A Little Archeology Trip

Today our Master Naturalist group got to do something I’d been wanting to do since I moved here, which was visit the Gault Site, a really significant place only an hour away from Cameron. I’m so glad we got this arranged, and that it didn’t rain us out today.

the intrepid Master Naturalists, and our host

I just about didn’t get there, since I almost forgot to feed Granny, then couldn’t load my map software, so I had no idea how to get there. Next, I read the transcript of my voicemail from my friend Pamela, and it said the trip was off (in reality that is not what she said). So I went home, re-listened to the message, and loaded the OTHER map software and made it to the place only a minute late.

We enjoyed the benches that meant we didn’t have to stand for four hours.

The Gault Site is private property, so you have to arrange for a visit. But the cool part is that the executive director of the Gault School of Archeological Research, Clark Wernecke, gave the tour. He is one of the best tour guides I ever heard, full of information, humor, and fun. I’m sure he’s done the spiel dozens and dozens of times, but he is so enthusiastic that you’d never know it. I sure learned a lot from him.

Telling us about the layers of soil beneath us.

The site is between Florence and Salado, in a beautiful area that borders a lot of limestone quarries. That’s the key. The area is perfectly sited for human occupation, and apparently has been for at least 16,000 years. That’s right. They found evidence of people living here before the Clovis age, which was previously thought to be the earliest humans lived in the Americas. Wrong!

I just found it beautiful.

So, yes, this is a very important place. It is full, and I mean full, of tools and weapons made from chert, of which flint is one type. It’s the rocks that were all over my old neighborhood in Brushy Creek. They are a kind of natural glass, and wow, are they hard and can be very sharp! The scientists know exactly how each piece they found was used, because they do all sorts of sophisticated tests on them. What looks like a little shard to me could be a part of something interesting, or more likely, things they carved off when making tools, like adl-adls, scraping tools, axes, digging tools and cutting tools.

They area has big mounds in it, called middens, that are where people cooked in rock ovens, threw away trash, etc. That’s where lots and lots of implements were found, as well.

The tools Dr. Wernecke shared

And there is a site of a mammoth kill, which there are only four of in this continent. Dr. Wernecke explained that people didn’t actually go around chasing mammoths. They caught less dangerous and easier things, and ate them for the most part (deer, the horses that used to live here, rabbits, turtles, fish and such). He kept reminding us that people back then were just like us, and would choose what was easier and less dangerous when they could. That made sense.

big trees like to grow in middens

One more fascinating find at the Gault Site was the first evidence of a “building” – a rock foundation in the shape of a rectangle. They knew people used it, because they found different kinds of debris on each side.

The cattle belong to the property owner.

I was disappointed to realize that they are no longer digging for artifacts here and have filled in all the places where they dug. But, they have four million or so things to look at, and that will take a long, long time to analyze as it is. Some of our chapter members got to see the site when it was active, and I envy them! But, I’m glad they put things back to their original state, mostly.

Fern growing on a cliff. It’s a cliffbrake.

Also while we were there, we enjoyed hiking through the beautiful woodland valley. You could see how ancient peoples would have enjoyed it, even through the changes it’s gone through. They even found evidence of where the little creek used to go ages ago, which means it’s been there a long time!

There are all kinds of trees, including many kinds of oaks, such as the delicious bur oak, whose acorns could feed people. There were also walnuts, bois d’Arc, cedar elms, and more. I saw lots of butterflies, especially Queen butterflies and honey bees on the frostweed that’s blooming right now.

This place was magical and awe inspiring. To think that humans have lived in this area for so long is really humbling. If you ever get offered a chance to visit this important archeological site, please do. I’m not able to share all the fascinating facts we learned…there are just too many. But wow, it’s only an hour from my house that they found evidence of human settlement so long ago. Wow.

Life, Death, and the Little Things

First, thanks to all of you who sent me kind words yesterday as I talked about how my friend Terry’s passing made me feel. She was one of the people I talked about in my post Welcoming Death and Treasuring Lives, which I also published in our Friends of La Leche League newsletter, Continuum, in the most recent edition (that issue is just for subscribers, but back issues are available at the link, if you want to see what the newsletter is like).

Terry!

I know Terry’s legacy will live on, through her art, books she wrote and illustrated, the students she helped educate, and the many memories all of her friends have of her, like when her surrogate, Flat Terry, went all around the world visiting friends and giving them paper hugs. She was so creative, so very human, and a great friend. Was she perfect? No. Who is? We are all glad to have known her. I’m honestly not up to writing a long tribute, because I’m just so sad. But, here’s a nice tribute my friend Nancy Sherwood wrote.

Stephanie was one FUN woman.

Sadly, my online friend Stephanie Jordan, who was the other person I talked about living her life to the fullest, passed away yesterday. I’m just so impressed with how well she continued to enjoy every day, no matter how sick she got, and how wonderfully she prepared her children for life after she was gone. I’m so glad they got a lot of time to spend together and make memories. Again, rather than summarize her journey, I’ll let you read what Nancy S. said in her blog. I’m glad she was able to keep herself together and share these memories!

While people were commenting on my post from yesterday, another friend let me know of an LLL Leader’s passing, a woman named Beth O’Donnell. I didn’t know Beth (though I may have met her at one of those conferences where I met so many women), but when I read her lovely obituary, I realized how much in common I had with her and what great contributions she’d made to the world. She was a teacher of the Our Whole Lives curriculum that my children studied at our Unitarian Universalist church, so I know Beth helped babies, mothers, children and future children. Wow. But it was also just nice to read about her interests and travels. It’s like I got to know her a little.

I feel privileged that one of my volunteer “jobs” is to maintain the web pages for We Remember, which honors La Leche League Leaders (and others who have contributed to that organization) who have passed away. Their names are also inscribed in a book, which is taken to ceremonies – this year there will be a virtual ceremony at an online conference. I read every one of the obituaries that are shared, and I’m really happy how many of them include little tidbits that make the person I’m paying tribute to come alive again in my mind. I’m really grateful to the family members who pause in their grief to share the lives of the people they loved, so others can carry their memories as well.

I’m not sure why, but reading about these wonderful volunteers always inspires me. Go ahead, take a look! You can even post a memorial to someone who mentored you, share news of an LLL Leader’s passing, or make a contribution to Friends of LLL’s work in their name (you will see that I’ve done it a few times lately).

One of the first entries in this blog had a photo of Dr. Thoms!

And speaking of people who volunteer their time…yesterday, I also found out that one of our Master Naturalist mentors, an amazing human being named Alston Thoms had passed away in June, and we hadn’t heard about it (I did touch on this yesterday, but I want to say more). If you read his memorial page, you’ll see what a real treasure the world lost when his life ended. I learned so much about the Native Americans who lived in this part of Texas from him, and I always hungered to learn more. His teachings will live on through the work of his graduate students and the many Master Naturalists he generously taught through the years.

Here’s what I said about him in my blog from early in my Master Naturalist career:

We also had a very interesting speaker, Prof. Alston Thoms, an anthropologist from Texas A&M. He is an expert on Native American history, and focused the talk for us on what people ate in past centuries in this area. It was lots of roots and berries, cooked in earth ovens (which he does yearly for his grad students). The most “duh” moment came when he asked what the most common food source would have been. It took a while to realize that of course, it was the white-tailed deer. It’s been in the area as long as humans have, and always on the list for what’s for dinner!

I could listen to this guy all day long.

Proud of Me, May 14, 2018

So, please. If someone you care about is no longer with us, share your memories. They can mean a lot, even to people who didn’t know them, and the little things, their quirks, their stories, their adventures…they can mean more than you know to someone else.

A Fruitful Visit to the County Courthouse and Horse Lesson

Hello, and happy Tuesday, I think. It’s been a full day for me already and it’s not even 4 pm. I’m losing track of days and times right now, but that’s okay, I’m going with the flow.

The day started off right, when six members of the local Master Naturalist chapter and Master Gardener chapter came together at the Milam County Courthouse to meet with the County Judge. We wanted to talk to Judge Young about whether there could be any meeting space for us in the new county office building complex that’s being created out of our old hospital.

Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists preparing for the meeting.

Judge Young showed us a map of how the buildings will be organized, and it was obvious the planners had put a lot of thought into it, like how to keep the people doing parole meetings separate from citizens coming to pay their taxes or seniors getting their meals. There was also a good security plan and a good parking plan.

Wish you could see his cool boots.

Then he showed us where there will be meeting rooms we could use. There are a couple of large ones around Bea’s Kitchen that will be free after 3 pm on weekdays, plus another couple of shared ones with other agencies. When someone asked if we could use any of them, Judge Young said:

“Not only can you use it; I want you to use it.”

We talked about helping out with landscaping the inner courtyards as a way to pay back, and that went over well. He even offered us storage space in the old nuns’ quarters they are renovating for a storage building.

No one could read the map, but we got the general idea.

This will all be available sometime after March 1. It’s so great that the county got a large grant to fix the buildings up nicely for all the citizens of the county. I couldn’t stay to go on a tour of the progress on the buildings (I’d been in them before, when the space was for sale), but I hope everyone else had fun. It’s good to see positive things happening in the community.

Next Activity

I had to run home and get ready to go to my second horse and rider training with Apache. I got my timing off and ended up slamming him in the trailer with no warning, but he eventually got settled down when we got there and we started working on things. I’m learning leadership skills up the wazoo and Apache is figuring things out really well. I even got great advice for walking appropriately and that turned into how I can control his urges to wander off and trot.

He enjoyed getting braided, but they didn’t hold up well. I’ll try something else next time.

I even managed to trot him in circles while remaining centered and in charge. A first for me! We also started figure 8 circles. All of it was very educational in subtle ways, though it looked like I was just going around and around to anyone watching me. This trainer is a very, very good teacher. But whoa, is noon a hot time to try to learn anything outdoors in August.

And Then…

I was taking today off, because I had these obviously non-work things to do, but I ended up working anyway, and was very good at projecting a positive attitude in one of those meetings where that kind of thing matters. I just pretended everyone was my friend and tried to be helpful. I even passed on the Mary Poppins tactic, if you can believe that.

Now that I’m feeling all empowered for the moment, I can go call my insurance company and ask them why the same medication I’ve been on for years that usually costs around $5 was over $90 today. Don’t get me started on health care in the US!

Random Goodness

Hey, isn’t it tine for a good day? I think it is. The main highlight is this here somewhat blurry dog.

Should I go hide?

As we noted a couple days ago, Penney refused to go down the stairs. We never have figured out what caused her whining and groveling behavior. Lee was having to get her started, and she was having accidents.

She was playful once downstairs.

Well, suddenly, late this afternoon, she thought about it, and came on down. What a relief.

Resting on her laurels

Other good stuff! I went on such a nice walk this afternoon, to celebrate having an actual fun day at work again, after a couple weeks of struggle. I got lots of observations for our Master Naturalist Summer BioBlitz. But it was such a pretty day.

The hill next to our property.

Sure, it was hot, but there were so many plants, bugs, and flowers! I didn’t think about anything but how varied life is in this little microclimate.

My favorite grass. Silver bluestem.

Plus! It rained a tiny bit. We are in a more normal weather pattern, so any rain is good. It was sprinkling while the horses were eating, and we looked down and saw this.

People keep saying I’m a horse, so I may as well eat hay.

That Goldie. You never know what to expect with her. She’s always getting all the other dogs to run and play. But she also gets tired. It all makes me smile.

I love a good dog bed.

What I Learned at Work Today

There was a speaker at work today, part of our women’s employee resource group. She was a very interesting woman named Lisa Eggerton, who has made a name of herself by being a leader in the software industry (she’s CMO of BigCommerce). Her talk was really just a chat with the two women with the most authority in the company, which is a wonderful thing right there.

Eggerton gave a lot of good advice, such as not over-volunteering and assuming positive intent, both things of which I am very fond. But one point she made was that when she wanted to make a change in her career path that wasn’t an obvious one, she had to let someone know about it. That made so much sense!

It occurs to me that I am doing a lot with diversity and inclusion at my Austin job, but I never went out and told any company leaders where my interests lie. So, thanks to the prompt in the talk today, I did mention it, aloud, to the two company leaders who led the discussion, and made an appointment to talk to another leader about it.

I’m apparently not the only one making hay while the sun shines

What can it hurt? Nothing happens all that quickly in the corporate world, so I have plenty of time to keep doing what I’m doing (currently making great content and ramping up new folks). Maybe I can get some additional volunteer DNI work, or maybe they’ll consider me if they develop a position like so many other companies have. At least I will have offered to contribute in whatever way I can.

Why do all this brave stuff? So my family can thrive along with me.

Still trying to have some fun, be brave, and do good work. That’s pretty much a recipe for a satisfying life. I think focusing on what I can do rather than what I’m unable to do is helpful, too.

It’s time to shine like a mottled tortoise beetle! Isn’t that thing cool?

Learning to Be an Ally of My BIPOC Friends

Today my head’s all full of learning, because I attended the Texas Master Naturalist program’s latest in the Be the Change series, which is a part of our diversity and inclusion initiative. The things I learned completely dovetailed with some of the things I’ve been observing and thinking about in my time in South Carolina, so I’m just processing away.

Where I am not.

I’m one of those “well-meaning white people” who want to help create a more diverse world and be good allies (or co-agitators, as someone said today). I know that some of our good intentions do not go over well, though, so I’m in the learning stage (which today I discovered to be a good thing).

The speaker I listened to today was Alex Bailey, of San Antonio, who founded the Black Outside organization.

Black Outside, Inc has one simple mission: Reconnect Black/ African-American youth to the outdoors through culturally relevant outdoor experiences

Black Outside website

Bailey did a great job of coming across as friendly and funny, even when he was making points that could make listeners uncomfortable. One of my favorite things he reminded us was that, although many of today’s black youth have little camping or wilderness experience, that was not always the case. As he pointed out, Harriet Tubman just didn’t pile all those people into an SUV and drive them to safety. He also reminded us that rural black folks have a rich history of fishing, hunting, and living off the land.

Digression

This is where things I’ve observed in South Carolina at this snazzy resort come in. I’d say at least 50% of the people here are black, or other BIPOC folks. It makes sense, because Myrtle Beach is a quick drive away from some of the most affluent and well educated black folks in the US, those in the Atlanta metro area. There have been lots of black and mixed families and couples lounging around and in the pool, as well as out on the beach swimming and relaxing. Nothing controversial about that, unless you’re someone my age.

A variety of beach-goers of different skin tones.

You see, when I was a kid, black people didn’t go swimming. My mother was of the opinion that black people couldn’t swim, which didn’t make sense to me. When I was in high school, though, the conversation in PE class turned to why we didn’t have a pool at our school. The black girls made their happiness at that very clear. At least a few of them also thought black people couldn’t swim. Eventually, enough people who could swim were remembered, so we all decided there must be some reason none of them had learned.

We were teens, so what did we know. But, our guesses were that telling kids they couldn’t swim was an easy way to keep them safe and out of the water. And besides, there weren’t any pools in the black neighborhoods. (That has, of course changed.)

Everybody looks the same from up here. Plus a nice kite.

So, I have to say I was pleased to see people of every skin color happily enjoying the water here. Which takes me back to the talk I attended today.

Learnings from Black Outside

While Bailey talked to us about the importance of observing, learning, and reflecting (see graphic below for his actual words) before trying to bring the outdoors to young people of color, he gave us a lot of insights, including some about swimming. He pointed out that well meaning event organizers often include water activities without letting the families of the black participants know they are coming up. Why is this a problem?

This great graphic comes from work by Barbara J Love, so I figure I can borrow it, too.*

Hair. That’s the problem. In my day, that may have been an issue, too, because swimming, afros, and Afro-Sheen didn’t go together well, That’s nothing compared to some of the elaborate hair styles young black people have today. You know, those braids could be ruined under water. And if you do an activity that requires a helmet (in or outside water), well, some styles won’t fit, period. Young people might miss out on fun, just because they hadn’t prepared a water-friendly hair style. (And yes, a lot of black women where I am today are NOT dunking their heads.)

That’s just one example where pausing to learn about cultural differences can lead to better experiences. And that’s one reason why Bailey suggested that, rather than volunteer to teach black kids directly, allies can provide materials or training to black mentors who can then work with the kids, who really benefit from seeing people who look like them in positions of authority about nature and the outdoors. That makes a lot of sense to me!

For sure, this was a very helpful step in my journey toward being a good BIPOC ally, and it reminded me how much I still have to learn. I’m quite glad for that!


*After looking at the graphic Bailey shared, I looked up more about Barbara J. Love and her work on liberatory consciousness. Her website is fascinating! Here is her definition:

Developing a Liberatory Consciousness

Liberatory consciousness is a framework used to maintain an awareness of the dynamics of oppression characterizing society without giving in to despair and hopelessness about that condition and enabling  us practice intentionality about changing systems of oppression.

Well, I know what I’m going to be reading up on soon!

What Did I Want to Do When I Grew Up?

Hello from the road to South Carolina. I love road trips. You can sure think a lot. You can also knit a lot. I’ve actually arrived at the end of the pattern I’m making, but because I’m using different yarn and needles, I’m going to repeat the lace pattern.

Best picture I could get in the car. You can get the idea.

I have plenty of yarn left. I enjoy knitting without disturbances. It lets me think of new techniques to try, modifications to make, and things I want to try next. I was wondering if I could crochet a border off live knitting stitches (not bound off). I think I’ve seen socks done that way, with crocheted cuffs.

I can’t wait to block it.

I could knit for my job, if I’d taken that choice when it came to me. I love the science of designing patterns, love teaching it (so much, oh so much), like to go to conferences, and all that. And I do technical writing, which helps a lot. I’d have to have figured out a niche and done a lot of marketing, like so many of my knitting friends did so well. Knitting blogs got a lot of folks started, and I loved doing that, too.

So much comfort.

That dream ended as abruptly as my work in La Leche League did. I didn’t have the self confidence and hadn’t healed enough to figure out a way to get through the hard part and start again, which I now can do. I no longer just disappear when I’m unfairly treated and no longer believe what other people say. Woo!

What Else Did I Want to Do?

But, who knows, I have a lot of years left! There’s another alternate route I could have taken, like the road less traveled. Yes, it’s exactly like two roads diverging in a woods, because I didn’t choose the one leading into a forest.

I do love those plants!

In college, I concentrated hard on classes leading to an interdisciplinary degree in linguistics. I loved studying all the different areas, and was strongly tempted by neurolinguistics. Brains fascinated me. (Still do; notice what I read about now.)

But, I had to get those darned prerequisites out of the way. I did most of them in the wonderful honors program, but I got burned by an awful teacher in Biology who gave exams that were ten essay questions where if you missed any part of the answer, the whole thing was wrong. That ended up ruining my boyfriend and his best friend’s GPAs. I was like, “You ain’t messing with my summa cum laude, asshole,” and got the only A in the class. I gave him one scathing evaluation.

Crimson clover to cleanse your palate from that guy.

That preamble was intended to explain why I took my second biology class as a normal class, with a grad student TA instead of a mean full professor. The class mostly covered genetics and biochemistry. I ate it up like ice cream. Figuring out chromosomes and proteins and all that was like figuring out puzzles. It was so fun.

I always wanted to know how plants worked. This is a beautiful invasive vetch in Georgia.

I stayed after and asked the teacher questions. This guy was studying bees for his doctoral research, so I asked a lot about insect genetics. All I now remember is that he always wore incredibly wrinkled shirts, apparently because his girlfriend didn’t have an iron. There was much good-natured kidding, and he rewarded us with wearing an ironed shirt to the final exam.

Like this wild azalea hiding in a prissy trimmed hedge, I was nature girl stuck in academia.

Because I answered all the extra credit questions right, I didn’t need to pass the final, but I did it for fun. Then came the fateful question. The TA took me aside and begged me to switch majors. Biology needed me! I said I’d think about it. With my love of trees and springs and swamps, I imagined becoming a wildlife biologist and working with a State agency.

But, by that time I was already accepted to grad school in linguistics with a full fellowship. I had to take that path. Plus I was following my boyfriend. Hint to young people: your vocational choice should be determined by your brain, not hormones. I’ve been stuck working with language a lot longer than I had my boyfriend (a great human, don’t get me wrong).

The Good Part

But, all was not lost. I came to the Hermits’ Rest and got to hang out with Sara, the genetics PhD. And I met Dorothy, who’s not only a blog/podcast sponsor, but also got me into the Texas Master Naturalist program! I now get to do biology every day if I want to, I get to study the natural world, and if I can’t BE a wildlife biologist, at least I get to hang out with them! And I do work with a State agency.

Like this fine plantain, I’m choosing to find beauty wherever I am and grow where I’m planted.

It took me a while, but I did get to be what I wanted to be when I grew up. It just took patience.

So, have you attained your goals? Does your vocation match your avocation?

Exploring with Friends, Safely

GO AHEAD, CLICK THAT PODCAST LINK!

Our Master Naturalist chapter is slowly and carefully starting to do some activities that fall under our guidelines for safety. We really wanted to do something for Earth Day, so a few members got all organized and set up some tables over at Bird and Bee Farm, where our Wildscape project is located. I headed over there, since I had some little pins to give out, and since I hadn’t seen most of them since last year.

By the way, check out my hair. It’s SILVER, from Overtone. No more 1-inch roots!

Our members had put together all sorts of stuff to give away for adults and kids, and by the time I left, they’d had nearly 80 visitors! Luckily, they were spread out over 4 hours, so we didn’t have any scary germy crowds. We were all very glad to see each other, which was a nice feeling.

Some of our members, very well spaced out.
All decked out with my Master Naturalist shirt, new wrap, and Earth Day tote from H-E-B.

I even got presents, including a festive wrap Catherine (from the comments on the blog) found while thrifting with her daughter, and a great book on roadside wildflowers by the woman in charge of the plantings in Texas.

As always, I enjoyed talking to people about Earth Day, but I enjoyed even more the fact that Catherine took me and Joyce C. on a little hike to look at the bird-watching station they are creating in the woods behind the chicken housing. It’s in a pretty, circular area surrounded by a variety of native trees, including one very large oak, under which I got a photo of me looking very tiny.

I got to do some plant and insect identification with my scientific buddy, Eric, which I’ve missed a lot, and we all discussed rainfall amounts from yesterday (we got close to a half inch).

And of course, there were chickens and guinea fowl. We even found some guinea eggs, and I got to take a few home, courtesy of the really nice young man who works there helping out. There were a few hens who really looked interesting, and I was pretty much awestruck by the coop the Weks built for their personal chickens. Photos were taken as examples for future projects at the Hermits’ Rest (distant future).

It was just plain great to go somewhere, see different scenery, and get to say hello to my friends. This is one case where I’m really glad we’re all so old, because everyone’s vaccinated! All we have to do is take the reasonable precautions. Whee!

Exploring the Wild Violet

Today was just the best day I’ve had in quite a while. As if finding the eggs wasn’t enough, I got to explore a new place, and wow, I found some mighty fine bits of nature!

Spoiler alert.

My friend Pamela had told me she’s seen fresh evidence of beavers on her property, which isn’t far from the Hermits’ Rest. I talked my way into an invitation to go check them out this afternoon after work. I put on cowboy boots and headed with her and Ruby the hound over to the spring-fed stream out at the edge of the hay fields.

It’s a pretty place.

The stream eventually goes to Big Elm Creek, but until it gets there it wanders around.

Near the start of the stream, which is on another property.

We set off to find beavers. There was definitely evidence of beaver activity, such as holes heading to the water and chewed saplings. But the first brush pile we looked at turned out to be a logjam, not animal work.

We enjoyed looking at plants and flowers until we got a little further down. You could see THIS was a beaver dam. It had lots of mud, sticks piled carefully, and entrance holes. We were happy! I took pictures of the holes, but to be honest, holes don’t photograph well.

All the water flows through one little area. How cool. Anyway we kept going, looking at dewberries and wild garlic and such.

Bugs, too!

We were enchanted by these very shiny, small primroses neither of us recognized. Maybe it’s an early buttercup? They are exquisite!

Then, as I trudged along the bank of the stream, I glimpsed purple. I squealed and said a curse word, but from happiness. I found violets! Wild violets!

Oh, my dear friends!

I’ve loved violets my whole life, and have missed them here. As we looked carefully, Pamela and I saw more and more. She was as delighted as I was, and we just had the best time spotting them.

Next, I got all excited to see cute little frogs and some minnows. Always good to see waterways alive with life!

Suddenly I saw a…thing. A big thing. Was it a fish, a salamander, or what? I yelled for Pamela to come see this huge thing.

Uh. It’s a…

Finally I figured out it was a dead frog, the biggest frog I ever saw in the wild (and I’ve seen those cane toads).

Not a great photo, but it was hard to get to.

Judging from its yellow throat, I’m guessing it’s a male bullfrog. It must have died of old age! I took a photo with Ruby in it to show the size. Ruby is a hound dog, not small at all.

Large.

After that, everything else was less dramatic, though we enjoyed the moss and other water-loving plants. We decided to name the little body of water Wild Violet Creek. Now it has a name!

Wild Violet Creek

I ended up going all the way to the back of Pamela’s property, where there’s a nice pool. Some short-horned cows came to see if I had any food.

Food, please.

I just ran around like a little kid taking in all the space, the hay fields, trees with woodpecker holes, and a very brisk wind. I didn’t mind. It was such a beautiful spring day!

Land spreading out so far and wide!

The water, woods, trees, and flowers washed away all the stress of the previous few days. Everyone needs access to something like this.

Peace, quiet, and beauty in the middle of Texas.

I hope you can find some springtime natural inspiration wherever you are. And maybe a giant frog or some violets.

Speaking of Pollinators – Let’s Help Bees

The situation in this area with regard to the effects of the bad weather incident is pretty dire. I don’t think I realized how bad it was until I read the documentation encouraging people to participate in a project to track the state of pollinators and pollen sources here. Dr. Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch, wrote:

The 11-day cold spell (10-20 February) in Texas was a disaster. Freezing temperatures covered the state and extended well into Northern Mexico. While many of the immediate effects of the freeze are clear, season long and multiple year effects may linger. The damage to the flora was extraordinary, and it is likely that nearly all above ground insects died over a wide area. Plants already in flower may have been so damaged as to not flower this year.

Nearly all above-ground insects died! Now, every time I see an insect, I’m thrilled, and must record it. Yesterday I spotted a young grasshopper and a jumping spider, and if I could have hugged them, I would have.

A few of my friends have been mentioning that the bees are everywhere right now, and they don’t have much to choose from for nectar sources. As I showed you yesterday, I mostly have henbit and dandelions for them, along with a very few white clover blossoms (I think I saw six blossoms between my house and the horses, which is a half mile in distance).

I’ve been seeing photos of home-made bee feeders, which seem to mostly be pans with some gravel in them, filled with honey water. My friend, Pamela, had a lot of success with using a cookie tray and a simple plate!

I wasn’t sure if I needed to do that, since dozens and dozens of bees have been sampling the chicken feed, which makes me worry about how much sugar must be in there!

But, I figured it couldn’t hurt. I already had a nice shallow dish over by the chickens, but I don’t have any gravel, so I found a few rocks that look like reasonable perches. I poured some honey water in there (same stuff I make for hummingbirds) and waited.

Yeah, well, we don’t like this.

I guess I haven’t waited long enough, because I have only seen a couple of bees check out the water, and there are still very many on the chicken feed. I think I’ll go out and put in some sticks and flowers and the things Pamela had. It’s an ongoing experiment.

Zero bees at water station. Many bees in and on the food.

As an aside, I have to laugh about my chicken yard. It now feeds not only chickens but many wild birds. I’m always startling doves and meadowlarks in there, plus many sparrows. That’s fine with me. They’re all my avian buddies!

I do hope all the feeding of the bees helps. We need them, the native bees and the honeybees.

Update!

When I went out to check the mail, I took a detour by the chickens to see how the bee feeder was doing. I was happy to see that they found it, and could tell I made the liquid too deep. So, I added some flowers and sticks they can hold onto. Immediately the bees started using them, and more arrived. My heart is full.