Master Naturalist Meeting Notes 2: Saturday, October 22

Although I’m quite excited about migrating snout butterflies (hundreds) and sandhill cranes (dozens), I’ll share more that I learned last Saturday for now.

Insect Photography, by Mary Ann Melton

Insects are what I take photos of most, after plants. I enjoyed getting ideas from Mary Ann, who happened to be the speaker at our last Chapter Meeting. I was very happy that she gave tips for phone photos as well as camera ones.

Handy hints

I took photos of some of the ideas she shared, especially for digital cameras, in case I can ever get one. There was also a cool attachment that lets you take better close ups on the phone. Attaching that to the 3x camera on my phone should be fun to try.

I also just enjoyed her beautiful photos with nice blurry backgrounds so the subjects look better. This was fun.

Here Be Dragons! Odonata 101, by Brent Franklin

This was probably Brent’s first presentation, since he apologized a lot for its length and content. But it was just fine, and I learned a lot about dragonflies and damselflies, even though I thought I knew a lot. This guy has really seen a LOT of the Texas Odonata and has lots of insights on finding them and observing them.

He had some fantastic photos of various dragonflies, too. I learned more about their mating behavior (the male clamps on to the female behind her head and flies her around until they find a good egg-laying place) and life when young. I don’t think I’d realized how long they can live in the water before emerging into the air. It can be years!

There’s just so much going on with these guys. Did you know dragonfly eyes take up almost their whole head, while damselfly eyes are on stalks on the sides of their heads? Yep.

Sticking their back ends straight up is called obelisking. That’s a new word for me.

iNaturalist 301: Advanced Applications and Exploring Data in iNaturalist, by Tania Homayoun

I always feel like it’s not a good conference if I don’t go to a session by Tania. I think I’ve gone on a field trip with her or heard her speak at every conference I attended. I’m such a rogue iNat user that I don’t think she’s too impressed by me, but I’m impressed by her! This session didn’t disappoint, as I learned some new features in iNaturalist and that some features have gone away. I’m glad I was able to draw an area for our ranch before that was removed as an option because people were misusing it or something.

My latest iNat entry taken in glary sunlight. I think it’s a camelback cricket.

Since I’d spent all week uploading things for that Pollinator BioBlitz, it was good to just talk about it and to learn more about the computer application, which really lets you do useful things. I plan to download my ranch observation data soon and do some analysis in Excel.

I was sad to find out that Tania is leaving her position with Texas Nature Trackers, but very happy to discover it’s because she is going to be the State Ornithologist! WOW!

Wrens: Little Birds with Lots of Energy, by Scott Kiester

It turns out that the speaker for this session, the last one I attended, is the guy who drove us to the field trip on Thursday. He had lots and lots and lots of information on wrens, including fun recordings of the songs and “scolding calls” of each type.

This was all news to me. Cool.

Wren fact that blew my mind: there is only ONE kind of wren in the Old World, and they are pretty sure it crossed the Bering Strait and populated that part of the world from North America. There are many kinds of wrens here, though. We went through most of them in two hours, it seemed.

We also learned folk tales. The wren won kingship by hitchhiking on an eagle and jumping off it to become the highest flyer. Tricky bird.

I have a much better clue about wren identification now, and can easily tell you which one is a Bewick’s. By the way, their numbers are diminishing as some other wren takes over, and it’s pronounced like the Buick car. Huh.

The rest of the sessions on Saturday were about who won awards and honoring people with lots of volunteer hours. I sure wish Donna Lewis had been able to come so she could have received her 10,000 hour pin. That is a huge milestone. To compare, I have about 800 hours.

I’m sticking my crane photos and video from yesterday in here, in case you’re interested. Seeing them flying over is always a highlight of the autumn for me. I love the sounds they make.

Sandhill cranes on the move

Master Naturalist Meeting Notes: Friday, October 21

I promised to write up notes from the sessions I took at the 2022 Annual Meeting of Texas Master Naturalist, but there was a lot of stuff going on the last couple of days. Now I have a moment! First, I will say that this was the best conference I attended so far in terms of the quality of the sessions I attended. They were chock-full of interesting tidbits. It also helped that the Omni Houston has comfortable chairs. I wasn’t squirming the whole time, except in the one session where I had to sit on the floor. Anyway, here are some notes!

The main meeting room with interesting centerpieces made out of books

Becoming a Land Doctor: Evaluating Land Health, by Megan Clayton

The speaker here had also spoken at the Bennett Trust conference, so it was good to hear her information again. She talked about how to tell if your land was over-grazed, whether it had lost its topsoil, etc. It takes thousands of years to rebuild topsoil if it’s removed.

Grass is your friend if you want healthy land! But you need to let it grow back before grazing again. The ideal would be to imitate bison, who showed up, ate, pooped, and trampled once a year, then moved on.

I found out the speaker does these fun webinars that I will try to attend

Fire and Goats: Vegetation Management Using Traditional Techniques in a Novel Setting, by Stephen Benigno

This one was a lot of fun. The speaker is from the Houston Arboretum, and he shared how they used a flock of goats from “Rent a Ruminant” — what a great name. The goats really took care of the underbrush. They just took a week and we’re great at gnawing down dewberries.

This gave me many ideas, so I had questions about fencing and such. Having just a few goats and rotating them sounds good!

He also talked about doing a controlled burn at the arboretum. That required lots of permission and publicity to keep people calm about the smoke. It worked out well but didn’t quite burn as much of the meadow as they wanted. All learning experiences in an urban woods and prairie!

No photos from this session, so here’s a beautiful Polyphemous moth that was on a window at the hotel.

Birding with Today’s Technology: Utilizing eBird, Merlin, and Other Online Resources, by Kelsey Biles

I took this one to learn more about eBird. It was worth it just to learn about how you can ID birds just by sound using it. So, if you don’t know, this is software that lets you identify birds and save your sightings online, all going to science. You don’t need photos, and it’s easier for folks who aren’t great with online image stuff. Many people I know contribute to it daily by just watching their feeders.

One of the resources I learned about

There was a lot to learn, though, so I was glad to be there. Plus the speaker had a very cute bird skirt on.

Conservation of the Night, by Cindy Luongo-Cassidy of the Dark Sky Network

This was the lunch speaker. She got us all fired up about eliminating light pollution and keeping the dark sky available for people, animals, and plant life. We all need it. I learned how to modify light fixtures to direct light downward rather than outward from simple things you might have on your property.

I feel pretty good about our place. We have a couple of rogue lights, but most of them stay off unless needed, which is a good practice. I don’t want to confuse moths and migrating birds, after all!

Speaking of the dark, we sure enjoyed the darkness of the whiskey bar at the hotel later in the evening.

Feral Hog Biology and Impacts: What We Know and What We Hope to Learn, by Mikayla Killam

This one was pretty depressing to me. It sure is hard to get rid of feral hogs. I did learn a few trapping techniques that aim to get as many hogs as possible into traps, like using funnel feeders and trip wires at the furthest end of the traps.

Of course, hogs are very smart and figure many kinds of traps out, as we know. The speaker recommended that the best way to remove the greatest numbers of these invasive animals all at once is to hire professionals in helicopters to get as many as possible, and to go in with as many neighbors as possible, since hogs don’t know land boundaries. Once that is all done, you can then more easily pick off individuals by trapping or shooting.

I discovered this lovely nest for the hotel’s black swan pair. Cygnet making is preferable to piglet making.

I learned that if you just get some of them, they go into piglet-making overdrive to get their numbers up. There’s a scientific word for it that I forgot.

Living in Harmony with America’s Song Dog, by Karin and Roberto Saucedo

My last educational session for the day was very popular. The presenters are a couple who really love coyotes and have studied them extensively in urban environments. I had to sit on the floor for this one, but it was kinda fun.

We learned how the coyotes interact with human habitation, which is often caused by houses being built around their traditional territories. We saw how they helped some of the coyotes get over mange by putting out medication for them. They knew not to get too friendly with them and showed a sad video they made about a coyote that people kept feeding even when asked not to (and even when they knew game cams were set up that would catch them). Sure enough, being tame was its downfall.

A lot of the coyote stories were sad. But an interesting thing I was reminded of in this talk was that in parts of Texas there is a lot of red wolf blood in them, which makes them a bit larger. I think that is true here, as ours are often quite large and healthy (I don’t see ones with mange out here, but they also are wilder and avoid people and our dogs).

Keynote: Kjell Lindgren, Astronaut

The last talk of the day was the dinner speaker. It started out with some Texas Parks and Wildlife or AgriLife official talking about how cool it was that a Master Naturalist spent time on the space station recently. They showed some photos and a nice message he’d recorded for us about how being a Master Naturalist had helped him in his work. We were all happy with that, but then they surprised us with Kjell, the astronaut, coming onstage and talking to us in person.

Kjell Lindgren

This is one impressive fellow with an MD, a PhD, and a degree from the Air Force Institute or whatever that is in Colorado Springs. And of course, he’s a Boy Scout leader and such. He seems genuinely nice, kind, and humble, too. My favorite part of his talk was all the photos he shared of the earth as seen from the space station. The auroras, the volcanoes, the rivers, etc., were fascinating to look at.

Rivers and farms

I have to say, though, that Friday’s sessions were a LOT of learning all in one day. I’m glad we got to go relax afterward in the lovely bar. The hotel had great restaurants and bars. No complaints about that!

Learning to Be a Land Steward

I’m so glad the Bennett Trust conference for ranch women is back at last. The conference started at 7 am and the wine hour was still going on when I left to watch football, along with my new friend, Mim, who’s originally from Rockdale. We bonded.

Post conference relaxation, with pumpkins.

Not only did the legacy of the Bennetts (very nice people who left a trust to pay for these events) pay for excellent food, but there were really interesting speakers on various aspects of taking care of your land. the keynote was on women and land stewardship, and April Sansom was inspiring to all of us who want to leave the land better than we found it.

She’s helped women use small agricultural projects to better their lives all over the world thank you the Peace Corps, and now educates people at the Selah Bamberger Ranch preserve (including Master Naturalists!). Her love of the planet shown through every word.

I heard a lot about how cost effective goats are to raise and sell. The speaker, David Anderson, even explained what all the types of livestock sales mean. Now I’ll understand the livestock report on KMIL better.

One fun segment was by a ranch land lawyer. She answered so many questions about fencing, trespassing, and the usefulness of forming LLCs.

Tiffany Dowell-Lashmet and her list of topics

Then, I learned more than I ever thought I would about wells and well water. Luckily, since I can’t remember it all, Joel Pigg gave us lots of excellent printed material that I can’t wait to read and share. Major learning: wells should be uphill from septic systems.

Also, your well should have a log.

Probably my favorite speaker was Morgan Treadwell, whose husband is from the family that owns a historic Texas ranch. She knows her brush removal and how to use fire. What I learned, though, was how to get rid of brush cost effectively.

Great quote.

Morgan really had a lot of information that was new to me. For example, weaken mesquite with a controlled burn, then bring in goats to eat new growth. Huh. Goats again. Also fire won’t kill them when over 3 years old, so do small maintenance often rather than a huge effort every decade or so.

Rules to live by

The final talk was by a woman named Megan Clayton. She talked about how newer land owners may want to do different things with their land, and that women play a huge role in new things like agri-tourism and farm-to-table operations.

How reasons for owning land change by generations.

Clayton shared a lot of fun websites with us, including a cow poop analyzer, which I must try out at home. She then paired people with mentors and mentees. I ended up being a mentor because no one wanted to admit they knew anything.

This made us laugh.

Anyhow, this was a lot, but I learned so much. And the food was so good! I enjoyed meeting a lot of interesting women and was pleased to see the diversity of attendees. I’m looking forward to a day of ranch tours tomorrow!

Healing and Grace

It’s been almost a year since I grabbed the opportunity to leave a job where it had become increasingly obvious I wasn’t wanted. The new offer was so perfect I had to accept. It’s been a great year

I mooooved on

Today I attended the yearly conference put on by my old employer. It was my first time as a customer. Customers are way more welcome than technical writer managers, so that was good. Other than accidentally starting to attend a session by one of the people who uh, um, wasn’t a fan of me, it was interesting and I learned a lot, especially from other customers.

I just breathed and thought of the beautiful sunrise. Tuesday is sunrise day, because of the 7 am meeting.

The healing came as the day went on. I’ve heard from very few people who still work at that company, which are fewer by the day. And I have not asked the ones I hear from what’s going on there; I just keep up with the products. So, I was touched that some people reached out to me today. That felt so nice, especially since people I’d asked for help before I left had not even said goodbye. Well, only one person did.

It’s okay.

But to hear kind things and learn how some folks were doing felt healing. There’d been no closure after ten years there. The good wishes helped. Right now, with my focus on keeping just what’s good in life, I’m feeling a sense of grace.

Transformation time.

Well it’s either grace or a fever from getting both the new COVID booster and a flu shot today. No horse riding today. Sore arms.

I wish you healing and the ability to move on.

There and Back Again

Well, dang it, I was not elsewhere for very long! Like the Hobbit, I was there and back again. As anyone who’s my Facebook friend already knows, I discovered that the conference I went to Kerrville to attend was not happening. There were two others there wondering what the heck was going on, too. We couldn’t even get ahold of anyone listed as being in charge of the conference for a long time. So, we spent some time looking at the endless supply of taxidermized animals in the hotel lobby. I love the fact that the mother and baby giraffe had a sign that said they died of natural causes. You know, it’s an art and everything, but taxidermy isn’t one of my favorites.

Finally, Tiffany, the mom in the other group, got in touch with the AgriLife folks in Kerr County, who informed us the conference had been canceled. I called and gave them my name and number, and they promised we’d get contacted by someone who knew something. The Smith family, who had driven five hours, went to visit some relatives. I decided to have a “me” day, and sought out a coffee shop to ponder my plans.

Someone can’t read

I really liked the Pax coffee shop I found. The coffee was Cuvee Coffee from Austin, which I like a lot, and the honey-infused latte was quite yummy and the avocado toast was seasoned well. I know a person who goes by “Pax” from my old church, so I got them one of the t-shirts from the shop. They are pretty, too.

After a little walk around downtown Kerrville, I went off to Fredericksburg, my favorite place to go off to, to be honest. I had a lot of fun visiting all the shops I miss so much, like the fantastic Native American jewelry store I like so much (I got a ring with snakes on it by Effie Calavaza, who was Zuni), where I got to listen to a phone call in Navajo. That doesn’t happen often.

Snake on the other side had red eyes

After enjoying the hat place, the boot place, the fancy clothing place, and a candle place, I headed over to the wine place. That’s the Becker winery shop. I’ve been a member of their wine club for three years and this was the first time I even got to take advantage of my free glass of wine per visit perk. I just sat there in a big ole leather chair, knitted on my next blanket, and felt all fancy. Since I took the contractor gig I hadn’t taken any time off. It felt good to have no agenda.

Next, I wandered down the road a bit to have lunch. It was in an old warehouse building. My goodness, it was PRETTY. I just sat there and looked at all the rustic things around me and enjoyed a “hippie panini” (all veggies) and some delicious fruit. I’m glad I am comfortable dining solo.

The building next to the one with the restaurant in it must be owned by the same folks. This was an “antique store” but not one of the dusty fusty ones. No, it is a trendy spendy antique store. I was impressed with the interesting finds in that place, such as a lot of grates and urns from France, industrial pieces that could make cool lamps, an antique weaving machine, and a somewhat creepy amount of things sourced from old Catholic churches or something. There were many things I thought we could duplicate here, so I took a lot of pictures.

Of course, because it’s trendy, most things in the store were white, cream, or wood colored. I’m not sure why colors are so scary, but they are. All the linens were extra natural, too, and pre-wrinkled. Whatever.

After all this fun, I drove home quite pleased with my day. Then I started getting calls from various AgriLife people apologizing and such. They are refunding my registration and even paying back my hotel room! I did not expect that. Later, they offered me a big discount on the next conference in October. I guess they expect that one to actually happen. HA HA.

Bonus. Store dog.

I appreciate the caring and concern, though. Since I spend a LOT of time volunteering for them, I’m pleased at how they are willing to make amends and are so nice about it. Heck, we all make mistakes, right? And I ended up having a nice day and got home in time to feed horses, so Lee only had to feed once.

Mansion I should have taken the tour of in Kerrville.

Bonus: I was going to have to miss a Master Naturalist Board meeting tomorrow, so now I get to go to it after all. It’s always good to have the secretary in attendance. And I will get to see friends. Score!

I Am Elsewhere

Look at me! I’m doing an activity! For fun! In a different place. Alone. I’m going to a conference I attended Before COVID and really enjoyed, sponsored by the Bennett Trust and Texas Parks and Wildlife. So I’ll get Master Naturalist credits.

It’s rustic.

The hotel in Kerrville (YO Ranch) is old but charming, and I have good memories of staying here during the Kerrville Folk Festival. I like the quaintness and quiet. I hope it’s fun tomorrow.

Rustic

Things are still moving along at the ole ranch. With Anita’s house done, we can get some things we’ve been waiting on. First, we’re going to put the gutters on our house, at last. Lee wanted rain chains, but the wind killed them. So, the gutters have come out of the storage container!

Drainage

First, we needed to make the water drain away from the pool. I feel really bad for the team, because they had to dig this trench with a pick axe on the hottest day of the year so far.

Hey, there’s a house in the back yard. And a trench.

A big drain hose will go in the trench. I am, however, hoping at least my son feels better today, when he got to drive the backhoe around and destroy stuff.

Vaguely happy son.

They were taking down the fence we used to use to keep the dogs in. Now that we have a larger fenced area and the pool is done, we don’t need that fence, even though it’s pretty. I’m assuming the crew will re-use the components.

I was proud of how well the guys did without any supervision. They’re a good team.

???

I have saddled poor Lee with horse feeding for the time I’m gone (until Saturday). I prepared buckets of food for Apache and Drew. I’m hoping he can hold down the fort until his helpers return! Secretly, he is doing much better with the horses and has been helping a lot! Yay for my spouse.

More tomorrow. Now I must post about knitting.

Dangerous Memories of Middle of Nowhere, Oklahoma

I’m glad I kept looking for all those wedding photos, because next I found photographic evidence of MOST of a very memorable trip I had in the late 1990s. It’s one of my favorite stories, so those of you who know me in person probably have heard it. But I have PHOTOS to prove I’m not making it up! (I have way more photos, but didn’t want to break the Internet.)

Just Another La Leche League Conference

Back in the olden days, when La Leche League was a volunteer-staffed breastfeeding support organization headquartered in Schaumburg, Illinois, the US part was organized into Areas. Some Areas were one state, some a group of states, and some part of a state. But it had something to do with geographic location. How quaint.

I knew I was in Oklahoma by the themed clothing and the hay.

I lived in Texas, which was its own Area. Up north from us was AR/OK, which was Arkansas and Oklahoma combined, due to their lower population. Many of my friends lived there, and I was working on my online projects with them. Since I’d recently become the webmaster for the parent organization (making this probably be 1998), they invited me to give a talk, my first in that capacity where I was invited out of state…ooh. It sounded fun to me!

It Gets Interesting

I had a hard time finding the place, even though I think I followed my friends from Little Rock. It was in an old 4H camp (or something like that) either in or near a reservation.

Here is the place. I think that’s Sandy, followed by Barbara looking in her purse.
Kris, in a calmer moment.

The minute I got unpacked and hugged my friends who were sharing something like a dorm room with me, I got in touch with my artsy friend from Oklahoma, Kris, who I had yet to meet (I had a LOT of online friends back then). She had her own cabin off from the main building. We met, which involved much squealing and hugging (oh, how I miss squealing and hugging).

Immediately we decided we MUST go on a hike. There were trails! A lake! Rocks! Plants! There was a reason I liked Kris; she was also a nature gal. So, we went on a fabulous hike. The woods were beautiful.

That is soooo pretty.

We found all sorts of cool rocks, plants we didn’t recognize, and bugs. Kris also likes bugs.

Finding something fascinating

We even managed to see a deer, which made us so happy. We gabbed and gabbed about our children, our spouses (hers was way more annoying than mine and still is, as an ex), our LLL stuff, our friends, and so on.

A deer. Aww, we liked deer. At that moment.

We were happy and tired when we arrived back at her little cabin. Then, I felt an itch. And another. I pulled down my socks. Kris had no socks, so she just pulled up her pants. Oh, crap. There were tiny, tiny things on our legs. There were tiny, tiny things ALL OVER us. Almost at once we screeched, “Ticks!” and immediately began throwing our clothing off. Now, only a couple of hours ago, Kris and I had never laid eyes on each other. Here we were basically naked, picking ticks off each other. Tiny, tiny deer ticks.

No photos of this are available. Lucky for all.

At last, we got most of the ticks off, leaving an interesting pattern all over us. We de-ticked our clothing and headed to the main building. We found our friend Barbara. She had gone on a hike. Oops. Luckily hers was shorter and she wasn’t totally infested. Everyone else avoided those trails!

The rest of the conference, we had to keep showing people our bit-up extremities. Now you know why I do NOT get close to deer.

The Rest of the Conference

Things went uphill, and as far as I remember, the rest of the conference was fine. I met a lot of “high-ranking” LLL women, which was fun. I gave my talk, learned to dance the two-step with a very handsome actual cowboy (little did I know that would become nothing special to me eventually), and cemented life-long friendships.

I also did the limbo. It’s not my best skill. The children behind me were much better at it, and are all adults now.

We also got a lot of work done, which always amazed me. My team back then were so good at multi-tasking, since they all had young children, led lots of mother-to-mother support meetings, AND did extra things, like our new email lists, websites, and online communities. I’ve always been very proud of those women.

The other thing I remember about this weekend was that I made a lot of purchases at the sales area, where groups brought things they made, and such, to raise funds. I also bought a LOT of raffle tickets. I was trying to help out an Area that had less money than mine. Plus, they gave me a free trip.

I ended up with so much stuff that I had to take an extra suitcase home, but I had no idea how much I would treasure the things I brought. A lot of the stuff was made by Rudy, the husband of the woman in charge of the area (Wista). He was a talented Native American artist who did scrimshaw on mammoth bones (he was allowed to), did paintings and drawings, and a whole bunch of other art stuff. He was also fascinating to talk to and very patient with all my nature questions.

This is Rudy, Wista, me, and one of the two Ednas who I worked with in the Texas LLL.

Among many other wonderful items, I got a picture of a wolf by Rudy for my son that he probably still has. I also won dozens of wooden symbols of the West, like buffalo, cacti, howling coyotes, etc., which were I think made by Wista’s brother. My kids loved them. They sat in the windows in my house for years and years. They bring back such great memories (and yes, some are still around in boxes somewhere).

You just never knew who you’d meet at one of these conferences, but I soon learned that you would always come away with lifelong friends and lifelong stories to tell. Yep, it wasn’t all bad.

PS: If you were there, correct or add to my memories! I am not the best remember-er on earth.

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”

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