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  • blackberry

    Been several months since I’ve done one of these! Thought it was time to do a good old-fashioned brain dump!

    +In My Head
    Summer’s here! So, mostly I’m now thinking about gardening, yardening, and keeping up with everything outside. It’s going to be a chore but we’ll see how it goes. Last September I joined a gym near my work so I could work out better/differently at lunch. It hit me a week or two ago that I really needed to quit the gym for the next three to four months so that I could work outside on my lunch breaks. I can still do some weightlifting here (when I think about it!) and go for runs after Forest goes to bed (if I’m not gardening!). So, I cancelled my membership the other day and now it is full-on keeping up with the yard mode now! It’s actually a nice mental shift for me.

    +Watching
    Big Bang Theory, Call the Midwife, and Outlander. The first two are about to wrap up for the season and Outlander is on until early July. I just saw the preview for the new season of Orange Is The New Black and I will be binging that mid-June. Other than that, I’m not watching much else!

    Ooh, late movie additions: I have been battling a late spring cold/upper respiratory which has left me not wanting to do much in the evenings this last week. One night I tried finding something to watch on tv and found a bunch of dreck. I went to my On Demand and found Inside/Out, the kid’s cartoon about emotions. Very good! Definitely recommend it. Then, I found Imitation Game with Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch about Alan Turing, the man who basically launched us into the world of computers and helped break the German Enigma Code during WWII. Also a movie I recommend! I don’t watch many movies these days but I’m going to have to remember to check our On Demand and Amazon Prime links this summer when I want to just relax a bit!

    +Outside My Window
    Right this moment I’m typing at the kitchen table while I finish my coffee and looking at the freshly mowed backyard and a calm pond. It looks enticing!

    +In The Art Studio
    Absolutely nothing. I need to get back in there and finish cleaning up some stuff I started months ago but I doubt I will be in there much this summer. The studio is a dark season affair.

    +In The Garden
    We’re about to hit peak blackberry harvesting! I can’t wait to have beaucoups of them and hope to make some jam, cobbler, and freeze a bit. Of course most will be eaten straight! Tomatoes are starting to do well but I think we’ve got a little while before they take off. I’m not sure how much they will take off this year because they were all planted in our hugelkulture-like perimeter beds, but we’ve had a few tomatoes here and there. There’s quite a ton going on in the gardens and I should start dedicating a weekly post to what’s going on out there.

    +Reading
    I’ll do a book review later on in the month but I’ve not read a ton this month. After reading, reading, reading for the last few months I decided to slow it down a bit. So far I’ve read only Lab Girl but The Penderwicks just became available digitally. I’m getting close to being up for a couple of books on my Overdrive so I’ll have to focus on those when I get them.

    +Drinking
    I just ground my last of the Ruta Maya coffee and it is time to get something else. I made Kombucha, what, almost two months ago now, and I have barely drank it. I’m so fickle with wanting it a lot and then none at all. I did read that I can take the kombucha brew that has basically turned to vinegar and turn it into a shrub. I did find recipes for using the shrub without liquor and using sparkling water instead. Who knows! I still need to get around to making mead. Soon!

    +Loving
    Our office! We really should have made this a project before we had Forest but we didn’t. Chris spent a few weeks this spring fixing the room up and we found desks on Craigslist that we both liked. And now, I finally have a space in the office! We’re a little behind and need to get the rest of the stuff we moved out and shoved into the guest bedroom to a more permanent homesite, whether that’s the office or somewhere else. Shouldn’t take but a few nights or a few hours on a weekend but it needs to get done. Chris did a great job with the office and I’m so glad to have the space now.

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    We popped into Gonzales, Texas the afternoon before Mother’s Day to take a break from the heat and have a little diversion. Plus, we were on the prowl for ice cream, hoping to find a local ice cream store!

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    The city was like many small Texas towns, slowly fading with many historic buildings that were empty or decaying. Sure there were quite a few businesses in the town center and we popped into a few of them, but it was a quiet little town.

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    The most interesting shop that we would have explored more of if a: the stroller fit through the aisles and b: a toddler wasn’t in tow, would have been this insane antique/junk shop. There was everything imaginable in there! This was a hoarder’s paradise! Near the front of the store I saw a pile of stuff just waiting to be sorted and displayed (not sure that’s correct, there wasn’t much of a display, just things on shelves or racks) for people to rummage through. It was a neat place but I couldn’t go very far with the stroller and Forest wasn’t all that interested. Well, he was interested in knocking things off shelves!

    I did find an old bathtub out front and texted a photo to my brother who has been wanting an old tub to put in his garden. He was excited to see that they had one but we’d already left by that time and I had no idea how much it cost.

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    I found a little bit of time to do some street photography as we walked along. I really miss doing this kind of photography!

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    Then we walked about a half a mile east to the Gonzales Memorial Museum to see the original ‘Come and Take It’ cannon! Turns out, the cannon is actually very small!

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    The museum itself was fascinating and I would have loved to have studied the exhibits longer. All sorts of weird items!

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    I really loved this cross stitch. An 111 year project!

    There are several other small historic towns in this area, including Shiner, and if you are in the area for camping at Palmetto State Park it is worth checking out this little town and getting a dose of Texas history!

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    Assassin bug nymphs

    For the most part, wildlife at Palmetto State Park was about looking to smaller species. On one of our hikes Chris stated beforehand that he wanted to see a snake and a caterpillar. That was surprisingly achieved! The caterpillar wouldn’t have been too hard if we’d looked but we ended up having one walk (slowly!) right across the trail. The snake, I figured, would be harder, but as we rounded a corner on the trail a rat snake was trying its best to disguise itself on the edge of the vegetation while soaking in some of the sunny warmth poking through the forest canopy. We did not see many deer, in fact I’m trying to remember if we saw any at all! The campsites were split up, with the tent section on the north side of the San Marcos river and the RV sites on the south side. The bathroom in the RV section is where the showers were located so on the first evening I drove over to shower. On my way back to our campsite, just after I’d left the boundary of the state park and was about a quarter mile from the stop sign to turn onto the main road, a huge group of feral hogs ran across the park road. Now, Texas(ans) keep talking about feral pigs here but I have just never come across as much evidence or sightings of them as we did in Florida. So, this was actually a little treat for me to see as the group of approximately 20 pigs ran across the road and into the woods. I thought about trying to take a shot of the little piglet butt that I saw as I finally caught up to where they crossed but knew the shot wouldn’t quite turn out as well. I think the last time I saw a wild hog in Texas was in the Beaumont Unit of the Big Thicket NP five years ago.

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    Rabdotus dealbatus, Whitewashed Rabdotus snail

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    Our snake friend. Chris said it was a Texas rat snake. I’m just going to trust him on that one because I don’t really feel like trying to verify it!

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    Apatelodes torrefacta, Spotted Apatelodes caterpillar

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    I think this is Belocaulus angustipes black-velvet leatherleaf slug….which is unfortunate because it is an exotic.

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    Halysidota larrisii, sycamore tussock moth on…*drumroll*, a sycamore tree!

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    It was definitely a park for finding the smaller wildlife sightings. Of course we had plenty of mosquito friends and saw birds, squirrels, and heard the chorus of frogs, too.

    Over Mother’s Day weekend we loaded up and went camping at Palmetto State Park. We’d had reservations here before, over the winter, but cancelled them due to weather. What’s interesting about this park, kind of in a similar botanic way to Bastrop State Park just to the north with their patch of pine trees, is that this park is the western most population of Sabal minor, or dwarf palmetto.

    The park is located adjacent to the San Marcos river and definitely has a unique ecosystem for this particular region of Texas. While walking along many of the trails it was easy to picture that we were over in our neck of the woods in southeast Texas instead of south-central Texas!

    Here’s a botanical tour of what we saw on our hikes throughout the park!

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    Aesculus glabra var. arguta, Texas buckeye

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    Thistle

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    Dogwood

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    Vitis mustangensis, mustang grape

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    Prickly pear

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    Ratibida columnifera, yellow Mexican hats

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    Clematis pitcheri

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    Cooperia pedunculata, Hill Country rain lily

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    Erythrina herbacea, coralbean

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    Chris had a minor freak out when he spotted this along one of the trails. A variegated Turks cap hibiscus! Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii. We have a specimen in our garden that he bought online but we’d never seen a variegated one in the wild.

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    The more typical Mexican hat.

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    Another yellow one!

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    And a lovely scene on the edge of a mesquite prairie before we wound back into the palmetto area.

    There was quite a bit of wildflowers blooming and we enjoyed the diversity in habitats that the park displayed!

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    I took these photos on April 19th and since then I haven’t been able to find more caterpillars or any chrysalises despite seeing quite a few monarch butterflies flitting about and landing on the milkweed as well as additional eggs throughout the month. I’m not sure if they are being predated on or if our storms shortly after taking these photos influenced their outcome. Likely a combination of both which is a little depressing.

    It’s been a little hectic around here and while I’ve had plenty of things to write I’ve been trying to stay on top of multiple things. We went camping over the weekend and I’ve processed all of those photos and now just need to turn them into blog posts. I have another blog post in my head that’s about a little more on the ‘thoughts’ line of posts but that’s going to take some time to get out of my head and onto the computer.

    There’s a new podcast up at The Garden Path Podcast today! More from me soon!

    Some thoughts and link sharing for your Friday: a little happy, a little sad mixed in this week.

    1. Lemonade. More specifically, a certain mixture created by Beyonce. Two Saturday’s ago as I was scrolling for Outlander tweets I kept seeing social media blowing up about Beyonce’s HBO special releasing her new album. By the next Sunday night someone posted a link to a Vimeo video, now currently taken down as it was pirated, streaming the entire 1 hour movie. I had already been debating what I was going to do after Forest went to bed and I opted to watch the entire movie. Holy cow! I liked and listened to Destiny’s Child back in college and have liked some of her hits in more recent years but have never really become a fan or owned an album. But I was enthralled by what she created with this movie and album. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I Googled Becky with the good hair and have since been interested in all of the commentary about the album, ranging from a treatise on feminism to black culture in America.
    2. The SeaAggies Tribute Geocache: We’ve barely geocached in years but when we were most active in Florida, we put out some super difficult and interesting caches. I had no idea we still had a following after all of these years! Most of our caches have been disabled and the ones remaining have been transferred into the hands of other people who can maintain them for us.
    3. Why we dont produce more scientists: A one word explanation I just started Jahren’s book…so far so good and she’s already talked about money in scientific funding.
    4. Girls softball in Dallas hugely popular from Flashback Dallas: hat tip to my brother for this link! I played softball from ages 5-17 and A League of Their Own is one of my favorite movies.
    5. Well known AT thru-hiker Baltimore Jack dies: On Wednesday morning Chris told me that Miss Janet, a well known AT trail angel, had posted to Facebook that Baltimore Jack had passed away. This was incredibly shocking because Baltimore Jack was someone deeply ingrained in the trail community. Our own hike had us interacting with him in varying levels three different times, the longest instance being in Harper’s Ferry where he helped us at the outdoor stores there, where he told us about the opening celebrations of the Appalachian Trail museum in Pine Grove Furnace State Park. He encouraged us to crank some miles to get to the event in time but also encouraged us to slow down after to enjoy New England in the fall (which we didn’t end up doing and we finished our hike in mid-August). While our interactions with him were brief they definitely left an imprint on our trip. The Pox and Puss AT podcast interviewed him a few years ago and you can listen to his episodes here. The video below is incredibly moving and absolutely on point regarding the emotion of climbing Katahdin.

    It’s been a few years since I first heard about Peckerwood Garden. I think I may have stumbled across it when we moved to NW Houston when I was searching out plant nurseries and gardens, and then the garden was reinforced when I saw fliers at our local plant nursery advertising their Open Days that occur a few times in spring and fall. We finally managed to make it there last weekend but it was not the glorious botanical experience I was hoping for!

    I’d called about four or six weeks ago to find out if we needed to pay for a ticket for Forest since he was under 2 and most venues don’t charge for children under a certain age. When I called, the woman answering the phone let me know not to bring a stroller because they don’t allow them in the garden, no big deal since we have the Osprey carrier, but she just the way her voice answered my question seemed that not too many kids came to this event. We didn’t end up needing to pay for his ticket, so that was good. The weekend to visit the garden had only become an option because we’d decided not to attend the wedding of one of our field LTE co-workers. Forest had done well at a little over six months old last year for his first wedding but he had been a baby that could be held and he slept a lot. Both Chris and I didn’t have it in us to keep a toddler quiet during a wedding and to chase him during the reception. Check for us making the right decision on that front….big X for us not quite realizing Forest was *not* going to stand for going slow on a garden tour!

    The tour started off well but our guide stopped frequently to discuss the plantings and we would linger for many minutes at each location. When Forest realized we weren’t moving as we do when hiking he started getting fussy. The last thing we needed was a toddler screeching while the other guests were listening to the guide! I offered banana to him while he sat in the pack but it quickly turned into a situation where he wasn’t going to sit in the pack without throwing a fit. Chris and I then alternated between holding him and letting him walk with us holding his hand. It was not the most relaxing tour by far and thus I took very few photos despite there being a ton of photo opportunities around every corner!

    I think we’re going to have to return in a few years when he’s a little easier to placate and can understand going slow! It was a little surprising for us because he’s usually very mellow in his backpack! I think it would have been an entirely different ordeal if we could have moved at our own pace but as the garden is private, there’s no solo exploration allowed!

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    Read
    +Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout by Philip Connors: I really loved this book! If you like to read stories about the outdoors, this book is for you. The premise is that the author is working as a journalist in NYC when one of his friends let’s him know that a fire lookout job is available in New Mexico. He’d previously spent some time in a tower with this friend and really enjoyed his time out there. Well, one thing lead to another and Connors ends up spending half the year looking for fires in the Gila Wilderness and the other half tending bar.

    What I liked about this book was that it wasn’t strictly about the life in a lookout tower but also about the history of the USFS, our country’s history with fire and fire control/suppression, and some interesting local knowledge about tribes that lived in the area. There’s an especially heartwrenching portion of the story about a fawn he finds—well, I can’t tell you about that, you will have to read it. Heartwrenching, though!

    Highly recommend this one!

    +The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom: This book. This book was full of dumb-asses. I started saying ‘dumb-asses’ in my head so much I started channeling Red Forman.

    For starters, I’d flagged this book for a hold as it was recommended to me on my digital Overdrive account. The premise sounded interesting when I borrowed it: 1790s southern Virginia plantation, a six year old Irish girl who’s forced into indentured servitude because her parents died on their way to America, she’s separated from her younger brother who is sold to someone else. The first dumbass in this book is the captain of the ship and the plantation owner. He’s a dumb-ass because he never corrects his wife and young son’s thoughts that Belle, a mixed-race slave and secondary narrator, is his daughter and not his mistress. Gah, if he’d not had his head up his ass about this, everything else in the book wouldn’t have been so damned bad. The thing is everyone and their dog knew the truth the entire time I don’t understand how the wife, Miss Martha, never figured it out. Or how the son, Marshall, didn’t figure it out. Cue dumb-asses.

    Without going into crazy detail about this book, I’ll say that it started off well. It was a semi-typical antebellum story and moved along well which is why I kept reading it. Lavinia, the Irish girl, grows up living among the slaves but it is clear that she’s kind of in a limbo; she’s not high enough to live in the Big House but she isn’t quite low enough to be totally mixed in with the slaves. That’s another thing that bothered me, while it was apparent this was slavery and the issues of owning people was brought up many times, the use of the word servant was thrown about far too much for me. This isn’t Downton Abbey servants. Her slave family are slightly elevated slaves as they are the kitchen and house slaves, not the field slaves. The author does make a decent distinction between how each of those two groups lived, one fairly better than the other.

    Something I also had trouble with on occasion was picturing the scenes. I kept envisioning a modern kitchen, or at least a late 1800s kitchen, not a late 1700s kitchen. My kitchen kept having a sink. Yeah, I don’t think that happened!

    This book is full of death, rape, violence, child molestation, mental disorders, drug abuse (good gravy, the trope of laudanum!), alcohol abuse, and all sorts of other crap. The author pulled all the tricks out for this book and most of the time I couldn’t wait to see what other sordid thing she was going to bring out next. Honestly, the first half of the book I thought was decent. Lavinia was a little dense but I figured she’d grow out of it, that the elders in her life would actually educate her a little bit about the ways of the world. But no, the girl never gets any common sense and never becomes any kind of figure you are rooting for.

    I rated this 3 stars on Goodreads because it was a page turner and easily readable. I found a lot of fun in reading the 1 and 2 star reviews because they were all lamenting, like me, why on earth the book had so many 4 and 5 star reviews. I did find out there’s a sequel that just came out. I’m not sure I have it in me to read it, but I am kind of curious about how a few people ended up!

    In other words, don’t waste your time on this book!

    I thought this was another interesting take on this book: from GoodnCrazy.com

    +Hiking the Florida Trail: 1,100 Miles, 78 Days, Two Pairs of Boots, and One Heck of an Adventure by Johnny Molloy: As I was reading this book I found several parallels in our hike as compared to his hike. As I said a few months ago I had held off from reading any trail memoirs as I was writing my book and found myself needing to know what some of the books were really about before I sent out book proposals. The writing was easy to read and enjoyable for the most part. Molloy hiked the trail in, I think 2005 or 2006, the book was published in 2008, so there were definitely some differences in trail routes from our hike in 2011. Like the The Florida Trail End to End that I wrote about last month, Molloy finished his hike at the Alabama state line in Blackwater River State Forest. It sounded like he had initially wanted to end at Fort Pickens but the effects of Hurricane Ivan were still on-going when he finished his hike and there were issues with closures along the beach, including at Fort Pickens. Also noted were more roadwalks than even we did, particularly in the panhandle. The Palatka-Lake Butler rail-to-trail hadn’t been added as a route to the Florida Trail at that point and so a lot of that was a road walk…which he opted to take a whirl on the rail-to-trail anyway and found it only recently cleared. Having barrled our way down uncleared rail-to-trail before I can’t imagine doing it on the Florida Trail! Also noticeable were longer roadwalks in the section from Econfina Creek west to Eglin. I’m so very thankful we got some new public and private lands to break up that roadwalk. One interesting item I noted, and even Molloy remarked about it a few times, was how he made a campfire every night and most mornings. Definitely not a common event among thru-hikers, even in areas along the Appalachian Trail, unless there’s a group of day or section hikers out. Overall it is a great book to introduce hikers to the Florida Trail. Easy to read and there was quite a bit of interesting facts about some of the locales that I didn’t even know about!

    Abandoned
    +All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: I’ve had this on hold digitally and for a hard copy at the library for several months now. The internet has been raging about this Pulitzer Prize winning WWII novel and I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and begin reading it. The hard copy came up for me but unfortunately I got about 30-40 pages in and it wasn’t doing anything for me. The ‘chapters’, if you can call them that, are 1-2 pages long and jump between the stories of the two main characters. Just when you are getting involved in a scene you are pulled out and flopped back into the story of the other person. It was incredibly annoying. I lost patience very quickly and because I knew I wouldn’t be able to suffer through it by renewing it, as there are other people on the wait list, I opted to return it. I’ll likely try this again another day/year when I can purchase my own copy to take my time. Or not. Who knows?

    On Deck
    +Lab Girl by Hope Jahren: Erin at The Familiar Wilderness gave me a heads up about this book not long before it debuted last month. I put in requests for my Overdrive to get a digital copy and I also reserved a hard copy at the library. It looks like I’m next up for the digital copy so I’m holding off on reading anything else digitally for now. Looking forward to this!

    +Baby Birds: An Artist Looks Into the Nest by Julie Zickefoose: I first found out about Julie Zickefoose, gosh, maybe in 8 or 9 years ago when she was a commentator on NPR. I found her blog and followed her here and there but with our hikes on the AT and FT and then our field work, I stopped staying in the loop. Erin at TFW has been friends with her for awhile and I’d seen her post and converse with her in various social media outlets and so I started following Julie once again. She’s got a great blog and I love her perspective on the natural world! Well, she’s been working for years and years on this book, building a portfolio of baby bird paintings and finally the book was published. I opted to support her by purchasing Baby Birds directly from her site instead of Amazon as she retains more of the profit that way. I’ve just barely flipped through it but it is beautiful! Forest even liked the bird paintings but I have to be careful because I know he’ll go to town tearing pages!

    What are y’all reading?

    It’s been a hectic week here (sickies, flooding!), so I thought it appropriate to have a Friday Five for some warm fuzzies!

    1. Patrice emailed me a week ago to say that she had spotted my little old blog on a compilation list of Best Backpacking and Hiking Websites of All time. Whaaa? Having spent nearly 14 years writing on the internet it is pretty nice to get a little bit of acknowledgement that someone out there enjoys my blog enough to put it on a ‘best of’ list! I’m down there at 119. I liked this list because it gives me a few more blogs to check out that I didn’t know about!
    2. Little Bear Gets Real Part I and Part 2. I can’t remember when I started following this blog but it’s been a few years. When they had their son last year I wondered how they would incorporate some of their big explorations into the backcountry with an infant. I’ve watched them as they’ve done hikes, sledding, and little trips here and there, but this one takes the cake! Backcountry hiking and packrafting in Utah for a multi-day trip with an older baby? Successfully? Yes, they did it! Proof that with planning and patience, it doesn’t mean giving up some of the adventures you might have had pre-baby. Definitely a kick in the butt for us to get out next Fall when the weather cools off and take Forest backpacking. We’ve got the long day hikes and car camping down, I think we need to upgrade our backpacking gear and get after it!
    3. Props to the US Treasury for finally diversifying our money by putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. Two thumbs down for keeping the man behind a genocide on the back side of the bill. *sigh*
    4. I’m trying to think if I actually ever met Paul when we lived in Florida, but he is one of Chris’ photographer/swamping/orchid friends. We have a photo of his on our wall! Well, he’s really made a name for himself over the last several years, enough so to get a photo of his from Everglades National Park on a stamp! Really cool!
    5. Monarch babies! Those eggs I posted earlier in the week hatched and we have cute caterpillars chomping away on the milkweed now! I took some photos earlier this week but need to head back out and see how they’ve grown. Yippie!

    What great stuff is going on with you?

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