I work with Hermit Haus Redevelopment to help people quickly sell their houses. I do their social media! I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I'm also a tech writer in Austin, secretly.
Today my friend Melanie Reed, who’s a native to these parts, went with me over to the Milam County Museum to do some research on projects we are working on. She’s looking into the history of two parks in town, while I was looking to learn more about the old church and home we own in Cameron.
I did find a postcard that was a picture of the First Christian Church building as it looked in the early twentieth century. That one burned down.
We met with Charles King, the director of the museum, who brought us some books with old photographs of the county. I was surprised to see so many large churches and schools in what are now tiny hamlets, like Maysfield and Milano. Charles and Melanie told me Milano (where our Master Naturalist Meetings are held) once had a population of 10,000! Wow! It’s between 200-300 now, though it seems like I keep meeting people who live there.
Charles was kind enough to dig up a book and newspaper article about the people who built our house on Gillis St., the Pope family. I’ll use that for my writing about that house on the Hermit Haus blog.
This is the first post I accidentally posted as a page, not a blog post.
Hooray! Our little blog is a year old! I’m happy to have over a hundred followers, since so much of what I write is so I’ll remember stuff that happened. It’s been great sharing my nature observations, rants, and thoughts with all of you. Share us with your friends!
What else happened a year ago?
I guess I should not complain about last weekend’s big rain. I was remembering that we always seem to have some flooding in early April, and then, lo and behold, my Facebook memories reminded me that it was a lot worse this time last year.
The 8 inches we got last year all came at once, which pushed the water over the bridge at Walker’s Creek, and worse, breached our dam. That flooding is what inspired Lee to add a second culvert for water overflow, which may be why we didn’t have a dam breach last week. Hooray for Lee.
PS: My blog interface decided to no longer let me add tags and categories. I’ll fix it eventually.
PPS: The reason it didn’t work because I added this as a PAGE and not a BLOG POST.
You haven’t seen much of me in a while, and probably won’t until Friday, unless I squeeze some “me time” in. My calendar looks pretty scary, even though the all-day training on Thursday doesn’t show up. The gap in the afternoon on Thursday is for me to drive to Cameron so I can do two MORE meetings.
I have been trying to remind myself where I am and what I’m doing by using some of my Starbucks mugs that say “Austin” on them. I hope that helps, at least a little.
But, I have to say that my mind is as cluttered as my desk, as I think about the newsletter I have to put together for a nonprofit I help with, the Master Naturalist presentation I need to finish putting together, and all those t-shirts I’m supposed to make into tote bags. I regret taking last weekend off to watch the rain!
Hey, have a good rest of YOUR week folks. I will take some time to read other people’s blogs, and I hope to have a book report for you by the end of the week on a book that combines fiction with naturalists!
Once the weather settled down a bit yesterday, the local insect-eating birds had a feast (including my chickens). There were a couple of phoebes sitting on our fence wires and zipping down to pluck tasty morsels, but the most excited birds had to be our barn swallows, who view our home as a very nice barn to live on.
We discovered a new nest right above the door the dogs use to go in and out. They are a poly family, I guess, with an extra member to help feed the little ones once they hatch. Here are two of them looking displeased at me while the third one was in the nest thinking about pooping on me, no doubt. Because they are so close to the dog door, their chattering and chirping is very easy to hear in the family room. Luckily we like our noisy neighbors.
Getting back to Austin
This morning I drove back to Austin later than usual, so I’d be sure to be able to see any flooded spots along the road. I saw a lot of places that obviously were road closure spots over the weekend, judging by the debris patterns.
The saddest thing, though, was driving by the old building in San Gabriel that held the hamlet’s only “business,” two soda machines. It was surrounded by red tape declaring it a danger. The darned tornadoes got it. Here’s an article.
Today is another day
Happily, today turned out to be beautiful. Anita and I enjoyed looking at some of the native plants and insects we pass by on our walks. Two were right outside our house, next to a steep rocky slope.
No matter how hard the landscapers try, they can’t get rid of all the beautiful plants that were here before the development was here. Case in point is the cedar sage you see here. It’s native habitat is cedar brakes on caliche, where the ashe junipers are located. They like the rocky hillsides. Yep, these beautiful flowers cover the rocks our house sits on, right under the native trees that got to stay when the neighborhood was built (now they qualify as “heritage” cedars, so allergic people can’t cut them down).
Nearby were these lovely little plants with tiny pink blossoms. There are many tiny plants with pink blossoms this time of year, but these looked different from all the others I’ve been finding. Sure enough, they are slender hedeoma (Hedeoma acinoides). There is not much about them in iNaturalist, but a quick check of their habitat shows it’s mainly the middle of Texas. It’s a local! Further checks found that their common name is slender false pennyroyal. I learned something new!
At the mailbox, my housemate, Anita, started jumping around, and I saw that there was a large winged insect flying and landing, which caused that reaction. I got everything nice and calm so I could photograph it.
It appears to be a crane fly, but I’m not sure which one it is. It could be Tipula tricolor or Tipula furca, juding by the wings. I assume someone on iNaturalist will set me straight. I thought it was nice of the crane fly to hold still so I could get such a good picture!
Whew. It’s been a rough couple of days. It was time for the annual spring flood! We needed the rain, though, as we hadn’t had any appreciable rain in three weeks, according to my husband.
We had a really strong band of rain come through yesterday, and we got the long side of the front. Lots of rain ensued. Then in mid afternoon, the tornado sirens went off in town, and we got reports of touchdowns not too far away.
So, Lee and I joined all five dogs in our fine storm room for over an hour while the system touched down four times, the last one just a few miles from us.
We were surprised at how well the dogs did in the little space, but it did keep the sound away. The wind broke a few things but we were okay.
Spring is the time when things get moving around. We’ve had mouse visitors at the ranch house, but the dogs took care of that.
The Hermit Haus office also got a visitor yesterday. Our neice, Kathleen, was there working when, to her surprise a little wriggly fellow crossed the floor. Luckily she’s a farm gal (she lives on our farm in Yorktown where Lee’s dad used to live).
According to her, it took a while, but she got the little fellow to exit the building, and he or she quickly beat a retreat down the drain outside the door. We’ve been checking for our neighbor since then, but there have been no further signs.
And those ducks
I continue to get a lot of joy from the whistling ducks. This morning, three of them were sitting on top of our house across the street. It just seems weird to see ducks up high like that.
Of course, I scared them off before I could get a closer picture. But they made that hilarious whistlig duck noise, so it’s okay!
Hope your Friday is or was a good one. At least it’s no longer cold here. Monday started off in the 30s, and on Thursday it was well over 90! Texas weather is something else!
by Ann Collins, with additional photos by Linda Jo Conn
Linda Jo Conn and I just got back from “Nature Nerd Nirvana” – a phrase coined by a fellow traveler this past weekend. Ten lucky participants were able to trail along after Master Teacher Dale Kruse on Bryoventure III. We spend three glorious days immersed in the flora and fauna of the Big Thicket National Preserve. Talk about herding cats; Dale actually had a whistle to keep us rounded up!
Dale arranged lodging at the Research Station in Saratoga, Texas. We brought our own food and “drink,” but everything else was furnished. Not exactly the Plaza, but more than adeqquate for our needs.
Trails in the Thicket were in great shape. There hadn’t been too much rain, so there were few muddy ruts in the roads. Of course, some of…