Life Lately | February 2018


+In My Head
Finally, we are warming up, though I could do without the constant cloak of grey the sky seems to be enveloped in for 5 out of 7 days of the week. Chris and I have already been talking about spring storms and the possibilities of floods occurring. Our consensus is that the likelihood is high considering the wet winter and the fact the low spots in the front yard haven’t been dry in about two months. I’m hoping not because I’d rather not have spring and early summer crops thwarted because of their being emerged in water.

I find myself needing to talk myself down from all sorts of projects and ideas these days and the following beratings that happen because I can’t possibly do them all. Which brings me to a wonderful essay by Austin Kleon about The best thing ever written about “work-life balance”. In other words, one thing at a time, Misti.

I’ve mentioned previously that I’ve been trying to sell various kid items through Craigslist and Nextdoor and I’ll have spurts where the selling is good. The key, which I’m having to remind myself, is to delete my post and repost it about once a week so it is up at the top. I always get bites when I do that and make some progress. Last weekend I took out all of Forest’s 2T clothes and moved the 3T items in and it was bittersweet, as it is every time I switch out his clothes, to say goodbye to pieces he will never wear again. I saved favorites and even some he didn’t wear much but were special, such as Aggie related items or Texas Ranger related items. I remembered a former coworker who lives in the area that I could pass them off to so that will help me with those items but I will have to find someone else for the smaller sized clothes when I finally get through them. I would rather get our bedroom cleaned up from the other items I’m selling before I dig out more stuff.

+Watching
I finally finished Charmed a week or so ago. It feels good to be through that binge but also sad at the same time. The earlier seasons are by far my favorite, particularly the pre-9/11 episodes because of what they recall, a different era. It seems like the 90s were yesterday but they nearly two decades ago. It feels like the 00s were yesterday and here we are 8 years after those. That said, the series should have ended at season 7, maybe tied it up a little differently, but ended then. It worked. Season 8 was good but it felt like a different show in a way. Kaley Cuoco was in Season 8, just before she started with The Big Bang Theory and it feels as bit like that was a launching pad for her to land into TBBT.

Victoria is still on, though the final episode is tomorrow. The season went by too quickly and the bundling of two episodes each the first two weeks made that happen. I do enjoy going to Google particular characters after an episode airs to figure out what the true story was and I’m finding out they are taking some liberties with the show. I mean, I know tv does this but really didn’t expect some of it to be like that on a PBS show. Ah, ratings.

This is Us: Tell me you haven’t side-eyed every appliance in your house after that episode?

via GIPHY

The Big Bang Theory: It’s been on hold for a few week so I don’t have much to say at the moment.

Homeland: I’m torn between throttling Carrie for BEING SO STUPID TO CLICK ON A LINK FROM A TROLL ON A DARK WEB FORUM, are you former CIA or what girl???—and being all up on the bandwagon of what are they going to reflect back at us from our current state in politics. You know you are in a confused state when you find yourself cheering on the alt-right radio show host (who, it looks to be, doesn’t actually like his base listeners…that’ll be interesting to see) because he’s denouncing a fascist president—but you know this isn’t quite mirroring real life because in real life the alt-right radio show host is all on board with the fascist president. It’s confusing, I’m wondering where they are going with this and because real-life events are getting more insane by the day (read: Mueller investigation), and so insane that I can’t keep up, nor do I necessarily understand how all of the pieces are fitting together. Anyway, more on that spin in just a second….but yes, Homeland, very good. Every time the opening song comes on I’m taken back to my maternity leave when I binged the first three seasons while nursing Forest during that time period. It reminds me of those quiet mornings and afternoons of early fall and a particular way the sun was—already a different era.

We watched Arrival with Amy Adams a few weeks ago with Jessica, our SIL through Chris’ brother. It was a wonderful movie and I highly recommend it.

Other than that and since my Charmed binge is complete I haven’t been watching much tv. Which is probably a really good thing.

+Outside My Window
Spring! Trees and bulbs are blooming and it is so delightful! The earth is awakening and I am delighted to finally be seeing that, though we could use a period without rain.

+Making
At the end of last month I met my friend Meghan at a local park to do some sketching. Meghan and her husband went to college with us and they moved to DC/Maryland for about ten years or so before they moved back to Texas this last summer. When I got to DC for my last job when I lived in Florida, I met up with Meghan a couple of times where we had some fun evenings trying to be creative with night photography and generally just seeing different sites in DC. We actually reconnected back when MySpace was a thing and then through Flickr when Flickr was what Instagram is now. I miss Flickr and the community there, it was so different than what social media is today. It felt closer. So, yes, Meghan and I were creative friends for awhile and they met us in Harpers Ferry when we came through on the AT. But then since I quit Facebook, like so many other friendships that are seemingly only based on that these days, we drifted apart. But since our re-connection I’m hoping we pick up our artsy friendship again.

While we were sketching I noticed she had a cute travel watercolor kit. I wanted one so I used a Michael’s coupon and some Christmas money and bought myself one for keeping in the house and for taking on camping trips or hiking trips to do quick sketches. It feels very cathartic to do some art, even if it is a quick painting that means nothing more than getting paint on paper.

+In The Garden
As I mentioned, the garden is waking up. We’ve started cutting back dead vegetation and I’m itching to get the tomatoes planted. I’m also growing various plants out on the potting bench and we need to get some small trees in the ground before it warms up too much. That was something we should have done a few months ago. During the floods over the last couple of years we lost an olive and peach tree. The peach tree was actually a replacement to one we lost before that and so now my thoughts are to go with some native fruit trees that can handle that fluctuating hydrology that may come where they would be planted. Those trees are some Chickasaw plum saplings that Chris dug up from another tree in the yard as well as an American persimmon that I grew from seed from a tree in the neighborhood.

I ordered some seeds from Wood Thrush Natives a few weeks ago and those are all in the fridge stratifying. I’m also trying some out straight in pots on the potting bench just to see what might sprout. I need to plant a few things that I have been growing in pots over the last few weeks and months, too.

Lots to do to get ready for spring but I’m happy that life is coming back.

+Reading
I have a book report to write for the month that I should get to in the next few days or early next month. Last month I saw a book called The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables and promptly went to Goodreads to flag it as to-read. I saw that a lot of people had reviewed it already despite it not being out for sale yet and realized that they were reading it via NetGalley. I have always wondered how people got pre-published books for review but never really investigated it, however this book prompted me to look. So, I signed up with NetGalley and filled out my information on what kind of reviewer I was and then searched for this book and some others of a similar vein and requested them from the publisher. The publisher can deny the request, of course. But within a few hours five of seven books I requested were approved and I was sent protected PDFs to read. I then I had to figure out how to read them because they were in a weird format but I was able to download a program called Bluefire Reader on my Kindle and voilà!

So, the last few weeks I’ve been reading those books because there is a time constraint, though not so much like the library digital loans of 2-3 weeks. But, I do want to read them before they expire so I’m trying to get them read!

I meant to include this article in my link round up that I did recently but forgot about it: Meet the Unlikely Hero Who Predicted Hurricane Harvey’s Floods. I was constantly tuned into Space City Weather during the storm and it was their forecast several days before landfall that really had me thinking it was going to be a very bad storm. Unfortunately they were right.

+Loving
Beto for Texas! March 6th is Primary Day in Texas—go vote!

HEB’s Casa Ole Decaf Coffee: Last month I mentioned that I was going off the caffeine coffee since I had found whole bean decaf at Sprouts. Well, Sprouts is another 10-15 minutes down the road from our usual grocery stores so it isn’t on our typical route. But HEB is nearby and they actually have whole bean decaf in stock and I am loving their San Antonio and Austin blends! I tried one bag and when I was out and it was Chris’ turn for grocery duty I sent him to a detour from Kroger to HEB and had him get me three bags to last the month. I’m a decaf convert now. The jittery, nauseous feeling from the caffeine is gone and I still get to enjoy a delightful cup of coffee in the morning. WIN!

Slow Burn: A Podcast About Watergate: being that I was not born when Nixon was president, I’ve only ever had the cursory story in history classes growing up where we would watch All the President’s Men and then of course there was the movie Dick from my late teen years, which was spoofy. But as I listen to this podcast—and I have to listen to an episode or two at a time, I haven’t been able to devour them as there’s so much information to take in—all I can think of is the similarities to 45.

Oh, and in that vein: Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting All of Us Now by Thomas L. Friedman in the NYT:

Our democracy is in serious danger.

President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy.

Putin used cyberwarfare to poison American politics, to spread fake news, to help elect a chaos candidate, all in order to weaken our democracy. We should be using our cyber-capabilities to spread the truth about Putin — just how much money he has stolen, just how many lies he has spread, just how many rivals he has jailed or made disappear — all to weaken his autocracy. That is what a real president would be doing right now.

My guess is what Trump is hiding has to do with money. It’s something about his financial ties to business elites tied to the Kremlin. They may own a big stake in him. Who can forget that quote from his son Donald Trump Jr. from back in 2008: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets.” They may own our president.

But whatever it is, Trump is either trying so hard to hide it or is so naïve about Russia that he is ready to not only resist mounting a proper defense of our democracy, he’s actually ready to undermine some of our most important institutions, the F.B.I. and Justice Department, to keep his compromised status hidden.

That must not be tolerated. This is code red. The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office.

What’s up with you?

Forest Friday | Fennel Chomping Edition


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My child has turned into an herb connoisseur. The moment he gets into the garden he’s searching for dill or fennel to snag, and of course carrots if they are available. In the flower garden we have creeping thyme and he’s all over that, too. I mean, I’m pleasantly surprised and delighted that he’s into eating fresh herbs from the garden but I wouldn’t have pinned it as something he would do.

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The dill we had in fall and early winter succumbed to all of the freezes and I have since resown more seed, both for Forest and our pantry, but for the hopes to get the black swallowtails to return and lay eggs again. Now that I have the caterpillar tent—and I plan on ordering one more this year so I can separate out older caterpillars from younger ones and keep chrysalides separate—I want to try to raise some black swallowtails as well. We had quite a few caterpillars last year but I’m fairly certain predator insects and birds snagged all of them before the could pupate.

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With the warmer temperatures, we are finally spending more time outside once again. Last weekend my parents were in town and Forest enjoyed time in the sandbox. Chris had made a pile of wood pieces that had fallen from various trees so he could take them to the fire pit and Forest took it upon himself to move all of the pieces, one at a time, over to his makeshift fire pit on the back porch! Talk about modeling behavior! It was too adorable to make him take it off the porch and later in the week Chris moved them to the actual fire pit.

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Finally, I wanted to get a photo of Forest with my parents and Forest is entering the no-photos-of-me-please phase and so it took some convincing to get him to do that. We told him he could give my dad bunny ears and well, they turned out more like a peace sign! So, peace, y’all!

Warming Up in the Garden


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I’d like to throttle whomever put up the forecast on Weather Underground yesterday. Every time I looked, the temperatures were in the high 60s or low 70s for the next forseeable future. This morning I dressed Forest in shorts and a t-shirt and even felt how warm it was when I sent Chris and Forest off. Thirty minutes later I was out the door and enjoying the balmy morning and then ten minutes later I opened the car door to get out at work and wondered if I’d entered a different world. It was at least 15* cooler! That was not what Weather Underground said was going to happen today! I felt bad for Forest but then I picked him up this evening and saw other kids in shorts so apparently it wasn’t just me with a colossal failure!

Meanwhile, the tomatoes are chilling out in the garden waiting to be planted. Earlier this week I thought I might put them in the ground next week but I’ll be checking out the 10-day forecast (and probably not believing it) and determining whether or not to get them in the ground or wait another week. I’m itching to plant them, can you tell?

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For the last week the weather has been glorious! Well, aside from the overcast and drizzle that seems to be plaguing us, but we’ve had a few sunshine filled days in there. At least the weather has been warm—I’ve finally warmed up! It even got a little stuffy in the house on Monday.

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In the garden the warm weather has sent plants out of dormancy or into bolting, depending on the plant. It feels like everything is going to come alive and the frenzy of getting the garden into shape is happening quickly.

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I have started cutting back the dead vegetation and need to get through and weed some of the beds I didn’t get to last year as well as pull a few of the spring ephemerals like chickweed out of the flower beds, too. I’ve been letting many of the spring ephemerals stay in the edible beds because some of them are edible and because I’m also letting them act as an additional layer of surface coverage. As soon as the frustrating and invasive summer weeds start coming in I’ll really have to get in on keeping up with those weeds. (see: mulberry weed and chamberbitter)

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In all, the edible garden is doing well, though it could use a round of fish emulsion sprayed on it. With all the rain we’ll be getting this coming week I don’t think I’ll be doing that any time soon.

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Red giant mustard.

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Champion collards–I’ll be ready for these in a month or so!

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I’ve been actively trying to eat a lot of salad now that all of the lettuces and other greens have rebounded from the ice in January. Most everything is thriving, including the lacinato kale, though I know some of the greens will start bolting if they haven’t already.

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One green that I have noticed has not produced as well as it has in years past has been the varieties of Swiss chard. I’m not sure if it was to cold for it this year or what the problem was but only a few are just now starting to thrive. Usually that is one of our most abundant greens!

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Finally, the cabbages are beginning to head! I’m determined to make some sauerkraut this year and actually stay on top of eating it. In the past I have made it in a makeshift crock but now that I have the Mason Tops I can do small batch ferments.

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Another plant that is finally beginning to bulb up is the kohlrabi, though you can see here it wasn’t having the near 80* heat last weekend. The perils of being a green in Texas.

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And the mustard spinach that was beginning to thrive and look great for eating only a week before this photo was taken has begun to bolt! It happened in a matter of days, I was so sad to see that. Oh well, I do need room for tomatoes.

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Forest has been glad to get back outside and into playing. It’s been a long, cooped-up winter.

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I wasn’t sure at the time but the following day I saw more and I did some Googling—but these are my sunchokes sprouting! I bought some at Central Market after someone mentioned they had found them there so I thought I’d give it a whirl and try to grow them. Well, they are coming up! I suspect I’ll have to relocate them to a larger side bed next season because I know they can spread and if you want a decent crop you need to give them some room. I’m excited to be trying something different!

When it warms up again I’ll get out and take more photos of the flower garden waking up!

January Camping at Lake Livingston State Park


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Unlike last year, this time around there was no burst of caterpillars for spring, no thunderstorm to attempt to obliterate our tent, and the freshly poured concrete for the campsite driveway showed signs of aging from the last year. More importantly, the woods were still brown and leafless for the most part—no coloring of green other than the pine trees and any other evergreen type plant. It did drizzle a little bit and there was quite a bit of fog but overall it was a cozy winter camping event instead of an energetic spring one.

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While we did end up snagging the same campsite we had last year, we will likely re-think that for future camping trips. We weren’t sure if it was because of the recent freeze or maybe just the rain and ice, but something had gone on with either the water pipe at the site next door or we didn’t really remember how low the area between the sites sat—because it was quite muddy in that area, preventing Forest from really running around over in that direction or for us to use the fire pit!

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Forest and I did poke around in the woods behind our site, scoping out for various animals or potential early spring ephemerals. We only found various fungi and termites eating downed logs and stumps. Once we found the initial batch of termites it was game-on for Forest, he wanted to keep looking for termites. I was hoping for at least a beetle, maybee a snake or lizard, but no such luck.

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Since Forest is into crafting, I was glad to see the park rangers had a couple of crafting events throughout the day on Saturday. We found the event room at the gift shop and Forest went in and tried to make a fish with the volunteers there, wowing them with his knowledge about what a dorsal fin was! He actually wowed us with that a few months back—I’m not sure where he picked that up from but he identified it properly. Of course being nerdy biologists we continued telling him what the rest of the fins were!

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Our hiking adventures at the state park were quiet and understated, not putting in many miles mostly because there aren’t a lot of trails to be putting in a lot of miles for, but because I think we felt like moving a little slower. Also, when you have a 3 year old in tow you just move slower in general!

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We ended up cutting the full weekend trip short due to predicted rain for Sunday morning—no one wants to pack up camp in the rain—so we ate dinner at the campsite and drove home later that evening. Of course, the rain didn’t really materialize the next day, however I was glad to have been home to get caught up on some chores.

More camping is on the agenda for this spring though we really need to get a backpacking trip fit in somewhere!

Signs of Spring


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Finally, we are edging towards warmer days. The last week or two we’ve had a series of warmer days, though yesterday we dipped back into the 30s and 40s and I was shivering once again, but we’re on the upswing. Soon I’ll be dripping in sweat when I step outside—thanks high humidity!

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I’m ok with that, though. Give me tank tops, shorts, and flip flops any day. The bright side is that all of the tropical plants are providing a flush of green to the garden after hibernating inside for more of the winter than usual.

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But the fig tree they all hang on is putting on leaf buds and soon the side yard garden will be shady once again. I’m always amazed at how it can go from an open canopy to dense and lush in the height of summer.

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Formosa lilies poking out of the ground.

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Brown and crunchy for now, but at the base of a lot of that is new growth!

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Looks like a coreopsis seedling to me.

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Much work needs to be done and my lunch breaks will start to be dedicated to cutting back and prepping for growth from now on.

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Out in the edible garden, we’re rolling in greens. Still loving the Florida broadleaf mustard.

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It has been a spectacular year for spinach! Normally we struggle with germination and thriving but this year it was cold enough for the spinach to grow well.

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All of the parsley seemed to germinate and grow rather slowly back in the fall but it has survived the ice and freezes just fine.

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And now the kohlrabi is beginning to produce bulbs. I’m really looking forward to having some of these in a month or two!

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The mustard spinach took a bit to get established, having fought off snails and various caterpillars back when it was beginning to grow in the fall but these last few weeks have shown tremendous growth.

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My cabbage appears to want to start producing heads…finally. It’s been slow going on those, too.

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My trusty garden helper!

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Having all of the greens available during this time of year is so wonderful. It’s too bad I’m having to buy onions and tomatoes at the store to have a good salad, but such is life here in zone 9.

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I need to tie up some of the blackberry canes and trim up a few dead canes I didn’t get to last summer. Otherwise they are primed for flowering here in a few months. I’m already thinking about what I will do with the harvest this year—we have a lot of jam still from last year—so make a small batch of jam and then freeze the rest we don’t eat fresh?

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Lacinato kale

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Forest is anxiously awaiting carrots once again. He ate all of the ones I planted for him in the fall and now we’re waiting on Chris’ batch to be ready to pull.

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I was delighted to see the strawberries blooming a week or so ago! That was the biggest sign of spring I had seen so far. *phew*

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And the rhododendrons are budding, too. Can’t wait!

I’m keeping an eye out around the area for redbud blooms but no such luck quite yet!

Any signs of spring where you are?

Sunday Reads + Listens


Some things I’ve read and listened to in the last few months that have resonated with me.

  • How to support the artists + writers you love via Ashlee Gadd.

    1. If they write something lovely that resonates with you, leave a comment. When you leave a comment on a blog post or essay or article, that is your way of saying, “I’m here! I read this!” Comments (well, nice ones) make the writer feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. You don’t need to leave a comment on every post—just once in a while when something really resonates with you.

  • That Favorite Place via Rambling Hemlock

    So I lay on the rocks and feel the coolness of the earth supporting me. The La Sals are covered in clouds off in the distance and wonder if I will ever again climb their peaks. I run my fingers along the sleeping branches of a cottonwood, knowing that no matter what happens to me, that this canyon will wake up in a few months, that the leaves will expand, that the caterpillars will hatch from eggs and munch away. And it is comforting to know this place will be here no matter what.

  • We need to talk about postpartum rage—and why it happens. via Motherly.

    In the case of postpartum rage, I often find that the anger is alerting us to feelings of being overwhelmed, resentment at not being appreciated or acknowledged by those close to us, isolation from our usual social supports, uncertainty about acclimating to our new life as a mom, and guilt related to our perceived failures in mothering.

  • Rating Tomatoes: Which Ones are Best to Eat via Growing with Plants.

    Believe me, gardeners can get seriously geeky about tomatoes.

    First off, don’t assume that all heirloom tomatoes are good to eat, also don’t assume that the nursery will grow only the best varieties. You will need to do some research, read all of the catalogs and some of the best books on tomatoes out there (I share some of those later in this post), and then make your own decisions based on what you will be using you tomatoes for. You might want sweeter varieties or some that are more acidic for caning. Meaty or savory varieties might be preferred over slicers, or you might be planning on making sauce and not eating them all raw with sea salt. If you are like me, you night be able to find a reason to grow every one.

  • Nature in Broward: The Silent Crisis of Local Rare Species Extinction via the Florida Native Plant Society.

    A recent review of vegetation maps and firsthand knowledge of Broward natural areas reveals that less than 3.5% of metropolitan land remains for nature. Some ecosystems, such as Scrub, Pine Flatwoods, and Wet Prairie, are now 1% of their size in 1943. Late conservation efforts enabled by Preservation 2000 and Forever Florida gave us a patchwork of small, isolated preserves. Each is important and valuable as a last remnant of a unique subtropical ecosystem. Some have an evolutionary history tens of thousands of years old. Five hundred plant species are living in these metropolitan parks and preserves. By comparison, two hundred plant species live in the large western wetlands, the Everglades Wildlife Management Areas. Therefore, our greatest biodiversity is within metropolitan Broward.

  • Keeping Wild Spaces Wild: The Ethics of Social Media via Trail Groove magazine, written by Paul Magnanti.

    As outdoor people in this age of social media, it is not enough to not litter, camp 200′ away from streams, and limit our physical group numbers. We have the responsibility to preserve the wild places to the extent we can.

  • Bears Ears in Crisis via Bedrock and Paradox.

    The Antiquities Act has always had problems, and the way in which Trump and his administration are bringing it to a head is no different than all the other ways in which he is highlighting contradictions long dormant in our society and government. Our best and only hope is that Trump himself will pass on to the shadows sooner, and leave in his wake newfound motivation to confront and manage that which we have avoided for so long.

  • The Seriously Cool Red Cedar via The Common Milkweed.

    Red Cedars sometimes get a bad rap because they “invade prairies and pasture lands,” but it’s really all about management and the land’s current hydrology, browse factor, etc. Keep them out of the prairies so the prairies can be prairies and pasture can be pasture, but let them grow in old fields and fencerows and yards and recovering forest. Eastern North America had a magnificent, spectacular forest once that we can only dream of and yes, we feel overwhelming grief for what was carelessly destroyed, but we don’t dwell in that part of our knowledge because we can’t. Instead we plant and plant and plant.

  • Maggie Haberman on the Katie Couric Podcast: Haberman is a writer for the NYT and has covered 45 extensively in the last 10 years and has a lot of great insight to his mind and inner workings.
  • The Nuanced Life Podcast: I love everything about this podcast.
  • Practical, Positive, and Peaceable by Charles Eisenstein via the Root Simple Podcast. Originally aired prior to the 2016 election but so, so eerie to listen to now in that you can see it was practically the writing on the wall of what was to come.
  • Routes Podcast: A podcast about long distance hiking. Absolutely have loved every episode I’ve listened to, particularly Erin ‘Wired’ Saver’s episode.
  • REI Presents: Leave It Better | Packing it Out: a short documentary on YouTube about a pair of friends bike packing across country and picking up trash.

Nopales Ridge Trail | Lake Brownwood State Park


Ah, let’s flash back to Thanksgiving of 2017 once more to wrap up our hiking adventures there, shall we? We haven’t ventured out much so far this year, though I do have some photos to process for one night of camping a couple of weekends ago. I’m hoping that in a few short weeks the weather will warm up enough that we will want to be venturing out much more often! Actually, it isn’t that the weather hasn’t warmed up (finally!), just that it seems to be that we have inclement weather on the weekends lately, which doesn’t make for a large desire to be outside.

Onward to the hike!

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We hit up the Nopales Ridge Trail at Lake Brownwood State Park for a late morning hike during our Thanksgiving trip. The parking lot was deserted and we ended up being the only ones on the trail until closer to lunch time when we passed a couple of people out hiking. As we came around a bend into an opening I saw this mistletoe, initially thinking it was an orchid! Hah, I know, old habits, but that’s what I thought until I shook myself out of plant dumbness and realized it was mistletoe.

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We noticed there was a small birds nest tucked into the plant and then I found that there was fishing line making up part of the nest. I attempted to pull it out but it would have destroyed the nest so I gave up.

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Part of the trail wound through little oak mottes with openings to the prairie. We wound in and out of both of these habitats frequently.

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A bluebonnet seedling prepping for spring!

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Around one bend I spotted a pile of milkweed fluff. Only half the seed pod was intact and the plant itself had died back already so I wasn’t able to figure out which species it was. Just by the nature of the seed pod I’ll take a stab and call it antelope horn.

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We stopped for a snack break right around the corner at a bench so Forest could have a snack.

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Slowly we climbed up the ridge for a view of the lake. I’d thought we were already at the top of a plateau but we must have either slowly descended the plateau or we weren’t as high up as I had thought. Either way, we climbed up for a better view of our surroundings.

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I got a kick out of the prickly pears being all epiphytic!

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Then we found another bench to rest at and I poked around while Forest had another snack. Hiking is hard work for a 3-year old! Unfortunately, as I was poking around I lifted up a rock to see what kind of wildlife might be under it and instead found a smashed water bottle! WHAT??? People, pack it out!

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Overall it was just a quiet, enjoyable hike! I wish I’d snapped some photos of the bluestem grasses at the end because the light was shining through them beautifully but my camera battery died.

I really loved this park and wish it was a bit closer of a drive for us! It’s a bit of a haul even to make a yearly trek to!

January 2018 Book Report


It’s been a fairly productive month of reading around here—much to my surprise. Ok, so one of of them is actually from the tail-end of last year but I had already written my book write-up for the year. Eh, no big deal, right?

Completed
+Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon: I subscribe to Kleon’s weekly newsletter and occasionally read his blog, and have heard about his work for quite awhile now but never actually read a book. Annnnnnd….can’t say it was worth the experience. It feels like a repackaged set of blog posts to sell as a kitsch book item. This doesn’t mean Kleon’s blog or other writings aren’t good, they usually are, but this was over rated. After reading some reviews I found I was not alone. Skip this and read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art if you are looking for similar inspiration.

+Wild Edible Plants of Texas: A Pocket Guide to the Identification, Collection, Preparation, and Use of 60 Wild Plants of the Lone Star State by Charles W. Kane: This one feels a bit like cheating to add this one to the list because it is a small field guide type book but I know I will find myself using it for reference over and over the years.

+The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James: I picked this up at a flea market near Caddo Lake in November of 2016 and just now got around to reading it. In the mood for fiction, I thought a fluffy Jane Austen re-visioning sounded easy enough to read. It was fluffy but also not so fluffy that you just breezed through it and rolled your eyes at another Austen remake. As you can tell from the title there’s a missing Jane Austen manuscript and there’s a story that ensues with a woman finding a previously unknown letter from Jane to her sister Cassandra that hints about a manuscript that Jane wrote that went missing. Considering there’s a manuscript involved you can also expect a story within the story!

+The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn: I didn’t mean to read two Austen adjacent novels back to back but this one came up in Overdrive after I had been on the wait list for months so I pretty much devoured it in a couple of days when I was sick a few weeks ago. This one isn’t like any Austen remake novel I’ve read. It involves time travel with two characters, a man and woman, sent back in time from a semi-dystopian future in order to steal the letters Jane and Cassandra wrote each other (Cassandra destroyed most of their correspondence when Jane died) in addition to trying to locate the full draft of Austen’s The Watson’s, a legit book that was never finished by Austen. Of course the main characters interact with Jane and her family and well, you have to read it! I really enjoyed it and was captivated throughout the entire story.

+The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature by J. Drew Lanham: I technically started this book last October but put it down about halfway through, continuing to pick it up and down over the last few months. I finally finished it on the drive back home from camping last weekend and I wondered to myself why I took so long to finish it. I Loved This Book! It’s equal parts nature, family/genealogy, and culture, with a dash of hunting. It reminded me a bit of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse Ray, which come to find out later, the author thanked Ray in the credits. You can see some of Lanham’s Audubon articles here and some videos over here.

What have you been reading?

Fun with a Slackline!


I’ve wanted a slackline for several years now and at Christmas we decided to gift my brother’s family one for when they go camping and Chris bought one for us at the same time. Last weekend we set it up at our campsite at Lake Livingston State Park and had some fun! Let’s just say I have even more respect for Philippe Petit of Man on Wire fame. Woo boy, is this hard but fun! Chris did end up stretching out another rope up top and I did get better with balancing. I tried with shoes on too but I like the feeling of going without shoes as you are better able to grip the line.

If you do any kind of front country camping or even want to have one in your backyard, it is really fun to try! I can’t wait to get better at balancing so I can work on trying some different tricks!

Life Lately | Mid-January 2018


+In My Head
Well, 2018 has started with a bang! Almost two weeks ago (tomorrow) Forest came down with a fever one evening and was feeling rather awful with runny nose, coughing, etc. Considering the flu has been horrible around here this year I was worried we were heading that direction. After all was said and done I’m not sure if we had the flu or a very bad cold, but either way I came down with it the following Monday evening and subsequently took 4 days of PTO. I was going to take three but that Friday Forest was cranky again and we both stayed home because we were definitely not 100% quite yet. I haven’t taken 4 days of PTO for being sick in for-ev-er. It really knocked me out and all I wanted to do was sleep. Forest went to daycare on most of those days that week but for Tuesday and Friday he was with me. Thankfully I persuaded him into a nap on Friday. We are better now with some little bits of snot here and there.

And then we got this awful freeze again. So, four days off work last week, two days off this week, and then an unexpected balancing act between Chris and I when we found out daycare was closed yesterday because they had a burst pipe from the freeze. Thankfully daycare was open today because I didn’t want to be eating more PTO!

With all of that said and done, I am ready for spring. I’m ready to clean up the yard, ready for warm weather, and I’m just tired of being cold all the time. Let’s get back to our regularly scheduled winter conditions, alright?

+Watching
I’m still on my Charmed binge on Netflix. I’m about a quarter of the way through season 7. There’s one more season after this. So at this point it is 2004-2005 and several years after 9/11 and there are still some well placed American flags all over the place. A flag on the fridge, a well-placed pillow in Phoebe’s work office. Oh, and the incorporation of Homeland Security. I just find this very interesting, the before and afters of 9/11 in pop-culture. Still loving the show even though it has evolved. I didn’t catch a lot of these later episodes in real time so some of them are new to me.

Victoria on PBS has started up again. I loved it last season and having just finished the latest season of The Crown in December this is the perfect thing to get your British monarchy fix. I like seeing how much she had to battle sexism while being the sovereign of her country, particularly in regards to her role as a mother. She had 9 children!

This is Us is back on and I’m still on board the train for this show. Love it! Still can’t decide if I like Kevin.

The Big Bang Theory is still great and I always laugh. I’ve seen some criticism that the show needs to end but I think it has a few years left in it.

There are some things on Netflix I want to watch but just haven’t been in a movie mode lately.

+Outside My Window
Bleak, brown, mid-winter.

+Making
Not much, aka: nothing. I know my word for this year is strong but I also feel like it is very much also a Marie Kondo type year, which means I’m ready to start purging all of the stuff. I’ve been slowly selling baby stuff and maternity stuff, which I mentioned the last time I did one of these. I’ve been having some trouble with some of it and finally ordered a cleanout kit from ThredUp to send in the best maternity items. That got mailed yesterday. The rest will get donated. I’m finally at the point that if I have tried selling something at least twice it is going into the donate pile.

What all of this means is that I’m also going to be working on cleaning up our storage areas where a lot of this stuff is located. Some of it is extra baby items but some of it is just crap we need to go through. I’m also sick of looking at the shed so I’m going to have to get Chris on board with cleaning that up soon as well as taking a hard look at his closet, which is where we store our luggage, backpacking gear, and important paperwork.

One area at a time but there is something to be said for the extra crap in the house having an impact on your own mental health. So, how is this involved in the Making section? Well, part of this has to do with my studio. It needs to be cleaned out, and cleaning out the storage area that is behind my studio (through a door, kind of an extra attic space) is also involved with my studio. If I can clean that up I can move some stuff that is in my studio awaiting storage into there.

+In The Garden
See recent posts.

I think most of the edible garden will pull through just fine with just a bit of minimal loss. Only time will tell on the flower garden.

+Reading
I’ve read two Jane Austen adjacent novels this month. One was The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen which was a delightful little read. The second was The Jane Austen Project which was even better and unlike any of the Austen adjacent books I’ve read before. I definitely wanted more. I read this during my sick stupor last week.

I’ll do a book report at the end of the month because I’m hoping to finish up at least one more book this month.

+Loving
Whole bean, ground to my liking, decaf coffee. All of the flavor and taste of a good cup of coffee without the shakes and jitters after.

I’m a convert.

I have had the worst time finding good decaf coffee and finding whole bean decaf is even harder. I bought some from the bulk bins at Sprouts right before Christmas and just ground it a week or two ago and I don’t know if I can go back to regular coffee. I feel much better having the decaf, which was kind of a reason I went off coffee last fall for a few weeks. It was making me a little nutty after drinking it. I have one bag of fully leaded coffee in the pantry and after I drink that I think I’ll be keeping up this decaf whole bean business. One of my problems with pre-ground decaf is that the grind is too fine and I find it produces a bitter brew. I’ve found a rougher grind is much tastier and really makes a better brew. Having the ability to grind it myself is something I’ve come to find immensely satisfying when creating that perfect cup every morning. I like drinking tea but it isn’t a morning drink for me, I much prefer having it in the afternoon. So when I thought I was going to have to switch to tea eventually because of the jitter issue, I wasn’t thrilled.

So, problem solved!

What’s up with you?

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