Snapshots from the Last Few Months


Instead of my usual ‘Life Lately’ posts I thought I’d go through and share photos I’ve taken, mostly from my phone, the last few months. I may not have been writing much here but there’s been quite a bit going on.

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Back in May I started working on removing several inches of dirt, mulch, debris, and weeds from the garden path in preparation for soil solarization. I had been out there working one afternoon on my lunch break and as I was about to leave I remembered I wanted to snap a photo of my work. After I turned around I noticed something flittering in the dirt and thought it was a bird at first, going after a worm or bug that I’d turned over. Turned out to be a bat! I have no idea where exactly it came from but we do have a small bat house on a pine tree on the east side of the garden. Whether it fell out and flew down or it fell out of another tree adjacent/above the west side of the garden, I do not know. I took some photos and videos and the bat continued its meager attempts to start flying. After that second video I went to look for a long stick so I could help it grab on and I could lift it higher onto a tree but when I returned I didn’t see the bat. Either it scurried up the tree faster than I imagined or it managed to take off from the ground, which isn’t something they usually do. It was an odd encounter!

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Mid-May brought a little flash flooding to the area. We ended up with some tornado warnings after everyone in the office had gone out to lunch to welcome a new person to the office and when we returned and went back to work for about 20 minutes, the downpour got stronger. And then we had water rushing across the parking lot and down into the creek below. Another coworker narrowly missed having his car flooded and/or flipped into the ravine area below and moved it just in time!

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I was feeling particularly good about my hair and outfit this day! I don’t think it photographs very well but to me my hair was falling well and the shirt was new and well, new clothes make you feel nice usually, right?

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Ignore all the junk in the carport—this deer. For those who haven’t been reading here for many years, we have four feral cats. That’s after having inherited about 15 when we moved in 2012. (TNR experience here and yes, I’m aware of the issues with feral cats.) So, with that, we feed the cats. Chris had fed the cats one morning and said that one of the deer had poked her head through the side of the carport and started helping herself to the cat food! We thought it was funny the first time or two but then she continued! I pushed the cat bowls further into the carport (they are usually behind the lawn mower and in a much easier place to sneak food) and saw that she didn’t care and tried to walk in. I scared her off before Forest and I went to work/school. Later, Chris moved them further in. I had thought maybe the situation was solved but one evening I went to feed them and saw her come around the building. She looked at me and continued to walk around and into the carport! I was at the door to the shed where we keep the food and she walked to the middle of the carport with the four cats sitting there around their bowls and I’m five feet away. After a quick look at me, she bellied up and started digging in! The audacity! I scared her off and moved the bowls further over and between a bunch of other stuff in the carport so she would really have to work for it.

My parents were here for a few days recently and my mom said our deer friend was still trying to scope the situation out but didn’t enter the carport! The last thing I need is a too friendly deer. Chris recently relocated a racoon that was becoming too friendly and I have no idea what you would do for a deer other than shoot it and I’d rather not go that route.

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Chris was out of town last week in Pennsylvania so Forest and I entertained ourselves early in the week before my parents came down. On Tuesday we grabbed dinner and headed to Spring Creek Park. I’d thought maybe we’d head to Kleb Woods for a hike but Forest wanted a playground and a hike and Kleb Woods doesn’t have a playground. After Forest had his fill of playing we drove to the back of the park because I wanted to find Spring Creek and check it out. There wasn’t a direct trail but we did manage to find a clearing and climbed over some piles of debris and then down into the creek. It was rather peaceful down there and much more narrow in this section than further downstream at Burroughs Park.

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After several years without getting peaches, we were able to harvest about five this year!

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A photo we sent to Chris while he was away last week—my kid is a DINO FANATIC! And he’s excellent at his dino identification.

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Splash pad days!

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Our anniversary was on the 14th and I had only recently heard about the Van Gogh exhibit at the MFAH and knew it was on the tail-end of its exhibition. We took the day off work and went to see the exhibit! I believe I have seen one or two Van Gogh’s at the Kimble in Fort Worth but it has been so long that I do not remember. It didn’t matter, this was a fantastic exhibit! It was very crowded and you had timed entries but once you were inside the main exhibit you could stay as long as you wanted. I really loved his sketches and studies, sometimes more than his paintings. There was a lot of emotion for me, I think, as he has always been one of my favorite artists. Of course, a Dr. Who episode, Vincent and The Doctor, came to mind when I looked at his portrait and later read more about his mental health deterioration in association with a few of his paintings and you can’t help but wish you had your own TARDIS to reach through time and show him what his work would become.

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I beelined it to the two O’Keefes after I saw them out of the corner of my eye in the gallery we entered after exiting the Van Gogh exhibit. Gotta get myself to Santa Fe sometime soon.

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Plumeria seedlings! Our plumeria trees put on pods at the end of last summer and only finally ripened and opened in early May. A quick Google search gave me the low-down on how to sow them and now I have five seedlings out of quite a bit of seeds. I’m glad it is only five though, not sure what I would have done with 30 plumerias.

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Roadkill coral snake. *sigh* Seen while—->

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—>rollerblading! It had been a few months since I’d been ‘blading and I finally got a few miles in.

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In addition to a cat food hungry deer, fawn season has arrived! They are adorable and so cute now but are going to really drive me nuts next year when they eat my plants.

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Abelmoschus moschatus is in bloom! So happy to see it blooming again!

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About half of the soil solarization work. I’m just now starting to remove the second half so when these are done in about a week I can move the plastic over to the new area. We’ll put fresh mulch down in the other area.

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Zoo day with the lion!

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Beach read! I’ve had this on my shelf for years now and I finally cracked it open. Randy Wayne White has several series based on, well, Florida being Florida, in the same vein as Carl Hiaasen. This one took a bit to get started but once it got rolling I was hooked and read it rather quickly. A few things annoyed me, mostly in regards to places being labeled as near each other in the book but in reality are in completely different areas. I know this was done for plot but it drove me nuts.

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The beach looks lovely here but what you don’t see is just how much microplastic was in the water! I couldn’t believe it. So many tiny pieces of all sorts of plastic. It made me sick. I’ve also been on a doom and gloom kick regarding plastic and climate change recently and this didn’t help.

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Three silly cousins!

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And a super tired Forest about 20 minutes after everyone left! When did he get this LONG?

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The very beginnings of the house painting.

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These two! Leo really wishes he could go outside.

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In May I managed to get some field time in, including a couple of rides on an airboat! It’s been a long time since I’ve been on one and being in the marsh brought back a lot of memories. I just needed a Publix sub to complete the day!

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Just at a plant nursery and Forest had to have his photo taken with this rooster statue!

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And Forest proud of his alligator/dinosaur shoes! We had seen them at Target but they didn’t have his size. After scouting another Target and finding the size he’ll need in 6-9 months I told my mom to check out her Target. She found them and mailed them to him and he was so happy!

Well, that’s a synopsis of life these days. Bits and blurs…and summer is moving right on by.

Celebrating Pollinators for National Pollinator Week 2019


I thought I’d dig through some photo archives to showcase some fabulous lepidopteran pollinators this week for National Pollinator Week. I originally had a couple of non-moth and butterfly pollinator friends but then realized that I’ve not had a great track record of taking photos of them over the years so there aren’t nearly as many. So, we’ll make it all about Order Lepidoptera today! Someone with more time on their hands would spend time giving a little information about them all but I’m doing good just getting this out! Here’s a small assortment of beautiful moths and butterflies!

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Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth, Malacosoma americana – my yard here in greater Houston, Tx

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Turbulent Phosphila Moth, Phosphila turbulenta – my yard here in greater Houston, Tx

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Fall Webworm Moth, Hyphantria cunea – my yard here in greater Houston, Tx

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Palamedes Swallowtail, Papilio palamedes – Ocala National Forest, Florida

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Juniper hairstreak, Callophrys gryneus – McKinney Falls State Park, Tx

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Southern Dogface, Zerene cesonia – McKinney Falls State Park, Tx

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Queen, Danaus gilippus – Garner State Park, Tx

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White peacock, Anartia jatrophae – Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, FL

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Zebra swallowtail, Protographium marcellus – Central Florida. So, remember when I wrote about seeing a zebra swallowtail back at Huntsville State Park in March? And I knew that I’d likely seen one in Florida but couldn’t remember. Well, I gave myself a good chuckle when I went through my Flickr photos and found this! Yep, I saw them! I’m pretty stoked that it was a decent photo, too.

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Martial Scrub-Hairstreak, Strymon martialis – Bahia Honda State Park, Florida Keys, FL

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Gulf frittilary, Agraulis vanillae – Florida Keys, FL

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Great Southern White, Ascia monuste – Bahia Honda State Park, Florida Keys, FL

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Cassius Blue, Leptotes cassius – Bahia Honda State Park, Florida Keys, FL

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Spanish Moth caterpillar, Xanthopastis regnatrix – Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, FL

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Spanish Moth, Xanthopastis regnatrix – along US 41, Miami-Dade County

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Zebra Longwing, Heliconius charithonia – Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, FL

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Ruddy daggerwing caterpillar, Marpesia petreus – Big Cypress National Preserve, FL

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Ruddy daggerwing, Marpesia petreus – Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, FL

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Salt Marsh Moth, Estigmene acrea – Big Cypress National Preserve, FL

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Polydamas Swallowtail, Battus polydamas – Fern Forest, Broward County, FL

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Mangrove Buckeye, Junonia genoveva – Big Cypress National Preserve, FL

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Tropical Checkered-Skipper, Pyrgus oileus – Central Florida

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Saddleback caterpilar, Acharia stimulea – I think Jasper County, Tx but I can’t quite recall as this is a photo of Chris’ from the field and it is too cool not to incorporate!

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Pipevine swallowtail, Battus philenor – my yard in greater Houston, Tx

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Giant swallowtail caterpillar, Papilio cresphontes – my yard in greater Houston, Tx

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Long-tailed skipper, Urbanus proteus – my yard in greater Houston, Tx

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Long-tailed skipper, Urbanus proteus – my yard in greater Houston, Tx

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Tropical Checkered-Skipper, Pyrgus oileus – my yard in greater Houston, Tx

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Gulf frittilary, Agraulis vanillae – my yard in greater Houston, Tx

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Red admiral caterpillar, Vanessa atalanta – my yard in greater Houston, Tx

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Spotted Phosphila Moth, Phosphila miselioides – my yard in greater Houston, Tx

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Cloudless sulphur, Phoebis sennae – my yard in greater Houston, Tx

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Tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta – my yard in greater Houston, Tx

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Carolina satyr, Hermeuptychia sosybius – my yard in greater Houston, Tx

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Horace’s Duskywing, Erynnis horatius – my yard in greater Houston, Tx

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Milkweed tussock moth, Euchaetes egle – my yard here in greater Houston, Tx

There were many more I could have incorporated and maybe I’ll do another separate post soon!

Edit:

I forgot, I should include our attempt to get the ghost orchid pollination by the giant sphinx moth back in 2008. Several people have been attempting to get better video and photos for actual species identification the last couple of years and we suspect that it will happen soon due to the amount of people trying to get it done!

Spring Monarch Season


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Spring monarch butterfly season is now several months in the past but I thought I’d take some time to write about how it went overall. This season I opted not to use the tent mostly because I didn’t have a lot of tropical milkweed left from winter and by the time the monarchs started flitting through here we didn’t have a lot of new growth due to a late freeze in March. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop two females from egg bombing what milkweed I did have and I had somewhere between 40-50 eggs when I counted.

I started the season attempting to be hands off. Most of the milkweed I had was in pots from cuttings I’d begun rooting back in the summer and fall last year. There was a smidgen left in the garden but not enough to feed a bunch of tiny baby caterpillars. Around the corner in the empty lot where a lot of the green milkweed grows, I’d been checking frequently for any signs of milkweed emerging. Finally it seemed as if the lot went from no milkweed to full stems of it in about a week. Right on time! Just as the tropical milkweed was basically devoured down to stems I had a flush of green milkweed available.

This meant once to twice daily stops to the milkweed field to take cuttings. I started off by putting the milkweed in my floral tubes because the caterpillars were not as voracious but after a few days I started just sticking the cuttings straight into the pots because they would be eaten within hours. In all this time the caterpillars and milkweed were still contained to pots in a small section of the garden near the potting bench. It was accessible and I didn’t need to clean the cage! Sure, it was open to predators but I wasn’t going to worry about that in the beginning just because I knew I didn’t have much milkweed to feed them all.

Finally they started pupating. One by one they wandered off and I managed to keep track of many of them. Some went to the cypress trees Chris is growing out, others crawled across the path and onto the house or into other areas of the garden. I’d catch a glimpse of one in a J or even a chrysalis as I’d walk by the garden—they are sneaky—Forest even found two for me that were hiding out on empty pots under the potting bench! Because we were going to have the house painted in early April I kept an eye out for some of them that may not have emerged before the house painting but luckily we got through all of the eclosing before that became a worry. Though, I did end up moving a few who went to some poorly planned places like the lip of a trash can on the porch and some that were on the edge of Chris’ air compressor and some other odd items on the porch. I tied them up with floss onto the brugmansia above where the milkweed pots were.

Now we are several months out and the monarchs are mostly up in the northern part of the US and southern Canada now. I haven’t seen a monarch in weeks—I even looked at the butterfly garden at the zoo last weekend which is where I would normally see one year-round if I was going to. I haven’t seen any gulf frittilaries yet, though there is an abundance of other butterflies. Dragging my camera out to take photos hasn’t been something I’ve thought about doing the last few weeks so I’ll need to think about doing some butterfly stalking soon.

Zoe & Grayson Tree Updates


Right after we moved into our house we planted trees for our niece and nephew, Zoe & Grayson. I’ve taken photos with them over the years though we hadn’t done one in a while so when everyone was here for Memorial Day weekend I had them go out and take photos. They are growing up so fast—the trees and the kids!

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Zoe’s tree, a loblolly pine, planted March 9, 2013. She was 4.5 here!

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May 24, 2014, 5.5

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May 26, 2019 at 10.5! You can also see our new house paint on the back of the man-cave in this photo. I know, I need to update on that soon.

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Grayson’s tree is a bur oak. Here he is November 17, 2013 at a little over 2 years old.

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May 24, 2014 at 2.5

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May 26, 2019 at age 7.5!

Zoe is heading for sixth grade and middle school this coming year and Grayson is going to third grade! Time flies! My own kiddo will be 5 soon and thank goodness he gets one more year before heading to kindergarten.

Post April Showers at Burroughs Park


*blows dust off of WordPress*

Hello there! There comes a point when I take these long breaks from writing here (which I haven’t taken one this long in many years) that at some point I start having a contest with myself to see how long I can go without writing. A week? Can I make it two? Two? Why not go a month? Paired with the sporadic posting from the previous two months before, well, the blog hasn’t really been a priority. Honestly, it still isn’t but I figured I shouldn’t let it lay here floundering in the internet wasteland.

So, let’s go back to early April when we made an afternoon trip to Burroughs Park when rain thwarted our plans to head to a different park on the east side of Houston (I wrote a bit about that here). One odd thing we saw that I didn’t take a photo of for some reason were these weird piles of white powder that appeared to look either like powdered sugar or boric acid. It seemed to be attracting ants in the areas it was on the ground and there was some splattered on trees. It was weird.

There wasn’t a whole lot going on but I did really enjoy the water elm (Planera aquatica) swamp at the back of the park. It’s always a great spot for photography and reminds me a lot of pop ash and pond apple swamps in Florida.

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Texas Toadflax, Nuttallanthus texanus —reiterating my need for seeds of this to spread in the ROW and garden.

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Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum —escapee from cultivation. Carolina snailseed is trying to strangle it.

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Louisiana Sedge, Carex louisianica

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Lizard’s Tail, Saururus cernuus

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Cherokee Sedge, Carex cherokeensis

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Hemp Dogbane, Apocynum cannabinum —I thought this was a milkweed when I saw it but only redring milkweed (A. varigated) appeared close when I compared but that is not a wet species. Next up was dogbane which is a relative to milkweed.

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Cross Vine, Bignonia capreolata

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Nightshades, Solanum sp. —I thought this was a pequin at first but sorting through iNaturalist got me to a different genus and the nightshades. Not confident on what it is though.

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South American Skullcap, Scutellaria racemosa —A non-native but still rather pretty. This was fairly common along a cleared pipeline ROW.

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Southern Dewberry, Rubus trivialis —A random variegated sighting!

With that, maybe I’ll get back to sharing the rest of our spring trips, sights, and gardening soon.

Forest’s First Dance Recital


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I know this one is blurry but it really represents Forest + his love for dinosaurs right now!

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Forest Recital I
*Video isn’t wanting to play from the embed, so click on the photo or the link at the end of the post*

Last fall our daycare announced that they were going to have an outside dance school come in to teach dance classes to those kids and families who were interested. Forest saw the sign and I mentioned it and he was enthusiastic about it. Because it was going to be taught during regular school hours there would be no need to shuttle him around to a dance class after hours or on a weekend—it was a win-win for us! So, we signed him up and for the most part I think he’s enjoyed it. We’ve barely been able to get any info out of him about it but I’ve asked the director at the daycare about it since she sees him every day and she said he always has fun in class.

And of course at the end of the season of these types of things are recitals! It was our first performance of his to see which meant it was pretty special! I think the hardest thing was convincing him that he had to wear the costume. Paired with him recuperating from a stomach bug over the two previous days, he wasn’t that enthused about going to his recital yesterday evening. To persuade him into putting on his costume I told him he would have a surprise after the performance and that seemed to entice him.

Once we arrived at the theater he perked up because it was a new building plus the photo booth situation at the beginning. And then the other kids started arriving including a friend of his whose sister was going to be in the recital. Dropping him off with the other dancers was a smidge hard but he managed to go back there by himself and we had to hope for the best!

Forest looked so grown up in his costume and my little baby is turning into such a big kid! Afterwards he talked about how much fun it was and I think he really enjoyed it. In addition to the the entrance of the dancers and the final bow at the end, he and his pre-K classmates had two separate performances. The recital was a conglomeration of other kids from a variety of other local daycares so there were plenty of kids we did not recognize.

We’ll see if he decides to go forward with dance class again if it is offered next year but I will say this was a success!

*If reading this via email or a reader you may have to click through to the website to view the video. Or view it at Flickr here*

Friday Evening After A Rain


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Loquats from our friend’s tree that I turned into jelly/thick syrup.

The evening sun is blaring into the office while Forest whoooshes dinosaurs and blocks around the living room. He’s supposed to be picking up his blocks so that he can watch a cartoon or three but as always playing is greater than putting up the mess you create. I imagine in about thirty minutes when he tires of playing once again I’ll be getting onto him to put his blocks up. The refrain will be “But there’s so much! I can’t do it!” to which I’ll reply “Don’t get it all out if you can’t put it up!” The funny thing is that sometimes when I pick him up from daycare he’ll be in the midst of playing and he will put away all of his toys, so I know he can do it. There’s just something about rebelling against mom and dad!

I don’t know why I hit the wall this last month or so with writing here. I had a groove and then lost it. So many different things going at once and sometimes it is best to let go of something before you just topple over. We’re having the house painted after many years of talking about it. Of course that coincided with our annual/semi-annual Big Rain Event here in Houston. Last Friday we got a taste of what we’ve been missing (purposely forgetting) this spring when a downpour of 4″ or so paired with tornado warnings came through our part of Houston. We’d gone out to lunch with coworkers and had been monitoring the weather and when we arrived back to the office it was raining heavily. Less than 20 minutes later Chris was calling all of us to the front office as well as one of our new coworkers who had parked his car in what appears to be a convenient space but just so happened to be the path where a heavy flow of water coming off the ditch and street and was pouring down the rock wall and down into the creek below. Thankfully he got out in time to move it, soaking his pants up past his ankles—another five minutes and his car might have been pushed over the wall.

Wednesday we mostly avoided the worst of the rain but other areas were flooded. It was prep for what everyone was worried about last night. Thankfully we only had some minor issues, the pond only coming up to the fire pit in the backyard and this morning it was all back into the pond. Somehow the front yard is now draining through the pipe that goes under the neighbor’s yard once again, which is great. So, we’re sloshy up front instead of swamped. Of course roads were flooded in many areas which led to closures of school districts and our office was closed today, though Chris and I did our best to work from home. I’ll be cobbling together a few more hours of work over the weekend that I didn’t get to today. More rain is predicted overnight and into tomorrow so we’ll see what kind of issues arise from that.

I finally opened up some photos from a hike we did in maybe late March, early April. There’s another day hike and a camping trip to process. It feels like this spring has been one thing after another with barely any chance to get out and hike. This weekend’s rain and the house being painted has thwarted my desires to get out to the Big Thicket to hike and botanize. Maybe naturalize is the better word as I’m not just looking or wanting to look for plants. I spotted two, no, three, interesting things in the garden this afternoon during our get-out-of-the-house moments today. One was a tiny black and white butterfly that reminded me of a tropical checkered but I think it was too small to be that. The second was a broadheaded skink that I scared up from the extra garden rocks we have piled up off to the side for another potential flower bed. And the third was an ebony jewelwing damselfly!

I guess all of this is to day, I’m here. I’m around. Maybe writing this will beget some more writing. And *crossing fingers* we can get out and do some hiking or adventuring here in about two weeks!

Life Lately | Early May 2019


Thinking:
Two pretty big controversial things:

The First:

You can click through and read the entire thread including background on Baker Creek’s previous interactions with Bundy and just exactly what knowledge they already had about him and his involvement in the Bundy standoff in 2014 as well as his familial association with the Malheur NWR standoff in 2016. Apparently Bundy is also an heirloom seed saver and gardener, which yay!, great for him, but that doesn’t wipe away any of his racist and violent issues. Other than already being appalled that they were even thinking of including him into their festival to begin with and calling him a “land rights activist”, I was seriously disappointed in their doubling down within their feed with replies to those who were upset about this. I’m sure they have a social media manager but at some point you know the Gettles were involved in directing this social media person in how to reply to the outrage from gardeners and well, it wasn’t handled well. It was eventually announced that Bundy was not going to be showing up at the festival but the reasons why seemed a bit disingenuous and as someone mentioned in one of the threads I read, it came off as if had Baker Creek had enough money to provide security from protesters that they would have had him anyway.

So, they are off my list of companies to buy seeds from now. I’m kinda glad they sold Heirloom Gardener magazine a few years ago but it now makes me want to go back through my back issues and see if they still include any advertising or notes about Bundy in there.

The Second:
Oh boy, the hiking world and leave no trace ethics.

I’m know the issue has been brewing for a while but the recent superbloom in California really set off a spark. There’s a couple of components to this that I believe made it worse, and one of them was of course social media, with mostly outdoor newbies going out and completely disregarding signage and laws about where to stay on trail, etc and then sharing those photos online and triggering an avalanche of visitors. The second component to making it worse were the social media handles that began shaming people and calling them out. It’s been a trend in general with other handles I’ve seen. At first I was on board with some of them but after I started reading more of the posts and then the feeds of people they were actively shaming, it left a very bitter taste in my mouth. The schadenfreude was far too thick. (Somehow I think this pairs nicely with an article I recently read, The End of Empathy via NPR).

After the brouhaha with the superbloom I noticed several hiking accounts I follow call out leave no trace ethics in general and the overall hiking community as being racist or gatekeeping in the whole situation. I could see their point in some way but it felt false in others. Over the last few weeks there’s been even more of a push to stop geotagging many places unless they are already well-known or even not including detailed hashtags. I never geotag because I don’t keep my location services activated on my phone and can’t be bothered to enter it manually but if I write up something I’ll type into the narrative the general state park or area, never an actual location. And some things I don’t even get specific on, just share the photo of whatever it is and a narrative and leaving the location out of it. But apparently people are taking offense to this (not to me specifically, just in general) and are strongly pro-getotagging and anti-gatekeeping and everyone should know all the locations and on and on and on. If you are entrenched in the hiking community you already likely know the accounts I’m talking about—I’m not going to name them here.

The whole thing is getting tedious for me though and I’m losing my patience with it. In some aspect I can see what they are talking about but when you zoom way out and think about the actual repercussions of posting exact locations to arch sites, geologic sites, rare plant sites, unique photography locations—I know exactly what happens when a lot of people go there. It takes one person to ruin something. It’s why we’ve always been very vague and only told certain people about ghost orchid sites. Orchids disappear.

As for the gatekeeping portion of it, so many of these interesting places are already known or the information is out there. We have a friend in Florida that is using old topos to find old logging roads and buggy trails and exploring these areas. This stuff is out there. Do you need to know where to look? Sure, but once you dip your toes into guidebooks and exploring whatever ecosystem you are interested in, you usually want more and will start figuring out how to get the information yourself. You also build connections with people who are already out there and creating a reputation for trust. I think this is the issue for me—it is trust and something that I don’t know if these groups are thinking through clearly when they want everyone to know about certain, specific locations.

I was thinking about our trip to Inks Lake State Park and how the majority of people go to the Devil’s Waterhole to visit. It’s crowded and yes it is scenic, but I had so much more fun hiking the trails at the back of the park. It also made me think of how places like Austin’s Hamilton Pool has changed over the last 9 years since we first started going. I remember the first time we went, there was relatively no one there and while we paid an entry fee it was no big deal. I mean, it has always been a well-known spot but it’s gotten even more popular and now you have to make reservations ahead of time to even go there! Just a mile or so down the road and across the Pedernales River is the less well-known but equally interesting Westcave Preserve, which because it is privately owned has always required a tour to see the cave. I think we’re going to start seeing this even more as more people visit outdoor spaces.

I know bloggers have been writing about places for eons already and I do the same, but something about social media has really amplified the visibility to many of these locales.

Anyway, I’m not sure my thoughts are coherent on this topic completely but it is on my mind.

Gardening:
The garden is starting to look fairly decent. I’ve had some setbacks with the deer a few times in the flower beds. Our cooler than average spring has made it a slow start to a good blooming season but May is going to set it up for a lot of growth I believe.

The edible garden needs a weekend of hard work to get the weeds under control. I’m going to do some plastic sheeting on the garden paths out there to get the weeds under control and then we need to do some re-mulching out there. I was crossing my fingers that the chamberbitter wouldn’t be horrible this year but it has taken its time germinating and I’m just now starting to see them pop up. The hairy crab weed/mulberry weed is already popping up and I’m trying to stay on top of it before it gets bad, too.

The sugar snap peas are done and I’m attempting to let the pods on the trellises dry so we can save the seeds. I’m thinking about planting cucumbers or black eyed peas on the trellises while I wait for them to dry as they won’t grow that fast and I’ll have time to take the dried vines off before the other plants get a foothold.

Loving:
+Texas is finally getting a sea turtle license plate! Chris ordered it for me the day it came out and even snagged my new tag #: KEMPS! Ridley was unavailable and Kempii was too long by a letter for this plate style, so Kemps it is!

+Forest started telling jokes last week and it is HIL-AR-I-OUS! I don’t know where he came up with that but it cracks me up!

+My new computer!

+Monarch butterfly season! I actually enjoyed how I ‘raised’ them this year, which is to say I was hands off until I couldn’t be because they ate all of the tropical milkweed so soon. Thankfully the green milkweed came in quickly and I fed them on that until the end. I only found five that died in chrysalis, though I kind of lost track of where some went to pupate so I have no idea if any others died. Many have eclosed now and are on their way north to continue the generations. Hopefully I’ll see their great-great-great-great-grandchildren sometime in September or so. But there wasn’t any cleaning of the cage (which I still need to clean with bleach from the over wintering pipevine swallowtails) or general worry like that. I was getting milkweed cuttings once or twice a day and just sticking them into the pots where would chow them down very quickly. Not sure that this would work for fall and tagging them, but I guess I could just keep track of where they pupate, and move the chrysalides into the cage?? I’ll think on it this summer.

+iNaturalist City Challenge 2019. A former coworker told us about it late last week. I’ve always wanted to participate in a BioBlitz and while I didn’t collect a ton of data, I did get enough around my neighborhood for me to realize my Cyperaceae, Juncaceae and Poaceae skills are super rusty. It was nice to pair their AI with the photos of things I couldn’t identify to guide me in figuring out what something was. There are some cool oddball plants hanging out in our yard as well as some exotics I didn’t realize we had. I also randomly took a photo of a spider that caught me in its web as it was flying from a tree limb and managed to figure it out, though no one has confirmed it yet. And I still have a caterpillar to identify. Lots to learn, not enough time—well, not enough time spend in the field being able to keep on top of it all. And I regret not getting better at it when I had the chance earlier on.

Reading:
Not much. With the chaos my desire to read went out the window. I am reading a NetGalley preview of The Planthunter by Georgina Reid which is just a gorgeous little book. All of the gardens make me wish I had no deer and a lot more time and money to garden.

Making:
Forest and I had been spending a lot of time in the studio in April but the last week or so has been quiet on that front. I’ve got some paintings and drawings in store. I’m also taking part in the #100DayProject which I made super simple on my part: 100 days of blind contour drawings. So far so good, though I have been doubling up on days the last week and a half due to the chaos. Maybe we can shift back into the studio this weekend.

Watching & Listening:
+Call the Midwife is back and I’ve been enjoying that again. There have been at least two episodes with back-alley abortions and I’m trying to figure out if this is a statement piece or they are lacking in storylines this season. They usually touch on it once a season if I recall but it seems like it is being brought up a bit more. I’ll be sad when this show ends its run one day.
+Downton Abbey reruns. Oh Matthew, why did you have to leave the show so soon?
+The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: I’m late to the game on this one. I don’t typically watch Amazon Prime regularly but I thought I’d dip into this show. So far it is proving to be worth watching!
+Solo: It’s on Netflix finally and I got to watch it. I did catch the next Star Wars trailer, too.

What’s up with you?

Status Update: Life is Chaotic


Cuddly Buddies

baloo2

I haven’t meant to go radio silent these last nearly two weeks. It’s just been hectic and I’ve lost all energy for writing and sharing here. Things started trending frenetic about two weeks ago when a coworker moved on to another position. We’d just lost a more recent hire a few weeks prior to that and losing this person who had been here for 16 years was rough. We’re very busy at work right now and now we’re down to just a few main office staff. Already that felt heavy.

The same day our friend/coworker left we found out Baloo, the pup above, crossed the Rainbow Bridge. For those unfamiliar, we dogsat Baloo in 2008-2009 while Eliana and Marc took their first road-trip across North America to Alaska and he became part of the family, even if Samson and Leo weren’t sure what to do with this big ol’ dog! Eliana had asked us if we wanted to keep him again last year when they went across again to get married in Alaska but with our trip to Florida we didn’t think it was right to leave him alone after transitioning from the home he already knew and he was already in ill health then. We got to say our goodbyes via Facetime but I would have loved to have gotten a slobbery kiss from him once more. It’s been very rough for Eliana, losing Baloo.

The following Saturday a series of tornadoes went through central and east Texas. One in Franklin near my uncle’s house (he’s fine) and then another at Caddo Mounds State Historic Site (see our trip here). Unfortunately a cultural festival was going on so the usually quiet park had many people in attendance and a lot of people were hurt and the last time I checked one woman had been fatally injured. Not to mention homes that were destroyed in the nearby rural towns. Later that evening we found out an archaeologist we sub-contract with at work was severely injured at the event so not only was it more personal then since we knew people directly affected, but it threw some things into a loop regarding projects at work. You can view Victor’s Go Fund Me here.

And then Notre Dame. Which made me want to get to Europe and see so many places ASAP.

Last Tuesday I had one of my quarterly aural migraines which dampened my spirits for the day. Followed by the Mueller report on Thursday. (IMPEACH HIM, PELOSI!)

The weekend was rather great with camping up near Longview, a great time to re-charge. I didn’t want to come home and have to face everything that needed to be done there.

And we’ve had this general saga of various trees needing to be cut down out front. One pine tree was on the property line and started leaning onto a live oak towards our neighbors property. They ended up taking care of that. Then Chris noticed that the pine tree by the drive close to the street was starting to rot at the base. If it was going to fall it was going to fall onto the edible garden or into the street and over the power lines. That was cut down this morning and promptly as it was cut down the internet went out. I knew something was up (Chris was at home) when I noticed our Amazon cams went out by the alert on my phone. They do that from time to time because of general wifi or power issues so I texted and he said the power was fine but the wifi had gone out as they dropped chunks of pine. Chris had to go to Louisiana this afternoon so I was stuck spending the afternoon getting the wifi worked out. They are going to have to re-run a new line while we have a temporary above the ground line until that is done. The new line is going to have to go down the garden path and part of the side of the house garden. The original line is beneath two of the other flower beds and I managed to get the tech and tell him I’d prefer we didn’t dig up the garden to get a new line, so that was the compromise. New line will be in 3-10 days and they don’t tell you when they show up, so yayayayayay.

Ugh, and then a general heartache that I can’t do anything about, is that I’m pretty certain the empty lots in front of our house are going to be developed. Last year we had attempted to try to buy several of them from a house that is on a street through those woods. They were selling the house (messy divorce) and we tried to contact them a few times about buying the lots, which they had originally bought from the people who had owned our house two owners ago. Turns out they got deeded back to the guy’s dad since he was who had given them the money to buy the lots and then it was just a mess of communication or rather anti-communication from them on getting that done. Around the same time the county tax appraiser went ape and jacked everyone’s lot values up (thanks incoming Houston development) and it really was not going to be affordable for us to buy those lots if the taxes were going to be raised. Then about a month or so ago I noticed another lot owned by the owner of a house on a corner in that same area was for sale and then I saw that surveyors had been by. In my head I’d been thankful that I hadn’t seen the other lots up for sale yet, but when I went home at lunch I drove down that street because my milkweed lot is on the other end of those lots and I needed to feed the monarchs. Well, more surveyors were out. And this time they were flagging all of the lots that we’d wanted to purchase—and I just checked the appraiser and those lots were sold or transferred to someone else in January. There was never a sign posted. Oof.

I’m heartsick over it because there’s a small pond over there, the deer regularly go over there to bed down, we just saw an owl perched on a tree the other night—and really it is a wildlife enclave. Plus, I don’t want to see a house straight in front of my house. Because of that tax assessment going up anyone around here who’d been keeping extra acreage adjacent to them has been selling them. And they are developing those lots. In general everyone has a fairly large lot, many on an acre or more, so some of these are being squished into less than half an acre, though not at a typical subdivision sized lot because of our city’s size requirements for a house—but it looks incongruous with everything else already built. I just hope the pond gets kept—it acts as flood control, too. Not to mention you could easily qualify part of that acreage as forested wetland potentially, or if not, a hydrologic easement for periods of heavy rain. I can just see it jacking up with the hydrology of the area. There have already been houses built in some suspect locations that should never have been allowed to have been built.

So, I haven’t been in the mood for wrapping up blog posts or sharing new ones. I have plenty of things to write and photos to process, I just don’t know when I’ll muster up the energy to do it.

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