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  • Archive for March, 2013

    I hadn’t been up to DFW to see my family since Christmas, (keeping your head down and working in the garden every weekend for three months straight will do that to you), so a couple of weekends ago I drove up to see my grandmother whose mental condition (and physical) had deteriorated more recently. I also hadn’t been to my brother’s house recently to see the changes in his garden so I decided to stop by and check it out. The weather was beautiful, sunshine and late springtime temperatures instead of late winter temperatures.

    Of course my nephew Grayson came along for the garden tour.



    My brother lives in a typical suburban subdivision about a mile from my parents. He’s done a lot with the lot, fitting in flowers and vegetables where he can and recently expanded the garden a bit leaving enough room for the kids to have an area to play. Here you can see his compost bins in the background. You can see that nothing fancy is needed to have a place to build compost for your garden.

    Zoe showed me her recently planted radishes hanging out in the storage container. She’s grown so much and the toddler/little kid phase of her life is fading fast with the big kid phase coming on quickly.

    Curt is pushing some climate zones with his citrus tree, winterizing it as needed.

    I could definitely tell that the garden is an area that the kids explore and play in when their dad is outside working.

    My brother is a garlic wiz and I can only hope our garlic crops turn out as good as his crops do.

    A multitude of pet dogs and cats find their way into the garden sometimes so my brother has to protect some of the crops from being trampled or used as a litter box.



    Curt’s working on a couple of different growing methods right now. The bare space is covered in clover as a cover crop and he’ll eventually grow straight in the ground there. Most of his beds are raised as you can see.


    And finally the onions.

    He’s been growing out of this garden for I think six years now and every year it evolves into something different.


    +I bleached our luffa sponges a few weeks ago. They turned out really lovely and I’m going to have to get Chris to cut them for me. Maybe one day when we have beeswax I’ll make soap and the luffa will pair nicely with the soap as gifts!

    +I’ve been listening to a lot of food/sustainability podcasts lately and one of them discussed organic bananas and the banana industry. It was a bit of a revelation because I don’t usually pay that much attention to buying organic bananas. Bananas are generally very cheap to begin with and the podcast was discussing that even organic bananas are relatively cheap in comparison to other organic produce. So, the other day when I was at the grocery store I looked at the price difference and conventional bananas were 49 cents a pound whereas organic were only 69 cents a pound. Not much of a difference. The reasoning was the while the pesticide residue might not penetrate through the skin and into the fruit itself, the workers themselves are subjected to the pesticides. So, it is a little bit beyond thinking about yourself and thinking about others. This could actually be applied to a lot of other instances too, but when considering the price of food items I don’t feel like a 20 cent difference is much of a big deal when other fruits and vegetables can be several dollars different in terms of conventional or organic. And if you are just beginning to go organic, why not start with bananas?

    +Totally started this on Sunday but had no urge to finish writing so here I am on Wednesday writing….

    +Have you been to Sprout Dispatch lately? My brother and I did a video blog when I was home a couple of weeks ago. Today he wrote about his trip to a local farm. Chel recently wrote about interesting garden gadgets and showed some beautiful photos of her container garden. Come over and say hi or hit the subscribe button and have it show up in your feed or email!

    +My brother also wrote today about some changes going on with his family in regards to health and diet. I’m happy to see these things going on! Little changes turn to big ones….

    +Renee is having a sale on her art in anticipation of her second little one arriving soon.

    +Lean Way In via Almost Fearless

    +These beautiful succulent gardens via Far Out Flora.

    That’s all I’ve got. I’ve not felt the blogging writing or reading vibe lately but I’m trying to get back here.

    Tell me what’s going on in your world….




    Chris ordered several interesting native plants for our garden and jack-in-the-pulpits were some of the ones that we received. They came to us as tiny corms and sprouted faster than I expected. It would be really cool to have them naturalize in our more shady and moist areas of the yard.

    This is a pretty interesting write up as is this.

    Do you grow any unique native plants?

    Ah, Galveston. I love this island. For those who haven’t been reading long, my history with the island is that I spent four years there while in college. The island is equal parts old money, spring break, summer vacation, and ratty hole-in-the-wall. It’s still a little bit of a place called home for me, though.

    Chris and I spent a little bit of time down at the beach that we got engaged at. We think.. You see, when we got engaged there were more dunes and vegetation and a sign for riding horses on the beach. That was back in 2001. Since then Hurricane Ike came through and well, the scenery has changed.

    I believe this is a snowy plover. I was hoping for piping plover but the eye patch threw me off and my guidebook suggests snowy plover instead.


    Cndarians of some sort....
    This pods of jelly are some kind of comb jelly I believe. I’m having flashbacks to invertebrate zoology right now and memorizing taxonomy.

    Here’s your run-of-the-mill laughing gull….he wants some food.

    Lotus capsule








    The fishing was good out there!

    I’m going to go with ring-billed gull for this one….flying on by.



    I love the feathers on the wing tips of this brown pelican as it is flying by; very poetic and graceful.


    But poetry and grace take the backseat when dinner calls!

    Chris’ dad and step-mom went to Hawaii a few months ago and brought back a package with two macadamia tree seeds. Despite that we’re in zone 9A, barely, we definitely get some chill hours here that only 30 minutes down the road into the urban heart of Houston does not get. We’re at the north end of a zone that allows us to grow avocados (apparently Fantastic is the cultivar that does best here) so I thought we’d give it a try and grow the macadamias out and see what happens.

    We soaked them overnight as per the package directions….well, actually it was a few days because I forgot to take them out and plant them. Oops! I planted them last week and so far they haven’t sprouted. I’m not surprised, the outer coating on the seeds is pretty tough so I don’t expect them to be fast sprouters.

    I found that Caldwell Nursery south of town lists them as zone 9b tolerant, so I’m not sure how this little experiment is going to go. I drooled over the nursery’s listing of tropicals, they sell some of the plants we saw often in south Florida. I’m going to have to visit their nursery sometime in the near future that’s for sure!

    The Appalachian Trail Plaque

    “To walk; to see and to see what you see. ”
    –Benton MacKaye, on the ultimate purpose for hiking on the Appalachian Trail, 1971

    Sometimes it seems like yesterday, and some days it seems like it never happened at all.

    Beauty Beneath the Dirt – Official Trailer from Jason Furrer on Vimeo.

    Let me introduce to you three people that Chris and I met in 2010 on the Appalachian Trail during our thru-hike. Ringleader (Kate), Monkey (Brandon), and Lightning (Emily). While for the most part we only hiked around this group not with them or necessarily hanging out with them, I knew we would still want to see this documentary they made while hiking in 2010.

    There was a bit of controversy surrounding them, particularly in the beginning of the trail, in regards to their filming and that is touched on a bit in the movie (I think in the extras) with Monkey telling the naysayers to bleep off. I think as time went on it was just known that they were The Traveling Circus (for short The Circus) and that was that and I feel that at least the hikers that knew them/of them the contentiousness was dropped to some extent as time went on, at least from my perspective.

    I’d heard a vaguely of The Circus sometime when we were just getting into North Carolina, but even after meeting Lightning as she came out of nowhere on Wayah Bald one day, we didn’t really understand who or what the group was for many more miles. Lightning, she’d puff smokes and still be this crazy fast hiker that I wouldn’t dream of being able to keep up with. It may have been Damascus, Virginia before we saw the other two members of The Circus. I remember Ringleader asking the folks at the Mt. Rogers Outfitters something in regards to her down jacket as bits of down were coming out, but that was really it. I think we leap-frogged around them between Damascus and Atkins where we saw them a few times during our nearo in Atkins.

    I believe all of us left Atkins the same morning and that was the first time we really hiked around them for any length of time. I remember Ringleader taking her camera out several times to film the pastures the trail went through in that area, and chatting with them a little at a few shelters during breaks. Somehow I recall them pulling a 20+ miler in order to get somewhere to meet friends. At that time 20+ miles seemed like a far fetched dream! And after that day I don’t remember really seeing them all that much as it wasn’t but a week later that we got off the trail to return home for my niece’s funeral. When we returned to the AT after the funeral Trail Days was going on and Lightning was down there while Ringleader and Monkey were at Ringleader’s law school graduation. We gained some days ahead of them and I think the next time we saw them was sometime in Pennsylvania—definitely on the day we stayed under the bridge the day it rained—they came through dripping wet on a slack pack but were headed to a hotel or someones house, lucky them! For the next while they were around for awhile. I recall a very interesting encounter with them in New Jersey as they were recuperating from a night in town. Their recuperation was occurring in the middle of the trail as they slept off their drinks from the night before (don’t worry, no photos y’all!). Later on we actually got to talk to them a bit at the RPH Shelter in New York, which is where Chris took the photo of Ringleader that is on the spine of the DVD.

    I don’t know when it was that we last saw them as somehow we ended up in front of them by the time we finished the trail. The three of them, though split up at that time, finished a few days after us in August. Then of course comes Facebook and social media and the ability to be ‘friends’ through those avenues so it has been nice to actually get to know Ringleader a little bit more than I did on the trail.

    The Movie
    I admit, I was a bit skeptical as to if the movie would come to fruition. Kate/Ringleader went on to be a lawyer, Monkey went to med school and I’m not sure what Lightning is up to, but I’m sure she’s living her life too. And then last year the movie came out. They started off by doing some showings in Chicago and a few areas where they lived and then Monkey and Ringleader did showings up and down the AT in various towns, festivals, and hostels.

    I didn’t really have many people to ask to find out what it was like but what I heard was negative; apparently there was a lot of cussing. Ooook. But then I also saw good reviews from AT hikers on the trail last year who wrote about it on their blog so I began to really wonder and knew that seeing it for myself was really the way to go.

    And? Yes, there were many f-bombs but you know what? Half of them had me and Chris laughing our heads off, particularly the ones coming from Monkey when he went off in a confessional about group infighting. And some of the f-bombs were just courtesy of the moments on the trail. I mean, I had my moments. There were a string of curse words coming from my mouth when I slipped on a wood plank in Vermont. You are living, eating, breathing the trail and then little crap moments happen and it seems the world is ending.

    But then again, I’m not really averse to cussing when used properly. Would the movie have had the effect it did without the cussing or if Monkey had said something more gentle instead? Probably not. Not only that, substituting something else just wouldn’t have been them and would instead of have been a farce.

    Which brings me to why I think some people might have had a problem with the movie. This isn’t a shiny, sparkly movie about the Appalachian Trail (don’t get me wrong, there are beautiful shots in the movie!). Instead, it’s a movie about three people who hiked the trail and their experiences. Every single person who hikes out there comes to the trail with a different background and story, their dynamic and story along the trail evolves differently due to their experiences, and they emerge at the end someone different (maybe) than everyone else.

    In the extras (which I haven’t finished all the way yet) Ringleader talks with the other producer and editor of the movie about what the focus was of the film. They had captured hours upon hours of the hike on film and when they went to review they had to come up with a story. Along the way they did interviews of some of the other hikers and I know they shot scenes in so many other areas but they had to figure out what was going to make a movie. Their answer was ‘group dynamic’.

    And it was so true. The three of them with different backgrounds, despite two of them being related, all coming to the trail for different reasons, and their interactions along the trail is what made the story. I won’t give away much but we had heard that The Circus had broken up somewhere in Maine. That story is told in the movie.

    I will say, I think part of the problems that came up could have been resolved pre-hike or within the first few weeks. Ringleader mentioned multiple times feeling like she was never hiking with Lightning. I saw this same thing happen with others hiking as couples and even with us on our second day on the trail. The whole fastest person in front thing does not work especially if the slowest person in the group is unhappy about it. We worked it out that I hiked in front consistently except for a couple of times when Chris had a blister or had hurt his ankle (snow in the Smokeys) and that’s pretty much how we hike now unless we’re dayhiking and doing something leisurely.

    Communication is very much key when hiking or backpacking with a group. If some kind of resolution had been solved early on then maybe the problems The Circus faced would have been resolved—-but then maybe there wouldn’t have been the movie that we saw either!

    In all, I think this movie should be in any collection for the Appalachian Trail. It is one story among thousands from the trail and I think worth watching especially for anyone who hiked in 2010 as you may see familiar faces. If you don’t want to buy the DVD, at least rent it online for a night and watch it. It is a great movie, not worth the criticism I’ve heard in my opinion, and is well made for what equipment they were using and the fact they were doing it themselves. If you want to watch something different and not your standard RedBox fare, check it out.

    There’s one moment with Lightning stirring a pot of something over her stove, a beautiful sunset in the background and she’s lamenting that she really wants a cheeseburger. I totally understand.

    Part of my family was in town over the weekend and on Saturday we went to the Calendar Garden for a class in which we would create our own garden markers out of clay. This was the real deal—real pottery clay, real glaze, and it would be fired in a kiln by the artist who hosted the class. Sweet! I haven’t used real clay since high school and as I worked with the clay it all came back to me easily. Made me wish I had my own potting wheel and kiln!

    My niece and nephew came along with me, my mom, and sister-in-law and they were good for the first bit but then their attention span turned elsewhere….playing!



    The day was incredibly windy and we battled the breeze that came through the pavilion that we were working under.










    All the kids wanted to do was run up and down the ramp in the little house that stores the seeds!


    I have to wait a week for them to be fired and returned to us so the final product isn’t available yet. Hope they come out well!

    Last Saturday Chris and I drove down Sportsman Road on the west end of Galveston Island to scope out the birds before we went home from a couple of days on the island for a conference. We are familiar with Sportsman Road as it was a place Chris fished regularly while in college (we went to TAMUG) and a place I went to for a few field labs. It is a popular place to not only fish but to launch kayaks too.

    There were quite a few birds out in the marsh that morning and a few of them let me take their photos. These were all shot via our car which lets you know that the birds are relatively close in the marsh.

    Tricolored heron


    Ducks hiding behind the Spartina. They didn’t want their picture taken apparently.

    Roseate spoonbills conjuring up some breakfast.


    A majestic great blue heron.

    This belted kingfisher is probably the closest I’ve come to an actual decent photograph of this species. They are notorious for being camera shy and will move at any hint of a camera lens being pointed in their direction. When we drove by this pond the first time the bird was actually hovering over the pond and it would have been a great photo opportunity had we been going the other direction with me on the other side of the road. Oh well.

    This kestrel was flying at the west end of the Seawall and Chris pulled over into the parking lot for me to get a few shots of it. The bird was hovering over the grass as it spotted something that must have looked tasty for breakfast.

    I zoomed and cropped the next few photos.

    They are such beautiful birds!

    Ready to dive towards the grass, but spooked at the last minute. That was a fun interaction to see, though!

    I’m loving this time of year so far and hope I can take advantage of the birds around the area more often in the next few weeks.

    Once the AT reaches Shenandoah National park it really becomes the ‘Appalachian Highway’. The trail smooths out and the climbs aren’t nearly as difficult. It’s pretty nice until you reach the north end of Pennsylvania and other than the rocks it is really not all that mountainous until Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts. So you set your cruise control and head on through the green tunnel, listening to the sound of the birds along the way.

    It really is that noisy at times with the birds. It wasn’t until we met Merf that we began figuring out what some of them were. She’d learned some of them from another hiker. “Here I am, Where are you?”

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