Making the Best of It


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(this is a video, should load, give it a minute, if not click the photo and it will go to Flickr where you can watch)

I’m hoping to have the mental space (and electricity) this weekend to write-up more about this week. Until then a few bullet point items.

  • Currently at 11:58 am on Wednesday 2/17, we have electricity. It came back on last night at 3:45pm and lasted until 8:45pm when it started doing rolling blackouts through the night. It stayed off from around 6am until 9:45 this morning and we settled in expecting to have it off the rest of the day. Still might. *who knows*
  • Last night the water seemed to be fine. Chris used the blow drier to get an outside pipe unfroze for the hot water. This morning when it all came back, the tank didn’t want to pressurize. He found a busted valve at his sink in the man cave spewing water everywhere so he managed to clean that up. We’re crossing fingers that is our only issue.
  • It is currently raining and hovering around the freezing mark. Snow is slowly melting but ice has formed on trees and many smaller trees are leaning over under the pressure. Hopefully we can make it through the next couple of nights of freezing temperatures without major issues from the ice. We shall see.
  • Between being sick this month and now this, I’m kind of mentally done with February. And am also having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact we’re coming up on a year of dealing with the pandemic full-force. (or not dealing, depending on the perspective)
  • My parents are still without power but have been sheltering a little at my brother’s house, which had some power yesterday and part of today. My folks have gone home in the evenings to keep tabs there but I’m hoping they end up with some power soon. They received more snow this morning.
  • Currently there are icebergs floating down the pond…certainly a new experience for us.

More soon. If you are also affected, I hope you are able to get some respite with some of the power cycles.

Snowpocalypse 2021


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The full story will have to come later this week (hopefully) but Snowpocalypse 2021 is well underway. Or rather, Power Grid Armageddon is well under way here in Texas. After knowing this storm was coming for the last week, we finally got about 3″ of snow last night in the wee hours of the morning. It looks gorgeous! The downside, about 4:30 am we joined the millions of others across the state and lost power. It has not come back on. My parents are without power and my brother and SIL and their family were without until this afternoon and got it for a few hours before it went out again very recently. I’m only writing this because Chris hooked our internet router up to the generator so we could even have internet. Cell reception for the internet has been trash without the wifi and we couldn’t connect to the outside world other than phone calls. Texts were working sporadically. Everything is much better with the wifi on.

We’re ok right now. It will be colder tonight. It was 12* when I woke up this morning. The last really cold temperature we saw here was 19*. The snow has been fun and we even made some snowball fights. Part of the pond is frozen on the perimeter and the pond across the street in the empty lot is completely frozen. A bit WTH moment here in SE Texas. I did read some historical accounts from previous big storms that once upon a time parts of Galveston Bay froze up. So, it isn’t without historical precedence.

The generator is on to keep our citrus trees alive, which may be a failed effort but who knows. They were doing fine on regular power until regular power failed. We’ve also used the microwave, a small space heater, and some charging devices for various items. The space heater is now in the well house to attempt to keep that warm. We’re hoping we can manage to get some warmer water into the pipes later this evening so we can keep that from freezing. We have some in the tank but we cannot run everything or even let anything drip because once the tank is drained, that’s it until power is restored. We’re now talking about a small generator dedicated to the well at some point in the future. Something I’ve wondered about in the past with regards to hurricane season but apparently we need it for polar vortexes.

The temperature didn’t break 20* here today so the snow is still on the ground and I don’t forsee it going anywhere until maybe Friday. We have another winter storm coming that will bring ice and maybe rain that will freeze and turn to ice when it returns to 20s and teens temperatures later this week. In other words, a hell of a mess.

I’ll update again soon.

Continued Updates from The Plague


My update last week was a little too soon on my end. I started taking a turn for the worse on Wednesday and by Thursday and Friday I had no energy, my congestion was much worse, my eyes hurt, and I was very tired. Thankfully on Saturday I started feeling better energy-wise but I’m still fairly congested.

Forest also took a turn Wednesday through early Friday, spiking fevers on and off and even vomiting overnight Thursday/Friday. Luckily the fever broke and while he has some congestion he is returning to normal a little bit more every day.

Chris seems to be the best out of all of us at the moment, which has been good because he’s been working on preparing the yard and house for the upcoming deep freeze. Which, that all deserves its own post and I will get to it eventually. I’m just kinda waiting for some epic snow photos to share to go with it! haha!

Hopefully we are over the worst of this sickness and any lingering issues with dissipate in the coming days. I’m a little glad that we’re going to be able to hunker down a few more days at home with this cold weather so that we can all rest up even more.

I’ll be back to regular programming here momentarily!

Updates from The Plague


I thought I’d share a quick post for those of you without social media and don’t see my posts there…

Forest: He’s getting better but still have some congestion and a cough at times. We’ve been alternating children’s Zyrtec and Tylenol cough/cold/flu and that seems to help when the congestion gets annoying.

Chris: He’s had it the worst out of any of us. Yesterday he finally started turning the corner with less congestion but he has brain fog and gets tired easily so there is a lot of resting going on. He’s still downing medicine and vitamins. I think he will have this cough for a good while.

Me: Surprisingly…fine. *shrugs* I felt off over the weekend, lower GI issues, some coughing, sore throat, slight congestion, watery eyes. The GI issues went away, congestion has mostly gone away, no more watery eyes, no coughing. The only thing that comes and goes is the feeling like my neck glands are swollen and that my throat hurts a little and sometimes my ears feel clogged. That hasn’t been much of a problem today. I have been much sicker than this with other things and to be honest, I usually get whatever cold Forest brings from daycare/school. So, I’m really surprised about this.

Chris’ and my COVID test came back negative. But based on the how it was taken (self administered, not great directions from the pharmacy tech) and hearing from other people, we’re fairly certain it is a false negative. We took another one today at CVS, had better directions, stuck it further into the sinuses, was timed by the pharmacy tech and I think I got far enough because the swab made me sneeze. Now, only time will tell.

No matter, we’re still quarantined until next week at least. Forest’s principle said he could come back next Tuesday but after looking at the weather forecast I think Tuesday is going to be a weather day because apparently we’re gonna get 1-3″ of snow here in the coming days with multiple days of lows in the 20s, and I suspect before things are over we’ll see some high teens temperatures. Someone needs to warn the neighborhood plants because they all think spring is happening.

Anyway, if *this* is all we have for COVID, we will take it. Also, still chomping at the bit to get a vaccine!

The Plague


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Forest at the school district COVID-19 testing center this morning.

Well. Here we are. The plague has arrived at our house, courtesy of the elementary school. Forest was slightly congested late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning and we gave him Zyrtec and went on our merry way. It is almost spring and he *is* back in school so germs are going to be rampant. But last night he sounded worse and overnight he slept horribly and this morning we knew we couldn’t send him to school. Our district has a free testing site during certain hours so off Forest and I went. Really, I thought it was going to be a cold. But 15 minutes later the nurse came over with a slip of paper telling us he was positive!

Oh boy.

So, now we’re really quarantined at home. Chris and I were feeling fine but as the day has progressed we both have those early symptoms of a cold where you know something is about to go down. We have not been tested but it is safe to assume with a six year old in your face all the time that we’re contaminated, too. And Chris is in the Johnson and Johnson vaccine trial…so I’m curious how this will play out for him.

We’ve placed a curbside grocery order and I need to run up to the office after hours to get my laptop so I can work when I feel like it next week. And now those camping plans for Goose Island next weekend are toast.

I’ll update in a few days but hopefully we’re in the mild range of symptoms.

Looking for Nature at Schreiner Park in Junction, Texas


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I realize I haven’t finished writing about our time camping and hiking at Guadalupe River State Park over Thanksgiving but I’m going to transition to a stop-over between that state park and South Llano River State Park, where we spent the second half of our camping excursion. Junction, Texas is a hill country town without the glitz and glamour of being a hill country town like Fredericksburg, Boerne, and similar have turned into. I mean, I love those places and cannot wait until I can be a tourist again and shop in little boutiques and enjoy local restaurants. Junction still has that small-town farm life feel, though it is a popular stopover for folks driving on I-10 because it is the last major outpost for a few hours if you are heading west.

We had a bit of time to kill before we could get into the state park because they had been closed for hunting the previous few days and weren’t reopening until after lunch. Normally we would have eaten at Lum’s BBQ and lingered for a while and then stopped into the Lone Star Gallery next door to walk around, but we knew that sitting indoors to eat was not going to happen for us. However, I did have it on my agenda to go inside the gallery by myself. The gallery has all sorts of items for the home from pottery to handmade soap. My goal was the soap, so I dashed in and bought several bars of soap. Ever since I found the soap here on our first trip about five years ago, I have made a point to stock up. They have large bars of handmade soap that last for-ev-er and they are far cheaper than handmade soap you would find in a town like Fredericksburg or just about anywhere else for the size you get here. Plus, if you cut them in half, they are easier to handle and now you have two soaps for the price of one and really, it is such a bargain. So, I ran in (no one else was there) and grabbed some soap plus a few more for Christmas gifts and got back into the truck. Instead of Lum’s, we found Junction Burger Company which ended up having a drive-thru and it made things so much easier than having to run inside and pick up a to-go order.

We had lunch over at Schreiner Park, near where the South and North Llano Rivers join and become the solo Llano River as it flows north and joins with the Colorado River in Kingsland. There were a few folks playing frisbee golf and others traipsing through the brush to head down the slope of the bank to check out the gravel bars and see what was going on down near the river. So, after lunch, that’s what we did.

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In my part of Texas, I am mostly used to seeing Baccharis halimnifolia but in the hill country there is Baccharis neglecta, poverty weed, but also Willow Baccharis,
Baccharis salicina, which is what this particular plant was. It took me a bit to suss it out and decide that is what it was but thankfully the flowers are distinct enough that it helped in determining the identification.

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Texas Indian Mallow, Abutilon fruticosum

At first sight, this park seems rather drab, and it kinda is. But there was a surprising amount of interesting things to find if you just looked a little closer.

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Brazilian Vervain, Verbena brasiliensis

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Small Palafox, Palafoxia callosa

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Desert Checkered-Skipper, Burnsius philetas – A new one for the butterfly life list.

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Bushy Bluestem, Andropogon glomeratus

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Spotted Cucumber Beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata

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Mexican Palo Verde, Parkinsonia aculeata with a couple of insect friends hanging out.

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Great Mullein, Verbascum thapsus – This trip made me realize how much of a problem mullein is in the west. I had noticed it when we were at the Davis Mountains but it didn’t really hit me until I saw it everywhere at both of the state parks we were at. We haven’t spent enough time out west to really absorb what the invasive problems are, though I do know tamarisk is one of them because it is a problem in coastal environments, but wow, mullein is super invasive!

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You can see the flood debris line if you look in the top right corner of the photo.

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White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare – Oof, another problematic plant that I came to realize was everywhere at South Llano River State Park.

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And a late blooming Upright Prairie Coneflower, Ratibida columnifera.

It was a great place to enjoy lunch, soak in some late November sunshine, and poke around for just a bit. And if you need a stop-over while on your way down I-10, Junction is a quiet place to check out!

Aransas NWR at New Years


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We arrived at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge far later in the afternoon than I think we had expected. After leaving the house very early for the long drive down to Goose Island State Park and tinkering around there, plus a detour into Rockport for lunch which left us sitting in an obnoxiously long McDonald’s drive-thru line (thanks to a kiddo who only eats McDonald’s nuggets), and then eating said lunch at the Rockport beach park, we arrived at Aransas in mid-afternoon. Our first stop was the observation tower at the end of the road where, of course, a large group of people were already there.

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A photogenic group of turkey vultures (and maybe a black vulture tucked in there, too) roosting.

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White pelicans soaring overhead…

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A great blue heron waiting patiently for a meal in the marsh.

And if it had been a few months ago we would have completely avoided the observation tower due to the crowd. But in the last few months we’ve started wearing masks outdoors while hiking around people instead of trying to just distance ourselves, so we put the masks on and made our way up the tower. Thankfully, most folks were coming down and we had the top of the tower to ourselves for about ten minutes. We had a stellar view of Mustang Lake, and beyond that, Ayres Bay. The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) wasn’t very far away so we watched shipping traffic traverse through while various birds flew overhead.

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After our trip to the tallest observation deck we bopped into the smaller one where a black vulture was perched cozily on an oak limb next to the boardwalk.

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We continued down the boardwalk to a stairway that leads down to a small beach full of broken oyster shells and marine debris, to scope out what had washed ashore recently. Eventually we wound our way back down a connecting trail to the road and back to the car where we set off on the one-way scenic drive through the refuge.

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About halfway through that drive, Chris spotted a bird hopping on the ground adjacent to the road. The sun was inching closer to the horizon and shadows were cast along the grass and I couldn’t see what Chris thought he saw. He slowly drove the car closer and it eventually scared the bird into the tree where Chris confirmed his suspicions, it was a pyrrhuloxia, Cardinalis sinuatus. We had seen them at the Davis Mountains and didn’t realize their range came this far east, but it does, just barely.

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The sun was setting quickly but we made time to stop at the Heron Flats trail on our way out. Thankfully it was breezy and the mosquitoes weren’t bad. I imagine this trail is rather buggy later on in the year. We walked down the trail for a while and eventually deer started emerging from an oak motte on an upland across the marsh near the bay.

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And another herd of deer emerged in the marsh from the direction of the entrance to the trail from where we had emerged earlier. We watched them for a bit but they were spooked by us and ran back through the marsh to hide until we humans returned to our car.

It was a very short trip and we have plans to return in February as long as the weather holds.

Goose Island State Park at New Years


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After our arrival to Goose Island State Pak back on New Years Day, we stopped off at the short boardwalk in the marsh on the north end of the bayside campsites. There were several wading birds in the areas, including these roseate spoonbills, to keep our attention for a few minutes. The wind was brisk, blowing off of Copano Bay from the north, so we were bundled up despite the sunny day.

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Little Blue Heron, Egretta caerulea

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Common Loon, Gavia immer

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Cannonball Jelly, Stomolophus meleagris
There were quite a few cannonball jellies on the shoreline and it was a good opportunity for Forest to feel the hard, rubbery bell of this usually innocuous to humans jelly. Cannonball jellies are a favorite for leatherback sea turtles in addition to other jelly species, which is another reason you should keep your plastics out of the ocean as they mimic the look of a jelly and sea turtles aren’t exactly able to differentiate before something perilous happens after they take a bite.

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Next, we walked the recently rebuilt longer boardwalk on the south end of the bayside camping and Chris got some fishing in while Forest and I explored the boardwalk. About halfway down are stairs leading to an oyster shell “island” that at lower tides you can walk out on. The bay here isn’t very deep so the stairs also allow fisherman to do some wade fishing, too.

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Semipalmated Plover, Charadrius semipalmatus

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Dunlin, Calidris alpina

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Here’s Forest entranced with the cannonball jellies.

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Next, we drove over towards the Goose Island Oak but stopped in front of one of the homes between the main state park and the oak to watch a pair of whooping cranes for a few minutes.

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A pair of white pelicans were floating close to shore in the bay and it made an easy photo opportunity outside of the car window as we eased by.

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And of course, visiting the Goose Island Oak aka The Big Tree. She’s showing her age and I’m not sure how many more decades or centuries she will keep going but for now, we enjoy her gnarled trunk and spidery limbs while we can and hope another direct hit from a hurricane doesn’t happen any time soon.

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We drove back to the pasture where the whooping cranes were and hung out with sandhill cranes for a while and tried to be patient while the whooping cranes preened their feathers off in the distance.

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It was a productive but short trip to the state park. We do have plans to return very soon as long as the February weather cooperates!

Spring is Coming


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Within the last week or so the daffodils that are in an abandoned bed on the property line to our north, bloomed. These have been blooming every January/February since we moved here in 2012 and have likely been there for 20 years or more. They are among the first things to bloom every year and I hadn’t been paying attention and then suddenly, there they are. I’ve been slow to drag myself out of my usual November/December winter stupor in the garden. I wasn’t ready to deal with it all. But yesterday we made some progress in cleaning up the flower beds and getting mulch in because things are going to rapidly change in the next four weeks. I’d like to hope we don’t have another freeze in store but I suspect we’ve got at least one more as we usually do in February.

Warmth can’t come soon enough.

In the Company of Giants | Bald Cypress Trail at Guadalupe River State Park


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When many people think of bald cypress trees they immediately think swamps and wetlands, maybe focused in on the areas in the southern US. But the Texas Hill Country has some stellar examples of these trees growing along their creeks and rivers, and the ones lining the Guadalupe River are excellent specimens to behold! Some of the largest trees we’ve seen can be found on these banks, somehow evading the logging industry when their swampy counterparts didn’t.

The ones along the Guadalupe River were a feast for the eyes and it didn’t take much to want to hug them and ask them what they had seen over the centuries, to know how the river had changed and how many floods they had withstood. Or to ask the ones that didn’t make it, what the death knell had been. They continue to be tough as visitors walk over their exposed roots and sit in the crook of their trunks. They sit there patiently while six-year-olds slide down the larger anchored roots, pretending the tree is a playground. And while all of this goes on, they continue to stand firmly rooted, holding in the shoreline against the time honored tradition of riverine erosion.

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