Getting Ready for Earth Day

Happy Sunday! Yesterday I attended a committee meeting with our Master Naturalist group. Rather than write it up twice, I’m sharing my post on their blog.

I’d like to add that I saw a huge dead feral hog on the way in, and found some Indian paintbrush flowers on the roadside between Cameron and rural Rockdale!

Nature Along the El Camino Real

Yesterday, the Environment and Recycling Ad-hoc Committee’s Earth Day subcommittee met to continue to work out plans. I was glad I could finally attend a meeting, because it was fun to see the team at work. I was joined by Ann Collins, Linda Jo Conn, Joyce Conner, Catherine Johnson, Rosie Johnson (guest and helper), Larry Kocian, Kathy Lester, and Donna Lewis (the leader of the bunch).

Nandina and Texas mountain laurel added beauty and scent too the meetiing.

What’s going on with Earth Day?

The El Camino Real Master Naturalist Chapter’s biggest outreach project each year is to host an Earth Day event, to share ways to protect the planet with the community. This year it will be at:

Rockdale Community Center, 109 N. Main, on Saturday, April 20, 10 am – 2 pm.

We were excited to learn about all the planned activities and tables. Our team leader, Donna…

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Let’s Read Nonfiction

You might not be surprised to learn that I mostly read nonfiction (when not reading my many magazine subscriptions). I do this, because I really love to learn new things, especially how the natural world works and what makes living organisms tick.

For example, two of my past favorite books were an excellent history of the pencil and a book called Salt, which showed the importance of salt to commerce and history.

I also really like memoirs and biographies, so I’m really happy that my book club chose Becoming, by Michelle Obama as our next assigned reading. My quick recommendations for this genre from recent years include the memoirs/biographies of Keith Richards, Warren Zevon, Bruce Springsteen, and Sally Field (see, not all of them are musicians).

What am I reading now?

At the moment, I’m in the middle of the book you see here, Underground. It’s Will Hunt’s first book, but what a fun one! He goes all over the world looking at caves, mines, catacombs, and tunnels. Each chapter is very different, but always fascinating.

I learned a lot about what’s underneath Paris, and right now am learning a lot more about the significance of red ochre to civilizations around the world, while Hunt visits an ancient site in Australia and learns of how holy it is to the people of the region.

If you’re not a sufferer of second-hand claustrophobia, I recommend it!

I just received my copy of Never Home Alone, in which Rob Dunn makes it abundantly clear that you can’t clean a house well enough to eliminate all your uninvited “neighbors.” I can’t wait to learn all about spiders, crickets, dust mites, and their teeny-tiny cohorts!

This book really drives home the point that you can’t escape “nature” by staying indoors! It appears quite plausible that there can be “indoor master naturalists” who just focus inside the house. Hmm, with my never-ending battle against the moths in my kitchen cabinets and the yearly cricket invasions, I may already be one of those.

Oakleaf hydrangea. I love the contrast between last year’s purple leaves and the newly emerging ones that are so pale green that they are almost white.

Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments! As a reward, here are a couple of photos of some beautiful new spring growth.

Work redbud. If only you could hear the birds and smell the sweet olive!

PS: Baby hawks should be on the way! Mating was observed. They have no shame. Of course. They’re birds.

What’s One More Blog, Right?

Because I am such a volunteering maniac, I said I would make a blog for the El Camino Real Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists. And I did it! Hooray for follow through and all that.

It just popped into my head at our last meeting that we had no way to share and archive our nature stories, reports on training, etc. It’s a lot of work to make a paper newsletter, so we haven’t had one in a while, and though we do have a Facebook page, it’s more about news, since member posts don’t show up on the main page. A blog is a great way to share.

Also, blogging is a great way to get volunteer hours. Master Naturalists like those.

How did I do it?

I always forget what goes into setting up a new WordPress blog, customizing its look and feel, and making it do what I want it to do. I like the theme I chose for this one, especially since the top menus stay at the top of the screen as you scroll down. I also think it looks pretty elegant and simple.

Here’s a blog page. It has a right column with archives, sign-up informatio,n and stats.

What I didn’t like about the theme was that there was no way to put a blog archive on the home page. The home page has no right column, and you can’t easily modify the top. I did put the archives at the bottom of the page, but, who’s going to go all the way down there?

This shows the small top menu that stays when you scroll down. Also, note that archives menu.

So, I made an archive top-level page. Problem solved, I hope.

Off we go

Feedback I got from the small group I ran it by was that it was hard to subscribe to the blog (I made sure to put both the email follow link and the WordPress follow link). And some typos got spotted, which I always appreciate.

I was happy to receive two items to post as soon as the group voted to start a blog. That way not all the articles will be by me! I plan to continue to re-blog my more naturalist-oriented posts here, but am looking forward to seeing lots more from my fellow Master Naturalists.

So, make sure YOU follow that blog, too!

Birding in the Fog

Admittedly, I was excited to go to Galveston Island, because I had the thought that a lot of the migratory birds would still be hanging around and I could see them. I didn’t count on it being a rather dismal day for photography, in which everything around was the same shade of brownish gray.

We certainly couldn’t see anything from our hotel room other than exotic Beach Pigeons (same as any other pigeon). The birds were probably all frightened away by the belching pseudo-volcano at the Rainforest Cafe that was the primary view from our balcony (we could also see the Gulf, when the fog lifted slightly).

Here I am pretending that the Rainforest cafe is 1) open or 2) fun.

Once we were awake (-ish, since the hotel didn’t have any reasonable coffee), we took a walk on the beach. This proved to us that it doesn’t have to be a warm and sunny day to enjoy the shore.

Look how well these birds blend in with the rocks and surf.

At first we didn’t see anything other than gulls, pigeons, and grackles, but once we walked down the jetty, we adjusted our eyes, and boom! There were some beautiful little ruddy turnstones busily picking at the moss and seaweed growing on the granite (from Marble Falls!). They were very industrious and blended amazingly well among the blocks. You really only noticed them when they moved.

Evrybody’s head is all tucked. Nap time?

We kept walking down the jetty until Lee stopped me and said, “Look!” Sure enough, there was a flock of what appear to me to be sanderlings, huddling together to stay warm, or something. They were at least a little easier to spot. They let us get nice and close, so I could get a good photo.

Continue reading “Birding in the Fog”

Beachy Keen

Tree trunk with ocean decor

We spent last night in a misty Galveston Island, Texas. I’ll write more about it later, but thought I’d share a few pictures of things I found washed up on the beach.

The tree looks like a whale from this angle.

One particular piece of wood that had been in the water enough for barnacles to grow on it really seemed beautiful. Such a mix of land and sea.

What’s your guess as to what this is?

We also found another rock or piece of tree or coral. It was hard to say. But there were some cool worm tubes on it, too.

Little shells in a heap.

Of course there were shells, mostly broken up, but in many shapes and colors. Where they washed up in piles I kept thinking they’d make a great computer monitor background.

Coral, and my Valentine nails, which are red, pink, coral, or watermelon.

I did find a small piece of coral, too. I have to say these and the oysters in the bay kept distracting me from my bird and plant recording duties, but that’s okay. I had time to enjoy all the gifts the ocean and wetlands gave me.

Eww. Ocean foam.

More tomorrow!

Sunday of Amazement

Wow, yesterday was just one amazing discovery after another around the ranch! The wind finally died down, which made it much easier to be outside, so I engaged in a lot of running around with dogs and exploring things, once the cattle moved off and the cattle torture ended.

This is the “springy” area of the woods. It’s on a slope, and the water drains down to the Hermits Stream.

Our neighbor Mike came over earlier than usual in the afternoon, so that we could go check out a few things in the woods. Of course, the dogs went, too, which gave them more opportunities to irritate the cattle. Sigh. But the good news is that we found an old food storage container that had slipped out of Lee’s hands and disappeared into the woods during the summer, when you can’t see a thing in there.

There is a lot of moss, algae, and other moisture-loving foliage here. I wonder what the area would look like if cattle weren’t stomping all over it.

But, WAY more important was that I confirmed my suspicions that the last remnant of the big drought that was going on when we first came to this area is going away. It’s quite clear that our springs are back!

I’d been seeing a wet area from our side of the fence, but we wanted to see it up close. Sure enough, water is seeping out of the ground and heading toward the stream. I’d heard that there were springs in there before, but other than getting a little muddier than the rest of the area, it hadn’t showed any signs of flowing.

Carlton investigates the babbling brook. The tree bridge is getting less and less sturdy as time goes by.

We also noted that the little brook/stream that flows into Walker’s Creek is flowing pretty briskly. Two things could cause that. Either the pond is still getting water from runoff and flowing through the arroyo, OR the other spring is working. Mike and I confirmed that the culvert is barely dripping, so that brisk flow of water must mean that the big, deep spring is flowing on its own again. Hooray! There’s water under the ground again!

Heron or egret footprints in the mud.

Now that the flooding has died down, we can see lots of tracks in the mud that the flooding deposited. One thing is for sure, those herons are BIG birds.

And the chickens?

I am very happy to report that the longer days, increased food, and/or less owl stress have combined to ramp up egg production. We were afraid that the one who was still laying had been the last owl victim, but, hooray, we had three eggs today, and since two of them were white, there are at least two laying now! Of course, we are down to a dozen chickens, so we won’t have what we did before, but it’s an improvement.

THREE eggs! And the beautiful cutting board the neighbors gave us for Christmas.

And, by the way, Mandi is ordering some netting to help foil the predators.

And more mooning

A picture-perfect end to the day.

We got back home and sat on the porch (it was cool, but not too cold) to enjoy blackberry wine and yet another lovely sunset, which I managed to frame in the porch, like a painting on a wall.

Here comes the moon!

Then we turned around to see the super moon rising in the east. Wow, that thing was big. My phone doesn’t do very good eclipse photos, but the red moon was very cool. I wish that happened more often. You know that sight must have been confusing to ancient people who didn’t know how the sun. moon, and earth coordiate!

Recycling. Complicated.

I’ll have a long and thoughtful post in the next few days on another topic, but until then, maybe I’ll just spew forth random comments from the past couple of days.

Maybe they aren’t really s pirals, but the symmetry attracted me.

I’ve been seeing spirals everywhere lately, even in the plants at the reception desk where I work. I wonder what all that’s about?

It’s prickly but darned pretty.

Maybe it’s just the time of year, when everything’s sprouting. I mean, wow, that is one attractive thistle.

All these lovely dandelions make me hungry for a salad or spring tonic or something.

Maybe it’s reminding me of recycling, which has as its theme image a mobius strip (which I didn’t realize until Joyce Conner mentioned it at our Master Naturalist meeting last week! Duh!).

Spealing of recycling, we recycled old t-shirts into tote bags to give out on Earth Day!

Joyce is a very thoughtful person, and she has been putting a great deal of thought into recycling, its benefits and its issues. She shared a lot of them at our meeting, which no doubt got everyone thinking about their own beliefs about recycling our waste.

I attempted to recycle myt-shirt sleeve into a visor. I think I failed.

Joyce showed us how much of the stuff we carefully recycle goes straight into landfills, because no one wants to recycle it. Apparently, we used to send a lot to China, but they don’t want it anymore.

In the end, she suggested that we concentrate on the reduce and re-use parts of the reduce, reu-use, recycle trio. That made sense to me. We try to re-use a lot of the glassware we buy things in, and I have started recycling boxes by decorating them and using them for storage, rather than buying decorative boxes.

Many of my friends re-use yarn rather than buying new, too.

What are you doing to re-use items?