Bio Blitzing and Mental Gaps

Today’s big activity (and ONLY activity, thankfully) was to go to a local park and do our very first bioblitz in Milam County. That’s where you find as many plants and animals in a specific place at a specified time. I had a lot of fun, though there was a lot of cat herding involved and I didn’t do a very good job of trying to teach what I wanted to teach. If you want some photos and such, visit the blog article I wrote for the group.

The sun even shone a little bit.

I enjoyed hanging around with my old and new friends, and sure found a lot of plants that were hard to identify, but I guess that’s part of the fun. If you want to see what plants, animals, and birds we found, you can visit the little project we created for our bioblitz.

Nature’s bird bath.
Chickasaw plum is one of the first trees to bloom here.

After the blitzing, we came back to our office, where it was warmer, to talk about uploading our findings, then a few of us had a quick lunch. There I was a bit disturbed at myself. I could not remember things. The entire topic of the mind blindedness I wrote about just last week completely escaped my mind. I blanked out on the names of a couple of people I knew, too.

More and more often I find myself coming up with a big hole where I was certain a word, fact, or memory should be. I’m not declaring myself to have dementia or anything, but it sure is annoying. It’s hard to know when you’re just tired, and it’s normal, or when there’s something actually wrong.

So, if you know me, let me know if I’m drifting off.

Look. Insects doing it. I actually typed “insexts” at first. They are crane flies.

ANYWAY, I did get to take my friend Dorothy to see the Pope House, and there we found beautiful stairs! I was pretty excited and ran up them.

Stairs! Indoors! Safe! photo by Dorothy Mayer

The steps themselves are really pretty. Chris made them bull-nosed, so they have a lot of class. I can’t wait to see what next week brings. Until then, I am officially resting, reading, and maybe even knitting for a while. I hope I remember what I’m doing.

Those steps are gorgeous, and nice and deep, too.

Happy Salad, Happy Imbolc

The picture of health, for my age.

I’m a happy gal today. I went to the doctor for my checkup and was declared in “excellent health for a woman your age.” Thanks, I think. Some more lab tests got done and I have to get a mammogram tomorrow (making me wonder if she found something).

But, yay, I was so happy I got the happy salad for lunch!

It was happy, though I put on too much dressing.

I also couldn’t help but be cheered up by the weather today. In this part of Texas, February 1 is when you start to see the sweet-smelling flowers blooming. When I stepped out of the work building for my daily walk, I was hit by the smell of these little power-houses of smell.

Then, just around the corner I smelled grape Kool-Aid! The Texas mountain laurels have started to bloom!

While the knockout roses were pretty, they didn’t smell, but that’s okay, the sweet alyssum and phlox made up for it.

They remind me of me, perhaps a bit too colorful.

No wonder Imbolc (celebrated on February 1 in the Celtic festivals) is my favorite holiday. It symbolizes light arising from the darkness, and here that means flowers! I’ll give some to my Brighid statue today (it’s St. Bridget’s Day on February 1, too). (Note that Anita’s favorite holiday is Groundhog Day, so we have two days in a row to celebrate.)

Anyway, remember to take care of yourself, turn off the news, and look around you. There’s always something out that that will lift your spirits.

Does Volunteering Count as Recharge Time?

Yep. I’m sort of resting as I spending my usual first Saturday of the month at the thrift store. Gotta help those local dogs and cats! Resting with restless young teens is not all that restful, but we have been enjoying our friend Meghan’s twin teens try to fill their time as they help out. They are at that awkward age between child and hormonal teen, which is cute, but chatty.

Jean and the kids.

I did spend a bit of time pricing jewelry my sister donated to the MTOL table. We did sell some of it, so hooray for her! All donations help! And I get to be with friends.

Canova’s stuff is among this fine collection.

Luckily there are plants to enjoy, including this beautiful “mother of millions” in bloom. I never had one do that! Not bad for an invasive.

Looking up
Here you can see the leaves with little babies on them.

And I wandered out to the side of the highway and found things for iNaturalist. That’s double volunteering!

Verbena.

Just wait. I’ll have more renovation pictures up. Volunteer time is almost over.

The Earth Is Trying to Tell Me Something

When the big picture is overwhelming, which lately is most of the time, I often have a tendency to wallow, playing possible scenarios out in my head (entire US Senate revolts!), and other less-than-helpful activities.

I’m really glad that I am able to put myself into situations that will snap me right on out of it, thanks to arranging for my life to have regular POPS of nature here, there and everywhere. That lets Mother Earth politely poke me on the shoulder and say, “Hey, I’m still here, as are all my minions, and we want you to breathe and be one of us.

For example, this morning, I was stressing a bit about having to go get blood drawn, and in a rush. But, when I opened the garage door to leave, I was greeted by the sight of the front “yard” of the guy across the street. Now, this poor area is the least “kempt” of the tiny yards in the NorthCat Villas. Everything is quite overgrown, and I believe that much of the vegetation is volunteer.

Neighbor jungle.

Still, it is full of color and texture, and the sight of the yellow flowers and nandina berries truly made an impression that our planet is pretty darned clever. That reminded me that even my messy mind can make beautiful things, too.

Then, as I attempted to hurry my way to the clinic, I had to stop and admire the deer who were casually noshing in the fancy HOA plantings. They reminded me that they are clever and reslient, and so maybe I should take that as a goal for myself. Thanks, Nature.

Hey. It’s breakfast time.

And finally, when work had me more than a little annoyed about things beyond my control. I had just 25 minutes between meetings, so I went out and zoomed around the courtyard for a while. A coworker asked me to slow down and I said, “No.” As I zoomed, I heard the hawks a lot. Then a sweet sound crept into my consciousness. Where was it?

Back to singing.

The next time I came around I saw a very chilly mockingbird just “talking” to herself. There was all sorts of chirping, chortling, and the occasional longer stretch of song. After a few laps, I stopped and thanked her. She looked at me, fluffed her feathers and got back to singing.

I’ve decided this was the Earth’s way of telling me to not let all those negative Nellies and distractions interfere with my personal song. I just wish that same Billy Joel song would STOP playing in my head.

Off to hours and hours of meetings!

Little Yellow Puffs of Cheer

Thanks, Folks

Here’s what I have for my supportive friends, readers, and even critics: Love.

I got great comfort from all the people who came up to me in person or wrote on Facebook to say “Wow” about my post from yesterday. I’m really grateful to the original author of the explanation of political liberalism in the US, Lori Gallagher Witt, who wrote it a couple of years ago. It just struck a nerve in me yesterday. I just want to be clear that the part at the bottom of my post was not written by me. And no, it was not written to convey any implication that if you have different beliefs from mine, you are a bad person. If it made you feel that way, examine your belief system.

Welcome Rain

You can’t keep a happy person down, though, and yesterday brought me many reminders that all is not gloom and doom. The best thing was that we finally got a GOOD rain, after many days of fog, drizzle, and damp. I can’t wait to see how the tanks/ponds at the ranch are looking.

Our bird tree now is full of Valentine hearts, which brightened up the rainy day!

Yellow Puffs

And during a long day at work, filled with meetings, brainstorming, and thinking, I looked out the window. I had to mute my microphone and tell Craig, sitting next to me, to look out. There, in the bare cedar elm trees, was a flock of goldfinches. It’s not a huge surprise, given that this is the time of year we see them in Cameron, and I happen to know the area where I work is right on a migration path. But still.

Thanks, Jason, for the happy, if wet, birds!

Those yellow males and their flitting green-gray female companions literally brought puffs of sunshine to a rainy, rainy day. We watched them jumping around and fluffing their feathers for a long time (though I did go back to concentrating on my call). I looked a lot in iNaturalist for what exactly these could be, and I think it’s lesser goldfinches, due to the amount of black on the males. I’ll upload a photo and see.

Jen wondered if they could be yellow-bellied siskins, but they live mostly in South America. Goldfinches are siskins, also.

I’m sharing my coworker Jason’s photos, since his came out better than mine. That courtyard is just a whirlwind of bird action!

Ending on a Good Note

Last night we were the hosts of the neighborhood book club, in which we discussed Ragtime. It was great to see the neighbors who weren’t sick or out of town (about half of them). We’re all different, of course, but so supportive of each other’s ups and downs.

Vlassic had been cuddling with Ruth, but when the camera showed up, he had to show us his little tooth.

In addition to the book, we talked about how being “old” just creeps up on us, then suddenly doctors are taking your age into account before procedures, you’re needing to get things replaced or lifted. Everyone was in agreement that they weren’t old in their heads!

To me, community is what will hold me together during the hard times we’re experiencing. That’s probably what held our ancestors together for tens of thousands of years, too. Our neighborhood never wants anyone to move, even though we know some of us must. It feels good to feel a part of something warm and loving.

Bright Beginnings

And get this! Today dawned bright and beautiful. It was as nice to see the sun this morning as it was to welcome the rain yesterday. It’s all got its place. As I left to take Vlassic on his morning walk, I was enthralled by shining droplets of water on the “cedar” trees by the deck.

Beauty in the dreaded ashe juniper!

I hope you enjoy my pictures. Of course, by the time I got out the phone to take them, the sun had moved. But, it was still a shiny greeting for the day.

The view from the Bobcat Lair deck is always nice.

Go thank a member of YOUR community for keeping you sane!

What's in Bandera, Texas? Many Armadillos and African Game Animals

Lee and I are spending Christmas week holed up in a log-cabin condo outside of Bandera, Texas. Why? It was the only place I could use my travel points on that was within driving distance of Austin. Also, it’s the Cowboy Capital of the World, you know. And it’s in the Texas Hill Country, a thing Lee and I agree on the niceness of (miracle!).

I’ll get all angsty and tell you why we aren’t doing holidays at home again this year tomorrow, maybe.

While I have yet to see any actual cowpersons in Bandera so far (we haven’t checked out the stores yet), we did see quite a few on the trip down from Cameron. We also saw plenty of livestock up close while waiting for traffic to clear up.

Today we drove through the scenic route to Kerrville through Medina, and then came back to Bandera another way. On this drive we saw many hills and large, fancy ranches. On these large and fancy ranches I saw exactly one native American animal, a bison.

I’m amazed to be on the river!

The European imports (goats, horses, and cattle) were far outnumbered by animals brought in from African stock. I saw a healthy-looking zebra, many blackbuck, some gnu, and all sorts of antelope and things that end in -bok. Oh and wildebeast.

In fact, we were driving past one particularly dense population of cute li’l antelope, when I realized a whole bunch of them were OUTSIDE the fence, just grazing away and watching cars go by. I guess I’ve now seen first hand what the book on invasive animals in Texas was talking about. I’m sure those creatures will do just fine in Texas, but I wonder what native animal’s niche they will encroach on?

Continue reading “What's in Bandera, Texas? Many Armadillos and African Game Animals”

Oh, Christmas Branch?

Here’s something fun and positive! Last week, the building where I work put up their lobby decorations. They are really nice and subtle this year, with logs and sticks as prominent elements. One decoration caught my eye:

These sturdy twigs with a few glass ornaments on them are lovely and simple.
No matter how hard we tried, we could NOT get the giant stocking left over from many years ago to attach to the backhoe.

They brought back memories of my mother’s favorite decoration back when we lived in south Florida, where people placed a small dead tree painted white in front of their picture window. From it, they hung lovely satin balls on ribbon, with a spotlight on the whole thing. It was so pretty.

When I got home to the Hermits’ Rest, I focused on outdoor things. Kathleen and I re-used many decorations yesterday to brighten up the ranch. As we did that, I assessed our tree situation. The bare-branched “nature tree” we keep up all year around finally quit lighting up, so it really can’t be a Christmas tree this year. It lasted many years, since we first started building the house, so I can’t be too upset with it.

The nature tree, back in its prime.
Continue reading “Oh, Christmas Branch?”