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Posts from the ‘Travel & Places I’ve been’ Category

Getting ducks or maybe geese in a row

A trip to Anahuac is always fun and yesterday the weather was perfect….not too much wind, sunshine and temps near 70.

Tessie is an ideal car for wildlife sighting; she can keep on the road, drive very slowly and make very little noise. But then I was on the passenger side with an excellent view of marsh grass and then sometimes coots.

and a few more ducks in open water.

from the drivers side, there were ibis and alligators and egrets and some hawks who were quick to fly off.

We stopped at the boardwalk and discovered birds really enjoyed sitting on there—and on the benches.

There was an egret on the side of the boardwalk. With full zoom, it is hard to hold the camera steady and get the entire image in the frame.

And we thought we saw two turtles sitting on a log.

Here is the first turtle

and here is what we though was the second turtle

Walking Among Carnivores

Yesterday was not quite as dreary as Friday but still blustery and not particularly inviting. However, we had been invited to a Christmas gathering ‘northwards’ of us; a friend who spends a month ‘Christmasing’ and always has wonderful food.

There were dozens of people there; chowing down on brisket and sides and plenty of sweets and admiring the wonderful decorations in each room. A horse drawn carriage was parked outside; the swing in the tree was still there—I did not indulge this year.

And then because we were just a few hundred yards away, we walked on the Sundew Trail.

We had the trail to ourselves and did not tarry–temps were conducive to brisk walking.

This is part of the Big Thicket, a diverse ecology ranging from marsh to pine trees to cypress swamps.

We were looking for pitcher plants–the sundews being dormant this time of year. We could see evidence of a recent fire–not sure if it was a planned controlled burn or due to lighening. At the last boardwalk–there they were.

And a closer view of one–facing away from us.

And here are several

They are about fifteen inches or so in height; usually in somewhat marshy areas with occaionally the sundews on the perimeter of their areas.

Tessie’s heated seat was most welcome….as was the hot chocolate when we got home.

A foggy morning

Weather this time of year can be so quixotic—one day/night I am wearing socks to bed and a sweatshirt over a longjohn top and thinking bean soup and cocoa and two days later it is moquitoes and a short sleeve shirt—I don’t wear shorts. Fog always comes in on those days and the house never seems to warm up like it does on those cold blue norther days with bright sunshine heating up the tile roof–the heat dissipating over night until about 5 AM when the train starts moving its cars and the bedroom is chilly and the coffeepot is calling my name.

Today was one of the foggy days; still chilly inside but pleasant enough outside.

We had second breakfast at a WaffleHouse after making a trip to the shop to see if the garden water had been left on—yes it was— but the tomatoes were not drowning as has happened in the past with our torrential downpours.

Several options had been discussed—a trip to the Big Thicket? A trip to Anahuac Wildlife Preserver? a trip to the beach?

In the end we decided upon CatTail Marsh, the tertiary sewage treatment plant for the city. It is quiet except for the duck hunters in the distance, the golfers in the golf carts, and the cackling/giggling/snorting/chattering of the birds in the marshy grasses.

We met a young man with a really cute little fluffly dog that snarled at us–but only managed to look really cute instead of threatening. Then there was the man with the huge camera who pointed out where the eagle nest was (no we didn’t see it) We could several trees with egrets and herons circling around and landing in the upper story—it looks so odd to see them in trees instead of wading in the water.

And then there were these birds.

Were they buzzards? They were grouped like buzzards on the road.

Were they cormorants?

We each tried taking good photos of them; our good binoculars safely tucked away in their case in the front seat of my truck—-and we had taken the Tesla.

At home here I could look at them more closely—those long curved bills gave their identity away—ibis!

Any Birds here?

We are fortunate to be near Anahuac National Wildlife Preserve, part of the Mississippi Flyway for migrating birds. I had hoped to see some last week on a bright sunny day—but they were few and far between. Even the coots were hiding among the grasses.

But since I know you are all expecting pictures and may be experiencing snow and wishing to see green again, here are a few from our trip.

First up is this notice about bees;

We looked for a traditional hive around the small garden at the former visitor’s center–destroyed by one of the hurricanes–who can keep track of which one did what?

Then I spied them on the eaves of the old visitor’s center—-we had heard about Bolivar bees—they are aggressive and sting without provocation—and so we quickly left—no stings.

Tessie is an ideal car to stalk birds–it is almost silent and the birds do not seem to pay much attention to her.

This guy did not seem to mind having his photo taken.

Look at those beat up wings on this butterfly

Do you see the heron in the grasses? We could hear the coots but there were no birds in the large ponds—there were some alligators sunning themselves—but alas they chose to sun themselves on the driver’s side of the car–not the passenger’s side—so you will just have to believe me. A few red-eared slider turtles were sunning–again on the driver’s side—

I might have to learn to drive Tessie.

The Mighty Mississippi and a much smaller river

view of the Mississippi along the River road. this is the East channel, the West is equally wide

I grew up near the Mississippi River and every year it flooded. The high school boys would be asked to devote a day to filling sand-bags to protect the Villa Louis Mansion on St. Feriole Island. Flood stages were measured in far up Blackhawk Avenue the waters reached. I don’t remember every crossing over the bridge into Iowa. At one time, it was a toll bridge. Some locals objected strenuously to that concept and tore down the toll gate building one night—-in those days the only people out that late would be the doctor hurrying to deliver a baby or the veterinarian on a similar mission.

filling up in Ferryville we think or maybe Lynxville a small river town along the MIssissippi River

Then there was the Wisconsin River. We crossed that bridge regularly to shop at the grocery store in Boscobel–home of the Gideons. It also flooded but there seemed to be fewer buildings nearby and it was not so impressive.

The Kickapoo also flooded—it was and is a great river to canoe on—we spent early married years vacations canoeing that river. My father or one of my brothers would put us in somewhere up river and then pick us up several days later. The canoe was borrowed from husband’s family—it was a cheap but mosquito filled vacation—some portages over and through trees–and around a dam in Gays Mills—and camping out in pastures along with the cows, cooking over a fire and eating breakfast from the top of a can of pork and beans.

Then there is the more adult version of ‘camping’ with hot showers and a bed and screened in porches and a refrigerator and stove. We did paddle around a bit in one of those paddle boats—those require a lot of energy to go not very far.

those are cutouts—not real moose but you can see the paddleboats at the lake edge

But the sun-rise over the lake was lovely.

A Visit with Henry Ford

Car shows are always fun; and there seems to be one every other month or so. Some at Spindletop, some at the airport, but this one was at the McFadden Ward Museum—a mere block away from our house.

The Model A club was having an outing. They parked along the long driveway surrounding the west side of the house. One of the vehicles was the personal car of Henry Ford himself. I did not take a photo of him but he seemed to be quite well preserved but perhaps stuck in the 60’s–with long hair, a headband, beard, and a T-shirt with a motto not appropriate for family viewing.

Lemonade was served on the porch.

If houses could think, it must have seemed like a reflection of past times—parties and guests and talk.

Walking in Wisconsin Woods

Although I currently live on the Gulf Coast–a sub-tropical area with year round gardening and lawn-mowing, Wisconsin always seems so much more lush. Perhaps it is the contrast between the black, gray, and white of winter versus the abundance of plants in the summer.

My husband grew up in Wisconsin–not my next door neighbor—we met in college. But his family wanted to gather together near his home town for a few days and then to a fishing/lake/boating area near Lake Superior (regrettably we did not get to see Lake Superior).

The cabin—although that is not the right word for such a lovely and fancy structure—reminiscent of the mansions in Rhode Island that were the ‘summer cottages’ for the wealthy of New York City—–was spacious. There was an abundance of food on the counters, lots of laughter and chatting and rummaging in the kitchen for snacks and plates and cups.

The owner had thoughtfully provided two walking trails along the hillside. Brush hogs make for a quick project and a nice wide path—although there were some steep spots and dizzying perspectives.

Fall color had not yet happened although it was clear things were happening—Queen Anne’s lace was turning into brown baskets and Goldenrod was in abundance.

Although this was not part of the driftless area, there were plenty of rocks and hilly vistas.

And then there are sheds and outbuildings used to store equipment.

And no walk in Wisconsin Woods is complete without a thorough inspection for ticks—none were found!

A Chicken or two or more

Growing up in rural Wisconsin meant long rides in school buses, sledding in the winter, stacking wood for the furnace, drying mittens, and wishing for summer when there was no snow shoveling or ice. But the true harbinger of spring was the day the mailman would call and ask if someone would be home as the baby chicks were at the post office.

The baby chicks usually went into one of the grainery bins—it being emptied of oats as feed for the cows and pigs—and relatively protected. A heat lamp or two was installed—the chick watering containers cleaned and set up along with grain dishes.

Twice a day the chicks would be inspected to be sure they were not piling up on each other in an effort to keep warm. it seemed like no time before they were judged old enough—mostly fledged out—to move into the chicken coop.

I don’t remember closing the door to the coop every evening nor do I remember our Border collie doing much to chase them around—they did not herd well so after a few futile attempts he left them alone except when they approached his food bowl.

My Dad did not like chickens—except when they appeared on his dinner plate. But that required butchering—and it was a group project–defeathering, burning off the pin feathers and then cutting them up—we would do about twenty five or so at a time—and it took the better part of a day—and that night we always had hamburger–never chicken.

A few were allowed to over winter to provide eggs; my grandmother who lived in town also had a half dozen chickens–and periodically would deem one for the stew pot—she made the best chicken and dumplings.

We had a brief foray into keeping chickens—they do not tend to be smart about staying in their assigned area or watching out for hawks. They also tend to subject to ‘vapors’.

But one of my nieces has several varieties of chickens and turkeys and guineas and geese—-so many feathers every where and a great deal of squawking and running about.

I would have more photos but I had not emptied the only SD card I had that day—so you will have to be happy with just the one.

Paying Tribute

Our trip to Wisconsin was uneventful. We made good time–even though I was driving and I tend to drive not pushing the speed limit.

The weather was dreary a couple of days with one day devoted deliciously to reading—it has been a long time since I had the opportunity to just sit and read.

On the way back, however, in Stl Louis, we encountered a 31 mile funeral procession for one of the Marines killed in an ambush in Kabul. It was an impressive sight—-miles of motorcycles, every overpass crowded with people waving huge flags, fire engines with a flag aloft on their extension ladders.

Although there is a lot I could say about the events that led to up to this—that outpouring of respect may provide a small comfort to that Marine’s family.

I took no photos of this event—but instead include this image of one of the street decorations in a small town in Wisconsin.

Of Swans and Sunflowers and Bee Hives

A family reunion gathering in Northern Wisconsin was a good reason to make a trip to Southwestern Wisconsin and just see things.

Fall color is not happening yet—a few oak trees are turning toasty brown; sumac is still bright green, and there are no walnuts on the ground.

But the chicory is blooming along the roadsides and then there were splashes of bright yellow—-wild sunflowers and black-eyed Susans or daisies. Hard to differentiate from the interior of a vehicle but easily identifialble when stopping to take their photos.

And then there was the family of swans I spied near my farm. We counted and counted using our naked eyeballs=–then I remembered we had a very nice pair of binoculars and so we shared them–and counted again.

And no trip is complete unless we drive by and inspect a nearby apiary. We brought a hive from Texas to Wisconsin, and hope it has enough stores to survive the winter—. this apiary was quite safe from intruders—the mosquitoes and gnats made our inspection much shorter than we had hoped.

I have more to report on our trip—-but I am still sorting through photos.