Friday, July 22, 2011

If you can't beat the heat....

It doesn't look like the heat wave is going anywhere soon...who likes this heat anyway? Let's take a look...

Yes, the sunflower is a specie that loves the heat and the sun. Did you know there are more than 60 species of sunflower in the midwest? The name Sunflower actually translates from the Greek Helianthus annus. Helios = sun, and annus = annual.'s a sunny annual! But there's more...

It is a naturally occurring flower on the Great Plains and was eventually domesticated into the single stemmed variety that is grown commercially as a food source for nuts, oil, and margarine.

Native Americans ground the seeds into flour for bread and soup.

Sunflower oil was extracted by Native Americans by boiling the seeds. The oil was used for a variety of things like hair conditioner, to cook with, and to soften leather.

The sunflower is not really just one flower. If you look closely at this sunny little face, you'll see many tiny flowers called florets. Here a bee is taking pollen from each of them.

These unopened petals are actually a protective covering for the many little florets developing inside the sunflower. Each of the florets are tiny incubators where the seeds will grow.

The head of the sunflower actually loves the sun so much it follows it around the sky. This type of behavior in plants is called heliotropism.

An urban myth about the height of wild sunflowers growing alongside roads and highways says that the taller the plants, the more snow will fall that winter. Why? So that birds will have something to eat. Wonder how true that is?

It's tough not to be happy looking at the cheerful face of a sunflower. They're blooming now, cicadas are humming and there's talk of county fairs and school starting...pack your swimsuit, some sunscreen, and make arrangements to tube down the Niobrara, boat at Merritt Reservoir, or camp at Smith Falls State Park. There's still quite a bit of summer left to enjoy!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Riding out the heat wave!

We're being warned about the excessive heat this weekend into next week! Actually, the heat isn't that's the humidity!
To help you cool off, we're going to flash back to last winter

Doves are gentle - heat and high humidity isn't!

The falls are energizing in any weather...close your eyes and you can hear the rushing invigorating!

Imagine yourself in an arctic region!

How's this for bone chilling?

Hypothermic yet?

Siberian ice caps perhaps? (Not really, it's a frozen Smith Falls)

Frozen combat this summer's heat highway

May all this be a little bit en-deering on a hot humid summer in the Sandhills!
Hope you've been able to cool down for a little bit. If not, remember, the Niobrara River is here to refresh you too - so is Merritt Reservoir. Come and take a dip!'ll be revitalized in no time!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wide open spaces...

Before all the hoopla of the July 4th celebration, there was this dazzling display high on the hills, low in the valleys...right smack out there for all to see...the yucca blooms.

They're also called soapweed, Spanish bayonet, Adam's Web site said there were more than 600 different names for the yucca plant - most of which looked as if they were unpronounceable, unless you knew Latin or were a botanist.

The thick, creamy colored flowers share the hills with a sunflower and blue spiderwort in the background.

Doesn't this hillside look like it's covered in rich pearls?

Down in the valley, this deer has opted NOT to eat the yuccas and instead is munching on some fresh, cool, leaves.

Up close, yucca flowers are really a combination of pink and green.

They're not too fussy where they grow and climb right next to the road. The yucca plant has been used by natives for many different things. Their roots were used as soap, which is how they go the name soapweed. Their sharp, fibrous leaves were woven into clothing or household items. The ends of the leaves were frayed making paintbrushes too.

The flowers were also eaten  - do they taste like soap?

In drought conditions, cattle will eat them, but not by choice so much.
In the wintertime, after the flowers have gone to seed, and the fall winds scatter them to the far corners of the Sandhills, the pods turn into little cups and catch the snow. When the sun melts the snow, it provides a refreshing drink for our feathered friends.

There are probably dozens more uses for the many do you know about?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Birthday America!!!!

She's celebrating 235 years today! And boy does she look great. There are few things that require attention, but for the most part, there's no better place on the planet than the good 'ol U.S. of A!!! Enjoy our freedoms. Every last one of them.
A special thank you to our Forefathers who had the foresight to institute the changes to allow our generation and future generations unprecedented freedoms that other countries can't even begin to fathom. We're not perfect by a long shot...but we are indeed FREE!

She watches over us in all kinds of weather...stormy...



Even if we can't see all of her, she's watching over us...

When the sun begins her descent...


We're free.

And we can be free to do as we choose at home...

At someone else's home...

In public...

Because of Lady Liberty....
We're free...

We're Free..

We're FREE...


Remember those who fought and are still fighting the good fight...


And long may she wave!
Happy Birthday America!
May GOD bless you forever!