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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! 

Friday, November 16, 2018

Tabby cat

Went to the oasis this morning to bring the loader back to town. While there I saw a big orange tabby cat. It's been hanging around my sister's and the oasis lately, but today is the first time I got a photo of it. It looks really well-fed for a feral cat.

Interesting tabby fact: All orange cats are tabbies, but not all tabbies are orange.

It's going to take at least a month to get someone to fix the loader so I'm going to have to rely on my son and his tractor to get the work done that has to be done before the next rain. One year my tanks filled in January so a big deluge can happen any time. Can't relax yet.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

More tank installation details

The installation crew got lost on Terlingua Ranch, so were 2 hours late getting to CMO. I had sent them the same map that I send all visiting birders, who never get lost. Additionally, the guy who inspected the pad the day before, flagged all of Snake Road to make it easier for them. First time we've ever flagged Snake Road. Since the install is an 8 hour job, they worked extra fast to get back on schedule. I think some of the workmanship suffered as a result, but I'm not an engineer, so just have to trust that my precious water will be secure.

When they left, the ground was littered with screws, which I don't mind picking up, but I do worry how many screws were left inside the tank on the ground. I just have to trust that they would either be very conscientious inside the tank, or that screws can't penetrate the tank pad.

Not quite as worrisome are the many places that the screws missed their target. I wouldn't think that would be a structural problem. And if the roof is loose anywhere, I have plenty of screws to secure it.😉

And it's a good thing I had roughed in the new parking area before tank installation. The crew needed every bit of it to spread out their metal, roof joists and all that other stuff. I've no idea where they would have put it without the parking area being there. For several hours my pickup was blocked in and I had to walk to the house. Backing their trailer up to where they needed it was difficult too.

I must say the crew were a great bunch. Worked hard and never complained, jovial throughout the whole ordeal. Could it have been anything other than an ordeal?

Yesterday, as I was shoveling gravel and rocks from where I had piled them up while we were making the new parking area, I came across a prehistoric scraper. You may recall that there was an ancient earth oven under the old parking area (blog Sept 26), which is now under the tank. I think this scraper was used to scoop out the earth oven, or process the sotol before baking, or both. My archaeologist sister, Ann, is taking it to the Center For Big Bend Studies, where she works part-time, and get it analyzed. I'm sure it got unearthed when we were scraping out the new parking area. That ground is really hard clay of the same color as the patina on the scraper. So far, all Ann can say about it is that it shows a lot of usage wear.

Eventually, I'll coat the parking area with gravel. That clay is a pain when it's wet. My husband thinks now that the tank is installed the work is no longer urgent, so I'm having to nag him a bit. In order for the tank to get the 20 year warranty, I have to get the gravel around the perimeter asap. Plus I have to put some kind of barrier between it and the parking area so no one accidentally runs into the tank. Not likely, but what if?

Also right now the parking lot has a bad low area. The whole thing needs to gently slope toward the nearby arroyo. If I don't push to get all this stuff done, who will? And who knows how long it'll take to get the loader fixed and operational again? So I know you all think now that the tank is installed and full of water I can stop stressing and enjoy. Soon, but not yet.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

New tank is full!

One never knows how they'll react to something until it happens, and this tank is a good example. Maybe because my brain is old and hard-wired for leakage and evaporation, I still haven't felt the huge relief I expected. Or I'm just so use to worrying and stressing that I find something else to stress about. But I think when I get used to the new water situation and see how it improves life at the oasis I'll wonder how I ever made it without it.

Kind of like now I wonder how I ever survived before internet, cell phones, etc.

While water was pumping I painted the white 6" overflow pipe black. Gonna get some matching green paint in town and paint it a second coat with that. Also putting the required gravel around the perimeter. That'll keep me busy most of the winter.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Tank is installed

They installed it in 6 hours. It all happened so fast it hasn't soaked in yet.

Just goes to show the power of all you wonderful donors that this was able to happen.

The installation crew arrived late so I was forced to sit down there in the freezing cold and watch birds while I waited on them. Saw three Lucifer Hummingbirds to my great surprise. After all, it was 22° and there were patches of snow here and there.

 I took tons of photos but busy pumping water and stuff, so won't post them.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Tank inspection day

The tank pad passed inspection... barely, I suspect! Relieved, but it's not over til it's over. At least I won't have as long to agonize. They're going to do the installation tomorrow!!! The scheduled day, Thursday, is forecast to be nice weather. Tomorrow is going to be colder than today, but at least there won't be this wind tomorrow. If we're lucky, it might get up to 50° tomorrow. Am I REALLY going to be pumping water into the new tank tomorrow?

This morning it warmed up to 47° and the high this afternoon was 42°  With it being colder tomorrow I don't see how the installers' fingers will function. I didn't even brave the elements today to take a photo of anything.

Here's a tank installation video I found online. It's supposed to take 8 hrs, but out here everything takes longer. I'll probably be pumping water in the freezing dark tomorrow night.

No word from Brian's mom yet. I called her several times and no answer.

UPDATE: I couldn't reach Brian's mom so I called the hospital and they wouldn't give me any info other than he's in a room and not in ICU, so that's good.

Sunday, November 11, 2018


Tomorrow CA Martin is coming to assess the tank pad. Only four more days until installation. I hope.

The few stacked hex tiles got into the water without my help but three tiles were sinking. Maybe had leaks. I'm short tiles so am trying to order about 30 more.

Supposed to get really cold tomorrow night and the house was chilly tonight so I built a fire in the stove for the first time this season.