Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Santa Ana After the Storm

Hello, everyone.

Last Friday our area had a fast-moving storm that had lots of lightning, rain, and wind. For some people, "wind" meant hurricane-force straight line winds that tore the roofs off of mobile homes. The worst of it hit in the area near Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.
We drove over there this morning to do a walk on their 7 mile long tram road. They told us that today was the first day they were open since the storm. There was a lot of wind damage, and they weren't using the tram yet, but it was open for walkers.

It's not usual to see a piece of cactus stuck in a tree.

One of the fallen limbs in the road--there were a lot

Walking around another fallen limb
Older mesquites had a lot of damage
The temperature was quite a bit cooler than yesterday, and the humidity was a lot lower. The wind was still very strong. Walking along the levee was in the full force of the wind, and my hat blew off. Descending into the wooded trail blocked it. Other than dodging the fallen trees, we had a pleasant walk. We even took the detour to see the river.
This tree was just encrusted with tiny snails.

There was downed wood at the river bank, too, but nothing else really. The water looked high--
that green blob appears to be a bush that is surrounded by water. (Yes, this is looking across the border.)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Walk Report

Hello, everyone.

The sky was hazy and the day was forecast to be hot, but we got out and got walking anyway.

Did the Hike and Bike for about 6 miles, working-in new insoles for both of us. There were 15 cottontail bunnies to see, plus two roadrunners. One of them sat in a tree and called at us.

A roadrunner

I've been working on some little things to hang from our packs on the pilgrimage this time. We're going to be walking to Fatima, as well as to Santiago de Compostela, and I thought it would be an idea to have some sort of token that we're pilgrims to both places.
The Marian monogram traced onto Sulky Solvy and basted onto the nylon flag fabric (from stash) and ready to embroider

One of the finished hang tags. The piping is supposed to be reflective--by the way, don't soak reflective piping in OxyClean solution to get the remnant blue ink out! It softens the reflective coating. Stitched in cotton floss, using stem stitch. backed with 2 layers of poly organza and 2 layers of white ripstop nylon. A buttonhole is at the top for hanging the tag from a handy place.
I've never tried making something like this before. If I do it again, I think I'll put the last layer of ripstop on last, over the piping, and I think I'll also soak off the Sulky Solvy before assembling the little tag. Might be good to trace the design in yellow, too, instead of blue. (That was supposed to be a light blue and you can see from the picture that it's almost as bright as the floss!)

These tags are about 2/3 the size of our scallop shells from last year. I think we may use the same shells again this year, since we didn't "souvenir-ize" them by writing details of our first pilgrimage inside or anything like that. They're still plain and simple, the natural creamy color of the shell.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Prickly poppies

Hello, everyone.

My sweetie took a really nice photo of a flower the other day and I wanted to share it with you all.
We have never seen another prickly poppy in this color.
This was at the Santa Ana NWR, I think. There were other prickly poppies in the usual yellows and pinks, but this one was unique.

Training: walked about 4 miles on Saturday. Walked about 4.5 on, I think, Tuesday.

Weather just now in S. Texas: muggy. Almost summer level of heat: in the 80's (F) with dew point in the 70's. Mosquitoes in clouds, because of all the wet weather we've been having.

Will post soon with pics of latest projects being made for use on trail--we're going to walk the Camino again! Camino Portugues this time.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Training progress, what there is of it

Hello, everyone.

We have been quite spotty on our walks lately--waiting for insoles to arrive in the mail does that, I guess.

DH's insoles are still en route. My new ones arrived on Friday.
New insoles for boots. Also a pair of sox!
I was a little worried when I saw that they are labeled "wide" as my heel is narrow and my toes probably medium. But I pulled the old insoles out and these are the same dimensions in the length and width. Plus they have a heel cup that fits my foot.

Took a 4 mile walk yesterday with these socks and the new insoles. (That's about 6 1/2 km. for anyone counting in metric.)

Insoles in place--I had to loosen almost the entire lace on each boot to put them on.

Rose at a subdivision entrance, right by Bentsen State Park. One of the Austen rose hybrids?

Retama blossoms. This tree grows in places with lots of water and accepts a certain amount of poor drainage. I would think twice about buying any house in an area called "Retama View!"

Part of the Hike n Bike, between the bridge and Bentsen park. Road on right is W Military Highway, a trail once used by Gen. Zachary Taylor to patrol the US-Mexico border.

Silly nanny sign of the day: Bentsen State Park. It's a nature garden. It's outside. OF COURSE there are snakes in the area!
 The feet felt fine after the four miles. Next walk will be with the new insoles and the Injinji toe liner socks--which are thicker than pantyhose and I would say they do nicely as just a sock. Keeps the toes from rubbing so they don't blister in between the digits.

That next one will be a longer walk than 4 miles, as last year I didn't find out problems with my first pair of boots until we did a 10 mile walk. Four miles just isn't enough to find any problem that will develop with walking, in my opinion.

Friday, April 17, 2015


Hello, everyone.

I was recently lucky enough to hear a talk about Agaves--the plant family, not just the agaves themselves. The speaker was the naturalist Benito Trevino. He has a native plant nursery and much knowledge and experience with yuccas, cacti, and so on. His talks are always full of interesting new things--well, new to me!

I learned that yucca blossoms are more tasty after the buds fully open, and that the yucca stalk can be roasted, but it will be very fibrous like sugar cane stems. (For those readers who find sugar cane available to snack on. For the rest, the method is to chew a chunk of the pith, and then after the tasty sweetness is gone from it, to discard the fiber.) The yucca leaves have usable fibers in them, too, but it's not as strong as the fibers in other plants, like agaves.

Blooming yuccas in springtime, 2003
The petals of the yucca blossoms are good to add into salads, put into sandwiches, cook in scrambled eggs, and--new to me!--use in a dill pickle recipe. Maybe I should try that next year! It can't be any more difficult than making pickled garlic. (Funny how long it takes to get the pickled garlic eaten, though.) I could put out dishes of yucca pickles when my in-laws come to visit.

I also learned things about the agaves we know and love in our gardens.

The standard Blue Agave is the one they make tequila from.
Dec 25, 2004 Agave in Snow
Another kind of agave is the source of the Sisal fiber that we see in so many woven mats these days. He passed around a section of sisal rope and the fibers felt like waxier linen to me.

He told us that all of the agaves are limited to one bloom. Raising the bloom stalk and ripening the seeds consumes all of the stored food in the plant and it shrivels up and dies after that. The pups (baby plants) at the base are the usual way people get new agave plants.

I guess that means I need to adjust to losing my Queen Victoria agave when the seed pods ripen. (As you remember, it is sending up a bloom stalk. I will take a photo when there are flowers--as of this morning, it's a 7 foot tall pole with nothing to show at the top yet.) If anyone knows a way to grow the seeds of the Queen Victoria agave, I'd really like to try and raise the babies of this plant. It's really pretty, and everybody says that when the seed pods ripen the mother plant will die. I have no pups at the base, so if the seeds won't grow that will be it.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Training report

Hello, everyone.

Attentive readers will have noticed that we're training again. We did 5 or 6 miles on Monday. (Hike and Bike) Tuesday we walked the tram road at Santa Ana and climbed both of the bird observation towers for an attempt at hill practice. That was 7 miles, plus the two sets of stairs both ways.

It was hawk watch time at Santa Ana, and we saw birders. There were both the really determined variety and the recreational variety--the really determined birders have telescopes, the others wander the trails with binoculars. I think. (Feel free to set me straight!)

We thought this was a chachalaca, because it looked too big to be a dove. Even a fat dove!

The bachelors are carousing at the feeder: red winged blackbirds
 There is a feeder station by the visitors center, which often has chachalacas at it. This particular day there was a flock of male redwings.
This little fellow was very active at the sand verbena blossoms, but would only hold still on his green resting perch.
 The flowers were in bloom all over: sand verbena, the native hibiscus, vervains, even the buffalo grass.
They aren't birds, but they're cool. Some kind of twisty-horned antelopes.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Spring has sprung

Hello, everyone.

Spring actually probably sprang a couple or three weeks ago, in our latitude, but yesterday when we came back from a training walk, the arrival of spring was really emphasized to me.

My 22 year old Queen Victoria agave is going to bloom.

Odd fungus that sprang up in the edge of the asphalt at the Hike n Bike 

The potted moth orchids are blooming. (These yellows, for the first time ever.)

Salvia Henry Duelberg (?) which is a variety of the native Salvia farinacea. It's about 3 feet tall, before the flowers.
There have been a few patches of bluebonnets here and there, too.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter greetings

Hello, everyone.

Santiago Cathedral Easter Candle from 2014

I wish you all the blessings and joy of this holy day!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

New food trick

Hello, everyone.

DH smoked a chicken a few days ago, and it was the Chicken From Hell. It just wouldn't get cooked for the longest time. Eventually he brought the bird inside and we ate a little, but it was late. We had a LOT of leftovers.

So I trolled the cookbook collection and looked at what one can do with previously cooked chicken. There was a pot pie recipe that I'd never noticed before, and it looked like it would be good.
One of my go-to cookbooks

The recipe as it appeared: Chicken Ham Pie

The recipe as rendered
The ham and chicken combination looked good. And I have some frozen pie dough disks on hand. Also a big chunk of ham in the freezer.

I took the last of the breast meat off the chicken (half a breast from a good sized bird) and cut it up into maybe 2 or 2 1/2 cups of meat bites. Cut up pretty close to the same amount of the ham (after it was thawed) and added both to a mixing bowl. Pulled a can of Cream of Poblano soup from the pantry to use for the gravy. And stared at the bowl full of meat. It just looked incomplete. Frozen veggies to the rescue! About a half cup of frozen green peas and a third of a cup of frozen corn, plus maybe a cup of chunked-up fresh tomato went into the bowl, and the can of soup. Stir, stir.

I put the whole pile of stuff into a deep-dish pie dish and rolled the (thawed) pie dough out and covered the food. Baked it at 425 for 25 minutes, then turned the oven off without opening the door and left it in for another 10. By now the dough was flaky and when I pulled the pie out I could hear the innards bubbling. We let it sit for a few minutes and ate. Then had seconds.

Chicken Ham Pie, as adjusted, is a winner.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

I hate cutter ants

Hello, everyone.

Yesterday I found my baby orange tree being attacked by a whole parade of cutter ants. (These horrid things are the same ants you get if you send off for ants for your child's ant farm.) A busy little line of green leaf chunks was floating across the yard to the cargo entrance door of the ant colony.

Why do I say cargo entrance door? Because this entrance, while it's convenient for the ants taking leaves to their underground fungus gardens, is nowhere near the main entrance(s) of the colony. This is just a bare hold in the ground, about as big across as an adult finger, surrounded by the leaves the ants drop if they get confused about the entry process. The main entrance is a mound of biggish dirt granules that is often on slightly raised ground. They seem to like higher ground for their main doors, even before they raise the level with the excavated dirt.

The likelihood that a particular plant is going to be their absolute favorite fungus food is directly related to how much you, personally, like that plant. Roses? Yum. Oranges, grapefruit, and lemons? Yum. Pecans? Yum. On the more vegetable side, okra is a hit. Perhaps it tastes like hibiscus leaves.

Nothing seems to eat these darned ants, either. Though I'm trying to teach my birds to go at them.

Mr. and Mrs. Guinea on patrol for ants
After all, the ant has an acid gland. It should taste like a crunchy sour pickle, right?