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!

Karst Preserve Bonus Field Trip

karst
My exploring companions!

While we were exploring the Avery Ranch cave, I remembered where I’d seen other caves in the neighborhood over from the one we were in, Oak Brook. I suggested that, if anyone wanted to go look at other local caves, I’d take them there. Unfortunately, my memory issues made giving directions stink, and since I didn’t remember the name of the place we could not look it up. So, only one carload made it.

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Typical karst pools that form in wet periods. I need to go back in spring to figure out what kind of little plants bloom here. They have yellow flowers and may be lichen.

However, we had a great time at the Oak Brook Karst Preserve once we found it. I have some bittersweet memories of this spot, because I used to go over there long ago, when I was sad about marital issues, to be sad where my kids couldn’t see me. I gave my troubles to Mother Earth, I guess. On a happier note, my traveling companions liked it for more Master Naturalist reasons—flora and fauna!

Continue reading “Karst Preserve Bonus Field Trip”

Wandering through Bluegrass Country

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Every color in the mixed packet of morning glories grew on the roadside around Albemarle, NC.

Continuing on our vacation, we spent time in High Point, NC, where lots of my family and old friends live. It’s a beautiful town, though we avoided most of it, because it was Furniture Market time. The hurricane had made a big mess of the town, but they sure cleaned up quickly!

Heading Out

On our way back to Texas, we took a detour, since we knew that we were in the heart of bluegrass music territory, and we owed my son a steel guitar. My friend, Vicki, had told us of some leads and people she knew in the community when we visited an amazing bluegrass instrument store in Statesville. Lee and I figured the time to buy that 2016 Christmas gift for my son was NOW.

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This instrument has beautiful blue green stained tiger maple that doesn’t show up well in photos. Note it has ten strings.

We did some detective work and found that a reasonably priced guitar on eBay was actually nearby in Albemarle (which promoted my stepmom to list everyone she ever knew who lived there and their addresses, from the 40s). We tracked the guy down, and he invited us to come on by.

What a beautiful drive it was! We really enjoyed the countryside, the amazing morning glories growing everywhere (they look like the kind you buy, not like the ones in Texas).

Finding Mr. Hudson (actually he’s a minister) was not easy, but we got help from some deputy sheriffs and Hudson’s wife, who directed us to a garage. There we found beautiful instruments! There were many pedal steel guitars, and also a resonator built like a steel giutar, so you could sit to play it.

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Not the prettiest building, but definitely the prettiest tree in Albemarle.

We agreed on a price for the guitar we wanted, and headed into town for money. What a charming little place. We hope Cameron can look so nice eventually. We even found trees changing color, at last.

Country Beauty

After we paid, we followed Mr. Hudson to his “new” shop. Wow. It was down a long driveway in a gorgeous setting, and consisted of many portable buildings all set up into a series of guitar building rooms. I’ll not invade his privacy to show you the drills, saws, and other equipment, but the place was as spotless as the huge place I saw where they make Taylor guitars in California.

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Beautiful North Carolina farmland.

The luthier says that at sunset you often see dozens of deer and large families of turkeys in the field. That is a great workplace!

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Sundogs just before sunset in Georgia. Heading home.

The way back to the interstate was also a lot of fun. And then we enjoyed a glorious sunset, complete with sundogs!

I guess that’s it for nature viewing until we get back to Texas, but this was certainly a worthwhile detour.

Things I Love about the Eastern US

azalea
Good old azaleas. They didn’t all blow away. These are relentlessly cheerful! Along with camellias, these are plants I miss a lot in Texas. We have the wrong soil.

I’m spending time in High Point, North Carolina, where my step-mother, step-sister, and other family live. Mostly my husband and I are visiting, but I did get to walk around the woods that surround the facility where my step-mom lives, Pennybyrn at Maryfield.

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A gray squirrell with his meal. The ones here are smaller than our fox squirrels; the ones on Hilton Head were tiny!

I’ve written about it before in the past (on Facebook I guess), since she and my dad lived there since the place opened. It’s one of those places for well-to-do people over a certain age, with homes, apartments, assisted living places, and a wonderful nursing home. There are lots of nice nuns and a lot to do. And the buildings are lovely.

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Here are some of the apartments. The woods are off to the right, and there are also multiple ponds.

It’s on a lake that’s off the Deep River, and bordered by some lovely mixed hardwood and pine forest. I enjoyed walking out there today and looking at all the native plants and birds (the landscaping is also nice, but not all native). It was interesting to see what was and wasn’t damaged by Hurricanes Michael and Florence, which both came through recently.

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This little chapel is where I went in and talked to my Dad. He build paths and garden plots for the residents here.

The variety of trees is amazing. Maples, oaks, short- and long-leafed pines, sumac, dogwood, and redbud, to name a few.

And I saw blue birds, blue jays, crows, cardinals, house finches, and more (including geese I heard but did not see).

It’s just so different here from Texas. The trees are SO tall, and the plants so varied. And it smells great, thanks to all those pine needles. One of these days I’ll take another vacation in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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Most of the leaves I saw had multiple holes in them. This red maple isn’t as bad off as some of them.

Sadly, the hurricane blew down most of the autumn leaves, and the remaining leaves were quite tattered. Huge old trees are down all over town. I guess that makes room for new trees and lets the sun in.

While I’m at a place where lives end, I always remember that death makes room for life. Hmm, good thoughts for the current autumn/Halloween season.

A Visit to Audubon Newhall Preserve

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Lee took this pine panorama photo.

Hilton Head Island is a beautiful place, and there are lots of regulations that keep it that way. They do their best to preserve vegetation, signs are kept small (making it hard to find restaurants until you pass them), and building colors are regulated. It’s all very soothing, but a lot of what you see is carefully manicured.

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The light was beautiful, since we were there in the late afternoon.

That’s why, after a day of real estate stuff, it was wonderful to visit the Audubon Newhall Preserve, which is 50 acres that will never be developed. While the area looks “all natural,” there has been careful restoration and preservation of native plants, which has brought all sorts of wonderful birds and other wildlife.

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The pond was filled with life.

The pond was made out of a natural depression that was made deeper, but there are also areas that show what the original island topography was like, with rolling terrain that allows plants that like it moist and sand-loving plants to live very near each other.

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These asters were covered in a variety of butterflies, including these lovely long-tailed skippers.

I enjoyed seeing plants I was familiar with from my childhood in the Deep South, plus some new plants that are native to South Carolina. There were also lovely butterflies, and I’m thrilled I actually DID get a good enough photograph of the asters to identify the long-tailed skippers, which are everywhere right now.

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Beautiful tree, and someone’s sample bucket.

I saw a yellow-bellied sapsucker and a number of warblers, including one with black and white males and brown females. I think they were black-throated blue warblers. Plus there were crows, mockingbirds, Carolina wrens, and a nuthatch.

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Here’s an example of one of the interesting signs around the preserve.

The people who maintain the area have been planting many new specimens, and they’ve also lovingly labeled many of the specimens with some details about them. That made it a lot of fun to learn as we wandered around.

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I wish you winding paths, peace, quiet, and nature’s beauty.

I guess the best part of the place was that it was not over-developed or full of loud people. Mosquitoes were the only drawback!

Travel through the South

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Such a lovely place. The cannons do NOT work.

You haven’t heard much from us, because we’ve been traveling! We spent two days driving to Hilton Head, South Carolina. It was a glorious two days, too. The first days we enjoyed many small towns in Texas, since the first part of our trip was on state highways. Before stopping for the night, we visited my favorite welcome station, the one on the Mississippi River. I love the two bridges, watching barges, and all the colors. Some day I would love to take a river cruise on this river!

sign2We stopped for the night in Meridian, Mississippi. We had a huge room, but what impressed us the most was that there was tons of food in the lobby when we arrived. It was for all the people who had evacuated from the path of Hurricane Michael and needed a break. There was a real sense of community in the place, and the staff at the hotel was bending over backwards to be kind, including feeding everyone. Made me happy.

Continue reading “Travel through the South”

Ranch Management for Women, Part 2

Yesterday I told you about the classroom day of the Bennett Trust Women’s Conference, which I just discovered was called “Empowering Women — New Stewardship Traditions.” I went to this week. Now for the real fun, when we got on a bus and road out into the sunrise for hands-on fun! (I do wish I hadn’t been so sick; I slept on the bus a lot.)

archer
I did hit the target. Photo by the Other Sue Ann.

Ranch Skillz

Day 2 was called the Wine and Roses Tour, and we took a nice bus to a ranch outside of Kerrville. It has typical Hill Country terrain, and there were typical Hill Country angora goats grazing nearby (but out of the way of projectiles). We spent a very enjoyable morning rotating through introductions to ranching skills: archery, skeet shooting, animal tracking, and range grass identification. I did fine, but didn’t shoot because of my precarious shoulder situation that I’m about to start physical therapy on (thanks, Carlton the Dogman)

I got a real kick out of some of the women who were very proud that they turned out to actually be good at the archery or skeet shooting. There were a couple of experts among the attendees, too, including one woman who brought her own shotgun. She got to go for two clay birds at a time.

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You can see that our tracking trainer is holding her very content quail, while the tarantula is trying to escape.

The woman who showed us all the animal tracks was obviously a true lover of all living things. Not only did she bring along her pet scaled quail (oh so cute), but showed us a large, black tarantula she found on the side of the road, and one of the big ole brown lizards that live in the Hill Country. We loved her asides!

Continue reading “Ranch Management for Women, Part 2”

Ranch Management for Women, Part 1

Where have I been? It’s been a combination of being really busy doing interesting things, along with having a pretty rotten virus attack me. Let’s concentrate on the first of those!

SueAnns
Sue Ann K and Sue Ann U! Hey Sue Ann! What, Sue Ann? Women with twin unusual names can be silly.

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I attended the third Bennett Trust Land Stewardship Women’s Conference. I’m glad I signed on to the Texas Parks and Wildlife email list for events, because I didn’t hear about this remarkable opportunity until a couple of weeks before it happened. After talking to my spouse and boss (the outdoorsman), I got pretty excited about the opportunity, even with some sort of sexist language in there. After all, it’s Texas.

The conference was divided into two halves, with one day of classroom work and one day getting out and looking at places. Today I’ll talk about what I learned the first day.

There were 40 or so women in attendance, mostly older, but a lot were young, too. All own ranch property around Texas. Some were very impressive women who’ve been on their land for generations, while others were just starting and even less experienced than me.

Most important, there was another woman there named Sue Ann (shown above), so we hung around a lot, so we could say, “Hey, Sue Ann, what about this?” It made us happy. Of course, I learned a lot about her business working with folks to get appropriate tax advantages form their land. A bonus.

Continue reading “Ranch Management for Women, Part 1”

Paying Homage to Lady Bird

Where flowers bloom, so does hope—Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Johnson

Anyone who loves the beauty of Texas in the springtime owes thanks to Lady Bird Johnson, who spent most of her life in efforts to beautify not only Texas, but the entire USA. One of my strongest childhood memories is of a “Keep America Beautiful” commercial from the 60s, in which Lady Bird exhorted us to, “plant a tree, a bush, or a shrub,” with her Texas twang really coming out on “shruuuub.”

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These very large Hereford cows are why you drive slowly on the ranch roads. These are old bloodlines, and mighty fine specimens.

Since coming to Texas as fast as I could, about 21 years ago, I have visited the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center many times, and enjoyed the tributes to her there, I’ve read her biography, and I’ve tried to follow in her footsteps by taking care of native plants wherever I’ve lived, especially at the Hermits’ Rest.

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This amazing mosaic is in the small exhibit area in the park.

So, when Anita and I were coming back from Fredericksburg last weekend, a stop at the Johnson family ranch was a must. I highly recommend it; there’s way more than you’d think to see, and it was rather moving to see both the place where Lyndon B. Johnson was born, and where he is buried. He really was tied to his land.

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Enchanted

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Summer color at Enchanted Rock. A tievine flower and some colorful lichen.

My housemate in Austin, Anita, and I are taking a quick mini-vacation to Fredericksburg, Texas. I haven’t taken her many places since she moved here, and I knew she’d love the Hill Country, even while we are enduring weeks and weeks of incredible heat.

Yesterday, we drove out to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, a place you should also go, if you’re visiting the middle of Texas. It really is fascinating, especially in the spring or after a rain (due to flowers and little pools of water with tiny shrimp in them).

However, it’s very crowded in the spring and fall, so we discovered the great advantage of heading out early in the morning in midsummer is having the entire rim trail to ourselves (we saw one other hiker). We took Anita’s dog, so we didn’t try to climb the summit. Also, heat.

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A Texas Skeleton Plant. That’s a new one for me! Big, pretty blossoms!

What I DID do, though, was put on my Master Naturalist hat (figuratively–I’d brought hiking boots, but forgot my hat), and see what kinds of plants, flowers, and other things I could spot. I’d never been to Enchanted Rock in the summer, so I did find some great surprises! And of course, I entered them all in my iNaturalist observations. Enjoy the photos, while I tell you about some of my favorite discoveries.

Continue reading “Enchanted”