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  • Archive for October, 2015

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    Last year’s Halloween was a bit last minute. I scrambled at Target to find a Tigger outfit when most of the other costumes were gone. This year I planned earlier and started looking in September. We ended up settling on a bee costume this year and not long after I thought about having Chris and I wearing our bee suits to go along with the theme. When I mentioned it to Chris he said he had thought of the same thing!

    Our little town has a yearly costume contest and hayride trick-or-treating set up so this year we participated in that. Forest won 3rd place in the boy’s 0-2 year old contest! He did really great on the hayride, too. Chris and I scored a modest amount of candy, enough to satisfy our sweet tooth for the week. I suppose next year we’ll really have to share with Forest! He’s still too young for most candy and we still limit the amount of sugar he eats.

    He made for a really adorable bee this year, though we haven’t quite cooled off enough for the hot costumes.

    Happy Halloween! Onward to pitch black at dinner time, aka: return to Standard Time!

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    Acer floridanum, southern sugar maple.

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    Ilex opaca, American holly

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    Poor luna moth!

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    Lobelia cardinalis

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    The afternoon we arrived at the state park we combined the Slough and Forest Trails for a giant loop through the Hen House Ridge Unit of the park. Being as it was Saturday the park was very busy and the trails did have people on them, particularly closer to the ‘front country’ interface near the roads. One thing we were definitely surprised with in this park was the size of some of the trees out there, particularly the magnolias, beeches, and even some of the American hollies. Ocassionally there would be a large pine that has evaded logging.

    When we get to any sloughs or swamps we always pause for awhile. I think we both get a little wistful for the swamps and sloughs of south Florida. I know that we miss a lot of the epiphytes. Still, there are interesting things to see in the swamps of southeast Texas, too.

    Spiranthes odorata

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    There’s one thing I find annoying about camping reservations with Texas Parks and Wildlife and that’s that you can’t reserve a specific campsite when you reserve your dates online. You are at the mercy of whatever is left when you arrive at that park. The Florida state park system was better in that regard. However, we did end up lucking out with our site a few weekends ago at Martin Dies State Park. We ended up at site 92 in the Gum Slough camping section. It was tucked off in a tiny loop off of the main camping area, next to Gum Slough. We were secluded a bit on one side from campsites 93 and 94, which luckily did not have anyone occupying them that weekend anyway. Across the little loop are sites 89 and 90 which would be perfect for another reservation in the future as it had fishing access and a good view.

    The good thing about that little loop was that it had very little traffic coming down it so it would make a great area for Forest to ride a tricycle or bicycle one day in the future.

    On the other side of the highway in the Walnut Ridge unit there is a row of shelter sites that would be great as well. We didn’t go in any as they were all full, but some appeared to be for sleeping and others appeared to be more for daytime use with a tenting area outside.

    I really loved this park and I hope to make it a place to visit every year!

    The Unseen Scenes—original post about the park.

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    It’s hard to see just how many monarch butterflies were hanging out on this group of mist flower a few weekends ago, but there was quite a grouping of them. I’m sure you’ve heard the plight of the monarchs right now with habitat loss and climate issues affecting their migration. It seems that this year the migration stayed to the west of its usual path here in Texas. We typically don’t see a whole lot of monarchs in our area either. I have plans to start some milkweed this winter to some patches established in the yard and garden. Maybe we’ll attract some in coming year?!

    +In My Head

    FINALLY! The weather has cooled off, the sun has changed positions…it’s FALL! Ok, so, there might have been some mid 90* days in the last few weeks but in general it feels like Fall! That said, I’m now wondering where this year went. It seems like once July hit that the accelerator was pushed to the floor! It’s going to be bam!—Halloween—bam!—Thanksgiving—bam!—Christmas! I’m not sure I’m ready yet for a new year.

    Forest has had many ear infections over this last year and this last one from September that never quite went away had our pediatrician finally decide to send us to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Upon her recommendation we’re now moving forward with having ear tubes placed in his ears. It’s definitely nerve wracking for me and Chris but we know in the end it will be better for him in that hopefully there will be less infections and that his hearing won’t be jeopardized. I have ear problems and can barely tolerate a light wind even if it is 70* out, muchless anything colder with a wind.

    More on the toddler front is that sleeping and walking is changing around here. In early September I started losing my mind with bedtime and it was just time to move him out of our room and into his room full-time. That meant that I started a new routine in his room at bedtime as well as deciding to sleep downstairs for awhile since his routine after 10pm was to wake up every 2 hours. I wasn’t interested in going downstairs every few hours, bleary-eyed, to put the kid back to sleep.

    In the last week nursing to sleep had stopped working so well and so I finally started moving on to something else that I hadn’t been able to do before…nurse for awhile, give the kid his pacifier and then stick him in the crib to put himself to sleep. Now, mind you, I can’t leave the room while he does this quite yet. I have to stand over his crib and let him know I’m there, and towards the end I can sit down in the rocking chair. This is definitely progress. On a good night the routine is about twenty minutes whereas on a bad night it can be an hour. So, in response to all of this, his being able to get himself to sleep, is that he’s sleeping longer stretches at night. Sometimes he wakes up at 12:30 and then around 3 or 4, other times it’s 2 and then 4 or 4:30. I’ll get him back down in the crib after the first wake-up but so far after the second I just carry him over to the guest bedroom and we snooze until it is time to get up. The upside is that I’m back in my own bed again *and* sleeping longer without interruption. Someday I’d like these wake-ups to be just once and eventually for that ever fantastical thing called “sleeping through the night” to occur. Slowly, slowly. Patience is key for gentle sleep training…that and just general developmental changes!

    +Watching

    Homeland is back! Only three episodes in but I’m loving this season so far. Gah, I love Clare Danes!

    I’m also watching on Netflix a show called Peaky Blinders. It’s a mob drama set in 1919 Birmingham, England. Very dark but has great acting. I’m not sure how I like the meshing of modern music with the period visuals, but it’s good so far.

    +Outside My Window
    Leaves are falling off of the trees. It’s looking gorgeous outside now with the bright blue Fall skies! Chris and Forest have been going down to the pond to fish after dinner most nights lately which lets me finish dishes and get ready for Forest’s bedtime. Sometimes I pop out there and sit with them for a few minutes. Sally duck is back but has joined the domesticated duck herd our neighbor let loose. Now that she’s going to get free food I wonder if she will ever leave in the summer again?! We’ve also got a pair of Egyptian geese flying around lately; not sure where they came from.

    It’s just a great time of year!

    +In The Art Studio
    I haven’t done much in the last few weeks. I need to wrap up the scrapbooking photos I was working on so I can order another round. I’m thinking of doing some crochet cat and dog blankets for my friend’s Marc and Eliana at their business Project Pet Snip. She said they would be beneficial to use after a spay or neutering to keep the animals warm and cozy—and I have a ton of acrylic yarn that I have no idea what to do with. Sounds like a good tv watching thing to do this winter!

    +In The Garden
    I planted a lot of cool season crops over the last few days. Most of it was greens but I also threw in some radishes and will be planting carrots soon, too.

    I’ve decided I need to spend one or two days a week during lunch to do some gardening since I’m losing my time in the evenings now. I’ll be pairing that with my workouts during the week. The flower garden is in a weedy state once again and some things are trying to go dormant, such as the banana trees. That means leaves are falling off and there’s just a general need to clean up the garden once again.

    +Reading
    I wrote my book report earlier this month. I haven’t done much reading since, other than get caught up on Dragonfly in Amber. I did buy Big Magic because I couldn’t resist after hearing Elizabeth Gilbert on so many podcasts recently. I have opened it up and flipped through the first page or two and it looks like a very easy read. Hopefully it is also thought provoking!

    +Drinking
    I’m back on the Ruta Maya coffee once again. Really, you can’t beat the price I can get it for at H-E-B. 2lbs for $15!!

    +Loving

    • How much Forest is changing on a daily basis! Light bulbs just go off daily for him! He’s in a pointing phase now where he points to things and we tell him what they are!
    • Getting in the garden once again. I love this time of year and I have loved feeling more like my old self again. I’m never going to be who I was before Forest but at least I don’t feel as out of sorts as I did earlier this year.
    • When we were in Austin a few weekends ago and visiting the Natural Gardener I bought a few small, very small, pots for my office at work. I ordered some succulents off of Etsy and they are now potted up and in my window at work. This was spurred because Chris has got himself a mini conservatory going on over at his desk at work! We don’t really have a space for plants indoors at home so making some space at work offers a chance to grow a few things we couldn’t otherwise.
    • Working out! I found a gym very close to my office and joined it about a month ago. Since then I started lifting weights three times a week and I have noticed a considerable gain in muscles both in strength and in shape! I’m very happy about this! I have two months left in this program I am using and after that I need to figure out another three month plan. But yeah, already noticing more changes!
    • Thred Up! I wrote about it last June with my first order. Since then I have ordered two more times; once for two pairs of workout shorts and more recently in order to spruce up my cool weather wardrobe. My cool weather wardrobe is in pitiful shape. Living in Florida for so long did not require much in the way of warm clothing and I just never built up anything once I returned to Texas. It isn’t *that* cold during the winter where I live here in the greater Houston area but it is not nearly as warm as south Florida! I’m slowly going through and making a donate pile of winter clothes I won’t/don’t wear and trying to build up clothes that are more my style now. This recent order was mostly a hit, though I did send three shirts back that didn’t quite fit. I’ll get store credit and reorder when that transaction is completed. If you are interested here’s a link for you to get $20 towards your first order.
    • Ok, I’m not totally loving this because we’re in third place now, but I really need y’all to go vote daily for the next two weeks so the Florida Trail can win a grant for $25K towards rebuilding trail in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. We were winning quite well until early October when votes were taken away from us and the set-up changed in which you need to verify your email address once so that the rest of your votes can count. It sounds like someone was doing some fraudulent voting. Really peeved! I don’t think we can beat the Ice Age Trail, which is currently in first place, but we are within enough votes that we might be able to pull back into 2nd place and secure one of the two grants. So, please go here to vote and be sure to check your email to verify it so that you can continue voting through the end of October. Forward the link to your friends and on social media, too!

    I guess that’s about it!

    Last weekend as we were heading east down US 190 towards Martin Dies Jr. State Park we saw a brown sign pointing out the Dogwood Trail on the north side of the road. We knew the Big Thicket National Preserve was around the area but didn’t think a unit was right there and the Dogwood Trail did not sound familiar. After we got to camp I got on my phone and looked around but couldn’t find much information other than one review on All Trails. It looked interesting enough to check out, though. I tried looking again the following day and did end up finding a bit more information on a Texas Parks and Wildlife link which said that the trail was on timber lands, not public lands.

    Well, we ended up on the trail and found it in somewhat decent condition in some sections but in desperate need of attention in other sections. The land was pretty though the creeks were dry. If you are on the more adventurous side and are in the area it is worth popping in to explore. We wished we had pants for this trail because the Smilax and blackberries tore our legs up, so put some pants on before going out.

    While in Austin a few weekends ago we happened to be looking for another place to explore after Chris dropped by a plant nursery near Georgetown. He came up with Berry Springs Park and Preserve, a Williamson County park. On first glance when we pulled into the park I was a bit skeptical about what we would find, however we ended up being pleasantly surprised!

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    Goldenrod were afire on the edge of the prairie when we arrived. The park was busy but not crowded. In addition to there being a large open space along with a gorgeous pecan grove, the property was an old homestead as was evident by the old buildings in the central area of the park and the remanent donkeys behind the abandoned buildings. Elsewhere around the park there are camping opportunities! I thought that rather unique for a county park.

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    Good light streaming through the pecan tree canopy!

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    One end of the very clear pond.

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    The trails were open for the most part and while it had been cooler that morning the temperature had warmed up considerably and we were feeling it in the prairie.

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    There was not a lot in bloom on the prairie for this time of year, however the blooms we did see brightened the browns of the grasses quite nicely.

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    This is some kind of ground cherry/Solanaceae that I haven’t been able to identify. Anyone?

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    I saw this interesting vine and couldn’t figure out what it was. I almost nabbed a fruit for identification and seed saving but ended up leaving it. Later when we were at the Lady Bird Wildflower Center I found it in their garden with a sign, Cucurbita foetidissima, aka buffalo gourd. Check out that second link, it has a lot of fascinating information about the plant as well as an awesome shot of its root system!

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    After we wound around the trails in the prairie and passed some other primitive but very pleasant looking campsites, we found ourselves back near the stream and pond. The water was very clear and I spotted a crawfish hanging out on the bottom.

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    I tried to get closer but ended up scaring the poor thing.

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    Back in the shade along the stream, the path meandered along some wetland areas. I found a seed pod to a Clematis which we later found a flower to identify at C. pitcheri.

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    The pond spillway near the back path.

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    We ended up at the fishing pier at the pond after our hike and ended up staying there a bit longer than anticipated. A woman and her two kids were attempting to fish and she was having trouble getting the tackle on the pole. She asked Chris for help and well, Mr. Fisherman that Chris is, he helped the woman and tried showing them how to catch the fish. I think he would have stayed all day if he could.

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    One of the donkeys at the abandoned house in the middle of the park.

    This is a cute little park and definitely an asset to the local residents. I don’t forsee this being a destination for out of town visitors but for locals in the Austin area looking to diversify their outdoor experiences and find an out of the way park that might not be known, definitely stop in and visit this place. The pecan grove at the front of the park is gorgeous and begs to be picnicked in! Throw some frisbees, run around. Maybe get a campsite. It’s a great park for being in a suburban area!

    The last camping trip we went on was back in the spring at Brazos Bend State Park. Summer came and we were thoroughly busy but it was also too hot for enjoying the outdoors much. About a month ago Chris and I sat down and made a bunch of camping reservations for the fall and winter, even a few in the spring. If you don’t reserve early many campgrounds get booked quickly, especially the more popular ones. We made a three day weekend out of this camping trip.

    This weekend was one of the more popular weekends apparently, because our searches for our general area and over to the Hill Country turned up nothing. Instead we had to look eastward and found Martin Dies State Park on Lake Steinhagen, in Big Thicket country. It turned out to be a wonderful place to camp and I forsee us returning to the park in the future, especially when Forest is old enough to take along in a canoe or kayak. In addition to hiking trails there are also paddling trails on the lake. Several years ago I read Paddling the Wild Neches (this was my review post) and the author paddled through this lake on his way down the path of the river. Out in the middle of the lake are beautiful stands of cypress trees that are now glowing in fall glory.

    It was a spectacular weekend to be outside. A little bit chilly in the night and early mornings, but warming up (maybe a bit too much today!) during the day.

    I recently came across a blog post that talked about nowstalgia, basically finding yourself in a moment that you know you are going to be want to be reliving and remembering in the future. One of those days you’ll yearn for at some later date. This weekend was definitely up there as one of those nowstalgic moments to savor. I intermingled some nowstalgia with good old fashioned nostalgia a few times as I was thrown back into some hiking and outdoor memories in Florida. Cypress trees do that to ya.

    One particular moment, or hour and a half, happened yesterday afternoon. Chris had gone to lay down right after lunch and I finished up my lunch while trying to get Forest to eat his. We wrapped that up and headed over to the restrooms and to survey the deserted campground as everyone had booked it out of there right before or at lunch. When Forest and I returned to camp I knew it was time for a nap for Forest so we went over to the hammock Chris has set up instead of heading to the tent. It took just a bit for Forest to fall asleep but he eventually relaxed and dozed off. I dozed on and off, too, but mostly I just listened to the sounds of campers leaving, the birds chirping, the squirrels fighting, and the wind in the trees. The sky was brilliantly blue with the autumn sun lighting up the green of the forest canopy. It was just pleasant to be doing nothing and enjoying those brief moments of solitude but also cuddled up with the cutest little toddler ever!

    It wasn’t just that moment but other moments we had while hiking. It felt like old times with me and Chris, hiking along in the woods. Of course this time we had a kid in tow. But it brought back many memories of recent times of tromping through the woods, just seeing what we could see.

    Ok, I’ll leave you with one photo. I plan on getting to more photos soon, though I still have some from last weekend in Austin to share as well. Hey, looks like I’ll have enough to write about for the rest of October now!

    Anyway, the photo is just a nerdy plant photo comparing three leaf morphologies. It was the first time, or maybe the first time I’d been looking and paying attention, to see southern sugar maple. The first tree I saw had me thinking it was a wacked up sweet gum but then Chris mentioned that it was a different kind of maple. Sure enough…southern sugar maple. Looks like it is only in two counties in Texas but it relatively common across the rest of the south.

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