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  • Archive for January, 2012

    January started off with a bang and continued on quickly and seemed to escape from me fast. I was not prolific in the manner I was expecting. I have a small journal I keep with me to jot down to-do’s and ideas as they come to me, and I will just say that I probably gave myself too much to do for this month.

    Creatively I only accomplished one big thing, which was finishing up a baby blanket…well, really I restarted it and finished it. I cut my time short because the baby it was intended for came about three weeks early! The crochet took a lot out of me and I felt creatively drained after.

    Outdoors-wise it was mostly a big no-go on adventures or physical fitness. I probably averaged two days a week running and a tiny scattering of yoga during that month. I had hoped to do four days a week running but various things kept intruding. I really prefer to run in the mornings because it frees up my evenings, however I also don’t like getting up before it is light. I might have to start braving the dark and getting out there early. Adventures were non-existent because Chris went to work in the field for an extended time (and will probably return after a short break) and weekends were here-there-everywhere. I had contemplated doing some hiking on my own but I ended up doing other things. I’m hoping I can get out more in February.

    Writing was very skimpy, maybe 3,000 words within the last week. Because the crochet drained me creatively I was sapped of energy for writing. With that and the fact the last time I had written was on the drive to DFW for Christmas, my mental focus on writing was shot. I have got to get a fire lit under that this month and hit a big fat number. I had anticipated 70,000 words for January, starting at 40K, but I’m going to be aiming that for February instead. Must get this thing written because editing and some research will be taking up time after that.

    Art, which is part of the creative aspect, didn’t happen. I did work on some photos, reprocessing photos I already had. My big goal for art this coming month will be to continue organizing and processing older photos that I never did much with in order to update our website later this spring. This is a much bigger process than I thought it would be and has taught me to start keeping better track of potential photos to put into the gallery. I have one drawing I would like to do this month and will probably spend a couple of days doing that.

    The biggest thing I suppose is not to overload my plate and to pick and choose which things to tackle first. I tend to get ahead of myself when I start making my lists and then start to panic when I don’t finish what I wanted to do.

    How are you doing on your word for 2012?

    +Chris pulled all of the beets, roasted them, and then turned them into pickles. Should be an interesting thing to try!

    +My parents came to visit this last weekend and brought their dogs. Isabelle, here, enjoyed sunning herself in the doorways when the sun came through. I think she enjoyed seeing me but she’s going blind, deaf and is getting old and I think she would have preferred to stay at home. My cats weren’t so keen on having the dogs back, but at least they were familiar with them and weren’t too upset about them.

    +Been wanting some Vibram Five Fingers for awhile. Found some on clearance at REI this weekend and my parents bought them for me. So far I love them. It will take some getting used to, but I do love feeling closer to the ground. I prefer to be barefoot anyway.

    +Samson had to have his fill of sunlight…



    +Leo preferred the suitcases we had out as Chris has been slightly transient lately, coming back from the field for a few days.

    +Bought some broccoli sprout seeds this weekend at a specialty garden center…going to attempt to do my own sprouting and add it into my breakfast smoothies.
    +Getting incredibly frustrated with Mexican restaurants when I go out to eat. I feel like my only options are cheese and more cheese. I love cheese, but I’m trying to be a healthy vegetarian.
    +The garden kitty has been taken in by someone at the garden to get shots and to be spayed and will be returned to the garden soon. She is incredibly sweet and will follow you around the garden. As much as I hope she gets a home, I do miss seeing her in the garden.
    +Tried the sauerkraut yesterday—16 days in—getting tangy but needs more fermentation time. Scooped a few bits of mold off but it seems to take awhile for any mold to even form. After scooping it off it is very difficult for me to try a taste, but I manage. If I eat raw fish (when I take temporary leave of vegetarianism) then I think I can eat slightly rotting/fermenting cabbage.

    How was your January? I need to get out more in February.

    Did you miss the first post? Read Part I here

    Inside the cave, which really isn’t much of a cave, I couldn’t help but think it would make a great shelter. Which is probably what local tribes and other visitors, including animals, have done over the years.


    As you can see, someone named Nichols visited from Bastrop sometime in 1883. This reminded me of seeing William Clark’s signature at Pompey’s Pillar in Montana in 2008.

    This area is subject to flash flooding; several years ago they had some major flooding and had to sweep mud and debris out of the caves and do rehab on the trails before opening them back up.


    Passiflora affinis. Originally I thought this looked like lutea but going off of the plant list for the preserve I have figured otherwise.

    The crinkly aspect of this fern made for a good portrait of it. My best guess is that it is a southern shield fern, Thelypteris kunthii.



    This set of leaves has enticed me to want to start a leaf portrait series. I did not look close enough as I was taking these to tell you what they were. I was mostly drawn to the lines and shadows.

    I sat down for awhile waiting for Chris and these steps had me entranced for a few moments, thinking of postcards and posters of places in England and France, tiny little gardens with weathered stones. I almost let the moment go and did not photograph them. I’m glad I did.

    A mixture of detritus and the water passing through the area. Sometimes I wonder how long leaves and debris sit before moving, decaying, or falling into another position. Does an animal walk by and brush up against it, will rain drops move it mere centimeters or a flood displace it entirely?


    This little stump was beautifully textured and again sent me into a trance, reminding me of a stump that used to be in front of my grandmother’s house when she lived there. They don’t even look the same, but it was a stump and that is what memory it triggered.

    I love capturing these little scenes, the ones we might walk by and not notice. Or if we notice we only think about it in passing. I’ve decided to pay more attention to them, call them small still lifes and perhaps compose some for use on Wildscape Photo.

    I hope you enjoyed the little ‘trip’ to Westcave. If you are ever in Austin, do go see the three parks in this area. They are a real treat and when the weather is warm I want to swim in the Pedernales River!

    Tucked away next to the Pedernales River just west of Austin, near the town of Bee Cave, is the Westcave Preserve. Westcave is a non-profit entity run in coordination with the Lower Colorado River Authority. Nearby there are two other beautiful parks, the Hamilton Pool Preserve and the Milton Reimers Ranch Park. One could spent an entire weekend exploring all three parks.

    The photo above is an overlook at Westcave peering down at the Pedernales River.


    The park is available to the public by tour only on weekends or with a school group during the week. But for $5 a person, we felt the tour price was well worth it! The tours last about two hours, and we did not feel rushed. We were able to chat with the park ranger about the various botanical and wildlife interests within the park and nearby areas. I think we kept him engaged, asking questions that only nerdy biologists would ask! There was only us and a family of four on our tour, but I imagine in warmer weather it would be busier. I was a little surprised it wasn’t busy since it was New Years weekend.

    The tour starts at the visitors center and traverses the ashe juniper and live oak habitats on the same level as the environmental center, but as we descended we entered a riparian type ecosystem of ferns, sycamores and cypress. It was beautiful! The Ashe Juniper-Live Oak complex is utilized by the endangered gold cheek warbler and apparently a few birds have been known to nest at the preserve.

    At the end of the trail we reached the ‘cave’, which is really a grotto, and then on the north side of the canyon is a deeper cave like structure, really a large room.


    Because the group on the tour was small we were able to take our time to take the photos we wanted. Often on tours we are rushed and cannot experience a place very well, particularly if it is crowded.


    Before the preserve was founded it was visited by many people, swimmers, picnickers and people who eventually, both purposefully and unknowingly, caused some damage to the typical structures you see in caves like stalactites and stalagmites.




    In the next post I will show a few photos from inside the cave as well as some closer still-life shots of the surrounding area. It was wonderful to be able to stop and look at a tiny little scene and have the time to shoot it. I can’t wait to show you those!

    And if anyone cares, I found the management plan for Westcave Preserve.










    January has been unseasonably warm and I have nothing bad to say about that. Flip flops in January? Yes! The warmth has tinges of Florida in it and it makes me happy. December and part of November were so dark, dreary and rainy that it was really depressing for me. January has turned beautiful, with a few cold mornings here and there, the sun seems to shine its warmth and heat the day up.

    The light is changing too. The sun is moving northward again. I know because it had hidden itself behind the curtain in front of my desk at work and has now worked itself into blinding me from 8-9am in the morning.

    In the garden the sugar snap peas are coming up and sending their tiny tendrils upwards, grasping for the metal trellis.

    One of the cabbages has bolted and is in full flower with the other cabbages following suit. Or at least trying to. I’ve been pinching them back in order to eat more cabbage before it is gone completely.


    The tomatoes have sprouted but have not sent out their true leaves yet. I’m hoping they can pull through because I’m afraid with this January warmth, February is going to come back and bite us in the ass.

    A tiny kitty has found its way to our community garden. Weak, food deprived and a bit scratched up, I’m hoping it can pull through and maybe I can get it to a no-kill shelter. I am afraid it will be hit by a car in the parking lot nearby. I bought a few packs of wet food and a bag of dry food to get it through the week.

    I’m antsy to get out and do some hiking, taking some pictures…

    My brother has been writing about some of his gardening activities…go and check his blog out and show him some love!

    A few weekends ago, New Years Eve weekend to be exact, we stopped by Westcave Preserve on our way home. We’d been by there a year before but did not have time to go in. I will have more on Westcave itself in two later posts, but this one is specifically about the beautiful maidenhair fern.

    The fern grows in all sorts of rocky outcroppings, and other nooks and crannies along the creek at Westcave. The creek flows maybe a quarter of a mile before emptying into the Pedernales River.




    It really makes pathways it lines a magical place.

    The Texas Vascular Plant Checklist lists one other species for Texas, Adiantum tricholepis or the hairy maidenhair fern. A Google search of that species is very intriguing and now I would love to see it. The USDA plant database has it listed as only existing in Medina county here in Texas…and only in Texas in the U.S.!


    I almost think it is my favorite fern, and yet I saw a photo of a giant leather fern on Flickr the other day and I was reminded of how much I love them too. I think I just love ferns!

    Misti @ Sunfish Pond

    If you’ve only recently started reading my blog you might not know that I have a second niece. She was born two years ago today and unfortunately only lived for 104 days.

    She died when we were on the Appalachian Trail, so after we returned back to the trail from home after the funeral, cairns become something symbolic for me with her, Ashleigh. Typically cairns are used for marking a footpath or a particular place on a mountain but occasionally we’d come across great areas of them for no particular reason. The ones above, at Sunfish Pond in New Jersey, were simple and modest but they reminded me of her.

    When we came across the ones at White Rock Cliffs in Vermont I made a tiny one for her. I didn’t take a photo of it at the time. But it is there among all the other cairns alongside the trail. It really is an amazing sight to round the corner and see the forest full of cairns.

    cairn pano
    And when we came to Galveston a few weekends ago and I saw the cairns lining the rocks on the Seawall near Fort Crockett, I knew I had to walk among them and make my own for her. They are a little hard to see in this pano—and it isn’t that great of one because I was not using a tripod and just a point and shoot camera.

    I only met Ashleigh twice and never held her. Her parents, my brother and sister in law, of course had the privilege as did my parents, but when we left for the AT she was not in good enough health for other people to hold her just yet. And so, I had always hoped to be able to connect with her as I have my other niece and nephew but I never did in the way I thought I would. Instead now I try to remember her in these ways, building something more for myself to remind me of her, but also to leave a mark upon on the Earth for her, to let others knows whether they realize it or not, that a sweet little baby girl was here for 104 days and made a remarkable imprint on the lives of those who knew her.

    Happy Birthday Ashleigh!

    I toiled over this blanket for so long. Its original incarnation looked nothing like this. In fact it was going to be a simple square, half double crochet alternating between the back and front loops in a striped pattern. Somehow along the way I kept decreasing my rows. The first time I did not get very far into it before I unraveled it. The second time I thought perhaps it just needed to stretch out.

    I do not know what happened. All I knew was that I felt that I had just begun crocheting not that I had been doing it for 9 years. I was dumbfounded. Finally, I scrapped it all, actually I left what I had finished together and let my cats sleep on it for a few days and instead went for the yarn still in balls from the store. Initially this was going to be a blue dominated blanket as it is for a baby boy, but then I went for the grey/white dominated with blue accent. Eventually I booted the cats off of the original one because I need to unravel it for extra yarn.

    And here is how it ended up. I’m worried it might be a bit girly because of the frilly sides due to the circle pattern.

    In all I am happy with it but I will not be crocheting a blanket for anyone for awhile. In fact, maybe ever. Unless I buy really chunk yarn that whips up fast. I have definitely learned to favor the quick quilts I have made for a few friends. Time wise they whip up in a few hours, money wise they can be a bit more expensive unless I make separate trips to craft stores with coupons. Yarn isn’t cheap either and I don’t always buy the lower end stuff for babies. My tastes in yarn have grown finer over these 9 years.

    My mother in law went beyond my normal line for fine yarns and bought yarns that I probably would have splurged on only occasionally. It was definitely a great idea for a Christmas present and I have yet to figure out what to make with them.

    This is sock yarn. I think I have recovered enough from my last pair of socks to make another pair. I am still looking for knitted (or really nice crocheted) candy corn colored socks for Fall/Halloween.

    I’m hoping this is enough for a shrug but I might have to buy more if it isn’t. Love these colors so much!

    This will be a great chunky scarf!

    Now that I have finished the blanket I will probably put crochet on hold for awhile. I need to write and process a lot of photos.

    While I was crocheting I watched a lot of movies…
    +Sideways: Never saw it when it initially came out. It was not what I imagined, good but not nearly as much wine as I imagined. Slightly depressing.
    +Emma: with Romola Garai. I had listened to most of this on my mp3 on the AT so I knew the story. I still feel the ending is rushed and so is the pairing between Emma and Knightley.
    +North & South: This has to be my absolute new favorite. Mr. Thornton is the 1850s industrial version of 1800s Mr. Darcy. Rent this. See this. You will fall in love!
    +And if you aren’t watching Downton Abbey you must be living under a rock. Ok, I’m not currently watching because I watched all of S2 on YouTube, including the most recent Christmas special, but everyone in the U.S. is watching on PBS right now. Rent S1 and then catch up with S2. And if you have 30 minutes to spare, listen to Elizabeth’s commentary on the new season.

    That is all!

    If you missed the first part of this series go here.

    On New Years Eve I slept in and Chris got up early to take sunrise photos. Once up and breakfast was eaten, we headed off for the eastern side of the loop around the rocks. It was a gorgeously clear day again, perfect really.

    Initially we were going to completely go all the way to the east on the loop but we came to the junction of the Turkey Pass trail and thought it looked good, a cut through up to another trail and we could catch the eastern loop up there. We passed this beautiful pond on our way through.

    And just to the right of the pond was Turkey Peak.




    The south face of Enchanted Rock. In the distance we saw other hikers descending from the rock, in a steep spot. The man in the group was cautiously inching his way down while the woman had resorted to scooting down. The day before we’d been in a similar situation and I’d debated scooting, finally opting not to. Once down on the ground I looked back up, incredulous that we’d come down that slope!

    The Turkey Pass trail was quiet, passing one couple and then I think we met up with the steep slope couple towards the top of the trail. This area was definitely not where the main action was going on and would be a great place to explore and enjoy some peace and quiet in the park.

    This oak and little rock pool area was beautiful. A small spring was flowing through here. If I’d of had a book and was not going to be hiking I might have spend a few hours perched under the tree.


    I’m always surprised to see clear running streams/springs in Texas, which I’m not sure why I am surprised. Perhaps because in Florida I was not accustomed to seeing springs unless we were in far northern Florida.



    We walked to the far northern boundary of the park on the loop, then cutting south through Moss Lake primitive camp and then to the Echo Canyon trail. Somehow we ended up off trail and found ourselves making our own trail—which wasn’t terribly bad because others were coming up the way we’d decided to go down.

    It was fun going down this way, hopping over rocks.

    Back at camp for lunch we opted for a leisurely afternoon of napping. We’d been planning on staying out for sunset to get some shots for that and we left camp with a couple hours of sun left to scout out a place to go. Unfortunately we left just about the time we both decided to get headaches. I’d popped some medicine but Chris hadn’t and his headache become consistently worse as we hiked on.

    We did manage to find some beautiful views by taking a trail that was probably not a trail, because it dead ended and we ended up rock hopping and slab walking.

    This beautiful slab was begging for its photo to be taken. Chris found a set of stairs leading up to the top where I ended up laying for awhile. Chris needed to lay too but he opted for down in the shade beneath the slab. An animal must have also found it to be a nice spot because scat was at the top too.

    Our sunset expedition was called off when Chris’ headache worsened. Instead we hastened back for camp where he hit the tent and was miserable for a few hours before medicine kicked in. I made dinner for myself and sat outside reading by lamplight. I’d gone to bed too early the previous night and didn’t want to do so again. Eventually Chris emerged to eat his own dinner and he opened the bottle of Champagne he’d brought for New Years.

    We knew 2012 had arrived by the loud raucous that occurred as the clock struck midnight. Yes, we’d gone to bed a few hours prior to that! I was a struck with sadness in my sleepy haze by the thought of another year coming in. It made me a little sad to know that this would be the first year in two years with no long distance adventures. I let the sadness go quickly because I was soon back asleep.

    Enchanted Rock is a place that is beckoning to be visited again, perhaps on a more quiet weekend where we can enjoy it in peace.

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