Happy place.

My pollinator garden is in its 4th or 5th year, and though it takes work to keep ahead of all the weeds and Liveoak seedlings that grow as well as the perennial flowers in this patch, I truly enjoy it.  The purple coneflower, which I originally grew from seed, is back for the third year, and it makes me so happy to see all its blooms.

IMG_0741

IMG_0742

Garden surprise.

I noticed a new volunteer perennial in my pollinator patch a few months ago.  It stayed green and alive through our mild winter.   I didn’t know what it was.  A few weeks ago it started blooming and is thriving amongst the returning salvia, sage, purple coneflower, vinca, and scabiosa.  I finally took a good look and did some research and was tickled purple to find out that they are winecups (Callirhoe involucrata)!  I love winecups but find them very elusive in the sprawling fields of Central Texas wildflowers.  I’m glad they volunteered here in my garden.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe one small plant has exploded with 3 or so long branches that are creeping out through the garden, low to the ground.  The blooms roll up every night and reopen in the morning.  🙂  The bees enjoy them, too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This might take a while.

I ordered a paint-by-number kit a month ago to help me pass the time in self-imposed quarantine.  It took a while but arrived today.   Perhaps I should have picked something smaller…  No matter, I will start tonight and take my time.  Wish me luck!  🙂

IMG_0519

All in a day’s work.

IMG_0490

During this prolonged shelter-in-place, when people ask me “what did you do today?” I usually go blank.  But I have been busy!  Aside from the household chores, cooking, and yard work, I have found contentment in these online diversions, which fill my day.

Photography

Nikon is offering their curriculum of 10 online photography classes to be streamed for free until the end of April.  How cool is that?  Link here.

Birding

High Island on the Texas Gulf Coast is one of my very favorite birding destinations during migration in April.  But not only is travel not in line with the current stay-at-home order, but the sanctuaries are also closed.  Thankfully, Houston Audubon, who owns and runs the High Island sanctuaries, is live streaming video footage from their Facebook page at 8AM and 3:30PM every Thursday through Monday.  Their Facebook link here.

Guitar

Fender is offering a 90-day free trial of their online guitar, bass, and ukelele lessons.   I’m a poorly self-taught guitar player of nearly 30 years and I’m learning new things by following their lesson progression, and more importantly, practicing again.  Link here.

Exercise

Lori recommended some beginner yoga sessions on YouTube, from “Yoga with Adriene.” I’m a yoga-newbie and am enjoying them very much.  Link here.

I use an app called “30Days” to help me to do higher and higher reps of traditional strength exercises like plank, situps, pushups, etc.  You pick the exercises, set your starting point, and for 30 days the app will gradually increase the reps, giving you days-off every few days.  I’ve used their app for years, on and off.  I’m 27 days into my latest 30-day stint and am back up to planking for 3 minutes.  🙂   The app isn’t fancy, there are prettier ones out there, but it’s free and it works for me when I use it.  Link here.

Amy recommended an app she used to train herself from couch-surfer to running a 5K over the course of 8 weeks.  They also have a 10K version which takes you from couch to 10K in 14 weeks, which is the one I’m using.  I’m on week 4 and am still enjoying it. They are both free to try for 7 days, and then you have to pay to upgrade to unlimited access.  The provider, Fitness22, actually has an entire collection of fitness apps.  Link here.

After 6 years, I am still wearing my fitbit One tracker every day.  I need to upgrade to a watch soon.  Either way, I use their app daily to track my activity and food.   Link here.

Things to listen to

Amazon Music, one of the perks of Prime membership, has a great selection of music; 2 million songs from their 50 million song library are free to listen to for Prime members.  You can search by song, album, artist, or listen to existing playlists and curated stations for something that floats your boat.  Keeto enjoys George Winston.  Link here.

Amazon Music has a channel on twitch.tv where they are hosting live-streamed webcasts.  Look for #togetherathome hashtag.  I listened to Hayes Carll play live for an hour on his patio last night.  The audio was very well done.  Link here.

I’ve gone overboard subscribing to and listening to podcasts, true crime is my addiction.  I have new content to listen to each day.  I use the Stitcher app to listen.   Link here.

Foreign Language Learning

I still use the free app Duolingo to practice my Spanish every day or so.  Link here.

Things to watch

The British National Theatre is streaming previously recorded theater performances every Thursday in April, on their YouTube channel.  We watched the first one, a comedy called One Man, Two Guvnors, last week and really enjoyed it.  Link here.

The Metropolitan Opera is streaming videos of previously recorded opera performances, a new one every day.  Link here.

Acorn.tv is offering a 30-day free trial of their British TV shows’ episodes (which we enjoy very much) for new subscribers, instead of their normal 7-day free trial.  Use the code FREE30 when signing up.  Link here.

Videochat

Ok, hands down, I’ve adopted Zoom for video chat.  The free version allows unlimited video meetings with a 40-minute time limit on each, which works for me.   Link here.

Online multiplayer games

We have spent many hours playing online games with friends and family.  I think that trickstercards.com and boardgamearena.com are both well done for this.  We combine them with a zoom video chat.

Food & Drink

Virtual wine tasting from Becker Vineyards.  What’s a virtual wine tasting?  Well, Becker is selling different 3 pack bottles of different varietals each week, which you can order to be shipped to your home.  And then a few days later, you tune into their Facebook Live sessions to participate in a group tasting of each bottle with experts from the vineyard.  I just bought the 3rd tasting pack.  It should be good!  Link here.

I posted previously about my ongoing on-line grocery shopping adventures for delivery and/or curbside pickup.  I’ve been pretty good at keeping an order scheduled a week to 10 days ahead of time, to keep fresh food in the house.  Let me say, again, HEB is awesome!  Link to my previous post here.

 

 

 

 

A real treat.

I ventured out to get my first real birding of the year in.   Oh, I’m always looking for birds, but “real birding” means that I bring my binoculars and my camera.   The Golden-cheeked warbler nests exclusively in Central Texas, and there are preserves that are closed to the general public during their breeding season of Feb-July, during which they are only accessible to those with permits.  Welllllll.  I have had a permit for several years and took advantage of it today to get away from people and find me some birdies.

I was treated to my first of season golden-cheeked warbler:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A very vocal, but elusive white-eyed vireo.  I caught him here mid-song:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And one of many blue-grey gnatcatchers.  They are so tiny, vocal, and always moving!  This one stopped long enough for me to get a blurry picture:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Nice.  Very nice.  🙂

Redbud.

My favorite flowering tree is the Texas Redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis).  Their blooms are fleeting but gorgeous, some of the first of the year.  This bee likes them, too.

IMG_0362

Escape.

The societal and financial market upheaval caused by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is mounting at a feverish pitch (pardon the pun).  It is incredible to watch it unfold.

To get away from it, I retreated to the outdoors for some much-needed weeding and gardening.  About 3 years ago I started a small bed in the backyard intended for butterflies, bees, and birds.  Yesterday, I rummaged through it a square foot at a time, removing unwanted weeds, leaving the perennials that I want to see bloom again.  The bed is mostly sage, salvia, purple coneflower, scabiosa, and a few volunteers that I will have to wait a bit to correctly identify.  It doesn’t look like much today, but soon it will be filled again with blooms and flying fauna.

IMG_0349

Hanging in there.

I planted this impatiens last spring. I typically lose my annuals over the winter and just plant new ones in the spring. I babied this one through our warm winter and it has rewarded me with these beautiful late-winter blooms.

Swing into spring.

I just finished a new canopy cover for my friend, Irene’s, garden swing.  I popped over this morning and we put it on.  Looks great!

IMG_0324 (1)

Tower Girl 2020.

I’m in my 3rd year of remotely stalking Tower Girl, the Peregrine Falcon that lives atop the University of Texas at Austin Tower.  The University has a live-streamed webcam pointed at her nest box on the northwest corner of the clocktower.  And they recently upgraded it, so it now also has audio.  Be careful with that audio volume, though.  The UT clock tower chimes every 15 minutes and it is LOUD.   This is a snap from about 5 minutes ago.  She has reportedly had a male hanging around lately, too.  February/March is the time she has been laying eggs, so I’ll be tuning in to see how it goes this year.

IMG_0207

As long as I’ve been watching, none of the eggs she lays each year have hatched.  I hold out hope that this is the year for baby falcons!

Leaf me alone!

I truly enjoy the trees in our yard.  But, there are many of them, and they collectively drop billions and gazillions of leaves every year. Over the last day or two, we raked and scooped up 5 or more trailer-loads of those bad boys – a good workout. Our new pile-o-leaves (and future garden soil):

I can’t complain though. It has been lovely outside. Today the temps were close to 70 degrees F. Thankfully, cedar pollen levels are below the threshold that triggers my allergies. As I sit here, sore and tired, I’m sipping a glass of wine listening to the news guys report on the cold and snowy weather up north. Yeah, I’ll take yard work in the winter in Austin over that any day.

Dawn of a new decade.

This is one of my favorite sunrise pictures from last year.  It is from the trip up the Keys;  I took it as we pulled up anchor at Rodriquez Key, just off Key Largo.   It is a beautiful, colorful image of the sun’s glow on the horizon at dawn.  It’s a good image to have in mind at the start of this brand new decade.  I’m not sure what the next ten years will bring, but I’m ready.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA