Overnight on the Four Notch Loop/Lone Star Trail



Last weekend we made it happen—we got out and did our second backpacking trip with Forest. If you remember last year’s trip, well, we intended to make another trip much sooner than we did. But finally, we made it out and did another overnight with Forest.

Now, Forest loves to hike and camp and any time we bring it up that we may be going camping or hiking he gets very excited and happy at the prospect. So, when camping plans go awry due to weather conditions it dampers his mood a bit. It seems like every weekend these days it appears that a chance of rain is in the forecast. The weekend before we had put off an overnight hike in favor of the day hike but then it didn’t even rain. This time we opted to just go for it and do as many miles the first night and hope for less hiking the next morning in case it rained. And as I was hiking back to the car the following day I remembered that we were heading home where showers and dry clothes were—this wasn’t a multi-month trip! I know, the simple things, right?

Having just dipped our toes into the Four Notch Loop the weekend before, we opted to return. Chris and I debated if we wanted to do a short hike in and have Forest walk the entire way or take a longer hike and have Chris carry Forest for large spurts. Chris wanted a longer hike and opted to carry Forest which meant I carried all of the gear. And oof, I know Forest is heavy but carrying all of our gear in one bag isn’t fun. The good thing going for us were the many access points for water and so I carried only a Nalgene for me, a Gatorade bottle for Chris, and Forest’s small Camelbak toddler cup. I could handle that.

We grabbed lunch on the way out to the trailhead, eliminating the need for carrying another meal, and then hit the trail after lunch. The weather was gorgeous—sunny and warm with the wonderful east Texas pine wafting through the woods.



Heading counterclockwise on the loop, we soon encountered more may apples. Forest is now a may apple scouting aficionado and began finding them before we even managed to spot them!



Unfortunately we also spotted a dead red-bellied woodpecker just a few feet from the trail with no evidence of what caused its demise.

However, we didn’t get much further before I spotted a luna moth! We’ve seen a couple in our yard before, though I can’t remember if they were alive or not. I would have called this the highlight of the day but….


after crossing a creek I spotted two more!

Forest got out of the pack a few times to take a break (or really, give Chris a break) and we meandered through uplands, into mesic areas and then down into bottomlands and creek bottoms.

And spotted another luna moth! After the first three I was really on the lookout for more about 2-3′ off the ground. I imagine we passed dozens or hundreds on the hike without seeing them.

Pollen insanity around here right now! This was Chris’ boots!

Forest kept calling the trail markers “Stop signs”.




The creek crossings on this loop were in varying states of condition. Across Boswell Creek, the largest creek through the area, I felt it really needed a footbridge of some sort. (Not Boswell Creek in these photos above) We had to cross it twice on the loop and at both there were piles of debris where the trail went across the creek and I can imagine during high water this would not be a safe crossing.

We passed one woman trail running/hiking along the way and Forest passed out shortly after. We hiked quietly to where the loop met back up with the main Lone Star Trail and took a short break. Our goal was to cross the other portion of Boswell Creek in case it rained overnight—it was in the forecast—and make it another bit down the trail and set up camp.


Wool sower gall

As I sat eating my snack, I looked across the woods and about thirty feet away was another luna moth! This ended up being our 6th!


So gorgeous!

We got on our way and after crossing the creek and getting water for dinner, it took a bit to find a decent spot to camp because we were in a low area and the mosquitoes were pesky. I definitely started lagging, that end of the day “I’m done” mentality creeping in. But finally we found a clearing next to the trail and set up camp. It looked to be an old access road or maybe a fire break—not sure, but it was large enough for us to set up camp.


Chris kept a tab on the weather overnight and it appeared we had a chance for rain on the hike out. It happened to be daylight savings weekend, too, so that made going to bed difficult for Forest. He’s used to eating a light dinner and then having a second dinner around 8-8:30pm. We told him when we hung the food bag that that was it, no more food until morning, and it was hard for him to understand that. And then he ended up having a potty accident in the middle of the night—an extreme rarity since getting out of night time diapers—but I suspect that’s because we were in the tent so early and he didn’t get a 9pm potty break in. Good thing I packed multiple pairs of clothes for him!

We ate quickly the next morning, opting for bars and easy snacks instead of the oatmeal we brought since we wanted to get on the trail and back to the car in case a thunderstorm came up. We weren’t on the trail long when the sky darkened for a minute and we thought the rain was going to come. It did try to spit a mile or so later but luckily did only that. We made it back to the car in about an hour and thirty or forty minutes, which was pretty good timing. No stops and Chris carried Forest the entire way that morning.

I would love to do this loop again in the future. It is easily accessible and there’s enough terrain and habitat variety to keep things interesting!

Along the Lone Star Trail | Four Notch Section

Over the weekend we got out and stretched our legs a bit on the Lone Star Trail. Chris picked a trail head near Coldspring, NE of I-45. The drive there wasn’t too bad and I want to come back to this section to complete the loop trail here. It would make an excellent day hike or a short overnight hike with Forest.

Our plans originally were to backpack over the weekend, do a short mile or two in and camp, but the weather looked sketchy for overnight Saturday/Sunday—turns out we never got that weather so I guess we could have gone. Oh well, you can only go with what the forecast gives you.

This particular section was gorgeous with many creek crossings. While much of the area we walked through was planted pine, some of it was a pine/mixed hardwood area with some diversity.


Next time we come out this way I’ll have to bring my dSLR. I wasn’t feeling in the mood to deal with it so we only took the point and shoot. As you will see later, a dSLR would have come in handy!




Chris and Forest scoped out several of the creeks, scouting for orchids or other interesting plants that would line the side of a creek.

Forest lost interest early on in walking on his own so Chris toted him for pretty much the entire hike.


We wandered off trail for a few minutes to look for plants and came across a snake which Chris believed to be a coachwhip!

The cloudy eyes gave us the clue it was looking to shed its skin soon.

After awhile we crossed a forest service road and found a makeshift camp/parking area to stop and take a break.



We continued on down the trail and the habitat certainly changed in this section with a more open forest than back when we were in the planted pine area. After we came up a slope from a creek crossing, we stopped to look at our surroundings because the section was ripe habitat for something interesting. Sure enough we immediately spotted may apples, Podophyllum peltatum!

They were covering the entire slope of that area!



If you look hard you can see the may apples dotting the leaf debris with green.

Chris was excited with the find and knew we were ripe for finding orchids!


Not much further was another creek crossing (the same creek) and it was also piquing our interest as an opportunity for exploration and so Chris headed off down the creek by himself while I stayed back with Forest.

A few minutes later he reported across the way that he had found an orchid! So Forest and I found ourselves trying to figure out how to get to Chris, which ended up being the entirely worst way! We hopped to the wrong side of the creek, only I didn’t know it was not going to be a good way to go until I saw where Chris was located. Forest in tow, we hopped across the creek again. I placed Forest up on a small ledge above me and as I tried to get up onto it myself, my right shoe was sucked off my feet by the creek mud! Oops! This followed by the other shoe getting sucked off, too, and a few moments of trying to finagle myself out of the creek without getting too muddy.

You can see how well that all worked out!

We all checked out the orchid, a southern twayblade, Neottia bifolia, and then looked at a patch of cranefly orchids (seen here), Tipularia discolor, nearby.

I think this is a Smilax pumila seedling.

After our botanical finds we turned around and headed back towards the car. Now that we have a spot for these orchids and they aren’t too far in from a trailhead, I think we’ll come back next year for some better photos! And we might as well camp out while we’re at it!

February 2018 Book Report

As I mentioned in my recent Life Lately post, I signed up with NetGalley to read some pre-published books at the beginning of the month. Two of those books are on this list and I’ll note them in the summary. I’m in the middle of two others with a third on the back burner because it doesn’t expire until May.

+The Garden in Every Sense and Season by Tovah Martin: *NetGalley* If you are familiar with Tasha Tudor you may already know who Tovah Martin is as she wrote a couple of books about Tudor, the more known book being Tasha Tudor’s Garden. The Garden in Every Sense and Season is a series of essays surrounding the five senses in the garden during each season. The first couple of essays really stuck with me regarding the whirlwind of spring and I appreciated feeling that connection to my own feelings about gardening, especially when I’m in the midst of it right now. There’s a lot to do and not enough time to pack it all in before time slips away. As with many garden writers, they always seem to be northern gardeners, which can sometimes be hard to identify with when you live in the south. Reading the Winter section proved more difficult for me because I don’t have to deal with the trappings of snow.

Overall I enjoyed the series of essays and it will go well with other garden writers who have written similar books over the years. The photos are gorgeous, too, and I was very envious of the lush gardens she has!

+Backpack Explorer: On the Nature Trail by the Editors of Storey Publishing: *Net Galley* This feels a bit like cheating because it is a kids book, however I thought it was really cute and Forest even flipped through it with me. I think the age was for 4-6 or 7 and I would said 5 or 6 would be a better age for it to used interactively, such as with a nature journal. The younger readers would probably enjoy it just for looking at the pictures and learning with an adult. I will probably look for this to purchase for Forest later this year when the book is published because it is right up his alley!

+The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte: I’ve listened to LaPorte on various podcasts throughout the years but I’ve never been able to buy into some of the woo surrounding her. That said, this book, both audio and digital versions, is free on her website right now so I downloaded it and listened to the audio portion. It is comprised of two volumes, the first a typical book that addresses how to create your core desires and working to create the action plan and the second volume an actual workbook for you to sit down and freeform write out all of the key items in your life. I’m still working on the workbook section and I’m doing that on the PDF. I don’t think I would have outright bought this unless it was reasonably priced—and free is beyond that! However, LaPorte is the narrator of the audio and she has an amazing voice and paired with some very mystical music, it makes for a lovely audio experience. Worth downloading if you are into brainstorming life goals and narrowing down your focus!

+The New Shade Garden: Creating a Lush Oasis in the Age of Climate Change by Ken Druse: A commenter on a blog keyed me into a super duper bargain for this book on Amazon…I think I bought it for a little over $5 with tax and this is normally a $40 coffee table book! It’s been on my list to read for several years now but was never any kind of priority read…but super cheap on Amazon moved it right on up to the top of the list. It’s a gorgeous book filled with all sorts of useful plants to add to a shade garden. Being as a lot of our garden is comprised of shade, one of my goals this year is to get more lower layers into the garden, more creeping or low lying groundcovers to fill out gaps. While this book would be slightly more helpful to those in the northeast or mid-Atlantic due to Druse living in that area, you can easily take suggestions from the book and find the analog for your region. I love this book and I’ll be pulling it to read out for years to come!

The other two NetGalley books I’m reading are Wildflowers of Texas by Michael Eason and The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables by Catherine Reid. Both are fabulous and both I will have to purchase, especially the wildflower guide—it is the most comprehensive field guide for forbs I’ve seen for the state. Plants I’ve not been able to identify because I haven’t seen them in any guide or they are hard to figure out online—I’ve seen them in this book! I’m also listening to Delancey by Molly Wizenberg, which is so far fairly good but at the same time odd considering she’s no longer married to Brandon and has come out as bi-sexual and is with another partner. I mean, the latter part is not odd to me, just the fact that I’m sitting here in 2018 knowing that as she’s writing this six years ago or whatever and that she doesn’t know she’s not going to be married to Brandon. Anyway…interesting to read so far!

On another note, I was going through Feedburner the other day and noticed that Adventures Reads is my second most read blog post. Which is weird because I have no comments on it and I don’t know where I got all of those hits from—someone must have linked to me somewhere, I just have no idea where! It gave me the idea to do Adventure Reads Part II, so look for that soon!

What are you reading these days?

Life Lately | February 2018

+In My Head
Finally, we are warming up, though I could do without the constant cloak of grey the sky seems to be enveloped in for 5 out of 7 days of the week. Chris and I have already been talking about spring storms and the possibilities of floods occurring. Our consensus is that the likelihood is high considering the wet winter and the fact the low spots in the front yard haven’t been dry in about two months. I’m hoping not because I’d rather not have spring and early summer crops thwarted because of their being emerged in water.

I find myself needing to talk myself down from all sorts of projects and ideas these days and the following beratings that happen because I can’t possibly do them all. Which brings me to a wonderful essay by Austin Kleon about The best thing ever written about “work-life balance”. In other words, one thing at a time, Misti.

I’ve mentioned previously that I’ve been trying to sell various kid items through Craigslist and Nextdoor and I’ll have spurts where the selling is good. The key, which I’m having to remind myself, is to delete my post and repost it about once a week so it is up at the top. I always get bites when I do that and make some progress. Last weekend I took out all of Forest’s 2T clothes and moved the 3T items in and it was bittersweet, as it is every time I switch out his clothes, to say goodbye to pieces he will never wear again. I saved favorites and even some he didn’t wear much but were special, such as Aggie related items or Texas Ranger related items. I remembered a former coworker who lives in the area that I could pass them off to so that will help me with those items but I will have to find someone else for the smaller sized clothes when I finally get through them. I would rather get our bedroom cleaned up from the other items I’m selling before I dig out more stuff.

I finally finished Charmed a week or so ago. It feels good to be through that binge but also sad at the same time. The earlier seasons are by far my favorite, particularly the pre-9/11 episodes because of what they recall, a different era. It seems like the 90s were yesterday but they nearly two decades ago. It feels like the 00s were yesterday and here we are 8 years after those. That said, the series should have ended at season 7, maybe tied it up a little differently, but ended then. It worked. Season 8 was good but it felt like a different show in a way. Kaley Cuoco was in Season 8, just before she started with The Big Bang Theory and it feels as bit like that was a launching pad for her to land into TBBT.

Victoria is still on, though the final episode is tomorrow. The season went by too quickly and the bundling of two episodes each the first two weeks made that happen. I do enjoy going to Google particular characters after an episode airs to figure out what the true story was and I’m finding out they are taking some liberties with the show. I mean, I know tv does this but really didn’t expect some of it to be like that on a PBS show. Ah, ratings.

This is Us: Tell me you haven’t side-eyed every appliance in your house after that episode?


The Big Bang Theory: It’s been on hold for a few week so I don’t have much to say at the moment.

Homeland: I’m torn between throttling Carrie for BEING SO STUPID TO CLICK ON A LINK FROM A TROLL ON A DARK WEB FORUM, are you former CIA or what girl???—and being all up on the bandwagon of what are they going to reflect back at us from our current state in politics. You know you are in a confused state when you find yourself cheering on the alt-right radio show host (who, it looks to be, doesn’t actually like his base listeners…that’ll be interesting to see) because he’s denouncing a fascist president—but you know this isn’t quite mirroring real life because in real life the alt-right radio show host is all on board with the fascist president. It’s confusing, I’m wondering where they are going with this and because real-life events are getting more insane by the day (read: Mueller investigation), and so insane that I can’t keep up, nor do I necessarily understand how all of the pieces are fitting together. Anyway, more on that spin in just a second….but yes, Homeland, very good. Every time the opening song comes on I’m taken back to my maternity leave when I binged the first three seasons while nursing Forest during that time period. It reminds me of those quiet mornings and afternoons of early fall and a particular way the sun was—already a different era.

We watched Arrival with Amy Adams a few weeks ago with Jessica, our SIL through Chris’ brother. It was a wonderful movie and I highly recommend it.

Other than that and since my Charmed binge is complete I haven’t been watching much tv. Which is probably a really good thing.

+Outside My Window
Spring! Trees and bulbs are blooming and it is so delightful! The earth is awakening and I am delighted to finally be seeing that, though we could use a period without rain.

At the end of last month I met my friend Meghan at a local park to do some sketching. Meghan and her husband went to college with us and they moved to DC/Maryland for about ten years or so before they moved back to Texas this last summer. When I got to DC for my last job when I lived in Florida, I met up with Meghan a couple of times where we had some fun evenings trying to be creative with night photography and generally just seeing different sites in DC. We actually reconnected back when MySpace was a thing and then through Flickr when Flickr was what Instagram is now. I miss Flickr and the community there, it was so different than what social media is today. It felt closer. So, yes, Meghan and I were creative friends for awhile and they met us in Harpers Ferry when we came through on the AT. But then since I quit Facebook, like so many other friendships that are seemingly only based on that these days, we drifted apart. But since our re-connection I’m hoping we pick up our artsy friendship again.

While we were sketching I noticed she had a cute travel watercolor kit. I wanted one so I used a Michael’s coupon and some Christmas money and bought myself one for keeping in the house and for taking on camping trips or hiking trips to do quick sketches. It feels very cathartic to do some art, even if it is a quick painting that means nothing more than getting paint on paper.

+In The Garden
As I mentioned, the garden is waking up. We’ve started cutting back dead vegetation and I’m itching to get the tomatoes planted. I’m also growing various plants out on the potting bench and we need to get some small trees in the ground before it warms up too much. That was something we should have done a few months ago. During the floods over the last couple of years we lost an olive and peach tree. The peach tree was actually a replacement to one we lost before that and so now my thoughts are to go with some native fruit trees that can handle that fluctuating hydrology that may come where they would be planted. Those trees are some Chickasaw plum saplings that Chris dug up from another tree in the yard as well as an American persimmon that I grew from seed from a tree in the neighborhood.

I ordered some seeds from Wood Thrush Natives a few weeks ago and those are all in the fridge stratifying. I’m also trying some out straight in pots on the potting bench just to see what might sprout. I need to plant a few things that I have been growing in pots over the last few weeks and months, too.

Lots to do to get ready for spring but I’m happy that life is coming back.

I have a book report to write for the month that I should get to in the next few days or early next month. Last month I saw a book called The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables and promptly went to Goodreads to flag it as to-read. I saw that a lot of people had reviewed it already despite it not being out for sale yet and realized that they were reading it via NetGalley. I have always wondered how people got pre-published books for review but never really investigated it, however this book prompted me to look. So, I signed up with NetGalley and filled out my information on what kind of reviewer I was and then searched for this book and some others of a similar vein and requested them from the publisher. The publisher can deny the request, of course. But within a few hours five of seven books I requested were approved and I was sent protected PDFs to read. I then I had to figure out how to read them because they were in a weird format but I was able to download a program called Bluefire Reader on my Kindle and voilà!

So, the last few weeks I’ve been reading those books because there is a time constraint, though not so much like the library digital loans of 2-3 weeks. But, I do want to read them before they expire so I’m trying to get them read!

I meant to include this article in my link round up that I did recently but forgot about it: Meet the Unlikely Hero Who Predicted Hurricane Harvey’s Floods. I was constantly tuned into Space City Weather during the storm and it was their forecast several days before landfall that really had me thinking it was going to be a very bad storm. Unfortunately they were right.

Beto for Texas! March 6th is Primary Day in Texas—go vote!

HEB’s Casa Ole Decaf Coffee: Last month I mentioned that I was going off the caffeine coffee since I had found whole bean decaf at Sprouts. Well, Sprouts is another 10-15 minutes down the road from our usual grocery stores so it isn’t on our typical route. But HEB is nearby and they actually have whole bean decaf in stock and I am loving their San Antonio and Austin blends! I tried one bag and when I was out and it was Chris’ turn for grocery duty I sent him to a detour from Kroger to HEB and had him get me three bags to last the month. I’m a decaf convert now. The jittery, nauseous feeling from the caffeine is gone and I still get to enjoy a delightful cup of coffee in the morning. WIN!

Slow Burn: A Podcast About Watergate: being that I was not born when Nixon was president, I’ve only ever had the cursory story in history classes growing up where we would watch All the President’s Men and then of course there was the movie Dick from my late teen years, which was spoofy. But as I listen to this podcast—and I have to listen to an episode or two at a time, I haven’t been able to devour them as there’s so much information to take in—all I can think of is the similarities to 45.

Oh, and in that vein: Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting All of Us Now by Thomas L. Friedman in the NYT:

Our democracy is in serious danger.

President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy.

Putin used cyberwarfare to poison American politics, to spread fake news, to help elect a chaos candidate, all in order to weaken our democracy. We should be using our cyber-capabilities to spread the truth about Putin — just how much money he has stolen, just how many lies he has spread, just how many rivals he has jailed or made disappear — all to weaken his autocracy. That is what a real president would be doing right now.

My guess is what Trump is hiding has to do with money. It’s something about his financial ties to business elites tied to the Kremlin. They may own a big stake in him. Who can forget that quote from his son Donald Trump Jr. from back in 2008: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets.” They may own our president.

But whatever it is, Trump is either trying so hard to hide it or is so naïve about Russia that he is ready to not only resist mounting a proper defense of our democracy, he’s actually ready to undermine some of our most important institutions, the F.B.I. and Justice Department, to keep his compromised status hidden.

That must not be tolerated. This is code red. The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office.

What’s up with you?

Forest Friday | Fennel Chomping Edition



My child has turned into an herb connoisseur. The moment he gets into the garden he’s searching for dill or fennel to snag, and of course carrots if they are available. In the flower garden we have creeping thyme and he’s all over that, too. I mean, I’m pleasantly surprised and delighted that he’s into eating fresh herbs from the garden but I wouldn’t have pinned it as something he would do.


The dill we had in fall and early winter succumbed to all of the freezes and I have since resown more seed, both for Forest and our pantry, but for the hopes to get the black swallowtails to return and lay eggs again. Now that I have the caterpillar tent—and I plan on ordering one more this year so I can separate out older caterpillars from younger ones and keep chrysalides separate—I want to try to raise some black swallowtails as well. We had quite a few caterpillars last year but I’m fairly certain predator insects and birds snagged all of them before the could pupate.




With the warmer temperatures, we are finally spending more time outside once again. Last weekend my parents were in town and Forest enjoyed time in the sandbox. Chris had made a pile of wood pieces that had fallen from various trees so he could take them to the fire pit and Forest took it upon himself to move all of the pieces, one at a time, over to his makeshift fire pit on the back porch! Talk about modeling behavior! It was too adorable to make him take it off the porch and later in the week Chris moved them to the actual fire pit.



Finally, I wanted to get a photo of Forest with my parents and Forest is entering the no-photos-of-me-please phase and so it took some convincing to get him to do that. We told him he could give my dad bunny ears and well, they turned out more like a peace sign! So, peace, y’all!

Warming Up in the Garden


I’d like to throttle whomever put up the forecast on Weather Underground yesterday. Every time I looked, the temperatures were in the high 60s or low 70s for the next forseeable future. This morning I dressed Forest in shorts and a t-shirt and even felt how warm it was when I sent Chris and Forest off. Thirty minutes later I was out the door and enjoying the balmy morning and then ten minutes later I opened the car door to get out at work and wondered if I’d entered a different world. It was at least 15* cooler! That was not what Weather Underground said was going to happen today! I felt bad for Forest but then I picked him up this evening and saw other kids in shorts so apparently it wasn’t just me with a colossal failure!

Meanwhile, the tomatoes are chilling out in the garden waiting to be planted. Earlier this week I thought I might put them in the ground next week but I’ll be checking out the 10-day forecast (and probably not believing it) and determining whether or not to get them in the ground or wait another week. I’m itching to plant them, can you tell?


For the last week the weather has been glorious! Well, aside from the overcast and drizzle that seems to be plaguing us, but we’ve had a few sunshine filled days in there. At least the weather has been warm—I’ve finally warmed up! It even got a little stuffy in the house on Monday.


In the garden the warm weather has sent plants out of dormancy or into bolting, depending on the plant. It feels like everything is going to come alive and the frenzy of getting the garden into shape is happening quickly.


I have started cutting back the dead vegetation and need to get through and weed some of the beds I didn’t get to last year as well as pull a few of the spring ephemerals like chickweed out of the flower beds, too. I’ve been letting many of the spring ephemerals stay in the edible beds because some of them are edible and because I’m also letting them act as an additional layer of surface coverage. As soon as the frustrating and invasive summer weeds start coming in I’ll really have to get in on keeping up with those weeds. (see: mulberry weed and chamberbitter)

In all, the edible garden is doing well, though it could use a round of fish emulsion sprayed on it. With all the rain we’ll be getting this coming week I don’t think I’ll be doing that any time soon.

Red giant mustard.

Champion collards–I’ll be ready for these in a month or so!


I’ve been actively trying to eat a lot of salad now that all of the lettuces and other greens have rebounded from the ice in January. Most everything is thriving, including the lacinato kale, though I know some of the greens will start bolting if they haven’t already.

One green that I have noticed has not produced as well as it has in years past has been the varieties of Swiss chard. I’m not sure if it was to cold for it this year or what the problem was but only a few are just now starting to thrive. Usually that is one of our most abundant greens!


Finally, the cabbages are beginning to head! I’m determined to make some sauerkraut this year and actually stay on top of eating it. In the past I have made it in a makeshift crock but now that I have the Mason Tops I can do small batch ferments.

Another plant that is finally beginning to bulb up is the kohlrabi, though you can see here it wasn’t having the near 80* heat last weekend. The perils of being a green in Texas.

And the mustard spinach that was beginning to thrive and look great for eating only a week before this photo was taken has begun to bolt! It happened in a matter of days, I was so sad to see that. Oh well, I do need room for tomatoes.

Forest has been glad to get back outside and into playing. It’s been a long, cooped-up winter.




I wasn’t sure at the time but the following day I saw more and I did some Googling—but these are my sunchokes sprouting! I bought some at Central Market after someone mentioned they had found them there so I thought I’d give it a whirl and try to grow them. Well, they are coming up! I suspect I’ll have to relocate them to a larger side bed next season because I know they can spread and if you want a decent crop you need to give them some room. I’m excited to be trying something different!

When it warms up again I’ll get out and take more photos of the flower garden waking up!

January Camping at Lake Livingston State Park


Unlike last year, this time around there was no burst of caterpillars for spring, no thunderstorm to attempt to obliterate our tent, and the freshly poured concrete for the campsite driveway showed signs of aging from the last year. More importantly, the woods were still brown and leafless for the most part—no coloring of green other than the pine trees and any other evergreen type plant. It did drizzle a little bit and there was quite a bit of fog but overall it was a cozy winter camping event instead of an energetic spring one.


While we did end up snagging the same campsite we had last year, we will likely re-think that for future camping trips. We weren’t sure if it was because of the recent freeze or maybe just the rain and ice, but something had gone on with either the water pipe at the site next door or we didn’t really remember how low the area between the sites sat—because it was quite muddy in that area, preventing Forest from really running around over in that direction or for us to use the fire pit!


Forest and I did poke around in the woods behind our site, scoping out for various animals or potential early spring ephemerals. We only found various fungi and termites eating downed logs and stumps. Once we found the initial batch of termites it was game-on for Forest, he wanted to keep looking for termites. I was hoping for at least a beetle, maybee a snake or lizard, but no such luck.


Since Forest is into crafting, I was glad to see the park rangers had a couple of crafting events throughout the day on Saturday. We found the event room at the gift shop and Forest went in and tried to make a fish with the volunteers there, wowing them with his knowledge about what a dorsal fin was! He actually wowed us with that a few months back—I’m not sure where he picked that up from but he identified it properly. Of course being nerdy biologists we continued telling him what the rest of the fins were!


Our hiking adventures at the state park were quiet and understated, not putting in many miles mostly because there aren’t a lot of trails to be putting in a lot of miles for, but because I think we felt like moving a little slower. Also, when you have a 3 year old in tow you just move slower in general!











We ended up cutting the full weekend trip short due to predicted rain for Sunday morning—no one wants to pack up camp in the rain—so we ate dinner at the campsite and drove home later that evening. Of course, the rain didn’t really materialize the next day, however I was glad to have been home to get caught up on some chores.

More camping is on the agenda for this spring though we really need to get a backpacking trip fit in somewhere!

Signs of Spring



Finally, we are edging towards warmer days. The last week or two we’ve had a series of warmer days, though yesterday we dipped back into the 30s and 40s and I was shivering once again, but we’re on the upswing. Soon I’ll be dripping in sweat when I step outside—thanks high humidity!


I’m ok with that, though. Give me tank tops, shorts, and flip flops any day. The bright side is that all of the tropical plants are providing a flush of green to the garden after hibernating inside for more of the winter than usual.



But the fig tree they all hang on is putting on leaf buds and soon the side yard garden will be shady once again. I’m always amazed at how it can go from an open canopy to dense and lush in the height of summer.


Formosa lilies poking out of the ground.

Brown and crunchy for now, but at the base of a lot of that is new growth!

Looks like a coreopsis seedling to me.


Much work needs to be done and my lunch breaks will start to be dedicated to cutting back and prepping for growth from now on.

Out in the edible garden, we’re rolling in greens. Still loving the Florida broadleaf mustard.

It has been a spectacular year for spinach! Normally we struggle with germination and thriving but this year it was cold enough for the spinach to grow well.


All of the parsley seemed to germinate and grow rather slowly back in the fall but it has survived the ice and freezes just fine.


And now the kohlrabi is beginning to produce bulbs. I’m really looking forward to having some of these in a month or two!

The mustard spinach took a bit to get established, having fought off snails and various caterpillars back when it was beginning to grow in the fall but these last few weeks have shown tremendous growth.

My cabbage appears to want to start producing heads…finally. It’s been slow going on those, too.

My trusty garden helper!

Having all of the greens available during this time of year is so wonderful. It’s too bad I’m having to buy onions and tomatoes at the store to have a good salad, but such is life here in zone 9.

I need to tie up some of the blackberry canes and trim up a few dead canes I didn’t get to last summer. Otherwise they are primed for flowering here in a few months. I’m already thinking about what I will do with the harvest this year—we have a lot of jam still from last year—so make a small batch of jam and then freeze the rest we don’t eat fresh?

Lacinato kale

Forest is anxiously awaiting carrots once again. He ate all of the ones I planted for him in the fall and now we’re waiting on Chris’ batch to be ready to pull.

I was delighted to see the strawberries blooming a week or so ago! That was the biggest sign of spring I had seen so far. *phew*


And the rhododendrons are budding, too. Can’t wait!

I’m keeping an eye out around the area for redbud blooms but no such luck quite yet!

Any signs of spring where you are?

Sunday Reads + Listens

Some things I’ve read and listened to in the last few months that have resonated with me.

  • How to support the artists + writers you love via Ashlee Gadd.

    1. If they write something lovely that resonates with you, leave a comment. When you leave a comment on a blog post or essay or article, that is your way of saying, “I’m here! I read this!” Comments (well, nice ones) make the writer feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. You don’t need to leave a comment on every post—just once in a while when something really resonates with you.

  • That Favorite Place via Rambling Hemlock

    So I lay on the rocks and feel the coolness of the earth supporting me. The La Sals are covered in clouds off in the distance and wonder if I will ever again climb their peaks. I run my fingers along the sleeping branches of a cottonwood, knowing that no matter what happens to me, that this canyon will wake up in a few months, that the leaves will expand, that the caterpillars will hatch from eggs and munch away. And it is comforting to know this place will be here no matter what.

  • We need to talk about postpartum rage—and why it happens. via Motherly.

    In the case of postpartum rage, I often find that the anger is alerting us to feelings of being overwhelmed, resentment at not being appreciated or acknowledged by those close to us, isolation from our usual social supports, uncertainty about acclimating to our new life as a mom, and guilt related to our perceived failures in mothering.

  • Rating Tomatoes: Which Ones are Best to Eat via Growing with Plants.

    Believe me, gardeners can get seriously geeky about tomatoes.

    First off, don’t assume that all heirloom tomatoes are good to eat, also don’t assume that the nursery will grow only the best varieties. You will need to do some research, read all of the catalogs and some of the best books on tomatoes out there (I share some of those later in this post), and then make your own decisions based on what you will be using you tomatoes for. You might want sweeter varieties or some that are more acidic for caning. Meaty or savory varieties might be preferred over slicers, or you might be planning on making sauce and not eating them all raw with sea salt. If you are like me, you night be able to find a reason to grow every one.

  • Nature in Broward: The Silent Crisis of Local Rare Species Extinction via the Florida Native Plant Society.

    A recent review of vegetation maps and firsthand knowledge of Broward natural areas reveals that less than 3.5% of metropolitan land remains for nature. Some ecosystems, such as Scrub, Pine Flatwoods, and Wet Prairie, are now 1% of their size in 1943. Late conservation efforts enabled by Preservation 2000 and Forever Florida gave us a patchwork of small, isolated preserves. Each is important and valuable as a last remnant of a unique subtropical ecosystem. Some have an evolutionary history tens of thousands of years old. Five hundred plant species are living in these metropolitan parks and preserves. By comparison, two hundred plant species live in the large western wetlands, the Everglades Wildlife Management Areas. Therefore, our greatest biodiversity is within metropolitan Broward.

  • Keeping Wild Spaces Wild: The Ethics of Social Media via Trail Groove magazine, written by Paul Magnanti.

    As outdoor people in this age of social media, it is not enough to not litter, camp 200′ away from streams, and limit our physical group numbers. We have the responsibility to preserve the wild places to the extent we can.

  • Bears Ears in Crisis via Bedrock and Paradox.

    The Antiquities Act has always had problems, and the way in which Trump and his administration are bringing it to a head is no different than all the other ways in which he is highlighting contradictions long dormant in our society and government. Our best and only hope is that Trump himself will pass on to the shadows sooner, and leave in his wake newfound motivation to confront and manage that which we have avoided for so long.

  • The Seriously Cool Red Cedar via The Common Milkweed.

    Red Cedars sometimes get a bad rap because they “invade prairies and pasture lands,” but it’s really all about management and the land’s current hydrology, browse factor, etc. Keep them out of the prairies so the prairies can be prairies and pasture can be pasture, but let them grow in old fields and fencerows and yards and recovering forest. Eastern North America had a magnificent, spectacular forest once that we can only dream of and yes, we feel overwhelming grief for what was carelessly destroyed, but we don’t dwell in that part of our knowledge because we can’t. Instead we plant and plant and plant.

  • Maggie Haberman on the Katie Couric Podcast: Haberman is a writer for the NYT and has covered 45 extensively in the last 10 years and has a lot of great insight to his mind and inner workings.
  • The Nuanced Life Podcast: I love everything about this podcast.
  • Practical, Positive, and Peaceable by Charles Eisenstein via the Root Simple Podcast. Originally aired prior to the 2016 election but so, so eerie to listen to now in that you can see it was practically the writing on the wall of what was to come.
  • Routes Podcast: A podcast about long distance hiking. Absolutely have loved every episode I’ve listened to, particularly Erin ‘Wired’ Saver’s episode.
  • REI Presents: Leave It Better | Packing it Out: a short documentary on YouTube about a pair of friends bike packing across country and picking up trash.
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