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Saturday, September 29, 2018

Last look

Here's your last look at the oasis without the new tank looming in the photo.

Coming in late this afternoon everything looked so green.                                 

My sons are on their way down this evening so they can get an early start on the work tomorrow. Hope it goes well, and fast! Need to get this mess under control. No decent place to park right now. It's that bad.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Life's uncertainty

A few days ago a good friend of mine, Barbara House, died unexpectedly of a brain aneurysm. She was my age. For many years she had been a bird rehabber and has left behind over 100 birds. Today a good friend of ours brought over one of Barbara's birds, a young Yellow-billed Cuckoo. This friend released the bird at our ponds here in Alpine.

I went out an hour later and it was sitting calling in the same tree it had been in an hour earlier. Then I went back in another hour and it hopped close and started begging for food. I feel so bad for it. A different friend said to not go check on it anymore today, and hopefully it'll start taking care of itself. Hoping.

To show you how bad my eyesight is, I took photos of this emperor (Tawny or Hackberry) and didn't notice until I downloaded them that it was in the clutches of a Praying Mantis.

I think this is a Tawny Emperor.

And this one is a Hackberry Emperor.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Tank project update

The sand delivery is going to cost $650. I think that'll be the final expense unless something else comes up. It's possible that if the pad isn't level enough there could incur an additional charge to fix it, but I'm determined to have it perfect. I'll post photos as progress is made. The sand is scheduled for delivery on Oct 12, and the install is scheduled for the week of Oct 23. It's going to happen! And Sunday my sons are going to work at leveling the parking areas and tank pad. I'm amazed how the many challenges and obstacles are being overcome!

For several years my sister and I have been intrigued by the Arroyo Fame-flower,  that grows on our mountain, but have never been able to see it in bloom.

Sep. 10, 2017
Therefore, Ann went up the mountain frequently hoping to find it blooming. A few days ago she saw it on the verge of blooming, but not in bloom.  A "limited number of people" have ever seen it in bloom.* Knowing she couldn't physically make that climb the next day (nor could I), she picked a small sprig of one and took it home. In a glass of water, it bloomed two days later. Such a special flower!

Sep. 24, 2018
Arroyo Fame-flower is a Mexican species that only grows naturally in the U.S. in Texas and New Mexico. There is just one species of Talinopsis, and that is Talinopsis frutescens that represents the earliest-divergent lineage of its family, Portulaca. Blooms vary in color from yellow to purple. Ours is a lovely shade of pink. It depends on rocks and creosote bushes for shade and protection. In the Big Bend it seems to only bloom in September.

* From Cactus and Succulent Journal 89(2):88-91. 2017  (Monica I. Miguel-Vazquez & Gilberto Ocampo)

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Downhill from sunrise

We got to the oasis before sunrise and started work on the tank pad. Before long, the loader's cylinder seal blew out and fluid was pouring out. So Hugh loaded the loader and took it back to town for repair.

While we were digging in the pad we unearthed a prehistoric earth oven. I had known it was there from when we originally made the parking lot there, but left it for posterity. Since we have to lower the grade there, it's no longer "saved."

So my sister, the archaeologist, came over just to see how deep it went. She determined it to be standard depth, I forgot now, but I think around 22." (The earth oven makes the dirt on it black.)

Then I went to get in my pickup and noticed a big dent in the passenger door. Bummer! Someone must have backed into it when it was parked. 

In spite of it being a windy day, or maybe because of it, a Monarch showed up.

I sure hate having the beautiful oasis all torn up. Will be so glad when it's done and healed.

Senna Wislizeni

Monday, September 24, 2018

No real progress today

While we didn't gain anything today, we're learning. We put sand from the arroyo on the pad and it was obvious that it wouldn't work. So we're going to remove it and level the pad first, and then put dirt on it and not use dirt or sand to level it. I worry that the dirt and sand would squish down under the weight of the water while the part that doesn't need dirt and sand would not. So the tank would tilt. Can't have that. Gotta use my head here.

And the loader is leaking hydraulic fluid so that needs fixing. But it takes a long time to get stuff fixed in Alpine so we're going to just keep adding fluid and try to get the pad done. My son is going down this weekend with his tractor to help. We'll see.

Still don't have enough donations for the installation and now it seems gonna have to buy sand for the topcoat, like more sand than I can sift. I can't believe 2" of sand would be that much, but I'm still looking into it. The online calculator said 12 yards of sand, which is a large dump truck load. So I think it'll be doable to get a load hauled in.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Work in progress

There's an unbelievable amount of work involved in just getting things ready for the tank. I finally got the brush all cleaned up. Now tomorrow my husband is going to come back down and hopefully level the new parking areas. I cleared two because it seems there's never enough parking space. Then we need to make a berm around the new tank area so rain runoff doesn't undermine the tank. And he needs to get all the sand from the arroyo that he can get.

One of two piles of sand from yesterday. Much more to come.
We also need some gravel. I have some stored a couple of blocks from the oasis but that means getting a dump truck down here. My son has access to one but it needs some work done. I have to push him, push my husband, and probably sift some of the sand too. I'm willing if my body will hold up.

Here's a Ruby-throated Hummingbird all fattened up for its migration. Maybe across the Gulf of Mexico, don't know.

Everything seems to be blooming. Words can't describe the wonder! Here are a couple of favorites of mine. I call them Indian Rouge Plant. Some people call them Pigeonberries. (Rivina humilis)

Saturday, September 22, 2018

CMO under construction

Since the tank will take up all the space in the current parking area, it's necessary to make a new parking area. Right now with the tank not installed and the additional parking area, it looks like an obscenely huge parking area. But it'll shrink soon enough when the tank gets installed, hopefully around Oct. 15.

A parking area doesn't seem like it should be priority right now, but the trucks that install the tank and maybe deliver sand have to have room to maneuver. It's so frustrating when there's no place down there to park or turn around or anything. So that has to be part of the process. I hauled about 10 loads of brush off today and shouldn't have more than 5 to do tomorrow. I'm exhausted. Loading, unloading, loading.....  That prickly pear is the worst. I have stickers all over my body, and they are so heavy. The majority of what we took out was creosote. Just a few prickly pears.

Hugh's going to come back Monday, after I have all the brush picked up, to haul sand/gravel out of the arroyo to pad the parking area. Otherwise, it gets real muddy. He also needs to level one section of the parking area.

I usually can work 4 hours a day and Hugh can make it 3 hours. Today he made it 3½ hrs, and I did 10 hours. May not be able to move tomorrow, but I'm really motivated to get this done.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Another big step toward a tank

Today CA Martin and his lovely wife, Sandy, came to the oasis to lay out the tank area and I took the big, giant leap of writing a check for the tank. I still lack the $6000 for delivery and installation, so I'm going on faith here. Now CMO is on the install list and the tank should get installed in 3-4 weeks. That'll give us time to raise that last amount of funds needed.

After  abundant September rains, everything is blooming. It's amazing! Pictures can't do it justice, but here are a few.

Wavyleaf Twinevine (funastrum crispum)

Blue Dayflower

Thursday, September 20, 2018

New tank gonna happen!

The tank company's agent had to postpone coming to CMO until tomorrow, so I stayed in town another day. My husband loaded his bobcat to take to CMO Saturday. He's going to clear the land for the new parking area since the tank is going in the current parking area. The board on the trailer floor is patching a hole. He was going to put new boards in the trailer, but that would take him weeks to do, so this is a temporary patch.

Later I'll have my son, Eric, come to level and help me clean up. He doesn't have a bobcat, just a tractor with a bucket, so I need to get the bobcat work done first. Also hope to have Hugh take the gravel that we'll need out of the arroyo, but doubt that I can keep him there more than 3 hours. He has a very bad back and knee. I'll just have to see how it goes. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


Still in town. Things are lovely, but noisy here. Antsy to get to CMO tomorrow. A representative from the tank company is going to hopefully visit tomorrow to help me assess the pad requirements and logistics. Ever since I bought the land in 1977 every bit of improvements have been cobbled together in a homemade rustic way. This tank will be the first state-of -the-art structure on the place and will surely stand out as an eyesore. But has to be done.

My son gave me an old wobbly bench from his rental trailer yard. My husband repaired it so that it's now very solid. We put it out in the habitat here.

With the cooler weather and recent rains, our vines are abloom.

Trans-Pecos Morning Glory

Silver Lace Vine

Donations to my gofundme campaign are slowing way down, but I have enough to buy the smaller 65,000 tank. Just need to raise the installation charge (about $5000) now. Today my husband bought lumber to repair the floor of his trailer so he can haul the bobcat down to the oasis and clear the area that needs to be cleared. I really hate tearing up precious vegetation, but it has to be done. So the wheels are in motion. No going back. Failure is not an option!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Ordinary Alpine day

Couldn't find anything interesting to photograph here in town, so settled for a couple common species.

Great Horned Owl

Familiar Bluet
I've been busy trying to navigate the logistics of getting the new tank. Like where to put it, how to get the pad done to the stringent specs, how to get sand delivered, how to coordinate everything, how to have enough money, etc. But we do what we have to do, and this is one of those things that I have to do and should have done many years ago. And I'll sure been glad to put it behind me. I owe such a debt of gratitude to all the people that are supporting me in this. Without them it wouldn't happen.  Too many to mention but David Sarcozi is certainly at the top of the list.

Monday, September 17, 2018

So much for yesterday's big rain

Remember my sister called me that we got a big rain and the arroyo was raging? She's a mile downstream from the oasis so I couldn't wait to get down there today to see if my tanks caught enough water to top off the stucco tank, or maybe everything was full.

Well, no runoff at CMO into anything. But I'm not worried. Once I get the new tank I'll never have to worry again. We're forecast for rain all week, the stucco tank doesn't seem to be leaking, and nothing is going to stop me from getting the new tank.

Back in Alpine I captured a shot of a pair of lovey-dovey Inca Doves.

Another Lajitas story. On September 7th some oders, Bob and David, arrived on their first visit to the Big Bend, staying in a motel at Study Butte. I took them to Lajitas the afternoon they arrived. We had fun. Didn't see anything really great but Bob got a photo of a Plateau Dragonlet, which was a lifer for him. We planned to go oding again the next day.


But very early the next morning (8th) CMO finally got its monsoonal rain, so I pretty much abandoned the guys and stayed at CMO to pump the water into the stucco tank. Left on their own, and knowing nowhere else in the Big Bend except Lajitas, where I had taken them, they returned there so David could get the Plateau Dragonlet, as well. They're both excellent photographers. So they photographed everything of interest to them. In the process, David shot a dragonfly that he thought was probably a female Four-spotted Pennant. We visited there again the next day (9th) and took a golf cart farther into the golf course than previously when we had just walked to the closest ponds. We didn't revisit the close ponds that day figuring we'd pretty much seen what was there.

David and me
After they got back to Arkansas they started processing their photos. David discovered that pennant was actually a Tawny Pennant, a first Brewster County record. Sure hate to have missed out on that one. Here's David's photo of it.

Sunday, September 16, 2018


My gofundme campaign is going good. Nearly halfway to the goal. A different tank company contacted me saying they would sell me a 65,000 gallon tank at cost ((about $22,000 installed), so that's much less expensive than the one that I was trying to get funds for ($30,000). On either of them I'd have to provide the pad, which probably means buying truckloads of sand, but we're still discussing that expense. And I can make it with the 12,000 less gallons, I think. I'll still have the in-ground tanks that should catch some water too. And I'm going to focus on getting the 11,000 gallon rock tank sealed and covered next.

My sister called me this evening to tell me that we got a big rain at the oasis and the arroyo is raging. I'm in Alpine because I have a dental appointment in the morning, but I'll be headed down there afterwards. Everything should be full with no place to pump the water in the dirt tanks, but soon I plan to remedy that. It won't happen if I don't push for it, starting with pressuring my son to make the pad.

Other encouraging news. After I patched the stucco tank I pumped the water back in, then measured how far it was down from the inlet at 3 AM (Sep 13th). It was dark and hard to tell exactly the distance, but the best I could tell it was 32" down. Then 4 hrs later, in daylight, I measured again and it was 32-1/2" down. And another 4 hours later at 11 AM it was 33" down. So I determined that if it went down one inch in 8 hrs, it was leaking 3" per day. I was really bummed. It's hard to be real accurate when dangling over the edge of the tank, poking a tape measure down to the water. After that I came to town. This morning (the 16th), before the rain, I went back down and remeasured. It had by then been 3 days. Being ½" off one way or other isn't so critical at that point. Still gives a good general measurement. The water measured at 36" down. So that's 3" in 3 days. That's really good. Evaporation could account for most of that, meaning it's not leaking very much, probably as sealed as I can ever get it. (Before patching it, it was losing 4" per day.)

If I had the new tank there today, I could fill it from the dirt tanks and leave the water in the in-ground tanks. That would really be great. But I'll get the tank as soon as possible. The company says it may take a month. By then the dirt tanks will be empty, but I'll have enough in the stucco tank that I should be able to fill it. Because during that month I'll keep topping off the stucco tanks from the dirt tanks.

To be clear, if I didn't get a new tank, I would make it through until next rainy season this time, but the first year the rains didn't come, like happened in 2011, the oasis would die. It has to be prepared for that. It's not something that can wait until it happens. Buying and hauling water, like I did in 2011, is no longer an option.

Bottom line, the oasis is going to make it. I worried that by the time I got a new tank I wouldn't have water to fill it, but I now feel I can make it happen. Then, if we don't get rain next rainy season I'll have that to fall back on. By being frugal with the water and letting some things go, there'll still be an oasis for us all to continue enjoying. That's my plan anyway.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

My gofundme campaign

At 3 AM last night, while waiting on the water to finish pumping, I decided to write a gofundme story sort of to see how it works. It was pretty easy so I just proceeded. Then turned off the pump and went to bed. Early this morning my life became crazy. Donations have been pouring in all day and I've been busy writing thank you messages.

It looks like I might be able to get the tank I desperately need. When I measured the stucco tank before coming to town it was still leaking about the same or maybe slightly less. But since it has two feet less water in it, the pressure decreases on the leaks and they slow down on their own. I'm sure I patched it good. It must have sprung another leak. So my only hope is the gofundme campaign. Otherwise, I'd be really depressed about the tank leaking.

Here's the link:

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Tank patching day

I set up my patching operation with a lightweight chair and floated my supplies in. (Broom is to help me walk in and out without falling down.)

Biggest hole that I chiseled out around the crack

Patching in progress
Smaller hole chiseled for repair
Patching completed

Pumping water back in

After I had the two big holes patched plus two tiny ones I discovered 4 more pinholes. I was out of hydraulic patch and the other stuff I tried didn't work on an active leak. So I went to town for more hydraulic patch and when I got back it had stopped leaking into the tank, so the other stuff would have worked. After patching, I put some Dryloc coating on. It's supposed to dry for 3 hours but I only gave it an hour. As it is, I'll be up pumping most of the night. Need to get it back into the tank so not so much is lost. Maybe we'll get more rain this year too, but I think I'll be able to eke by if we don't.

Here's a new addition to Brian's collection, a male and female Two-tailed Swallowtail.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Lovely oasis day

Even though today was the day we pumped out the stucco tank so I can repair the leaks, I was happy being surrounded by dear friends and plenty of help. We ran three pumps to make it go faster.

It's now pumped out and waiting for the leaks to stop running water into the tank so I can patch and refill. Hopefully, tomorrow. This next photo is where I patched it a couple of years ago. My patch was tough, but it cracked across the middle. I chiseled this hole to make it easier to patch. Can't patch a crack very well. Gonna use expandable quick drying cement with fiber in it. Bet that'll hold.

Michael Gray was of invaluable assistance today. He's my hero! And also had help from his lovely wife's brother-in-law. I appreciate the time the others spent hanging around and listing what migrants are dropping by.

Today the amberwings appeared, three days after monsoons filled everything with water. My camera OIS (image stabilization) switch was AGAIN accidentally turned off. I was so disgusted that  I super-glued it to the "on" position. I missed a good photo of what is probably a Mexican Amberwing. Either that or a teneral Eastern. I've no idea what the tenerals look like. So here's the only documentation I got.

Lots of other odes showing up at the dragonfly pond and other places holding water, including an adult male and female Eastern Amberwing.

Female Eastern Amberwing
Twelve-spotted Skimmer

Female Red Saddlebags
Day before yesterday my sister saw this Trans-Pecos Copperhead up our mountain. I've never seen one.