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Sunday, March 18, 2018

Alpine tomatoes

It's real windy today. I told you these plants weren't pretty. But they'll be a reference point to compare in a couple of weeks. I cover them every night.

This next shot is of the one that wilted before I could get it planted. It'll likely survive.

Ocotillo are blooming at CMO but so far Lucifer Hummingbird seekers are having no trouble seeing them. That can change overnight, of course.

My vertigo is almost gone. Over a week ago I cut out all sugar from my diet. No more yogurt, cranberry juice or dark chocolate. Don't miss it. Hope it helps my health. We'll see. Can't hurt.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Almost back to my old self

Emphasis on the "old." Got watering done today, did some pruning, and other odds and ends. Really wore myself out. Hope I don't regret it. I love my little verbena patch. It attracts butterflies.

Hoping that it'll get lush as I keep watering it, but it probably won't. Good learning experience though. Below is the only Faxon Yucca on either my land, or my sister's adjacent land. It's so lovely, but maybe if we had a lot of it we wouldn't appreciate it as much.

For those of you that are into insects, here's one I don't recognize. (On Little-leaf Sumac buds.)

Friday, March 16, 2018

Definitely spring

In town yesterday I planted the tomato plants. For some reason they grew spindly and limpish indoors. I figured better not delay getting them into the ground any longer. I deliberately took them out one at a time. Trying to be helpful, my husband brought the remainder outdoors to me. I didn't say anything, but I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get them planted and covered fast enough. Vertigo and all. I made it with all but one. By the time I got to it, it had wilted terribly. I planted it anyway. Maybe it'll come up from the roots. We only planted six this year so we won't be inundated with bushels of tomatoes. Didn't think to take pics. Not very pretty yet.

Came down to my beloved oasis after a dentist appointment late this afternoon. I'm really feeling close to normal today finally. That whatever-it-was really zapped me.

Tomorrow I'll water and service feeders, then go back to town to nurse my tomato plants. Since I got here late and always so much to do, I didn't take photos except for this blooming Button Cactus (epithelantha micromeris). I hope I can get a photo of it when it has fruit on it.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Almost well

Even though I knew today would be a chilly day I felt I needed to check hummingbird feeders. Got to CMO and the feeders were fine, but managed to wear myself out more than I should have. Still have vertigo, but it's getting better.

Upon arriving, I accidentally flushed eight Green-winged Teal from the big tank. Before I realized what was happening a couple of Peregrine Falcons appeared out of nowhere. The ducks dropped back into the tank. Thereafter, they seemed afraid to stay in the water. They hugged the sides of the tank for the rest of the day, and flushing no longer seemed to be an option. I guess Peregrines can pick them off the water. Don't know.

Tomorrow is supposed to be a lovely day so I hope to finish watering and enjoy looking for butterflies.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Physically in Alpine

Mentally, another story.

Here's a newspaper clipping of my daughter's grand opening a while back.

Another boring day in Alpine, but soon things are going to get exciting at CMO.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Near instant gratification

I got to watch butterflies today at my new verbena patch. YAY!

Southern Dogface
Sleepy Orange

I know it's a puny patch, but location is everything. Here are some shots of verbena I took along Hwy 118 today, and I couldn't find a butterfly in it anywhere.

Oasis Mexican Redbud looking good...

I haven't gotten tired of photographing Henry's Elfins yet....

And, in case you're wondering why I push myself so hard, it's because I have to keep up with my sister. Here she is today, doing her thing, patching stucco on the house she built with her own hands.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Cool weather

For some reason I thought today was going to be cool and then the next couple of days warm, so I came to CMO expecting some warm weather. But the next couple of days are going to be cool. Don't know if they changed the forecast, or what. Still not totally over my vertigo, but functioning fine. My verbena patch is blooming but still looks sparse.

The Mountain Laurels make up for the blooms, just not for the butterfly attraction.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Verbena Vertigo

After my previous post about killing myself planting verbena, I ate and went to bed (7 PM). In the night I got bad vertigo and by morning I couldn't keep anything down. Not even one sip of water. By 4 PM my sister brought me over some vertigo meds, which I kept down. Finally, dragging around, weak and dizzy, today. Lost yesterday totally. I had vertigo bad like this once before many years ago. Since then only mild bouts.My sisters get it occasionally too since they're older. None of the men in my family have ever had it. For some reason older women tend to get it.

Got some mulch on the verbena before heading to town. Too weary to take any photos, but I plan to go back in a couple of days. Saw some kind of a dragonfly today and some butterflies, so the action is picking up.

My husband's rash doesn't look any better to me, so guess it wasn't scabies. Back to the drawing board.

Friday, March 2, 2018

All in a day's slavery

I planted the verbena patch today. First, I pruned under a mesquite tree where I wanted to plant, then I watered the ground so I could dig it up. (Maybe you can see where I cut the lower limbs on the tree.)

Digging was a nightmare. I swear there was a rockpile buried there. Not one shovel went into the ground without hitting at least one rock immediately. Really wore me out. I'll haul off the new above-ground rockpile tomorrow. Sure hope javelina don't dig up the patch in the night. That will be so disheartening. They don't normally bother established plants, but invariably attack now plantings. Hopefully, the little fence I put up will keep them out.

Also too exhausted to mulch it, but will do that tomorrow ---- if it's still there.

I did see my first Lucifer of the year today. Last year one had his feeding territory in the arroyo by a tall yucca that he perched on most all day every day. But that yucca has fallen over in the high winds. It's right at the edge of the big tank, almost hanging over. It doesn't pay to get attached to my yuccas.

Saw my first Henry's Elfin for this year too.

Hugh's rash is still real itchy. Giving it some time to settle down, if it's scabies. If not, he has an appointment in Odessa Tuesday.

The upper settling pond has always been a good place to see butterflies, so I put the sprinkler on it for a while today. A fair amount of verbena there.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Oasis visit cut short

Both of the above photos were taken at sunrise this morning. The reflection of it in the tank (looking west) was just about as awesome as the sunrise itself.

After a good night's sleep in my own quiet bed, I was renewed enough today to tackle the cone again. Finally ended up just grinding the excess off with a Saws-all. It was already ugly anyway. Now it functions normally at least.

I was so determined to get the feeder hung out of bear's reach, but totally couldn't. Got more rope burns than I already was sporting, so I put on heavy leather gloves.  By wrapping the rope around my hands as I hoisted, I got it 8 feet up. YAY! After all, the bucket weighs the same in the first few feet of lift as it does in the last few, so it had to be a matter of technique, not weight.

I had also determined to stay at the oasis until I saw a Lucifer Hummingbird, but not to be. My husband called and insisted he needed me in town. He's still trying to get a handle on his rash and went to another Dr. (actually this time it was a Nurse Practitioner) today who thinks it's scabies. So he needs me to smear some medication on his back where he can't reach. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

It's spring!

My husband intended to go fishing this morning so once again I planned to come to CMO. After being really puny for the last several days, I woke up at 3:30 AM, ready for the day. But at 6:00 AM, Hugh got up and said he didn't feel up to going fishing.* I came to the oasis anyway.

Didn't see a Lucifer today but there's a SW wind so I'm sure they'll start arriving tomorrow. Meanwhile, Sandhill Cranes are taking advantage of the wind. I always get so excited when I hear them coming. Today a flock of about 65 flew in formation, then started milling around above the oasis. Shortly another flock came from the south, flying in formation, and joined the first flock as they continued north.

 My verbena is looking good but I was too puny to dig up more. I'm thinking about putting them in the citriseria so no hogs or javelina can dig them up. No hurry. They're already starting to bloom and there's no butterflies so this project may be a bust. (A couple of them are still indoors until they grow new roots.)

I should have lots of Harvard Penstemon this year. However, that attracts hummers more than it attracts butterflies.

Most of my day today was spent making a cone/funnel for inside the hanging feeder. I shopped all over Alpine looking for something to buy that would work but couldn't find anything. It was a huge pain to make, but at least it'll serve the purpose. And I didn't even cut myself on the sharp tin. Cut it too big the first time and had to re-cut it. Still fits too snug to let the seeds dispense properly so tomorrow I'm going to make the holes in the bucket taller. Can't stand to cut on the cone anymore. Sorry, forgot to take a photo of it. It's pretty ugly. With the hollow in the center of the bucket now I was able to raise the feeder up to about 6 feet. That should deter bears. After I adjust the holes I'll probably try to get it up another foot. (The seed in the center just added to the weight while not being accessible to the birds.)


*For the past couple of months my husband has suffered from a horribly itchy rash. Still haven't got a handle on what's causing it, but his Dr is trying different things. He has an appointment with an allergist in Odessa next week.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Taking the verbena challenge

This is a lot of work. Hope it actually pays off. Reminds me of years ago when I built an  underground nesting complex for Burrowing Owls. It never attracted that species, because they don't nest where there's not enough prairie grasses, and apparently they don't winter in the high desert either.

Now I'm trying to transplant a patch of verbena. They're not too hard to dig up at the oasis and I've found a few more plants of it. But I'd like a patch of about 3 dozen plants. So far I've dug up half that amount. And then I'll have to prepare a bed, and keep them watered.

Here's my efforts along the highway. The ground is rock hard and I have to use a rock hammer. Can't get them out with roots intact, but my research indicates that they can grow new roots. First I dig a trench around the plant, then fill it with water and work away at it until I get it out. Usually, that's when the dirt around the root crumbles away and leaves me with bare roots.

It's hard to find any small ones, not in bloom.

 I'm really wiped out. Gonna baby them and see if they survive and grow. And if they do, and I can figure out where I want to transplant them to,* and get it ready, and transplant them, it'll be an accomplishment. It only takes a couple of hours of moderate work to totally exhaust me. Here's some that I dug up today.

The six verbena that I dug up a couple of days ago look good. 

Here are a few of those piles of surfacing material along the highway. Would sure be nice if I had it on my road.

Saw my first Funereal Duskywings of the year today. Saw it earlier last year. Seems to hang out by the blooming Mountain Laurel this time of year. It bloomed earlier last year, as I recall.

No hummers yet.

* I want to plant them where they get a little shade, and can be viewed easily, preferably where photographers hang out, so if I'm not there I won't miss a rare sighting. Also need to be away from walkways so they don't get in the way of birders. The only potential place I've found so far would require a lot of grass removal.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Alpine update

Nothing going on here in town but my body probably needs the rest. Tomorrow I'm excited to head back south and rescue more verbena along the highway since the four that I dug up seem to be doing fine. (I'll try to post pics of the process.)

Time to start watching for Lucifers to return. Very excited about that.

Yesterday my daughter had her store's grand opening in Dripping Springs.

My Austin son, Leonardo, made his obligatory appearance. Also my niece, Tanya, and grandson, John, Jr. My dedication to the oasis causes me to miss a lot, but it's worth it to me. Still hard, though.

L-R: Tanya, John, Jr., Leonardo, Isabel, unknown employee
I notice my grandson is standing so he won't look so tall. Not working! (Leonardo is over 6' for comparison.)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Still a process in progress

Before I headed for Alpine today I filled the bucket feeder. Then it was too heavy for me to pull up, but it's OK for now. May have to get a crank apparatus to hoist it. But I left knowing that the birds will have seed for several days. Longer than the few minutes previously when I leave ever since the bear destroyed that last feeder.

Years ago I found a brush in a dumpster that attaches to a floor scrubbing machine. Had no use for it but thought maybe someday it would come in handy for something. Yesterday was that day. It's now the base of my seed bucket. I looked through every shed for something round, sturdy, and not an eye-sore before I found this scrub-brush in the last place I looked.

Birds seem happy with it. I got the bucket up high enough to where javelina can't mess with it, but it's not bear-proof yet. I could probably get on a ladder and pull the bucket up onto the ladder and then tie it down, but I'd like something simpler. And since I know no bears are in the area, I just left it at about eye level.

Next, my verbena mission: As many of you may recall, I resolved to create a verbena (glandularia) patch for spring butterflying pleasure. But in this La NiƱa pattern, we didn't get enough winter moisture. Today was the day, after watering, that I determined to start my patch. I only found 3 plants of verbena in the oasis. I managed to dig up two of them without disturbing the roots and put them in pots for now. Also, I located a decent patch of them down by my lower dam, but Brian is coming at the end of March. He looks forward to monitoring that patch, so I left it for him. Hoping it doesn't dry up before then. One was actually blooming.

On the way to Alpine I looked along Terlingua Ranch road where there were a couple of nice patches last year, but found none.  Then on the highway about halfway to town, there was tons of it blooming in the ditch. The ditch had recently been mowed, but luckily before the verbena started showing good. Now the highway department is dumping endless piles of blacktopping material in the ditches in preparation for resurfacing the highway. So I couldn't resist at least trying to salvage a few and see if I can even transplant them successfully. I dug up four that weren't blooming yet. Three of the four I disturbed the roots on. They were mixed in with tough grass roots and I wasn't able to dig good enough around them. By the time I got them to town, and potted, those three were wilted. But after a few hours of my tender care, they seem to be recovering. The upper left one is the undisturbed one. Upper right one is the iffiest.

Next winter I'm going to plant a bunch of seeds indoors.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Closer to bear-proof

Well, at 6 AM my husband headed for his fishing excursion. I did laundry and a few chores before heading to CMO, looking forward to 3 days here. Brought stuff to cook my favorite dishes. But before noon my husband called that he got to the river and it was too cold and windy so he turned around and went back to Alpine. I decided to stay here a couple of days anyway. I had warned him today would be bad but once he got through that the rest of the week would be lovely.

So I worked on my bear-proof feeder project. I'm pleased with the results, though there's some tweaking that needs doing. For one thing, I think I got the pole too tall. When Mac gets here in April I'll have him shorten it by a couple of feet. Cutting that metal piping is a killer on my bad shoulder. The feeder should work fine for now.

Then I totally forgot to buy a cone/funnel for inside the bucket. Will shop for one back in town. I lowered the bucket a bit until the birds get used to it, but it's so wonderful to know I can keep the seed out of bears' reach without carrying bags of seed up a ladder. If bears bend the pole over, I'll put a bigger one there The bottom half of this pole has another strong one inside it, so I'm quite confident. But of course, time will tell. Probably won't have any bear activity for some time. At least, for now, birds will have seed when I go to town.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Is it possible to deter bears?

I think people have been successful deterring bears with a sturdy enough, tall enough, pole. If the one I concreted in gets demolished by them, I'll get a sturdier one and concrete it deeper into the ground. Here's some pics I found online to illustrate the challenge I face.

Update on my gun-toting neighbor outside my east gate. I've talked to him a couple of times and he seems interested in getting along with me. He said he'd refrain from shooting at times I have groups of birders present if I let him know ahead of time. I'll make sure he knows the dates I have groups scheduled. Also he claims he seldom shoots and never at birds. The game warden talked to him on my behalf and assures me he's far enough from the mountain that it shouldn't impact Peregrine nesting. I'm more likely to have road disputes with the neighbor than problems with his assault rifles.

I never cease to be amazed how people buy Terlingua Ranch tracts that have Terlingua Ranch roads running through them, and then don't want anyone driving through their property. As nicely as I could I explained my legal right to do so. He's taken to catching vehicles entering his section of the road and asking them their business in being there. He can't stop anyone that has my gate combination from coming through, so it doesn't impact me that much, but it's sure a pain.

In the past my neighbors on the other side of my property (north gate) got angry that I wouldn't let them ride horses on my land. They also talked about blocking my access and forcing me and my visitors to use my east gate. I also explained how they couldn't legally do that, but we were enemies for years. A birder didn't dare stop and get out of their car on their section of Terlingua Ranch road. (I might add there are many places on Terlingua Ranch's thousand miles of road where that is still the case.) Now those neighbors have moved away although they still own the property. In recent years they've made attempts to be more friendly. They operate their home here as a successful vacation rental and I've allowed their guests to come and enjoy the oasis upon request.

I bought as much land adjacent to me as I could, but I just can't buy it all. I've purchased over 1000 acres through the years. (I started out originally with 523 acres.) Maybe the gun-toting neighbor will be an asset in keeping poachers out.

Tomorrow my husband is going on a fishing excursion to Black Gap WMA so I'm going to CMO for a few days. It's getting time for good stuff to start showing up. Just wish we'd get some rain.