Autumn Offerings

Late September brought the first heavy rains of the year, at last refilling the dried-up slough and old river channel in the pecan orchard area. With all this rainfall, I heard the nearby river was up several feet, so I was anxious to hike to the leased property to the west as soon as the weather cleared and cooler temperatures made for a comfortable walk. The neighbor’s cattle have eaten or tromped down many of the tall plants and vegetation in that area, leaving me a clearer path to the river. And soon, the snakes would disappear for the winter so I would not have to worry about them.  Finally, after a week of waiting for the perfect weather, I ventured out for a hike to the river. I was also hoping to scout around for any signs of trespassers or poachers on the leased property and get a look at any potential flood damage.

Setting out on my trek, I was a bit dismayed at having to walk all of the way to the west end of our property. Normally, I would have the electric buggy to transport me through the orchard, but there have been problems with it the last couple of months and it was still at the mechanics shop. Walking all of this distance caused me to realize how much I had relied on my wheels the last  years.  And this year I had really gotten lazy after my trip to Germany. Since I knew I would be in Berlin for more than two weeks, I did not have big vegetable gardens, and with the drought, there was not nearly as much mowing to do. Now, I was not able gather wood or clean up in the orchard without my buggy, and a burn ban left me without any way to burn the debris I might have collected in the orchard. Given these circumstances, I was a little put out that only one summer of cutting back on physical work could make my body so soft. I felt less agile than usual climbing over barbed wire fencing, and wondered why I kept turning my ankles on uneven sections of ground. Was I simply out of shape from taking a year off of my usual work, or was I getting older and less agile and unable to push myself as I used to?

The Cowpen Daisy is a prolific plant on our property and all along the river bottom. They grow crazy wild along our fence lines. I find them beautiful!
The Woodhouse Toad is common around here, and their camouflage abilities are outstanding!
The name of the Stinkhorn mushroom is quite appropriate. This seems to be the mushroom of choice for my dogs to roll on and even eat! Thankfully, it is not poisonous.
Normally we only see scarlet cup fungus in the wet spring months, but because of recent rains we are seeing these tiny splashes of color throughout the woodlands.
I was fortunate to get this clear image of a Red-Shouldered hawk. This bird was never far away while I hiked west and it was very clever about hiding behind plenty of cover, which made it somewhat difficult to photograph.
I found many of these Pipevine Swallowtail migrating through the area this autumn.
I did not realize this was a species of Orb Weaver spider until I happened to read about it at Portraits of Wildflowers. These are the little spiders I have seen late summer and into the fall, who build a web each night about 8:30, and then tidily gather it up around 6:30 each morning. What a friendly neighbor to have!!
A close up of woodland floor cover.
The Armillaria Tabescens is commonly called Ringless Honey Mushroom and is frequently found in our woodlands.
I managed to scare up one whitetail deer fawn on my hike. This species is appropriately named as their “white tail” flares out and up as a signal of danger to other deer!
I found this rainbow leaf an oddity. It seemed to be one of a kind in the area.
The leased property is covered with this horrible plant. When the buffalo burs dry, they cling to everything and are painful if they pierce the flesh.
Devil’s claw in its flowering stage.
This is a closeup of the feathery leaves of the salt cedar tree that lines the lower edge of the river channel. It will turn a beautiful yellow and then red as autumn progresses. Unfortunately, it is also an invasive species not native to the US.
A snowy egret combs the rivers edge for edibles. Salt cedars are prolific along the river.
If it wasn’t for the blaze of orange, I might have overlooked the Bordered Patch butterfly in the invasive Johnson grasses.
I have no idea what species of caterpillar this is but it is commonly found on lambsquarter, ragweed, and wild sage plants this time of year.
I find the cottonwood trees the most magnificent trees along the river and old river channel.
This is the area where I felt an uneasy vibe from the river. Perhaps the muddy, churning waters made the feeling more pronounced.
I thought this was a “tidy” armadillo carcass. The bone and armor just fell into place as it decomposed.
I could not determine this species of fungus after searching far too long on the internet. When they begin to dry they look a bit like a pinwheel. I found this mushroom all over the floor of the boot area of the river woodlands.
This is the path I generally take to get to the opening of the “boot” area of the river. Lots of animals use this path too!
The river was nearly full after the first rains in early September. Subsequent rains in the following weeks had it slightly out of its banks, but no real flooding took place.

But as usual, nature provided just what I needed to keep my mood happy and delighted. I spotted various treasures along the way, finding bones and other interesting things to photograph. I ventured over the fence to the river where I realized I might have been a little too early to make my way very far into the boot of the winding river. I didn’t get far into the opening of the boot before tangles of vegetation kept me at bay. It was simply too thick to venture closer to the river, so instead, I walked the edge of the snarl along animal trails and down a small pathway that led me into a darker canopied area where mud and newly fallen leaves carpeted the woodland floor. Oddly, I could feel the power of the rising river waters and felt this just wasn’t a good time for me to venture any further. Heeding my inner gut feeling, I headed back and out of the boot. I traveled south along the outside of the boot instead, where I discovered more bones, bugs, and beauties of nature. Four hours later, I emerged from the river area and began making my way back towards home.

And then in my reverie of quiet, gentle walking, I was startled when, out of nowhere, I spotted the quick movement of a snake as it bolted in front of me! I stood frozen, and not even a scream released from my mouth! Suddenly, I realized this was a coachwhip snake, which I had only seen one other time in my life. The one I had seen before was in Daisy deer’s pen, and I often found it sunning itself near the old barn in early morning. The coachwhip is a rather beautiful snake, having a pattern much like a braided rope, and are super fast in their movement. This snake did not disappoint in putting on quite a show! I saw it for only seconds, but it was the way the head darted up, as if to attack, that scared me before it quickly dove into thick, tall grasses! What a rustling of noise it made as it powered into the weeds! No longer was I gracefully moving along, but I had more of a quick gait in my step. The coachwhip gave me just the boost I needed to finish my hike home!

In the weeks following, more rain fell and the river rose to coming out of its banks in a few places. I imagine the path I took that day is a mucky mess now. And perhaps some of the bones and treasures I found or photographed no longer remain. This is what I love about nature and all of life. It is ever-changing, offering adventure and mystery at every turn.

These were the treasures I collected the day of the hike. I was most intrigued with the beaver jaw and teeth. Clockwise from front: Turtle with foreleg attached, beaver jaw and teeth, some kind of cat skull, coyote skull (top view), another coyote skull (upper jaw view) and the lower jaw.

© 2018 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


44 thoughts on “Autumn Offerings

  1. I found the remains of an armadillo just two days ago. The vertebrae were a little ways from the armor and I wasn’t sure the two things were part of the same animal, but your picture makes me think they were.

    Buffalo burs may be annoying, especially in large numbers, but I still like them as abstract photographic subjects. I also find the flowers pretty.

    As you’d said, you sure do have a lot of cowpen daisies there. I’ve never seen so many.

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    1. I enjoy studying carcass scenes, so that maybe I can discover how the death occurred. The thing about armdillos is I often find the bodies or bones untouched. I have read that they carry leprosy and perhaps other mammals know somehow they’re tainted. Another odd observance is for the last two years we have seen a lot of armadillo rooting around in the woodlands, but few other mammals exist here anymore. With the coyote population I suppose they’ve cleaned out most available prey in this area, but somehow they don’t seem interested in armadillos. Maybe for the same reason as the untouched carcasses?

      Yes, that leased field that I walk to get to the river is just loaded with pretty yellow blossoms of both the cowpen daisies and the buffalo burs. Right now the burs are still a bit green and attached to the plant fairly well, but once they dry, I’ll be picking burs off of my boots and pant legs. The devils claw will be dry soon too. I like searching for long vine sections of those. They’re really interesting!

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        1. I should do a post on them. They have such a pretty blossom, and the claw part is actually a pod, that dries and breaks open to disperse seed. Those claws are mighty sharp, and they can really catch on pant legs. I’m always fascinated about how the thorny, sticky and pokey burs and seed pods manage to disperse and travel via wildlife and humans. They have some clever designs to accomplish that!

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    1. This little piece of land is a paradise to me. But I understand that another person might walk with me and be irritated by the insects, see the landscape as a snarl of vine and thorns and ugly vegetation. For a person who used to hate snakes and spiders and who now loves and protects them… I’d say I’ve gone completely head over heels for nature. And it helps to walk with the deer when they let me…

      I’d love to send you rain, if I had those kinds of super powers! Ha ha! Most of our rain this time of year is from moisture flooding in from hurricanes. We’re getting lovely rain lately, not too much or too fast.

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    1. Thank you, Anne. I’d never seen this scarlet cup fungus before we moved here. They’re very tiny, but I see them all over in the woodlands. I never liked spiders or snakes before, but I’ve learned to appreciate them and their part in nature. These little orbs are amazing! I have been watching one in front of our house for more than a month. Every night I look for it. It hasn’t been making a web since the temperatures have dropped, and it’s finding shelter in a little leaf nest in the tree that it makes it’s web in. I’m amazed at how each morning it gathers up its nest and goes into its leaf house! It is cleverly hidden there from predators!

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  2. This is great. Seeing all the pics of nature made my day. I have yet to get some Cow Pen Daisy seeds. Maybe one day, I’ll find some plants. The cow pen daisy is used by the bordered patch as a nectar and as a host plant. Quite a number of butterflies nectar on it, among them are monarchs, queens, gulf fritillary, painted lady and of course the bordered patch. Bees really adore this plant as well.

    The river looked a bit foreboding in the pic and I think you were wise not to get too near. A four hour hike was pretty lengthy. I bet if you walk that much several times a week you’d be really agile and strong. I suspect that you are still fit as a fiddle because you are not a slacker in any form or fashion. By that I mean you tackle just about anything that comes your way and probably smile while you work. Seriously! Lori, I wish I had a fraction of your stamina.

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    1. I haven’t been nearly as busy this summer. My trip to Germany made me downsize on everything, and it was really good for me I think. I am soft – I haven’t worked in the woods or orchard for a very long time, but I think it’s done me well. I still go of course, to meditate out there, and take photographs. I feel ready to work in the woods this winter. You’re correct, I’m no slacker!! ha ha!

      The cowpen daisies have always been prevalent here. Would you like me to deadhead some of them for seed for you? They haven’t begun to die and dry yet but I can try to make a mental note to collect some for you. They are so plentiful here, I’m sure I could send several bazillion of them!! 😀

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  3. What a treasure trove of goodies you discover in your nature walks. It is interesting to ponder what changes humans and nature have had on these spaces. I think about the removal of natural vegetation and the introduction of weeds and other pests. Mother Nature is very resilient.

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    1. We were a bit flabbergasted when we had a state biologist out to help us make our land more whitetail deer friendly, to discover there were many non-native invasive species of tree and plant on the place. I’m not sure we will ever be successful in eradicating much of that, being so near town. Many trees and shrub seeds blow in from residential areas, making for ornamentals to spring up – which have no wildlife value at all. And because we refuse to use chemical to control weeds and insects, it makes for more of a challenge.

      I’m not sure everyone looks at my findings as treasures and “goodies”, but to me they make the hike worthwhile! Many times (like with the armadillo carcass) I leave the bones as they are. It’s unusual to find a complete carcass, but when I do, I usually leave it to the earth.

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      1. I would like to make our place a haven for birdlife. We hope to order some native trees and plants in bulk before the end of the year so we can plant out in autumn. Now that we have two lots of new neighbours building we need screening but also shade for animals. Our bottom paddock has little in the way of trees. Will take some time but we still love it here and just need to adjust to having a bit more noise and activity around us than before. Still beats living in suburban Melbourne!

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  4. When you document one of your walks I almost feel like I’ve been alongside you…except no burs or snakes! So interesting. Glad you have had some rain. If you’ve had enough please send some this way Lori! x

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    1. I think we must be very fortunate as I have seen many people comment about needing rain. The midwest US has gotten ample rain this year, and I’m sure the southeastern US would say they’ve had way too much with the hurricane activity this year. We see flooding here about once every ten years. We should be due for that in the next couple of years. I have seen the orchard flooded, but it has never backed up close to our house.

      I believe you and I enjoy photographing some of the same treasures. The great thing is we just never know what will turn up. I never venture out with a thought in mind about what I might find – these things just appear.

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  5. You have such an eye. You miss nothing in nature. I appreciate this photographic tour of your land, seeing so many things that are not seen here in Minnesota. Your photos, as always, are just incredible in quality, especially the butterfly one.

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    1. Thank you, Audrey. You know how it is, one must be open to seeing everything. I have never gone out and come back with nothing on my camera card. Sometimes I get really lucky, and other times lots of images are discarded. Something presented itself too quickly and I missed the shot. Just like that fawn jumping. I got two blurry pictures… and I suppose a blur was what I saw – I really can’t remember! That is the beauty of a hike. You never know what you’ll see, and it’s never disappointing. Never.

      Wouldn’t it be great if we could add all of our senses to the image we capture? That would be something!

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    1. Ha ha! That snake encounter was quick and was I ever glad! I knew it was a coachwhip but I didn’t know they will jump out and strike at a person like in that video! It only lunged past my leg about a foot off the ground. I would have screamed bloody murder if it had come at my face! Ha ha! No way my little tazer gadget would do any good with a snake that fast moving!

      That caterpillar was gorgeous. Likely it was a male… you know they are the flamboyant gender in nature. 🙂

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  6. Dogwood was one of the several specie of tree that I did not get seed from or find small seedlings to pull up and take back with me. We have garden varieties of them here, but it is not the same as those that grow wild there. Our native specie is nothing like them, and lacks both the showy bloom in spring, and the foliar color in autumn. The other dogwoods are actually coloring here like your rainbow leaf is.

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    1. Native dogwood is seen in our immediate woodlands, and I recently discovered one coming up in the shade of a Hackberry tree just south of the house. I love the dogwoods… they tend to take a backseat to other trees, content to grow undetected in the company of other, more outstanding trees.

      If you tell me how to get seeds (time of year, pod? flower?) I can try to send you what you need. I never seem to spot a young plant – usually I don’t notice them until they’re three feet tall. I’d be glad to try though… I’ll try to keep this in mind on my hikes!

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      1. Thank you very much for the offer! However, I already have more specie from your region than I can accommodate. Pecans are not exactly small trees! For now, I must be satisfied with the garden varieties of dogwood at work. At one job, I work with quite a few mature dogwood trees, which for me is odd. (Dogwoods do not do so well in the Santa Clara Valley, just a few miles away.) We grow many cultivars of dogwood at the farm. Eventually, I will get back to Oklahoma, and return with dogwood trees for my own garden, along with the redbuds and Eastern red cedars. (Because Eastern red cedars are junipers, we can not plant them at work.)
        Goodness! It is not easy to talk about the flora of Oklahoma without wanting to go back! The cottonwoods, elms, hackberries, . . . . I know that they are similar to what we have here, but they are all so distinct!

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        1. I share your love of Oklahoma plants, because where I came from in Nebraska, the vegetation was much different, and maybe not as interesting. I think the red dirt and sand rock also adds to the beautiful landscape here. Wherever we tend to travel, there are always going to be love of things that draw us back again and again. This time of year I’m drawn to Arkansas and parts of Missouri. If only we took the time to travel when we yearn to!

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  7. So many cool things in this post! I love seeing the critters you have down there that are so different from what we’ve got up north. The coachwhip snake is awesome; I’d never heard of that species before.

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    1. Hi, Kim! We all learn so much from each other’s blogs – regionally, landscapes, critters, and weather can be so different. The coachwhip snake is FAST!! The first one I ever saw, in Daisy’s pen, scared me every morning just because it darted away so fast! I knew it was there but I was never sure what direction it would take off in! Thankfully, the one I saw near the river, dove into tall weeds. I am so glad it didn’t jump any higher than it did. I might have fainted right on the spot!! 😀

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  8. Hi Lori, Your hike was very productive. It is very easy for time to slip away when there is so much to attract the attention. Even though the snake you encountered has the ability to leap and lunge, it is reassuring to know it is not venomous. I am very happy our red bellied black snakes do not leap and lunge.

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    1. Hello Margaret! We have so many snake species around here that sometimes there isn’t time to detect just what kind of snake it is. The coachwhip looks like a shiny rope, and it’s fast, so I knew what it was at a glance. We have a lot of copperheads here which are venomous, but they are easy to detect by the pattern on their skin, and they’re a rather shy snake most of the time so there is plenty of time to observe it. Most of the snakes around here are non-venomous and they keep the rodent population down. There’s always something to be thankful for!!

      I could spend hours out in nature. I really need to have my iPad along to write with while I’m out there. Stories come to me continually. 🙂

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  9. This was a great post! I loved seeing the jaws and teeth you found a few months back and that you were able to put the teeth back into their respective jaw(s). Your picture of the Devils Claw in bloom really surprised me. One, because they are so very unlike their seed pods, and two because they remind me of the lesser form of Gloxinias! I say lesser forms because the nursery industry has messed with them so much they look like gilded lilies by comparison to their native form.

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    1. I have collected bones and plants for many years now. Sometimes I am lucky to find an artist who can use these treasures. Some I keep for home decoration. I love finding clean skulls. One can tell a lot about an animals life from the teeth especially. The beaver jaw was a big find for me – I wasn’t even sure what it was until I brought the jaw to FD. Those teeth are magnificent!

      There is an area of the river bottom where Devil’s Claw is prevalent. I find the blossoms very delicate and the plant itself is unassuming… until it dries and those pods look like something out of a creature feature! I love them. Finding long clusters of them is a real find!

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  10. This was such a rich post I hardly could get through it. I kept wandering off and looking for more information about this or that — there are so many similarities and so many differences in our worlds, but clearly we share the same pleasure in finding and accumulating ‘treasures.’ One day, I dragged home a blue crawfish shell. I’d never seen such a thing, so I started snooping around and found there are about 35 species of crawfish in Texas, and 350 or so in the world. There are books about crawfish, for heaven’s sake — and identification guides. There’s no end to it!

    I’ve loved armadillos ever since I met my first one in the hill country. I’d heard one snuffling about at night and was sure it was an ax murderer or something, given the noise it was making. But, no. It was just that critter. The next day, they told me I could walk right up on one from behind, and sure enough — it didn’t have a clue I was there. I could have picked the thing up by its tail.

    I think the cowpen daisies are beautiful, too. Some gardeners here seem not to like them, since they can get out of control, but your bunch is gorgeous. Besides, what would the butterflies and such do without those fields of flowers?

    Is the coachwhip the snake that’s said to make a circle by grabbing its tail with its mouth, and rolling down hill? I’ve heard that story about some kind of snake — better yours just slithered away.

    I do love these posts: so information filled, and equally full of impressions. Thanks for going into so much detail.

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    1. We have some kind of crawfish species in the slough area, and only once have I found a complete and clean skeleton. Picking it up was a mistake… it was impossible to keep intact. I ended up with a jumble of tiny bones! Fortunately, I had photographed it so I could still see my treasure.

      Armadillos are interesting to observe. Their eyesight is so poor that it’s easy to get close to them, but be careful to notice the direction of the breeze or they’ll detect your human scent and run off! They have a most curious body structure with coarse hairs in odd places. I enjoy watching them root around. Our yard is full of little rooted up spots. I never run these interesting critters off… they’re just so docile.

      When I first moved here, a co-worker tried to convince me that a blue racer snake would do what you described. She said a blue racer had chased her as a child and she was just sure it made a hoop shape as it chased her. However, after doing some research, I learned this is not true of the blue racer, and the only thing I could find about a snake such as this was an old wive’s tale about the “Hoop” snake, which of course does not exist. I wish I knew how some of these misguided stories and tales came to be. It sure makes for interesting conversation… and imagination! I’d probably never venture to the woods and orchard if I knew there was an aggressive snake that rolled into a hoop and chased people!!! Ha ha ha.

      Thank you for appreciating the photos and information. Sometimes these posts may become long, but breaking them up into segments seems to take away from the experience of the hike itself. Each time I walk in the woods, I’m spinning a story about what I see. It’s just a good thing it doesn’t take 4 hours to read, like the hike itself might last!

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