Riparian Knowledge Overload!

Here we are in Bandera looking at a slide show.

Now that I’ve slept, maybe I can share some of the depth and variety of the things I learned at the Bandera County Watersheds Riparian Training I attended on Wednesday, March 6. The event was held in Bandera (one of the most attractive small towns I ever saw and VERY consistent in its cowboy theme), and the weather improved enough that the outdoo parts were not unbearable. There were at least 30 participants, ranging from fellow Master Naturalists to water management professionals to interested landowners.

This young man was full of information. I’d love to hear him again.

Much of the day was spent indoors, however, as a team of water management experts from many different agencies shared their knowledge of managing the areas alongside rivers, creeks, and streams. These are called riparian areas, and they are a very important part of water management, but one that has been misunderstood a lot in the past.

Our scenic location.

Sadly, the beautifully manicured lawns and parkscapes we often see, where people walk up and down to admire the view, are not actually what our waterways need. The need a riparian buffer of plants that love water or theive near it and trees that are of various ages, so that when they die or fall into the water, there are future trees to replace them.

This root system washed up in the last floor. Look at the rocks embedded in there!
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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!

It’s Time to Thrive

A couple of days ago, I was talking to my younger son and his partner about how our family has been able to overcome a lot of challenges lately and seems to be pulling out of our ruts, doing what needs to be done, and beginning to thrive. We spent a few moments marveling at our resilience.

This grocery store orchid loves its spot so much that it immediately re-bloomed after its first blossoms finished.

It feels strange, but good, to be dealing with what comes at us, moving forward, and using the lessons learned to do better. As for me, I have stepped up to a couple of work challenges that I’d never have been able to do if I hadn’t stumbled, fallen, and gotten away from situations where I didn’t feel supported or able to grow.

I was afraid this begonia, which I got last year from the florist, was not happy. But, it just took a while to adjust to its new surroundings outside the hothouse. And now it’s thriving, too.

Encouragement comes from odd places, and for me, I get a lot of it just looking around at the natural world. In my Austin house, I am always surprised to see how many of the plants that were placed in our artificial setting with no warning have adapted and thrived. They are my role models!

Look at those little yellow things! The formerly little, now larger and thriving, palm is blooming!

I was especially happy to see the little palm tree bloom. I have had that plant…oh, since I worked in my nonprofit job. It always struggled along in my previous house, probably not getting enough light. It’s gotten happier and happier since I’ve had sunnier spots for it. I may even have to replant it! The lesson I learn from the little palm is that you can survive lots of things, but to thrive you need a supportive environment, people who care for you (and fertilize you, literally or metaphorically), and a little sunshine.

Wah, I can’t even see to the road!

And another thing

Mother Nature nudged me again this morning, too. When I woke up, I couldn’t see a thing outside. I was a little disappointed to not see a pretty sunrise, but yet another day starting out with dense fog.

It may be winter, and the plants may be brown, but the spiders are thriving and doing their jobs. Thank goodness the fog let me be reminded of this!

Then, when I was heading off the ranch to go to work, I glanced to my left and saw a shimmering display of dewdrops on a beautiful spiderweb. Silly me. It’s a beautiful morning; I just have to have the presence of mind to SEE the beauty.

This slightly heart-shaped rock came from my driveway. Now it sits on my desk and reminds me to stay grounded, which will help me thrive!

Now I can thrive. I hope you can find the things and people around you that will lead you to be able to thrive where you are. That’s why I keep certain objects around. Small reminders to breathe and stay grounded are a good start. Get yourself a rock! Thrive!

Rio Guadalupe Love

Today was our day to get out of town, so we decided to head down the most scenic highway we could think of, the road from Fredericksburg through Kerrville and on to Hunt, Texas. You may recall that I took this same drive when I attended the Bennett Trust Women’s Conference.

This time, Lee, Anita and I took things slowly, stopping for lunch outside of Kerrville at an excellent local Mexican restaurant, which happened to be on the banks of a dam by a creek leading to the Guadalupe River. It was our first glimpse of this winding waterway and its many tributaries, which many claim is the most beautiful river in Texas.

As we drove down the road, we enjoyed many crossings, then dropped by to visit some friends of ours, the Hudsons, who build and sell amazing hand-made lawn furniture. Lee has known Jack since high school. We got some great pictures and caught up. We should visit more often, that’s for sure.

Then we went back on a long road with many Guadalupe River crossings. I hope you like my photos through the car window!

The highway also wound through some of the most beautiful Hill Country ranch property there is. One reason it looks so great is that the ranchers have made a huge effort to remove most of the ashe juniper (cedar) trees, so the land looks more like it used to look.

I think one reason I find the Guadalupe so fascinating is that it goes through such semi-arid territory. And the banks are so white, thanks to all the limestone.

The terrain strongly resembles African savannahs, especially since we saw, for the most part, mainly African animals behind all the very high fences. This is the heart of the exotic ranching area, and it’s quite obvious. We didn’t see a cow other than one herd of longhorns, until we were almost back to Kerrville. There was one flock of goats, but otherwise, gazelles, antelope, pronghorns, and other animals I have forgotten since I visited the exotic animal organization headquarters filled the pastures (well, mostly it was empty, because of good range management).

The animals didn’t hold still, so no photos, but hey, you know what they look like: funny looking deer.

Tomorrow we hope to go somewhere and hike with at least one of my kids. More then!

The Love of Karst

Expect scenery posts for the next few days! Sadly, I don’t have any great scenery from yesterday, because I was driving, and I’m not one of those folks who uses their phone and drives, especially on hilly two-lane roads. Forgive my stand-in photos.

Yes, Anita and I spent three wonderful hours (minus 15 minutes on Interstate 35) traveling the back roads between Cameron and Fredericksburg. It was glorious. The first part of the trip, heading to Florence, was all new to me. There are some lovely fancy ranches on the road we took.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When we got to more familiar territory for me, I got to show Anita all my favorite small towns, like Bertram, Burnet, and Buchanan Dam. This is the heart of the Texas Hill Country/Highland Lakes area where Lee and I looked and looked for just the right property to retire to before calling Sara and deciding to buy the Hermits’ Rest, instead.

There are beautiful hills, long vistas, the lakes along the Colorado River, and the BEST thing: the karst! All around Inks Lake and Marble Falls is the beautiful red granite (the same stuff that makes up Enchanted Rock). Much of it is right on the surface, creating breath-taking views.

This is our second year using the pop-up tree in a vacation rental. This also makes me happy.

I have to admit that when we crested a hill and I saw the lakes and the rocks, I got all emotional and started to cry. I really, really love this part of Texas. My heart filled with joy and I had to slow down to look at it all.

This area has the Canyon of the Eagles where you can take a boat tour that I have never been on, plus Longhorn Cavern, and so much more. Go there, if you ever get the chance.

Tried to get a free photo of a sunset as good as the one last night. Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

As we headed towards Fredericksburg, the sun was going down. Oh wow, there were shades of orange I’d never seen in a sunset, sort of melon orange. And as it got more and more purple, even the dead grass on the sid of the road reflected it, and the earth was awash in pink and purple. You can use your imagination, but it won’t do the real thing justice. It will live in my mind!

For the first day of a vacation, this was about as good as it gets. We got to our rental house, which is incredibly thematic. If there’s a Santa Fe kind of item, it’s here. We are really enjoying the rugs and pottery, and I’ll share more about it later.

We decorated for Christmas, and are ready for fun!

Let the Fossils Shine

It’s Thanksgiving Day in the US. There is so much to be thankful for out here in the middle of Texas, where all you hear is the cry of the hawk and the blam blam of someone trying to bag a deer (hope they missed).

The round ones are cross sections, the long ones are lengthwise views of the fossils.

I don’t think I’ve ever shown you one of the things I am most thankful for, and that’s our beautiful limestone that clads the ranch house.

The limestone is full of fossils of a sea creature from long ago, when the area around Cedar Park, Texas was an ocean. (Cedar Park and Round Rock both have very large limestone quarries.)

This is one of the more narrow blocks of limestone.

When we were selecting the stone for the house at  Espinosa Stone, the man at the quarry showed us this pile that looked very different. He said it came from the Rattlesnake layer. Why was it called that? Because the sideways fossils do look very much like the rattle on a rattlesnake. Well, what could be more perfect for out here than that?

Each block is a different height, because they quarry it as thick as that layer is. That made for a lot of fun for the amazingly skilled craftsman who spent a couple of weeks making the outside of the Hermits’ Rest ranch house so beautiful.

It’s just amazing to know this is under the dirt in Cedar Park!

Every time we sit on the porch and drink coffee, I enjoy the sun shining on the little fossils, all of whom are now quartz bits shining in the limestone base. Yep. Lots to be thankful for here.

I hope where you live there are pieces of natural beauty to astound you and inspire gratitude for the world we live in.