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  • Archive for May, 2016

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    I thought about doing a second post titled ‘500 Year Flood Part II’ because that’s what we had Friday afternoon, but I decided I’d rather show pretty pictures of the garden a week ago and just tell a short story about the second epic flood in less than 24 hours.

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    When we woke up Friday morning and as I had written the post about the night before, the water was still in the yard but slowly receding. The front yard always takes forever to drain and well, patches of it haven’t drained for about two months because it has been so damn wet this spring. I’m half tempted to start putting wetland plants in it because that’s what those areas really are, wetlands. I did get to mow one of the wetter areas when it dried up enough a few weeks ago but for the most part those areas have been tall all spring. So, the front yard was going to take awhile to drain and that wasn’t disconcerting really.

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    Work was closed, daycare was open but we kept Forest with us. Chris ended up having to do some work for a few hours from home and in the midst of all of this flooding stuff we were trying to get packed for camping for the Memorial Day weekend in which we were meeting my family halfway between here and Dallas. While Chris was working I took Forest to drop by daycare and pick up his napmat, run into Walgreens to get a few things, and pick up lunch at Sonic. There was a rain shower south of us and as I turned back around and made for home I could tell there was rain coming from the west. It was noon or so by the time I got home and it had started sprinkling.

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    We ate lunch and the thunder rolled. Forest and I settled in for a nap while Chris was going to wrap up whatever work he had and the bottom fell out. And fell and fell and fell. I had the door shut and couldn’t see outside but the power went off. I heard the rain quite clearly and knew that the pond, which had become a pond again earlier that morning, was going to be in the yard. Sure enough when Forest and I woke up around 3:30 it looked just about how it looked the previous night.

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    Meanwhile the power came back on for about thirty minutes and we got some cell signal for a bit. We had been having trouble even using the data from our phones to get on the internet to watch the radar or even send texts out. And it just kept on raining and raining and raining. Once we got online we saw that the front had stalled over us and the storms were just building right over us and sitting there. Then the power went off again.

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    Let me tell you how fun it is to entertain a toddler who a: likes going outside and b: has been cooped up already and just wants to watch some tv when the power has gone out. Our downstairs doesn’t have enough windows on the south side so it can get kind of dark, especially when it is cloudy outside. I had to go upstairs for awhile and open all of the blinds up there to let what light in we could to play for awhile there.

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    At some point though I switched out with Chris so I could take some photos and videos with my camera and get outside for a few minutes.

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    The rain slowly started to taper off after 5pm when the front slowly slid south. The power was still out by 5:30 and we were trying to figure out how to make dinner. Chris had the camp stove but had to dig around for fuel as he thought we were totally out. He ended up finding fuel buried somewhere in the shed and had gathered up everything to cook when the power flickered back on. Of course.

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    We quickly got everything together inside and made dinner, cleaned up, and hoped that the power wouldn’t flicker off once again.

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    Slowly the water started going down once again despite rumblings of thunder a few times. The sky lightened to the west and we got a few glimpses of a colorful sunset somewhere on the horizon.

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    We woke up the next morning quite early and hit the road for a planned camping trip with my family. The sky was bright and there was no rain, hopefully, on the horizon for the rest of the weekend.

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    Before we left we made a mental note of which backroads over to I-45 might still have water over them and made an effort to avoid them. The road we ended up choosing was open but as we crossed over a bridge over a creek we saw that just a few hours previously we wouldn’t have made it across. The water was rapidly flowing maybe a foot below the bridge. On I-45 the San Jacinto River was well out of its banks and spreading out across the floodplain, access road, and into a community adjacent to the river. We ended up having a great weekend camping, albeit a little hot and humid and with a cranky toddler, but at least we got out of the house.

    So far the yard damage appears to be a small post oak that fell over, losing a nifty wood bench Chris had made for the fire pit, one of the plumerias on the dock went into the water and sat there all weekend because Chris wasn’t able to retrieve it before then—it may end up rotting, a peach tree is wilting—we’ll see if it pulls through, it looks like the tomatoes are toast—at least most of them, as well as a few other plants in the vegetable garden. We’ll just have to see how the rest fare in a few days and if they are able to dry their feet out. I suspect we’ll end up losing the Mexican/Texas olive because it has been on life support a few times already and really hates wet feet.

    Our neighbors did get water in their house. On Friday morning they had pulled a lot of items out of the house and garage to assess the damage from the night before but the Friday afternoon storms just came suddenly and they left without getting anything back in before it flooded again. They lost most of their chickens, the coop, and I’m sure their vegetable garden looks even worse than ours, as well as having the damage in their house. I know their neighbors also had some water in their house and I need to touch base with them again to make sure they don’t need any help ripping carpet up.

    We’ve had these few days to dry out but it looks like more rain is in store for the latter part of the week with rumors of the system stalling once again. I just know that this portion of Texas and along the Brazos cannot handle that happening again. It needs to stall elsewhere.

    If you’ve been reading here for any amount of time you probably remember the first few weeks we were living here and it flooded. We’ve had a few simliar floods and smaller floods since then, including at least two or three others this spring. The most recent was the Tax Day Flood so it is very fresh in everyone’s memory. After that flood I remembered that back in 2012 someone had mentioned a massive flood in 1994 in Houston and that was recalled again so of course looked it up and was definitely worried about that ever happening again so I rechecked the floodplain maps for our county and was relieved that for the most part all of the buildings on our property were high and dry even in that 500 year floodplain. The line definitely traipsed the edges of our shed and man-cave buildings but the house sat good. That was reassuring…but still, a little worrying.

    Yesterday afternoon at work the sky got dark and I checked the weather and saw Bryan/College Station was taking a pounding with a tornado and flooding. We were on the edge of the system and didn’t seem to be affected too horribly at that time. That is until we got home from work. It was Chris’ turn to pick up Forest from daycare so I started dinner. When they arrived home I rushed out with an umbrella to get Forest out and we had a good dinner. It was raining hard but didn’t seem like it was going to be horrible. Of course we weren’t watching the radar heavily at that moment. From the span of 6pm to about 6:45 the pond went from being a pond to coming into the yard up to the fire pit. By the time I started getting Forest to bed at 7pm Chris said he was going to go and just check the yard for things that might float away. It didn’t seem as daunting as it was going to get at that point.

    Meanwhile I’m sitting in the dark in Forest’s room, rocking him to sleep, and Chris is sending texts throughout that the water is as high as the Tax Day flood and then nope, getting higher. Then he tells me water is now flowing between the man-cave and our neighbor’s house. Not long after he’s telling me the water is 4″ from the bottom of my neighbors house which is on pier and beam. And soon after he texts that the neighbor’s family, who also lives in the neighborhood, has come to get them in a canoe and they paddle off down the street! Needless to say I’m freaking out by this time. The toddler senses my anxiety and takes for-ev-er to get to sleep and when I finally escape I am stunned to see what it looks like outside. These are all Chris’ photos but it was even higher just after sunset but the photos wouldn’t have come out. I wish we had a video to show how fast the flow was between the houses; it was crazy!

    I ended up calling some of our older neighbors two doors down who are much closer to the creek and while they did end up with a little water in the house they thought with the break that it would recede enough to compensate for any more rain and didn’t want us to come down in the canoe to get them at that point.

    Luckily we got a break in the storms after around 11pm with a few smaller storms through the night and one bigger one closer to dawn. The water is down now in the yard but the area roads are still flooded near creek crossings. Chris ventured out to see about getting breakfast tacos for us and to scout out the neighborhood. He said there were cars submerged and it was pretty awful. I know based on social media and the news that there was an interesting corridor of flooding in a line along the Montgomery County/Harris County line along with other flooding in areas near Bryan/College Station as well as 16″ of rain in Brenham. It appears portions of the Austin area have had flooding too.

    Hey, and guess what happened last year on Memorial Day weekend? Flooding in Houston and Austin. Yep.

    And Chris just tells me, after he’s been moving debris from the yard, that the neighbors did get water in their house as well as their vehicles. Bummer.

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    This is between the shed and the house. The water came up more from this photo to the those containers you see.

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    Chris moved his truck further up from here because the water came up even higher on the driveway. The kayaks were out from a fishing trip he took a few weekends ago and those were moved further up as well.

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    Looking to the neighbors house from our carport.

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    This is usually a ‘high and dry’ kind of spot. But also part of the 500 year floodplain.

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    Those wood pieces were later submerged.

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    From the side door/laundry room of the house looking to the carport.

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    I’ve never seen water under Forest’s swing. It’s at the lower end of the mounded slope which leads to the house.

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    From the driveway near the man-cave looking to the neighbors driveway. There are azaleas planted by that pine tree but they were submerged in the photo.

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    Driveway, veg garden, and front yard submerged.

    Around 11pm I heard the pipes gurgle and then a few other sporadic times throughout the night and got very nervous about the septic backing up into the house. Thankfully that did not happen. When we knew the water was coming up towards the septic we stopped using the plumbing. I thankfully opted to shower before toddler bedtime, mostly thinking about a power outage, but it was a well timed idea. Dishes and diaper washing did not get done last night!

    So, I’m ok with having a fairly dry summer after this entirely too-wet spring.

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    Been several months since I’ve done one of these! Thought it was time to do a good old-fashioned brain dump!

    +In My Head
    Summer’s here! So, mostly I’m now thinking about gardening, yardening, and keeping up with everything outside. It’s going to be a chore but we’ll see how it goes. Last September I joined a gym near my work so I could work out better/differently at lunch. It hit me a week or two ago that I really needed to quit the gym for the next three to four months so that I could work outside on my lunch breaks. I can still do some weightlifting here (when I think about it!) and go for runs after Forest goes to bed (if I’m not gardening!). So, I cancelled my membership the other day and now it is full-on keeping up with the yard mode now! It’s actually a nice mental shift for me.

    +Watching
    Big Bang Theory, Call the Midwife, and Outlander. The first two are about to wrap up for the season and Outlander is on until early July. I just saw the preview for the new season of Orange Is The New Black and I will be binging that mid-June. Other than that, I’m not watching much else!

    Ooh, late movie additions: I have been battling a late spring cold/upper respiratory which has left me not wanting to do much in the evenings this last week. One night I tried finding something to watch on tv and found a bunch of dreck. I went to my On Demand and found Inside/Out, the kid’s cartoon about emotions. Very good! Definitely recommend it. Then, I found Imitation Game with Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch about Alan Turing, the man who basically launched us into the world of computers and helped break the German Enigma Code during WWII. Also a movie I recommend! I don’t watch many movies these days but I’m going to have to remember to check our On Demand and Amazon Prime links this summer when I want to just relax a bit!

    +Outside My Window
    Right this moment I’m typing at the kitchen table while I finish my coffee and looking at the freshly mowed backyard and a calm pond. It looks enticing!

    +In The Art Studio
    Absolutely nothing. I need to get back in there and finish cleaning up some stuff I started months ago but I doubt I will be in there much this summer. The studio is a dark season affair.

    +In The Garden
    We’re about to hit peak blackberry harvesting! I can’t wait to have beaucoups of them and hope to make some jam, cobbler, and freeze a bit. Of course most will be eaten straight! Tomatoes are starting to do well but I think we’ve got a little while before they take off. I’m not sure how much they will take off this year because they were all planted in our hugelkulture-like perimeter beds, but we’ve had a few tomatoes here and there. There’s quite a ton going on in the gardens and I should start dedicating a weekly post to what’s going on out there.

    +Reading
    I’ll do a book review later on in the month but I’ve not read a ton this month. After reading, reading, reading for the last few months I decided to slow it down a bit. So far I’ve read only Lab Girl but The Penderwicks just became available digitally. I’m getting close to being up for a couple of books on my Overdrive so I’ll have to focus on those when I get them.

    +Drinking
    I just ground my last of the Ruta Maya coffee and it is time to get something else. I made Kombucha, what, almost two months ago now, and I have barely drank it. I’m so fickle with wanting it a lot and then none at all. I did read that I can take the kombucha brew that has basically turned to vinegar and turn it into a shrub. I did find recipes for using the shrub without liquor and using sparkling water instead. Who knows! I still need to get around to making mead. Soon!

    +Loving
    Our office! We really should have made this a project before we had Forest but we didn’t. Chris spent a few weeks this spring fixing the room up and we found desks on Craigslist that we both liked. And now, I finally have a space in the office! We’re a little behind and need to get the rest of the stuff we moved out and shoved into the guest bedroom to a more permanent homesite, whether that’s the office or somewhere else. Shouldn’t take but a few nights or a few hours on a weekend but it needs to get done. Chris did a great job with the office and I’m so glad to have the space now.

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    We popped into Gonzales, Texas the afternoon before Mother’s Day to take a break from the heat and have a little diversion. Plus, we were on the prowl for ice cream, hoping to find a local ice cream store!

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    The city was like many small Texas towns, slowly fading with many historic buildings that were empty or decaying. Sure there were quite a few businesses in the town center and we popped into a few of them, but it was a quiet little town.

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    The most interesting shop that we would have explored more of if a: the stroller fit through the aisles and b: a toddler wasn’t in tow, would have been this insane antique/junk shop. There was everything imaginable in there! This was a hoarder’s paradise! Near the front of the store I saw a pile of stuff just waiting to be sorted and displayed (not sure that’s correct, there wasn’t much of a display, just things on shelves or racks) for people to rummage through. It was a neat place but I couldn’t go very far with the stroller and Forest wasn’t all that interested. Well, he was interested in knocking things off shelves!

    I did find an old bathtub out front and texted a photo to my brother who has been wanting an old tub to put in his garden. He was excited to see that they had one but we’d already left by that time and I had no idea how much it cost.

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    I found a little bit of time to do some street photography as we walked along. I really miss doing this kind of photography!

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    Then we walked about a half a mile east to the Gonzales Memorial Museum to see the original ‘Come and Take It’ cannon! Turns out, the cannon is actually very small!

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    The museum itself was fascinating and I would have loved to have studied the exhibits longer. All sorts of weird items!

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    I really loved this cross stitch. An 111 year project!

    There are several other small historic towns in this area, including Shiner, and if you are in the area for camping at Palmetto State Park it is worth checking out this little town and getting a dose of Texas history!

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    Assassin bug nymphs

    For the most part, wildlife at Palmetto State Park was about looking to smaller species. On one of our hikes Chris stated beforehand that he wanted to see a snake and a caterpillar. That was surprisingly achieved! The caterpillar wouldn’t have been too hard if we’d looked but we ended up having one walk (slowly!) right across the trail. The snake, I figured, would be harder, but as we rounded a corner on the trail a rat snake was trying its best to disguise itself on the edge of the vegetation while soaking in some of the sunny warmth poking through the forest canopy. We did not see many deer, in fact I’m trying to remember if we saw any at all! The campsites were split up, with the tent section on the north side of the San Marcos river and the RV sites on the south side. The bathroom in the RV section is where the showers were located so on the first evening I drove over to shower. On my way back to our campsite, just after I’d left the boundary of the state park and was about a quarter mile from the stop sign to turn onto the main road, a huge group of feral hogs ran across the park road. Now, Texas(ans) keep talking about feral pigs here but I have just never come across as much evidence or sightings of them as we did in Florida. So, this was actually a little treat for me to see as the group of approximately 20 pigs ran across the road and into the woods. I thought about trying to take a shot of the little piglet butt that I saw as I finally caught up to where they crossed but knew the shot wouldn’t quite turn out as well. I think the last time I saw a wild hog in Texas was in the Beaumont Unit of the Big Thicket NP five years ago.

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    Rabdotus dealbatus, Whitewashed Rabdotus snail

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    Our snake friend. Chris said it was a Texas rat snake. I’m just going to trust him on that one because I don’t really feel like trying to verify it!

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    Apatelodes torrefacta, Spotted Apatelodes caterpillar

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    I think this is Belocaulus angustipes black-velvet leatherleaf slug….which is unfortunate because it is an exotic.

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    Halysidota larrisii, sycamore tussock moth on…*drumroll*, a sycamore tree!

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    It was definitely a park for finding the smaller wildlife sightings. Of course we had plenty of mosquito friends and saw birds, squirrels, and heard the chorus of frogs, too.

    Over Mother’s Day weekend we loaded up and went camping at Palmetto State Park. We’d had reservations here before, over the winter, but cancelled them due to weather. What’s interesting about this park, kind of in a similar botanic way to Bastrop State Park just to the north with their patch of pine trees, is that this park is the western most population of Sabal minor, or dwarf palmetto.

    The park is located adjacent to the San Marcos river and definitely has a unique ecosystem for this particular region of Texas. While walking along many of the trails it was easy to picture that we were over in our neck of the woods in southeast Texas instead of south-central Texas!

    Here’s a botanical tour of what we saw on our hikes throughout the park!

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    Aesculus glabra var. arguta, Texas buckeye

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    Thistle

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    Dogwood

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    Vitis mustangensis, mustang grape

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    Prickly pear

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    Ratibida columnifera, yellow Mexican hats

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    Clematis pitcheri

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    Cooperia pedunculata, Hill Country rain lily

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    Erythrina herbacea, coralbean

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    Chris had a minor freak out when he spotted this along one of the trails. A variegated Turks cap hibiscus! Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii. We have a specimen in our garden that he bought online but we’d never seen a variegated one in the wild.

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    The more typical Mexican hat.

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    Another yellow one!

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    And a lovely scene on the edge of a mesquite prairie before we wound back into the palmetto area.

    There was quite a bit of wildflowers blooming and we enjoyed the diversity in habitats that the park displayed!

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    I took these photos on April 19th and since then I haven’t been able to find more caterpillars or any chrysalises despite seeing quite a few monarch butterflies flitting about and landing on the milkweed as well as additional eggs throughout the month. I’m not sure if they are being predated on or if our storms shortly after taking these photos influenced their outcome. Likely a combination of both which is a little depressing.

    It’s been a little hectic around here and while I’ve had plenty of things to write I’ve been trying to stay on top of multiple things. We went camping over the weekend and I’ve processed all of those photos and now just need to turn them into blog posts. I have another blog post in my head that’s about a little more on the ‘thoughts’ line of posts but that’s going to take some time to get out of my head and onto the computer.

    There’s a new podcast up at The Garden Path Podcast today! More from me soon!

    Some thoughts and link sharing for your Friday: a little happy, a little sad mixed in this week.

    1. Lemonade. More specifically, a certain mixture created by Beyonce. Two Saturday’s ago as I was scrolling for Outlander tweets I kept seeing social media blowing up about Beyonce’s HBO special releasing her new album. By the next Sunday night someone posted a link to a Vimeo video, now currently taken down as it was pirated, streaming the entire 1 hour movie. I had already been debating what I was going to do after Forest went to bed and I opted to watch the entire movie. Holy cow! I liked and listened to Destiny’s Child back in college and have liked some of her hits in more recent years but have never really become a fan or owned an album. But I was enthralled by what she created with this movie and album. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I Googled Becky with the good hair and have since been interested in all of the commentary about the album, ranging from a treatise on feminism to black culture in America.
    2. The SeaAggies Tribute Geocache: We’ve barely geocached in years but when we were most active in Florida, we put out some super difficult and interesting caches. I had no idea we still had a following after all of these years! Most of our caches have been disabled and the ones remaining have been transferred into the hands of other people who can maintain them for us.
    3. Why we dont produce more scientists: A one word explanation I just started Jahren’s book…so far so good and she’s already talked about money in scientific funding.
    4. Girls softball in Dallas hugely popular from Flashback Dallas: hat tip to my brother for this link! I played softball from ages 5-17 and A League of Their Own is one of my favorite movies.
    5. Well known AT thru-hiker Baltimore Jack dies: On Wednesday morning Chris told me that Miss Janet, a well known AT trail angel, had posted to Facebook that Baltimore Jack had passed away. This was incredibly shocking because Baltimore Jack was someone deeply ingrained in the trail community. Our own hike had us interacting with him in varying levels three different times, the longest instance being in Harper’s Ferry where he helped us at the outdoor stores there, where he told us about the opening celebrations of the Appalachian Trail museum in Pine Grove Furnace State Park. He encouraged us to crank some miles to get to the event in time but also encouraged us to slow down after to enjoy New England in the fall (which we didn’t end up doing and we finished our hike in mid-August). While our interactions with him were brief they definitely left an imprint on our trip. The Pox and Puss AT podcast interviewed him a few years ago and you can listen to his episodes here. The video below is incredibly moving and absolutely on point regarding the emotion of climbing Katahdin.

    It’s been a few years since I first heard about Peckerwood Garden. I think I may have stumbled across it when we moved to NW Houston when I was searching out plant nurseries and gardens, and then the garden was reinforced when I saw fliers at our local plant nursery advertising their Open Days that occur a few times in spring and fall. We finally managed to make it there last weekend but it was not the glorious botanical experience I was hoping for!

    I’d called about four or six weeks ago to find out if we needed to pay for a ticket for Forest since he was under 2 and most venues don’t charge for children under a certain age. When I called, the woman answering the phone let me know not to bring a stroller because they don’t allow them in the garden, no big deal since we have the Osprey carrier, but she just the way her voice answered my question seemed that not too many kids came to this event. We didn’t end up needing to pay for his ticket, so that was good. The weekend to visit the garden had only become an option because we’d decided not to attend the wedding of one of our field LTE co-workers. Forest had done well at a little over six months old last year for his first wedding but he had been a baby that could be held and he slept a lot. Both Chris and I didn’t have it in us to keep a toddler quiet during a wedding and to chase him during the reception. Check for us making the right decision on that front….big X for us not quite realizing Forest was *not* going to stand for going slow on a garden tour!

    The tour started off well but our guide stopped frequently to discuss the plantings and we would linger for many minutes at each location. When Forest realized we weren’t moving as we do when hiking he started getting fussy. The last thing we needed was a toddler screeching while the other guests were listening to the guide! I offered banana to him while he sat in the pack but it quickly turned into a situation where he wasn’t going to sit in the pack without throwing a fit. Chris and I then alternated between holding him and letting him walk with us holding his hand. It was not the most relaxing tour by far and thus I took very few photos despite there being a ton of photo opportunities around every corner!

    I think we’re going to have to return in a few years when he’s a little easier to placate and can understand going slow! It was a little surprising for us because he’s usually very mellow in his backpack! I think it would have been an entirely different ordeal if we could have moved at our own pace but as the garden is private, there’s no solo exploration allowed!

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