Busy Little Volunteer

Once again, I’ve over-volunteered, but I’m okay with it.

Dog Love

Last night I went to an organizatioinal meeting where a group of local animal lovers got together to figure out ways that we can support animals in need in Milam County. You may recall that almost a year ago I adopted our precious blue-eyed boy, Carlton, from the Cameron Pound, and while their staff is doing all they can to protect the lost/mistreated dogs in the city, we know there’s a wider need throughout the county.

Jean Schara tells us about the work she’s been doing to organize an animal support group in this area.

A few hard-working people took the initiative to look into forming a nonprofit organization to support all county-wide efforts to help animals, which led to the meeting. Jean Schara, who led the meeting, is a knowledgeable and organized person with a good head on her shoulders, which led me to agree to volunteer to serve on the board with her and four other energetic people.

Look forward to more on this organization when we have more to tell!

Activism Love

I also volunteered to host a group watching the campaign launch of a national political candidate. That’s brave in these days and times, I think. We had a lot of fun, though, and made new friends. My main triumph was managing to get the projector to work AND scanning the sign-in sheets to send off. At least so far, this former techie still has her skills.

LLLove

I hope I don’t screw this up. I’ve already delayed getting in touch with people who said they’d help me out! But I can do it!

Third, I’ve been working on a website and newsletter for the Friends of La Leche League, which is a group of people who want to support that organization. It’s nice, because those of us who went through some hard times there can get back together with friends and remember why we joined in the first place: to support each other on our parenting journeys. It’s been healing for me, so if you are one of my LLL friends from the past, please consider joining us.

Of course I still have my work for the Earth Day event for the Master Naturalists to get done, so I have a full volunteer plate!

Bluebonnets! Maybe They’re Interesting!

My last few posts have been duds. Nothing has died or anything, so I understand. But it’s wildflower season!

Anita matches the flowers.

I’ve been driving by some really pretty patches of pink flowers on my way down the big Far West hill lately. I wanted to know what they were.

Pink onions!

So, with the pretext of taking dog photos among the bluebonnets, I got Anita to go with me to check them out. They are Drummond’s onion, which is a pink version the wild onions that are blooming everywhere in this area.

Noble canine among the lupine.

I love alliums, so I was happy to identify a new one.

Selfie fail. I even made the dog laugh.

And yes, we did frolic among the sweet-smelling bluebonnets with Pickle and Vlassic. I failed pretty well at doing a floral selfie, but we had fun.

I’ll try to get some traditional bluebonnet pictures of the other doggies back at the ranch.

The Champion Is…

Today we did a rare and lovely thing at work: we had a relaxing team building activity! Our fearless leader, Craig, loves to barbecue and smoke meat, so he decided to cook for our team and have a traditional cookout.

Craig says he is very happy. Maggie sets out food.

My friend Maggie, who is a party planner extraordinaire, put together the side dishes, and we got out some lawn games the company had.

Rachel supervises competitive gaming. What’s this game called?

The day was perfect! Everyone had a delicious meal, then we tried all the games.

It was so nice to see the group relaxing and chatting. It reminded me of paintings of the past, with people picnicking and playing croquet or something.

Jon works on another step.

The highlight of the day was when Maggie and our colleague Jon started game of big Jenga. As the stack of blocks grew taller and taller, more of the team gathered around. The stack would wobble, but keep growing!

Voila!

More than once, we declared that HAD to be the end, but no! Maggie and Jon were really steady and smart.

Boom! The tallest stack any of us had ever seen finally falls.

When it finally fell, we erupted in cheers! Dipu got a Live Photo, and the one below is from it!

I wish we could all have a pleasant break from the work day in the spring when it’s neither hot nor cold. I’m so grateful to our group at work for pulling this off.

Too Busy to Write!

I did so much over the weekend that I never got time to sit down, much less write about what I was doing!

Just for the beauty. Not a native tree!

A lot of my stuff was work-related, so I wrote about that over on the other blog. Much paint selecting, light fixture choosing, office rearranging and such. I’m actually quite surprised at how little my arms hurt after wrangling giant tables.

Fuzzy willow blossoms and a bit of the bluebonnet I was sniffing. They smell great.

Luckily, there was also some time to check out what’s blooming and flying overhead. I think the black willow flowers are really pretty, like fuzzy caterpillars.

Flying ducks

And all over town, as I was driving between projects, I enjoyed hearing the gurgling sounds of the black-bellied whistling ducks as they flew over.

I’ll try to get a closer photo.

I was not at all upset to need to take our helper, Kim, home, because I knew I’d get closer looks at the ducks. They really have day-glo beaks and feet! I love their visits, especially when I can spot them in trees.

Cedar waxwings backlit.

The cedar waxwings are still around, too, and their little chirps often surrounded me. Kim had to be very patient when I took a bunch of pictures. I had to!

And I’m friendly, too.

Saturday night we spent a bit of time with this fellow. He’d spent two weeks in the rye field across the road. He finally figured out there is a big gap in the fencing and took a stroll. After much discussion it was determined he didn’t belong to any neighbors and got taken to a sale barn where they’ll try to find his owner. You’d think someone would miss a Charolais bull this handsome.

See my sweaty back? I’m so tired.

My final weekend fun was getting the poor horses all sweaty. We went all over the ranch and did brave things. Fiona kept dawdling, so Sara and Spice kept herding her. Once we just waited in the cool shade of a wooded area. When Fiona finally made it, we looked down to see the grass higher than her belly. She looked like she was a toy in an Easter basket. Wish I’d had my phone!

More later. I guess it’s good to be busy!

New iNaturalist Project

Yesterday I was thinking about how many observations of plants and birds and such I make around the office park where I work in Austin. I said to myself, “Suna, that would make an interesting iNaturalist collection, and then you could also see observations other people make around there.

This pecan tree was here long before the fake pond and office complex.

Since I’d just taken a nice, long walk where I took many photos of plants, trees, birds, and such, it seemed like good timing.

Of course, nothing is simple, so it took me a long time to find the hidden option for making a project a “collection” with a defined set of boundaries. The nice thing about these is that any observations you make in that area automatically get added to the project, so you don’t forget to add them. I remembered that Linda Jo Conn (the great iNaturalist guru) had showed me how to do it when I made the Hermits’ Rest collection, but I had to re-remember.

Heron on fake pond, which is surrounded by cypress trees and has lots of nice riparian plants

I’m really happy with how it turned out in the end, though, and especially pleased that three other people had made observations there in the past. So, I’m not alone. I’m just the more obsessd person with it.

Why it’s interesting

The area where our relatively new office complex is located interests me, since I’ve actually been observing it since 1997. When we were building our house in Brushy Creek, we’d drive through the complex as a shortcut between Jollyville and Round Rock. Now, of course, there are large zoomy highways to get there. Back then, there were only a few companies with
large buildings there, and we enjoyed seeing many deer in the wide expanses of grass and groupings of trees.

Now, many more buildings are present, but there are still a few relatively natural areas, along with some places that were once landscaped but gone wild. There is an interesting mix of native and introduced plants.

Native plant!

Plus, our office has the courtyard where the hawks live, and it is full of mostly native plants, just groomed to death by landscapers.

I’ve written about this site before, especially one article last June when I did another major sweep of the area. That’s when I first started on iNaturalist and was practicing my identification skills.

I hope any of you on iNaturalist will enjoy what I share there. Of course, I’ll share a lot of the photos here, too!

Yellow iris that was planted by the pond

Something for the Dogs

First, thanks for all the kind thoughts yesterday. And those virtual hugs. Y’all are the best friends and readers.

Ooh, the Spy Who Licked me!

Today let’s move on to something that not only cheers me up, but it makes a certain pair of weenie dogs (Vlassic and Pickle) very happy each month: the BarkBox shipment!

I’ve been getting these for a while now, and each month Anita and I are charmed by the effort this company goes through to make a quality product that is fun for both people and dogs (a very good marketing strategy).

Great logo.
Continue reading “Something for the Dogs”

Ups and Downs

We all have them. There are just some times when the difficulties, negative surroundings, and struggles to get things done just overwhelm us.

Yes, cheerful tree, I see you.

Today I feel that way. My hip hurts. Things break at work. Friends and family are sick or injured. I miss my kids.

I know I’ll feel better soon, because I have good coping skills. And a therapist. And a spouse and friends. Just think of me.

This is my ugh face.

I’m probably thinking of you.

Green and Greener: A Photo Essay

Look! A fairy!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, the day when those of us with Irish ancestors (or Irish children or both) celebrate their heritage. This day always coincides with the part of the Texas spring when it’s so green that it almost hurts your eyes.

Dewberry on a fence

Each year I try to burn the spring green into my brain, to carry me through parched brown summers.

New growth

So, yesterday, when the late afternoon light was especially suited to enhancing the green of spring, I took many photos. Some were interesting. Others breathtaking. I hope you enjoy the Hermits’ Rest at its greenest.

The Hermits Creeklet with budding willows and dewberries.

Very green

Wow. That’s green. Alfred is king of the woods.

Cedar elm

My favorite

Baby blue eyes say thanks for looking.

Ranch Life. Not for Wimps

Yesterday I went to feed the horses but they would not come down to where we usually feed. They whinnied from the end of the narrow passage to their water trough.

We aren’t coming any closer, thanks.

I gathered their feed tubs and turned around to go get food. There I saw a very sad sight. A poor cow had died giving birth. Poor beautiful mama. I won’t share photos.

No wonder the horses would not come up. Even food didn’t convince them, so I took them their food.

Thanks for Indy, Human Mom.

Then I heard it’s harvest day for the sheep. Well, that’s their job and all, but sigh.

You really toughen up and remember life is hard when you live in the country.

But here are happy cows and green grass.

Birding Experts on Birding

Last night I went to the El Camino Real Master Naturalist meeting, as I do most every month. I wrote up a post for their blog with lots of details about what I learned, so here I want to share my deep enjoyment from listening to women who are passionate about birds and birding as they share their passions with others.

Three women from our group spoke about how they engage in bird watching, each with a different perspective and knowledge base. I sat there like a little kid, all enthralled at the details they shared. It was thought-provoking to look at how each of them engaged in their hobby. Here’s what I saw (just using first names here).

Ann tells us you really, really need a good bird book.

Ann has been birding for many years, and she does it for the same reasons I do: basically, she likes birds a lot. Her passion and enthusiasm for identifying new and unusual birds was very obvious, but she reminded me of my methods for birding. She said if she didn’t know what a bird was from quickly observing it, she’d often just move onto the next, in contrast to her birding friend who just HAD to identify every single bird she saw, in a scientific way. Of course, Ann knows pretty much all the birds you can see around here; she just doesn’t stress over what she doesn’t know.

Joyce shares the various ways we can upload our observations to help researchers.

Joyce also loves birds, and watches them in a very accurate and detailed way. She keeps good records of her feeder, counting them carefully, and only identifying the ones that come into her feeder watch zone. There is a great deal of discipline to her approach to observing birds, which goes along with her amazing attention to detail in other parts of her life. We need birders like Joyce, too, to provide accurate data for researchers. (Of course, she’s also having fun.)


Here, Ann is listening to Cindy tell us her suet recipe. Some samples are on the table.

Then, there’s Cindy, whose approach to birding is to figure out how she can practically help the most birds. She shared with us her recipe for making lots and lots of suet for little money, so that the woodpeckers and other birds that like to feed on trees and eat more than just seed can be satisfied. She’s not there just to watch or count or record she’s there to help the birds thrive.

(All the women also carefully feed and water their birds; I was just contrasting their main styles.)

Another birder style was described by Ann, who talked about a very intense young man who asked to come to her house, because he was on a mission to get three more birds on his Milam County list of 100, and she had some of them in her yard. As soon as he saw one, he went on to look for the next. No lollygagging, watching behavior, or anything. And he didn’t stick around to chat; nope, he had to go to Bell County to work on his count there. These are the kind of birders people often gently poke fun at, but hey, they aren’t hurting anyone, are they?

Bonus sinset from the meeting yesterday.

Like any other hobby, there are many ways to enjoy birding (don’t get me started on process versus product knitters). Do you like to watch birds? Do you feel like you need to know what they are? Do you just enjoy their antics? Do you use them to tell what season it is? Share!

Now, that is a yellow flower!

By the way, I was almost late to the meeting, because I had to take this photo of beautiful evening primroses along County Road 140 across from the cemetery.

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