Greening Up In The Garden


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A lot of these photos are going to be from March and early April. I’m working on taking photos now for another post later in the month. This spring feels like it has been a lot slower than in years past, though many plants that were slower to awaken last year due to freeze woke up earlier this time around. I’m still waiting on the Mexican flame vine. Only time will tell on that one.

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Strawberries have been abundant but the snails have been feasting on them before they ripen and thus many are already bad before we even get to them. Very disappointing this year. The plants waned a bit in the heat last summer but rebounded in the fall and now nearly one entire section of the perimeter bed is covered in strawberry plants! Snails aside, we should be harvested pints and pints of berries by now and we’re not. Booo to snails!

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Erigeron philadelphicus has colonized a decent sized patch in the front yard next to the vegetable garden and one or two plants have made their way into the garden where I’ve left them to add some beauty to the garden! I thought this plant was Boltonia for awhile but the rays are much different. I stand corrected—still a cool plant, though!

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The blackberries are flowering and small fruits are already forming on most of the vines. The fence line doesn’t seem a full of vines a they have in previous years so I’ll be curious to see how much we get this year.

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A new snap pea Chris tried this year is the ‘sugar magnolia’ and while they haven’t been that abundant they have produced beautiful purple pods!

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Peas were started late this year, well, I take that back. I think Chris started some and then they got killed by the deep freeze and he restarted seeds under lights and we just didn’t plant as many. But we’re getting enough to have a handful in salad or eat a few here and there. Which frankly is fine with me. Last year we had tons and froze tons and I’m pretty sure we still have some and while I like cooked snap peas to an extent, I much prefer them fresh.

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The tomatoes are all about 3-4′ tall now and most are sporting flowers with a couple of them already forming tomatoes. Anxiously awaiting tomato season as always!

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Slowly I’ve been weeding and mulching the beds and we need to get to work planting some summer crops in a few of the emptier beds. Carrots were a bust this year, getting some but not any kind of bumper crop, and the lettuce and most of the greens are bolting and finishing up for the season. Those need to be shuffled out and eaten to make room for everything else we need to get on top of planting. Beans, melons, and squash come to mind.

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I did plant some cowpeas, trying a different variety this year in hopes of actually having a harvest beyond a few pods like last year.

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Jack-in-the-pulpits produced a couple of blooms this year. This one got nabbed by the deer.

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My single common milkweed seedling! I’m hoping more sprout.

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Aristolochia fimbriata

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Ooh, now we’ll jump down into some March photos—you’ll see the drastic change in only a couple of weeks!

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Halesia diptera

I’ve been weeding and mulching and we loaded up on plants at the local nursery this weekend. I’m sure there will be plenty to write about soon!

High Island Birding & Marc and Eliana’s Visit


*Extremely photo heavy post—write-up at the end. Thought about making it two posts but decided against it*

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It’s hard to believe it has been nearly a month since Marc and Eliana came to visit on their way to Alaska. Processing the photos took far longer than I had planned and so last weekend I made a point to get them completed. I’d processed a handful for Eliana to use on social media when they were in the area but beyond that I didn’t get far. And I’m only sharing a smidgen of what I took over the three days they were in Houston.

For those unfamiliar with Marc and Eliana, they are two of our friends from Miami. We met them through geocaching years and years ago and Eliana and I hit it off as friends! Eliana, world traveler that she is, convinced us to come to Bolivia with them in 2008—you can see some photos and blog posts over here at the top part of my ancient archives, back when I hand coded everything.

Not long after that they went on their first cross-country road trip and we dog sat Baloo for the better part of a year or so and when they returned from their trip in 2009 is when I hatched the idea to hike the AT. So, we left Florida in February of 2010 and while I saw both of them in 2014 at one of my baby showers, Chris hadn’t seen them in 8 years! Honestly, it seemed hard to fathom that it had been that long since they had seen each other but with the aid of texting and social media I think those feelings of being so distant are made a bit weaker. That still didn’t matter because as you see in those photos above that Marc took, it felt like it had been for-ev-er since we’d seen each other and it was a delightful reunion!

Eliana had been texting me here and there over the last few years asking about High Island and birding. High Island is the highest part of Bolivar Peninsula and sits on top of a salt dome. Because it is higher in elevation than the surrounding area it also has more trees on it than the rest of the peninsula, which is marsh and beach for the most part. This treed area means it is a spectacular area for birding in winter and spring during the migration and especially when fallout events occur.

Marc and Eliana’s departure from Miami was delayed by about a week due to a variety of issues so we were unsure of when they were actually going to be getting to the Houston area. They were already on a tight schedule to get to a certain location in Alaska by May to catch a ferry so they zipped through Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana in about a week to arrive in Houston. Chris’ schedule was also weird because of field work schedule but we lucked into their arrival being timed for the weekend. We had planned to take a couple of days off if they were to arrive during the week but that didn’t end up happening and even though they stayed over into the work week, Chris still ended up out of town for Monday and I ended up having to go into work for most of the day because the rest of the staff was out for meetings or field work. Someone had to hold down the fort!

Chris, Forest, and I met them in High Island on a chilly and overcast Saturday morning and as I said, it was exciting to see Valentina (the bus) pull up at the gas station. Funnily enough, Forest really took to Valentina and as you see in the end photos, gave her a hug! We hit up the Audubon sanctuary on High Island where Marc and Eliana ate lunch and we enjoyed the underside of a snake that had managed to crawl up into the rafters of the covered picnic area!

It was a little easier to wrangle Forest around the birders this time than it was last May when Chris and I went there with him, though we still had to work on learning to “shhh” so the birders could do their birder things. Eliana allowed him to look through her camera at the birds and Chris used their binoculars to help Forest look at the birds, too. Forest really enjoyed this because he was all about using his own binoculars when we got home and would talk about going birding the rest of the week!

There was some evening beach time in there with an incident of Valentina getting stuck in the sand but someone came to their rescue and all was well. The following morning Chris got up early with Marc and Eliana to hit up Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge and to begin what they hoped would be a Century Day—100 species of birds in a day. Chris was optimistic and so they set off before dawn and Forest and I slept in. This worked out perfectly and I met them down at Rollover Pass mid-to-late morning after Forest got some more beach time in.

We tinkered around Bolivar and High Highland for most of the day until after mid-afternoon when we all headed for the house. It’s about a two hour drive from our house to High Island so we wanted to get home to get dinner going and sort of get ready for the work week. By this time they were in the mid to high 90s on their bird count and Chris swore they would be able to get to 100 by the end of the day. However, it was starting to cloud up a bit by the time Marc and Eliana arrived and our usually hopping bird activity in the yard was rather quiet. We should have driven around the neighborhood or something but I believe we ended the day at 98 or 99 birds! So close! I asked Eliana if they’d had that happen before and she said they had—to bird all day but not get 100!

Marc and Eliana spent most of Monday doing chores on Valentina and when I came home early at 3pm they were still working. I’d hoped we would have been able to go for a hike or do something interesting but alas, chores beckoned! Chris’ field work went from a potentially multi-day ordeal to a really long single day so he was home by 8pm. The rest of us went out to dinner and a trip to REI for the evening.

They were leaving the following morning, heading for Aransas National Wildlife Refuge to look for whooping cranes and Chris and I delayed our morning for getting into work for a bit, though I headed into work before him. We had breakfast, Marc and Eliana packed up, and I tried to send them on their way with goodies from the house. It was bittersweet to say goodbye once again because I didn’t know when we would see each other again.

They are now somewhere in California!

Finally, Red Admiral Caterpillers!


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It was about two years ago I stared noticing the false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica) coming up in the garden. It grows naturally down by the pond edge and had found itself at home in the garden. Originally I began by pulling it because: weed, but eventually I came across several mentions of it being the larval host plant to the red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) and decided to let it stay for a few seasons to see if I would ever get caterpillars using it. Eastern comma and question mark butterflies also use it but I have never seen them in our yard. Red admirals, though, they are plentiful!

Last year I noticed a different type of leaf roller using the plant and pinpointed some kind of little green inchworm type caterpillar on it. Definitely not a red admiral! But in the last few weeks I noticed the adult red admirals swooping in and inspecting the plant, though I could never see any eggs being deposited. I inspected the plants later looking for eggs multiple times but again, to no avail. And then one day there was a different leaf roll than last year, what you see in the photos above! This was obviously the leaf nest for the red admiral, though it was quite difficult to see inside the particular leaf nest I first came across because it was sealed up well. The caterpillars use the leaf nest as their shelter and it is where they eat, sleep, poop, everything—until they move on to the next leaf nest.

Since that first leaf nest I’ve found several others and have luckily been able to see the caterpillars better than what I saw initially. It is thrilling to actually have another caterpillar to add to our list for the yard! I need to start scouting for chrysalides soon as there were several larger caterpillars out there who may have already pupated. If you need to source some seeds, Prairie Moon has some. I’ll tell you now, once you have it you will have as much as you want as it comes back from the roots each year and heavily reseeds itself! Put it somewhere you can let it run!

In other news, I do have about 30 monarchs in our cage at the moment and there’s probably 5-10 out on the milkweed outside right now. I’ve been bringing some extras in as I find them. I’ll have a bit of an update on those soon!

March 2018 Book Report


I finished a book over the weekend so I thought it worthwhile to get a March book report in.

Wildflowers of Texas by Michael Eason: Finally, a wildflower book for Texas that is a bit more comprehensive than what is currently out there. Texas is such a big state with many eco regions and each side of the opposite ends, north-south and east-west are such drastic differences in habitat. I read this one via Net Galley and loved it and knew it had to go on my purchase list—so I bought it this morning and it will arrive from Amazon on Wednesday! Not only will it be valuable for us to use at home and when we hike but it will definitely come in handy when identifying plants for field work. I saw several plants in there that I hadn’t been able to identify which really sealed the deal with wanting to purchase the book.

Crossing Open Ground by Barry Lopez: This was an easy audio book listen as it contained a series of essays written by the author over the course of a few decades. I had never heard of the author before but apparently he is a well known environmental essayist and fiction writer. The audio book was read by the author and he has a good, slow paced voice. I did not speed this audio up which worked well because it was just a series of essays and not a connected story so it didn’t feel like the pace dragged along. The essays cover different regions of the country, primarily the desert southwest and Alaska, but also at least one focusing on the eastern region of the US. As he talks about certain regions of the desert he mentions places talked about in Finding Everett Ruess and it took me back to that story. One story in particular talks about a scientific research study he was a part of in Alaska which required killing seals to find out their diet so that, ironically, they could be better protected. I will definitely seek out other works by Lopez in the future.

Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage by Molly Wizenberg: If you’ve been around the internet since the early to mid 00’s you’ve probably read Molly’s Orangette at some point in time. And you may have even visited the namesake of the book, the Delancey pizza restaurant in Seattle. It was on my aspiration to-visit list when we were in Seattle in 2012 but we did not make it there. I abandoned this book. I was listening to it on audio and it just lagged. The story wasn’t intriguing and it felt self indulgent at times. Which was disappointing because I had high hopes for the book. Maybe some day I will pick it up as a paper book and try again.

The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables by Catherine Reid: Another Net Galley read, this book is actually why I signed up for Net Galley. I saw it on Goodreads and almost had a fit because, hello, Anne of Green Gables! I *had* to read it! Being as I read this digitally, I could tell in the PDF version I read that the paper copy of this was going to be delectable! The art and photography in the book is spectacular and really enticed me to get up to PEI some day….not that it wasn’t already on my places to travel. The author works to weave in the differences and similarities between LMM and Anne’s landscapes in relation to PEI, how Maud concocted a mix of real-life places to represent some of the places that show up in Anne’s world. It also made me realize I need to get back and re-read her journals and the books themselves. It’s a gorgeous book and I can’t wait to check it out in print!

The Plant Messiah: Adventures in Search of the World’s Rarest Species by Carlos Magdelena: I devoured this book over the weekend—it was instantly captivating! Magdelena, a horticulturist at Kew in England begins the book by documenting his early days in Spain of being interested in plants. He also covered some of the recent history of the destruction of Spain’s natural resources around the time of Franco and how that has impacted species diversity in his own country. At Kew he becomes a sort of plant propagation specialist and later becomes known as a ‘plant messiah’ because of his ability to germinate and propagate species on the brink, so close to extinction that without help from humans they would cease to exist. He covers trips to the Mascarene Islands, South America, and Australia and all it made me do is want to go travel and look at plants! The book reminded me a lot about Florida’s own work to track down extirpated and potentially extinct species as well as the reintroduction of some of those species to south Florida that is already occurring. And of course it reminded me of when Chris found a thought to be extirpated orchid, the Cyclopogon elatus back in 2009. So far this is going down as one of my favorite books of the year! This was also a Net Galley book.

What are you reading? I’m currently excited about Jennifer Pharr Davis and Scott Jurek’s books which are due out soon!

Life Lately | March 2018


+In My Head
Social media, internet privacy, and tech companies jacking with our brains.

I’ve loved the internet since we got out first home computer sometime around 1996. Ah, good ol’ AOL chat rooms! And then later, Geocities websites, Blogger, blogs, forums, and on. I’ve met a lot of great people over the internet, some I’ve met in real life and others, just turning into good internet friends. I remember when at one point in time that last statement would make the people in your real life give you a concerned look but now it isn’t uncommon at all to meet up with people you’ve met on the internet.

That said, I have been thinking a lot about just what these companies we all (or most of us) have used at one time or another, particularly Facebook and Google(…and yes I’m aware that we’re tracked on everything we do online because #advertising). Of course there are other sites in there, but the first one is of course the big one at the moment and has been for awhile. There’s no shortage of articles going back several years of various tech people trying to sound the alarm on Facebook; I just read one from 2012 talking about so many of the issues that were brought up in the news recently. It does give me a particular delight to have been slightly ahead of the game with deactivating my account in spring of 2015 and I kick myself for taking until this last December to permanently delete it. Of course there’s the very real possibility that that data isn’t deleted at all and Facebook can’t prove it isn’t tucked away on some server, another problem addressed in various articles over the last couple of weeks.

Now, my data, which I downloaded before I hit ‘delete’ didn’t really cause me that much concern—but what bothers me most is the manipulation of the data for emotional responses and algorithm reasons, and the overall ick factor of what happened with CA (I don’t want to actually say their name because they are so creepy…gah, I guess I really need to read Dark Money by Jane Mayer soon), with the tricking people into taking quizzes and using the user’s data and their friend’s data. But from what I understand, those who have the app on their phone, there’s *much* more data that Facebook is collecting from you. I saw one article about some data FB had from phone calls and text messages. I am so thankful I never had that app on my phone. Now, I am on different Facebook owned platform and am currently in an ethical conundrum—do I keep using the platform or do I try to limit it somehow? So far I’ve decided to not install the app, or many apps, on the next phone I upgrade to, which I will be doing in a few weeks. I’ll leave it on the older phone and the Kindle and limit it to that.

A lot of the security issues became front and center with a more general population right after the election with various people writing about VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) and the use of other secure online services, in addition to the talk of a certain subset switching back to dumb phones. And even before all of this there was a set of people who just didn’t post photos of their children’s faces online to protect their privacy, to allow them to set their own guide for what they wanted their digital footprint to be when they were of age. I admit, on the last one I was a little skeptical about that but now I think it is probably a pretty good guideline. The cat is out of the bag in regards to having photos of Forest online and to be honest, I don’t mind sharing photos here on the blog. But I have pulled back in sharing some stories about him just for the simple fact that he probably doesn’t want that to be in his search history one day!

I truly don’t regret quitting Facebook. Yes, I do miss seeing some updates from a few people but to be honest we once lived a life where no one knew the daily goings on of everyone and their neighbor’s dog. I reach out to people I haven’t heard from in awhile via text or email and if I really love you, I call you. I expect most everyone else is capable of this same thing and there is this wonderful thing called the internet where you can search for people if you don’t have their contact information. Most people are searchable in one way or another—I found an old forum friend when I came across her YouTube channel!

I miss the small internet, where there were forums and small groups, blogs that were written with a frequency that made you excited when someone posted an update. I’d like to get back to that again, or some re-creation of that. I hope it isn’t wishful thinking.

I’m not sure where I’m going with all of this so here’s a few links to read because other people are better with this than I am: On Leaving Facebook by Sean Bronner from 2012(!!), On Social Media and Its Discontents by Cal Newport (outspoken anti-social media tech guy…you can peruse his blog for other insightful commentary), Why I’m Quitting Social Media by Tammy Strobel, Why I Deleted Facebook by Derek Sivers.

+Watching

This is Us: Still loving this show! They ended the season earlier than I would have liked, though.

The Big Bang Theory: Wondering how they are going to approach the death of Stephen Hawking!

Homeland: Ok, ignore everything I wrote about this last time—so much has changed and they have really thrown me for a loop with where President Keane really stands. Bringing in so many great relevant aspects to current events into the show. And Carrie, well, girl needs some help.

Call the Midwife: The new season just started up and somehow I managed to watch the second episode before the first one! I love this show and I think I need to revisit the first couple of seasons.

+Outside My Window
Today we had some rain which we did need! I thought we were fairly dry but the front yard low spot filled up pretty quickly this afternoon. It’s also been warming up to the mid-80s a few times in the last couple of weeks—time for sunscreen and hats, and lunchtime showers during the week!

+Making
I got an idea back in February, pondered on it for a few weeks and then decided to just go for it….so, I haven’t spread this far and wide yet because I’m a: still needing to record the first two episodes for May and b: needing to pin down some guests for the summer, but here it is: Orange Blaze: A Florida Trail Podcast!

Not much time for anything else these days but I need to get my watercolors back out.

+In The Garden
The monarchs are back! We noticed them on Bolivar peninsula when we were there two weekends ago and when we arrived home that evening I found one on our milkweed! Woohoo! I collected 14 eggs and all of them hatched but one. Then I lost three caterpillars somehow—I never know what happens to them—and now I have 10 chompers in the tent outside! So excited to start this season out as they migrate north.

I’ve been weeding, mulching, and getting plants going for the spring and early summer. It won’t be long and we will need to think about summer plantings. The blackberries are already blooming—soon fruit! I still have a ton of blackberry jam from last year so if I see you in person, ask for some! Strawberries are starting to roll in but we are battling a really rough snail invasion this year—they ate through one of my large borage plants and I had to break some stalks off! So, between getting to the berries before the snails do they are eating other things as well. I lost some greens seedlings earlier in the year to them. I really need our rosy wolf snails to return because they are carnivorous and eat other snails and slugs! Natural pest control!

+Reading
I just finished The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables. I really loved the book but felt I didn’t get the total experience from reading it on a Kindle so I will be buying it when it gets published. So many beautiful photos and a great addition to my LMM library. I’m currently listening to The Nature Fix which is good but I’m not so sure I should have listened to it as the narrator is a little hyper. Maybe that’s the author coming across but I’m having a hard time with it.

I likely won’t get around to a book report for March so I’ll merge it with April’s.

+Loving
Evenings outside! New rollerblades! I had been leaving mine on the porch where they started rusting, but the wheels were wearing badly and the brake was almost non-existent again. So the new ‘blades are smooth and easy! Doing some bodyweight exercises and feeling good about those. Quick Pasta and Chickpeas from Smitten Kitchen. I really loved it, used elbow noodles and would add in more than I did for this recipe. I even added more than it called for. I skipped the pepper and added other flavorings. I think this is an easily adaptable recipe. Throw some sausage in there if you are really wanting some meat but the chickpeas provide a good texture in place of meat.

What’s up with you?

Sunday Brain Ramblings


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Hello friends (and family!)…I’m around! I kept meaning to get some posts written last week but alas, I still have photos to edit and well, I’m barely finding time to get on top of laundry and to keep the house clean. We’ve been super busy the last few weekends and this weekend we were finally at home but I already know my to-do list will not be completed. Oh well!

Our friends Marc and Eliana are on their second cross-country road trip! They did their first in 2008, which you can see here but they are posting this trip over on Facebook and Instagram if you’d like to pop over and check them out. I hadn’t seen them since one of my baby showers in the summer of 2014 and Chris hadn’t seen them in 8 years! Honestly, I don’t know how 8 years has gone that quickly, it just doesn’t seem like time has passed that fast. 8 years—the same amount of time out of Florida that we were in Florida. Anyway, we got to see them last weekend while they birded in High Island and then they stayed at our house for two nights as they caught up on some errands and VW bus work on Valentina.

Needless to say, I have photos from that weekend as well as from the garden to share and of course probably monthly wrap up and then a book report at some point.

My problem is finding the time! Now that it is spring the urge to be outside is overwhelming and well, my laundry is now not getting folded until mid-week and the pile needs to be done again! So, you can see that photo editing and writing is on the back end these day!

More soon!

Overnight on the Four Notch Loop/Lone Star Trail


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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.

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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!

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

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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….

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after crossing a creek I spotted two more!

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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.

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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.

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

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Forest kept calling the trail markers “Stop signs”.

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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.

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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.

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Wool sower gall

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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!

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So gorgeous!

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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.

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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


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Hello!

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

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They were covering the entire slope of that area!

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

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

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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.

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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.

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You can see how well that all worked out!

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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.

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I think this is a Smilax pumila seedling.

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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?

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