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Making Lemons – Headlong into the Process

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One of several bees diving headlong into the job of pollination!

One of several bees diving headlong into the job of pollination!

I have been travelling too much but by unpaid farm laborers don’t seem to mind. When I walked into the backyard this morning I was greeted by the intoxicating scent of the lemon blossoms covering my Meyer Lemon tree. I had an immediate flashback to several late night rides on my motorcycle down Sunset Boulevard to the beach when the citrus trees were in blossom….such great memories!

The little dwarf tree is overwhelmed with blossoms and will be in serious need of thinning if even 10% of the fruit set. I put my macro lens on the Nikon D200 and stalked this guy. I wound up getting a number of him that I liked but this one illustrates the results of his deep rooting, headlong into the blossom. The number of active honeybees this spring has just been overwhelming. In the 8 springs living here in Kingwood I have never had the level of activity that I have seen this year!

I wish I could track these guys and find the hive…..my curiosity is just killing me.

Just a few minutes ago I walked out and spotted another garden helper….this one was lurking in the branches of the lemon tree…..Pretty cool! He would leap to a different branch and seemed to just disappear! Amazing. Then I would see a little movement and then try to zero in again.

He was so hard to spot....I first spotted him jumping from branch to branch.

He was so hard to spot….I first spotted him jumping from branch to branch.

TTFN

Bishop

A Walk on the Wild Side

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The wild side of Houston could certainly be found , Downtown, Midtown, Montrose, Washington Avenue and Rice Village to names few. No, the wild side I am referring to is on the north end of Lake Houston and specifically up the East Fork of the San Jacinto River including Peach Creek and Caney Creek. I had visited the area several years ago and have followed the news of it’s transformation, an ongoing transformation. More on the transformation later. My daughter Lisa is prepping for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer here in Houston April 20th and 21st. It is a challenging trek and she has 5+ weeks to get ready for it. She lives near our home in Kingwood. Kingwood is blessed with an amazing maze of trails through the greenbelt and woods surrounding the community. I suggested we try branching out and explore the Lake Houston Wilderness Park. http://www.houstontx.gov/parks/ourparks/lakehoustonpark.html

Our first visit was late Sunday afternoon the third of March. We chose the Ameritrail, a 10 mile loop if done in it’s entirety. Due to waning sunlight we wanted to get a few miles in and explore a little. We followed the blue dots on the trees delineating the Ameritrail for about 2.5  miles then spun around and returned. It was a well maintained trail pretty much following Peach Creek. Peach Creek finally joins up with Caney Creek and becomes Caney Creek until it joins up with the East Fork of the San Jacinto River. Sunday’s walk was brief but whetted the appetite to do the entire loop. I carried my big heavy camera and lens, Nikon D-200 and the 80-400mm Nikon lens, a very heavy load …. I promised to better equipped to carry my gear when we returned. The park is home to a handful of wintering Bald eagles and I was hoping to be lucky enough to capture a shot or two.

A view along Peach Creek

A view along Peach Creek

Beautiful Peach Creek adjacent to the trail

Beautiful Peach Creek adjacent to the trail.

Yesterday, the 7th of March Lisa and I prepared to tackle the full loop. We gathered our gear, I took the big camera again but used my camera back pack. In the top pouch I included my Nikon J1 with telephoto zoom along with the standard lens. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to capture wildlife with the D-200 but I will share a shot that happened quite by chance. The only wildlife spotted on our previous jaunt was a single doe standing off in the shadows watching us. Our second trip was quite a bit more exciting.

Our first glimpse of the wild side was a single coyote the slowly meandered into the trail in front of us. Both cameras were safely tucked away in the back pack, darn! The coyote stopped in the trail, casually glanced our direction a went 0-60 in about 2.2 seconds. I decided that I needed to be better prepared so for the remainder of the hike I kept the J1 in hand with the telephoto in place. A bit later a very large shadow of a bird passed over us. I quickly looked up and there was a Bald eagle soaring by at a quick clip. The wing span is breathtaking – it appeared to be 6 or 7 feet across. The trees limited both picture taking and viewing but for that brief moment it was awesome!

the 5 mile bench where we ate our sandwiches Halfway through the loop.

the 5 mile bench where we ate our sandwiches Halfway through the loop.

We should have been more patient breaking for lunch….. a half mile or so along the path was a beautiful small lake ringed with Cypress trees.

The camp site on the bank of Lake Isabel

The camp site on the bank of Lake Isabel

A wide angle look across the lake from the fishing dock.

A wide angle look across the lake from the fishing dock.

One of the many large Cypress trees ringing Lake Isabel.

One of the many large Cypress trees ringing Lake Isabel.

One of the other critters spotted on the fishing dock

One of the other critters spotted on the fishing dock

While hiking I kept pointing out to Lisa many of the patches of torn up ground due to the rooting nature of the wild hogs. I also told her not to worry, they are seldom seen during daylight hours, preferring to rototill the soil in the dark of night. Not long after our stop at the lake I spotted another coyote lurking in the brush off to the left of the trail. He spotted us but slinked away, not like he was running away. It looked more like he was trying to hide in the dense brush. A moment later I saw a wild pig step out in the broad trail in front of us. I managed a picture or two but really wish the other camera had been in my hands. It turned out to be a sow and she was followed by 8 or so piglets. I missed the shot as they were strung out chasing momma across the trail but got a little piece of them in one photo. Lisa said they were so cute! Not sure I agree. I think the coyote had a pulled pork meal on his mind.

The wild sow on her way across in front of us

The wild sow on her way across in front of us

The piglets emerging from the left in hot pursuit of momma

The piglets emerging from the left in hot pursuit of momma

We finished the long walk tired, a little confused due to the lack of trail markings on the return loop and ready to sit for a bit. My app logged our trip at 11 miles. It was a good jaunt. I guessed correctly on the trail that diverges from a long section of two track back to the nature center. What I discovered when chatting with the young park ranger was that they are in the state of finishing a lot of work to finalize trails, facilities and markings. Campgrounds are not yet finished in some places and the archery range has been cleared but is planned for some time in the future.

We visited the Kingwood Farmer’s market on our return home but that will be another story…..

If you would like to help Lisa Decker and the Avon Breast Cancer Walk  ….Follow the link….

http://info.avonfoundation.org/site/TR/Walk/Houston?px=6400511&pg=personal&fr_id=2180

 

TTFN

Bishop

Bees and my Strawberries

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It really started with my broccoli plants that took off and went to blossom. Theyhave beautiful yellow blossoms that are attracting honeybees and a small variety of bumblebee. I found this a real positive change from previous springs. In fact, the number of honeybees spotted in my garden area has been dismal and seemed to be getting worse. I actually employed some Mason Bees the past two years. There seems to be a steady crew working from mid-morning until late afternoon. My guess is that these are a wild variety that hang out in the woods nearby.

I put my macro lens of my Nikon D-200 and attempted to capture the guys at work. The yellow broccoli blossoms must be a bee magnet. I will try to remember that fact next year to draw bees in. I seem to be getting a little better handling this lens.

Bee and broccoli blossom

Bee and broccoli blossom

Carrying quite a load while working this blossom

Carrying quite a load while working this blossom

Off to another one. Trying to improve my moving critter skills. My goal is get a crisp shot of the bee flying!

Off to another one. Trying to improve my moving critter skills. My goal is get a crisp shot of the bee flying!

Strawberries grown outside seem to pollinate themselves pretty well but the fruit size may improve with help from the bees. If you are anal enough, you can take on the task yourself armed with a magnifying glass and an artist’s brush. I have used an electric toothbrush with my tomatoes with outstanding results. If I get frisky enough to crawl around the berry patch soon I will let you know!

Although small, strawberry blossoms have a delicate beauty about them. I caught some of the broccoli work crew sliding on over to the strawberry bed and working their magic. I may hire on tomorrow with my magnifying glass and brush….Love those strawberries! I will make jam in a couple of days and will hopefully put up a couple of dozen jars!

Do your magic little guy!

Do your magic little guy!

JBD_3398

Very nice strawberry  blossom

Very nice strawberry blossom

Now for the payoff –

Just starting to show!

Just starting to show!

Yes - developing nicely

Yes – developing nicely

The final payoff

The final payoff

Yum!!!!!

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

 

LSU Rural Life Museum

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A few weeks ago I sneaked in a quick trip to Baton Rouge. I have wanted to stop by this museum and exhibit for several years. When we visit our son at LSU in the Baton Rouge area we usually stay at he Fairfield Inn off of Essen Lane just across the street from the entrance to the Rural Life Museum and grounds.

I only allocated 2.5 hours and would like to have had that much more! I had put my camera bag together prior to making the trip but left it on the kitchen table …… not much use to me that way. The photos were taken with my iPhone….I need to upgrade; I am using the iPhone 3 – several generations “old”.

The museum area has a good number of period buildings and quite a bit of plantation life history in artifacts as well. I had pictured cotton as being the dominant crop but it was grown along with lots of sugarcane.  The outbuildings included a facility for boiling the sugarcane juice, several homesteader cabins, plantation kitchen, blacksmith shop, slave quarters, corn cribs and more.

The museum is filled with the details and images of the slave labor used in both the cotton growing and the sugarcane growing. The work must have been hard and the hours long. There is a section of the museum that delivers a “no punches pulled” look at the slave trade.

The Rural Life Museum has several examples of homesteader dwellings and they are simple yet well-built structures. I like the Dog Run style – two separate rooms with a breezeway between them covered by a common roof. Photo below.

I stopped and took a good look at the strawberries being tested by the LSU folks on the property grounds….FYI, several big botanical gardens are also located on the sprawling property.  I need to find a source for the beautiful berries I saw growing….I kick myself for not snatching one as no one was around…..couldn’t do it so I left wondering about the taste! It is University of Florida development for winter strawberries that has all of the commercial properties and still retains a very good sweetness.

http://www.visitbatonrouge.com/lsururallifemuseum/

http://appl027.lsu.edu/rlm/rurallifeweb.nsf/index

Very large and early strawberries.

Very large and early strawberries.

Winter Star strawberries

Winter Star strawberries

A cotton patch.

A cotton patch.

Now those are real mud tires.

Now those are real mud tires.

An old feed trough hollowed out from a log.

An old feed trough hollowed out from a log.

More of the notching og the logs.

More of the notching og the logs.

The notching to join these logs was intriguing.

The notching to join these logs was intriguing.

Very interesting chimney construction.

Very interesting chimney construction.

Dog Run style building

Dog Run style building, living on one side and cookhouse kitchen in the other.

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Log building and farm implements. Must have been back breaking work.

Building and farming implements.

Homesteader’s house

Where they boiled the cane juice

Where they boiled the cane juice

One of the many old buildings.

One of the many old buildings.

Cook House and kitchen garden.

Cook House and kitchen garden.

A cloche that obviuosly was very old. The glass had begun to pick-up that purple tint as it ages.

A cloche that obviously was very old. The glass had begun to pick-up that purple tint as it ages.

I really loved hte brick work here. This was on the overseers house.

I really loved hte brick work here. This was on the overseers house.

Blacsmith shop

Blacsmith shop

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Grog gigs....too cool!

Frog gigs….too cool!

No need for Crossfit operating this washer!

No need for Crossfit operating this washer!

Now that is an egg carton!

Now that is an egg carton!

Civil War period plantation wagon

Civil War period plantation wagon

Old horse drawn cutter

Old horse drawn cutter

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