Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Grafton, Vermont

New England felt like a lush foreign country.  We left a brown Texas landscape in Stage II drought with afternoons soaring toward 100 degrees.  It rained in Vermont and then in Maine for nine straight days, everything was green and I needed a coat most of the time.  

Our Vermont visit was so great I'm sharing a bit of Grafton, Vermont with my Hill Country friends, knowing they'll appreciate views cool and green.
Grafton, Vermont, home of 600 people, 40+ sheep and Saxtons River.  You can see why they're named the Green Mountains.

 The White Church, built in the early 1800's.  Simple, serene, lovely setting for a wedding. 
Also home to a chipmunk... churchmunk?

In the center of town, the old-fashioned post office.   

There has been worry it might be closed.

We saw McWilliams Covered Bridge.  It's newish--about 50 years old, a youngster in the world of covered bridges--named for a local farming family.

And lovely old homes, square and white, many preserved and owned by the Windham Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to preserving rural Vermont. This is the Grafton Library, originally the Butterfield House, circa 1811.

Three museums!  Nature, history and minerals.

A petrified wood spirit.

Plus a working forge, multiple art galleries, hiking trails, a genuine swimming pond and air so sweet it tasted like dessert. 

The Windham Sheep exhibition might have been my favorite.  The residents gave us a Texas welcome.

And at the end of the day, sweet dreams at the Grafton Inn.  The Inn has been bedding travelers for more than 200 years, including luminaries like Thoreau and Kipling.  

I understand why. The rooms and common areas felt like home--only nicer--the beds were the best I've ever slept in, and they served fabulous blueberry pancakes made with local berries topped by maple syrup made right down the road.

Yes, I'd go back.
Copyright 2009-2012 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Genista Caterpillars (Uresiphita reversalis) Pest to Texas Mountain Laurel

This morning I took 30 of these buggers off one little Texas Mountain Laurel tree--all the tree's new growth had been skeletonized before I saw them.  These caterpillars become a brown night-flying moth. Judging by my yard, the moths are prolific reproducers.

To find out if your trees are infested, look for loose webbing on new leaves, or leaves eaten into a skeleton.  

It doesn't take long for a clutch of cats to chew through a flush of leaves; and losing the new leaves slows growth. 

Birds don't eat genista caterpillars because of the alkaloids absorbed from the plants. The only natural enemies I've seen (besides my fingers) have been fire ants and assassin bugs, but your tree may have a tough time with a combo of genista, summer heat and drought while you wait for assassin rescue.

According to Texas A&M's website, "Plant health is generally unaffected by feeding unless large numbers of caterpillars cause heavy defoliation (leaf loss)."  The site advises using manual control otherwise.

If you find webbing, brush it off and take the caterpillars off by hand-picking or blasting with a stream of water.

It's easiest to find the caterpillars in early morning while they're still in the webbing.  They look hairy but don't sting.  If you're finicky, wear gloves.

And think of the purple flowers you'll have next spring.

Copyright 2009-2013 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Painted Buntings --the most beautiful birds in North America

We judge the seasons as much by our neighbors as the fickle Hill Country weather.  

It must be summer...the painted buntings have returned to our neighborhood. 

They started arriving in May, flying in from Mexico and Central America.  A long journey for a little finch.

A few stay here to raise families.  More spread out through Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and parts of Kansas and Mississippi.

Yes, the male is the show-off in the family. 

The female's yellowy-green is a better camouflage for nest-sitting.  The young ones will look like her the first year.  Then the boys will turn red yellow blue and green and we'll rush to the windows when they fly in.

You can say it's not fair.  But you'd do the same thing.

I know you would.

Denny loves them too, here's his take on buntings and life.

Copyright 2009-2012 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Passion Flower

Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature.

Gerard De Nerval

Copyright 2009-2012 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.