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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Wonderful news!

Dentist today and two screws were loose on my lower implants. The implants themselves are fine. New lease on life here! So I immediately abandoned my soft diet after the dentist tightened the screws. I figure it's healthy to eat crunchy foods. Like muscles, if you don't use them you lose them. But I am going to exercise good sense too. No more abuse. Don't know why they got loose. In the last 25 years I had a screw come loose on my upper implants but don't remember the details anymore. The dentist said that's just sometimes the nature of screws.

He really tightened them tight. I thought for sure he'd twist the implants right out of my jaw. So glad that's over!

Working on my plant guide still..... and for months to come. Dr Powell looked at the Winterfat specimen my sister took him today and declared it's Texas Shrub (Iresine leptoclada), not winterfat. (See Dec. 4th post for photos.) Quite a surprise!

Coming back from Odessa today I noticed the landscape in the oil fields was dotted with blazing flares of natural gas. Such a waste of the earth's resources, not to mention it just adds toxins to the air. I hate to see that. Hugh says it's cheaper for them to pay the fines for burning it than to ship it to market. Never mind the environment. Here's a photo I snapped with my phone as we were whizzing by.

When I got my Rio Grande Electric Co-op 2019 calendar I saw a photo of an awesome ruin I had never seen before. I thought I had seen every interesting structure in the Big Bend. So I contacted the co-op and they directed me to this website -- 

Seems it was built as a movie set for "Dead Man's Walk" and has had various videos shot there since then. It's on a private ranch whose owner is a millionaire, probably billionaire. If he doesn't want to share it with the public, I wish he'd at least maintain it.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Checking on CMO

I couldn't resist heading south this morning to see how CMO looks after the rain two days ago. It was wet, warm, and lots blooming. Got stuck in the parking area. I thought it would have dried out more after two days. Here's where I drove on it with no gravel today.

And below is where I drove on it where there was gravel today. The above area is actually higher than the area on the photo below. What a nightmare it will be in rainy season next summer if I don't get gravel on it. But I will, not to worry. Didn't expect over an inch of rain in December. Caught me off guard. Gonna try harder to get my son there with his tractor. If that fails, then I'll hire somebody to haul it in a wheelbarrow. And in fairness, that muddy area had been low, therefore it has more fill dirt in it than the area below where we didn't put fill dirt.

Saw this accipiter hanging out at the oasis. I think it's a Cooper's Hawk, but not positive.

Feeling puny today. Couldn't do work and didn't need to water so just came back to town.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Rain and radon

I had to be stuck in town today when the oasis got over an inch of rain. But it was an all-day soaking rain so I know there was no runoff. It would have been fun to watch rain run off the new tank roof though, and see how well the parking area drainage engineering works. I'll be able to tell the latter when I do get down there. If not tomorrow, then the next day. Wish I has scattered some flower seeds around the tank. Flowers are going to be awesome in the spring.

I heard on the radio today that smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths in our country and radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer deaths. I've always been somewhat concerned about radon since my earth-sheltered house is built into a rhyolite mountain that has decaying uranium underground. So I decided to do a little research.

What really got me when I delved into the subject was this statement. "About 10% of radon-related cancer deaths involve people who don't smoke!" So 90% of radon-related cancer deaths involve people who do smoke? Nowhere can I discover how they determine that the smoking didn't cause the death. 

To clarify, about 154,000 Americans will die of lung cancer in 2018. The EPA claims that about 21,000 people a year die of radon-related lung cancer, and about 2,900 of those radon-related cases are of people who never smoked.  So at most, less than 3,000 people per year who die of lung cancer never smoked. What about all the other risk factors such as family history of lung cancer, asbestos, work related carcinogens, pollution, etc.? Surely, many of those 3,000 deaths a year were related to those causes. How can they blame them all on radon?

The American Lung Association estimates that 90% of lung cancer deaths are attributable to current smokers. Ten percent to radon (per the EPA). That's 15,400 people versus the 21,000 the EPA claims. But that's a minor discrepancy. We can let that slide.

The CDC says over 7,000 deaths to lung cancer each year are caused by second-hand smoke. And somewhere I read that about 60-65% of new lung cancer diagnoses are to people that have never smoked or are former smokers who quit a long time ago. What the heck? You can obviously see, without me boring and confusing your further, that, like everything else health and medical related, it's all a bunch of gobblety-gook! Every different organization has its own statistics.

I've never heard of anyone in the Big Bend dying of radon-related lung cancer, but radon detectors are cheap so just to satisfy my curiosity I'm going to get one.

UPDATE: I wrote the above blog late last night, at a time I usually find something to worry about to keep me from sleeping. Today I got an email from a dear friend who set me straight and told me to find some other carcinogen to worry about. He also said, 

" I spent 15 years of my life exploring for uranium. During that time I was exposed to radon gas, many times, more than you have been or ever will be exposed to, around uranium mines, uranium-rich outcrops, mine waste piles and granite rocks that have a very low amount of decaying uranium – I do not worry about dying of lung cancer. None of my fellow uranium hunters have died of radon exposed gas and we are all getting old."

So I'm not going to bother to buy a detector.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Dental disaster!

I knew I was abusing my body and probably too hard on my implants. They're not like natural teeth, but I treated them as if they were. So now my lower implants, that I endured so much pain and expense to get, are loose. They won't tighten themselves, and left loose it's a matter of time before they get infected. One was infected the other day. In desperation I put antibiotic ointment on it. I know you're not supposed to put that stuff inside your mouth, but I'm not sure why. It helped the infection but not a sustainable solution. Infected implants can lead to sepsis and death.

I have a dentist appointment in Odessa for Tuesday. I'm really bummed out about all the pain and expense that awaits me. And strong possibility that I'll end up with dentures. Lower dentures are miserable. A person can't stay very active and healthy on a diet of soft food in my opinion. I love hard crunchy stuff, like salads, nuts, popcorn, apples and such. So I have no choice but to try to go through the whole painful six month process again, if that's even an option.

The other day a friend put out some bread for the doves. Either the doves weren't hungry or didn't recognize the bread as food.

So far none of the Tree Tobacco seedlings I potted have wilted so I think they're going to make it. We're sure to get rain in a few days. That will be nice. The yuccas are blooming. I just have to stay strong and not let this dental stuff get me down. I've been through it so often before. Just had hoped all that was behind me. In order to get my upper implants they had to do bone grafts. That was over 30 years ago. I was able to take things like that more in stride in those days. Just took one day at a time. Hard for me to have that mindset these days. I'll try. Other than that, I'm doing quite well for my age.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Another perfect day!

It's hard to rest when the weather is so lovely. After overdoing yesterday, and having a bad night because of it, I decided to just put up the roof extension today. The gravel can wait. It wasn't a particularly difficult job, but work, nonetheless. Where the bench shadow is in this first photo is where the bench had previously been sitting. Because the sun is so low this time of year the bench isn't shaded, but it will be in the spring.

Hard to tell but the roof and extension are flat. The mountain in the
background and weather-shaded canopy in front make it confusing.
Here's a look at that cluster of Winterfat. Quite the novelty, and not documented for Brewster County before. My sister will take a specimen to Dr. Powell, but it's likely Krascheninnkovia lanata.

Very few butterflies around. Here's a female Elada Checkerspot. CMO had a lot of them this summer and fall.

Back to Alpine to try to recover. If I stayed at the oasis I wouldn't rest. Good chance of rain Friday.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Work on the viewing blind

Prickly Pears is, without a doubt, the plant I hate most at the oasis. I came down today determined to expand the blind a couple of feet so it isn't so crowded when groups visit. In the way was a large Prickly Pear. (I've learned the hard way not to come into contact with it even with leather gloves on.)

Prickly Pear center left
First I had to cut out a section of fence, leftover from the days when that was a vegetable garden. Also had to forge a path to the Prickly Pear.

Then I spent the rest of the day chopping it up, almost pad by pad, and putting it into the wheelbarrow and hauling it off. 

Didn't get too many stickers in me. Lost track of how many loads, but it was 4 or 5. The next photo is how I left it late this afternoon. Previously the two black benches were inside the curb, like the white one is. A couple of feet really makes a big difference.

Tomorrow I plan to haul gravel from the arroyo to spread under the benches in order to make them taller. After I survive that, I hope to bolt extensions onto the roof's 2x4s. The final task will be putting metal roofing on top of the extensions.

I know I'm pushing my body too hard, but I think once I get this done I can take it easy for quite a while. It's painful for me to eat. I hope I don't lose my implants. I fear they're paying the price for the abuse I do to my body. I hate having to slow down.

I think I have a new plant species for the oasis. Winterfat (Krascheninnkovia lanata).

Very exciting! Dr. Powell has it in his new plant book but doesn't list it for Brewster County.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Preparations for spring

The last two days at the oasis were in the 70°s. Ruellia is still blooming in the courtyard. Winter shouldn't be too long this year.

Verbena is coming up all over the oasis, especially in the pathways. Might be an exciting spring for butterflies. I made the difficult decision to rope off two areas of verbena at the oasis. Just until it gets hot in late April and they decline. That's when groups of birders will start arriving so not practical to keep it blocked then. But I'll get to enjoy it in March and April.

Bench blocking access over verbena growing in path

Below is where the verbena patch was in spring 2017. Both places I blocked have alternate pathways, so shouldn't impact birding much.

Also have been trying to get a cement company to assess the possibilities on my road. No luck yet, but it should eventually happen.

And I'm planning on growing Tree Tobacco (Nicotiana glauca) around the periphery of the new tank. Found some sprouting beside a rain barrel where one had been growing for the past several years, but has now died. They don't live long, but are very prolific. I painstakingly dug up some of the seedlings. Almost needed  tweezers. Couldn't get them out with soil on the roots, so they're bare-rooted. If they manage to survive I'll consider myself an official green thumb.

Unfortunately, I never know which place I'll need what, so I had left my bottle of rooting hormone in town. I'll take it to the oasis and transplant the remainder of the sprouts. Meanwhile, I watered those still left in the ground. Also ordered seeds by mail.

I guarantee that if I just potted dirt from around the sprouts the pots would fill with new seedlings. Always an option.

I think once I get them established around the new tank they'll thrive and continue seeding themselves there. The water in the tank helps stabilize the temperature around it, plus water running off tanks gives them more moisture, and the tank itself is wind protection. Would love to have Tree Tobacco all around the whole tank with hummingbirds feasting on it. Should make for interesting photos with the green tank behind. Getting way ahead of myself though...  First things first.

As often as I've grown it, I can't believe I can't locate a photo of it at CMO, but here's one I found online. It grows over 7' tall and is native to South America. Very fast grower.


UPDATE: I was determined and I finally located a Tree Tobacco photo from the courtyard of my house in 1996. Of course, I've long since dispensed with grass and gone more natural. The Tree Tobacco is in the forefront on both sides of this old photo.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Life speeds by

On November 21st I had arrived at the oasis after dark with my son, his wife, one child and one dog. I didn't know a birder (Janey Woodley) had spent the day there photographing birds until I saw her post the next day on a Facebook group I belong to. Yesterday, I saw her ebird checklist for the visit. Very impressive for late November. Here's a link to it, embellished with her wonderful photos:

Since she photographed two Lucifer Hummingbirds that day, I've seen one male Lucifer there, though have had no time to do any real birding. When I was last there on the 23rd, I saw what I thought was a Merlin, but wasn't positive. So I was delighted to see that Janey had photographed one when she was there. Not sure if it's a new oasis species or not, but I didn't have any photos of one at the oasis until now.

I'm consulting with a concrete company about my road. They said they'd come see what they can, and cannot, do on it. Hopefully, I'll find out this week. That's how I want to spend the money left after the tank project. I also intend to improve the viewing blind, but should be able to do that at very little cost with stuff I already have.

Friday, November 23, 2018


The oasis is ready for a big rain on the new tank.

And the parking area is ready for vehicles.

And the seed feeder is at full-mast, ready for bears.

Of course there's still more work that needs doing. That's always going to be the case, but I have until spring migration to get the rest of the gravel spread on the parking area. Mostly the overflow parking area, but since I have plenty of material, I'd like more on the main parking area. Removing gravel from the arroyo creates more room in it for water, besides giving me rock for around the tank (still need much more there) and surfacing over the clay. It's not often that birders are here during or after a big rain, but once is enough. It's a muddy mess without gravel over it. 

I'm starting to feel more relaxed and happy with the new tank now that I think it's ready for a monsoon. My awesome son even made a new sign for the oasis. So many visitors miss that last turn. Shouldn't happen anymore.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Progress being made

My sons worked hard all day and we got a lot done on the necessary landscaping to divert water from around the tank and make the parking area more usable. Had planned to finish tomorrow while my Austin son was still here but my Alpine son decided he needed his tractor in town so took it to town with him.

We put a berm and barrier between the tank and the parking area. (Can't take a chance of a car accidentally hitting the tank.) Then after leveling the parking area as best as the little tractor could do we started taking sand out of the arroyo and spreading it on the clay surface of the parking area.

As the sand/gravel was spread with the tractor we raked the rocks and gravel out of it and put them around the tank. Have the black weathershade almost totally covered with gravel and rock. Only got about a third of the parking area covered but by the time we get the whole thing done there will be plenty of rock and gravel around the tank perimeter, so things are looking good. And you can't tell we took hardly anything out of the arroyo. It seems to be an endless supply.

 A huge Black Bear is hanging around the area. Tore down my seed feeder and my sister saw it at her place. I had engineered the feeder so I can raise it out of reach of the bear (I think), so I did that today after repairing the feeder (just minor damage).

Also was amazed to learn that a birder visiting yesterday saw and photographed a male Lucifer Hummingbird. Definitely a late record for CMO.

Yes, we took a little break to go eat a turkey feast with family at my sister's place.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

So much to be thankful for

One thing I'm really thankful for is that I didn't get plagued with bears this fall. However, the Davis Mountains weren't so lucky. Friends there have had all their feeders destroyed plus much other damage. There may be as many as 8 bears there. At least I only had the one. Note broken feeder in foreground.

Another thing I'm thankful for is that I always find exciting new projects to do. My most recent one should keep me occupied contentedly throughout the miserable winter time. Using  my new plant book, that doesn't have decent photos and is no help with identification, I'm creating a digital plant photo guide. Going through the book, species by species, then locating a photo of that species online, and saving it to a file in a folder of whatever plant family it's in. The idea being to have a place to look to identify new flowers we find.

The book has well over 2000 species in it of 112 plant families. It's fun and I'll learn a lot. It'll be helpful for my sister too. Currently there is no comprehensive field guide for IDing plants of the Big Bend.

And of course it goes without saying that I have a thousand other things I'm always thankful for, like all my wonderful friends and birders. My new tank. The oasis. My health. My kids who are the best kids any mother could ask for. Lovely home and maturing habitat in Alpine. Technology. On and on the list goes...

My Austin son made this flashing neon sign for my other son's Triangle store in Alpine. Might be the first flashing neon sign in all of Alpine!

After they installed the sign they headed for CMO. Ten minutes after arriving a little dog they brought with them fell or jumped into the courtyard pond. They immediately had to bathe the dog since it's a house dog. Originally, they were dog-sitting the dog, but the owner moved into an apartment that doesn't allow pets so they've sort of inherited the dog.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Lovely oasis day

Sunrise found me rushing past Santiago Mountain.

As usual, the oasis low (32°) was less than anywhere else in the Big Bend area, and the oasis high was equal to the Big Bend's high (Presidio 70°). I just don't get it!

Here's the new oasis footprint. Not too bad. At least a tank implies water, as does an oasis.

Verbena are coming up all over my walkways. So frustrating! My sister suggested that may be due to shoes pressing the seeds into the soil in the walkways. Birders will have to trample them in the spring, but maybe I can keep them protected in March and April, when they'll be blooming at their peak.

I'm beginning to relax a little about the water situation. Every time I check the new tank the level is the same in it. Also I'm getting the work around it in shape. Thanksgiving day my sons are going to fix the berm around it, and parking lot, and then it should be done, except for the gravel I have to put around it. Today I put down some weather-shade so if, just if, I get a big rain before the gravel is on, I shouldn't have to worry about any erosion around the tank base. I know it won't rain for many months but it feels good to be prepared in this ridiculously unpredictable country.

Worn leafwing, probably Tropical

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Alpine day

Last night I got the much anticipated tome of "Flowering Plants of the Trans-Pecos Texas" by Michael Powell. My sister and I have had so much difficulty organizing our flower photos, so now that the definitive word is available to us, we're working at it with renewed energy.

While it leaves much to be desired in its over 1440 pages, we would never have a chance to get our properties' plants cataloged without it. Plant family names keep changing, as do the Latin names, so we're going to align our files with Powell's. Better photos and illustrations would be really helpful, but with a little detective work we'll get it all sorted out. It's sure good that I have my sister to collect specimens and get Dr.Powell's IDs on them. Otherwise, I'd never know what they are. Need a plant field guide and this book isn't helpful for that at all. But it enables me to organize my already ID'd photos into the proper families.

Hugh wanted me to repot a plant on the patio so I took a little break from all-day computering. While at it, I saw this Variegated Fritillary caterpillar. That's it for today!