Along the Natchez Trace

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Juveniles... but not Delinquents

As I've written before, we didn't have plans to be in Texas all summer.  We hadn't made any real plans at all except head to New Mexico, Colorado and other cooler places.  Bill's broken ankle changed what plans we had and we figured it best to stay here close to the doctor and the medical facilities we're familiar with.  It's funny how things like that work out....  if we had left, we would have missed our daily sightings of the Painted Buntings and the Black-chinned Hummingbirds.

And now we are further rewarded by watching their fledglings come to our feeders....
The cardinals no longer depend on their parents to feed them.   They are coming to the feeders now.  It was funny to watch the baby birds hover around their parent just waiting for a morsel of food to be dropped in their mouth.  Now they easily feed themselves.  This juvenile will eventually be bright red.  Even his bill, which is dark as a young bird will turn red.

Another youngster..  they often come in family groups but are quite able to be on their own.

 This juvenile Black-chinned hummingbird has a purple feather or two growing on his throat.  As he matures his entire throat will be dark.

 Another youngster....
Immatures resemble adult females so a person has to look closely.  We've been watching these birds every day and there are a few I have come to recognize...  a wayward feather; a lighter spot on the wing...  little things that kind of distinguish them from each other.  I'll readily admit that there are only a couple I "know".  But observing them daily has made recognizing the young ones somewhat easier.

And, of course, my favorite bird of the summer...
 It's funny to see how muted the colors of his feathers are...
He kind of looks like he's dressed in camouflage for his foraging expedition.

But...  soon he'll be as colorful as his dad...
 If I'm lucky, sometimes the sun hits just right on the back, making the Painted Bunting just glow!

These aren't the only young birds we are seeing...  I know the chickadees and titmice have young...  and the house finch population seemed to multiply overnight.  

Had we moved on we would have missed seeing all this "next generation" of birds...  right outside our window.  

We'll be here about 3 more weeks, then head on.
Who knows what other wonderful sights we'll see before we leave?

That's All For Today!

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Bucks Stop here...

This morning I was getting ready for my walk and happened to look out the window as I was tying my shoes...
There were 6 buck deer having breakfast at the feeder...

I have never seen this many buck deer, each with a gorgeous rack of antlers, hanging out together.  
 All of their antlers appeared to still be in the "growing" stage...  it's a little too early for rut season and all the antlers seem to be "velvet".

Look at this one...
I've seen a lot of deer in the wild but never in my life have I seen a buck with a rack of antlers this big.
I had to Google how to rate the points on a buck, and as nearly as I can tell, this guy has at least 8 points on each side...  maybe 9.  

The whole herd was just majestic!

He has his summer colors... nice and bright. 

I wonder if kings carry this much weight on their heads when wearing their crowns?

Another view of Mr. Big Rack

Look how wide this rack is...

What a pose!

Must be time to go...

And off they went...

I took all but the last two photos from the window of our motorhome.  Guess it's time to put my motion sensor game camera out and see what else hangs out at the feeders.

That's All For Today!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Market Day

For 18 years Bill & I had a stall at the local Farmer's Market.  We sold veggies, flowers, jellies and jams, and our most popular product.. Goat Cheese.  During the years we participated, that market grew from a couple dozen vendors to the huge market it is today.  It changed locations a couple of times but the standards that were put in place 30+ years ago were never lowered.  You had to grow what you sold.  There were no arts or crafts sold; no animals for sale.  

Bill was president of the market for several years and we had an active part not only as vendors, but in maintaining the standards.  It is a huge market now, open all year round.  There are many more organic growers there now, as well as a variety of meats, cheese and processed food available.  

Also, there are "street entertainers" located at a few spots in the market....  usually guitar or other types of music, singing, and the such.  They play for "tips" and from the number of folks who shop, I would think they do pretty well.  I think once a month there are arts and craft stalls set up nearby.

The market is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  The Wednesday market has always been for the hard-core shoppers.  They know what they want, they know what vendors will be there.  At least in our time, these shoppers were the serious ones.

Oh but Saturdays!  The bell rings promptly at 10:00.  Nothing is sold before then.  There are lines of folks waiting for that wonderful loaf of bread... or, oh my! when sweet corn is finally ripe...  or Ohio River tomatoes!...  people are anxious to get these before they are sold out.  And Saturdays is a big social event.  Even though we're not vendors now, when we're in town Bill & I are always at the market when they open.  We see folks we haven't seen in months.  We visit with everyone.  Everyone does this, even if they are townies who saw the same folks the week before.  It's nothing for us to arrive for the 10:00 opening and still be wandering around at noon.

Sometimes we have to make a couple trips back to the car with our purchases...  how long do you want to carry around that bag of tomatoes, those jars of salsa, that lovely bunch of basil?  And, besides, that loaf of bread is going to get crushed if we keep adding more to our bags.

Many people bring their own bags or even lovely baskets to carry home their veggies.  Some even wear fashionable straw hats or other "country" looking attire.    Everyone has a great time

Bill & I seek out Farmer's Markets wherever we're at.  Today we drove into Glen Rose, here in Texas to the local market....
 There were only 3 vendors set up today.
But the selection of veggies was pretty good...  tomatoes, okra, green beans, black-eyed peas and tiny red new potatoes.  There were a few varieties of watermelon and cantaloupe, and just-picked peaches.
The vendor on the right sold jams and jellies.

Besides melon, this vendor also had bird-house gourds for sale.
(That's a statue of a pioneer on a horse on the town square in the background)

We came away with 3 bags of veggies and Bill had a melon under each arm.  We have no trouble supporting those local farmer's markets - the hard part is limiting our purchases to what we can use while it's fresh.

Some are huge and have all kinds of things besides foods, some are small, like this one, and have only a few vendors.
But, they are all fun to wander through, and best of all, be able to buy fresh fruits and vegetables that are grown locally.

That's All For Today!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Lights! Action! Camera!!!!

If there's one thing our motorhome does not lack, it's cameras.  When we started our travels in 2001 I believe we had one camera... probably a "point and shoot" Canon.  It used film...  while digital may have been around it was certainly out of our price range at that time.

As we traveled, I'd send my film to a company... I think they were located in Seattle or someplace like that.  A couple weeks later I'd get back my packet of glossy photos.  Somewhere in a file cabinet back in our storage place in Ohio I have albums of photos...  at least one album for every place we "lived".  There's the "Alaska" albums, the "Oregon" albums, the "Bosque del Apache NWR" albums...  and that's just for the first year.

 In 2003 my Canon took a swim out of a canoe when we were volunteering at Carolina Sandhills NWR in SC...  it drowned, never to be revived again.  Digital cameras had become more available at a price we could afford.  Again, I can't remember what we got, except I'm fairly certain it was another Canon...

I found that I could take hundreds...  thousands...  of photos and not be concerned about the cost of film or development.
Early Morning fog....  cattle in nearby pasture.

I started burning CDs of my photos and only occasionally printing something special.  We took a 6 week tour of Mexico and I looked around at what cameras other folks were using.

My fairly inexpensive hobby just got a lot more costly!
Oh WOW!  Look at those close-up photos of birds!  How do they do that?  
I'd never had any instructions on how to use a camera...  I knew nothing about what all those things like shutter speed and aperture meant.  I bought a Canon EOS Rebel...  probably the first model of all the Rebels to come.  It came with a 70 mm and a 200 mm lens.  It was expensive...  but I loved it!

Cattle Egrets in Field...

I took many, many photos with this camera.  In fact, I rolled over the 10,000 counter a few times.  
Of course as time went on, I wasn't happy with the 200 mm lens.  Yep!  Bought the 300 mm lens so I could capture those birds.

Cattle Egrets .... flying off...

The long lens made the camera kind of heavy...  and I didn't always want to carry it around.  So... next step...  bought a small Canon, pocket-size camera.  Now, here, I'll have to admit that I'm kind of hard on cameras... even with the strap I manage to drop them, knock them against things, just all kinds of bad stuff.  
My preference had been the Canon Powershot....  because up until recently they had the tiny viewfinder as well as the large screen.  Those screens just don't work well for me in sunlight.  

I think I've had 3, maybe 4 "Powershots", the last one is the SX230-IS.  It has 12.1 mega pixels and 14X optical zoom.  The newer version is bigger and better, but mine still takes great photos and is a good little "pocket" camera.

Turkey Vulture

Bill has a Canon Powershot A2300...  16 mega pixels, 5X optical zoom.  It takes quality photos as well.

And then, there are the cameras that are "included" on our cell phones....  I seldom carry my cell phone, but Bill always has his.  He can whip that sucker out and grab some great shots.  

When we were doing the gate guarding job I had problems with my 300 mm lens and ended up sending it to a company in Illinois to be repaired.  At that time I was trying to decide whether to buy a 500 mm lens for my Canon EOS Rebel, or buy a "does everything" camera I'd seen advertised.  I decided to buy the Leica V-Lux 4, and since my zoom lens would take about a month to be repaired I went ahead and ordered it.  

As it happened, the lens was returned (repaired) within a week, and arrived almost the same day as my new Leica.

So...  we have no shortage of cameras in our home.

Now...  a problem has come up.
My old faithful Canon EOS Rebel needed cleaned...  so I packed it up and sent it to the shop in Illinois.  It came back last weekend with this note:  
Returning camera ....  replacement parts no longer available.

After an e-mail and 2 phone calls, I was told that there are spots on the sensor and new sensors haven't been available since 2011.  What to do?  I called Canon direct...  was told pretty much the same thing... can't be fixed.  BUT....  they can sell me a "refurbished" camera for $342 + tax (with 1 year warranty) that would be a newer model of the Canon Rebel that I have.  I would then send them my old camera ... I guess you'd kind of call it a trade-in.

Now comes the hard part for me...  I have several very nice lenses for my Rebel...  while I don't use the long lenses everyday now, I like having the ability to shoot an eagle that's a half mile away.  
So, if the problem is "just" spots on the sensor that put spots on my photos (this was what I thought needed cleaned), I could continue just using Picasa or Paint Shop and erase the spots....  or I could fork over the cash and be "like new" again.

Obviously I have other options for my picture-taking hobby...  but I feel like I have a lot invested in lenses, and, more important...  while I love the Leica for many things, and still carry the little Powershot on me when I'm hiking or just don't want to carry anything bigger...  darn it!  I still love seeing the gleam in the eye of an eagle when it's scoping out its prey.

My style has always been to...
Shoot for the Moon!
(Did you see that moon last night?  Gorgeous!)

So whatever I decide I'm sure I'll be able to live with it.

That's All For Today!

Monday, July 22, 2013

I ♥ Blogs.....

Paul & Kathleen Smith introduced me to the world of blogging in 2004.  We were all on the Adventure Caravan Twin Piggyback Tour of Mexico and the Smith's posted a daily blog of our travels.  I think their were 18 rigs on that tour for a total of about 6 weeks.  For many of us it was our first trip into Mexico and we were all concerned about keeping our families "back home" informed.  The Smith's write a terrific blog, but they involved each of the tour participants by inviting each of us to contribute a blog for "our" day.  I think each couple wrote the day's blog twice during the tour.

It was interesting to see the different styles of writing and to read about the day from a different perspective.  We could use our own photos to illustrate our writing as well.  At the end of the tour, Paul and Kathleen had booklets of the blog made up for each of us.  I still have mine and even now, nearly 10 years later it's fun to look at and relive the trip.

The Smith's had their own dish and service...  not a whole lot of folks we knew had that back then.  A lot of us still depended on local libraries or other  means to get on the internet.  So while Paul & Kathleen encouraged us all to write a blog of our travels it just wasn't easy to do that on a daily basis.

It wasn't until November, 2005 that we bought a dish and tripod and used Hughes net...  it was a real luxury to have internet anytime we wanted it. (We have since changed to Millinicom and no longer carry around all that "baggage")

Bill read some "forums" fairly regularly, and through them began reading some blogs.  I had kept my family and friends informed of our travels writing what I called "long letters" (which included a couple dozen photos) and sending that to about 25-30 people every few weeks.

I began to read blogs that were written by folks I knew.  I still read Paul & Kathleen's blog.  We met Chris and Juan in Veracruz and I began reading his blog, and a couple of years ago we met Mark & Terri up in Maine.  They had encouraged our friends Carolyn and Wally to write, and I began reading both of their blogs.

Hey...  this is fun!  Alongside the written part, most folks have a column that lists the blogs they follow.  Well now...  look at this....  since most of the folks I read were either avid travelers or avid birders... or both...  I found all kinds of interesting reading.

In February, 2012, we were at Falcon Lake in south Texas...  looky here..  a blogger I read is at this park.  I met Donna and Dennis Cave...  knocked on their door and with her encouragement kind of tentatively began my own blog a few days later.

Now comes the interesting part...  I immediately got all kinds of encouragement from other bloggers.  Donna K kept my spirits up with her help and advice.  I hesitate to mention names only because there were many folks who were so helpful and I don't even know who they all were.  I still have much to learn (like how to link stuff...  I should be able to write someone's blogname and you could click on it...  )   Maybe with time I'll figure it all out...

Well, one thing led to another and I started reading all kinds of blogs.  I guess my curiosity wins out because while RVers and birders were my first interests, I read all kinds of blogs written by all kinds of folks.  It was because of a blog that Bill & I went to Seville, Spain.  Yeah, we were going to Spain, but hadn't chosen a city until I read Mitch's blog.  We had the pleasure of meeting Mitch and San Geraldo...  indeed, we got together several times during our stay in Seville.

I started today's blog thinking of a couple of other blogs I read...  One is "1000 Pattes".....  it's mostly wildlife photography...  but it's from Europe and written in French.  No, I don't speak French, but usually there are enough translations to explain it.  The photos don't automatically come up on this blog, so before I get the photos I try to figure out what the critter is by the French name...  and the scientific name.  I know, kind of a weird thing to do, but....  hey....  it's fun.

Another I read is a vegetarian recipe blog.  I even went to the local kitchen gadget store in Granbury and bought a Julienne Peeler.  So what if I haven't used it yet...  I have what looks to be a great Thai salad in mind.....

And of course there's the blogs I look forward to every day...  about National Wildlife Refuges, about the latest in Google technology (which I read but can't always figure out), about things Dizzy wonders about, or what's going on in Carolyn's life today....  People I've never met personally...  the list goes on and on and on.

I appreciate the folks who read my own blog, and love reading the comments.  Some folks who blog reply to each comment, which is really a nice thing to do, but I didn't have a clue how to do that when I started and didn't get in that habit...

Mostly I love reading others blogs...  what a diversity of folks...  what a range of interests....  what a great bunch of people who take the time to share their own thoughts and their own life.  I can't always think of something snappy to say, but chances are, if you're reading this, I read your blog, even If I don't always comment.

Yes, I ♥ Blogs!

That's All For Today!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Happy Birthday Danny!

Today is my son's 51st birthday....
Even though this picture was taken 3 years ago we look about the same now....

I have been blessed with 4 children...  my son was the first born in 1962, and his sister was born a year later.  In January, 1982 I "inherited" 2 more daughters, when Bill & I were married.  

Now they live in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas...  our grandkids live in New York, Michigan, California and Texas, and our great-grandkids live in Michigan and New York.

We see all of them at least once a year...  as often as we can work out the travel logistics.

But..  each one of them is very special...  and each have their special day.

Today is Danny's day...  I always say he's my favorite son.  And he is and will always be...

Much love to you, Danny....  as always, I wish you the best.  Love, Mom

Friday, July 19, 2013

Just A Walk Around the Block...

No matter where we live, we always seem to find a good walking route...  whether it be in the city, like the great places we walked while in Sevilla, Spain, or in the boonies in south Texas, like our recent gate-guarding job.  

Our daughter's place, which is rural, is no different.  While her house is located just off a dead-end road, the county road is paved out here it's flat and easy walking.  I can easily walk over 2 miles in any of 3 directions, which makes for a nice 3-5 mile walk round-trip.

But our stay this time is different...  I lost my walking partner.  Bill does okay with that "boot" for short jaunts, but for him, the 4-wheeler is now his mode of travel.

Our daughter and son-in-law recently bought the piece of land that abuts their property.  There are no houses on it...  in fact, there's no water or electric or anything.  Celeste has created a very nice path that pretty much borders their property...
It wanders through some wooded areas....
 Under some oaks trees and junipers....
 Into open areas that are grassy.... (at least by Texas standards)
 Along side the creek bed....
 Which, if there is ever enough rain, has some places big enough for "swimming holes"....
 But even a little water makes it a welcome stop for critters... 
 Celeste has chosen a few spots to have benches built...  you can walk as long as you want, or take along a book and stop and read for a while....  or just look around you and maybe spot a deer.
 Yesterday morning was very foggy...  the fog changed the whole perspective of the walk...   (same area was 3 photos back)
 The path is wide enough that you could drive a vehicle on it if you wanted...  but mostly the width makes walking easier and makes mowing and other maintenance a bit easier to manage.

The path makes a large loop.... coming out of the trees into an open area...  
Hello, Sunshine!

It takes me around 1,000 steps to walk the entire path.  I love walking it so much that I've been walking clock-wise for a couple laps ...  then walking a couple more laps counter-clock-wise.  
Things always look a little different when coming from a different direction.

This doesn't get me my 10,000 steps for the day, but it's a great way to start.

Eventually, I think Celeste will be putting up bird feeders and some other things to attract the wildlife.  She's just getting started on this project.

What a great way to "walk around the block".

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Raindrops Are Falling On My Head....

Yes!  We finally got some rain here in this part of Texas!
It started raining late Saturday night or early Sunday...  we got all of 1/2 inch total on Sunday.

Monday it began in earnest....  an additional 3.5 inches, brought the total rainfall to 4 inches in just 2 days.

While the rain didn't make the creek run with water, at least now there are puddles in the creek bed behind our daughter's house.

Bill uses Victor's 4-wheeler to get around...
Rylie, Celeste's dog, just loves riding with anyone who will take him along.
It's been one month now since Bill broke a bone in his ankle...  that boot keeps him secure but mobile.  He probably will be wearing his "fashionable" footwear for another month.

Before the rains started Saturday night, Rylie chased some critter into that crevice of the rocks shown above.  I thought he was stuck...  he barked, then was quiet...  this went on for several hours.  We all tried to coax him out... with food, with threats (yeah, right!), and even Bill's walking stick.  Celeste knows his bark... thought he was okay.  We "2 footed" folks all went home.  Not too long later Rylie came trotting home...  but he knew he was in the doghouse... would barely even look at Celeste for the rest of the day.
We never did know what Rylie was after, but with all these rocks we were concerned about snakes.  He's had his rattlesnake vaccine, but a bite is still a serious thing for such a little dog.

I think the rain is about over here...  we got a little more yesterday... maybe today we'll have some thundershowers...  but... they will be welcome.  
The ponds are looking fuller, the grass is looking greener, but it all still has a way to go...
We can handle a few more raindrops!

That's All For Today!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Painted Bunting????

As I've written in the past, for several years seeing a Painted Bunting has been high on my list of birds I "must see".  This summer has been a great year...  we see them every day... often just a couple of feet outside the windows of our motorhome.  They are such a colorful bird....  

Today funny thing happened at the HEB grocery store... we were on our way to the check-out line and what should cross our path?  Oh My Goodness!!!!
Not being shy, I had to stop this young lady and ask her if she was familiar with the Painted Bunting....

She was not, but she said she'd done a photo shoot just yesterday of a young screech owl and a bald eagle.  

We saw her again out in the parking lot as we were leaving and I asked her if I could take her picture.  She said she gets lots of requests and readily agreed....

Doesn't this bird have a great smile?

 Not only have I seen and taken many photographs of the bird of my dreams...
But I got to see that bird if it were to come back in this world as a human!
How lucky can a person get?

That's All For Today!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Well, I swan.....

Right off....  this has NOTHING to do with birds....
Beautiful, right?
Taken in Seville, Spain at the Parque Maria a few months ago..

What happened was...

Bill & I are heading out the door this morning.....  he is using the 4-wheeler to get around (broken ankle, remember?) while we're here at our daughters place.  He needs the "pull-behind" trailer to haul stuff in.  The trailer has a flat tire.  I ask him what it will take to get it fixed.

Basically...  he told me that it would take a lot of "language"....  meaning that it's going to take a lot more grunt work than real "know-how".

Immediately I thought of my Dad.  Daddy didn't have much of a formal education, but he was self taught and had knowledge of almost anything anyone wanted to discuss.  He could certainly hold his own with the college kids who lived with us and the ones who visited him to gather "oral history" information about days gone by.  He subscribed to and read several different newspapers each day and often had both the radio and the TV on at the same time to hear what was going on in the world.

One thing I'm sure he didn't pick up from the news was his colorful vocabulary.  My mother was often embarrassed by his language....  not the big 4 or 5 syllable words he could use...  but those long-drawn-out "phrases" he'd use when his legs were giving him pain (he'd been injured in a coal mining accident when I was a tot).  And, WOW, could he ever rip em off! 

I'll have to admit that I heard it all....  but never used any of that language way back then.  (honest)

My dad was 44 years old when I was born so by the time I started dating he was retirement age.  Just think what a girl in the mid 50's would think bringing a guy around only to hear her dad rip off such words!

I shouldn't have worried.....  I ended up married to that guy who came around back then.  He worked construction and worked around a  "worldly" crew.  But when our kids were little I will say he refrained from the words he used  on the job....  Euphemisms like "cheese and rice" were used instead.  Well, that marriage didn't last...  the kids are grown and have grandkids of their own.  I have no idea how his language progressed, but will admit mine became more "colorful".

So.... today, when Bill joke-inly says that only bad language is gonna get that tire off that trailer, I just had to think of my Dad.  He'd be 115 years old now.....  maybe he's up there in heaven tripping over whatever the heck he tripped over that made him cuss....  ripping off oaths that would make a sailor blush.... (hey, I learned some pretty good stuff)....  

What's this got to do with swans?  Well, heck....  who of you haven't heard of that "genteel southern expression...  I swan?  

My salty language (learned from my Dad, of course) could quickly translate into REAL words!  Which I won't write here ;-)

Here's to my Dad...  may I always be open to learning new vocabulary, new phrases and the correct way to use them!

Well, I swan....  Bill, that trailer tire shouldn't be too hard to fix!

That's All For Today!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Got Ants?

We have several hummingbird feeders hanging in various spots around our motorhome from April until about October...  or even longer if we're where the birds are wintering.  I don't think any 2 of our feeders are alike, but one thing they all have in common....  the sugar water attracts ants!

I think some of our feeders have a little "ant moat" built in to the top, but those are usually quite small, and the water evaporates really quick.

As I've written before, Bill is very clever about designing and building great stuff.  
He made this ant deterrent from an empty soup can...  even painted it red when he got done...
It's really easy to make and all the supplies can be bought at Lowe's or Home Depot at very little cost.  I suppose if you don't have a drill you could make a hole in the bottom of the can by punching it with a nail...  just don't make too big a whole for the washer to cover.

We've not had an ant problem at any of the feeders where we use this.  The beauty of it (aside from no ants) is that it holds enough water that you don't have to fill it constantly.

 Female Black-chinned Hummingbird

Male Black-chinned Hummingbird

One thing to remember if you have "nectar" out for the hummingbirds is that you should change it often.  We're having 100 degree temps here in Texas and it doesn't take long for that sugar water solution to ferment or otherwise go bad.  Sure don't want to kill off the little guys by giving them some bad bacteria!  

Speaking of 100 degree weather...  the hummers aren't the only ones who need something to drink...
This little Chickadee comes quite often to a little hanging water pan near our motorhome.
I'm not sure whether he's swallowing here or just sighing a big sigh of relief for the water....

And...  just to add a little color....
The Painted Buntings visit us every day.  Here the male is at his favorite feeder.  They really seem to go after the millet.....  kinda nice, because the cardinals prefer the black oiler sunflower seeds and leave the millet-eaters alone here.

Yesterday it got to 106 degrees...  the heat index was 116 degrees...  we didn't have much bird activity...  
just too darned hot for everyone!

That's All For Today!