Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fall Sneezes - Which Plant is to Blame?

Look closely at the two pictures on this page of fall flowering plants. Both generally bloom at the same time and are pollinated by bees and other insects but only one of them has pollen small and fine enough to become airborne and cause suffering in a large percentage of the human population every fall. If you are one of these allergy sufferers, it is important to know what plant to blame so that you don't inadvertently try to eradicate the wrong one.

Many years ago I helped load a high school band trailer during football (allergy) season and was surprised to find a huge stand of a taller relative of the allergen inducing plant pictured in this blog growing along the fence just outside the band hall and next to where the trailer was loaded and unloaded. While its pollen would travel great distances on the wind, adults and student allergy sufferers did not need to be assaulted at close range and benefited from its removal.

You might even know the name of the plant culprit I speak of, ragweed, without knowing what ragweed looks like. One of these pictures is of flowering common ragweed. It is a perennial that spreads by underground roots in addition to setting seed. When I tell you the name of the other flowering plant it should be obvious which is which.

The other plant shown is goldenrod. It has showy flowers that echo its name. It is an important food source for bees and butterflies and is the plant you are likely to see growing by the roadsides during fall allergy season. However it is the nondescript ragweed plant that likely does not get your attention that is the reason for all of the watery eyes, runny noses and sneezing of the season.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Grand Prairie Arts Council Annual Juried Show

And the results are in, you can see the names of the winners of the Grand Prairie Arts Council Annual Juried Show on their website and view the artwork in person at the Uptown Theatre in downtown Grand Prairie.

While I did not receive an award, I am very pleased that all three of the photographic art pieces that I entered are hanging among the 120 pieces of artwork from 54 artists from around the region that were chosen from those entered.

The Arts Council provided a nice reception and awards ceremony to open the exhibit which runs through Oct. 14, 2016. The exhibit can be found in the lobby of the Uptown Theatre and is free and open to the public.

During much of the art exhibit, the Uptown Theatre will present The Addams Family, A New Musical. For more information and to purchase tickets, check out the show's webpage.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

2016 Art in the Garden

I thought the promotional material above was so nice that I would just share it rather than paraphrasing it. I will have my "Sun Spots" Dragonfly Series photographic art image on display at Art in the Garden.

Water - Waste Not, Want Not - Unless the Well Runs Dry

For most if not all of my readers I suspect filling a glass of water is an easy task. Flip a lever or turn a handle and fresh water rushes out to fill a waiting receptacle or it continues rushing down the drain. But do you ever stop and think where your water comes from or how resilient your water supply is? For about half of all Americans at least some of their water comes from ground water, while that number gets pretty close to 100% if you live in a rural area. The other source of water is surface water, often from large reservoir lakes. Recent droughts in Georgia and in Texas made national headlines when some cities that relied on lakes for their drinking water came very close to running out of water. Imagine that, flip the lever or turn the handle and nothing comes out. What a nightmare scenario. Thankfully for Atlanta and Wichita Falls, the rains returned before that happened and recharged their surface reservoirs.

It is pretty easy to see how a town that relies on water from lakes can recover pretty quickly if there is drought breaking rain. But what happens in areas that depend on aquifers, ground water, to quench thirst and water gardens? A lot of that depends on the characteristics of the aquifer that water is being pumped from. In some areas surface water becomes ground water quickly and easily because the material between the soil's surface and the aquifer is very permeable. In other areas the recharge zone for an aquifer can be far away because of the tilt of the water bearing sediment or rock layer. In Austin, rain water percolates downward through limestone to reach the Edwards aquifer. Many people in DFW that use well water drill into the Trinity aquifer. The recharge zone, outcrop, for these wells is about a county or two west of their well location.

Distance from the recharge zone, permeability of the sediments between surface water as lakes, streams or storm runoff and the water bearing layer that creates an aquifer as well as precipitation play a big role in how quickly an aquifer can recharge. It is very important to get a handle on this relationship where ground water is the source or even part of the source of water for a given population. Unfortunately, extensive farming centers are currently tapping portions of a giant aquifer that have little (very slow) or no recharge. This is what is happening to the Ogallala aquifer that stretches from the panhandle of Texas through the panhandle of Oklahoma, western Kansas, most of Nebraska and portions of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota. It is the portion of the Ogallala in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Kansas where water is being used for farming and people faster than it can recharge.

This massive over pumping of the Ogallala has the potential of creating a manmade disaster in the area much like the plowing that contributed to the disastrous dust bowl era, "The irrigation era may come to be called the "great pump up," bookending the other manmade High Plains disaster—the "great plow-up."" Large areas of the Ogallala are headed towards permanent depletion in our lifetime if something is not done to curb the draining of the aquifer. Residents just south of Clovis, New Mexico are already experiencing this. An example is given near the bottom of the article linked above.

So what can you do? Even if you are in an area that does not experience periodic drought or does not get your water from an aquifer that is in decline, conserving water is something everyone should be doing. Planting native or adapted plants for your area allows you to conserve water because they will not require much or even any supplemental watering. If you still have older, heavy water using toilets and shower heads you can replace them with the low water using ones currently on the market. Don't let the water run while you are brushing your teeth. These are just a few of small and large changes that you can make so that hopefully you won't see the day when you flip a lever or turn a handle and no water comes out of your faucet.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Thanks for the Treasuries - August 2016

Two Etsy shop owners and one Etsy team let me know they had featured one or more of my items in a treasury during August. Six August Etsy treasuries, that treasury makers let me know about, included one of my creations. You can see a collage below of my items from EDCCollective and EclecticSkeptic that were featured during August. (Click on the collage to see a larger view.)

I really appreciate being featured by the treasury makers. To thank them, I have listed below a link to the Etsy sellers that let me know they had featured one or more of my items, as well as an item from their shop that I like. In addition you will see information about the TexasFriendsTeam that also featured a couple of items of mine.

Enjoy window shopping and please click on the links to the shops whose item catches your eye.

This shop owner turns graphics into button dangle earrings, hair clips, keychains and more.

Handcrafted quilted items make cheerful gifts full of homemade goodness and care.

Past, present and future Texans are welcome and encouraged to join this team. The only real rules of the group are to promote friendly, The TX Way, and be respectful to all who participate.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Bird Watcher Note Cards

I have created a second pair of boxed sets of heavy card stock blank note cards. As with the first pop art set, I am partnering to have them printed on heavier card stock than I can print on my laser printer and then packaging them in sets of six (three of each image) in clear boxes.

I settled on the theme of bird note cards by asking the owner of Potager's Other Stuff, who carries some of my ready to hang photographic art prints and wanted to stock some of my boxed note cards, what images she might like to see on a new set. She suggested birds. Cardinals have been popular images in my matted and ready to hang pieces so I decided to work up a set of note cards with a male and a female cardinal. I found a couple of wintertime images that I thought complemented each other nicely and went with them. Those images got me to thinking of other tufted birds. I had recently finally gotten a few nice shots of a blue jay. While yellow-bellied sapsuckers are not as tufted as cardinals and blue jays, they can raise the feathers on top of their head to a peak. Plus, I had gotten a few good shots of one just the previous winter. I decided to pair it with the blue jay. These new boxed sets can be found at Potager's Other Stuff and in my EDCCollective Etsy shop.

If you have any ideas about what images I should consider working with for a new boxed card set in 2017, I'd love for you to leave your ideas in the comments section.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Missing Monarchs

While watching a Little League regional tournament game on a trip to Michigan last month I overheard someone asking another person if they had seen any Monarch butterflies lately. They had noticed their absence and had heard about the butterflies being in decline. I joined in the conversation and added that the decline is unfortunately real and the butterflies needed help. I urged the two ladies to plant locally native milkweed in their gardens as a host plant.

You might be wondering if any reasons have been identified for the decline in Monarch butterflies. They migrate from winter havens in Mexico to as far north as Canada. It takes more than one generation to complete this migration. There have always been dangers out there that the tiny flyers needed to avoid in order to accomplish their Herculean feat. They overwinter in Mexico in large groups in order to survive the winter. However some winters like last year have events like the late sleet storm that killed many butterflies. Migrating butterflies have to avoid predators (including unintentional ones like cars) and find nourishment and host plants to lay eggs on in unknown territory. Fluctuations in temperatures sometimes get the migrating butterflies out of sync with the native milkweeds they count on along their route. Also, since crops such as soybean and corn have been genetically modified to be herbicide resistant, monarchs have lost vast tracts of land where milkweed mingled with crops and provided for the butterflies.

That last point brings me back to the advice I gave to the ladies at the Little League tournament. Now that the majority of corn and soybean fields that line the Monarch's migration routes are devoid of milkweed, it is imperative that a concerted effort to plant more milkweed is undertaken. You can help by planting milkweed native to your area in your gardens, encouraging parks and greenspace managers to do so and (my favorite fantasy) get legislation through that would require farmers that plant pesticide resistant crops to plant compensating swaths of native milkweed on their land.

During my stay in Michigan I discovered a wonderful linear trail in Kalamazoo. Along the trail I spied local milkweed in various stages; in bud, in bloom and setting seed. During my trip I only spied one monarch. It was just outside Albion. (Images in this post are from my trip.) Hopefully since humans have drastically altered the Monarch's landscape to their detriment we will be able to find alternative areas to plant the milkweed that is essential to their continued existence.