To Travel or Not to Travel

I’ve been thinking about traveling lately. Getting out and seeing different parts of the world is really good for my soul. It reminds me, at the same time, of how much similarity there is in all these places, as well as how different places can be. For example, on my field trip last weekend, I saw many of the same kinds of trees I do here (post oaks, live oaks, cedar elms, eastern red cedar), but I also saw many kinds of plants that were very different, like the rattleboxes (repeated from yesterday, but they are so cool!

These make all sorts of sound when it’s windy out by Edwards Lake!

Now that we are mostly working from home, it seems to me that I could travel and work at the same time. As long as I have the laptop and Wi-Fi, I’m set! Zoom is only a click away!

So, I have booked some travel that’s not vacation, just living in a different place. I’ll just have to be really careful getting where I’m going, but that’s not impossible. Once I’m there, I can get all cozy in my rental accommodations, look out the windows at different scenery, and pretend I’m someone else, in a less awful time. At least I’ll be somewhere else!

London, January 26, 2020. People wearing a face masks to protecting themself because of epidemic in China. Selective Focus. Concept of coronavirus quarantine. MERS-Cov, middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, Novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV.

I don’t want to get sick, which means, boo hoo, my shopping habit won’t be indulged in. But I can certainly take walks on paths and trails that are not crowded, enjoy parks, and order fun food delivered to my room, right? I’m hoping that this “middle way” of not acting foolish, but not sacrificing the few years of being able to travel that I have left, will get me through the rest of this year and next year.

So many people I know think the risk of getting COVID isn’t real. They aren’t taking precautions, and that’s their right, I guess.

Knowing people who’ve had it, I can’t say that nothing will happen to travelers. But I also think the reasonable solution to the problem is avoiding crowds and keeping clean. That, I can do. And I won’t go anywhere that doesn’t have a lot of safety measures in place. (I’ll tell you where I’m going when I get there!)

I’m not going here, though I’d like to. Image by @omom via Twenty20.

Feedback? Am I being foolish? Do you have any fun ideas for out-of-town activities one can do?

Nature is Tough. A Good Lesson

On my last morning in Wimberley, I decided to see if I’d missed anything on the property. Sure enough, after saying hi to the cows, I found a nice tent camping spot.

There’s something for everyone here, as long as you like rustic.

I found a few more plants for iNaturalist, and took this photo to show those of you not from the middle of Texas what our limestone rocks look like. they have lots of water holes and sometimes fossils.

Limestone and cedar elm leaf.

Most of the trees here are live oaks or cedar elms, just like at home. The difference is there are more live oaks here and more cedar elms at home.

Very old oak.

As I was trying to find more plants I discovered where there’s a waterfall and pool when it’s rainy. There were chairs to sit and relax, so I did.

As I looked around, I saw many flowers and plants growing straight out of the rock, many in the creek bed. They must pop up fast! Their tenacity and drive to grow, thrive and reproduce inspired me!

It’s just plain encouraging to see the native plants in their homes. No one planted them, but as they say, they bloom where they’re planted.

How delicate. Its a hairy ruellia, the only one of those I saw.

Finishing my walk, I saw more and more signs that autumn is here, even way down south in the US. I’ll leave you with these vines.

Virginia creeper, creeping away.

I Avoided Falling into Jacob’s Well

We were planning to explore Wimberley this afternoon, but we quickly realized it was Market Day. It looked really fun, with hundreds of vendors. However, there were also many hundreds of attendees. As wild as we were being by going out of town, we were NOT going to hang out with huge crowds!

So we kept going and instead had a nice drive, punctuated by a stop at Buc-Ees.

I didn’t touch that dirty beaver.

After that we drove around the Canyon Lake area, where I’d never been. We ate at a nice Italian restaurant, then drive around a while more. It was so relaxing looking at all the scenery.

When we got back to where we are staying we decided to go visit a rum distillery. It would have been more fun if they were allowed to serve drinks, but I did get a bottle of craft rum.

The distillery was right near Jacob’s Well, which is a 140-foot deep artesian well on a river.

Jacob’s Well.

These are fairly common around here, with all the limestone aquifers. Of course, there are caves down there. Lots of people get lost in there. Thankfully, swimming season ended October 1. While it was slippery getting down to the well, I managed not to fall in.

Looking down the river.

There were beautiful gardens nearby and a nice playground.

Visitor center (closed)

I was happy to see a sign thanking Master Naturalists for their help. I also enjoy talking to a couple of young park volunteers. So fun.

Nice sign!

I amused the family by taking even more photos of plants. But they said it was nice to see me so happy.

Visiting a natural wonder was just what I wanted. It brought much more joy than buying a bunch of stuff would.

Looking the other way down the river.

We had a nice day!

Exploring an Old Ranch

This morning I woke up after a great sleep, and went in another direction at the Red Corral Ranch (its old name). We’d seen some interesting sort of ruined things behind our house, so I set out in the cool air to check it out. It’s sure pretty in the Texas Hill Country!

This broom flower in the foreground attracts so many bees it sounds like a symphony. In back are live oaks and cedar elm.

First I found the barbecue area. It looks like they fixed it up recently.

This area must have been beautiful once! Obviously someone went to a lot of work here at one point. Right near the barbecue was what looked like a foundation or something.

See, it’s pretty.

I went up to the other edge and looked in. It was an old swimming pool! A very old one. Now it holds trash, sumac and liatris.

Can you see the blue paint?

Crazy, huh? I really enjoy the terrain here. It’s a lot of karst. That means the topsoil barely covers the underlying limestone. It’s fun to look at all the rocks.

This is a wash, so all the limestone is exposed.

There are lots of fossils and quartz geodes in the stone. Check out what they did in the fireplace!

So, I guess I’m having fun! Hooray! More on plants soon.

Peace.

We Fled to Hays County

Hello from somewhere near Wimberley, Texas. Since we had canceled our Hearts, Homes and Hands Board retreat to Colorado on account of COVID, we decided to at least go SOMEWHERE for a weekend.

The Rock House

Kathleen found a little house at a retreat center with lots of land and trails to explore but close enough to also enjoy a visit to the town. As soon as we arrived I took off and explored. I’ll share that tomorrow.

The screened porch is Lee’s favorite.

We are all enjoying the cool building we’re staying in. Its heart is an old rock cabin, charming as heck. This place seems to have once been really fancy, but I like it as it is, a little worn around the edges.

Everywhere you turn is something interesting, like this hidden woodland event area, suitable for weddings or pagan rituals.

There’s lighting all over the paths and follies here.

And there’s a sunset tower! After a nice hike to find it, I sat up there and enjoyed being all alone with the scenery. I could only see one house. Nice.

There’s a meditation area in what appears to be an old cellar. A lot of creative re-use goes on here.

Like a little grotto!

We enjoyed a fire and watched fireflies in the quaint picnic hut.

Whee! Fire fun. Also it chased mosquitos.

And! There are cows, really pretty cows. Already I feel better, just looking at different scenery. And we sure are socially distant!

I’m asleep, so more tomorrow!

Baby’s First Hay

Rip the bull calf has had a lot of adventures in his short bovine career. He was born! Something happened! He rumbled around! He was in a scary place with many frightened animals! He rode in another rumbly thing! A human fed him milk! He was in a grassy place. He slept. Many humans and dogs appeared. He ate and slept.

Sleep and eat.

Then, one day the human who fed him and the large human picked him up (he’s a small calf still) and put him in another rumbly thing, only one that smelled better and wasn’t so rumbly. They called the SUV.

Rumble rumble.

They rumbled along for a while. When Rip had to poop, they stopped and took the poop away. Weird. After some time, they let him out, and he was in a new place! It had other cows and calves. And different friendly humans, one who appeared to be ready to calve soon, herself.

She has a calf in there! See!

Rip liked the place. He still got his milk, but also had a herd to hang with, when they’d let him. There was some tasty grass, too.

A few days later, though, they put him back in the fancy rumbly thing. He had to poop in the same place, and also peed. The female human said she sure was glad they put a tarp in the back seat. So, that’s what the strange slippery brown dirt he was standing on was called.

Next time the rumbling stopped, he was back at the first place with all the dogs. He liked to try to play with the little white one, but the male human didn’t like it.

I’ve put on a little weight!

The other female made him feel better by giving him a delicious kind of feed she called a peppermint horse treat. That was fun to chew.

More horse treats, please! (He won’t get any!)

There was a rectangular prickly thing in the wheelbarrow next to Rip’s pen. It smelled really good. The big male human broke some of it off and tried to get Rip to nibble on it. Nope.

No, thanks. Sniff, sniff.

Then he set some of it on the ground. Rip changed his mind about it, after a lot of sniffing. He put a bit of it in his mouth and chewed. Not bad!

Mmmm.

The humans called it hay, and they kept telling him it was just like grass, just dry. Rip, having so far only lived in the height of summer drought, thought all grass was pretty dry.

Hay is good.

It was time for a nap. His plan is to eat and nap enough to get big and strong, so no human can pick him up and rumble him off again.

Shh, don’t tell him about trailers, and how he’s being trained to walk on a lead for easy loading. Dream on, Rip.

Teeny Tiny Road Trip

Today Kathleen declared it was a ladies’ day. So we did some shopping with safety in mind. We spent a lot of time at Walker’s Honey Farm. I got some honey spreads for bagels and some of their wine. Kathleen got similar things and some mead/beer/wine stuff, too. One is strawberry basil and one is coconut and something. They are refreshing.

The winery and honey place is really nice this time of year. We had frozen mead and sat under a beautiful pergola looking out over wildflowers and vineyards.

Much of our time was spent in the bird-lovers heaven of watching purple martins going in and out of their high-tech nests. What a pleasure!

I enjoyed watching lizards and spiders, and even managed to find a couple more invasive species for my bioblitzing. (I am doing pretty well at it; report coming tomorrow.) If you are in this area, it’s a great place to visit now. They all wear masks and clean a lot. They only serve drinks and snacks outside, so it’s great and socially distant.

We next went to Vis-a-Vis in Rogers. The staff were great but it was a bit crowded to me, so I kept the mask on and sanitized a lot. We got some great stuff for our projects, like an old toothbrush holder Kathleen loves and a box of iron “stuff” that may go into my new desk.

I also got three cute teapots for a collection I have: cauliflower, eggplant, and garlic. I left the garlic one at the office, so no photo. Anyway, I was amazed the ladies there recognized me with blue hair and a mask, but they did.

We dropped by the Bling Box to pick up something of Kathleen’s. Yay, no other customers! They also got in a shipment of masks, so I got one that goes with my hair. Charming, right?

Blue in it for the hair, orange for my glasses. Hmm. I’m an homage to my alma maters. Go Gators. Fight Illini.

Tomorrow Kathleen works, so I’m gonna clean things at the Pope Residence. That should be fun!

What Passes for Excitement

Today I went somewhere! I saw people! I did a good deed. And I stayed safe, especially considering the true dearth of infected people in this county.

Last week, a woman contacted me about a lot of things that one of the founders of our Master Naturalist chapter had been storing when she died. This woman, KB, as I’ll call her, was one of those people who are the backbone of an organization.

These folks have beautiful roses.

KB kept all the materials at her house, planned numerous events, workshops, and activities for the group, and apparently was a ton of fun, to top it all off. She was a prolific writer and note-taker, plus took lots of pictures. She had an entire room full of materials. After she passed away, the chapter wasn’t able to get the majority of her things, and I heard many expressions of regret.

Native trees.

Obviously, we were all excited when the woman who’s with KB’s husband gave us some of her old shirts. Then she wanted to let us look through more stuff that they’d made easier to go through. I didn’t feel qualified to do this, since I showed up in the sad, post-KB year.

They called this green roses.

I gave her a couple of names, and she got in touch with Phyllis, our previous chapter president. Our board agreed we should go over, and I offered to go along, since there was supposedly lots of stuff.

Catalpa blossoms

Neither Phyllis nor I had gone anywhere other than to get food since March, so we both really enjoyed the drive over to the property. It was full of native trees and plants, and Phyllis said she was glad they’d mowed. It may have been too natural for most people during KB’s time.

Posters, signs, etc.

I know it was hard on Phyllis to go through all the many notebooks, notes, and other materials. I found the easy things like posters and signs, and was thrilled that the legendary mussel collection was intact. We did keep some collections and drawings to show our newer members. They were meticulous and awesome. This woman was a true citizen scientist.

Flower/plant presses

It turned out that KB’s former husband and his current partner were very gracious hosts, so we got to tour their gardens and workshops. I was in awe. Nothing was fancy, but it was so interesting! Both of them are really creative. I even loved the chicken coop.

Squash, potatoes and onions.

Then we toured the house, made much less fun by wearing masks. You know, you read about “farmhouse chic” a lot. Well, this is an actual chic farmhouse. Everywhere I turned there was an idea I wanted to try. Each room was more charming than the previous one. It was a comfortable home just full of old things being used as they always had, along with creatively repurposed stuff.

This is cool. I want one.

That was fun. I really enjoyed meeting new people and chatting. I probably won’t do it again for a while, but that was nice.

This is made from the light part of an old fan.

What stuff have you been doing that’s more fun than it should be? Have you taken a drive?

Rolling with the Changes

Change. I guess most of us are dealing as best as we can with all the changes to our daily routines. Nobody doing the UU Lent challenge will have any trouble with this as a prompt.

My friend Sara posted this message. A good one.

I’ve been trying to put things into perspective. There are always changes and challenges, big and small. My generation is lucky to not have been hit by something that requires sacrifice in a long time. But we managed 911 and the threat of atomic bombs and so on. If we stick together, we’ll handle the virus crisis.

Instagram of today.

I’m very glad for the perspective on change that my I’ll-timed trip has given me. It’s let me see that even from one week to the next, our planet changes. On the way out, the trees were bare and only white trees and red maples were blooming.

Still some beautiful white trees are in bloom.

Now, it’s a riot of colors. There is yellow jessamine throughout the trees, oaks and elms are going crazy, and the beautiful red bud trees say hello through the diverse woodlands we are driving through. Every week the show changes, and soon enough autumn colors will arrive.

More red buds.

I think this is why it’s so good to go out in nature, especially now. You can see the big picture and remember you and your problems aren’t the center of the Universe.

Not a bad view. We’re rolling along in the Mobile Social Isolation Unit!

I haven’t had too much to write about for a while, but I know there will be lots of changes to come once we get home. I can’t wait to see the progress on our offices, assuming that’s still going on. And then I hope to share more about our next project. Life will go on, even though I’ll be confined to home and the office.

This fills my heart with peace.

Roll with those changes, friends.

Part of the Resistance

Today we have resistance as our UU Lent word. Once again the Sunday word is ripe for sermonizing. I’d rather not preach. If you know me, you’ll know I’m part of the resistance against fascism and oligarchy and such.

Deep Instagram thoughts

As I try to get back to Texas in my Mobile Social Distancing Unit (Lee’s Car), I keep thinkingw oabout how some of us have more resistance to disease than others. That’s one reason for keeping our hygiene up, to protect the vulnerable.

Not planning to die. Just sharing that Donita’s neighborhood once was a graveyard. Many homes have headstones.

Most of my upcoming activities are cancelled, and I’m supposed to work from home for the next couple of weeks. I’m glad we got to visit Flo last week, because they place she lives no longer allows guests, even family. We are wondering if the State will require Hearts Homes and Hands to only provide vital services. I guess there’s a fine line between helping and potentially harming.

Take a breath and enjoy a night view in Swansboro. Resistance is futile. You WILL relax.

I have no conspiracy theories to share, other than to be reasonably cautious. I wish I hadn’t had this week chosen to travel, but we were careful.

I was so proud I got a shot while the blinking light was on. See. I can have fun with no people around.

What we could not avoid on this part of the trip was tree pollen. Oh my. Pines, elms, oaks and more have flowers or candles, in the pines’ case, in the Carolinas right now. Donita’s car turned yellow on our drive yesterday, and I know Libba and I sucked up a lot on our long walk last night, since my sinuses were running like a babbling brook last night. Lee says his eyes are crunchy. Poor guy.

Just a little truck stop pollen.

Now to keep my germ resistance up. Y’all do the same. Let me know how it’s going!

Since fresh air is good for removing germs, eat outdoors! Does alcohol disinfect your innards? Um. No.