Bryoventure III at the Big Thicket

I enjoyed writing this post up so much that I thought I’d share it with you all. We’d love it if you followed our Master Naturalist blog, too!

Nature Along the El Camino Real

by Ann Collins, with additional photos by Linda Jo Conn

Linda Jo Conn and I just got back from “Nature Nerd Nirvana” – a phrase coined by a fellow traveler this past weekend. Ten lucky participants were able to trail along after Master Teacher Dale Kruse on Bryoventure III. We spend three glorious days immersed in the flora and fauna of the Big Thicket National Preserve. Talk about herding cats; Dale actually had a whistle to keep us rounded up!

Finding mosses everywhere in the Big Thicket.

Dale arranged lodging at the Research Station in Saratoga, Texas. We brought our own food and “drink,” but everything else was furnished. Not exactly the Plaza, but more than adeqquate for our needs.

Extreme dragonfly close-up

Trails in the Thicket were in great shape. There hadn’t been too much rain, so there were few muddy ruts in the roads. Of course, some of…

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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!
Continue reading “Riparian Knowledge Overload!”

Voluteering at Bird and Bee Farm

I wrote up a post about the mission of the Bird and Bee Farm, and how the Master Naturalist group is planning to help out.

Nature Along the El Camino Real

Our member, Cathering Johnson, took a beekeeping workshop last year at the Bird and Bee farm (along with other Master Naturalists). There, she met the Veks, who own the farm, and discovered that they were working on making their land a habitat for pollinators, working with the Texas Parks and Wildlife and US Fish and Wildlife Service. Here’s how they tell it:

Bird and Bee Farm is a Conservation Partner in the Pastures for Upland Birds Program. Over the past 150 years, agricultural land has taken over our native prairies. Bird and Bee Farm with the assistance of our new partners are replanting our 100 acre farm to return it to Original Native Prairie-Oak Savannah Habitat.

By establishing native tall-grass and native forbes Bird and Bee Farm will provide an Ecosystem and Habitat for many forms of wildlife including; Eastern Meadowlark, Northern Harrier, Le Conte’s Sparrow, Short-eared Owl, Dickcissel, Scissor-tailed…

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Weekend Ranch Excitement

It’s been a fun weekend here at the Hermits’ Rest. I managed to go horseback riding twice, which is rare, and Apache and I had lots of fun.

Sara is setting up our cone obstacle course.

Sara set up cones, so we got to ride in patterns. He did way better on Day 2, like he figured it out. I also prevented him from eating thistles unless it was my idea.

Today we went into the pasture where a lot of cattle were. Spice did a great job herding them, and Apache managed not to panic when a big mama came toward him. Baby steps.

The new veggie garden at the cabin. Tyler hopes it will be chicken free.

Meanwhile, Fiona was “helping” Tyler work on his new vegetable garden. And hee-hawing. He has patiently built a fence and covered it, to keep the chickens out. That’s nice of him.

Let me out of this car.

Even more exciting was the fact that the sheep’s owner had come to pick them up to shear them. She got the male in her SUV but the ewe would NOT be caught. She thinks she’s a cow, dang it. In the end, they let Sheep Man back out. That’s one for them!

Ooh! Carrots and celery! Thanks!

As for the chickens, they were excited this weekend by food fun. I got them some dried mealworms, which they love. They’re sort of creepy, though, because they look sort of alive when you pour them. Plus, they got even more excited when I bought them veggie leftovers from the dinner I was cooking.

One of these eggs is not like the other!

The it was my turn to get excited! The chocolate brown eggs have started! It’s amazing how tiny pullet eggs are. I want to save the shell!

Homemade chicken and dumplings. Comfort food rules.

Now to eat my chicken and dumplings. Dumplings are secretly flour tortillas cut up. Chicken is not from my hens!

Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream

I think the James Taylor concert I went to gave me strange vibes. I got home a bit late, thanks to having to retrieve my tiny purse from a locker (only clear bags at concerts!), so that probably helped.

In his mind he’s going to Carolina. No clue where MY mind is going!

So I dreamed that my husband, Lee, and I were going to a conference or something (I always dream about conferences) and we were going to join our friend, Jennifer Swan, there.

When we arrived, we startled her on the balcony of the hotel room, in the embrace of a man. We were surprised to see it wasn’t her husband, but a larger fellow with an interesting cheesy skin tone.

They both looked at us guiltily. We can’t help ourselves. It just happened!

Lee and I just looked at each other and went along with it. “Just call me Don,” said Jen’s new beau.

Lee can’t believe Jennifer’s behavior.

The dream proceeded along with “Don” being funny, generous, and gracious. “All that other stuff is just an act,” he confided over a glass of wine.

Later, we each slept in separate beds, with Don serving coffee in the morning. Jen kept giggling happily. I kept saying, “He’s so nice!”As we stepped outside into the morning, I had a question for Don. Then I spotted a perturbed looking man in a dark suit.

That’s it! Where have all the Secret Service people been? “Hee hee, I ditch them all the time!” the Current President of the USA said.

Maybe it was something I ate.

Strange dream. This is the second or third time I’ve dreamed of that fellow being a perfectly nice guy. What is my mind trying to tell me? Don’t analyze this dream!

No matter what your political beliefs are, this has to make you chuckle.

Dog Sadness

Pickle and Vlassic still love each other.

I’d really never had to deal with dog violence until I moved to the ranch. Then our late blue heeler, Stella, got into a huge fight with her sister, Rainey. My neighbor had to break them up by kicking them. It was awful. We never did figure out what set them off.

Yuck. That hurts.

Our two dogs that are close in age and size also have had their issues through the years. In the past couple of months it’s gotten worse. It’s not often, but when Harvey goes ballistic it takes a lot to make him stop.

More yuck.

It often happens when they are trying to go out the front door at the same time. That happened yesterday when Lee got home from work. Our friend Matt tried to let the dogs out and Harvey attacked Brody. Alfred joined in to try to break them up.

This is awful in good light. You’re welcome for not taking THAT picture.

Poor Brody had to get staples and stitches today, plus eye ointment and a number of wounds cleaned.

We will be taking Harvey to a trainer to work with him. We feel awful. Brody will be ok.

This stuff is going around. Tonight a neighbor dog bit the young adult feeding the chickens. And another neighbor dog had to be put down for attacking animals. This is so sad. All these animals have been raised kindly.

Please be gentle with me as we try to do what is best for our canine family.