Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The "Lowly" Thistle?

Late August presents all sort of weeds that might work equally well in a flower bed. This thistle, when viewed up close, has petals as delicate as threads and in a lovely shade of lavendar.

I wonder how we came to call this a weed? I suppose the fact that it survived the drought and managed unattended while the exotics died even when given their daily drink made all the difference. This thistle will sport some thorns later and the plant itself is spindly and lank. But think of the orchid! That something this beautiful can bloom in some hidden corner of the field, without cultivation, without fertilizer, without regular watering, makes it all the more special to me.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Watching the ISS Pass Overhead

Though this late evening image seems not to have captured the International Space Station passing overhead, it was a fairly bright pass just the same. I went into the back yard just before 9 p.m. when the sky still had a faint glow from sunset to it and waited for the 9:01 p.m. pass to begin. The ISS pass began in the WNW and ended about six minutes later in the SSE. When the station passed across the southern sky, it moved just below the moon and Jupiter.

The moon, by the way, was brilliant even though just past first quarter. I set the camera to telephoto (3x) and shot this picture on a tripod. You can see a little jaggedness to the left edge of the moon where the terminator slices through the lunar rugged terrain.

Besides the moon, Jupiter and the ISS, the backyard air was full of bats! Not one but probably dozens, all flying about for summertime bugs. If you listen in the still night air, you can hear an occasional "click" as they echolocate their next meal. A few night ago in the early evening I saw what I thought to be multiple small birds flying a circuit over our garden. What? Swallows? Martins? I walked outside in my bathrobe to see what it could be. I was met by hundreds of very large dragonflys! Other than a recent rain, there are no areas of standing water nearby - save our very small birdbath. It was magical.

All of this just proves how nice it is to spend some time outdoors at night. The country is especially pleasant at later hours when we can enjoy what the sky has to offer.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Summer Heat

So far this summer, we've had 18 days at 90 degrees or above. Here's a graph of August so far.

Last evening (08/09) we had beautiful cloud formations as a cold front passed. Though torrential rains were reported well north and east of here, we had not a drop at my location. This view (below) is facing east through the catalpa trees in our front yard. A classic cumulonimbus!

And this view (below) is facing west as the final line of storms approached. To the right of the picture (north), it's clear that someone is getting some much-needed rain. But so far this month, Farmersville stands at 0.05". That's really critically dry, especially considering the extreme heat.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Is It HOT Enough Yet?

This summer has been one of the hottest I've recorded. Here in early August, I've logged 18 days with highs of 90 or above. Yesterday my "official" high was 98.7 degrees (with the electronic station) but a mere twenty feet away, also on the north side of the house, the bimetalic thermometer read an even 100 degrees.

Now that's in the shade, of course, and on the north side of the house. Coupled with the heat, we've had only 0.05" of rain in the last 12 days so the crops are beginning to feel the pinch. The corn is curling up trying to protect itself from this heat.

August has been well above normal; yesterday alone was 13 degrees above normal

It makes me wish for winter even more.