Surprise Guests!

Yesterday, we were going shopping in Bandera when we saw a car that looks just like Blackie, Lee’s late-life crisis sports car. Out came the relatives, Kathleen and Chris. What a fun surprise!

Hey. We know them.

I now had a co-shopper, which made the last couple of stores way more fun. We stopped in a little boutique that is sorta like a mini Bling Box (they go to the same markets). The woman who was obviously the owner said, “You’re wearing Effie earrings.” I thought it was impressive she recognized who made my earrings. It turned out, she and her husband own the jewelry shop. That explains it. The original owner left it to them, so she’s getting a crash course in Native American jewelry. Ha!

Dang. Should have brought Apache.

We got a couple of things. I had to get this ring, of white buffalo turquoise, with a tiny blue spot. It fits so comfortably!

It’s big, but fits great.

We had a nice meal and got some jeans, then decided to go hang out at their bed and breakfast. We needed beverages, so headed out to the winery near our resort. We had a fun experience even though we were hurrying to get to the cabin before sunset.

White wine we had last night. Once it breathed a bit, it was great.

We found Chris at the brewery next door. He was having a great conversation with the owner about how they can their beers. We got Lee a surprise stout in a can. They canned it and made labels for us!

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Talk to Strangers! You Will Learn a Lot!

The older I get, the more I end up like my dad, who loved to talk to everyone he met. On this trip, even Lee has gotten into the action, and met a delightful older couple who happen to also be staying at this resort, who clued him in to other fun places to go. By yesterday, I’d also talked to the office lady about the cats, did my Master Naturalist spiel to a large family, and chatted with one of the maintenance men.

Yesterday morning, I set out on what was supposed to be a brief walk to get some steps in before whatever other activities Lee and I were going to do. I walked down the hill to the complex entrance, and saw two guys standing under the two huge oaks that guard the entrance. I heard the word “flood” and pricked up my ears. Maybe these guys would know why the river is so dry, since I know it rained some this year.

Here’s what the area I walked in a couple of days ago looks like with normal rainfall.

So, in Dad-like fashion, I walked over and butted into their conversation. It was great! Both these guys have been in the area a long time, and worked on this resort property for many years. They told me about the last couple of floods, which raised the water up to the trees we were standing beneath.

The most knowledgeable one, Dale, told me that what we cross coming into this place isn’t the Medina River; it’s Privilege Creek. Where the would-be swimming hole is marks the confluence of the creek with the river. I asked why this part is so dry, when I see other parts of the river that are flowing.

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Went Down to the River, but the River Was Dry

When I go on a trip, my main goals are to look at the nature and the architecture of wherever I am. Even in small towns, I love looking at buildings. Check out the Bandera County Courthouse, especially the manger scene. I don’t think they actually had turkey vultures in Bethlehem a couple of thousand years ago!

Jesus is visited by vultures, a longhorn, merino sheep, white-tailed deer, a cactus, and cowboysl

It’s So Cowboy Here

Lee and I had a lot of fun shopping today, especially since I actually needed a couple of “cowboy accessories” and so did he. I got a Resistol summer weight hat that fits me like a glove, and has already made walking around here in the bright winter sun easier. I really loved my other hat, but it got set down within the reach of certain blue-eyed dogs, and became a former hat. Grr. You only have to forget to hang the hat high ONCE to lose the hat. I’d had it five years or so, though, which is good for the kind of hat you sweat all over (it’s a work hat).

New hat protects me from blazing winter sun.

And I realize most women don’t wear cowboy hats unless they are in a rodeo, but too bad. Baseball hats aren’t as comfortable to me, and they don’t provide as much shade for my pale little European face. At least I live in a hat-wearing part of the US half time!

Lee got a new belt, which is really nice. The Cowboy Shop had a better selection than other Western shops we’d been in lately.

Anyway, after a protracted stop at a Native American jewelry store, where I got some Effie earrings (Hopi ones by an artist who always puts snakes on her jewelry) and some lovely Navajo White Buffalo turquoise earrings (white stone with black in it)…and Lee got a RING, we came back so Lee could yell at Verizon about a mix-up. I left.

River?

I headed back down to the river where I saw all the armadillo munching away yesterday. I only saw one today, but that’s because I walked through the river. The bed is glaringly white, since it consists of polished limestone with a layer of white sediment on top of it. It’s positively lunar.

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Cat-astrophe?

I wrote this blog entry originally for Milam Touch of Love, our animal welfare organization, but hey, who doesn’t love a story about beautiful kitties (other than Lee)?

This week I’m in Bandera County, Texas, which is west of San Antonio in the Hill Country. I’m staying in a cozy log cabin in a pleasant, older “resort” that’s perfect for hermits. It’s mostly scenery and quiet.

View from the picnic pavilion where all the cats are.

However, there are cats. Lots of cats. They’re feral, but obviously very well fed. I thought my husband was going to explode when he saw all the cats (as much as he loves dogs, Lee is not fond of cats and has a convenient “cat allergy” to prevent us from having any). 

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Excuse us. You’re interrupting our meal.

This morning, I put my MTOL Board hat on (it’s really an ear warmer) and set out to investigate. As I walked around the complex, I noted a number of plastic bowls full of cat food. I also noticed three lovely shelters built out of boxes covered with blankets and with a tarp over them. Hmm. Someone is taking care of those kitties!

Can you count the kitties?

I wandered over to the picnic pavilion, where I found a LOT of very happy cats smacking away at bowls of milk, drinking fresh water, and eating cat food. They were not happy to see me, however.

So, I decided to find out more about the situation and headed into the office for the complex. There is a really sweet woman who works there (it’s a small resort) who I’ve already talked to a couple of times. 

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What's in Bandera, Texas? Many Armadillos and African Game Animals

Lee and I are spending Christmas week holed up in a log-cabin condo outside of Bandera, Texas. Why? It was the only place I could use my travel points on that was within driving distance of Austin. Also, it’s the Cowboy Capital of the World, you know. And it’s in the Texas Hill Country, a thing Lee and I agree on the niceness of (miracle!).

I’ll get all angsty and tell you why we aren’t doing holidays at home again this year tomorrow, maybe.

While I have yet to see any actual cowpersons in Bandera so far (we haven’t checked out the stores yet), we did see quite a few on the trip down from Cameron. We also saw plenty of livestock up close while waiting for traffic to clear up.

Today we drove through the scenic route to Kerrville through Medina, and then came back to Bandera another way. On this drive we saw many hills and large, fancy ranches. On these large and fancy ranches I saw exactly one native American animal, a bison.

I’m amazed to be on the river!

The European imports (goats, horses, and cattle) were far outnumbered by animals brought in from African stock. I saw a healthy-looking zebra, many blackbuck, some gnu, and all sorts of antelope and things that end in -bok. Oh and wildebeast.

In fact, we were driving past one particularly dense population of cute li’l antelope, when I realized a whole bunch of them were OUTSIDE the fence, just grazing away and watching cars go by. I guess I’ve now seen first hand what the book on invasive animals in Texas was talking about. I’m sure those creatures will do just fine in Texas, but I wonder what native animal’s niche they will encroach on?

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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!
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