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

Intense Hawk Action

Swooping! You can easily see tail stripes.

I got a request for an update on the hawks at my workplace. You know I just love requests. Since the people in our office spend a LOT of of our break time looking at them, there’s no problem with coming up with a report! The raptor couple are the talk of the water cooler, which pleases me a lot. We have a lot of budding birders being developed!

Thinking about sitting on that ledge.

Here are some of the behaviors we’ve observed:

  • Eating small animals. They like to do that at the parking garage.
  • Working on the nest. Every so often, a special new stick comes over.
  • Dealing with windows. There’s a report that one of them went BOOM into a window earlier this week. Both birds seem okay, now.
  • Dealing with ledges. While I’ve seen one of them successfully land on the narrow ledges on our building, they also miss frequently, and flap around awkwardly to regroup.
  • Screeching. Lots of screeching.
  • Engaging in synchronixed flying. It’s just beautiful watching then swerve and curve then land delicately on the roof or nest.
  • Being friendly. They groom each other and snuggle up, both before and after what we call their “special time.” We expect some EGGS out of all this! (I do believe Mrs. Hawk is looking, um, plumper.)
Continue reading “Intense Hawk Action”

Robins Everywhere, Plus Hawk Action

The collection of glass jars contains collections of various items. So clever.

Last night Anita and I attended the neighborhood book club meeting. We eventually got around to discussing The Poisonwood Bible, which I actually read (yay me). The discussion ranged to many topics, and I apparently am the Nature Expert of the group. I also LOVED the house we visited, because the owner was very clever in displaying her many collections.

The little black dots in the center tree are robins, merrily singing their wake-up call.

I’d been noticing a lot of tweeting birds in the mornings when I walk the dog, and my thoughts were confirmed when the attendees began to describe large flocks of robins all over the neighborhood. This morning, I was on the lookout, and saw dozens of them in one tree (where I got this not-so-great picture), and more in other trees. The sound was amazing! Just as lovely as when all the cedar waxwings show up.

Then I got to work!

I’m watching.

Right as I walked into work, I saw one of our hawks swooping. She landed in a NEST! I’d thought it was a squirrel nest, but there she was, hanging around, while the other hawk (smaller, so I figured it was the male) hung around on the building or the parking garage.

If you can find the nest, you get bonus points. It IS in the center of the photo.

Later we saw a squirrel in the nest, so we were wondering if the hawk was just messing with baby squirrels or what. Last year, as you may remember, the hawks built their nest on the other side of the office park, on some metal structures.

Swooping.

When we saw the hawk bringing food to the nest, though, we became certain that the squirrel was just curious (and should be careful!).

As you can imagine, my coworkers are quite psyched to watch the hawks raise some babies. Binoculars will be brought out, and a lot of oohing and aahing will occure, if today is any indication.

HOAs: Love or Hate?

We readily admit that one thing we love about the Hermits’ Rest ranch is there is no Home Owner Association or HOA to deal with (just me, Lee, Sara, and Ralph having a meal and discussing stuff).

Our little villa. Note narrow hilly street.

In my previous Austin house, I was in the Meadows of Brushy Creek HOA, which was a big one with lots of people. I admit that in 20 years, I never attended a meeting, though I did give my proxy a couple of times. I thought of them as those busybodies who told me to weed my plants right after my husband left me, along with a broken lawnmower.

On the other hand, I was glad they were there to keep the place looking presentable, get public things repaired, and all that. I guess I didn’t love them or hate them; I just chafed a bit because I’m not much of a rule follower unless I think there’s good reason.

Example of why the landscape needs work. These are the irrigation lines. They are no longer UNDER the dirt or rocks.

My friend, Mike, has been president of his HOA in southeast Austin more than once. I enjoyed his tales of complaining neighbors, argumentative meetings, and having to make hard decisions. It did not sound like my cup of tea.

Here we are at the Northcat Villas

As soon as we bought the Bobcat Lair and ran into all the problems with the City of Austin and permits (see our Bobcat Lair page on our business blog), we figured we’d better attend neighborhood meetings, so either Lee and I, or Anita and I have been going ever since.

Continue reading “HOAs: Love or Hate?”

Stuff. Let’s Have Some.

Unless you are buried under a pile of your own possessions, you have no doubt heard about the latest person out there telling us how to live our lives, you’ve probably already gotten tired of hearing how wonderful it is to tidy and purge from the beautiful and didactic Marie Kondo.

I am genuinely happy that she is bringing her special brand of joy to so many of my friends and colleagues. She’s perfectly poised in this era of minimalism, simple living, and all that kind of trendiness. And I understand very much how important it is to feel in control of at least something in our lives these days, when we sure don’t feel like we can do much about world events, jobs, and our families/friends. And there’s nothing wrong with organizing your stuff so you can find it (right, yarn closet?).

I assure you that everything on this shelf means something to me. Those teeny dogs are my first ones, Gwynnie and Scrunchy. The cups are places I’ve worked. That kid in the back is 28 today. The name tag reminds me of who I am, when I space out a bit. Ms Warren tells me I am tough, etc.

But, as I see everyone blissfully getting rid of things that don’t bring them joy, it occurs to me that there is most assuredly a range of people’s attachment to “things” in their lives.

A small selection of Supergirl things. I have more.

I have stuff. Yes, I do. I am on the spectrum at the end where people find comfort in the memories that come up when they look at things around them or draw inspiration from beautiful things they’ve gathered. Sure, I could pare some things down, but I am a former academic. I’m not going to own just 30 books. Geez. And by gosh, I love Supergirl and if I want to look at her, that’s my issue.

24 Starbucks mugs. I like them.

I think what gets to me with all these fads and trends and gurus of the day is that they really try to make people feel guilty for being different from them. Why? Some folks like three curated objects on each surface of their home. Some people want to look at 24 Starbucks mugs that remind them of friends and adventures. Like anything else, becoming attached to or detached from stuff really only gets to be a problem at the extremes.

Anita’s Fiestaware. And a reflection. Looks good to us.

When you can’t walk in your home or yard, you may have some mental health issues to deal with. And if you just have a chair and a bed (yes, I knew someone like that), at the least hospitality is difficult.

Yup. Lots of stuff there. Let me tell you all the stories. I guess if I were paring down, Bananagrams might go elsewhere.

So, I say unto you, my friends: if your stuff makes you happy and you can move from room to room, enjoy your stuff. Get rid of things that make you feel icky or have bad memories attached to them. Just follow your own instincts, the norms of your culture, and what’s right for your family. Don’t blindly follow some overly perfect guru from another culture (by the way, in the Shinto religion of Japan, inamimate objects have souls and everyone has inherent goodness, perhaps even collectors like me).

Share your thoughts. I like hearing what YOU think about tidying up and magic, and the opposite.


Postscript

I was not correct to blame Kondo for some people who are perhaps over zealous in interpreting her ideas. Please read the comments for some reasons why I’m saying this.

Also a friend didn’t comment here, but on her Facebook wall, and she was right that Kondo never said 30 books. I succumbed to Fake News.

One of her friends kindly posted this quote, which I do indeed agree with:

“As you reduce your belongings through the process of tidying, you will come to a point where you suddenly know how much is just right for you. You will feel it as clearly as if something has clicked inside your head and said, “Ah! This is just the amount I need to live comfortably. This is all I need to be happy. I don’t need anything more. … The click point differs from one person to another. For a shoe lover, it might be one hundred pairs of shoes, while a book lover might not need anything but books. … As you put your house in order and decrease your possessions, you’ll see what your true values are, what is really important to you in your life. But don’t focus on reducing, or on efficient storage methods for that matter. Focus instead on choosing the things that inspire joy and on enjoying life according to your own standards.” -Marie Kondo

I still get weary of extra tidy people acting like they’re better than the rest of us, since we each get to do what we prefer. But Marie is OK. Like Emily Latella, I must say, “Never mind!”

Decorative Arts: I Have a Nature Theme

This is my newest plant-themed plate, by Cameron artist Pamela Neeley. It’s hand-shaped, and she used real leaves to make the image.

I went into a deep dive yesterday into one artist whose work graces my walls. Lula Moser is not the only talented individual who makes me happy every time I look at an object. And, of course, there are things by people I don’t know personally, but I’m surprised at how many of the objects in both my homes are by family members, friends, or acquaintances.

Today I share a few from the Austin house, like the one above, which I just got last month. I just had to have this plate by my friend Pamela Neeley, because it helps my house look like an extension of the woods, which must be the subliminal theme of both houses.

This piece by Renice is on really lovely hand-made paper, too. It also holds up my very long pothos plant stems.

The beautiful print of violets was done by my former friend Renice at the time of my first wedding in 1990. It’s followed me around and been the base for many room color schemes since then.

The Pod

While it’s a little abstract, this pod by one of my women’s group members from the UU church in Urbana, Illinois, still fits with the nature theme. I am so happy I have not managed to break it. I love the contrast between the rough bottom and smooth top.

My non-Christmas quilt, which reminds me of vines. The white fabrics are really nice in this one.

I can’t forget fiber arts! Our guest room includes a lovely quilt made for me by Alice Sessions and her late mother, Jackie van Voris. I wanted a red and green quilt that didn’t look Christmasy and that fit with all my plant art. This one fit the bill perfectly (I won it in a services auction; what a prize!)

The top is a counted cross stitch of a pine tree quilt block. I made it over 20 years ago. Below is my reminder to make music, from Carolyn.

And at the bottom of the above image is one non-nature theme treasure, made by Carolyn Dower, which I always keep in my bedroom to remind me to keep my music in my heart. The bell makes the music real. If anyone wonders whether I appreciate hand-made gifts, the answer is a firm yes.

And as for me

I made this one in the 90s. The guys REALLY wanted to make an octagonal frame.

Most of my non-knitted projects (I used to knit A LOT) have flowers in them, like my beautiful petit point project, which is even in a frame hand-made by my ex and a good friend. It occurs to me that art is not just in my house for beauty; it’s also there to keep the memories of the people I have loved in my life close to me and alive.

I did these in grad school, from a kit. The butterfly is in cotton, and the rest is wool.

I guess I’m not much of a person who picks art and accessories to match the house! The house has to conform to my art. And it’s not clutter. It’s beloved treasure. So there.

Farewell, from a sweet handmade bird Anita gave me. I can’t remember the artist’s name, but it makes me happy, too.

Orchids of Joy

One of the blogs I read often is Chateaux des Fleurs, whose authors post a flower, usually one from New York City, every day.

The two blossoms on this one are quite different.

They’ve inspired me to occasionally share bonus posts with what’s blooming around my urban house. In this case, the flowers are IN my urban house.

I thought the blossom with the streak in it was cool! I wonder what caused it?

And the purple one is interesting, because the sprig had finished blooming, then grew more buds from the same stalk.

I love the shape of the stem!

I have another one that has branched out from a stalk that had bloomed and will soon flower again, but never has one sprouted on a spent stalk.

This is the one that has branched off a spent stem.