Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Snow Days

A blue norther, now days called a cold front, hit last Thursday, November 21st, bringing light sleet. Friday was really cold, Saturday and especially Sunday night brought anywhere from eight to twelve inches or more of snow. As you may remember, I grew up on the Gulf Coast of Texas where it consistently snowed about once every ten years, and still follows that schedule as far as I can tell. And then it was wet, not very deep, and only lasted about a day. So for me anything over three inches creates alpine conditions which invariably seduce me into bundling up, kind of like the little brother in A Christmas Memory, and trudging outside for snow pictures. This snow was no different, plus these two dogs just insisted on getting out in it to make yellow snow,  to play, and to hunt for that elusive jackrabbit who teases them unmercifully. So I thought I should share some of those pictures with you.


IMG_1311Thursday and Friday all the little darlings were content to curl up and stay warm in the house. It doesn’t show in the picture, but Peaches commandeered the chair in front of the fireplace.


IMG_1300Saturday brought a light snow and sleet. Porche and Mari decided we needed to walk in it anyway. Sleet had piled up, but not much snow yet. The wind was terribly cold, but it wasn’t a bad walk.

IMG_1327Everything was appropriately dusted with light snow and sleet, as was our carved bear.

IMG_1342 And then Sunday morning we woke up to a world of white.

IMG_1355So I bundled up again, two layers thick, and out we went again. This time, in the immortal words of Elmer Fudd, that waskically wabbit showed up but the dogs didn’t see him. He saw them, however, turned and bolted away in my direction, and headed right at me! No fear. I wanted to catch him mid-air leaping through the snow, but since he came right at me at rabbit-warp speed, I was lucky to get this shot before he passed me.




IMG_1348Porche had little trouble navigating in the snow, but the snow came up to Mari’s tummy, and she had to work harder to get through it. That didn’t seem to affect their delight in racing about, sniffing for rabbit scent or whatever else they might happen upon.

IMG_1413Today is the fourth day of the snow and the sun has finally come out. Out we went again. This time the maneuvering was a bit different, as the top of the snow had started to melt, wasn’t as deep, but had crusted over on top during the night. As the dogs walked their foot would be momentarily held up on the crusted top layer and they they would fall through, and their progress looked a bit choppy. Neither one of them asked to go in, though, so we wandered around long enough to flush out the rabbit again, and once again he evaded them.


Rabbit tracks are easy to distinguish from the dog tracks because the rabbit glides along on top of the snow and as he jumps his feet drag like this in the snow.

IMG_1440The sun is out, the snow is still sparkly and beautiful, but the melting has begun. Messy as it will be, the moisture it creates is most welcome. And the dogs and I enjoyed it, so I’d say the inevitable mess will be worth.

IMG_1443And if it snows again, we’ll be seduced all over again and go out in search of diamond dust and rabbits, and it will be just as much fun as the first time we ever did it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pecan Groves, Ditches, and Construction Workers

My dear husband has embarked on a new project, a pecan grove. It has been an item on his bucket list for a long time, but something that always lost out to priorities like making a living, raising kids, sending them to college, paying bills, taking care of business, doing the things that responsible fathers/husbands worry about taking care of first.

We may not live to see the first harvest, but doing what you want is one reason to retire, right? And West Texas can always use more trees. So why not?

IMG_1269But also, trees in West Texas need water, which means the first step is digging ditches to lay pipe for the water line. And the pipe has to be buried so the pesky jackrabbits and cottontails won’t chew it up, which we have learned the hard way they love to do. They make confetti out of black plastic pipe that many people use on top of the ground, so Bill is using buried PVC pipe. Bill borrowed son-in-law Neil’s skid loader with a digging attachment and went to work. After he marked off where the ditches were to go, Mari, Porche, and I were enlisted to help. Our job was to keep a running measurement of the depth of the ditch and to try to help Bill dig in a straight line.




And that’s where a new appreciation for construction workers and heavy equipment operators was acquired. I realize the pros have larger, heavier machines whose weight helps keep them on a steady course and they have gizmos that help them with depth and direction, but I guarantee even then, it’s still not that easy. Bill ran heavy equipment as a teenager when he worked for his Uncle Stanley building bridges in Oklahoma and Arkansas, but that was a lifetime ago, and a new learning curve was in order. The first ditch took us more than an hour and forty-five minutes; the second one an hour and a half; the third an hour fifteen; the fourth an hour ten minutes; the fifth an hour five minutes; and the last one, which was almost straight, an hour, period.

The last ditch. A pretty straight line, I must say!

The ground was uneven, the machine would get hijacked by wads of grass, dirt,  and dry stems of careless weed that were just nearly as big around as a Coke can. I kid you not. So overall I think we did pretty well, thank you very much. The depth went from 12 inches to 19 and all depths in between, but the pipeline can still be laid.

We used the golf cart to go back and forth to the house, and Mari took advantage of the ride sometimes as she is still working on her stamina and strength even after rehab. Porche, on the other hand, won’t ride in the cart and covers many miles with her long easy stride.

So the next time you look down your nose at construction workers, I challenge you to do their jobs. I don’t know what we would do without them. It is a dirty, dusty, unappreciated job that requires more skill than you realize.

Bill  is starting out with 50 seedlings, and updates will be forthcoming. But for now when you see a construction worker, don’t think of them as unskilled manual labor. I assure you there is more to it that meets the eye.

Good job, guys.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mari Update-Rehab is Over!


After three months of pretty much round-the-clock supervision, timed walks on the leash, a ban on jumping, playing, running, maintaining a weight loss, and  X-rays for one last look, Dr. Saunders said Mari is good to go, she now owns the TPLO surgery (“Mari Goes to Aggieland,” August 8, 2013), and chasing rabbits is now back on the to-do list.

IMG_1248During the last week of her restrictions, we kept finding her on the sofa, which means she was jumping up there on her own, and even though she wasn’t supposed to be jumping on things, we took that as a positive sign because before the surgery, she had stopped even trying to jump up there.

IMG_1253But I did catch her sliding off the sofa, so she is at least trying to take it a little easy.

IMG_1098I must admit I still cringe when I see her running willy-nilly or playing a bit too rough with Porche, and she still doesn’t have her stamina back, but that will come.

IMG_1616Now Mari can run and play and that one back leg will get here anywhere she wants to go. So that expensive surgery and lengthy recovery time? Truly priceless.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Maidenhair Fern

IMG_6127As far back as I can remember, at our house in Rosenberg maidenhair fern grew in our front porch flower bed. Mother had azaleas to the back of the bed with the fern filling in below and in front of the azaleas. In the Spring the bed was a beautiful mix of pink flowers with their darker green foliage and the small delicate bright green fern massed all around them. I was not into plants as a kid, preferring instead to raise tadpoles and catch hognose snakes. But I always thought that was a pretty flower bed.

IMG_6129Kitty Hunt, our backyard neighbor, was from New Jersey and had brought a start of the fern with her when she and her husband moved to Texas. She shared it with Mother, and it flourished, sometimes getting almost as tall as the azaleas, just a blanket of fern.

Bill and I lived in Arkansas briefly after graduating from Texas A&M and while I can remember that my interest in cactus was forming then, I didn’t think about taking any fern with me. When we moved back to Texas, however, eventually I started a fern bed at our house in Edna and did it again in Muleshoe.

I am not a fern expert, but it seems to me that fern needs growing conditions that would be the exact opposite to cactus, that West Texas would just be too dry and hot for fern to thrive. And maidenhair fern is so delicate and fragile-looking that it is hard to imagine that it could survive our wind, our sun, and in the winter, our cold.

IMG_1148But if you give it plenty of water and some shade and a little protection, maidenhair fern does just fine, thank you very much. It will die back to nothing when the really cold weather hits, which hasn’t happened yet, so right now it is still green and lush.  But in the Spring when the ground starts to warm up, wiry little black curls of stems will appear and magically turn into the leafy green fronds that make this fern so distinctive. Which means that out here in the wind and drought, I have touches of rain forest co-existing with desert dwellers. Neat, huh?

I saw  maidenhair fern growing at Westcave Preserve in Austin this summer.

Over time I have given starts to friends all over Texas, and I have seen the fern growing naturally all over the state, along river banks and in other wild places. I realize Mother could have could have acquired the plant right here in Texas, but what she started out with came from a colder state like New Jersey, so even though maidenhair fern has a delicate name to match its delicate growth pattern, it is no shrinking violet. It is strong enough to survive whatever weather is thrown its way-provided it has water. In fact, it has been my experience that it prefers an outdoor environment, regardless of the weather, because it just doesn’t do as well as a house plant as it does outside.

IMG_1150The fern bed is either a bright spot to enjoy in the back yard or a bright spot to anticipate as winter ends. Just one more thing I can thank my mother for. The legacy continues.