History Lesson, Walker’s Creek Edition

Today my friend Melanie Reed, who’s a native to these parts, went with me over to the Milam County Museum to do some research on projects we are working on. She’s looking into the history of two parks in town, while I was looking to learn more about the old church and home we own in Cameron.

Postcard mailed in 1912 showing the building that once stood where our church is now.

I did find a postcard that was a picture of the First Christian Church building as it looked in the early twentieth century. That one burned down.

We met with Charles King, the director of the museum, who brought us some books with old photographs of the county. I was surprised to see so many large churches and schools in what are now tiny hamlets, like Maysfield and Milano. Charles and Melanie told me Milano (where our Master Naturalist Meetings are held) once had a population of 10,000! Wow! It’s between 200-300 now, though it seems like I keep meeting people who live there.

Charles was kind enough to dig up a book and newspaper article about the people who built our house on Gillis St., the Pope family. I’ll use that for my writing about that house on the Hermit Haus blog.

Continue reading “History Lesson, Walker’s Creek Edition”
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We’re a YEAR Old!

This is the first post I accidentally posted as a page, not a blog post.

Hooray! Our little blog is a year old! I’m happy to have over a hundred followers, since so much of what I write is so I’ll remember stuff that happened. It’s been great sharing my nature observations, rants, and thoughts with all of you. Share us with your friends!

What else happened a year ago?

I guess I should not complain about last weekend’s big rain. I was remembering that we always seem to have some flooding in early April, and then, lo and behold, my Facebook memories reminded me that it was a lot worse this time last year.

April 11, 2018. No wonder I started a blog; I couldn’t go anywhere.

The 8 inches we got last year all came at once, which pushed the water over the bridge at Walker’s Creek, and worse, breached our dam. That flooding is what inspired Lee to add a second culvert for water overflow, which may be why we didn’t have a dam breach last week. Hooray for Lee.

The big tractor is just waiting to start digging that new culvert that will prevent us from losing more of our driveway.

PS: My blog interface decided to no longer let me add tags and categories. I’ll fix it eventually.

PPS: The reason it didn’t work because I added this as a PAGE and not a BLOG POST.



Drowning in the To-Do List

You haven’t seen much of me in a while, and probably won’t until Friday, unless I squeeze some “me time” in. My calendar looks pretty scary, even though the all-day training on Thursday doesn’t show up. The gap in the afternoon on Thursday is for me to drive to Cameron so I can do two MORE meetings.

Goodness, that’s not much time to rest.

I have been trying to remind myself where I am and what I’m doing by using some of my Starbucks mugs that say “Austin” on them. I hope that helps, at least a little.

I am HERE,

But, I have to say that my mind is as cluttered as my desk, as I think about the newsletter I have to put together for a nonprofit I help with, the Master Naturalist presentation I need to finish putting together, and all those t-shirts I’m supposed to make into tote bags. I regret taking last weekend off to watch the rain!

I do like my keyboard, other than the broken “n” key, which I will blame all my typos for.

Hey, have a good rest of YOUR week folks. I will take some time to read other people’s blogs, and I hope to have a book report for you by the end of the week on a book that combines fiction with naturalists!

Native Beauty

Once the weather settled down a bit yesterday, the local insect-eating birds had a feast (including my chickens). There were a couple of phoebes sitting on our fence wires and zipping down to pluck tasty morsels, but the most excited birds had to be our barn swallows, who view our home as a very nice barn to live on.

When will that human LEAVE?

We discovered a new nest right above the door the dogs use to go in and out. They are a poly family, I guess, with an extra member to help feed the little ones once they hatch. Here are two of them looking displeased at me while the third one was in the nest thinking about pooping on me, no doubt. Because they are so close to the dog door, their chattering and chirping is very easy to hear in the family room. Luckily we like our noisy neighbors.

Getting back to Austin

This morning I drove back to Austin later than usual, so I’d be sure to be able to see any flooded spots along the road. I saw a lot of places that obviously were road closure spots over the weekend, judging by the debris patterns.

Just to the left is the main road, with soda machines. Apparently a church got all messed up, too.

The saddest thing, though, was driving by the old building in San Gabriel that held the hamlet’s only “business,” two soda machines. It was surrounded by red tape declaring it a danger. The darned tornadoes got it. Here’s an article.

Today is another day

Happily, today turned out to be beautiful. Anita and I enjoyed looking at some of the native plants and insects we pass by on our walks. Two were right outside our house, next to a steep rocky slope.

Cedar sage outside the Bobcat Lair (our Austin house)

No matter how hard the landscapers try, they can’t get rid of all the beautiful plants that were here before the development was here. Case in point is the cedar sage you see here. It’s native habitat is cedar brakes on caliche, where the ashe junipers are located. They like the rocky hillsides. Yep, these beautiful flowers cover the rocks our house sits on, right under the native trees that got to stay when the neighborhood was built (now they qualify as “heritage” cedars, so allergic people can’t cut them down).

Slender false pennyroyal

Nearby were these lovely little plants with tiny pink blossoms. There are many tiny plants with pink blossoms this time of year, but these looked different from all the others I’ve been finding. Sure enough, they are slender hedeoma (Hedeoma acinoides). There is not much about them in iNaturalist, but a quick check of their habitat shows it’s mainly the middle of Texas. It’s a local! Further checks found that their common name is slender false pennyroyal. I learned something new!

At the mailbox, my housemate, Anita, started jumping around, and I saw that there was a large winged insect flying and landing, which caused that reaction. I got everything nice and calm so I could photograph it.

Extreme crane fly closeup.

It appears to be a crane fly, but I’m not sure which one it is. It could be Tipula tricolor or Tipula furca, juding by the wings. I assume someone on iNaturalist will set me straight. I thought it was nice of the crane fly to hold still so I could get such a good picture!

What have you been seeing? Care to share?

Tornado and Flooding. Not the Apocalypse.

Whew. It’s been a rough couple of days. It was time for the annual spring flood! We needed the rain, though, as we hadn’t had any appreciable rain in three weeks, according to my husband.

We’re in the storm room. Harvey is under my feet.

We had a really strong band of rain come through yesterday, and we got the long side of the front. Lots of rain ensued. Then in mid afternoon, the tornado sirens went off in town, and we got reports of touchdowns not too far away.

Brody and Carlton day thanks for keeping us safe.

So, Lee and I joined all five dogs in our fine storm room for over an hour while the system touched down four times, the last one just a few miles from us.

We were surprised at how well the dogs did in the little space, but it did keep the sound away. The wind broke a few things but we were okay.

Continue reading “Tornado and Flooding. Not the Apocalypse.”

Office Snakes ‘n Stuff

Spring is the time when things get moving around. We’ve had mouse visitors at the ranch house, but the dogs took care of that.

This li’l guy is a rough earthsnake.

The Hermit Haus office also got a visitor yesterday. Our neice, Kathleen, was there working when, to her surprise a little wriggly fellow crossed the floor. Luckily she’s a farm gal (she lives on our farm in Yorktown where Lee’s dad used to live).

Onviously it was a small snake. Those are small holes.

According to her, it took a while, but she got the little fellow to exit the building, and he or she quickly beat a retreat down the drain outside the door. We’ve been checking for our neighbor since then, but there have been no further signs.

And those ducks

I continue to get a lot of joy from the whistling ducks. This morning, three of them were sitting on top of our house across the street. It just seems weird to see ducks up high like that.

Three ducks on a roof.

Of course, I scared them off before I could get a closer picture. But they made that hilarious whistlig duck noise, so it’s okay!

You disturbed us!

Weather?

Hope your Friday is or was a good one. At least it’s no longer cold here. Monday started off in the 30s, and on Thursday it was well over 90! Texas weather is something else!

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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