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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.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

CMO feeder failures

Made a short trip to the oasis to check feeders, etc. No Lucifers yet.

I'm still working on a bear-proof feeding system and have decided to hang a bucket, or two, real high and use pulleys to raise and lower it. We'll see if that works. These previous systems didn't work.


Note T-post bent down from where it was concreted into the ground and chained to the barrel.

This next one worked, except physically too hard for me to get a tall ladder, carry a bag of seed up it and dump it in the bucket without falling off the ladder. Also, for bird photographers, seed needs to be on the ground, not up in the sky. So the ideal is to have the bucket high, but dispense seed to the ground, like Davis Mountain State Park does.

My new plan is to hang a bucket or two from the feeder pole Mac made me last year and raise and lower it with pulleys. Today I made the pole taller and bought 4 pulleys. Now working on the rest of the plan. I was going to post the feeder stand "before," photo, but can't find one. And can't do the "after" yet because I had to concrete the pole extension's base deep into the ground and waiting for it to set a couple of days before adding the pole, and hopefully buckets of seed. Still a work in progress. I have to do something or the smaller feeders get empty when I'm in Alpine.  To be continued....

Also next time I'm at the oasis I hope to locate a bunch of baby verbena (Glandularia wrightii) and transplant them to a patch for my butterflying pleasure. I saw 3 or 4 tiny ones today, but need to look farther. I had hoped a patch would come up by itself like it did last spring, but not to be. It actually started blooming in January last year. Every oasis year is different, so you never know what new treasures are in store.

Friday, February 16, 2018

About my blogging

The last couple of days I've spent reading all my blog posts (all 1580 of them), starting with the first one in 2009. It's sure good that I blog because a lot of what I've posted I have no memory of. Such as all the details of my eye surgery. Today my vision is acceptable, but that one eye that ended up having a total of 3 Lasik procedures is chronically dry. Gets really painful. Have to put drops in it every few hours day and night. So even though I'm not required to wear the UV goggles anymore, I continue to wear them outdoors. My eyes feel better and I think don't dry out as fast.

I had forgotten how bad my hip hurt after building my mountain trail in 2016. Luckily, it doesn't bother me at all anymore. My shoulder is what bothers most. And sitting at the computer editing my blog was a killer for it. I think in the future I can use it less and it might get better.

My blog makes a good diary journal. So, as such, some of the posts are really boring. I've deleted some of the more inane useless posts. I see in the future I should do better follow-ups on some things too. Like my plants. Mexican Elders seem to survive but are always losing their leaves for some reason or another. Too dry, too hot, too cold, etc.  They're also prone to having lots of branches dying back. Also in the future I intend to post fewer photos of species that  I've already posted photos of ad nauseam.

The pomegranates that I started from cuttings from my son's house some years back are alive but not thriving. And the kumquats have all perished, as have most of the other citrus plants. The Trifolate Orange that someone sent me actual oranges of are doing OK. Nothing to brag about.

I noticed that in 2015 (I think it was) I worked so hard to rid the hummingbird garden of mallow. It's been overrun with mallow since then and is so currently.

The stucco tank seems to be just leaking its normal minimum. Last year I removed all the dirt out of the big concrete tank thinking the pond weed would soon come back but it hasn't yet.

My blog reminded me that I once had a seed feeder way up on a pole. I had forgotten. I think I need to do that again because when no one is there the ground feeder goes empty. Working on a plan that I hope to get implemented this spring.

Through the years I've seen great photos on local Facebook groups. Thinking about adding some to my blog occasionally. For example, here's one of the Lost Mine Trail in Big Bend National Park that someone posted recently. I think my followers might enjoy pictures like this as long as there aren't too many of them to take away from the CMO theme of my blog.

And here's another posted on Valentine's Day by a Terlingua Ranch resident (Tim McKenna) of House Finches. Ours are the reddest!

It's not like all my previously posted pictures have been taken at CMO by me, so I may expand that area some. Your comments welcomed.

I discovered that all the videos I posted on my blog before 2016 no longer work so I deleted them. I think I had them in Picasa and now I use Flickr. Bummer!

Gonna go to CMO tomorrow and see if it's spring there yet and if the Lucifers have arrived yet. Hard to believe they'll for sure be back within the next couple weeks. Harder still to believe I survived winter. It wasn't easy.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Countdown to Lucifers

I fully expect to see a Lucifer hummingbird in a couple of weeks. Went down today to check things. None yet, but I did see a Pipevine Swallowtail, which surprised me.

Here's a photo of the Rufous Hummingbird that's still hanging around in Alpine.  So at least I'm not totally hummingbird deprived. (I took this yesterday, as I was at CMO today.)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Peregrines and Powerade

The Peregrines are starting their nesting activity and it concerns me that my new neighbor, who's always shooting guns, is going to disrupt them. He's located right outside my east gate at the base of my mountain where the Peregrines nest.

I only go down once a week this time of year and if he's shooting every time I go down [to the oasis], then I have to assume he's doing it when I'm not there too. I think he fired around 100 rounds today. It seemed like he increased his activity whenever I heard the Peregrines calling, but I may be imagining that. I have no way of knowing if he's targeting the falcons.

Powerade. I never drank it but a family member has been, and has been really ill. Knowing she was drinking a lot over a long period of time, I researched it online and was shocked. Why doesn't it come with a warning label? Here is just one small paragraph I read about it. (Gatorade gets a D rating, Powerade a D-, and Powerade Zero an F.)

"Powerade is meant for athletes who are engaged in a lengthy and intense workout. It is not intended for nor is it suitable for anyone else. If you are sedentary, then Powerade may have serious negative consequences."

My husband is back to normal. His ribs were just bruised, not broken. That's a big relief!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Long stories with no photos

I just need to tell someone what's going on. This is kind of my journal diary. Both stories I'm about to relate involve my husband.

First story.Hugh goes fishing when it works out health-wise and weather-wise, etc. In the last 2 or 3 months he's only gone twice. Both times he's encountered near-to-dying illegal immigrants. This never happened until Trump cracked down on border security. Now the coyotes are bringing the illegals to where it's safe to cross, but not survivable. These people get money sent from relatives in the US and pay the coyotes. Anywhere from 1 to 2 thousand a person. Logic would tell you there must be many corpses in the Lower Canyons and Black Gap WMA (where Hugh fishes).

 Last trip, as he was leaving,  he encountered 3 men who were at the end of their rope. Hugh had already discarded the left over water from his 30 gallon drum before he spotted them so he had very little water to give them, unfortunately. I think he took them as far as the highway (25 miles) and pointed them in a direction where, if they could make it, they could find help.

But this week he arrived at his fishing spot on Tuesday and soon after he set up he spied a young boy (about 16) watching him, but fearful to approach. Finally, Hugh, in his broken Spanish, got the boy to approach. He was nearly crippled from walking forever and could only hobble haltingly. So Hugh cared for and fed the boy for 3 days. He had only taken food for one but managed to find a few things in his chuck-box besides sharing all he had brought in his ice chest, etc. The boy had some freeze-dried food in his pack. He wasn't starving like the others had been, but he could no longer walk, and of course had no water. He wasn't well and had no way to warm himself during some of the recent cold spells. He was alone and they never travel alone, especially that young, so Hugh assumes his companions didn't survive. The boy had brothers he was trying to get to in South Carolina. I'm sure they sent him the money for the venture.

Hugh offered to take the boy to the highway and turn him loose or take him to the police. The boy chose the police, so Hugh called from the Stillwell Store and the sheriff came and picked up the boy. Hugh vows to take extra food next fishing trip. But this is a tragedy unfolding here in the Big Bend and it's either not known, or being kept quiet.

Next story. After Hugh got home today he headed for a hot shower. Normally he showers at 5 PM sharp, but today he felt really grungy after three shower-less days. Apparently, I found out later, he took a hotter and longer shower than he had ever before. And I found out much later that when he went to get out of the shower he felt confused, like couldn't figure out how to turn off the shower type thing. But all I knew at the time was that he came into the dining room where I was watching TV and plopped down in a nearby chair. He said he felt faint. He's 75. In the last 14 yrs we've been together it's not the first time he felt dizzy or faint so I continued watching TV. Seconds later I noticed he was passing out. In all our years together he had never passed out (even if he was too drunk to stand up). I rushed to keep him from falling off the chair. It seemed he wasn't breathing.

My brain stopped computing and I panicked. In hindsight I can see what had happened, but at the time I thought he was having a heart attack and was dying. So I called 9-1-1, then dropped him to the floor as gently as I could, and started frantic heart compressions. After about 6 or so, he started rousing and fighting me off him. His blue eyes seemed to stare unseeing and no black pupil was visible. Then the police arrived, at which time he was becoming half-conscious. After the ambulance got here he was almost normal, but agreed reluctantly to go to the hospital. He was feeling better except his chest hurt bad from my efforts. He was sure he had broken ribs but the X-ray didn't show any. They said that mild fractures don't show up on the X-rays. His heart test was fine. It was a scary time and I think having his brother die suddenly (at a younger age) recently, and then the horrible memory of my late husband dying in his sleep caused me to over-react. I honestly thought he was dead. Had I been thinking rationally I would have realized he wasn't. Or I would have thought to check for a pulse. or just waited for the ambulance. I feel really stupid now. And so sorry to see him hurting because of what I did to him.

There, I feel better getting all this heavy stuff off my chest. And yes, he caught a lot of fish. We had a great fish supper and I baked him a special "re-birth"day cake.


My daughter was one of the six finalists in the Dripping Springs Chamber of Commerce entry for up and coming businesses. She wasn't the winner and they didn't have 2nd and 3rd places, etc. So I'll just assume she came in 2nd. LOL

Here's a link to the story about the missing hiker, whose body was found yesterday. This story is emotional for me because when I was younger I used to do risky stuff exactly like that all the time. It's just a miracle I'm alive.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Finally greeting Lucifer month

Shouldn't have to wait too much longer for the Lucifer Hummingbirds to arrive. This morning I was greeted by a lovely sunrise at the same time as a lovely moon. However, I never get good shots of the moon.

When I arrived in Alpine I was greeted by an exterminator drilling holes in the concrete. How ironic that I had to stay way back because of her nauseating perfume. LOL You can bet I won't be around when she brings out the chemicals either.

Hugh had contracted for the work to be done. Termites are destroying that wall. But I think he forgot and went to the river fishing. Oh well, she seems to be doing her thing.

I hear they found the body of the latest hiker to disappear at Big Bend Ranch State Park.