Weather in this part of Texas can be and usually is hot and steamy. Sometimes we get a front from the north along with the lovely fragrance of the paper mills. But this past weekend was perfect–temps in low 80’s, low humidity and just a bit of a breeze to keep the mosquitoes away. It was a perfect weekend to be outdoors.
After the dogs had their twice daily trip to the dog park to check out all the other dogs and owners, chase frisbees, tennis balls, and bark at random bicyclists and skateboarders and other disliked dogs, we (sans dogs—they are not good travelers–Toby prefers to drive and Dora needs to alert us to all persons or creatures within her eyesight–and she has excellent eyesight) spent some time at Tyrell Park on the south side of Beaumont.
We were surprised we had the place mostly to ourselves but enjoyed walking around the ponds. This is the tertiary treatment area for our sewer system; and is filled with water birds, alligators(ddidn’t see any), turtles (we saw two) and frogs (heard them but didn’t see them). Two nice young men were walking their three dogs and I tried to get their portraits (the dogs–not the young men–although they were nice looking but thought husband might have been a tad offended—or maybe not–I took photos of him)
Flowers were blooming in the garden part of the park, but my goal for the day was to capture some great goldenrod photos for an art project I have in mind. It is still in the thinking stage but the photos will wait patiently for me on my smugmug site for the next phase.
You can take a look at the photos here: https://sylviaweirphotos.smugmug.com/Texas/A-day-at-Tyrell-Park-October-2019/i-ZLWdsQb/A
This week’s photo assignment was ‘crooked’.
This was taken in a smithy in Gladys City, a reproduction of buildings from the days of the Spindletop Gusher–the first in Texas. I spent a lot of time in the smithy–my dad did a lot of work in his workshop–welding, grinding-sharpening blades on hoes and mowers and occasionally knives, and in later years making reproduction engines.
We had an anvil in the basement, he used to crack black walnuts on it–so did we. He would pick out the nutmeats while watching television at night.
This anvil was held down by those crooked nails at each foot.
One of my brothers, destined to become a fine carpenter, bent a lot of nails–and put a few knobs on his head wielding a hammer far too heavy for his four year old hands.
I remember pounding nails into a nice five gallon bucket of paint–they made such a lovely plunk sound when they hit the paint….I think we put in about five nails in the lid before being discovered.
And then my grandfather kept a bucket full of bent nails–meant to be straightened and re-used…one of my cousins took those home with him, used them all, and hoped to find another bucket full.
Our driveway had puddles; the skies had puffy white clouds floating across the bay, and there was a gentle breeze. Our drive through the marshes of southeast Texas was pleasant enough in itself but we hoped we would not be too late for the MeadFest.
A versatile musician was singing and playing a sax–a variety of songs appealing to those of us who remembered when we bought the vinyl records; vendors were offering samples of their mead, one offered beautiful wooden mugs, and then there was the winery offerings.
I attempted to take photos of the bees harvesting nectar from the bottle brush shrubs–wildly waving blooms despite a helping steadying hand from husband.
And then there was the dog.
Glen nearly always has dog biscuits in his pants pockets.
This dog was not quite so sure about this.
Tyrell Park is on the south side of Beaumont and has the typical features of a park; picnic tables, picnic shelters with grills, restrooms, and plenty of green grass and trees. There is also a golf course, greenhouses, formal gardens suitable for special occasion photographs such as graduations, quincinaras, engagements, weddings, and a riding stable.
But the best part–for me–is the Cat Tail Marsh.
It is huge and I’ve never walked all the way around it.
And every time I go, I take a gazillion photos of the birds.
Most of them catch the bird in not so elegant poses–sort of like taking a family portrait at the dinner table–forks looking like they are stuck on someone’s nose, mouths open, hands reaching, and so forth. But with people, you can ask them to stop and say ‘cheese’ but birds aren’t interested in their image recorded for posterity or looking their best with their hair combed and without spinach in their teeth.
So I toss a lot of photographs.
And then sometimes I catch one that reminds me of home.
Gray skies did not look promising for bird watching or photography. But we headed out to Tyrell Park armed with a box of donut holes from Dunkin Donuts. We each enjoyed a cup of coffee while chatting with the Visitor’s Bureau representative; and picked up a map of local bird preserves.
We could hear birds as they floated about searching for their breakfast. I thought we heard alligators but Husband Glen decided it was a bull frog.
Walking along the levees, dodging a few potholes, noting the primroses in bloom, and thinking about where we could put a few beehives. There are plans for a garden for pollinators in the future.
A few sprinkles fell on us as we got back into my truck—a good way to begin a day–good coffee, conversation, donuts, and a walk. And seeing a Great Blue Heron–reminding us both of our days in Potosi Wisconsin.
The south side of Beaumont features a tertiary water treatment area maintained as a wildlife/bird refuge called CatTail Marsh. It is 950 acres of water and marsh and reeds and alligators and frogs and birds. And now there is a lovely overlook with Seaport Coffee offered on Tuesday mornings.
We drove out expecting to see some of the 40 people who had expressed interest–but met only about four or five. Glen helped put together a coffee stand for the station; and we watched cement parking lot stations being fastened in the parking lot. It was cloudy and promised rain; not a lot of birds were out.
I did capture the red-winged blackbird—a reminder of my home in southwestern Wisconsin.
We picked up a brochure and map labeling all the birding sites in the area—a new project for us–that sounds like fun–if only the dogs would behave for such a project.
And then we were gifted with a plushie Northern flicker and a bluebird–each with their song playing when pressing a button on their back. AND learned of an education program featuring looking at the birds to earn a plushie. We are a tad too old to participate but hopefully this will be a fun grandchild thing.
One of the most challenging things about art is taking its formal portrait.
I’ve tried enlisting local photographers leaving them with explicit instructions only to have images returned with clothespins fastening the piece on a wire–a sleeve was attached to the top; pieces shot at an angle; no detail shots.
That being a failure, I tried pinning the piece to my design boards–covered with gray felt. Then there was the problem of distance from the piece.
I tried hanging the piece on my front porch from hooks and a wire strung through the sleeve. Although I started with not a wisp of wind setting things up; by the time I was ready to push the button on the camera; gale force winds ruffled the edges of the piece.
My next effort including buying two sets of stands and a black photographic drape. This works well except on dark rainy days; additional lighting casts awkward shadows. And I was still limited by size.
And so, this is my next iteration for larger pieces. I hung two sets of brackets on the side of the shed; hung a drape leftover from a quilt show; set up the tripod–remembering the clamp for the camera.
Success for the smaller piece.
Excited by my success, I hung up the next piece. It was too long!
Up on the ladder I went, and moved the closet poles up next to each other.
However, I have a still larger one to photo today. I will be moving those brackets up about six inches.
Thanks to the Pixeladies, I know enough photoshop to crop and re-color, rotate, and resize the images.
This week’s assignment was as noted….
Sometimes the idea for the photograph comes easily and quickly; other times I can never seem to find it. I really don’t like to set up photos either–I like to discover things in situ–it makes it more of a visual diary of things I see and do.
While working away at some required paperwork–i.e. computer test, I happened to look up. My desk faces the east and it was early morning. We haven’t had a lot of sunshine lately despite the promises and predictions of our local weather guy.
The sun was peeking through the early morning haze through the blinds. There are three windows–the wide window is flanked on each side by a narrow one. Blinds are on each window, all in different positions—similar but not identical.
This week’s new photo assignment is to find something that rhymes with ‘ork’. Going through the alphabet led me to ‘Stork’. Maybe the spoonbills were out at Cat-Tail Marsh.
It has been a few months since we’ve been there. A new observation post has been set up, the parking lot is nicely paved and level replacing the gravelly rutty one, and it was a fine day–in the 70’s after a few days of miserable gray dreary cold days.
People were out…with small children, dogs on leashes; one was a dedicated runner, another was a casual bicyclist. Then there were the photographers—dressed in camo with yard long lenses.
I had my trusty little Canon SX10 and no tripod.
The spoonbills were not to be seen.
In fact, there didn’t seem to be many birds. Maybe they were frightened away by all the building commotion. We did learn a large eagle nest with chicks was at the far end of the pond and spoonbills were plentiful at Anahuac.
Another time–perhaps—-but it was a nice day to be out.
Somehow January always flies by along with all of my good intentions. With the federal government in disarray we chose to do our First Day of the Year hike in Village Creek State Park. One of the trails had been re-opened after Harvey with extensive work by the rangers. We marveled at the amount of sand the river had deposited…one ranger told us that sand covered the trees and vegetation..almost like snow!
We learned that work days were planned for volunteers to come in and assist with getting the park back into visitor readiness. On the first Saturday of February, a group of about ten folks arrived with work gloves and ready to work.
Our job was to smooth out one trail and to reclaim two picnic sites. The flooding had deposited 6 to 12 inches of lovely white…and HEAVY sand on two of the sites. We shoveled and raked and hauled sand for three hours….I did some shoveling and raking–but spent more time taking photos until I filled up my card.
The two rangers worked along with us–putting as much if not more effort into the project. We offered all sorts of suggestions of needed equipment and wished TxDOT would repair the bridge soon–easier and safer for needed equipment to drive over a bridge that doesn’t have a huge hole underneath..but the state moves slowly.
But then, the quiet and stillness of just a few people shuffling through the sand and no engines, just the wind whispering in the tree tops, the hawk soaring overhead….maybe it is just fine that the bridge is low on their to-do list.
A few more photos of the day are here: https://sylviaweirphotos.smugmug.com/Texas/Village-Creek-State-Park/i-gvZs9Ns/A