Sunday, February 23, 2014

Mold Is Not All Bad

Spring is coming and I have big plans for the garden this year.  Though I had intended to let my gourds from last year's crop dry in the open air on the vine, I needed to reclaim the space for some goodies I wanted to plant in my first spring/summer garden, so I cut all the gourds and brought them into the garage to dry.

I lined them up on a ladder that is hanging on the wall.  They are out of the way and off the ground there with plenty of air circulation.

As they dry, their color changes and mold patterns develop.  This is not a bad thing and helps to create interesting patterns on the skins.

Strange that so many picked from the same plant can be so different.  The two below are on opposite ends of the spectrum of dehydration.

This one has begun to dry, but still has its bright orange color and weighs in at 5.7 ounces.

The other of similar size is almost completely dry, void of its orange color, and ready to clean.  Having lost most of its moisture it weighs in at only .7 ounces.

When they are all dry, I will scrub them in a soapy, bleach and water solution and they will be ready to use as decorations next fall in a wreath or in large bowls.  Next time I may plant some larger varieties to make into bowls or birdhouses.

As for my garden?  I need to get you an update in the coming days . . .

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Fortuitous Glance

I took a personal day from work today.  I am going for the Wife Of The Year Award, you see.  This weekend is my husband's annual Poker Weekend and there is a lot to do to be ready.  There are beds to make, towels to hang, tubs and toilets, sinks and floors . . . oh, you get the idea.  Anyway, it is something I am happy to do so that he and his friends can get together.  So why am I sitting at my computer typing up a blog post when I should be finalizing a grocery list?  This is why.

As I was passing through my living room I glanced out my back window and spotted this gorgeous Red-Shouldered Hawk sitting on a limb.  I thought about the binoculars, but I am so happy I took the time to grab my camera instead.

I got to see him from several angles as he scanned the yard for prey.  Then I got really lucky and he took flight.  Oh, if I only had put my camera on sports mode to get better action shots, or had it set to continuously shoot I would have gotten some better shots.  But I will take what I can get.  It was a real treat as it was.

Even though I didn't catch it on film, I was able to see him swoop down on a small critter in the yard and watched it jump to escape the hawk's talons.  The hawk flew away hungry, I'm afraid.

I read just a little about this hawk while my photos were downloading and found that it is faithful to it's nesting site returning year after year.  One of it's young will even take over the nest when the parents die.  Hopefully this means I will have future opportunities to get some more shots.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

One and Done

40 days ago I bought my first skein of yarn to learn how to knit.  40 days later I am completely hooked. No, that would be crochet, which I also enjoy.  I just can't think of a good pun for knitting.  Anyway.  The first project I made was a scarf.  Not super proud of it, but I did learn a lot.  I should have since I took the thing apart and started over about 7 times.  It's paparazzi shy so I have no photos.

In the beginning Rudy was fascinated by my work and Kracken just wanted to steal my yarn.
For what ever reason, probably naivete' on my part, I thought it was a good idea to jump from a scarf which didn't turn out that great to socks.  Socks!  Oh my, was it a challenge.  Between juggling up to 5 needles at once and my Inhibitors it's amazing I finished.  By finished I mean one sock.

My sock will be lonely, living live as one part of a pair.  I won't be making another.  Well, that isn't exactly true.  I won't make a match for this one, but I will make more socks.  This one has some definite problems learning curve spots.

But know I get the mechanics of holding the needles.  I have an understanding of the stitches and what they do.  I can shape a cuff, heel, gusset, and a toe.  Also, this was a pattern for an ankle sock (don't laugh, I know its 14 inches long), but I wanted practice so I didn't stop knitting.  Because the cuff dimensions were for an ankle, it didn't do well over the calf to the knee.  A little snug.

At this point I have two options.  One is to mount the guy and hang it in my sewing room.  I like this idea.  The other is to stuff it with batting and catnip as a toy for Kracken.  He obviously has loved this wool yarn from the beginning.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Choke Canyon State Park

After a very gray morning at Goliad State Park, we were pleasantly surprised to see the skies clear as we pulled into Choke Canyon State Park.  You can see them retreating in the distance behind the sign.

There is one word I can use to describe this park - wildlife.  Both the living kind . . .

White Tailed Deer
And the not.  This Catfish on the shore of the lake was huge!

We saw more creatures than I was able to get photographs of, but what I did get makes me smile.

Great Egret
It didn't start out that way.  In fact, for the first half of our hike I only got pictures of the bird houses hung along the trail by who knows whom.

And a few nests like this one.

But on our way back down the trail to our car the woods came alive.

Blue Gray Gnatcatcher
Long-Billed Thrasher
Of all the birds we could have spotted, we had actively tried to find this guy.  He is a Green Jay and in the United States is only found in Texas.  Weren't we lucky?  I know it's a terrible shot, but focusing on moving creatures through layers and layers of branches and leaves is not something I have mastered.

Green Jay
Here he is from the front, though blocked a bit by a branch.  You can still see his tropical coloring.

Green Jay
Harris's Hawk
Ever since Breck and I visited South Llano River State Park I have had an intense desire to see wild turkeys. We spotted these guys after I shot the hawk above on our way out of the park.  Their feathers were so beautiful.  I loved how this one was checking me out under the fence.

Rio Grande Wild Turkeys
Then off they walked, strutted.  I hope we can see more of these beauties on future trips, but in the meantime I can check this bird off my list of "Wanna Get A Picture Of."

Rio Grande Wild Turkeys
The first creature we saw when we arrived was the deer pictured at the beginning of the post, but it was not the only deer we saw.  This gorgeous buck thankfully stood statue still for me to get a good shot.

Oh, and there was a lake, too.

This is a park to go back to.  Maybe next time we will do the bird walk with an Interpretive Park Ranger to learn more about the birds and their habitat.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Goliad State Park

The weather wasn't perfect, but we had been planning a trip to Goliad State Park for weeks.  A little drizzle, a lot of fog, and less than ideal temperatures were not going to deter us.

This park is home to the Mission Espiritu Santo de Zuniga, and was perfect for Breck who loves history.

Park Ranger Tammy gave a wonderful historic tour that added to our our usual hiking experience.

And can we talk about the beauty of the place?

All that hand carved limestone before you even walk through the doors.  And about those doors . . .

I do have a thing for architectural elements.  Now let's go inside.

So much thought went into every detail from the corded moldings to the location of the stained glass.  We also viewed  several items of interest to me in the museum.

Right up my alley as was the educational talk Park Ranger Tammy gave about some of the local plant life.

The dry tips of the Century plant could be used as a needle and thread (or to make tequila)
The Anaqua Tree has very rough leaves that were used as sandpaper and has a very textured bark.
Mesquite Tree sap can be used as a dye and the pods can be used to make flour and jelly.
Dagger Yucca could be used to make cord and can be home to spiders, birds, and snakes.
Thank you, Park Ranger Tammy.  We don't usually take the tours, but we are so glad we did this day.

So much before we even hit the trails.  There is so much more I could share, but maybe, just maybe, you will make the trip yourself some day.  But now for the beauty we found on our hike.

Grassy Weeds
Spider Web
As you can see, I really enjoyed getting back to my macro lens.


We looked for the Green Jays that we heard could be found, but didn't see any.  There were of course others.

Breck took this shot, his first with a macro, of cactus growing out of the branches of a tree by the park office.  One of my favorite shots of the day.

Great park.  Great history.