pure white flower opens as a female on the first day – emitting a pungent pineapple aroma to attract the beetle.


The scarab leaps into the flower and is trapped in there when the flower closes the following morning. At this point the petals start to turn pink in color signaling that the flower is undergoing a rather quick sex change to become a male.

Now coated in male pollen the beetle escapes when the flower reopens, off it flies to another fragrant white female bloom (they are not attracted to male form) and so the pollination process begins / continues…amazing.


Aw come on!


Moving along…

Oh yes, I knew she was going to get me involved in the creation of her Fairy garden.

I just couldn’t stand by and watch her putting small stones here and there and then wondering why it didn’t look very good…

oh no, I was going to get involved.


It needed the structure of a large cedar stump, some outside illumination (naturally), a few metal insects (Thanks Bob),


and some rather large ‘mountains’.

The rest was up to her.






(Relatively) cold weather is my excuse to light fires and burn things.



It is their excuse to boil pots full of mystery gross things…


…and when fully rendered down attempt to get me to smell them.


“I don’t mind smelling it espatch”

Quiet Baldrick – no one is smelling anything.

DSC00528 2

I will leave you with a few shots of a garden I designed (over a number of years) and recently revisited in East Austin.

Here it is when I started:



This time I was brought in to remedy a bare-dirt / muddy area, solution?


Retaining walls, dry creek bed and lots and lots of rocks.


It was great to see how other parts of the garden were filling in.


Bamboo muhly softening up the pathways.


A nook.


This fig ivy was so tiny when it went in the ground I remember wishing it good luck…as in a sarcastic ‘good luck but your probably not gonna make it way’.


Stay Tuned For:


“Mountains & Meteors


All material © 2015 for eastsidepatch. Unauthorized
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and
punishable by late (and extremely unpleasant)
14th century planet Earth techniques.