Long time no blog! I could not get anything but brief Facebook updates to upload, so I just spent quality time with nature and Seneca the RV (and yes, of course with Lee).
Pedernales State Park has so many trails! I didn’t get to anywhere near all of them. Plus they have MANY miles of equestrian trails. I went to all the ones I could walk to, though. Actually, our camping spot was right next to the entrance to the Twin Falls trail, so there were no possible excuses to not go there.
It’s a beautiful pool, surrounded by ferns. It’s off limits to people, but there’s a nice viewing area. And the trail is steep and challenging, but gorgeous, with lots of rocks, ferns, and birds. I’m so glad I have the Merlin app! I now know three different vireos but sound. And the ivory billed cuckoo. What a sound! I heard them all on this trail.
The best part of the trail was the bench where I stopped to rest on the way back up. I sat there for about five minutes, then I heard a noise. It was a doe, a large, sleek beauty. I watched as she went about her business, ignoring me completely. What a treat!
I was full of joy and peace after that walk. For some of rest of the day I sat outside a lot and enjoyed the birds. We enjoyed our neighbors, who were a family with two kids who were truly enjoying their visit. Ee kept having to find their lost baseballs.
I got the itch to go out again, so I walked to a place that’s a low-water crossing. It was very peaceful, with only a few other folks around. I had a blast hanging around the cypress trees and finding out what grew along the Pedernales River (pronounced in Texan as “purr-duh-nal-iss”). I got some really cool pictures especially the first one below.
That’s about all I packed into this long and beautiful day. Well, I did do my nails a very patriotic way, for Memorial Day.
I’ll try to write up the rest of the weekend tomorrow. I hope you enjoy some of the things I saw. I put up a LOT of photos on iNaturalist and lots were new to me. I got quite a few birds on my life list!
It’s been a good weekend. Yesterday was spent driving to Houston and back for a family errand. It reminded me that I’m glad to live outside of a small town. But it was a change of pace that still let me get all my animal stuff done.
The men in my house and I spent a lot of time this morning sitting by the pool. It was a nice, cool morning, the kind there won’t be many more of this year, so we took advantage of the opportunity.
I weeded the pool planting bed, which of course has many volunteer plants coming through the landscape cloth. It’s mostly morning glories, nut grass, and the dreaded spurge. Yuck. That’s one native plant that’s totally a weed for me.
Weeding was made much more pleasant by the presence of the portulaca (or moss rose) plants that we put in just two weeks ago. I just love these cheerful succulents! They’ve already more than doubled in size.
This is the only plant that I’ve found that thrives here in the dry, hot summers. Last year, I had three plants, and they grew huge, but died in the big freeze. If only I’d known you can take cuttings and root them over the winter for next year!
Next year, I’ll be all set for more beauty! And wow, they are so lovely. Lee is very happy that they aren’t plain pink and yellow, as he feared. But I think the yellow ones are fascinating.
It turns out that the portulaca grandiflora that we grow as an ornamental is related to the edible plant purslane, which chickens love and is full of vitamin A.
All in all, this plant is a winner and I don’t even feel too bad planting a non native. At least it’s food for someone. And it’s not showing signs of becoming invasive.
I’m not feeling bad about planting them, since they’re surrounded by red yucca, which seems to please all sorts of pollinators. We enjoyed hummingbirds this morning, plus many types of wasp visiting the yucca, which aren’t native here, but grow not too far away.
Yep, I’m looking forward to using portulaca all over the place, but I’m still going to encourage our native flowers. They take my breath away.
Yep. As long as I focus on beautiful flowers, insects, and random animal buddies, I’m okay. I hope you have something lovely to think about.
I heard a piece on NPR about the effects of nature on moods of people dealing with hard things. I have to agree that spending time in nature can help a lot. My lunch activity today was a nice walk along our road in search of peace.
As I walked, I was repeatedly reminded that humans aren’t the only important things on earth and that life and death will go on regardless of whether I’m there or not. That actually did make me feel more peaceful and part of something bigger than myself.
The highlight of my walk was finding dozens of black swallowtail caterpillars on one prairie parsley plant. I watched those little guys noshing away for a long time. I forgot all my sadness about community events for a while!
I enjoyed all the flowers I saw, and the butterflies. Even the trees were beautiful. What a nice break.
I didn’t see many birds but heard lots. I spotted a painted bunting by hearing it first. Um. You couldn’t ID it from this!
From the listening app I heard:
Robin (rare here)
English sparrow (zzz)
Painted bunting (lots)
Mockingbird (also pretended to be a blue jay)
Common yellow throat (only saw that once ever)
Nighthawk (also saw two)
Baltimore oriole (wow)
That’s a lot of birds! The vultures didn’t make any noise, but were there, too.
Not only did nature make me feel more at peace, but my friends did, too. I enjoyed my afternoon coffee with two friends, Anita and Pamela. We laughed over my high school diaries that I found yesterday and discovered were mostly in Spanish. Then we shopped at the new antiques store downtown. I was happy to see there were many customers! I got a giant piece of purple glass for my window.
After that we sat on a bench overlooking the town square, wondering how we ever ended up in Cameron, Texas and enjoying it. Fun times. I’m glad for the supportive friends I’ve finally accumulated here!
Topping the day off with a horse ride and swim in the pool brought balance back, at least for now. I hope you also find your own balance.
At least so far that’s been true. And it’s true today. It rained starting last night and kept going until right about when I stopped working. We got at least two inches, which means we now are in a series of shallow ponds and the creek is extra full.
Once the clouds parted and there was a little sun, everything perked up fast. Suddenly the pollinators were in action!
I really enjoyed how green it is this year and how many flowers there are. I’m treasuring every day this spring.
Of course, other residents came out after the rain. I saw one of our large rabbits, then found this guy enjoying the poor drainage at the horse pens. I bet the water felt good. It’s just a rat snake/chicken snake, so there was no reason to panic.
Not only the natural world came out. There are lots of new airplanes here, thanks to an air museum moving in and a flight school, too. I enjoyed these two planes going over. I don’t enjoy helicopters shooting at hogs, though (or whoever is shooting at them with a semi-automatic rifle and not letting us know).
Today was just fine. I’m glad for the peace here, because it lets me send good thoughts to friends who need them. Love to all.
I wasn’t able to blog last night, because a storm came through and knocked out cell reception for most of the area. My phone kept saying SOS and I told it to calm down, the towers would return. I sure am having the Internet issues! But indeed, I got to enjoy the cool clouds.
It looked like tornado weather, and indeed, it was. Friends had a brand-new shed hit by a small one. It missed their house, though, so it could have been much worse. It’s hard to get used to so many scary weather events so close together, though.
We managed to get through the storm just fine. It was a very fast one! When I woke up this morning, there was more weather news. Tarrin contacted all of us who were signed up for a clinic at her ranch to let us know there were going to be very strong winds today. She let us know we could put it off.
We all said we’d just show up and hope for the best, much to Apache’s disappointment. He was not at all interested in going anywhere or doing anything this morning and kept bopping me with his head until I had to get firmer than usual with him. I managed to get most of the mud off him, including huge globs nested in the base of his mane. Not the most fun start to a day, but I’m happy to report that the rest of the day was a lot better!
He is always happy to go to Tarrin’s, and he got to head over with his buddy Aragorn. Sara drove today, and we always have a good time together. I ended up in a great mood all day, myself, and enjoyed meeting some new folks and their horses. There are some real success stories in the latest bunch of training horses!
After relaxing for a while in his luxurious (in his mind) stall, Apache came out to do our part of the clinic with me, and he was an absolute dream. We started out learning the newest dressage pattern that we’ll use in the next shows. We did it really slowly, stopping between each section, to help the horses pay attention to our cues. I enjoyed doing it as well as watching the other two riders in my group, one of whom was just starting out on her horse after training.
It was a great feeling to know that we’ve come far enough along to be role models of calmness as things blew around and spooked other horses. Tarrin made sure to share that it wasn’t all that long ago that Apache was nerved out at lots of random things. Meanwhile, he nearly fell asleep when it wasn’t his turn, even when something blew by and hit his leg. What a guy? Yeah!
The second part of our session was learning to do small circles precisely and teach the horses to pay attention to us rather than memorizing a pattern and blasting through it. That was a lot of fun for us, especially when we got to trot it. Apache and I have really made some improvement, and I was so happy to try these new things and refine how we do them. So much learning!
After our turn, we had an educational session where Tarrin showed us what a horse with severe hoof issues looked like on the inside. Camina the dog really wanted to eat that demo horse leg. It’s really cool that a horse can contribute to education after it has to be put down. It’s like they live on.
Another thing we did was each of us stood on two scales and had to practice balancing so that each scale read the same. This was not at all easy. We also found that slight shifts of our hips made the scales move many pounds. What this demonstrated was that our shifts can really affect our horses, and also that their shifts can also affect their performance.
The folks in the last, most advanced, group in the clinic focused on this balance and helping their horses get not only straight but balanced before doing activities like beginning a canter from a stop.
Now, this annoyed each of the horses as far as I could tell, but it was fascinating to watching both horses and riders learning to refine their balance.
Then they all cantered around those barrels we trotted around. Wow, some of those horses are beautifully trained. Aragorn did a great job as well, even though he’s just learning. Sara loves this photo I took of them together.
Of course, since it’s City Nature Challenge weekend, I snuck off to take photos of the plants and insects at Tarrin’s. I saw so many butterflies, and a gorgeous scarab beetle that visited my jacket. The ladies I was sitting with were fascinated with me looking at it, photographing it, and figuring out what it was.
The only negative was that I keep touching plants and really should check to see if they are nettles BEFORE touching them. Ow. There were also some very spiky trees that are either Hercules Club or Spiny Ash.
It was a really fun day for all of us, even the horses. We didn’t let that awful chilly wind slow us down!
Sara and I spent much time when we got home telling our horses how proud we are of them. These are the times to remember when things get challenging again!
Most of today has been great. The big highlights were predominantly nature oriented, but I also rekindled some old friendships and made some fun new friends.
After coffee by a nice campfire I went on a brisk (for me) hike on the trail that goes around Lake Georgetown. The whole trail is 26 miles long, so no, we didn’t go the whole way. The weather was perfect, and we enjoyed going up and down the limestone escarpments. I didn’t take as many photos as usual, though I found a few new plants I had to record.
We enjoyed views of the lake and all its sights and sounds. I was sad to find zebra mussel shells on the shoreline. They’re very invasive. So is the Japanese honeysuckle we saw. But a black swallowtail cheered me up.
In our way back, I remarked to Mike that we were in the perfect habitat for golden-cheeked warblers, with Ashe junipers and native oaks. I swear only three steps later, the blaring “la cucaracha” call rang out! We never spotted the bird, but it sang for quite a while. Great Earth Day experience! Here is scenery from the trail.
I was ready for a nice rest after the hike, so I hung out with Lee for a while. Then I did some chatting with new arrivals. Of course there were some campsite emergencies that we helped take care of. The afternoon culminated with a tradition campout potluck meal. Unfortunately, the original location was lost, and I offered our shelter for the food.
I didn’t realize everyone would sit next to our motorhome. It was too hard for Lee to be near people for that long, so I won’t make that error again! I made a couple other mistakes being too hospitable, but I’ve learned the hard way to keep folks away from the RV. I sure feel bad for that!
We did find the summer tanager again, which helped a little. I’m very grateful to the Merlin app that identifies bird calls, even though at first it said it was a Baltimore oriole, which got us overly excited. Away from the crowd, it got the ID right, plus we saw the bird and it was red, not orange. I ended up getting extra blurry photos of the male and a better one of the female. They are beautiful birds with a beautiful song.
It was fun to show birds and plants to others. I wish there were opportunities to do this at parks in Milam County for volunteer hours!
Today was just a bonus day. We were all so thrilled we lived after lightning struck so close to our campsites, that my friends and I mostly relaxed at Cedar Breaks Park today.
I spent a lot of time taking photos of plants and insects all day. Especially fun was a walk around Lake Georgetown with my old friends Hella and Jennifer. I shared some stuff I knew about plants, and they helped me spot things like delicious dewberries. Hella’s dog, Mocha, also enjoyed the fruit!
Probably our favorite find was this vigorous vine with big, purple flowers. It was new to us all. It’s just gorgeous, violet twining snapdragon (Maurandella antirrhiniflora).
We saw dozens of plants, but my favorite photo was this one. I think I’ll print it.
After our walk, I mostly just hung around talking to friends and enjoying nature. I enjoyed a variety of butterflies and birds, mostly familiar friends, but charming nonetheless.
Now some people have said, “Eww,” to my favorite discovery today. I was absolutely thrilled to see this new and exciting creature. It’s a giant desert centipede (Scolopendra heros). Wow, it’s big and colorful. Be sure to watch the video.
It’s quite beautiful here in the familiar geography of where I lived for so many years. Such variety!
There’s so much more but I’m too tired to keep going. Another day camping with my old church friends awaits!
This morning I set out to see how the flowers and insects are doing here at the Hermits’ Rest. I needed some Nature Time and wanted to see if I could locate and dwarf blue-eyed grass, winecups, or Texas baby blue eyes. I knew they should be up by now.
I enjoyed walking on our property all the way to the creek and back. The bluebonnets and paintbrush plants are going to seed, but there’s lots of other plants to see.
It seemed like almost every flower had an insect or two getting nectar or pollen (or eating it). It was a lot of fun to observe and later to try to identify what I saw.
I was interested in seeing what’s new, and sure enough, I eventually found all the plants I sought. The little blue eyed grass was easy to find along the driveway, now that it’s dried up a little.
Winecups were hiding in my horse playground, but a new patch appeared near the chicken house. This flower also hosted many insects.
The Texas baby blue eyes were harder to find, since my old patch got plowed over last year. But, when I was gazing at the far end of Walker’s Creek, I looked on the shore, and there they were. Later I finally saw some in our woods. I love these flowers, because they were my introduction to Texas wildflowers when I saw them at McKinney Falls State Park the first spring I was here.
I was happy I found the flowers I wanted. There were also SO many butterflies, many of which I photographed. Not shown are the variegated fritillary, spicewood swallowtail, and tiny sulphur.
I found a lot of new or interesting bugs and plants, especially when I took my friends Anita and Martha out to look at plants while Easter dinner was cooking. Here are highlights.
It really was a great plant day, and I really enjoyed sharing observations with friends. I left my phone in the car when I went over to Sara’s to get some leafy greens, but we had the best time just observing the flowers and insects in the pasture next to her house. There was so much clover in the field that we stood there blissfully inhaling its spicy scent. Ahh.
I made the pak choi she gave me into a delicious side dish (mostly Kathleen did it), so that was FRESH.
Anyway, the time with friends was so nice, as the afternoon sun made the people, the dogs, and the flowers grow.
So, What’s the Failure?
Well…I had this nutty idea that I was going to ride the horses today, or else! I guess “else” ensued.
First I got my precious boy, Droodles. I quickly realized that he resembled a chocolate-covered Easter treat. There was a dried layer of clay mud over much of his surface area.
I figured I’d just curry comb it out. Nope. I did get a lot off but I could tell it hurt him and was pulling out hair. I tried to get mud out of his tail, and hairs broke off. Oops. I realized I would not be saddling him. So I rinsed him off, but he was not thrilled. At least much mud got out of his mane and tail.
So, Plan B was to at least do some ground work. We did get some done, but when he slipped hard jumping, I ended that. I sure didn’t need to get him hurt. So he went into a pen to await his food. What did he immediately do? He rolled. At least it was in dry dirt.
I tried to get Apache in to groom, but after nearly hurting myself and losing both shoes in the mud, I gave up. I didn’t want me (myself?) or a horse hurt. Better miss your project goal than injure humans or livestock!
At least dinner was good. Rice cooker jambalaya to feed seven! And the pak choi in sesame oil, plus a great salad from Martha and Chardonnay from Anita. I think the men liked it! No time for photos, because we ate it!
The blog prompt for today got me thinking about how much I enjoy Texas State Parks and how many opportunities there are for volunteers like me and my Master Naturalist friends to help out and educate the public at them.
Sadly, there’s no State Park in Milam County, so our El Camino Real Master Naturalist Chapter have had to make our own opportunities, like our Wildscape that Catherine Johnson spearheaded. Another group is working on a project at Sugarloaf Mountain, a cool site in the county.
So, if I had anything named after me, I’d love it to be a State Park in Milam County. Of course, our ranch isn’t big enough to be one. And we don’t own it all ourselves. So I’d have to get really wealthy and buy up some scenic land. It’s just a dream, but I’ll help out anyone else who wants to create one!
Until the Suna State Park is developed, I’ll just keep visiting others and documenting the biodiversity at each one.
The next trip will be to a Corps of Engineers park with people from our former church. That will be more social camping! Enjoy more photos from yesterday. Which do you think would make good wall decor?
I sure feel great today. Even with a broken toe, I managed to hike two trails and really, really get away. Meridian State Park has an impressive number of places where you can be entirely alone, surrounded by nature, with only the wind and birds making sound.
I just had a blast wandering through woodlands and meadows, climbing up limestone ledges, and carefully heading back down. I didn’t see any yellow-cheeked warblers, though I certainly was in their natural habitat.
What I did see were dozens and dozens of butterflies and moths. Some didn’t pose for me, like the tiger swallowtails, something very orange, and an actual monarch. However, the juniper hairstreaks made up for it. They’re posers, and quite beautiful. I also got photos of excellent moths that either blended in with the forest litter or the limestone formations. They could only be noticed when they flew.
The highlight of my hike was the wildflower meadow on the Bosque hiking trail and Little Forest Junior Trail. It had so many bluebonnets that they perfumed the air enough to feel intoxicating. Wow. It was also so nice to see so many flowers in a mostly natural-looking setting. I just stopped and breathed it all in. So cleansing!
There was also lots of water to look at. I hiked along the lake quite a bit and in the Little Spring trail, I actually found the little spring. It reminded me of our little spring at home. It just trickled away.
All the trails were beautiful, with lots of limestone outcroppings, caves, various oak trees, and bright green spring understory plants. What a nice time of year to hike.
In other news, we met a nice couple who go to lots of Texas parks, and showed them our RV, since they want to upgrade. We’re going together tomorrow on a nature walk led by a fellow Master Naturalist. I hope he shows us where the warblers are.
Thank goodness for the privilege of getting away from things on a regular basis. Also thank goodness that the cell service lasted long enough to get my work uploaded and questions answered! Whew!