I didn’t write about it earlier this month but I went on my first overnight trip away from Forest in early November. I’ve been ready for a weekend away for several years now but I knew Forest wasn’t. Finally this summer I knew that it would be a lot easier to get away for the weekend and so two of my friends and I made plans to spend a night away. We’ve been friends since the summer of 1998 and were living aboard the TS Texas Clipper II.
Ideally we would have liked some quaint cabin in the Hill Country but with last minute planning and driving distance we opted to split the drive sort of in the middle in Waco. Waco has become a bustling little town thanks to the Magnolia store. Well, our decision for Waco and waiting until late September to book a hotel room turned into a problem because there was a Baylor game against, I think, OU. Needless to say, we booked a hotel in Temple instead.
Our plans for even visiting Waco changed after we thought about the amount of traffic dealing with parking for the Magnolia shop (Full disclosure: I’ve never seen an episode of Fixer Upper and most of my information on Chip and Joanna came from a Texas Monthly article about two years ago.) as well as college football traffic, well it sounded like a nightmare. So we stayed in Temple completely, wandering their slowly growing downtown, finding a unique coffee shop in the dying Temple Mall, and generally catching up on life and staying up later than our late 30s bodies should have! It was really nice to have that time to connect and I think our goal is to at least make this a yearly activity, if not a twice a year thing. We did agree that the next time we needed two nights away.
What else is on my mind? It’s several weeks past now but I was a little bummed that Beto didn’t win the senate race here in Texas. I checked the results at one point and he was leading and I got my hopes up a little then and then of course checked thirty minutes later and it was clear he wasn’t going to win. I’m just glad to see Texas and Texans actually challenging the status quo of Republicans running everything in Texas. A couple of things I thought about: if Andrew White had been the nominee for governor instead of Lupe Valdez, I think there’s a very good chance Beto and Andrew could have won running their campaigns in tandem. I just shake my head at the lost opportunity of having White actually give the governorship a good run for its money. With Valdez there wasn’t even a chance. The second thing was, maybe Beto should have run for governor instead of senate. Anyway, I know there’s a lot of talk about him running in 2020 and part of me wishes it would be ‘thing’ but part of me hopes he either goes for Cornyn’s senate seat or is a VP running mate for someone else with a bit more experience. *shrugs*
My gardening post the other day pretty much summed up what’s going on right now. This afternoon at lunch I tried to take down the luffa vines and gourds but apparently the 10+ still in the sweetgum tree are going to stay there until the vines rot enough for them to fall! Some I can probably reach with a ladder, the others are 20+ feet up in the tree!
+Forest and his little sayings
+NYX Liquid Illuminator: I don’t wear makeup these days, haven’t really for years, but I’ve been feeling like I look a little pale and in need of some pep lately so I bought this stuff that really acts as a light, well, illuminator! You can use it to highlight your eyes or your cheeks or just lightly spread it as if it was foundation. It isn’t as thick as foundation so it doesn’t feel like you are wearing makeup. It really just adds a touch of color. I don’t use it every day but it has been fun to try to use.
+Oh, one of my shopping splurges while on my girl’s weekend were these rub on nail sheets. They seriously stayed on for about 10 days until they really started chipping! I was impressed because regular nail polish lasts just a few days for me before chipping. I keep my toes polished, that lasts much longer, but nails? I haven’t really done my nails but a handful of times since having Forest. First it was because there was no time to have my nails dry between picking up a baby and then I just never wanted to go back to dealing with it chipping from gardening. So I’ve never bothered. Anyway, it was fun to have the nail sheets while they lasted. I have enough to do one more round.
As per usual I have about 3-5 books I’m reading at any given time. I’ve been meaning to do another book report here but haven’t really felt inspired to do so. One book I’m currently reading it Walking with Spring about Earl Shaffer’s thru-hike of the AT. For those unaware, he was the first documented thru-hiker of the AT in 1948. I can’t believe it has taken me this long to read the book but I am really enjoying it so far. I love the history he weaves into the story as well as how he discusses the trail as it was during his hike. Because he wrote the book well after his hike he has little amends in there saying that the trail was moved further west or away from such and such landmark, usually with a bit of chagrin. One interesting note is just how many people in 1948 are the same as today in a: wanting to know if you are hiking with a gun and b: interested in snakes, ie: the snakes are out to get you and OMG kill ’em if you see ’em.
I find myself doing so many other things in the evenings, working on photos or blogs or podcasts, working out, doing chores, or other random things that reading falls to the wayside. I sometimes read on the Kindle when Forest is falling asleep but lately I’ve been uninterested in that.
Forest and I were going to the studio frequently before Thanksgiving break and we need to get back over there. I am working on putting together some of my grandmother’s granny squares into a pillow cover so I can cover a pillow I have on the futon in the studio. I have two more identical squares that need a second pillow to cover but I’ll likely have to make that pillow.
My creativity like I said earlier is mostly through photography, writing blogs, or editing podcasts right now.
Watching & Listening:
Dr. Who continues to blow itself out of the water in awesomeness! Does that make sense? Having the new doctor be a woman has been a revelation! There are definitely some pointed parts of episodes that are like “hey, we’re going to teach you about feminism, or racism or whatnot” but I’ve been really intrigued with the historical aspect of the story this season. Since I’ve only watched the newer Doctors, I’ve gleaned from other people that the original series from the 60s and 70s was more based on teaching history lessons. This season seems to bring that back a little more as we’ve had lessons on Rosa Parks, the partition of India (which wow, I didn’t know much, if anything, about!), and the most recent episode was a twist on witch hunters/witch trials in early 1600s England involving a very cheeky King James I. If you’ve never watched Dr. Who, picking up with this season is a great start!
Outlander is back on and I am loving it! I finally feel like we’re back to a season 1 kind of love. It probably helps that I have not re-read Drums of Autumn recently so my knowledge of the book versus what they are reworking on the show isn’t making it hard to watch.
No, we didn’t get new bees, but I was on my podcast’s YouTube channel the other day, something I’ve kind of abandoned but am thinking of resurrecting, and found some adorable videos of Forest. One was the time we went to pick up a new package of bees and the second is him planting green beans. Man, it’s been so long since he talked toddler/baby-like I forgot what it was like! Also, I’m going to reach through and pinch his cheeks!
Feel free to skip around on the bee video, it is a bit long. Anyway, I’m thinking of doing more videos again and just keeping them simple. All the fancy editing just got to be a pain!
I’m usually a lounge-about morning person, sipping my coffee, surfing the internet as I eat breakfast. This morning I was itching to get outside after our week away. It was compounded by the freezes the week before that and general dreary weather the last several weeks. I was outside by 8:30 this morning with a wonderful spring-like atmosphere. It was glorious!
My goal was to start attacking the edible garden. Before the freeze it was in decent shape though it needed to be weeded and some leaf removal from the rows of seedlings needed to occur. After the freeze lots of plants needed to be taken down and added to the compost.
I started with the okra, which I had hacked up back in October. I’d left some pods on a few of the plants so I could save seeds and they were all ready to be taken down. Then I turned my attention to the ginger which had just flowered before the freeze. They did really well through last year’s hard freezes and proliferated even more. I’d harvested a couple of hands of ginger back in October and dried it and then blended it into a powder. It smells delicious! I pulled out several more clumps so I could do more blending and for using fresh but there’s plenty left to spread next year.
Moving down from the ginger I checked in on the sunchokes. I’d started them from a few pieces I bought at Central Market last December and I will say they produced really well for a first year! I thinned out quite a bit of those but left plenty to continue growing for next year.
The next big chore was to assess how everything I’d sown the last few months/weeks was doing. The radishes were plump and needed to be thinned so they were added to the list for harvest. Leaves were swept from the rows so the seedlings wouldn’t be struggling for light. I thinned other seedlings and moved them to other areas where plants hadn’t filled in or germinated. I still need to fill in some gaps this week. It doesn’t look like much right now but when everything starts growing it will look wonderful!
The cleaned sunchoke and ginger harvest. While I was out getting groceries with Forest Chris had started drying about half of the ginger and I think he’s going to dry the rest of it and leave a piece of two for fresh use.
Currently there’s four deer down near the edible garden browsing on whatever they can find in the grass. Two are sitting cozy and two are doing the browsing. The weather has changed in the last few hours from that balmy spring-like weather to a bit of a chill in the air. We’ll dip down into the 40s tonight and the 30s tomorrow night with highs in the 60s I think for most of the week. At least that’s what it looked like on the forecast yesterday.
I’ll do some more gardening at lunch this week to get caught up and in the mean time, keep planning for spring!
Planning Thanksgiving campouts can be tricky. Is it going to be too cold? Rainy? Sunny and cold is one thing, rainy and cold is another. A few months ago we sat down and made our camping reservations for the year, which you have to do because reservations at popular state parks fill up months in advance, and Chris pinpointed that he really wanted to go the Davis Mountains State Park in Fort Davis.
For those unfamiliar with just how big Texas is, this drive from our house to the state park is akin to driving from Washington DC to Portland, Maine. Or DC to Savannah, GA. It’s about the same distance from our house to Wichita, KS or Memphis, TN, or Crestview, FL as it is to get from our house to Fort Davis. And El Paso is still another 3 hours beyond that! Needless to say, it was going to be a haul! And Thanksgiving week is really the perfect week to do a trek like this without eating up 40 hours of vacation time to do it.
Our initial intent was to head out on Saturday morning and drive to Fort Davis and stay through the Friday after Thanksgiving. But lots of other campers were ahead of us and there weren’t reservations available for Thanksgiving. Thinking about our options and the drive, we opted to stay at the Davis Mountains through Wednesday and drive halfway-ish back and spend two nights at South Llano River State Park in Junction to round out our time. We camped there two years ago for Thanksgiving—and oh my, looking back at those photos of two-year old Forest is just, well, I might reach through a time warp and pinch those cheeks! Oh, and we didn’t leave on Saturday and drive straight through. We left work a couple of hours early on Friday and drove to Kerville and got a hotel for the night! Much easier!
The Davis Mountains were amazing and the trip reminded me that we’ve spent too little time in west Texas. This was only my third time in the region. Chris and I went to Big Bend National Park in college with several of our friends but that was back in the spring of 2000, and then we went to Guadalupe National Park in 2011 with our friends Patrice and Justin and that’s been the extent of my west Texas adventures. I guess I did have a softball tournament in Midland in highschool but I don’t think that really counts. And we did some camping on the High Plains near Amarillo in 2010, which when you live this far southeast it also seems like ‘the west’, but not exactly the same kind of habitat. Needless to say, it was new territory, especially for Forest.
The drive into Alpine graced us with our only glimpse of pronghorn, and later we did encounter javelina, roadrunners, mule deer, and several bird species we wouldn’t encounter in our home region. And Chris had a wonderful nighttime encounter with a ring-tailed cat at South Llano River State Park. Last time we all caught the tail end of one at the same bird blind Chris saw this one. Forest was tired and so we both went to the tent but Chris stayed up and was rewarded for it!
It’s going to take a bit to wade through all of the photos and there’s enough there that I can easily break posts down into different hikes or certain days. I will say, Forest really proved himself to be a great hiker on the trip. I mean, we weren’t winning any speed records and there was quite a bit of dawdling going on, but our longest hike was about 5.5 miles up and down a mountain! We’d prepped with a 3 mile up and down a mountain hike the day before—that one did result in an encounter with a cactus that had him asking if the next trail had cactus on it! Oh child, we’re in the desert!
All in all, I think we could have kept on camping but now we’re home and Leo is clingy and wanting attention and my garden needs to be attended to because I never got to clean it up after last week’s freezes—was that last week? It feels like months ago.
Hope your Thanksgiving was lovely!
Campsite six at Mission Tejas State Park turned out to be a great spot in the late fall afternoon sun to butterfly watch. I think I’ve seen hackberry emperors around a few times before but I’ve never spend a lot of time watching them, so I wasn’t even sure that’s what it was when I noticed several of them basking in the sun on the trees at the site. Luckily we had brought the fold out nature guides of Forest’s and I was able to confirm it was hackberry emperors hanging around out campsite.
Joining it was a red admiral and a couple of honeybees as they feasted on the sap coming out of the tree at the campsite. I was impressed how well the bees and butterflies got along as they took turns sipping sugary sap.
Earlier as we were about to start a hike we came across a fat caterpillar on the trail. Actually, Chris found it first after Forest and I had managed to miss it. It turned out to be a luna moth caterpillar. Later we found a squished one in the parking spot at the campsite. *oops* We put this one on a stick and moved it off the trail so other hikers would avoid it.
Chris really was the caterpillar man this time around, finding this caterpillar crawling along the edge of the window of the truck. It must have fallen off of the trees above. I did have to do some comparison looking online between Lochmaeus manteo, the variable oakleaf caterpillar moth and the Double-lined Prominent Moth, Lochmaeus bilineata, before I settled on the latter. My book had the caterpillar favoring the first moth but iNaturalist and Google really showed that it was the latter. Very neat, I’d never seen one of those before!
The trail we were on when I saw this mushroom was an elevated boardwalk. I hadn’t seen a mushroom that large before so I hopped down, clambered over some smilax vines and rotting logs and took a few photos. I know mushrooms get much larger in other areas of the country but this wasn’t something we normally see here in my part of the world.
There’s actually several plants in this photo but I was mostly curious about the gourd like fruit. Down near the picnic area of the state park there’s a little bridge that goes over a small inlet from the lake to cross over to another picnic area. In here is where I was stopped by these fruits. Most of the leaves are off of the vine and what is left is wilted. My best guess was Buffalo Gourd, Cucurbita foetidissima but it is usually a drier species. That’s not to say this isn’t it but it could also be something growing like a cucumber that was thrown out by a picnicker. I would have hopped off the bridge to inspect but I had Forest with me and I didn’t want to deal with him getting muddy down there as well as some of the random trash that had piled up. I kind of wish I’d done so to confirm.
I’m not sure what kind of gall this is. My Google-fu did not come up with a correct combination of words to result in something that made sense. Errr seconds after typing that I decided to give the Google-fu another chance and I think there’s a likelihood that this is a Wool-Sower Gall, Callirhytis seminator, just that this one is older and not in good shape. Yeah, let’s go with that!
And that wraps up our trip to Lake Livingston! Next time I have several posts from Mission Tejas State Park and then for Thanksgiving we are heading to a completely different habitat so expect some diversity in posts in the next few weeks!
I never know with these flora, fauna, fungi type posts whether to write up something to go with it or just share the photos. Part of me writes for an audience, albeit the tiny one that I have, and part of me writes for myself. I am sure most people skim over a lot of these types of posts but I do write a lot of them for me. Sometimes I delve back into older posts to revisit things we’ve done and it is honestly amazing how much I forget that we have done, or I’ll forget some tiny detail and a photo will bring the entire situation back to mind.
Anyway, I’m breaking this into two posts because I have a lot to share!
Downy Lobelia, Lobelia puberula, I believe. None of the other lobelias made sense.
After we saw these at camp, Forest and I started collecting them and he had a group of them in his grabber toy—which is a swim toy but has turned into a whenever toy.
I’m going to share a lot of random goldenrods. I tried to identify them but I think I need to spend some time reading a goldenrod key or descriptions so I can tell them apart better. So, you get generic ‘goldenrod’ for all of my goldenrod photos! The only goldenrod I really know is the coastal marsh species, Solidago sempervirens because I learned it in college!
Lots of fungi—they will be the same as the goldenrod because I haven’t sat down to try to identify them. I put them into iNaturalist as ‘Fungi’ and hoped someone with fungi knowledge would identify them. Maybe I’ll get around to figuring out what they are eventually.
Alright, I’ll share the rest of what we saw in a separate post. I just finished photos from a camping trip over the weekend before Halloween and I have photos to process from a bushwhacking hike we did looking for a rare plant. We’ll be camping again for Thanksgiving and I know I will have a boat load of photos from then to share. So, stay tuned!
October felt a million months long. So long that this trip to Lake Livingston State Park feels like it happened about three months ago and not four weeks ago. We only stayed a night and cut our trip short Sunday morning as I wrote about here that Forest had had a rough night from being sick. And I completely forgot I had already somewhat explained here, in that post I referenced, about tagging monarchs. Seriously, October was long.
Because we only camped one night we weren’t able to get a site in the Piney Shores Loop, which has had renovations in the last few years and is where we’ve stayed the two times previously. Instead we got site 74 in the Hercules Club Loop which was fairly nice, though I suspect it has the potential to be wet during rain events based on the topography and well, wetland indicators I observed.
We arrived fairly early in the morning since it is about an hour and a half from the house and the camping loop was thankfully not full of RVs. There was a bluebird sky and it was a gorgeous fall day, perfect for lounging around camp. We played at camp and then took a hike along the Pineywoods Boardwalk Trail, popping over to the Oak Flat Trail afterwards. Once lunch was wrapped up I shuttled Chris to the fishing docks near the camp store and nature center and then Forest and I met a group of volunteers and rangers doing a craft at the Archery Range. It wasn’t supposed to start until 1pm and we arrived about five minutes early and there was a large group of people already assembled. Thankfully we didn’t miss much and we made a cute little birdhouse ornament type craft. I’ve been trying to go to any of the ranger/volunteer-led activities if a state park has them and I think they have been worth it so far.
After the activity we picked Chris up from fishing and hung out at camp for a few hours before dinner. An early dinner meant getting everything cleaned up and Chris wanted to fish a bit. We detoured to the playground first for Forest to climb on the slide a few times. The slide there is rather antiquated in my opinion and slightly dangerous in that it wobbles. I remembered us trying to go up it last year and it was totally not safe for us then and I’d say really only bigger kids needed to be on it. I’d say that TPWD needs to update their playgrounds but considering they need to upgrade a lot of other things too, I’m pretty sure this is low priority.
Chris drove over to the fishing piers and Forest and I walked over from the playground. I noticed clouds gathering on the north side of the lake and by the time we got over to the piers it was very ominous looking. We looked at the radar and there was a line of storms moving west to east across the north side of the lake and we were unsure if they would track south or not. It thundered loudly for a good portion of the night but never rained. This would have been a test to our tent’s weatherproofing as Chris had sprayed it at home since our leaky adventures a few weeks prior. Paired with Forest’s coughing fits and the neighbor’s not shutting up after the 10pm quiet time, it was not an easy sleep.
The next morning was as gorgeous as the day before but due to Forest’s increasingly bad cough we skipped cooking breakfast and packed up quickly. We were home by 10am or something like that. I mean, it was nice to camp and get some outdoor time in but also great to feel like I had some time at home over the weekend.
Overall it was a great trip. As per usual I have a second or maybe third set of photos to share of flora, fauna, and fungi…just need to figure out how to break that down.
After I started raising the monarch caterpillars last year I read about tagging them with tiny stickers from Monarch Watch so that those counting the fall migration back to their roosts in the mountains of Mexico could attempt to put together the pieces of where the final generations of monarchs came from. Chris ordered some stickers back in the spring or summer and they are all mailed according to where you live in the monarch migration process. So, the further south you are the later you get yours. Considering last year we had monarchs in early August I was a bit disappointed we weren’t getting ours until sometime in late September. However, this year was different than last year and I didn’t have monarchs showing up until mid-October. And then October proved itself to be completely jacked up with cooler, rainier weather, so the migration moved further west on the I-35 corridor or stayed put for a longer period than usual. We had one female that we managed to catch, who laid eggs on my milkweed, and what I think was a male that we were not able to catch. We tagged the female who was rather ragged by that point and I highly doubt will make it to Mexico. But, you never know.
Now that we had a break from that cool, rainy weather the migration has picked back up. I’m starting to see more around town/the state, with a higher percentage being seen by those living along the I-35 flyway. Unfortunately not a lot are coming to my yard—I see them everywhere else! Last Friday on our way home for lunch I noticed a ton of butterflies down along the dam of our pond. Chris and I walked back after we picked up the net and I should have grabbed my camera. Well, the majority of what we thought were monarchs were actually queens, which I was super thrilled about! I haven’t seen queens hanging out around here but I’ve heard from several people around Houston about quite a few queens so I think maybe there is an uptick in them this year.
With all the queens there were gulf fritiliaries and at least one sulphur that I couldn’t identify. And then we found two monarchs! One of them did not want to be caught but Chris worked for the one he managed to catch, as you can see in the photo! We tagged it and released it—hopefully it will make it to Mexico.
Chris was at the zoo last weekend and found a tagged monarch and took a photo of it so I’m going to have to send it in to Monarch Watch/Journey North so they can note that. And he said there were tons of monarchs at our local nursery and I said he should have tagged them! I was out of town for the weekend in central Texas but I saw quite a few monarchs up that way, too.
I have three caterpillars from the eggs that were laid in mid-October that are finally into the voracious chomper phase. It’s taken them quite a long time to get there, normally they would have pupated already. Hopefully we can tag a few more monarchs before the season is over. We shall see!
At the end of September I noticed a gulf frittilary trying to eclose from its chrysalis on a stalk of ‘Ember’s Wish’ salvia. A few hours later I saw it still sitting in the same position but decided to let it be knowing that something was very wrong with it.
The next morning my little friend was still stuck in its chrysalis and the wings had not unfurled more so I decided to see if I could ease it out of the chrysalis and at least let it attempt to walk so it could nectar. Its wings were not going to unfurl and were severely deformed. I debated euthanizing it but decided to let it live and let nature take its course. I fully expected to find it dead there later but it disappeared. I’m not sure what happened with it.
There has been an abundance of the long-tailed skippers this season and it seems this might be the case in the region as other people have noticed a proliferation of them. Of course I’m unsure if this is just a case of finally learning about something and then suddenly seeing them everywhere or if there was truly an abundance of them this year. And there’s at least one more generation trying to get going rolled up out there on my beans!