Checking in on an Old Friend at Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary


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February 2016

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February 2021

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Yesterday we drove over to the Beaumont area, Lumbertson and Silsbee to be more precise, because I found a COVID-19 vaccine appointment over there earlier this week. Among our state’s list for current requirements in 1A and 1B is a BMI of more than 30. I had known this for a few weeks but vaccine distribution was far harder to find in January and February but some of the lists I had signed us up for in January were finally starting to have some movement but most didn’t have appointments by the time I saw emails or were still in the stage of, ok you are good to move forward but we will let you know when there are appointments. Earlier this week I signed up for a few more health departments in other counties a bit further away and the Beaumont area SETROC sent an email rather quickly to say if you qualified you could sign up for appointments. And did they have appointments! I couldn’t believe they weren’t completely gone—some days were filled but there were plenty of time frames to choose from. I couldn’t believe it! My BMI is barely over, 31, but it meant I fell into the category. Chris also fell into the category but he decided to hold off since he’s still in the Johnson and Johnson two-shot trial and hasn’t received his second shot yet (and we don’t know if he has a vaccine or placebo). But I wanted to seize the opportunity especially since we were just sick with maybe COVID, maybe not, since Chris and I never tested positive.

We drove over very early yesterday morning and the whole process was very fast, about 45 minutes since I was in the first appointment group of the day and a line was already forming when we got there. By the time I left there was barely any line and it would probably be a quick 20-30 minutes for anyone else coming later. My arm is a little sore today but no different than any other vaccine. I have to return on March 26th for the second shot.

Afterwards, I wanted to go to the Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary, somewhere we haven’t been to since mid-February 2016! Forest was only 1.5 and still fit comfortably in the backpack carrier. I almost melted looking back at some of the photos from that trip and how tiny he was! And here he was now 6 walking the trails himself! I wasn’t sure if he would end up on the bottomland trail or not but we ended up traveling down it and I remembered the very large bald cypress tree that is somewhere midway through the trail. Sure enough, we came across it again and took a few more photos, this time exploring the back side of the tree and found it was hollowed out! The bottomland trail was much better this time around as last time Chris and I had to do some bushwhacking and lost the trail several times due to poor blazing and downed trees.

I’ll do a better post about everything we saw soon, but it was an excellent butterfly day! I wasn’t sure who would be flying but my day was made by seeing maybe a dozen or so zebra swallowtails! There were other butterflies of course, but I was very satisfied with the zebras! Not a lot was in blooms, mostly violets and some tinier flowers like bluets, but in the bottomlands the bulbous cress (Cardamine bulbosa) was ample and seemed to be the main source of nectar for any pollinators out at the time.

The hike was a great cap off to getting the vaccine. So, moral of the story: if you are a little fluffy and overweight, check your BMI! Some states are more strict with their guidelines right now so it may be a higher BMI number for you (I’ve seen 40 in some instances) but if you fit the 30 and over BMI and are in Texas, start getting on some vaccine lists. Here’s the Texas GIS Map of who does and doesn’t have vaccines and who you can get on with a registry if they have one. I was able to help a friend who also fell into the BMI category get one with SETROC as well. My parents managed to get their vaccine yesterday, too, but had to drive to NE Texas to get it because their county has been miserable at facilitating the vaccine for residents. One step down towards getting out of this pandemic!

The Painted Bunting Trail at Guadalupe River State Park


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Looking back at these photos from November feels like a lifetime ago. For one, it feels like nature was still abundant even if it was fall. There were butterflies and moths we saw during that Thanksgiving week we were camping—flowers blooming, nature was nature-ing. And now that we’re in this post-freeze haze and hurtling towards spring, I know growth is around the corner. But seeing these photos makes me happy. We’re going to go through the cycle once again.

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The Painted Bunting Trail is 2.8 miles and divided by the park road which allows you to park at one of two parking lots and allows you to make the complete loop or ditch and walk the road back to your parking lot as necessary.

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It was a gorgeous golden afternoon when we hiked and as we slowly descended down the hill there were amber and honey grasses leading the way. There was quite a bit of native grasses such as this little bluestem but I also came to realize that a good portion of it was the non-native and invasive King Ranch bluestem. What a disappointment!

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Baccharis neglecta, poverty weed.

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To be honest, I wanted to pull up a chair and sit in the field and just watch the light move across the landscape. It was easy to fall into a daydream with the grasses.

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On the west side of the loop there was this scene, a mix of frostweed thrown in for good measure. Again, a scene I just wanted to immerse myself in for the afternoon.

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White Lace Cactus of Texas, Echinocereus reichenbachii ssp. caespitosus

This is probably one of the busier loops in the park aside from the river trails due to the parking lot access ease. There are a couple of other trails that I will share soon that aren’t as accessed but you can guarantee they will still be fairly busy during peak usage times at the park.

Living Through the Snow


This is mostly a photographic post and a write-up at the end. These photos start Sunday afternoon February 14th and end February 19th. All of the snow was basically gone by Saturday and a few chunks of ice that had fallen off the roof and into the flower beds were gone on Sunday.

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The two photos above were taken about 3:30 am when I got up to see if it was snowing. The glowing in the background of the second photo is a heat lamp on our lemon tree. We had a similar set up on the three citrus in the backyard.

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What a whirlwind last week was. I think back to waking up about 1:30am on Monday February 15th after some sleet started pelting the windows and thinking that there had better snow at some point! We had missed the snow back in January and that certainly would have been better timing phenology wise. After looking outside and not seeing snow, I got on to Weather Underground and saw that the storm was entering into the Brazos Valley—we were next and it was certainly coming. Chris was still skeptical as he rolled back over to sleep. I mean, how many times do we get told something is going to happen in regards to snow, especially here on the fringes of Houston where we live—we are just far enough north to almost get weather events but we often fall into the Houston heat sink and then the weather changes. But at 3:30am when I woke up, the snow was falling heavily and I was amazed at how much the landscape had changed in two hours.

And of course somewhere around 4:30am the power went out and didn’t come back on until 3:45pm on Tuesday, and then it was only temporary as we had rolling blackouts after a few hours of the power returning. Finally, the power stayed on permanently around 9:45am on Wednesday. I’ll just say this, I’ll take a hurricane power outage over a deep freeze power outage. It isn’t like a hurricane power outage doesn’t come without its own issues—it is hot and sticky and things are a disaster but the pipes don’t freeze (ok, you may not have a house with pipes after a hurricane, so there’s that!) and you don’t have to wear four layers of clothes in your own house and three blankets to sit on top of you while you are at it. It’s miserable all around.

I mean, we certainly made the best out of it and had fun while we could. Forest didn’t particularly enjoy being cold so we didn’t spend a lot of time outside the first day. It was sunnier on Tuesday and we bundled him up in as many layers as possible and tried to keep him appeased so we could throw snowballs and walk around the neighborhood to see how everything was faring. The cell power outage was probably one of the most frustrating aspects until we figured out that we could power our internet router with the generator once we got that up and going. Phone calls went through which is how I managed to contact my parents initially, not long after their power went out (and stayed out until late Thursday afternoon). Texts were torturous to send and receive. More often than not a red undeliverable signal would come back, and forget even trying to send photos—even after we got the wifi up, sending photos was not going to happen over a text. Those bounced constantly. Without the cell service we couldn’t find out how bad the power outages were, much less what was happening in the rest of the state. Finally, with the wifi we could see the devastation across the state—the beautiful snow coverage but the terrible human toll it was going to have on folks.

One thing we realized and something we’ve kind of pondered before, is that we need a generator to power our well. At first we thought about getting a second generator for it because it has a different voltage system than our current generator but I think we may just upgrade a bit so we can handle the well and household appliances. And it isn’t like we would need to be running the generator constantly during a summer event because the pipes wouldn’t freeze then, but it would certainly be handy in these extreme temperatures again. A few years ago it got to 19* and we had a minor issue that Chris managed to unfreeze on the well itself but hopefully with our new well-house that brief low point wouldn’t be as big of an issue as several days with temperatures in single digits and the teens.

I think at some point in the near future I will work on an emergency preparedness post because I think a lot of folks didn’t really think anything was going to happen with this storm. And there were plenty of people who managed to have power on the entire time only to end up with a boil water notice later and they didn’t have any kind of stockpile of good water from when they had the chance.

A week later and grocery stores are still trying to recover. Chris did the first grocery store run once things were a bit back to normal and that was still a few days after the power was on fully. We read plenty of stories on NextDoor of how bad the grocery stores were in regards to perishable items. But even a few days later Chris said it was even worse than the early pandemic days. I went to one store on Sunday and even they didn’t have any bread yet and water was still sparse as not all public water systems are totally back on line yet. I popped back into that store again mid-week and there were a few rows of white bread but if you needed anything fancier you were out of luck.

The snow was fun, the power outage not so much. And after reading how we were 4 minutes and 37 seconds from complete grid collapse—well, I’m really glad we aren’t sitting in that disaster right now.

By this last weekend we were back to our more seasonable 60s and 70s and even the low 80s for some parts of the state. I was in my garden earlier this week pulling some weeds and felt the heat beating down on me and knew that we weren’t but maybe six weeks from seeing our first 90* day. That’s Texas for you.

PS: Abbott and Cruz have to go the earliest chance we get. Cornyn does too but he was just re-elected and we’ve got six more years with him, unfortunately. At the same time, the we’ve got to flip the state house as well. So, remember this next election season.

The Edible Garden During and Post-Deep Freeze


I have a bazillion phone photos and eventually, when I edit them, photos taken with my camera. In the spirit of actually posting in some kind of real time perspective instead of months later, I’m just going to share the phone photos now. I’ll break up the flower garden and general snow photos into other posts this week.

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This was the edible garden on the morning of February 15th when I finally bundled up enough to venture outside. It was already very cold inside and the temperature was dropping rapidly there. It looked rather peaceful out in the garden and certainly better than having 2-3′ of water topping it as it has in the past.

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I did a quick walk around that day as there really wasn’t much to assess that wasn’t hiding under snow, or pots and towels. The frozen pea flowers were beautiful.

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On the 17th I made it back out as we were starting to thaw with temperatures rising into the 20s, plus we had had some sun on Tuesday that really helped work on melting some of the snow in the sunnier areas of the yard.

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Finally on Thursday the 18th I felt like I could confidently uncover a couple of things and take a gander at the damage. It was in the mid 30s for a high that day. I found the pot off of this calendula and I’m fairly certain this plant is a goner. I covered it back up anyway because on some plants I’m just not sure what will or won’t come back. This kind of weather is new territory for us.

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There was also a kale uncovered and it looked fine.

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Which meant the kale under pots were extra fine!

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On the other hand, the mustard and Chinese cabbage I left uncovered was a pile of mush. I didn’t have enough blankets to cover or pots big enough to deal with them and I knew they were a lot more susceptible to the cold than the other brassicas. Many were already bolting and I didn’t feel like trying to baby them. So long, mustards! See you next fall!


I was delighted to see my cauliflower also pulled through!

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I did not cover any rudbeckias that were out there and they also seemed to have pulled through with no problems.

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The sugar snap peas look like they want to live but are damaged from holding onto snow and ice.

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The red giant mustard, which just a week ago was look beautiful in its burgundy hues, flattened on the ground. I think some of the centers could pull through but I was already fighting aphids on them and am just fine with this bed being emptied.

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The onions looked beat down on Thursday but when I went back out on Friday I think their stems are strong and they will regrow just fine.

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My lovely mound of oregano was severely burned on most of the plant but as you see, underneath there are green leaves. I think all this will need is a trim back and it will be fine.

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I also left the collards uncovered and they came through just fine.

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The carrots are to be determined. Their tops were burned considerably and I’m unsure if the roots themselves are going to be mush or not. I may just harvest whatever is there and we can eat on them in the coming weeks.

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I was delighted to find that the strawberries looked unphased completely by the snow. I put two sheets down on the main section of them and as you see missed a couple of plants that were off to the side. When I finally pulled the sheets of the strawberries yesterday they looked fine, though any flowers that were there last weekend are gone and I’m unsure of the early fruits that were beginning. But we have plenty of time for more flowering so this will be good!

So, that’s the update out there for now. I am going to remove all of the pots here in just a bit and drag in sheets and towels to start loads of laundry. I’ll work on removing some of the sloppy mush from the plants that are definitely toast but will hold off a bit on other plants until I can see what their fate may hold. It will be wait and see, especially in the flower garden, for a while.

The snow was fun, but I would have appreciated it a lot more in January when everything was still dormant! Now, I’m ready for spring!

A Flock of Cedar Waxwings


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One bright spot this week was seeing all of the little birds floofed up in their winter plumage. Some would pop into our porch to take a break from the wind, giving us a closer look at how fluffy they looked! And being that it was so cold, they weren’t intent on flying away so quickly, which meant even if we encountered them in the yard they hung around a lot longer than they usually would. Many were looking for food and unfortunately couldn’t find a whole lot. Though, the cedar waxwings managed to find our one Carolina cherry laurel that had fruit on it. I noticed the cedar waxwings after I walked out to put something into the recycling bin and saw the flock fluttering among the branches of the tree. I paused and realized they were cedar waxwings, a species I don’t notice in our yard often. They were spooked a bit by me being nearby so they moved behind the tree to a dormant hickory to perch for a few minutes, taking turns moving back and forth between each of the trees. I went back out yesterday to try to find them after Chris mentioned seeing them again but had no luck. I was hoping for better photos. I may try again today since it will warm up to the tropical temperatures of the low 40s at some point and the sun is shining. The 70s are returning next week and with it better be spring.

Making the Best of It


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

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

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

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

Snowpocalypse 2021


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

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

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

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

I’ll update again soon.

Continued Updates from The Plague


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

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

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

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

I’ll be back to regular programming here momentarily!

Updates from The Plague


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Plague


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

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

Oh boy.

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

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

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

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