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Saturday, March 31, 2018

A full day

Early AM some birders came and got their lifer Lucifer Hummingbird. The Native Plant Society of Texas was late arriving to our meeting place. They carpooled from Alpine after having waited on a couple in their group that didn't show up. When they finally got to the oasis, the couple was there. Apparently, that had been the plan but someone forgot to tell someone or whatever. I waited for them at the blacktop and Snake Road, then took them to my sister's place to see what we could find there. So dry. That's the first time I took a group of naturalists there. Here they are following my sister up a hill to see her non-blooming Night-blooming Cereus.

Then down to the arroyo by her house to see what's growing there.

Things are always somewhat hectic with a real large group. When I got to Alpine later today I had an email waiting from someone who had left their backpack at the oasis. I had brought it to town with me so they were able to come pick it up at my house. All in all, I'd say it was a good day.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Dry and bleak at the oasis

Basically, about the only thing blooming is the ocotillo, which means the hummers are nectaring at the ocotillo and not at the feeders. My sister and I looked hard to find anything else in bloom to show a group of naturalists who visited today.

Sister, Andrea, left front.
Tomorrow there'll be a very large group from the Native Plant Society of Texas. Wish visits could coincide with when things are blooming and ocotillo is not blooming.

The Faxon Yucca is still blooming, as is the Guayacan, so I guess it could be worse.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Lajitas church

Nearly three decades ago I had posters printed featuring a painting I did of the church at Lajitas. Recently, a Lajitas resident, who is involved in getting some repairs done to the church, contacted me to see if I knew who had done the stained glass windows and when the church had been restored. My mind came up blank. Could barely remember the poster, much less names and dates. So I started digging. I finally located a snapshot of the painting I used for the poster. Haven't located an actual poster yet. (The original oil painting I gave away.)

Also visited the Archives of the Big Bend at Sul Ross. And when I got to CMO I visited my storage room. This is what I've pieced together.

In 1899 H. W. McGuirck, a devout Catholic, acquired the land where Lajitas is situated and built a trading post on in. Then in 1901 he built the church, called "Mission Santa Maria y San Jose," followed shortly thereafter by a school. Classes were held in the church while the school was being completed.

The March 1999 issue of the Lajitas Sun monthly newspaper featured this next photo and dated it to "around the turn of the century." However, the Archives dates it to 1940. (I intend to dig further into that date.)

1940 *  per Historian Dr. Clifford Casey
1960* per Historian Dr. Clifford Casey
This next undated photo was taken either before or after the previous one. My personal opinion is that the first old photo in this sequence was taken around the early 1900s (as the Lajitas Sun states), and this below photo was taken more like 1940. I think by the 1960s some work had to have been done on it for it to look that good in 1960. I don't think after 1960 it was left to get to this below ruinous state. But I could be wrong.

Undated, but I think it would logically be around 1940

At any rate, according to The Lajitas Sun, the church "was reconstructed in 1978."  However, the next couple of photos indicate that the reconstruction started well before then, so maybe that's the year the stained glass was installed. 

It's interesting that it appears as if a new door was installed, then shortly thereafter replaced with the stained glass and arched entrance we see today. When the arches were added to the top of the facade the square door no longer looked appropriate, I imagine. And perhaps the wooden door had been replaced well prior to the reconstruction, which may have continued on into 1981. 

Before 1977
Dated 1977

The next photo, published in The Lajitas Sun (Oct 1981) shows the stained glass windows for the first time. But still no date as to the exact year of installation or the artist who did the stained glass. Nevertheless, the process was obviously well underway in 1977.

From Lajitas Sun, Oct 1981
Here's a church photo that I took in 1990 and used as an inset on my poster.

By December of 1999 the little chapel still looked much the same. But preparations were in progress to upgrade it, about a hundred years after it was originally built, and as a new century dawned.

Elle Webb spearheaded that project, funded by her and private donations. That most recent renovation included a birch beamed ceiling, ceiling fans, central AC and heating, and much more. In the works at the time was scheduled a Saltillo floor, a new center aisle, new door, etc. Today the church is used for multi-denominational church services, as well as for weddings.


August 2018 update: The person who originally contacted me about the stained glass windows located the persons that created it. Peggy Phillips and Jim Box built it around 1982-3. The owner of Lajitas at the time, Walter Mischer, flew the artwork in his plane to Lajitas. Jim has since passed away, but Peggy has agreed to do the repairs to the stained glass at no charge. So a happy ending. She has never been to Lajitas so I hope that venture has a happy ending, as well.

* Photo credit to “Clifford B. Casey Collection, Archives of the Big Bend, [Bryan Wildenthal Memorial Library], Sul Ross State University, Alpine, Texas” 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Getting caught up

Getting caught up just in time for lots of visitors to CMO to start showing up. I had figured out how I could fix the badly leaking line going into the stucco tank by myself. Brian was visiting and offered to help. Good thing he did because it would not have been possible for me to do it without help. I'll spare you the details, but it's now leak-free.

We had to plumb it way back to where it went into the ground. (Not visible on these photos). Doesn't look like the killer to do that it was.

Brian went to Sanderson and got his lifer Coahuila Giant-Skipper larvas. Half of them have pupated. He's pleased that every pupa so far has been perfect.

Back in Alpine, one of the four Buttonbush plants I ordered online has started putting on leaves. That's great because if only one makes it, it'll spread and make more. They're so great at attracting butterflies. The other 3 look healthy so I'm optimistic they'll soon recover from their transplant shock and start leafing out too.

My vertigo isn't 100% gone, but on its way out,  I'm feeling more energy now than I had for the last couple of weeks.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Fun oasis day

Got my watering and servicing feeders done yesterday and this morning before butterflies came out, so treated myself to sitting by the Mountain Laurel.

In the last two days I've seen more species than I had seen all year up until then, so doubled my 2018 list so far. Still way behind last year at this time. The first one I thought was a Juvenal's Duskywing, which would be a lifer for me, but have since been told it's just a worn female Mournful Duskywing. This IDing process is hard for me.

This next one is a Saltbush Sootywing

And this one is a Northern Cloudywing.

And this last one I thought was a Texas Powdered-Skipper, but Brian thinks it's an AZ Powdered-Skipper, so I'll go with that.

Another thing that made today pleasurable, besides lovely weather, was that the Essential Tremor that I've had in my left hand for several years now, has been absent for the last few days. The only thing I can think could be causing that is my giving up dark chocolate. (I ate about an ounce of it a day.) Too soon to tell for sure yet, but it makes photography more fun. I cannot hold my big Canon without using both hands. I thought my photos today turned out a bit sharper than usual.

Basically, dark chocolate is supposed to be healthy for the heart and a great antioxidant, but for some people it can have side effects. I've normally never used coffee or tea or anything with caffeine. I read this online: 

Chocolate, especially with a high content of cocoa, stimulates both the cardiovascular and the nervous system and can cause cardiac arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rate. Caffeine, theophylline and theobromine are the three elements in chocolate that cause arrhythmia. In addition to altering normal heart rhythm, they can also lead to tremors, insomnia, agitation, anxiety, headaches etc.

And I might add that there are small amounts of lead and cadmium in dark chocolate. Occasionally, I had noticed my heart seemed to skip a beat or not feel right. It usually happened when I first laid down at night. (My body can't tolerate any MSG, and very little dairy.) If I don't get tremors anymore, it'll be a new lease on life. I don't miss the chocolate or other processed sugar that I gave up. I eat lots of fruit.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Warm spring day

Enjoyed the oasis today, even though my vertigo was a little worse than it had been for the last couple of days. While photographing Pipevine Swallowtails on the blooming Mountain Laurel bush I discovered this skipper that I didn't recognize. Brian ID'd it as a Sheep Skipper. Not a lifer, but the first one I had seen at the oasis. Brian saw some here in 2010. So that was fun for me.

Here's one of the Pipevines. The laurel is almost through blooming but it's about the only diner around for the butterflies.

And I found a cute little vine growing in the courtyard. ID'd as a Texas Bindweed.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Icy first day of spring

Yesterday my husband set up sprinklers at the 3 fruit trees. Then we heard that the low would only be around 38° so he said for me not to bother to turn on the sprinklers. (He goes to bed at 7 PM and I go to bed at 11 PM). But I thought I'd just go ahead and turn them on anyway since they were all set up, just in case. Glad I did because it got down to 32.°  Probably not cold enough for long enough to hurt anything, but you never know.



You can see some of my tomato plants in the background. I cover them every night just because they'll grow faster the warmer the night is for them.

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.