They always used to say “sunny Florida,” even though it rained most days. It rained just a little yesterday as we finished driving through Mississippi, zipped through Alabama without buying anything, and then spent a very long time on I-10 looking at trees.
We’d had a nice night in a cheery hotel in Pascagoula, MS the previous night. We knew we were no longer in Austin, because everyone commented on all of our hair.
Further down the road, we got ourselves this little gator, Swampy the Interstator Gator, at an extra-racist Stuckeys we stopped at to get the candy bars of our youth (Chunky Bars and Slo-Poke!). He’s our travel companion.
Today we were in San Marcos, which is south of Austin. Why? Lee and Kathleen are starting a new business, which I’ll go into another time, so we went to a continuing education on how home health care providers can screw up when they are being inspected.
We were in a building so dull I forgot to take a picture. But the class was interesting once I translated some acronyms. Goes to show you all kinds of businesses are fun to study. This one has a LOT of regulations, but that’s good, because it keeps people safe.
It seems to be a woman-dominated business. Lee was the only man. We were the only white folks, too. We learned a lot from the more experienced people, and had some fun conversations in breaks (lots about our fingernails). Kathleen has experience, too, so we will have lots of mentors.
Our brains are very, very full.
The funny part
When we were done, Lee and I went outside and saw Kathleen standing by my car. Only, it wasn’t my car. It’s not often that two cars of this model are parked near each other my British Racing Green car looked black in the gloom of the day. Easy mistake!
The previous night, we stayed at a nice hotel and ate at the elegant Olive Garden of San Marcos. The food was good, and Kathleen and I enjoyed judging the light fixtures, which I wrote about on the Hermit Haus blog.
We also made a point to get wine to match my new devotion to pink. Perhaps the hotel happy hour wine we had earlier made this seem like such a good idea.
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.
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.
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.
I’ll write about my day at the riparian ecosystem workshop I attended when I’m not so tired. But i can tell you why I’m tired.
Traffic jams. Why does anyone live in Austin if they have a commute?
My drive home from Bandera was a lot of fun, or at least two thirds of it was. In addition to enough antelope, gazelles, and other “boingy-boingies” (as I call them) to fill an African safari, I also saw more than one ranch full of little ponies and many show goats. Plus the redbuds were everywhere.
Then, boom. I hit Austin. All my relaxation vanished. I did NOT take pictures. Because I was driving. I got home with a pounding head, and I could barely talk to Anita. All I wanted for was to finish my loaf of homemade sourdough bread from my coworker.
I chose to drive to Boerne, Texas today on the back roads. That rarely disappoints me! The hills and valleys to the west of Austin and San Antonio provide new surprises every time you take a corner or reach the top of a hill.
I passed many beautiful ranches, and saw many longhorns and exotic game. I even saw four axis deer NOT in a fenced area. I guess those guys are here to stay.
I also finally got to visit Kendall County, and Kendalia, where I fulfilled a dream of taking my picture by the sign.
Everything on the back roads went well until I went to find the Hampton Inn. The Maps app didn’t realize it was on the OTHER side of the Interstate. I called for help, and the poor young woman who answered had just moved to Boerne and had to get help of her own. She gave me an extra water bottle, because I was nice about it.
She was also impressed that I brought my own dozen roses with me, thanks to my annual gift from Freytag’s Florist.)
After all that, I needed fresh air. I checked out the really pretty pool area behind the hotel. There’s a fun waterfall, so I sat in a lounge chair behind it (hey, it was over 50 degrees F!).
Suddenly, a familiar blurry shape descended. A Cooper’s hawk landed in a small tree on the other side of the pool. It was a male or juvenile, quite petite. I watched him checking things out around him, paying no attention to me.
I guess this is my season to be reminded of the vigilance and protectiveness of hawks.
Previously, I hinted that I was going to add some chickens to our flock. I’d met a woman at the Master Naturalist Christmas party named Cindy Vek, who told me all about her chicken farm, Bird and Bee Farm, between Rockdale and scenic Milano, Texas. I was intrigued.
So, yesterday, Mandi and I fired up the big, black pickup and headed over there, first stopping at Tractor Supply for the supplies I’d needed earlier.
I’m always grateful for map apps. It sure makes finding places way in the middle of the country easier. After a drive through some really pretty Milam County countryside, we found the place, conveniently labeled, as you can see from the first photo.
Some of our readers are still recovering from the polar vortex of last week. Here, it’s suddenly up to no-jacket weather (though another polar front is on the way). It’s not too early for some of our hardier plants to start blooming away, and I found some really pretty ones in Galveston, as I was doing my best to identify beach plants without flowers.
My absolute favorite were these hairyflower spiderworts (Tradescantia hirsutiflora). First, they came in so many lovely colors, ranging from the purplest purple to almost pink. It was a striking look.
Second, I discovered on iNaturalist that the hirsutiflora (hairy flower) version of spiderwort existed! I’d originally identified it as the more common T. ohiensis, but I’d obviously not looked close enough. Daniel, who corrected my observation, pointed out the hairy buds on the flowers, which you can plainly see here. Regular ole spiderwort has smooth buds. Now I’ll look at every one I see!