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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Another hectic day

I had my day all planned out (silly me) with no time left over, but to where I'd get a lot done. Well, while I was loading the dryers with apricots (the last of them, thank goodness) my husband was going to make a big batch of zucchini bread. I don't eat it because of the sugar, but he freezes it for his desserts later. Food is his hobby. He instructed me to not say a word while he was mixing ingredients so he could concentrate. I didn't say a word. Nevertheless, he put corn starch in the mix instead of baking soda. As soon as he realized his mistake, he tried to get the starch out, and added the soda (or so he says). Then he put all 8 loaves in the oven. I went and got him (he was outside watering the garden) when I smelled something burning. It was a bad deal. Totally messed up the oven, which I keep cleaned like new. I had to throw the batter out too... AND scour all 8 pans.

So I didn't get my list done today. On top of the oven fiasco, hubby couldn't get the tail gate open on his new pickup. I tried and I couldn't get it open either. So he had me take over watering the garden for him while he drove to the dealer in Ft. Stockton to get it adjusted. But there's always tomorrow. I keep plugging along because I'm afraid if I get behind, I'll never be able to catch up.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Trying to catch up in town

Drying apricots and peaches and doing so much other stuff, but did take a break to look for odes. Damselflies are getting more numerous. Saw my first Arroyo Bluet for the year. That's about it, other than the same old - same old.

Husband bought himself a new pickup today. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Cruising along

In my zealous optimism I expected it to rain at CMO during the last couple of days. Perfect weather, but no rain. So before I came to town today I had to water everything. Lots of places around me got rain though. Oh, well, my turn is coming.

This is the first year my orange acanthus has outshone the red acanthus. (I'm not sure of their names, either English or Latin, but one of them may be Flame Acanthus [anisacanthus quadrifidus wrightii]).

The reason may be that it took the orange ones longer to get established since I planted them a couple of years after the red ones. I hope they look this good every year. They're awesome! Makes the hummingbird garden look good, even though the hummers prefer the feeders.

I was hurting so bad in the night last night that I got up and took a couple of ibuprofen. Wow, what a difference that made! I felt great all day and no pain. I figure it's not masking the pain, which I'm opposed to, but reducing the inflammation, which is a good thing. My hip is hurting this evening but the rest of me is still good to go. That was only the second time I took anything for pain all during the making of both trails. It seems like if a person could keep the inflammation down they could keep arthritis at bay.

Back in Alpine where it has rained recently, I found an Aztec Dancer damselfly. Nothing special, just my first one this year. I plan to go to Lajitas next week to see what odes I can find there.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Finally finished

Finished, in a sense. It finished me, in a sense, too. The whole trail is done for now. It still needs more work, like big heavy rock steps in places, and widened with a pick in places, but that can wait until my big strong kids visit. Sunrise found me up above the upper landing.

It was such a lovely cool morning that I overdid myself. Looked for a better route across the ridge but there isn't a better one. So I worked a while on the current one. It's the worst part of the trail. I've dubbed it "the rugged crossing."

I added that lower rock for a step. It seems stable, but when I get help we can put a bigger heavier one there. And many other places. The rock is level and all but the wide-angle lens distorts things.

Next is the portion of trail between the corner and the Aoudad trail. This view is looking back toward the corner (in the clouds most of the morning).

Here is the last section of trail I did. It's on the Aoudad trail near the saddle. Too tired for a ribbon cutting ceremony. Just a before and after shot. I hate what the Aoudad (Barbary Sheep) have done to the lovely vegetation that used to be there. There used to be just a few Aoudad and now there are at least thirty of them.

I don't know anything about mosses and ferns* but there were some neat ones up there near the corner.

Coming down the mountain, after being up there for over five hours was difficult. I just waddled in baby steps using two walking sticks.

Back at the oasis it's always a treat to see a Turquoise-tipped Darner. Apparently they're not very common and were only discovered in Texas in 1996.

* I looked up the fern in my fern book and I think it's Notholaena copelandii, for what that's worth.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

One thing and another

Had planned to go up the mountain this morning but couldn't get out from under drying apricots in time. So tomorrow it is. The plan is to try to find a better route from the upper landing to the corner. Probably not possible, but I'm not happy with the one I roughed in. If I can't find a better one, then I'll do a lot of work on the present one at some point. Also going to retrieve my flashlight and work on the trail from the corner to the Aoudad trail. It seems to be a pretty easy gradual slope. I'll just need to cut into the slope so it'll be level to walk on. (This sketch shows it steeper than the slope actually is.)

Saw this blue-eyed lacewing. Have no idea what species it is, and didn't get a decent photo of it either. Once again, my camera's white balance was on the wrong setting. I have to quit doing that. I just thought lacewings had wings as long as their abdomens but this one wasn't that way.

Thursday, June 23, 2016


It was a little bit hairy for a while. I left with a flashlight at 6 AM and made it to one of the landings by daylight. Don't remember which, but I stashed my flashlight and coming back down was so worried about making it down that I forgot to retrieve the flashlight. I wasted valuable time and energy trying to get to the Mexican Blue Oak tree and also working on a wrong Aoudad trail. (The area is crisscrossed with them and I changed my mind on which one to follow.) At 9:30  I forced myself to quit and head down because I wasn't feeling so good. Slightly light-headed and nauseous. Even though it wasn't that hot (85°), I was covered with sweat. I'm sure I can finish the trail next time though. Here is the Aoudad trail that I was working on when I made myself quit.

You can see it's not very far from the saddle, and it's just barely roughed in. Needs lots more work. I can't stay out 4 hours again like I did today. It seems a shame to climb all that way up and only work an hour or so, but that's just how it's going to have to be. I think with two hours I can get it pretty much done. There's one section right after the "corner" that I didn't do anything to yet. Here's the corner. Between the corner and the sheer dropoff is the only place to cross the ridge. I literally turn the corner and keep angling up toward the saddle. Otherwise, I'd have to go downhill and then back up again.

It was a horrible climb getting to the tree but worth it to see the tiny acorns and woodpecker hole. Very likely used by an owl.

Getting down from the tree was hairy too. Its inaccessibility might be the only reason it has survived. Here I am hanging and plotting how to get down. I pretty much just slid down.

I saw these pretty flowers near the corner. Don't know what they are.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Primed for the climb

Gonna go up to the saddle tomorrow. Decided since it's going to get over 100° that I'd hit the trail around 6 AM with a flashlight until it gets light enough. That should give me an extra 30 minutes of cool. Every little bit helps.

Came to CMO this morning and watered. It's also a chance for me to look for odes and butterflies. Here's a Coyote Cloudywing.

And this next one I believe is just a Common Checkered-Skipper, although at first I thought it was a Desert Checkered-Skipper.

So in the morning my plan is to go up to the Mexican Blue Oak near the saddle and take a close photo of it, then start working on the Aoudad trail back toward the upper landing area where I left off. It would be great to get the whole thing roughed in, but that is really a lot to hope for. At least when it starts getting hot I'll be working in a downhill direction (if I stick to my plan). That should help too.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

I give up!

Well, I went back to the city offices this morning. Seems it wasn't the enforcer, Polanco, who instigated our citation, but the head of Keep Alpine Beautiful, Patsy McWilliams. Polanco just signs the citations. I haven't been able to get ahold of her yet, but the office talked to her and she told them she only had a problem with our Johnson grass. There is definitely Johnson grass mixed in with the flowers. It's all over town by the acres. So why did she pick the one place that had beauty mixed in with the grass to cite? I spent hours today clipping what I could from between the Red Hot Poker plants along the fence. Seems I'm allergic to the Johnson grass. My arms broke out in rash and my nose started running. And in a few days it'll need doing all over again. Then Hugh mowed outside the fence where the Johnson grass was all mixed in with the wild flowers. So we're doing our share to keep Alpine beautiful. Here's the ugly before:

And the beautiful after:

Later, I drove down to the library. On the way I saw at least 20 patches of Johnson grass. Here are just a few of them. 

Alley on 11th St right off Del Rio. (We're off 13th St. Compare this photo to the one of our alley I posted yesterday.)

Johnson grass along 11th St.

Johnson grass behind library

And so I don't bore you, here's the last one I'll post. It was taken right down the street from us off 13th St. and Del Rio. Another long strip of Johnson grass in the street. You get the idea.

I hate Alpine!

UPDATE: After I posted this Patsy McWilliams returned my earlier call and came by to discuss this. She said everything is fine; she was just bothered by the grass (not Johnson) under the pecan trees. My husband always keeps that mowed but apparently she inspected it the day before he mowed it and it was over 12" tall??? It was mowed when I saw it, so I don't remember. But we have no problem with that. She seems fine with the habitat, but we do need to get some kind of exemption from mowing it just to be on the safe side. I was upset when she pointed to the yard across the street from our habitat and said that was the kind of stuff that wasn't acceptable (weeds and no flowers in it). So I asked if she had issued them a citation and she said she hadn't but was going to. It was hard for me to be nice after that. She just flat singled us out for no reason. I'm going to work hard to get us some kind of exemption. Should have done it sooner but the city always seemed fine with our habitat before (and apparently still is).

LATER: It just now registered on me that the citation said, "high weeds," and when she came out she said her only issue was with grass over 12" tall.  She's obviously backpedalling, likely due to pressure. I've gone public, and the city manager is getting lots of letters complaining.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Plans derailed again!

 I try to stick to my plans but have to have priorities in order too. I got to CMO this morning to be greeted by a message on my answering machine from my husband, and he was very angry. For years I've been pressuring him to not mow the town habitat, but he feared a ticket from the city. Eventually he caved to my demands and didn't mow. Today he got a notice from the city. All my fault of course, and I'm ordered to "fix it." So I scrapped the trail plans and headed back to town.

This letter says the offense is "High weeds, including Right-of-way." First of all, it's the city's job to mow the right-of-way, not ours. Second, we do mow the right-of-way except for my flower patches which the city agreed to not mow last year and they didn't. Third, all around us are lots and yards full of weeds, tumbleweeds and worse. My husband thinks this is because the code enforcer doesn't like him because when my husband was on the city council he got into a heated argument with the enforcer about something. So I had to put the trail work on hold. Here are some photos of our "High weeds" taken today. The letter says it "must be cleaned and cleared within 10 days."

Our alley, kept mowed by us.

And here are photos of yards all within 2 blocks of us that are like this year-round. Never mowed. I took these photos a couple of months ago.

I rest my case. If you can, come by and see for yourself. (W Marfa St between 12th & 13 Street.) Or you can email the city manager at:

The squeaking wheel and all.....

It's a shame when you can own land in town but can't enjoy flowers and native grasses on it, instead must toil to keep it mowed to code. I don't like bloggers that use their blog for their political or religious agendas, and I don't do that, but you know how I do anything for my habitats, like the year (2011) that I bought and hauled water for an entire year.

Tomorrow I'm going to see about filing an appeal. It seems incomprehensible to me that our beautiful habitat isn't considered an asset to Alpine, instead of something to be condemned. And I'm not only fighting the city but fighting my husband over it too.

Sunday, June 19, 2016


I decided to go ahead and dry the apricots today and go to CMO in the morning. It'll be too late to go up the mountain unless I leave here at 5 AM, in which case I'd be too tired to last long up there. But Tues AM should be cool in the morning and I won't last longer than that anyway, so that's my plan. Determined to work some on the whole rest of the trail as much as I can so that if it gets used, a person can at least know where the trail is and stay on it. And also that I hopefully won't feel a need to go back up until I'm totally recovered.

Our peach tree here in town is old and we have to prop up the limbs. Those on the left side didn't seem to be too heavy so I didn't prop them. And the one totally snapped off. The peaches aren't salvageable but maybe with fewer peaches on the tree the remaining ones will grow bigger. Or not. We still have lots of dried fruit left from last year so I'm feeling no compulsion to dry a ton more. And the new peach tree is big and loaded.

Here's a better shot of the apple tree. We've been picking and giving away the apples on the lower branches to keep deer from eating them. These are Ein Sheimer apples and they make the best cobbler.

My sister got nearly a quarter inch of rain this evening so hoping when I get down there in the morning I won't have to water. Just rest and enjoy. That's the plan. I'm sure no one will be surprised if it changes.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Can't keep up

Still in town trying to recover before my big climb Monday. But resting isn't really possible with so much needing done here. Now tomorrow we're supposed to go pick apricots but I'll have to just put them in the refrigerator for a couple of days. If I start drying them tomorrow it'll keep me up all night. Not possible to go climb and work on the highest part of the trail the following morning. I wish I was more of me, or in better shape, or younger, or something.

I spent some time out by our ponds. Everything is covered with flowers so I was hoping to find interesting odes or butterflies. Nothing interesting though. Same old species. The habitat here in town would be awesome if it wasn't in town. Noise all around, so hard to feel the ambience of nature, but I tried.

Common Sootywing

Friday, June 17, 2016

Hot and humid

Sure would be nice to be able to work on the trail without the heat and humidity to contend with. I went up at daylight this morning. It took 30 minutes to get to where I had left off, so I worked for two hours before the heat exhausted me. But I think I can finish the trail in two more trips up, three at the most. That may be too optimistic, especially since the heat isn't going to get any better any time soon.

Here's a sketch that may or may not give you some idea of things where I'm currently working. (I'm not good at writing via photoshop.)

Everything on the sketch is very general, keep in mind. I see a lot wrong with it. For one thing the trail (red) is getting higher all the time as it goes up the ridge. By the time it gets to the "corner" it won't be ascending very much anymore. Right now it's really bad. I keep switching between steps and switchbacks so neither will get too overwhelming when hiking the trail. I couldn't go up 100 consecutive steps, but endless switchbacks that slowly gained altitude would be a misery too, not to mention endless to construct. And I make plenty of steep ramps too, but not too steep, I hope.

At the last minute I decided to detour onto the upper landing. Adds more interest to the grueling ascent. And the detour is like a switchback so makes the trail not so steep there. This photo is looking up to that landing. Note my red stool sitting there. Normally I try to keep my shadow off photos, but there was no place for me to move to. I was really dragging at this point. It was either work on the trail up ahead with a hoe, or pick ax this spot and be through for the day. I chose the latter.

It looks really steep going up to the landing, but I don't remember it being steep there. Photos are so tricky.

June 18 update: It's killing my body so I decided I can't do consecutive days anymore now that the work is so far up the mountain. Monday it's supposed to be a bit cooler, so I'm going to go up for 4 hours and rough in the rest of the trail, if possible and not go up again for at least 3 or 4 days, if at all.