Spring!

I visited Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park today.   There are some short trails that go down by Lake Austin, through a bit of woods, and around a beautiful, recently re-established prairie with native grasses and flowers.  I saw about 10 different species of birds, including my first Eastern Bluebird.  The bluebonnets are everywhere.

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Bird thingie.

The backyard is getting quite crowded with bird-thingies.  The latest one is a bark butter feeder that I hung up a couple of weeks ago.   Bark butter is a spreadable kind of bird food that you can mush onto the bark of a tree,  or onto a hanging feeder.   You can buy both bark butter and bark butter feeders.   But, I decided to try my hand at making both myself.  Long story short, the birdies like it!  This is a Bewick’s wren snacking on it.  I have also seen black crested titmice and woodpeckers try it out.

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To make the feeder, I  grabbed a couple of pieces of cedar scrap from the shop, drilled shallow holes in each side with a forstner bit.  I staggered the holes on each side so they were not directly opposite each other, so that I wouldn’t accidentally drill all the way through the board.  Then I glued and nailed a piece of wood on top as an awning.   I didn’t measure, but I’d say that my board is about 16″ long and 6″ wide.

There are recipes on the web for bark butter that contain lard and corn meal and peanut butter and bird seed.  I simply got some all-natural peanut butter and mixed it with my current bird seed mix (mine is a mix of peanuts and whole sunflower seeds and millet) until it was spreadable.  Then I stirred in some cayenne pepper to dissuade the squirrels.   I spread some into each of the holes on the feeder and hung it up.  Within a week I saw some birds feeding off of it; which made me smile.

 

 

In the yard.

Today is the 7 year anniversary of starting this Sheila365 photoblog!  I’ve enjoyed it.  I hope you have too.

Big day at the ranch today.  I saw so many different species of birds.   Even so, I missed a few of the regulars, but, hey, I can’t stand in front of that window ALL DAY.  🙂

  • House Finch male (M) & female (F)
  • Orange Crowned Warbler
  • Northern Cardinal M&F
  • Downy Woodpecker M
  • House Sparrow M&F
  • Red Winged Blackbird M&F
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • White Winged Dove
  • Blue Jay
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Yellow Rumped Warbler
  • Carolina Wren
  • Red Bellied Woodpecker M&F
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • European Starling M
  • American Robin
  • Lesser Goldfinch M&F
  • Carolina Chickadee
  • Black Crested Titmouse

I got some ok bird photos, but I’ll share a few of the garden, instead.

About 8 or 9 years ago, a neighbor gave me a dozen or so purple iris cuttings when she was thinning out her beds.   I’ve had them in the ground since then but rarely have they bloomed.   A year or so ago I moved them to a few different beds that get much more direct sunlight.  This year I’m thrilled to see them in bloom!  I love these short-lived flowers.

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We have bluebonnets coming up in the front and back yards.   Nothing says central texas like these beautiful wildflowers.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Monte’s got baby salad greens planted.  Fresh lettuce every night!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I simply love spring.  Oh, wait, we have 2 weeks to go before spring.   I can’t wait!

The Blanton museum, revisited.

In a post earlier this year, I shared a visit to the Blanton Museum that we took, to see an Andy Warhol visiting exhibit that ended in January.  When we went, we didn’t know that the museum’s permanent exhibits were temporarily closed, due to a total revamp of the permanent gallery areas upstairs.   Even so, we enjoyed the visiting exhibit.

The museum’s permanent collection galleries are now open again, so I stopped by this week to check it out.  They have an interesting mix of art – Latin American, early American Western, Contemporary, European, Native American, Modern, Spanish American, Ancient Greek and Roman, Film and Paper/Documents.   The gallery remodel was nicely done.

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I recommend a trip to the museum.  I enjoyed it.  Check out their website for days & hours.  And keep in mind that every Thursday admission is free, and every 3rd Thursday the museum is open late – until 9pm.  Parking is easy at the nearby Brazos garage.  If you bring your parking stub into the museum, they can give you a discounted parking rate.

 

I ♥ Bewick’s.

I’ve been observing my backyard especially carefully over the past several months.  I love that I was able to observe several Bewick’s wrens among the frequent visitors.  I recently hung a couple of new birdhouses up under the eaves, hoping to get some takers this year.  We also have a number of older birdhouses that have been hanging out there for several years, including one that I made and hung in the backyard over six years ago.   As I have been stalking my backyard birds more carefully, I’ve watched two pairs of Bewick’s wrens pick out houses in which they have built nests.

Rest assured, I will keep an eye on them and report back.  🙂  This is one of the residents of a new house that I hung a few weeks ago.  I bought it at Joann’s – it had the desirable-to-bewicks dimensions.  I drilled holes in the bottom for airflow, and I also cut off the perch.   So cute!

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This is the one of the new residents of the seasoned peek-a-boo bird house I made in December of 2011.  Happy to see it in use.

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I’ll be watching to see what develops.

Hiking Bull Creek.

Last weekend, I went for a 3-hour group hike with one of the biologists that does research for the City-of-Austin-managed Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.  It was really interesting.   We hiked a short loop along the preserve at Bull Creek.  Along the way, I learned much about the native Ashe junipers throughout the hill country that I had previously come to detest, due to my annual cedar fever allergy symptoms.   But I came away with a new appreciation for the tree and the role it plays in the ecosystem of the Balcones Canyonlands.   I also learned about the other native grasses and shrubs that make up the understory of the woodland.  And about the endangered golden-cheeked warbler that will soon make its annual trek from Central America in early March to nest in the woodlands of the preserve until returning south in July.   I’m looking forward to more hikes out there.  Stay tuned.

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Bull Creek  is flowing nicely since the drought has broken.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And, I caught a tiger swallowtail butterfly taking a break along the creek.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Very nice!

A busy two weeks.

I have been away for a bit.  Since I last posted…

On Valentine’s Day we stopped by Cypress Creek Park while on a winding drive through the hill country.  As we walked down to the water, I spied a male belted kingfisher – the first I had ever seen in person.  I’m kinda getting into this birding thing, so I was very excited.  But, I didn’t have my camera with me.  So, being the budding-but-persistent-bird-photographer, I drove out there again the next day with my camera and spotted him again; holding court in a tree on the bank of the creek.  I couldn’t get very close, but I did come away with a photo of him.  Success!  A tad fuzzy, but my first, for the archive.  🙂

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The next day, I flew to Seattle to meet my sisters.   We went together to eastern Washington to visit our aunt; one of the last living siblings of my parents’ generation.  It was a nice weekend.  We shared laughs and memories and a few tears.   I enjoyed it.  I also snapped way too many pictures.   This one was of the ice crystals on the plane window next to my seat.

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Spokane has gotten much snow this year.  The nearby rivers are flooding and raging.  This is a picture of upper the Spokane River falls on our last night there.

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I’m back in Austin, now, and will try to keep the posts a tad more frequent.  Have a good week!

 

Enchanted hike.

Several girlfriends and I made a roadtrip last week to Enchanted Rock state park, about an hour and 45 minute drive southwest of Austin.  I have been there several times, and have hiked to the summit, but love to go back anytime.   This was the first visit for my friends.  We hiked to the summit and enjoyed the views.  Then we hiked a couple of the other trails, which I had never done before.  I recommend taking the time to do it, if you can.   Remember to bring along drinking water for your hike.  You’ll want it.  🙂

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A survey marker atop the 1823′ summit

Make sure you check out their website before heading out for trail / park closure information and rules about pets, camping, parking, etc.

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Looking SW at neighboring Little Peak from the S side of Enchanted Rock

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Looking NE from the N side of Enchanted Rock

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A little oasis along Turkey Pass Trail

Year of the Rooster.

In honor of the 2017 Chinese New Year, the Year of the Rooster, I whipped up a little chicken stir fry.  Delicious.

Chicken Stir-fry (makes 4 servings)

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1lb), sliced thinly
  • 1 T corn starch
  • 1/4 c soy sauce
  • 1/2 c chicken broth
  • 2 T grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 can water chestnuts
  • 1 head of cut broccoli florets
  • 4-6 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 2-3 T oil with high smoke-point (e.g., peanut or sesame)
  • 3-4 cups cooked rice

Combine corn starch, soy sauce and chicken broth in large bowl, and stir until smooth.  Add ginger, garlic and pepper flakes to liquid and stir.  Marinate sliced chicken in this mixture for at least 30 mins.  Stir occassionally.

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Place wok or saucepan over medium heat.  Add 1 T oil and saute onions, mushrooms, broccoli and water chestnuts, stirring, until tender (5-7 minutes).  Empty these cooked veggies into a clean bowl and set aside.

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Add 1 T oil to wok/saucepan and add chicken slices, reserving liquid marinade until a bit later.  Brown chicken 2-3 minutes per side.

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Add remaining liquid marinade and veggies back to wok/saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer for 5-7 minutes, stirring occassionally, to allow sauce to thicken.

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Serve over cooked rice.

Add more/different veggies, cashews, or other favorite ingredients, to taste.

 

 

Remembering the Alamo.

We have out-of-town family visiting us this week, and today we headed to San Antonio.  It has been a long time since my last visit to the Alamo.  So, it was nice to visit again to get a Texas history refresher.

The rain finally let up, the sky cleared and the sun came out, making for a nice afternoon.

The Alamo is hallowed ground, given the loss of life there in 1836 of those trying to defend a foothold in the battle for Texas independence.  A plaque on the door reads:

“BE SILENT, FRIEND.  HERE HEROES DIED TO BLAZE A TRAIL FOR OTHER MEN.”

If you are patient, you might be able to get a picture of the front of the chapel without people milling about.

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Keeping watch.

We took a roadtrip to Fredericksburg today – one of my favorite Texas Hill Country haunts.  This trip we toured the National Museum of the Pacific War.  And, let me tell you, this is one amazingly detailed set of museum exhibits.  We spent about two and a half hours walking through the museum, and we still didn’t see everything.   You must go.

On the way home there was a rainbow on the horizon, after a few late afternoon rain showers had rolled through.  I was taking some random photos out the window as we drove.  When I got home I scrolled through the photos I captured, and liked this one in particular, which has been significantly cropped.  I liked it because I can see the faint colors of the rainbow through the branches of this tree.   But, it wasn’t until I zoomed in that I noticed the hawk perched at the top of the tree, and the two gravestones underneath its branches.

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The battle and the reward.  

We spent about 6 hours in the yard today cleaning gutters, roofs, porches, and mulching about a half an acre of leaves for this year’s compost pile.   Hard fought. 

My anti-cedar pollen gear worked really well, thankfully.  


In the end, we were both plum-tuckered out and succumbed to an easy dinner at Chuy’s.  

Yummangomarg:


The yard looks great!