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  • Archive for December, 2013

    I debated if I was going to do a review of the year or not like I see other bloggers doing, but then I went back through my archives from January of last year and though ‘Awww, I remember that!’ and decided I was going to give a whirl. First, a short run-down of my ‘word’ from last year and then a post or three from each month that I enjoyed while reviewing my archives.

    Action was my word for 2013 and beyond March I think I dropped it. In fact, I was thinking my word was prolific but apparently that was my word for 2012. Sooo…I think I’m going to take 2014 off with chosing a word. Out of all the items on my list for Action the first one had the most work. I’m guessing I’m 10-15K words away from the end of my Florida Trail book. When I last left off writing a week ago, we’d just arrived at the motel in Blountstown having just crossed the Apalachicola River and the eastern/central time zone, gaining an extra hour in the day. I think that was about a week and a half out from the end of the trail. Maybe less.

    No words came up for this year, so I’m just focusing with finishing the bleeping book and peddling it to publishers.

    Now, for a recap of the year:

    January
    We finished the compost bin!

    February
    I finished the Icelandic turtleneck, which I still have not worn because of the flabby belly I have. If I’d followed up with the last Action item in my list I might have felt comfortable wearing it this year.
    There was a lot of backyard nature going on.

    March
    We walked along the beach in Galveston and did a little front seat birding too.

    April
    We got bees!, enjoyed summer tanagers in the yard, had a mini-flood and a pine tree problem, and I did a little exploration in Lufkin.

    May
    Watched bats at Old Tunnel State Park, and explored the Upland Island Wilderness of Angelina National Forest.

    June
    There was a beaver in our backyard!

    July
    The garden was in a bloom frenzy and we took a trip to Arkansas with family.

    August
    There was a lot of backyard birding and my grandmother passed away.

    September
    Hiked Dinosaur Valley State Park with Patrice, Justin, and my dad, the hummingbirds came through, and I did a bit of exploring at a local state forest.

    October
    We finished the flower garden! Our biggest project of the year.

    November
    I went for an adventure at a local park, dug sweet potatoes and put the onions in, and had a massive thru-hike fail.

    December
    We put a For Rent sign up for owls in the neighborhood, and of course there were projects and more projects.

    It wasn’t nearly the most adventurous year, but we did accomplish a lot around the house, things I didn’t blog about.

    Here’s to an awesome 2014, y’all!

    A house….is full of projects. I mean, they are good projects and I love my house, but sometimes it seems never ending. The lists had been compiling in my head for long enough that today I sat down and wrote out everything we still needed to finish, such as the laundry room which is 90% completed.

    I wrote the other day about Chris’ dock building adventure and he got a lot more accomplished today.

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    Now we can walk out over the pond!!

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    Looking north into the pond, towards the creek.

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    And south towards the dam and the entrance to our neighborhood.

    It’s so cool! I went out and I told Chris I could envision a lot of napping going on out there. We wondered how long it would be before the ferals figured out they could walk out there and sun themselves. I’m guessing it won’t be too long!

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    Here was a small project Chris finished in November. I’d been wanting a picnic table to eat and sit at, and it was placed under the mulberry tree. The table is reminiscent of tables we saw on the AT and FT, hence the carvings.

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    Yes, I am still working on that corner cabinet. It took for-ev-er but I’m finally painting it. What you see pink is going to be pink and the rest will be white. I’m ready for it to be done and in my studio as I have items lingering around the room that need to be stored on it. Plus, Chris is tired of it being on our porch!

    The bags of leaves came from my parents, Chris’ mom, and someone in her neighborhood. We drove home from DFW with about 15 bags of leaves in the back of Chris’ truck, all destinated for the compost bin. I spied another four or five bags in our neighborhood, something of a rarity because folks don’t really bag their leaves on large lots here, but we’ll probably scout out other neighborhoods towards ‘town’ to stock up for spring. We’ll be emptying one side of the bin in March and will need to replenish it with leaves for fall.

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    One of the smaller projects on hand was hanging a chandelier from a tree down by the dock. Old, rustic chandeliers are shabby-chic and we have a plant nursery we like to go with several hanging from her trees on the property. Chris expressed interest in getting one and so we’ve been looking out at antique stores. The only problem is those all seem to be quite overpriced and/or not the style we needed. Cue, Ebay. This one was slightly damaged (bent) but otherwise perfect for our needs and Chris got it for really cheap. Now, it’s hanging by the dock!

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    We will be able to pull it down to put actual candles on it when we want some ambience down by the dock this summer.

    Lots of projects around here, but they are just making the place even more cozy!

    Oh yeah…Sprout Dispatch is emerging from hibernation tomorrow! Come and see what we’ve been up to!

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    Chris has been itching to rebuild the deck and extend it out over the water for a full-fledged dock since we moved in. He’s had the pieces for the base of the dock stashed under our carport for months, staining them as he could. Finally, before Christmas he put them together and waited until today to install them in the water. Next he’ll cut the boards for the top and install them, staining them afterwards. Eventually he’ll put the deck in too!

    Several months ago he bought two Adirondack chairs online, put them together and stained them. They look fabulous and will look even more fabulous when they are on the dock! I can’t wait to spend the summer lounging on the dock, reading books, and sipping something chilly!

    First up was Christmas Eve at my parent’s house with my brother, sister-in-law, and the niece and nephew. I think Grayson gets it this year more than last year as is evident in the photos below. Lots of great facial expressions from those kidlets this year!

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    Next up we’re off to Chris’ side of the family!

    Happy Christmas y’all!

    (I’m gonna have to find a way to watch Happy Christmas Miss King sometime today…dangit, it’s not on Netflix.)

    Yesterday while it wasn’t raining and the air was a perfect 75* and balmy, I took a series of short videos around the garden. I was searching for the beauty that is hiding somewhere amongst the dead and brown in the garden. It’s there, you just have to look a bit harder. Today we’re expecting rains for the solstice and a continuation of some warmth with maybe a dip down into the 50s and 60s, but nothing like it was two weeks ago. This is my kind of winter. We’re going to spend solstice doing some final Christmas shopping, and I’m going to do a little housework and then some writing and playing in my studio. If it stays dreary most of the day there may be more coffee involved as well,

    It took me awhile to find music to go with the video as I searched Free Music Archive. I guess I was under the impression initially that you could download music and use it in a video with no problem. I had music ready to go in the video until I went back to artist’s page and saw the Creative Commons license on the side of the page that stated ‘No Derivatives’ as part of their license. So I schooled myself in what exactly no derivatives entailed and that did include use in a video even if it was non-commercial. Well, darn, because they were two great songs that were naturey, too.

    I’m getting better at the video thing so I may go back and work on a video I wanted to make two years ago when we went camping at Pedernales State Park. I had a horrible time putting it together and abandoned the project.

    Happy Solstice!

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    Top two: Bluebirds, an active group in our backyard.
    Third: Great White Egret
    Four: Mockingbird, looking fat and happy.
    Five and Six: Turkey vulture across the street. Love watching them fly the thermals, swooping through the air.

    Not pictured: the loud crows, despite my best efforts to locate them…the osprey that has been hanging around the ponds lately. Oh, and the never-there-at-the-right-moment belted kingfisher that flew by as we were picking up my neighbor’s leaves to use in our compost bin.

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    +Oakleaf hydrangea offers beautiful foliage this time of year.

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    +A ginger shows the damage the freeze gave to tender tropicals.

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    +Fred has to escape the wrath of Tom.

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    +Chris harvested some carrots. Just a bit early for them.

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    +The bees play hide and seek, scaring us a few weeks ago into thinking the colony was dead. We had a couple of days of warmer weather and all of a sudden they were all out. Apparently they hide well in their hive.

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    +Alyssum from seeds we sowed last spring. Some made it through the summer, a great surprise for me.

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    +The flowering ‘maple’—aka: Abutilon has weathered the cold and decided to bloom, a welcome delight in the garden.

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    +An alamo vine seed pod.

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    +Tom snooping around.

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    Chris built a barred owl box out of old fence wood that came from his mom and step-dad. He built it on a whim over the last few days and we finally put it up in a tree this morning.

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    I happened to be out on our balcony on the second floor this morning and spotted the perfect tree to put it in, an elm, so that it would face the balcony and we could easily see it from our bedroom window as well.

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    The perch came from a branch Chris found down by the pond. It worked out perfectly I think.

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    Now all we need is an owl to find it and call it home! Our other bird houses have yet to be occupied. That includes a screech owl box we have up in the front yard. Now is the time of year they start finding them and Chris is going crazy with checking the box every evening for an owl. Our friend Christine apparently has an owl in her box so I think Chris is getting a excited for the prospect that one day we’ll have an owl, too.

    It looks like the only animal using any of the boxes around here is a solitary bat in one of the bat houses. I guess it didn’t migrate out of the area for the winter, but hopefully next year it can entice some friends to stay too.

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    The last few weeks I’ve mostly avoided being in the yard or garden. I think I attempted to do a little bit early in the week of Thanksgiving, but for the most part it has been cold and dreary, and too depressing to be outside. Depressing because most items are dormant or have died from the freeze. Well, I hope they didn’t die, at least. Let’s just go with dormant.

    If there’s anything that is abundant in the garden right now that would be the greens. Greens everywhere. With some radishes, and a carrot Chris attempted to harvest today. The carrot was still a bit early.

    The crazy thing is I’m already dreaming of tomatoes and the seeds I can start in January. Tomatoes, the jewel of the late spring and early summer garden. I’d be one of those crazy tomato seed collectors if I let myself. The seed catalogs are coming in the mail like crazy…OK, I suppose they are really just beginning, but I get giddy when I see them tucked in with the stack of envelopes and junk from the mailbox.

    But, right now it really is the little things that get me through the winter, to tide me over until the day lengthens once again.

    Lots of photos, details at the end…
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    Last weekend, still wanting to stretch my legs after our failed attempt on the Northeast Texas Trail, Chris and I decided to hike the Somerville Trailway starting at Nails Creek State Park out west of Brenham. Our AT friend RedHat lives that direction and we invited her to join along. I had only seen her two other times since the AT, meeting her once for dinner and then hiking with her on the Lone Star Trail for a dayhike, but that had been almost two years ago! She’s always heading back to the AT to visit her boyfriend who is a ridgerunner in Georgia, and doing other traveling to visit family, so right now is usually a good time to find her home.

    We met at 10am at the park entrance, paid our fees and headed off down the trail. She’s hiked this trail several times, doing the whole trailway up to the Birch Creek unit, too. We didn’t really have any idea how far we’d hike, just hike for a few hours and loop back and turn around. We managed to get off trail pretty fast, taking a sub-loop by accident, and then turned back where we came from to get back on the main trailway. It was a great hike, easy wide trail with some rolling sections to provide a bit of terrain. The weather was windy which even though it was warm-ish, I still kept my ear muffs on for awhile to keep my ears from hurting.

    At two miles we crossed Nails Creek itself which had a log jam at the bridge. We took a short break on the step stool that is in place for people to dismount their horses and walk them across the bridge, and then carried on to Flag Pond. We took the west route around Flag Pond, taking another break at the north end to figure out our strategy from there. There are a few new trails on the map that is provided at the park office which is not displayed on the map linked above, but around Newman Bottom we took a trail to the northeast along Yegua Creek, the creek that creates Lake Somerville, and then explored the area in there. As you see from some of the latter photos the trail ended up wet and muddy. We took RedHat on an adventure, that’s for sure! A couple of the small water crossings weren’t narrow enough to jump across which meant we had to stick at least one shoe in the water to get across. This section was closed to hikers until noon due to duck hunting, and when we joined back up with the trail on the east side of Flag Pond we scared up a lot of ducks and other little brown jobbers from the shrubs along the edge of the pond.

    It was a great hike and I’m basing my mileage off of RedHat’s estimation of 9 miles that she posted when she got home. That sounds about right. My legs and hips were still feeling the effects of the hike the previous weekend so I was quite sore afterwards. I think they could probably use a 9 mile hike every weekend.

    It was mid-afternoon, and though we had eaten snacks along the trail RedHat offered to take us to the Burton Cafe for ‘dunch’. Burton is an old German settlement with a history built around cotton, and this was evidenced in the cafe. The menu hosted many German type foods and if you still aren’t full, there are pies to order too! Mmmm! I was glad to know about this place in case I wanted to stop along US 290 in the future on our way to Austin.

    In short, I’m glad this trailway exists. It looks faily well used by many types of recreational users: bikers, hikers, horse riders, as well as those hunting and fishing. A great option for Houston and Austin folks looking for a longer hike!

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