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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Driving Thoughts

Boerne sunrise. I got to drive through the really intriguing city center on my way home. I wanna go back.

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?

Just one preview of my day. This is a river.

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.

Look. It’s agarita.

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.

So, no trip report. Or report from Sunday. Oops.

I Think They’re Following Me!

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.

Axis deer, buck. From Wikipedia.

Yes, I just looked it up, and sure enough there are over 6,000 of them roaming free in Texas: rhttps://www.myewa.org/blog/what-you-may-not-know-about-the-axis-deer/

I also finally got to visit Kendall County, and Kendalia, where I fulfilled a dream of taking my picture by the sign.

Doing my chipmunk imitation. Kendall in Kendalia.

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.

Yep, it’s on THIS side of I-10. Construction confused my navigation app.

She was also impressed that I brought my own dozen roses with me, thanks to my annual gift from Freytag’s Florist.)

Traveling in style with roses and a fancy coffee in a rose cup.

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!).

Whee! I’m behind the fake waterfall!

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.

Watching the watcher. Hello, hawk.

I guess this is my season to be reminded of the vigilance and protectiveness of hawks.

Great Hen Adventure Time!

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Entry to the farm. We knew we were in the right place.

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.



A welcoming display from the Tom!

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.



Welcoming committee.

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.

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Winter Coastal Blooms

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Here are the bluish ones. These may be “regular” spiderworts, because those are not such hairy buds.

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.

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Some of the shades of purple in this spiderwort species.

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.

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These are the pink ones. Just look at those hairy little buds!

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!

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Birding in the Fog

Admittedly, I was excited to go to Galveston Island, because I had the thought that a lot of the migratory birds would still be hanging around and I could see them. I didn’t count on it being a rather dismal day for photography, in which everything around was the same shade of brownish gray.

We certainly couldn’t see anything from our hotel room other than exotic Beach Pigeons (same as any other pigeon). The birds were probably all frightened away by the belching pseudo-volcano at the Rainforest Cafe that was the primary view from our balcony (we could also see the Gulf, when the fog lifted slightly).

Here I am pretending that the Rainforest cafe is 1) open or 2) fun.

Once we were awake (-ish, since the hotel didn’t have any reasonable coffee), we took a walk on the beach. This proved to us that it doesn’t have to be a warm and sunny day to enjoy the shore.

Look how well these birds blend in with the rocks and surf.

At first we didn’t see anything other than gulls, pigeons, and grackles, but once we walked down the jetty, we adjusted our eyes, and boom! There were some beautiful little ruddy turnstones busily picking at the moss and seaweed growing on the granite (from Marble Falls!). They were very industrious and blended amazingly well among the blocks. You really only noticed them when they moved.

Evrybody’s head is all tucked. Nap time?

We kept walking down the jetty until Lee stopped me and said, “Look!” Sure enough, there was a flock of what appear to me to be sanderlings, huddling together to stay warm, or something. They were at least a little easier to spot. They let us get nice and close, so I could get a good photo.

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Imbolc: Spring Is Coming

In many parts of the US, Easter-time is when spring is celebrated. Here in Texas, the spring new growth starts around the beginning of February, at a time traditionally called Imbolc or Candlemas (or in US folk culture, Groundhog Day).

This is one of my favorite images of Brighid. It’s on sale right now, too. I had to borrow this photo, since I’m not at home to take my own picture.

It’s also the day sacred to St. Bridget or the goddess Brighid, depending on your tradition. She’s always been my favorite, since not only is she the Mother Goddess of Ireland, but she protects the hearth, the home, spinning and weaving, and fire! That’s why there is an “eternal flame” in Kildare, Ireland in her honor.

I was pretty thrilled to find a goddess who cares for all the things I care so deeply about, so I’ve always loved her. Back when I got to go to Ireland often, I visited her sacred well and cathedral many times. If you’re ever in Kildare town, check it out.

Here, though, I celebrate Imbolc by giving thanks to all the little plants and flowers that have kept me going through the winter (the very damp winter this year!). The little bluets are a real favorite, as is the chickweed I shared earlier in the week.

I’m glad I met Monique Reed, my botanist friend, because when she came to inventory plants on the ranch last year, she showed me how many wonderful tiny plants there are here at the Hermits’ Rest; you just have to look for them.

Looking at the tiny blossoms, the tiny berries, and all the plants that keep on going through the winter reminds me that we, too, have to keep on going through the dark periods, and just keep looking toward the light. That’s what the Imbolc season tells us, too. Spring is coming. Keep looking at the light and stay warm (yes, even those of you in the Polar Vortex right now!).

Hey!

If you want your own statue of Brigit or Brigid or however you want to spel it, I recommend you visit my friend Liana’s business, Sacred Source, and see some great options/