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Monday, July 31, 2017

Creative cookery

I can cook and sew and all that stuff but I really don't enjoy cooking. It's tolerable if I can get creative with it. So we had a bunch of peaches given to us that I made juice out of with my new juicer. But it bothered me to waste the left over pulp. I tried mixing it with the juice but that spoiled the enjoyment of the juice. So I decided to make a peach pulp pie. Couldn't find a recipe for one online. (Red appliance on photo is my juicer.)

On the left is the pulp with sugar added. I made a pie crust and spread the mixture on the crust. Then I topped it with a blend of brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, oatmeal, etc. It turned out a little tart, but otherwise perfect, so next time I'll add more sugar.

Glad to not waste the pulp anymore. I'll enjoy the juice more. I froze the surplus pulp for the next pies.

Went out back to the ponds for a little while to practice photography. No improvement, but I am learning how to adjust the settings. And I'm absorbing the functions of the settings, hopefully for better shots. Didn't take good ones today, but couldn't stay out long. My allergies are kicking in and I don't want to end up with bronchitis, especially not this early in the season. Or preferably ever. Last year I got real bad with it in November. Here are a couple of shots I took a few days ago before I rushed down to the oasis to pump water. They're just common species. That's all I have here.

female Eastern Amberwing

Plateau Spreadwing

In order to do better I may have to start shooting in RAW. And I'd need a better program for processing RAW images. I might prefer to just do the best I can with JPEG. When Mac or someone knowledgeable visits I'll have them see what they can do with my camera and decide then. I have to weigh my age, allergies, learning curve, etc. Just don't know. When I stand beside someone photographing the same thing and their shot is awesome, mine looks really amateur beside it. Of course they shoot in RAW with better camera bodies.  For now I want to see what's the best possible with my camera in JPEG, and shoot for that.

Balmorhea State Park

You may recall that several days ago (July 28 post) I went to Balmorhea and found the state park there packed. I got trapped in there because people coming in were blocking the entrance. On the previous attempt to go there it was closed due to being filled to capacity. This article explains what the situation there is. Social media is impacting the whole Big Bend area the same way. A couple of years ago I mentioned on a local Facebook page that was happening and my comment was immediately removed by the site's administrator. Social media encourages people to swarm to fragile ecosystems. The only solution is to create more special places. Or make people take courses on how to protect these important habitats. If that was a requirement Balmorhea State Park wouldn't have to worry about too many people showing up. And those that came would understand the impact they have. But I'm fantasizing here.

Balmorhea State Park is home to the largest spring-fed swimming pool in the world. Each day, the San Solomon Springs pumps 15 million gallons of fresh water through the pool. But what used to be a hidden gem in the arid desert, has been discovered. Over the last several years, more and more people are making the trek to this West Texas park.
Carolyn Rose, the park’s superintendent, believes that social media’s behind the onslaught of new visitors. “Somehow, this park got discovered,” she says. “People come from a long way. They put it on their bucket list, and they want to come swim in the springs.”
One recent steamy Saturday morning, Rose is greeting cars as they line up at the entrance. She says this isn’t uncommon. Since 2008, the number of annual park visitors has jumped 127%, from about 72,000 visitors to more than 163,000 last year, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
The swell in visitors is having a negative impact on the park’s natural and cultural resources, according to Rose. In May, Balmorhea State Park began limiting visitors to 1,300 people a day. A thousand people are allowed entry in the morning, and 300 more are given tickets to enter the park at 3pm. Weekends have gotten so busy, that the park now updates its capacity on Facebook and Twitter.
Ashley Duvall traveled to Balmorhea from Midland. She’d been checking the park’s social media status updates, but that didn’t prevent her and her friends from waiting an hour and 15 minutes to gain entry to the pool. Storms the night before had made the park’s computer system slower than usual. “It has been a long wait, I’m not going to lie,” she says. She’d even unpacked her lounge chair, sitting while she waits.
While swimming alone doesn’t have a negative impact on the park’s natural resources, it’s the other things that visitors do that are the problem. According to Superintendent Carolyn Rose, visitors have strung up hammocks on the columns of historic pagodas built in the 1930s, dumped charcoal on the roots of cottonwood trees, and caught the park’s rare and protected headwater catfish in zip lock bags. Children and dogs are let loose to splash in the park’s canal system, which is protected habitat for the park’s two species of endangered fish: the Pecos gambusia and the Comanche Springs pupfish.
Wesley Pool – yes, that’s his real last name – stands by the pool’s edge, a dripping wetsuit pulled halfway down his chest. He’s been traveling to Balmorhea from his home in Clovis, New Mexico for the last 10 years, to scuba dive in the clear blue waters. He says he likes to interact with the fish he sees at the bottom.
“You can take crackers in a sandwich bag and crumble them up, and when you get down to the bottom you open it up. You do a circle with the crackers and the minnows just go nuts,” he says. “I mean it’s a feeding frenzy. They just engulf people. That’s fun to do.”
Superintendent Rose warns of the negative impact this could have: “People are feeding, constantly, they’re feeding the fishes and turtles. And primarily, it seems like the thing they like to feed them is white bread. And y’know, white bread isn’t even really that healthy for human beings.”
But there are plenty of people like Pool that simply aren’t aware that what they’re doing is wrong. That’s why Texas Parks and Wildlife plans to make educational outreach a priority. Once the peak summer months are over, their goal is to educate the public about preserving the park. Educational initiatives have been key to limiting human impact at other natural pools in the state.
Wayne Simmons is the Aquatic Program Manager for the City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department. He says that Barton Springs – another famous Texas watering hole – can receive anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 guests a day. But because of their educational initiatives, they don’t see many of the same problems that are taking place at Balmorhea. “When (visitors) see the educational exhibits that we have, and they learn, their eyes open up really wide and it’s like ‘oh okay.’ The light bulb comes on,” says Simmons.
While there are similarities, Barton Springs has an army of staff, volunteers, and public support. In West Texas, a statewide hiring freeze has left the Balmorhea State Park down four employees all summer long, while public interest just keeps rising. So, for now, Rose is focused on what she can do – and that’s controlling the number of people that enter.
— Bayla Metzger & Diana Nguyen

Sunday, July 30, 2017

CMO today

Hardly any sleep last night. I had thought I'd end up with more water than I did, but the top parts of the tanks hold a lot more water than the bottom halves. So, whereas I thought I'd be at 2/3 capacity today, that 7 hrs of pumping during the night didn't raise the levels all that much.  Maybe they're at 50% capacity. But soon a big deluge should come along and fill them. Not worried, yet...

Daylight found me waiting for my son to arrive and fix things. It was a hot grueling day, especially since I was tired from the onset, but he got the guesthouse water heater working. I'm a bit concerned because when it first went out I took off the cover to the thermostat and the insulation was very wet. Somehow I had forgotten about that. It's been dry since. And of course that thermostat was the problem so Eric quickly replaced it and the heater seems to work fine now. My concern is what was the source of the wetness, and will it happen again? He left off the insulation so we'll see. Here's the bad thermostat.

Then it was on to the next project: pressure pump at house. That was a bear. And it was stifling hot inside the working space.

By the time he got everything broke apart (he had to reuse a lot of the old pipe but in different configurations), and assembled the pipes needed to make the replacement work, we were both too exhausted to think about the next project. One has to work with what is available here. Can't run to the store for a fitting. And it was 100° outside in the shade. 

I was intending to take an "after" picture of the pressure pump, but company showed up and it didn't happen. Here's the "before." Believe it or not, this was installed in 1979 and works fine. It was the tank's bladder that was the problem. Since my sister gave me a newer, lightly used tank and pump, he opted not to reuse my old Gould pump.

The next project, installing an electrical outlet where I need one, would have required working out in the sun. Not doable. I can keep using an extension cord until cooler weather.

The main stuff is done, although I could always use help with some other stuff. It can wait. Just so happy to have done what is done, and so proud of my son. How awesome the oasis would be if he could help out more often. But I know he works really hard keeping the Triangle store, U-haul business, etc. going in Alpine. He gave up his only day off this week. And the oasis is my passion, not his.

Before I headed back to town, I spent a little time with the visitors. There are lots of gliders about, both Wandering and Spot-winged. Here's the latter.

Tomorrow, rest. My sinus infection was improving until last night. And allergies are starting to kick in, so I need to slow down some. If life just wouldn't come at me so fast!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

All night pumping again

For the third time this year CMO got approximately half an inch of rain and the upper dirt tank caught some runoff. I was in town but came post haste when my sister called me. It was right before supper, but I left anyway. Here's me rushing down the highway to see if there would be water to pump, or hopefully, full tanks and no need to pump.

2017 7-29 Hwy 118

After I got out of that deluge I came to a dry area. Even saw a dust devil. Crazy country.

Getting closer to my mountain

Camel's Hump along Terlingua Ranch Road

I was elated to have enough water to pump. By morning my tanks should be at 2/3rds capacity. Probably a big gully washer will come tomorrow, rendering my staying up all night to pump unnecessary. But I'm not willing to risk it. Just as easily this could be my last runoff for 6 months or worse. Don't want to even contemplate the "worse."

While in town today I practiced photographing common odes just to become better with the camera settings. Got a couple of fairly decent shots but left them on my town computer when I came rushing down here. The lighting problem is a little better, but still not as sharp as they should be. Not giving up. Never.

Friday, July 28, 2017

More camera frustration

Today I was determined to go to Balmorhea and look for the Fiery-eyed Dancer that had been seen there several days ago. I knew it was a long shot, but fun to look anyway. I was not successful in my quest, but what frustrated me so much was my photography. All these years and it still hasn't improved. And it seems no matter how I set things in Av mode, they're overblown. So I set a fast shutter speed in Tv mode, but they were too dark. I'll just keep working at it until I get the hang of it, but meantime, I'm beyond frustrated. Besides that, my pictures are no sharper with my new camera than with my Rebel.

I took nearly 150 photos today and most weren't good, or sharp. I was surprised at one shot, though, because the ode wouldn't land so I took a half-way decent shot of it in-flight. That doesn't happen, well, ever. Here's the in-flight Eastern Ringtail.

This next shot of a Four-striped Leaftail would have been OK if I had been able to get parallel with the ode, so the tail would be in focus, but sometimes that's not possible.

Another frustration is the camera. Or do I repeat myself? Twice, during the 3 hrs I walked along the canals at Balmorhea State Park, and for no reason that I can conceive of, the camera body separated from the lens. That would have been catastrophic if I hadn't had the camera strap (that's attached to the body) on my shoulder to help with the weight, and my monopod, which was attached to the lens, firmly in my grip. I can't figure out any way it could have been something I did to separate it. My hand and my leg closest to the camera were both on the opposite side from the release switch.

Four-striped Leaftail
I ran into Melody Lytle. When I explained my overblown shots, she said I could lower the exposure compensation. I've done that before without any help, but at the moment she told me, I couldn't remember how to set it. She told me to press the shutter button halfway down and then turn the top dial. So I did, and nothing happened. Then she explained that the camera has an "on" position, and a "more on" position. And in Av mode, and probably Tv mode, I forget, you have to have the on switch to the more on position. You've got to be kidding me! OMG. Will I ever learn this camera? Speaking of the on switch, I've broken fingernails trying to turn it on, yet almost every time I go to take my first photo of the session, the mode position has been accidentally moved to the wrong mode.

There were so many people at the park that when I went to leave around 1 PM the exit lane was blocked with incoming vehicles. I don't know what makes them think that's OK. What if an emergency happened and someone had to get out asap. I'm either getting too old to deal with crowds or too spoiled by having my own oasis. I know I hadn't recovered from my hard day at the oasis yesterday before I went gallivanting off today. Three hours of walking carrying my heavy camera really did me in. And it was hot too.

Gonna have to slow down though because as soon as I got there my pollen allergies started up. Luckily I had my inhaler and allergy pill with me, so it was OK. But soon the pollen will get worse and those things won't help as much. Don't want to end up in the hospital with bronchitis like I did last fall. So gotta stay indoors more. Tonight that sounds doable. Can't speak for tomorrow.

Thursday, July 27, 2017


Went down to start my pumping after I couldn't find leaks in the stucco tank. If there are some they're probably on the bottom, or I didn't pump the water out fast enough for them to show up. So  what is, is.

As I was setting up the pump, a swarm of dragonflies were overhead. One, I think, was a Pale-faced Clubskimmer. I was determined to photograph it, but it wouldn't land. So I hastened up to the house for my net to catch it and release it after photos. It had been hovering all around me, but when I got back with the net a few minutes later, most of the odes were gone. Later in the day, I relocated it around the upper dirt tank. Ran back to the oasis for the net. When I got back, I got one swing at it but missed. (I've only ever caught one ode before) Then it landed, but I had a net, not a camera in my hand. Ran to the pickup for my camera and couldn't find the ode again. Meanwhile I photographed a damselfly but the photos were overblown. Went up to the house, downloaded a manual, determined to solve that problem once and for all. After a frustrating hour, I finally stumbled onto the problem/solution. Online it said to set the shutter speed at such and such but didn't tell how. When I accidentally found out how (I always shoot in Av and you can't set it in that mode), I went down to the oasis to practice and there was an expert professional photography instructor who had been there the past hour. Could have saved myself a lot of time and frustration. She gave me some other useful tips too. Hopefully, I'm good to go. Otherwise, I can download her photography e-book. (Kathy Clark.) Might do it anyway.

I didn't mind pumping the water today because I used the electric pump. It's quiet and doesn't need monitoring and gassing. So I could enjoy my own private waterfall all day.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Pumped out the stucco tank

It was too dark to see if there were leaks at the bottom edge by the time I got the water pumped out. Will look again in the morning, but didn't see any.

That left me with 6' of water in the big concrete tank. Not bad. Tomorrow after I make sure no leaks, or patch any I find, I'll pump half of that water back into the stucco tank. Not only is the stucco tank the only one hooked up to my watering system, but if I have lots of water in the big tank and a flash flood comes, instead of being able to go into the big tank, the water will go over the dam and into the stucco tank. And the area where it enters the stucco tank gets flooded on the outside of the tank wall, making the tank leak in that area more often than not. The best case scenerio is for the big tank to have room for all the water and I pump the stucco tank full from the dirt tank. That saves the tank wall best. But of course, nature is going to do what it's going to do. There's been a lot of flooding in the area, just none here.

Someone found a Fiery-eyed Dancer damselfly in Balmorhea State Park recently. That's one species I'd really like to see and photograph, so maybe after I get the water rearranged I'll go up there. I had gone several weeks ago but the park was closed due to being full.

Today I mixed my first real batch of butterfly brew. It has to sit for one month before it's ready to use. I followed Brian's instructions carefully. Hope it turns out good.

 I mixed a bottle of a special kind of beer that Brian gave me with 7 pureed bananas and a cup of pear pulp left over from my juicing adventure yesterday. Plus 2 lbs brown sugar. Covered it with gauze fabric. Put the container in a basin of water so ants can't get to it. And covered the top when it's out in the sun so critters can't get into it. Hope I've thought of everything.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Back to town

Decided not to miss any photo ops coming to town. I photographed an Simitar Oryx with really long horns but not as close to the highway as the one I missed yesterday. Still impressive and when they shake their heads their horns flop around. This is probably a normal length for that species.

When I got to Calamity Creek, which is about 20 miles south of Alpine, I noticed it was running. Haven't seen it running for maybe years, so I backed up and parked and walked down to the water.

 I could tell that the water had been at least 20 feet deep during the night. Very close to the floor of the bridge.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Too tunnel-visioned here

Decided to go to CMO after I got things caught up in town. There was no reason to rush because it had only been two days since I serviced the feeders and watered. Nevertheless, I sped down the highway, not stopping for several great photo ops. Then when I got to CMO there was absolutely nothing to photograph. Disgusted with myself.

I photographed a male Lucifer Hummingbird for no other reason than I just had to photograph something, anything. I should have used my monopod. I think it would have been sharper if I had. Don't know.

In my courtyard I have a small lily pond. The lilies grow enormous roots and dirt accumulates on the roots. Then stuff grows there. I haven't cleaned the pond out for years. Just too much maintenance anymore for me to keep up with. Here is an oleander and ruellia growing in the pond. I was surprised that the oleander is white because the only oleanders I have on my property are pink. Oh well.

My son flew his plane to Colorado this weekend and I was very nervous. Didn't head south until I knew he had landed safely.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Collared Mountain Lion

I've posted cam video clips of this mountain lion before, so hadn't planned on posting anymore, but this recent batch of videos is pretty startling to me. Therefore, gonna post a couple of them.

The first one was taken at night mid-July. I posting it because it shows him blind in the right eye, as do many of the other clips that I'm not posting.


The next one is during daylight hours and shows how beat up he is. I can't help but wonder if the collar inhibits his ability to make cleaner kills. He only eats javelina, if you recall.

07140091 (1)

Friday, July 21, 2017

Surprise critter cam capture

You've probably seen the mountain lion video clips from my sister's cam in a cave atop our mountain, but none of us expected her to capture footage (22 clips) of a raptor. How cool is that?  My sister thought Peregrine and listening to it call on one of the clips, I agreed, a juvenile Peregrine. Since then however, I've been told it's a buteo, possibly a Swainson's, but not a Red-tailed. Will update when I get confirmation.

06280048 I think the extender helps my photography. And possibly the reason my photos were overexposed might be because some spot focus lighting function was turned off. Not sure. Gotta study more on the manual. Here are a few ode pics from today. This Great Pondhawk was quite a distance from me, so I credit the extender that you can see the leg hairs on this photo.

And this is only the second time I've seen a Smoky Rubyspot at CMO, so that was a surprise, especially considering the wildlife pond with the reeds in is still dry. Both of these odes were hidden back in some brush near the back water feature, making it hard to get clear shots.

I'm ready for the big one! Cleared out around the suction intake in the upper dirt tank. Had to deal with hordes of mosquitoes there. I raised that pan up about 6" out of the mud so the pump will work good for at least the next deluge. After that I may need to clean it out again. My husband is going to clean that tank out eventually. Meantime, I can just keep raising things up out of the mud.

And the other big pump has been repaired. My sister had to help me load it for town the other day and re-install it today. There was a broken wire on the on-off switch.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Moving along

Still moving, anyway. Finished the peaches and heading to CMO in the morning to water. Practiced some with my camera today. Having the problem of photos being overexposed. I darken them on photoshop, but they need to be properly exposed in the camera. Working on it. These photos were taken with my extender. I can't really tell the difference with or without it. More practice will tell more, I guess.

Plateau Spreadwing
Common Pondhawk

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Trying to catch up

That's the story of my life, of course. Like "I'm dancing as fast as I can." Just about through with the peaches.

 I didn't have the desire or energy to deal with the grapes (I never do) so I offered them for free on Brewster County Exchange's Facebook site. However, I'm going to buy a juicer, and in the future I'm going to keep more of our produce. I gave the whole tree full of apples away the last couple of years.

I feel guilty about that, but if I dry them, they're concentrated sugar and I need to keep my blood sugar down, as much as I love dried fruit. And I'm drying peaches right now. At least with a juicer the fruit will be closer to fresh fruit. But I'll probably consume more of it and end up with the same result. Life is tough.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Quick CMO trip

I drove down today to service feeders and a couple of other things. The stucco tank leaked 2" in two days, so allowing half an inch per day for evaporation, it's borderline bad. Because it was 3' down to begin with. Had it been brim full it would have leaked worse. Now would be a good time to pump it out because the big concrete tank has room for the water in it. Once a big rain comes, there'll be no place to store it. But I needed to get back to town.* Going back Friday. Will consider pumping it out then. I can do it with electricity but still a long process. Pumping it out all at once is the only way to find the leaks because the water trickles back into the tank through the leaks.

In a hurry to wash feeders and no water pressure so I re-invented the old fashioned way. Filled another pan with clean water and dipped them in that. Actually faster than running the faucet on them. I may do it that way from now on.

* In town the peaches are ripening fast, so I'm in the process of picking and drying them. They make wonderful snacks when hiking or trying to stay awake on the drive to town. Also, since we don't have the rent house leased yet and my husband doesn't know how to do the computer, I need to take care of renting it. Everything is done online these days.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Today a better day

At midnight last night I shut off the pump. It was too dark to see how low the water was getting and I sure didn't want the pump to run dry. Also I was exhausted and HAD to get some sleep. At daybreak I went out and got into the tank. I determined the suction thingee was in mud. I must have forgotten to clear around it after that early June rain. I pulled it out but didn't put weight back on it. After pumping an hour it floated to the top and lost its prime. (I had hoped that the line was mudded in too so wouldn't need the weight.) When the water gets low in the tank it's difficult to prime and it was almost impossible the first time this morning so after that hour of pumping, I knew it was hopeless. Only about a foot of water left in the tank. So I just gave up. Learn from my mistakes. Mistakes I've made before, I might add. Not learning too well. Age and sleep deprivation, I guess. I have lots of water (probably one-third capacity), and it'll surely rain more this summer. Once the tank dries out I'll fix it so it won't silt the pump in during the next deluge. But it needs checked after each big rain.

My stand of soapberries in the arroyo haven't died like I worried they might, although they lost a lot of leaves. More rain should rejuvenate them even better.

Rushed to town midday and finished up the floors in the rent  house. My husband will wax them in the morning and then it's move in ready. Whew! We really had to do a lot of work to it. New fixtures and we even put in a new range. The old one was just too nasty to clean.

My son from Austin is due late tonight. He's staying at Terlingua Ranch Lodge because of all the stuff not working at CMO. I bought the stuff to fix the water heater. Just need to get my Alpine son down there to do it. Maybe he can fix the pressure pump too while he's at it. 

Dragonflies are already showing up so I hope to get some good photos of some in the next several days. I didn't top off the stucco tank because I want to make sure it doesn't leak first. So I put a bunch of my new water into the big tank. Added gambusias (mosquito fish). The frogs and snakes already found their own way there.

And in a few days things will surely start blooming and butterflies will start showing up.

UPDATE: My son got halfway here and a sign he made for my other son blew out of his pickup. Bringing that sign was the main reason for the trip, so he turned around and headed back to Austin and cancelled the trip altogether. I'm very disappointed, but it could be worse. I had worked fast and furious to get caught up by the time he came. So was in readiness. But the main thing is that everyone is safe and well. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Earning my water

Whew! I pumped all night long but removed very little water from the dirt tank. Less volume is being pumped out than usual. By then I was almost out of gasoline so made a rush trip to Study Butte for what I thought was sure to be enough gas (in my sleep deprived state). En route was the only glimpse of sun I got today.

Next I got my sister to help me uninstall the one big gas pump at the upper dirt tank and replace it with my other big gas pump from the lower dirt tank. A gargantuan task for us. No change. There has to be a blockage somewhere. Either residue from that rat's nest I had back in early June, or mud around the suction hose inside the tank. But the water is over my head so I have to pump it down before I can check that out. What I thought would be an 8 hr job has been 24 hrs and counting.

And another sleep-deprived night to anticipate. While I was working at the tank I observed this strange cloud formation over my mountain. Looks like a tiny funnel cloud reaching out and touching the mountain, but I doubt it was.