Life Lately March 2019


Thinking:
About politics of course. I think after the first six months of the Mueller investigation I knew that it was not going to be the linchpin to get us out of the course we’re heading in. From time to time I’d be swayed into positivity by someone about the report, or even when we’d see arrests and indictments, but I would keep tabs on what Sarah Kendzior and others who are scholars on authoritarian regimes said—and she’s always been pragmatic that the Mueller investigation would not be saving us. I highly recommend Gaslit Nation podcast.

On a lighter note, I am now a super fan of Mayor Pete. That link goes to the first interview I heard of him on the show 1A. He’s been several other places in the last month as well. Considering he’s of my generation I’m definitely rooting for him. Even if he doesn’t end up on the ballot I hope he finds a way to get on the cabinet.

I’m also glad Beto is now in the running but I honestly thought he wasn’t going to run. And I’m not getting the sudden backlash on him, though. I know there was that Vanity Fair article, which I didn’t read, that seemed to upset a lot of people but I think many people who are upset were really thinking this was going to be a woman’s election and were upset about that. Yes, we have many women in the running but only two that I see viable as getting far: Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. And I love Elizabeth Warren but her heritage issues are going to hound her and I just see her as being Hillary 2.0 and moderates or conservatives who aren’t on the Voldemort train are going to be voting for her with their nose held again…or voting for a third party or Bernie or something.

I guess I’m being pragmatic. We’ve got to win 2020 or it is going to get super dark really fast. Because it will be an acknowledgement that the country is ok with what has been going on. And I’m not ok with that. There’s been plenty written about a general rise in authoritarian and extreme right wing regimes world-wide. It’s going to get messy if we aren’t able to course correct ourselves.

Oh, one last thing: I’m still holding my opinions of AOC to a year or two from now to see what she actually gets done, but I’m increasingly loving how she’s pushing the buttons where they need to be pushed without giving in or even caring what people say about her.

Gardening:
Lots going on out there! I took macro photos around the yard a few days ago and I need to process those and get them posted soon. I’m still waiting for the leaps of growth on some plants. I feel like the flower garden is behind in some aspects and ahead in others. I’m slowly getting on top of the weeds in the edible garden. I really need to get some mulch for the beds out there and the pathways soon. I had been using some mulch (of random things they’d shredded around the city) that our community had put on an empty lot a few doors down for our paths but they started piling up non-safe debris up there, such as old painted wood signs and stuff like that and I really don’t want to use that even on our paths. I’m sure I could move around and get some of it but honestly the oldest stuff is probably more like compost now.

Loving:
+We went to the first Budding Out Festival at Peckerwood Garden today (well, yesterday when you read this). It was a much better experience than when we went the first time when Forest wasn’t even 2. Though, it was a bit difficult trying to keep a 4.5 year old not to play under trees and tell him this wasn’t a park but was instead someone’s private garden! The festival was wonderful though, reminding me a bit of the ones we would go to at the Fruit and Spice Park in Florida. I hope they continue it from here on out!
+iNaturalist: it is seriously helping me improve my flora and fauna identification skills.
+Making art again!
+How interested Forest is in dinosaurs! Earlier today (aka: yesterday) he was making an Earth and asteroids with playdough and explaining how this one portion of the Earth covered in brown was where the asteroid hit and the dinosaurs died. Why yes, he watches dino documentaries on Netflix and Amazon! We also checked out some hardcore dinosaur books from the library a few weeks ago—they are more encyclopedias than anything!

Reading:
A few too many things at once. A book report is due here so I’ll try to get that up this week, too.

Making:
After seeing several people doing the 100 Day Project the last few years, I decided I was going to participate this year. I’m setting the bar low so that I actually complete it: 100 days of blind contour drawing. It will be a good practice for simple drawing skills and to draw what I see. I ended up starting on Thursday instead of the official project date of April 2nd. When I finish I’ll share here.

Forest and I are also getting over to the studio a couple of times a week so I’m working on finishing a few projects there and also doing some quick pieces of art over there in a sketch book or on scrap art paper. It’s fun to spend an hour or so over there with him while he plays or draws something himself.

Watching & Listening:
+The OA is back on Netflix for Season 2! 8 episodes of OMG where is this going?! So good.
+More Downton Abbey reruns when they show up on my DVR. I miss that show but we have a movie to look forward to!
+This is Us and Grey’s Anatomy, of course. And I know there is just a couple of episodes of The Big Bang Theory left but I’m trying to figure out when they are going to air them. Seems like over a month since the last one.
+Good Girls: I can’t remember if I wrote about this in last month’s write-up but I found season 1 on Netflix and thought it was Netflix based. It’s not, it is NBC based. So I’m watching those as well as season 2 just started. It’s Breaking Bad adjacent.

Where did March go?

The Sam Houston Statue


I was overly ambitious when I laid out my 39 Goals for 2019. Most of them are doable but I’ve not been very diligent about planning for them, which is what a lot of them need—a plan for execution. I’d printed the list out but threw it into my to-do list notebook and well, that hasn’t been unfolded. I guess I need to hang it out on my desk at home so I see it.

But we finally made one of them happen, visiting the Sam Houston Statue and Visitor Center in Huntsville. It helped that we went after we were done camping at Huntsville State Park and it is only a few minutes drive from the state park.

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I was expecting a nominal fee to enter the statue area but it was all completely free. All you had to do was sign the guest book, which you were promptly directed to by someone outside. I think it was their way of keeping tabs on just how many people were passing through to see the statue.

The buildings themselves were modeled after the style of the early Texas settlers, so with the split breeze way between where the main living quarters and a ‘kitchen’ would be. The kitchen was a gift shop in this instance and there was an additional building out back which looked to serve as offices or maybe a meeting area. And of course azaleas lined the sidewalk in a true east Texas (and the south generally) fashion.

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Forest played for a few minutes behind the Sam Houston mask.

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You can see just how close I-45 is to the monument. I really thought there should have been some kind of barricade up between the highway and the grassy/dirt area in front of the monument.

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The statue was dedicated in 1994 which surprised me because I had thought it was older than that. If you ever find yourself coming through Huntsville, take the 15 minute detour and drop by and see the statue! It’s worth getting out of the road construction to do so!

We drove into Huntsville after to get lunch at the Farmhouse Cafe just a few blocks from Sam’s namesake university.

Early Spring Edible Garden Happenings


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Right on cue, the cilantro began bolting in January/February and now blankets the back section of the garden in dainty white flowers. It is a pollinator attraction with bees, butterflies, and small flies congregating for their share of nectar. I always let the cilantro self seed so it pops up in the garden randomly as well as in the middle of the paths. Some years I move it out of the way, others, like this year, I leave it.

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I sowed several calendula seeds but only one plant has really thrived, putting off several branches of flowers and creating this bright yellow spot in the garden near the blackberries. I have a couple of other plants that I hope produce flowers later this spring. I will definitely be adding more calendula again in the fall—summer usually does these in.

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While their wild cousins the dewberries are blooming all over the place, the blackberries are just now starting to put on flowers.

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Most of the tomatoes are growing very well. I’ve lost two plants, though I’m not sure as to what I lost them to. One just completely disappeared and another had its leaves stripped and was not going to be re-growing new leaves. I didn’t see a hornworm anywhere but maybe it was a cutworm? And I randomly had a tomatillo snapped in half but I managed to throw the broken piece back into the soil and it seems like it is rooting—it hasn’t wilted yet.

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Forest is very into imaginative play right now. I mean he has been for a while, but he’ll be talking and I’ll think he’s talking to me and then he gets mad at me for interrupting him! Last year he didn’t really play much in his spot in the garden but he is very interested once again. Chris fixed the water hose where it was leaking from the hard freeze in winter of 2018 so now I can leave the hose on without it spewing from the pipe and now Forest can put water into his side to make his mud puddles.

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I’ve been letting the wild garlic do its thing in the garden, coming up wherever it pleases. It’s so short term that it doesn’t bother me and it is edible and pretty, so why not?

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The cilantro wildness.

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We’re getting a handful of strawberries every few days. The extremely wet years the last couple of years have led to a decline in the number of plants we have over there. I’m hoping we can get some new runners established this year and get that bed filled up again. The handfuls are being washed and then handed to Forest who devours them.

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I was just beginning to wonder if the ‘Sugar Magnolia’ snap peas were going to bloom and then they began putting on flowers. They are in a very position for being photographed in late evening light!

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Our single borage plant is a feast for the bumble and honey bees. This one was self sown from last year’s plants in this bed.

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Another plant I let come up in some areas of the garden is the fleabane, Erigeron sp.. It is wild in the yard near the garden and has spread into a few areas of the garden. It’s a favorite of mine now.

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I was also beginning to worry about the asparagus with all of the standing water we’ve had around the garden this winter. I’d begun to think the crowns had rotted. But they finally peaked through the soil in the last couple of weeks. I’ve even seen some seedling plants from the seeds that the parent plants produced last year.

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My Morris heading collards are starting to bolt now, too. I’m a bit bummed about that as I was hoping to get the plants through until May. Maybe a few will pull through. They have been incredibly tasty in salads this winter.

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Bolting daikon radishes.

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And finally, the parsley hawthorn blooming up near the house. It is also a pollinator feast right now! I should really stalk it for pollinator photos soon before the flowers are gone.

Later this week I should do a round in the flower garden. It is looking decent, though many things aren’t really taking off quite yet—hopefully late April and May will be an abundance of blooms!

Chilly Days at Stephen F. Austin State Park


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Coral Berry, Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

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Ten petal anemone, Anemone berlandieri

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Forest took the following photos:
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In early February we made a our first camping trip since Thanksgiving. Bad weather had thwarted a couple of reservations before then and it appeared that bad weather was going to thwart this one. I know I’ve mentioned here before that it is one thing to be on a backpacking trip and having to hike all day and make progress and it is another to be camping with a kid and have to be able to entertain him while camping even if the weather is bad–I’d rather stay home and entertain a kid with all of his toys available at home if the weather is bad. Without a kid I’m pretty sure Chris would just take a long nap and I would curl up with a book while it rained but with an energetic 4 year old that wasn’t an option.

Despite the not-great forecast we still wanted to go camping. Luckily it appeared that there were some shelters available so Chris called the state park and found out it was likely to work out that we could upgrade to a shelter. We’d still have our tent but the shelter provided a larger protected area for us to cook and hang out should the weather turn bad. And on Saturday afternoon it did end up turning to rain but somehow we managed to convince Forest to actually take a nap. He’s been off naps for a long time at home, usually taking one only if he’s sick or overly tired—or better yet, on a long car ride!—but naps are a rarity. So, it was pretty glorious we got to spend most of the afternoon napping in the tent.

The campground was quiet that weekend due to the forecast. There were a few other campers but it was not a packed state park. We did manage to get some hiking in and plenty of exploration. Looking back at the photos from our first time here made me a bit nostalgic—Forest was only bout 16 months old at the time! The state park has also changed along the bottomland areas near the Brazos River thanks to Hurricane Harvey. Most of the trails in that area are closed because the trails no longer exist. I’m putting a screenshot from Google Earth showing what they have from August 2017 of the state park—the coverage doesn’t go over the entire park but from the aerial they have on the east portion, you can imagine what the rest looked like.

Campsite Shenanigans at SFA State Park

Evening Trail Explorations at SFA State Park

Welcome Spring!


I would post a more original entry here for the spring equinox but my computer is currently on the fritz. It seemed to be working fine last Thursday and then we went camping over the weekend and when I came back and tried to log in—I was excited to try to share a not-so-great photo of my first zebra swallowtail butterfly—I found that my keyboard wanted to type double characters or the wrong characters. Some reboots, installation of updates, and finally hooking up a USB keyboard later, my keyboard is definitely fried. That and it also randomly turns on and off airplane mode. So, I’m using my computer sparingly and backing up everything on it so I can put it onto a new laptop. Good times.

In the meantime, I thought I’d dip into spring equinoxes of years past and see what we were up to around this time. Most are from March 20th every year with a few from the 19th or 21st. Happy Spring!

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2018 – Our friends Marc and Eliana after their short stay at our house while they were on their epic roadtrip to Alaska to get married!

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2017 – Backpacking for the first time with Forest in Sam Houston NF. Look how small he is!

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2015 – Iris season! I saw some blooming down by the pond but need to see the status on the ones in our ROW ditch.

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2014 – about 12-14 weeks pregnant with Forest! Oh, how the garden has changed!

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2012 – Iris fulva in a ditch by our rental.

Misti @ Georgia/North Carolina boundary
2010 – Crossing the Georgia/North Carolina state line on the Appalachian Trail!

Monkey Pee II

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2008 – Villa Tunari, Bolivia! The monkey peed on me! Hah! And that puma is definitely very cuddly but I was incredibly nervous and wondering WTH I was thinking.

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2007 – My favorite Phalenopsis orchid on our patio in Florida. I loved this orchid! I can’t remember the name of it at the moment but I’ve seen it out in the nursery trade at other times.

Hiking the Fawn Trail | South Llano River State Park


Our major hike at SLRSP was the Fawn Trail. We’d hiked a bit of this trail before the last time we were here when we’d connected it to the West Canyon Loop Trail.

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For the first portion of the trail it more or less follows the contour of a creek bed.
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Of course we took time to stop and inspect holes for potential wildlife…

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And there were interesting hunting blinds to inspect.

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Christmas Cholla, Cylindropuntia leptocaulis

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Our first find was this interesting antique can, a relic from the property’s ranch days.

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Cartilage Lichen, Ramalina celastri

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Slender Orange-Bush lichen, Teloschistes exilis

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Ruffle Lichens, Parmotrema sp.

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The vegetation along the creek opened up and it wasn’t too steep so Chris jumped down to see what he could find. He came out with a piece of rock that had been worked in an attempt to make a tool by the first inhabitants of this land. And yes, of course we left the rock!

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Next we found ringtail scat!

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All three of us jumped down into the creek to follow it for a bit since we knew we could easily climb back out to follow the trail if we wanted.

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More arch

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In general, as you can see, there was no water in the creek, but we did find a seep or two that were gently running.

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Texas sage/Cenizo, Leucophyllum frutescens

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Texas persimmon, Diospyros texana

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A hunting blind not covered in decoy vegetation meant Forest really had to check it out so he had a snack while sitting inside his makeshift fort!

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The trail climbed slightly after that (I’m looking back to where we’d come from) so we could be getting bigger views of the Hill Country shortly.

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Evergreen Sumac, Rhus virens

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The Golden-cheeked Warbler Trail led even further back into the park but we would not be exploring the trail that day.

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Astrolepis sp

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On our way down the hill we passed a couple coming up who mentioned a snake skin on the side of the trail. Sure enough, we found it and oohed and ahhed over it for a few minutes.

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Condalia sp.

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Snapdragon Vine, Maurandya antirrhiniflora

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Once back down the hill we started seeing evidence of flood damage along the trail and on the adjacent creeks. I was very surprised to see how much vegetation was ripped up, including that cactus sitting 3′ off the ground in that shrub! You can see the green vegetation still pushed over where the water flowed over it and it had been about six weeks since the flood. Water is so powerful.

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Horse Crippler Cactus, Homalocephala texensis

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Probably Clematis texensis

All in all, a great hike! I bet this place is rockin’ during wildflower season! Speaking of wildflowers, I’ll be trying to get posts up soon of what we saw at Inks Lake State Park about two weeks ago. I’ve got one other post from Stephen F. Austin State Park in early February and maybe some ringtail photos that Chris managed to get on his wildlife cam and then hopefully I can get into Inks Lake! It’s a busy season!

First Luna Moth of the Season | Wildlife Wednesday


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After work on Friday evening we were all relishing the later evening light before we went in to make dinner. Chris was fishing on the dock and Forest and I had just released the last pipevine swallowtail that eclosed in the tent. Forest and I walked down to the dock where Forest threw some sticks into the water and then proceeded to walk back up on shore to find more sticks, and as I was watching him I happened to notice a giant light green object on the side of a pine tree. My eyes focused and there it was, a luna moth! So exciting! Everyone was waking up after that last freeze! I took a few photos and Forest and I ogled at it for a few minutes. I’m sure we’ve had many in the past, though I’ve only noted one other in 2013. I admit, after seeing the moth I was hoping to see more like we did last spring on the Four Notch Loop in Sam Houston. Ironically, those were taken pretty much a year apart, so good timing for luna moths!

Along the South Llano River


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Fishing along the river was something Chris was itching to do during our stay at South Llano River State Park. He’d fished there the last time we were here but since then there had been a massive flood back in October. Up and down the Llano River and some other adjacent riverine systems, flooding impacted the Hill Country. You can see some of the evidence in the last photo and I’ll share other photos I took from further away from the river where smaller creeks within the start park uprooted cacti and other vegetation as it flowed through the area.

While Chris fished for Guadalupe bass, Forest threw rocks into the river and I took photos of him throwing rocks! Hanging around while Chris fishes is not my favorite thing in the world and in pre-kid days, when I didn’t need to be watching to make sure a certain 4 year old didn’t fall in the water, I would read a book. Until he gets to the point where he can play without possibly getting in the water, no book reading for me!

Some day I’d like to come back during the summer and tube the river. It’s been many moons since I’ve gone tubing on a river in Texas, I think the last time was college on the Guadalupe River. When Forest can swim better, it would be a fun trip!

Bat House Update!


I did a search for posts here but I couldn’t come up with anything that talked about the big bat house Chris built about 3.5 years ago. Chris had installed some smaller bat boxes to our pine trees when we moved in and one or two sometimes later—and we have bats in most of those as well—but the big bat house was meant to house lots of bats. Anyway, I realized I had never posted any videos here of the bats leaving (or coming back) and it is really pretty cool! We *have* reached the point where you can smell them in the heat of the summer when the wind wafts our direction, though.

The first video is one I took earlier this week and then I went through Chris’ YouTube and pulled a few of his videos.

Enjoy!


Around 4 minutes in you can hear whistling ducks—and around 4:42 they come flying through the sky. Lots of frogs to hear, too! The high pitched squeaking is the bats.


This is a good one from early February showing how they pour out of the house.

Winter Ramble at Tandy Hills Natural Area


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Our trip to DFW after Christmas was chilly as per usual, though certainly no tenuous drive across Tarrant county as roads were icing like last year! We had one day where Chris and I were itching to get a hike in, to feel some movement, and so we went over to Tandy Hills for a short jaunt through the park. Zoe was game to go with us so we left Forest with Grayson under the eye of my Mom so they could play together for a bit.

Being as it was winter, not a lot was going on. There have been several fires there recently, not for a controlled burn, and we could see the burned areas quite easily. Despite being set outside of a controlled burn setting, the area probably needed to be burned a bit. It’s kind of hard to do this sort of thing with a major interstate down slope of the park and houses surrounding the rest of the natural area. It will be interesting to see what wildflowers come back in those areas this spring.

The hike itself wasn’t terribly long as the wind was biting and the trails were somewhat sloshy—it was just a quick, relaxing ramble! Look how little Zoe and Grayson were just a few years ago when we dropped by one April afternoon!

Other Tandy Hills posts are here.

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