Hiking the Kirby Trail

My husband and I took a walk on the Kirby Trail today. It isn’t too far from home and it isn’t too long, especially if you walk the inner loop (less than 2 miles). It was a little warm, but not too hot, and that is what I’ve been waiting for. Here’s a short report on what we saw.

Right off we noticed a lot of undergrowth has really thickened up. This trail has a variety of trees including pine, cypress, oak, water tupelo, magnolia, beech and many more. Hurricane Rita took out a lot of tall trees back in 2005, so the under-story plants are getting more light and growing quite well. I was happy to see many smaller trees that will one day be tall trees. Nice recovery.

It’s muscadine time! My grandpa used to make wine from those grapes. If I had my tomatoes canned (the ones waiting in the freezer) I might see if there are any muscadines at the farmer’s market next weekend. Jelly would be nice. Maybe I can get those tomatoes done this week…

Now for critters. We saw a Blue-tailed Skink. Well, that’s what we’ve always called them. They have stripes and a blue tail. I think they are really pretty. When I looked for a photo, I found this article, which is where I learned that when I see one with a blue tail, it’s a young ‘un. And technically they are called Five-lined Skink.

Also, saw a brown frog, or toad, that was about the color of the dirt. My husband wanted to know how on earth I could see him? He moved when he was in front of me, or I probably wouldn’t have. There were birds and evidence of squirrels (pine cone bits all over the place).  And armadillos have been tearing up the ground in search of groceries.

Because of the drought, the sloughs were dry. You can tell they have been dry for a while, too, because vegetation that wouldn’t normally be there is beginning to grow among the cypress knees. Village Creek is way down. If someone were to try to canoe  through the part of it we saw, they would have to carry the canoe quite a bit because of low water and logs.

Because of the scarcity of water there was a scarcity of mosquitoes. I only had one buzzing around me. It was probably the only mosquito in the whole Big Thicket. I say that because I’m mosquito bait. My husband said if there was one mosquito and me, I’d be found.

The pine beetles have been busy and there is a lot of damage from them. They cause the bark to separate from the tree then it falls off and the tree dies. Everything has to eat though. We’ve seen this before and it will be OK.

Overall, we really enjoyed our walk. There is just one thing that drops my jaw. I picked up two Marlboro cigarette butts on this beautiful trail. We passed by the burned out remains of a forest on our way to the Thicket, plus part of the Turkey Creek Trail, which connects to this one just opened back up two days ago. It had been closed because of fire damage this past spring. It’s not like forest fires, burn bans and drought haven’t been in the news lately around here. What knuckle-head – or two – would risk burning down the forest by smoking while walking in it?

Hummingbird Guarding the Feeder

I’ve been watching a female ruby-throat hummingbird guard a feeder outside my kitchen window. She has been there even as Tropical Storm Lee was causing her perch to sway in the wind, at least up to maybe 20 mph or so before she would leave her spot. She thinks the feeders is all hers. There is a male who wants to eat and she chases him away. Sometimes when she is on guard she looks this way and that so she won’t be surprised by his approach.

While ago she was sitting about six inches from the feeder when he landed on it. I guess she let her mind wander. When she saw him she began to move her head from side to side and also fluffed her wing feathers out a bit. It reminded me of how my cat has done that – the head movement, he’s weird but he doesn’t have feathers – when we are playing. It makes him look like a snake with dilated eyes and it sort of creeps me out. I’ve never ever seen a hummingbird move its head like that. I had no idea they had any kind of menacing warning. I’ve only see them zoom off in the direction of the intruder to chase it away.

I guess he wasn’t impressed with her gyrations and feather fluffing. He was too busy eating to worry about threats. She had to zoom off and chase him away to gain control of her feeder again.

By the way, the hummingbirds need for those of us in Texas to keep a fresh supply of nectar out for them. The flowers where they normally dine aren’t quite so abundant right now. In case you are new to feeding them, the ratio is 1/4 cup of white sugar to each cup of water. Bring it to a boil then remove it from the heat and let it cool before filling the feeders. I usually mix a few cups and freeze the extra.

I hope y’all are enjoying the birds!

Facebook Takes the Cake

What a surprise when I logged into Facebook and my Home Page didn’t look like it normally does! What got into my machine? Who got a hold of my account? Facebook did. While I was sleeping Thursday night they were rolling out changes. They say it’s “a test”. I’ve registered my opinion and others have, too, and hopefully, they will change it back.

Here is what happened: The thing that is only annoying is the Ticker on the right side of the page. Every single thing that any of my friends, or pages that I’ve Liked, posts on any wall that is open to view by the Public or Friends of Friends, is popping up in a scrolling box. It reminds me of the flashy junk on poorly designed websites. I can ignore it if I concentrate really hard. The worst is that the Recent Posts choice is gone. My lists are gone. I can no longer scroll down the News Feed and see only the posts that I have time for; I have to see everything or nothing. And it’s divided into things like “Recent Posts” and “Top Stories” and “Last (However Many) Hours”. I have no idea how they determine what is “Top.” Normally, if I only had time to check family, I’d do that and come back later and catch up on everyone else. I would also only see my pages when I had time to read whole news articles. Not anymore. And until they put it back, if indeed they do put it back like it was, I am not even signing in for days at a time. I’m going from one who used Facebook up to the line that one doesn’t want to cross (addiction) to one who won’t even sign in. All in one day. And in the meantime, Google + (what we like to call Google Circles) is looking pretty good. In fact, I think I’ll start sending out a few invitations today.

When I went to Facebook’s Help Section I found out this started at least two weeks ago and no one seems to like it. Why on earth would a company do something that takes control away from the user and causes so much consternation? I have a theory. It’s only a theory and I don’t have a degree in business, but I’ve learned a bit about how things work.

One of my solutions to this (among other possibilities, including closing my account) is to UN-Like most of the pages I’ve Liked and whittle down my friends list (don’t want to do that!) drastically. I figured if that I, and LOTS of other folks would do these two things, then Facebook would not be getting as much revenue from ads. You know the ads on the right-hand side of your screen? They are geared to page content. The fewer items of wide variety in the News Feed, the fewer ads of any variety in the right side bar. Thinking about that is what led me to the theory of why they did this.

Maybe, just maybe, the reason Facebook wants all the pages we ever liked and all the posts we don’t have time to check to be in the News Feed, is because it will increase their ad revenue. Even the Ticker would entice us to click on more pages, if we didn’t try to ignore it. More posts = more ads.

Hm. Seems like I remember a (can’t say “another social networking site” because this is only my theory) social networking site that wanted to have more ads displayed. They made the site harder to navigate so users had to click on more pages which gave way to more ads being displayed. They let profit be their driving force for their business, rather than customer service. What was their name? Oh, yeah. MySpace.

ADDENDUM: (September 18) Facebook has brought in a way to use lists again. You can also subscribe to each friend individually to adjust settings for how much of what you want to see of their posts. If you choose not to go through your entire list to make the choices, Facebook will choose for you. There is a default already on some things. They have come up with “Smart Lists” of their own which you can use, or not. Also, an algorithm to determine whose posts you will see and how often, if you don’t make the choice yourself. They think this is easier to manage and less cumbersome than the way it was. Whatever. If you are on Facebook and you are frustrated you might want to check this out.

I LOVE Outer-Band Weather!

Yesterday afternoon we started getting some of the clouds and rain, along with a bit of a breeze, from what has become Tropical Storm Lee. This morning when I went to the clothesline to hang out laundry I saw the most beautiful blue sky, with little wisps of clouds moving quickly from east to west. When the wind blew I could hear the drought-parched leaves rustling on the big oak tree in my neighbor’s yard.

It’s middle of the afternoon now, and since this morning, it has been mostly sunny with thicker clouds at times.  It’s the “at times” that I like about this. If you look at a satellite view of a tropical storm or hurricane, you will see how the clouds swirl around the edges. It’s pretty on the satellite view and unique in experience, because there will be rain and thunder and lightning and wind but none of it is constant. It gets mixed in with sunshine. And how much of all that one gets depends on how close you are to the storm and which side of it you are on. We are on the west side of Lee, so it’s not nearly as rainy as we would like. (Poor Louisiana is going to be drenched!)

This is how folks used to know there was a hurricane or tropical storm nearby. They didn’t have a meteorologist, so they had to pay close attention to things like wind direction and intermittent clouds and rain. Several years ago, we had a bit of that from Hurricane Katrina. A few days later, I spoke with someone who hadn’t even noticed what our weather was doing. I find that stunning.

Sometimes I almost wish I could live outside, or at least without air conditioning. My eyes can see through the windows, but I can’t feel breezes or smell rain. I may just have to go sit on the porch a while.