Walking in the Wild–Part Two

When you live out in the country on a canyon edge and do not have high speed Internet, computers can really go slow sometimes.  That occurred late last night so I decided to show photos of my walk in two parts plus added a few more this evening.  Right now I have the TV on watching the severe thunder storm and tornado watches.  None here yet, but not all that far away.  In the meantime I will write this and watch Hawaii Five-O, one of the few TV shows I ever watch.  Now back to the wild all around my house.



Many different types of wild grasses grow in this area. This one has reddish seed heads which wave in the wind.



More blackfoot daisies and various wild grasses.




Chocolate flowers nearly spent.  They were in full bloom a week ago.









The beginning of my little canyon in the background.  The following photos illustrate how quickly a small arroyo can become a larger and larger canyon.













Below the barn, grasses, prickly pear and wild flowers grow in profusion.




At least two kinds of prickly pear grow here; this one has fewer thorns.   The one below is covered with white thorms.




The view below was totally brown six weeks ago.


Storms bring beautiful clouds.















Ethiopia–Lake Tana and the Blue Nile

I spent yesterday evening and today here in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, looking at, riding across or around on Lake Tana and the Blue Nile.  The out flow of Lake Tana is the beginning of the Blue Nile, the world’s longest river.  I crossed the Nile three times today in a relatively small motor boat.  Due to a diversion of water for hydroelectric power, the Nile falls are only a fraction of what they used to be.  Fishermen still fish Lake Tana in boats made from papyrus, scarves are still woven on hand looms, and corn, beans, and sugar cane are cultivated by hand, The following photos were all taken today, including the exquisite gardens at the restaurant where we ate lunch.



Ethiopia–From the Roof of Africa to the Nile

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageInternet is not so reliable at times here.  Yesterday we saw 23 Walia ibex in the Simien Mountins above 14,000 feet.  They are found only there.  Photos include Simien Mountains, the highest bar in Africa, the castles in Gondar, and the Blue Nile River, the longest in the world.  Staying at a hotel on Lake Tana.  Saw several hippos near the Nile bridge, but the guard said no photos.  For some reason, these photos loaded in reverse order.  We were in the Simien Mountains first where we stayed in a hotel above 13,000 feet with no heat, took a small trek, and saw hundreds of gelada baboons.  We saw the castles today and went to an overlook over the Blue Nile.







I landed here five days ago.  What an amazing country–so ancient and so modern simultaneously.  In two days we drove from Addisimage image Lalibela, the place where 12 churches were hewn out of solid basalt centuries ago.  After climbing up and down step cliffs to enter the churches today, I feel exhausted so will post a variety of photos.  My ultimate plan is to provide details of the trip when I return to the US.



A Day in Dubai

Much to my surprise our route took us over the southern tip of Greenland, over Iceland, Copenhagen, eastern
Europe, Turkey, and Iraq.  We landed late here late this morning.






From one to five we took a tour of the major sites.  Photos follow.  Because I have limited wifi time, I will post photos and explain more later if I run out of time.  As a person not particularly fond of cities, I did not expect to like Dubai so much.  What an amazing city.  One of my favorite stops, Saga, displayed amazing crafts, clothing, rugs, art work, all from this part of the world.  However, we were not allowed to take photos there.  Some of the photos were taken from the little tour bus.  The humidity surprised me.  If you have been to Houston in the heat of the summer, well, it is more or less like that with no breeze.  It was also very hazy.  We did have a chance to stick our feet in the Arabic part of the Persian Gulf, the visit the mosque modeled after the one in Istanbul, see the world’s fourth tallest five plus star hotel, see the Atlantis resort at the end of the island built in the shape of a palm tree, stop by the aquarium in Dubai Mall and see the fountain show in front of it.  Our final destination was the Gold and Spice Souq.


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Up, Up and Away

Except I won’t be in a balloon.  This will be very short because I leave my house at 5 in the morning headed to the airport.  Board a plane for Dallas at 6:20 or so.  Then at 12:25 board Emirate Airlines to Dubai.  The longest flight I previously experienced I think is from Tokyo to San Francisco.  This flight to Dubai is 14 hours and 45 minutes.  We will spend a day in Dubai and then head to Addis where it will be approximately 35 degrees cooler.  The temperature in Dubai the last time I looked was 109.  With any luck, my next blog post, assuming I get Internet to work there, will be a Day in Dubai.




If you grow soybeans, there is this program–not sure what else to call it–named the Soybean Checkoff.  Basically, when you sell soybeans, you get docked a few cents per amount sold to advertise, etc. soybeans.  I received my latest issue of the Lonestar Soybeans recently.  For those of you reading from afar, Lonestar refers to Texas.  It is the Lonestar state and our flag has one lone star on it.  Back to soybeans.  First, there is a report on soybean production issues.  Research is to the point in terms of soybean physiology that they are about to zero in on optimal planting time, conditions, latitude, etc.  Here in this part of Texas, generally no one grows soybeans.  We grow irrigated corn and wheat, milo, sorghum, and crops that do not require as much water as soybeans.


I grew up on a farm where we raised both soybeans and corn–I still do.  We raised some wheat also; tried milo, but it was too wet in Missouri.  Never thought a lot about where my soybeans went after I sold them so I learned something new today.  Compared to all other crops, we export more soybeans than anything else–to the tune of 20 billion dollars a year.  We also export a lot of wheat–about the same as soybeans, but soybeans trump wheat if you include soybean meal and oil.  Meanwhile corn exports have dropped steadily since 2007 or so.  Why?  Ethanol.


This report does not tell the reader some other notable facts.  While almost all corn grown commercially in the United States is GMO, such is not the case for soybeans.  The big market for soybeans is Asia and at least China will pay more for non-GMO soybeans.  60 per cent of all soybean exports go to China.  For those of you out there who are adamant about GMO, perhaps the solution is demand for non-GMO.  Currently, the only way I know to get non-GMO corn is to find a company that sells heirloom seeds and plant and harvest the corn yourself or find a small farmer who does this.

A Lonely Horse

Three months ago, Cool, a horse I raised, died suddenly from acute colic.  Cool was a friendly, inquisitive character.  He investigated everything, knew when you forgot to shut a gate totally, knew how to open things, never missed anything that was occurring.  Fun and funny and well loved.


Cool, the other orphaned horse I raised.


So well loved in fact that the photo on the back of On the Rim of Wonder is of me holding his bridle while my friend’s exchange student from Austria, Klara Kamper rides him.  Apparently, I am not the only one who misses him.  Rosie, my other horse, decided this past week that she needed to be as close to the house as possible so she could see me through the window.  For the last several days, when I awaken, there she is complete with her nose prints on the window.




This morning I decided this had to stop for several reasons, one of which is that she is trampling all the flowers and grasses I have tried to grow in this caliche area.  It is also not easy to get her to leave.  I have to hike around the house and drive her reluctant self out along the edge of the canyon.  A fence around a propane tank covers part of the width between the house and canyon–the area through which she walks.  About fifteen feet in front of it a large old log sat mostly for decorative purposes.  It occurred to me that I could possibly move this back between the fence and house.  It is so heavy that to do so I had to pick up one end and move it six inches then go to the other end and do the same.  By doing this repeatedly, I did manage to move it.  However, a small gap on either side still existed.  Since horses can jump, she could jump the foot or so over it if determined.  I found another dead piece of juniper to put across the top and two old log pieces to put at either end.  Now I can only wait and see if this deters her.



When I return from my trip to Africa, I think I must find another horse to keep her company.  In the meantime, she must endure sadly.  Here are some photos of both of them when Cool was still alive and well.







While writing this, I heard neighing and checked to see.  Poor, sad Rosie stood at the other end of the obstacles I set up.  It was as if she were calling to me to please, please, please let her get back by the house.  I ignored her pleas.  Eventually she gave up and walked away.  Now I am just hoping that she does not find the little walkway by the garage that goes to the front door, which I frequently leave open for the summer breeze.  She would just walk into the house.



Milkweed and Monarchs




Because I belong to the local chapter of the Native Plant Society, I notice native plants more, try to learn their names, and even find out if they possess medicinal uses.  We decided to adopt a theme for the year  2014, milkweeds.  Why milkweeds?  They are the primary food for monarch butterflies which are in extreme decline.  Why the decline?  Pesticide and herbicide use plus overwhelming habitat loss, especially along bar ditches and in the area of Mexico to which they migrate annually.  This past winter instead of hundreds of trees in Mexico covered with monarchs, there were only twelve.  Yes, only twelve.  Why do herbicides cause a problem??  When the butterfly larvae eat milkweed sprayed with herbicide, they ingest that herbicide toxin.

Monarchs are an ancient species.  They have been around for over 50 million years.  Monarchs are the only insect species to migrate 2500 miles annually.  Monarchs go through four generations per year.  The first three generations hatch and live up to six weeks.  The fourth continues to live for six or eight months.  They taste with their feet.  Monarchs have special meaning for Mexicans because they arrive in Mexico at the same time as the Day of the Dead.

In the Panhandle of Texas, four common milkweeds grow:  Asclepias tuberosa, Asclepias asperula, Asclepias latifolia, and Asclepias verticillata.  The name Asclepios is derived from the Greek word, Asklepios, the Greek god of medicine and healing.  I find only two of these here where I live, latifolia and asperula.






The top photo and the one immediately above are of asperula, more commonly called antelope horns.  They are important hosts for butterflies.  When discussing butterflies of any species, it is important to note that butterflies require two types of plants, host and nectar.  This plant provides important food for larvae.

At least where I live, the more common–by that I mean it grows anywhere and everywhere, even in the driest caliche soil–is latifolia.  However, I have never seen a monarch on either the blossoms or the leaves.  When in full bloom, latifolia attracts giant (as in several inches long) black and orange wasps which seem incredibly non-agressive.










This poor latifolia specimen barely hangs on next to the hydrant by the barn.


If you want to try growing milkweed yourself and you live in the Panhandle, seeds and plants can be purchased from Canyon Edge Plants and Panhandle Greenhouses.  Obtain free seeds from Livemonarch.com.  Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, Texas, also sells seeds.  If you want butterflies, do not use pesticides and herbicides.  Contact me if you want me to publish the “Butterfly Attracting Plant List”.