I can’t remember when I last mentioned the monarchs in the garden, maybe back in late March or early April? I think I said that I’d just seen a few monarchs flitting about the yard but hadn’t seen any caterpillars yet—of course a few days later I found several caterpillars crawling all over the tropical milkweed. Keeping up with where they are has been a challenge, mostly because I think the birds might be eating a lot of them. Which is fine, that is nature’s duty, but I do feel like we really should consider the butterfly tents to raise them. Chris was concerned about having enough milkweed in pots to feed them, which he’s right about, but I dug three seedlings up out of the compost and potted those and we have quite a bit that he seeded in a large patch that we could dig another five or more plants up to pot and rotate out for feeding them. And the larger plants in the garden are already flowering which means we will have seed pods soon, which means we can easily start more seeds this summer to get more milkweed growing. Purchasing milkweed can be expensive if you can’t find it in 4-inch pots; often they are in gallon pots which are sometimes priced around $8 at the good, non-pesticide using nurseries.
My if-you-plant-it-they-will-come theory for the black swallowtails worked. Most of the dill that I planted in late fall/early winter was knocked back by the freezes but apparently whatever we grew in the garden last year reseeded itself heavily all over the place and we’ve got dill coming up everywhere. Which is totally fine by me because I’m working to dry it and save the seed for pickling, but it became a buffet for the black swallowtail caterpillars, too. I even saw one of the fennel that I had bought for them! But, when one day I had found upwards of 20+ caterpillars in various instars around the garden a few days later I was having trouble finding them. I think, again, the birds got to them while they were foraging strawberries and tomatoes, too.
The last one is a caterpillar I found while I was pulling weeds out of the cactus bed. I’d finally decided I’d had enough with the weeds in that bed—-we’ve been avoiding really weeding it for over a year now, though we’ve pulled some here and there, we’ve never tackled the whole thing because spines! So I got in there and started pulling and found this chompy friend hanging out in the gravel. I think it is an army worm of some kind, maybe either Spodoptera latifascia or Spodoptera ornithogalli and they turn into moths.
I have a couple of other interesting caterpillars we found recently while at Brazos Bend State Park but I still need to process those photos.
+In My Head
Loving the weather right now, though we could use a bit of rain! I finished an actual book made with paper this weekend—that felt good! I’ll talk a little bit about it in the reading section.
I’m thinking of dipping my toes back into the political realm again. I listened to a Pantsuit Politics episode and got a little bit of information about what is going on in the world but I’m not sure I’m completely ready yet. I have also started trying to listen to NPR and Democracy Now a little bit, but we will see how long that lasts!
Not a lot these days. With full evenings outside and a child who likes to boycott bedtime, I frequently don’t get to watch on time the few shows I am still keeping up with. Better Call Saul is back for its third season and is decidedly taking its turn into Breaking Bad territory. Yellow tint and all. My dad said he stopped watching after the first season but I think my brother is still on board and so far I’m sticking with the show. It’s a slow burn but I’m really enjoying it!
Call the Midwife is back again with new midwives and new stories from London’s East End in the early 1960s. I like how the show merges culture from that time and it is interesting to see the slow change from midwifery in homes to midwifery in hospitals and now the show is looking at how even the smaller medical outposts were being phased out for the latest and greatest in medical technology in the form of larger hospitals. I always get wistful after each episode.
And The Big Bang Theory is hitting it out of the park this season with some honest, if brief, segments with Bernadette and how she’s dealt with everything from breastfeeding to deciding to be a working mom. It is affirming to see that story woven into the show.
The one show I am looking forward to, with trepidation of course, is the Netflix adapation of Anne of Green Gables. I’m not sure how I’m going to handle a non Meagan Follows, Jonathan Crombie, Colleen Dewhurst saga. I’ve been mulling over an entire AOGG series re-read for a year now and just haven’t settled in to do so. The entire LMM collection is begging to be revisited.
+Outside My Window
Hummingbirds sipping from the mimosa tree, bats chirping in the evenings from their bat box along the driveway, deer nibbling from the yard in the evening.
Plants digging deep and getting ready to go all out with summer’s pending heat and humidity.
+In The Art Studio
Ok, seriously, I’ve been thinking of getting it cleaned up and in shape because Forest seems like he might be ready to spend 30 minutes at a time in there with me in the coming months. I’ll have to get him set up with his own craft items but I see this being something we can do in the evenings when it is dark again. We’ll see!
+In The Garden
Evvvvvverything! Savoring it all and a separate post or posts is/are coming soon!
As I mentioned above I finished an actual paper book over the weekend, Michael Pollan’s Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education which was written in 1991. I’ll probably write more about it when I do an April and May book report later this month, but it was a treat to read. For a 25 year old book, things haven’t changed and they’ve changed. I think the one thing that really stuck out to me was the language being used around climate change and how less confident people were about using it and stating equivocally that it was human influenced/induced. Ah, a quarter century changes everything!
I’ve been reading quite a lot lately, though am finding myself in a slight lull right now. That’s to be expected, I always seem to have a pause for a week or two before digging back in.
One of the more timely and relevant posts, especially for Florida outdoorists and hikers, would be this post from Florida Hikes: Closing the Big Bend Gap. It is about the recently opened gap after a huge swath of timber lands were sold and the trail has had to be rerouted. I think I was hoping it was a temporary affair but it looks like the Forest Service wants to make it permanent, which I think is a travesty to that section. I need to read the proposed reroutes and submit my comments and have got to find some time to do this. One of the proposed reroutes also avoids the Aucilla Sinks which is a HUGE travesty—that area is super cool and worth taking the trail by.
I’m due for another Florida Trail In The News round up, so maybe I can get one up soon.
I just finished a 2.2lb bag of Ruta Maya coffee the other day. I get mine at HEB and it lasts about a month. The price at HEB is steller, about $16 for that bag, a price you don’t find easily with coffee in that quantity. I’m back to a dark roast Starbucks blend for the time being.
My kombucha scoby bit the dust, again, because I neglected it. I can get another bit from my mom if I want but I’m so bad about being consistent with drinking the kombucha that I don’t know if I want it. I need to look into small batch kombucha brewing. I just can’t drink the amount that the recipe calls for and I’m hesitant to be adjusting ratios. Anyone out there brewed small batches of kombucha before?
+I pretty much think about plants and gardening when I’m not focusing on other things sooooo….plants it is!
+Digging into some older episodes of podcasts I love. Some I listened to 3 or 4 years ago but they are great to listen to again.
+Piling up the books to-read. So many books! I mostly flag them in HooplaDigital or Goodreads.
+Tomato season is upon us!
+Blackberry season is upon us, too!
+Toddlerhood turning into little-kid-hood. Yes, I miss Forest being little bitty but having him talking clearly (for the most part) and being able to follow directions (for the most part) and doing more things a independently has been wonderful. He’s also interested in watching us do things in the kitchen, which is fun too! And in the last few weeks he has been able to behave himself on the dock and fish with Chris, reeling them in, too! This means he get some quality time with Chris and I can have a few minutes to do something else. It is amazing what changes in a few months at this age!
What’s up with you?
Tomato season has arrived, finally. It seems like overnight the tomatoes went from one to two foot tall to reaching over the tops of their cages and onward for the sky. It’s been a dry spring compared to last year, though we’re getting about one good day of rain a week. Well, at least we were until the last two weeks. We seemed to have missed the storms that were supposed to come to frution with the last front that blew through. I have in my gut that we’re headed for drought again—don’t know why I feel like that, just do. I am enjoying the non-swamp aspect to our yard currently. What can I say, last year’s weather left me nervous about any major storm event that seems ready to blow through.
And so yes, tomato season has finally arrived. The Matt’s Wild Cherry tomatoes were the first to begin ripening. The plant produces very small tomatoes, supposedly cherry sized as per their name, but let’s go with a slightly larger than pea sized tomato. They are more like those small wine grapes you would find specially at the store. I would not call them cherry tomatoes at all. They are tasty, however, and remind me a lot of the Everglades tomatoes we grew in Florida. I tried germinating some Everglades seed we had but have not had any luck so far in getting them to sprout. A lot of my older seeds just did not germinate this year and I will probably try doing some larger seed sowing next December to see if I can get any to germinate. If not it will be time to order new seed. I enjoyed keeping the seeds we had from our time in Florida but if none are viable, I guess it is time to move on.
Second to ripen were the Sungolds. These are definitely a cherry sized tomato and one of the tastiest tomatoes, I think, and maybe one of the most grown tomatoes. The Romas were next and they are finally starting to ripen in batches. Soon I will have a San Marzano and a Bella Rosa tomato ready to eat. It has been a challenge getting Forest to understand that the green tomatoes aren’t ripe, and if you aren’t watching him closely he’ll come running up to you with a tomato saying “Got one!” or something similar. The kid just likes to pick fruit, which I understand, but I’m not going to have any tomatoes if he is unsupervised anywhere near the tomatoes! I can even be a few feet from him, turn my back to get a weed, and find him grabbing a tomato to pull off the plant!
Getting him to like tomatoes is probably going to take all summer, which is fine. I think he will come around, though. We were amazed how much he enjoyed pulling a carrot or two and eating them while we were in the garden most evenings, and after a few false starts with snap peas he came around to eating a few of those. Strawberries, of course, were easy to entice him with, and just tonight we pulled the very first blackberry of the season. After what I thought was going to be a no-go for him, he licked it and bit it slightly, he then asked for it to be washed (though we didn’t really need to). Once I washed it he chowed it down in a few bites, blackberry juice dribbling down his lip. We might not make it to the house with the bowls of blackberries this season! So yes, as for the tomatoes, I’ve been offering him the smaller ones which he will bit into, make a face, and then hand me back the tomato and say “Mom, eat it!” So, I do. But he keeps trying them when I offer, that’s the important part.
So much is going on with the garden and I have more to share from what we’re harvesting and what is blooming in the flower garden. More soon.
I’ve reached a point in where I could easily just set this space aside and let it float through internet space for the summer. It’s been years—a decade? More??—since I’ve taken any considerable time off, more than a week or two, from writing online. I think we were living in Miami at the time, our little apartment on the edge of Kendall and the Everglades, and for whatever reason I went months without writing. Then I came back, of course, kept going through thru-hikes, field work, and having a baby.
But I feel like I’m teetering on a ledge, ready to kick the blog into the atmosphere to fly off somewhere else for awhile. I’ve not outgrown it, I love being here, but the problem is my mental space—it’s too cluttered. A combination of the time change and a toddler entering a different life phase has thrown me for a whirl. Something else I’ve come to realize is that I find myself not living in the moment, striving for the next thing, what I ‘should’ be doing. Some of that mental clutter was covered in the Creative Priorities post earlier this month and now that I’ve had some time to sit with it even more, I’m coming to new conclusions.
I was digging around into my really old archives, looking for something one day, and came across a few posts that were nearly in the same vein as the Creative Priorities post—just written 10 years ago, or nearly that. I laughed to myself because some of the same sentiments I was expressing then I was expressing now. I suppose I just have an overwhelming urge to create and do-all-the-things and the ideas just keep coming. The irony is that I had a lot more free time to dedicate to that back then and I most certainly didn’t dedicate the time I could have to the things that I thought I wanted. The funny thing about all of this is that the things I was doing then, the ones that if I look back at now as the obvious ones that are most important to me, they are practically the same things as the ones that are important to me now, the ones I dedicate my creative time to—being outside (hiking, exploring, kayaking, etc), gardening, photography, reading, and writing a blog. Sure, there are all of those supplemental hobbies that I fit in wherever I can, then and now. Some of them are certainly seasonal or episodic.
And I guess that last sentence is what I am realizing needs to happen now, to free up some of the shoulds and musts with what I actually feel like doing and what I can logistically dedicate my time to. And so I have to set some of that stuff free for the time being, to come back to it eventually, in a different type of year or another year completely. Looking back at the Creative Priorities post, I think that was where I was heading but it took some more thinking to come to that conclusion. I definitely lead with my gut and my intuition for a lot of my decisions—how I feel about something in the moment is where I typically go. That would be the F talking of my INFJ personality. Of course this can be problematic sometimes where there might be a real goal at hand (see: editing/reworking my book) but at the same time maybe those things can be shuffled to another season, when the time is right.
As an introvert I spend quite a bit of time in my head, talking to myself, which lends itself to the mental clutter situation, hence writing things out. In all of that thinking time I realized that I spent the last two growing seasons feeling lost because I wasn’t able to garden like I wanted—you know, the first year there was a baby constantly attached to me and the second year was a small toddler who had no attention span, and there was massive flooding and rain events derailing gardening at every turn—and here a few weeks ago I was trying to be upset about not doing other creative pursuits? Seriously, Self, get with it! And so I have come to slap myself back into reality with being in the moment and enjoying what is in front of me. Yes, this sounds incredibly simple, something we should all be doing, but I think we all fall into the trap of not relishing the thing we are doing that we enjoy that is right in front us. That we spend some of our time stradled between two planes, the here-and-now and the next thing we’re going/shoulding/suppose-to-ing/musting to be doing.
In the mental clutter situation, I’ve also pretty much stopped following politics. I dislike that I had to do this because I really enjoy knowing about politics, but my sanity was really starting to go. The man being dragged off the airplane a few weeks ago finalized that. I found myself getting an elevated blood pressure from seeing the video and the constant asinine commentary from the news and was done. I had already stopped listening to NPR after inaugration and had switched to KPFT, a local listener supported news station that would broadcast Democracy Now in the mornings. But I even quit that. Now it is classic rock or a local 80s and 90s mix. I’ve been listening to CDs and plan to dig out more of them to keep in my car. I’m currently flashing back to 2005-2009, the era in which I was listening to The Weepies, Chantal Kreviazuk, Feist, and Regina Spektor. I may have to load up my Pandora stations from that era, too. I even locked down my Twitter account, which was my last vestige of news. I found myself getting irritated with the same outrage cycle and feeling completely helpless in everything going on and I had begun just unfollowing, blocking, or muting people. It wasn’t fun anymore. I hesitated from deleting it totally but I took the app off my phone and logged off the computer version, making it as difficult as possible to sign in. It’s been about two weeks and it feels great! If I can make it two years (and counting) without reactivating my Facebook account, I’m pretty sure I can go awhile without Twitter. Yes, I know just about nothing of the news (though I just saw someone mention something about national monuments and Bears Ears and I’m going to have a shit fit—-well, crap I just Googled and yes, now I’m just angry. When you are a liberal with gleam in your eye for the second Bush era, something is wrong.) See? I can’t do it. I can’t do the outrage cycle. It’s one damn thing after another.
With the news out of my mental space, though always lingering back there with some knowledge that I will eventually want to jump back in, I’ve been focusing on gardening and reading. I became interested in knowing more about herbs and herbal remedies a few months ago and have started looking into that more. I have flagged tons of books, not just herbal or gardening related books, to read on Hoopla Digital (they make it so easy to favorite and go back to borrow later!) and on Goodreads. My pile of interesting things to learn about is ever growing and of course I have my own bookshelves to pull from as well. I jumped into the herbal stuff by starting with trying to make a plantain salve. I’ve heard about the healing qualities of plantain for years when used in regards to stings or minor wounds and figured I might as well try something simple like that to start. Plantain (Plantago sp.) is growing all over right now so it was easily found and I harvested enough plants to make a small batch to start. I’m currently in the sit-in-oil phase and will let the leaves continue soaking for another week or so before I finish up the salve. I figured with the new bee hive that it would be worth having it in the house. I was stung on the arm while pregnant and our Bradley birth teacher was at our house when it happened and brought out a salve from her purse that really instantly took the pain away. I never followed up with her to figure out the magical salve but I suspect it was plantain salve. Anyway, I’m just feeling this real need to do more with our plants, to use new herbs and try to be more diligent about effectively using the things we grow to our advantage.
Well, I feel better after writing all of that. Writing really does begat writing—creating begats creating. There’s a lot going on here in the yard, the seasons are moving right along. I have a lot of photos to process and hopefully I can get some things written this weekend and scheduled for next week. I’ve been listening to Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer and have been taking it super slowly. It’s a 16.75 hour listen and I’m only 40% done, not speeding up the audio this time around. It is a book to be savored and I think I’m going to have to find it to have for reflection and re-reading later. It kind of helped push me into this mindshift switch, to return to focusing on being a better steward for the environment. I’ve also got a hankering to return to being vegetarian or reducing my meat consumption, but that’s another post for another day.
And I’ll sign off my rambling for tonight. What are you up to? Drop me a comment or an email.
Four years ago we brought our first package of bees home to the hive and they thrived for three years, more or less, until last year’s rainy mess of a spring and a hive beetle infestation took over the hive. Since then the hive sat unused, other than for the odd roach and other insect, in the flower garden. While the hive was an interesting aspect to the flower garden, after tending to the bees there for so long I really began to re-think where the hive should be located. It was frustrating for me not to be able to enjoy the garden to its fullest while having to think of bees—not only for myself but for guests and especially for Forest.
Over the last year I brainstormed a variety of places we could move the hive before Chris ordered more bees. And through many discussions and frustrations we finally settled on moving the hive to a grassy area along the fenceline, adjacent to our driveway. It’s more out of the way from daily activities but it is easy to access and we can still pop in to check on how the bees are doing. I’m much more happy with this location and hopefully they will thrive there.
Bee day round 2 came a week ago and the three of us drove over to Navasota to pick up a fresh package to try this bee keeping thing once again. Forest enjoyed scoping the bees out before Chris installed the bees into the hive. Chris had to go out of town a few days later so it was up to me to check on the bees, replacing their sugar water and keeping track of them building new comb in a straight manner. It isn’t my favorite thing to do now because I’ve become more uneasy since getting stung between my eye and nose a few years ago, but I’ve managed to do it without too much anxiety. I mean, I have a suit on and all but still—a little nervous there!
So far they have settled in well and we’ve seen them flying around the yard, gathering pollen and doing their job pollinating the plants. Chris said he’d noticed a decrease in honeybees in the yard since we stopped keeping them over the last year. Sure we have some native bees hovering in and out but after I thought about it, he was definitely right. Hopefully we will get a new batch of honey later this summer. I still need to get around to making mead with the honey we have in our pantry from the last time Chris harvested comb!
More talk about bees on my blog here.
The Pineywoods Nature Trail turned out to be a fascinating trail for us to hike and one that was perfectly suited for Forest to explore on foot. We went through the loop twice over the weekend we were camping and each time saw new things. Forest really enjoyed being able to explore on his own and funnily enough he remembered some key points about where we’d visited on the first round, such as where exactly we had found a green anole on the first trip. Turned out, the green anole was still in the same place he was on that first trip and he and Chris had a bunch of fun oogling at the lizard.
If following the boardwalk in a counterclockwise direction, it leads to the bird blind and pond first. Chris spotted a bullfrog on the far end of the pond on one of the visits and Forest and I spotted a rabbit near the bird blind. I’m stuck figuring out if it is a swamp rabbit or eastern cottontail—anyone want to tell me? One of the interpretive signs had a display for swamp rabbit which is what I’m leaning towards here but I’m really unsure because of the angle of the photo.
There were plenty of caterpillars, too, though we saw a few other species that we weren’t seeing at our campsite. They weren’t dropping nearly as plentifully as they were at the campsite, either, but near the Frog Pond area the railing and picnic table was covered in them. Forest enjoyed watching them from a distance and really, this trail is what I believe eased his fears on the caterpillars. He was able to experience them as an exploration instead of an infestation and I think he came to appreciate them a little bit more.
What I enjoyed about this trail was that we really took it easy, stopping to look at the different plants or insects, enjoying the changing habitat. While it was mostly a forested and mesic area, there was an open area on the north end of the loop with grasses and full-sun plants to enjoy.
I realized later that we didn’t really hike a whole lot on this trip. Sure, we did this loop twice, popped over to a short 1/3 mile loop near the park entrance, and then the short section of the Trinity Trace trail, but we didn’t hike the other trails. Chris spent a lot of time fishing and Forest and I just meandered around the campsite and around the area Chris was fishing. It was a pleasant change from the hiking we usually do and I found myself excited for the days when Forest is able to ride a bike and we can bike around the campground, too.
We have a few more camping adventures planned for spring—hopefully!—and I’ll keep y’all posted on those trip reports as they happen.
The Trinity Trace Trail meanders from the Pin Oak camping loop on the north end of the park down to the south end of the park, beyond the Hercules Club camping loop. We hiked only on the portion that began between the Piney Shores and Yaupon loops, heading south. I had been on this section before with Keely but I couldn’t remember everything about the loop. In particular, I’d forgotten about the bridge being out and the inability to complete the loop on the southern end.
On our way out, behind the Hercules Club camping loop we passed a group of scouts heading north, appearing to go pick up trash. No one else was heading the direction we went and as we carefully passed over a decrepit bridge crossing a creek channel Chris mentioned casually, “Snake!” I had passed last across the bridge so I wasn’t even aware of where he was talking about and I jumped. We paused for a few minutes to take photos and kept on down the trail. As we walked it became evident that not many people went this direction; the trail was overgrown and we were knocking down spider webs. It was a little weird that no one ventured this direction.
Forest fell asleep not long after and we continued on quietly, looking at the overgrown woods, ambling over downed trees, and avoiding the poison ivy reaching out for our legs. Once we reached the lake we became unsure of where we needed to go. We’d missed the downed bridge on the map when we passed it so we were unaware of where exactly we were on the map, only noticing it when we backtracked our steps.
Quietly we returned the way we came, letting Forest continue sleeping as we headed back for camp. The snake was gone when we returned.