How Many Invasive Species Did I Find?

Last week I had a lot of Master Naturalist fun participating in the Texas Invasive Species BioBlitz 2020 that got set up by Texas Nature Trackers. You may remember I talked about it a bit last week. The idea was to see how many observations you could get from a list of invasive species found throughout the state. I knew I had easy access to a few, so I figured I’d try.

Here’s the main page for the event.

I got a good number of invasives pretty quickly, since I knew right where there was some Arundo donax (river cane), Johnson grass, and a lot of nandina on my own properties. I must have spent 3 hours the first weekend looking for invasives (and observing lots of other things, too).

By the time I went to Austin on Tuesday, I was doing okay on the leaderboard. Just a few walks around the neighborhood of Bobcat Run produced more “goodies” like Japanese honeysuckle and privets.

My final list of plants.

By the time the week was over, I was proud to be in the top twenty of number of species observed, and doing okay with number of observations as well.

Here I am, number 17, and Linda Jo number 2 (I couldn’t fit number 1 on the screen, darn it.)

Of course, my fellow Chapter member Linda Jo Conn was in second place in number of observations and first place for species. Some other guy had way more observations, because he had multiple photos of some of the species. I did a few, like things I saw both in Austin and Cameron, or ones in distinct locations. However, I could have ROCKED the numbers by just walking across the lawn and taking pictures of Bermuda grass (I would NOT do such a thing, of course).


Darn the luck! The day after the bioblitz was over, I drove down a street I don’t usually go by, and there were a whole bunch of mimosa trees taunting me with their fluffy pinkness. Argh!

Beautiful invasive mimosa tree, just one block off of where I usually drive every day.

Then, yesterday I walked to the horse barn (I’d been driving our utility vehicle because I have a sore tendon), and right on the side of the driveway was a cheerful annual bastard cabbage/ wild mustard plant. I’d been looking and looking for one, because I knew they were there! So, that’s two more I could have found if I’d been a bit more diligent.

What Did I Learn?

I think the project did what it was intended to do: it got me much more aware of invasive species wherever I saw them, and because I kept talking about it to friends and family, I raised awareness as well. That’s exactly the kind of thing I want to be doing as a Master Naturalist.

Oh, and also, I had fun. What have been your fun projects while we’ve been not gathering in large groups and such?

Bathtub Beauty Begins

This morning we decided it was time to work on the clawfoot tub for my bathroom. Chris didn’t seem too excited about the initial cleaning it needed, so I said I’d do it. We needed to check whether the giant feet we’d bought would work, anyway.

Here’s Tubby after the large debris had been removed. He’s pretty filthy.

So, we emptied the big stuff out of it (a sink and some lamp parts) and turned over. I didn’t do that part. Upon close examination, we determined that nope, those are totally the wrong legs for the tub. I’m headed off to Etsy to buy some that look more like the right thing, for a lot less money.

This is mighty unattractive, but shows the big damaged area Chris has already started to repair.

While ole Tubby was laying on its side, I emptied the dust and debris that had been filling it throughout the renovation. That was disgusting. Next, I got to work on the exterior.

Side of Tubby before I smoothed out the sides.

I next got down and dirty with the exterior, which apparently was covered, since it’s all rough. A lot of the original paint was peeling, so I smoothed it out with a scrubber pad. It’s not perfect by any means, but is smooth enough to be a base for primer and all the loose stuff is gone.

Some more spots of damage and peeling.

After that, I removed stains and globs of adhesive that were on the inside of the tub. That required more of the degreaser stuff and a lot of scraping. One thing I learned is that porcelain is tough! It wasn’t damaged one bit by my cleaning efforts.

After the scraping, it’s smoother and you can see some green primer that proves I did something.

Finally, I cleaned the inside of Tubby. Probably no one had cleaned the poor thing in decades. The inside is in pretty good shape, with just another couple of places we’ll have to put Bondo on to repair. There is a big rust stain where water probably dripped for years, but I discovered that it will come off, and there’s whiteness under it. We’re going to get some of that kind of cleaner that dissolves rust to work on that part more, and on some other rusty areas. There’s still quite a lot of work to do on this fellow.

Happy Tubby! All stains and drips are gone, other than that one in the front, which is substantially better, actually.

All in all, though, I am proud of the work I got done! It gave Chris time to stain more doors, which puts us that much closer to finishing out the door trim and hanging them permanently. We’re getting mighty close to being able to do the floors!

I guess I’ll add a couple of hours at the end of the day to my “real job,” but it was worth it to get this stuff done.

Prairie Patrol

The front pasture at our house hasn’t had herbicide applied to it, so it’s full of wildflowers, grasses, and riparian plants (by the arroyo). Since our internet tower got messed up and I can’t use the computer to write, I thought I’d share some images from walking around the pasture after a rain. It’s really windy, so the grasses are blowing around.

Lemon bee balm by the pond.
Meadow pinks and grass-leaved rush
Black-eyed Susan or something.
Grass arrangement
By the back fence.

A Bit of Storm Damage

While I was cleaning the fireplace, a strong storm came through and it rained .7 inches in 15 minutes. And the wind got up to 40 miles per hour.

I looked up when I felt some water. Shoot. It was dripping on me. We have to go way up by the chimney and check what’s caused it. Ugh. At least I was sitting right there when it happened!

Back at the ranch, Lee and Kathleen saw trees laying down and churning water. When we got home, we found the chicken’s windbreak broke. I’m sure it turned into a balloon, since the wind was coming from the south.

The blob is the tarp. Note clouds.

Plus, a piece of the roof over our shipping container blew off. That has been there 7 years!

Damage at top.

Lee and Chris repaired that and took the tarp off the chicken house. I headed over to the horse barn and found a big length of chicken wire that had blown in from somewhere. I rolled it up and stuck it somewhere safe in the barn.

Repair in progress.

More rain is coming, and half of the dogs are not happy. Harvey is all shaky. Carlton is hiding behind us. Happy Sunday.

Putting in Sweat Equity

While it’s true that the Mighty Chris is doing most of the work on the Pope Residence renovation, I’m helping when I can. Today I volunteered to work on the big fireplace in the main office.

But wait, I got a picture of the garlic teapot I bought yesterday. I think it’s so precious.

Where was I? We wanted to see what color the tiles on it really are, because there’s one missing, and we want to find a compatible replacement. It became clear that there was a lot of work to do when we tried to get one tile clean.

Before. You can really tell which tile has been cleaned as a test. And you can see the spilled stuff near the paper towel. Also, there is a lot of ancient ash in the fireplace.

Also, some of the sealant for the brick had gotten dripped on the hearth tiles, and we wanted to try to get that taken off, if possible. I showed up prepared to sweat, and that I did!

Close-up of the tile before. Lots of streaks and drips, and ick, what’s in the fireplace?

I used a whole LOT of degreasing and grime remover products, combined with steel wool and a scraper to get what appeared to be many decades of smoke, nicotine, and whatever else…who knows?

In progress The drips are from the degreaser. Yuck.

The hardest part was the sealant. Some of it wanted to STAY, darn it! But I persevered, because once I start cleaning something, I have to see it done!

Close up of cleaned tiles and cleaned-out fireplace.

The results pleased me very much, even though it’s still obviously a very old fireplace that got a lot of use. I think maybe the tiles were handmade, like all the brick, because they vary in color in a really pleasant way. I’m glad I didn’t ruin them with all my chemicals!

Nothing is going to get that black stuff up, but I did get all the drips, and discovered some tiles that had been replaced.


The other work on the house is going along just great, though there have been some hiccups with installing the sliding barn doors. Chris had a lot of adventures with epoxy yesterday, but I like the way he just takes these things as a learning experience, thinks about it, and comes up with another plan. He really has a lot of fun figuring stuff out, and it’s contagious.

Barn door that will not fall down.

Chris has all the doors hung, and is now staining them two at a time. The door hardware will look so good.

And oh yes, I’m helping more. My other big contribution was putting some birds on my little bathroom birdhouse. That’s sweet!

Two little birdies in their duplex, hiding a water pipe.

What Are the Other Two Up To?

This woodpecker mocked us as we tried to get in the Ross house today to make renovation estimates.

Our spouses are busy planning and scheming on our next projects, which may or may not involve moving a house to a vacant lot we will own as soon as the title company wakes up and lets us close on it and the Ross house. And they are growing the Hearts Homes and Hands business, even in these hard times. I’m proud of what good business people Lee and Kathleen are!

There’s lots more to come, so stay tuned. I hope you’re having a reasonable weekend and finding some projects to keep you busy! And if you’re putting sweat equity into a project, I hope you get a nice relaxing bath or shower later. That’s my plan. With roses.

The Cochin Chickens Are Trouble

You may recall that I recently bought some hens, two of which were beautiful, fluffy Cochins. Fancy Pants, the gray one, was the biggest and prettiest, but she was never very active. Lately we’d been worried about her, because she never started laying, and her vent area got dirty.

Lacy Legs is in front. Fancy Pants is behind her.

Sadly, she passed away on Wednesday, when I was gone. Thursday was vet day. Sigh. Kathleen gave her a proper burial. We think she had reproductive issues.

Rest In Peace, pretty bird.

The other Cochin, Lacy Legs, did start laying, and produced small white eggs that shaded to brown. Note that I said produced.

From top right, clockwise: Jewel, Lacy Legs, Bertie Lee, Ginger

This week she went broody! Geez, she barely started laying! So now she won’t come out of the roosting area and makes laying hard for the other chickens, who all want to use the same nest box.

Grr. Leave me alone.

It ain’t easy to get the eggs out, either.

It turns out these little darlings are very prone to wanting to be moms, that is, set on eggs until they hatch. Brooding. Great. The wooden egg won’t hatch. The other hens’ eggs won’t hatch. We have no rooster.

Hey. You just left me that fake wooden egg.

So. Will she stop? I think Buffy did eventually. But I don’t know what to do. She is determined. I’ll see if anyone I know has some fertilized eggs she can hatch and fuss over.

More food for us! Penney wants that bread very much.

Meanwhile, the other chickens just keep eating and making infertile eggs.

Teeny Tiny Road Trip

Today Kathleen declared it was a ladies’ day. So we did some shopping with safety in mind. We spent a lot of time at Walker’s Honey Farm. I got some honey spreads for bagels and some of their wine. Kathleen got similar things and some mead/beer/wine stuff, too. One is strawberry basil and one is coconut and something. They are refreshing.

The winery and honey place is really nice this time of year. We had frozen mead and sat under a beautiful pergola looking out over wildflowers and vineyards.

Much of our time was spent in the bird-lovers heaven of watching purple martins going in and out of their high-tech nests. What a pleasure!

I enjoyed watching lizards and spiders, and even managed to find a couple more invasive species for my bioblitzing. (I am doing pretty well at it; report coming tomorrow.) If you are in this area, it’s a great place to visit now. They all wear masks and clean a lot. They only serve drinks and snacks outside, so it’s great and socially distant.

We next went to Vis-a-Vis in Rogers. The staff were great but it was a bit crowded to me, so I kept the mask on and sanitized a lot. We got some great stuff for our projects, like an old toothbrush holder Kathleen loves and a box of iron “stuff” that may go into my new desk.

I also got three cute teapots for a collection I have: cauliflower, eggplant, and garlic. I left the garlic one at the office, so no photo. Anyway, I was amazed the ladies there recognized me with blue hair and a mask, but they did.

We dropped by the Bling Box to pick up something of Kathleen’s. Yay, no other customers! They also got in a shipment of masks, so I got one that goes with my hair. Charming, right?

Blue in it for the hair, orange for my glasses. Hmm. I’m an homage to my alma maters. Go Gators. Fight Illini.

Tomorrow Kathleen works, so I’m gonna clean things at the Pope Residence. That should be fun!