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Scarlet Quince Ramblings

Cross stitch ... art ... life

Cactus flowers
Sunday, April 25th, 2010

My horse crippler cactus is in bloom!

Horse crippler

I find it so rewarding to have a cactus bloom. Mine only bloom once a year, if that, and the flowers are so beautiful.

Horse crippler flowers

Look at the shading, and the fringed petals. What can the purpose of the fringe be? I have no idea.

Fishhook cactus

The fishhook cactus, on the other hand, keeps getting bigger but has never bloomed. It’s really a magnet for oak leaves. Later I’ll take some tweezers and try to get the leaves out of it. It looks drab today but it’s really striking after a rain — the spines turn bright red.

Prickly pear

Nor has the prickly pear, although it gets several new pads every year. This is a blind prickly pear. It appears that there are no prickles on the older pads. Appears.

New pad

This is a new pad just getting started. The new pads are very cute, I think, with their little curly deals. I guess those are leaves, since the pads themselves are technically stems.

Think how excited I’ll be when these two bloom after years of keeping me waiting!


Spring flowers
Saturday, April 24th, 2010

We were given a tip that the flowers in the Poteet area (south of San Antonio) are beautiful and different than what grows around here, so a couple of weeks ago we made the trip, and they certainly are.

paintbrush

Masses of Indian Paintbrush (toward the back; closer is pink phlox, white daisies, and yellow evening primroses).

Phlox

Here’s a fringe of paintbrush in front, with phlox and white prickly poppy farther away.

Phlox and white prickly poppy

More phlox and white prickly poppy.

mix

Some places there was more of a mixture of flowers. This is (in front) Blue-Curls (Phacelia congesta), evening primrose (yellow), Indian Paintbrush (red-and-white), and phlox (pink); at the back the tall blue flowers are spiderwort (Tradescantia) and white prickly poppies. I didn’t make any effort to identify species for the most part, I just enjoyed the masses of flowers.

pink evening primrose

Pink evening primrose doesn’t have a smell you would notice in small quantities, but millions together have a distinct odor (and I can’t call it a fragrance).

purple prickly poppy

This purple prickly poppy (Argemone sanguinea) is worth a closer look. I’ve never seen it before. It only grows in south Texas.

more paintbrush

And more paintbrush. We drove in a loop from Pleasanton to Poteet to various county roads, back to Poteet (a move engineered by yours truly — the Poteet Strawberry Festival was going on and we stopped and got some shortcake) then on to Jourdanton and back. There were no bluebonnets in this area at all — they stopped a little ways south of San Antonio.

A few days later we drove the Willow City Loop. Willow City is a nearly non-existent hamlet a few miles northeast of Fredericksburg, but there’s a loop of roads there that is famous for its bluebonnets.

bluebonnets

There are hilltops where you can look down and see oceans of bluebonnets but it was a rainy day so they didn’t show up well from a distance.

white prickly poppy

I’ve never seen the white prickly poppy so lush. It reminded me of cotton fields (not that I’ve ever seen cotton fields).

celestials

Here’s a beautiful little iris called Celestials (Nemastylis geminaflora).

On the way back (we like to take FM 1323 to get to Willow City) we passed a donkey ranch. I love donkies so we stopped to look.

donkies

One of the donkies had a toy (it’s a donkey toy now; I couldn’t tell what ruined object it used to be) that another wanted very badly to get away from him. He would try to pull the thing out of the other’s mouth and when that didn’t work he’d bite him on the neck. It was so funny watching them play!


George Osiris
Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

The other day, I was out weeding (somehow there are a million tiny holly bushes coming up in my flower bed) and man driving past stopped and said “George Osiris, by the way.” I said “What?” and he repeated “Gorgeous irises”.

Iris

They are too. I have no idea what this one is; I can’t even remember what catalog I got it from. I guess I’ll call it George Osiris.


Gay Parasol
Monday, April 12th, 2010

Gay Parasol

Irises are my favorite flower, in case you can’t tell from all the iris patterns.

Gay Parasol closeup

I don’t grow them very successfully (and don’t know why) but I love them, not just the iridescence in the petals but the fragrance too. Usually Silverado and Edith Wolford make an appearance but I think the one other plant with a bud is another Gay Parasol. I have several kinds that have never bloomed, and probably wouldn’t know what they were at this point.


New computer blues
Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Several months ago, I had a problem with my computer which I was ultimately able to fix, but it took several days. I realized then that Scarlet Quince really needs a spare computer — there are spares of most other equipment, but not the computer. Unfortunately, aside from being busy, I really don’t like to shop and especially not for a computer. My last few have been Dells, but nowadays when you go to configure a system on their website, there are ALL these different processors and very little information about how they differ. Sometimes they don’t even tell you the clock speed. It’s like they’re not even trying anymore and it just makes me tired.

Luckily, a friend’s company benchmarked a bunch of processors and he said Intel’s i7 chip blew everything else away. So, armed with that hint, I went looking for a computer with an i7 processor. Now, generally, my instinct when buying something new (especially in the technology area) is to look for another exactly like what I already have. MRA’s instinct is to get whatever the very latest thing is. (It’s easy for him to have this instinct because I do all the system administration.) This time, he persuaded me to go with the 64-bit version of Windows 7. I found out that most of my old 32-bit software should run in some kind of compatibility mode (not my 16-bit copy of Quicken, which is so old that it has trouble with years after 1999, but I soldier on with it).

Unfortunately I didn’t think about device drivers. My printers and mouse are all pretty old (but good) and while they all work in some fashion with the new computer, it’s not the most desirable fashion. For example, HP put out a 64-bit printer driver for my color printer but they didn’t bother with the toolbox, so instead of clicking on a menu to align the printheads, you have to press and hold the Power button, press the Resume button two times, and then release the Power button. So instead of having a new computer and a spare, I now have a two-computer network. Fortunately my ancient database software works over a network, which never ceases to amaze me. (I think I bought it in 1995.) It’s not what I had in mind, but at least if one of the computers conks out, I’ll still be able to send and receive email. And I can work on gradually upgrading things.

The thing that bothers me the most (now that I have gotten the desktop icons not to be huge — funny how annoying minor issues can be) is that Windows itself doesn’t seem really stable. Stuff that was working half an hour ago stops working, and I either have to restart the program or (more likely) reboot. Not that we look for quality from Microsoft, although I’m sure things will get better as time goes on and they fix more bugs. On the positive side, this is a really fast computer. The hard disk is ridiculous — one terabyte. (By the way, if you want to look it up, it’s an HP Pavilion 170t.)

It has taken me several days to get things sort of limping along, and I’m still in the phase where every time I need to do something new, I have to install something else or reconfigure something. But maybe now I can start to get back to whatever I was doing before.


Big Bend Ranch
Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

We finally managed to take our trip to Big Bend Ranch after numerous postponements! For those of you not from Texas, it’s our largest state park, 300,000 acres, and adjacent to Big Bend National Park. It’s basically Chihuahuan desert wilderness. (It isn’t a ranch now, but it used to be, and there are still cattle there. Now that I say it, I’m not sure how that’s different from a ranch. They have a U-Roundup twice a year. You supply the excess testosterone and maybe the horse and they provide the rest.)

Chihuahuan desert

This is typical scenery. There are clumps of grass here and there, but mostly the ground is bare dirt. The olive-green bushes that dot the hills are creosote. It has yellow flowers when it blooms but most of it wasn’t in flower. In the foreground you can see green prickly pear and purple prickly pear. Just to the left of the purple prickly pear is lechuguilla (the small green clump; it’s an agave) and ocotillo (the dead-looking sticks). These are all very common plants. Apparently there had been rain sometime recently because the ocotillo had buds. Between rains, ocotillo loses all its leaves and flowers and is just a mass of thorns. Then, when it rains, the leaves and flowers magically return.

Here are the flowers (from a different trip):

ocotillo

We drove to Marfa on a Tuesday, about 8 hours if you’re going 80, and spent the night there. We thought of going on to Presidio but hadn’t checked to find out if there was anyplace to stay in Presidio, and couldn’t get a cell signal. (Our planning sometimes leaves something to be desired.) Marfa is a strange place. It seems well on its way to becoming a ghost town. I would say that about half the buildings in the business district are vacant.

In the morning we headed south to Big Bend Ranch. The correct approach would have been to drive the 60 miles to Presidio on paved road, and enter the park from the south, minimizing our time on washboarded dirt roads, but instead we came in on the north side, which gave us about 3 times as much dirt road fun as we otherwise would have had [red line].

map

We could only go about 10-20 mph because we were pulling a trailer with the FJ40 on it. We had intended to leave the truck and trailer at the headquarters at Sauceda [red dot] but when we came to a horse pen area where we could ditch them, we did, and went on to Sauceda to pick up our camping permit in the FJ40.

We then backtracked to the Gaule road (a high-clearance 4WD road) and drove to our camp site at Gaule 2 [yellow line]. The weather was perfect, sunny and clear and about 70 degrees. It took us about 3 hours to get there and the road was not too scary for me. A view along the way:

along the road

The whole Big Bend area was once volcanic and this gives an idea of the depth of the lava flows.

This is part of the view from our camp site:

lava plug

We took this to be the lava plug from a partly eroded volcano. Pretty nice camp site, eh?

We explored, enjoyed the scenery, took pictures of flowers, and generally just hung out the rest of the day. I was going to stake out the best tent site in case someone else showed up and was really surprised when MRA told me that it’s one party per camp site. We’ve hardly ever had a whole camp site to ourselves.

We were using a borrowed tent (our tent got stinky tent disease so I washed it, which didn’t moderate the smell much but did turn the waterproofing into awful dandruff, so MRA threw it away. Too bad. I liked that tent, before the smell.) and we had a little trouble pitching it in the gale-force wind that came up in the late afternoon, but we eventually managed with the help of all the stakes and a few large rocks. My hat, which has a chin strap with bead to keep it on in windy situations was driving me crazy because the bead slips. I plundered a thin shock cord and cord lock from the day pack and was much happier after that.

Much of the yucca was in bloom.

yucca

And there was Dalea mollis nearby

dalea

and lots of claret cup cactus.

claret cup

This pancake cactus was starting to bloom

pancake cactus

but most of the cacti were just heartbreakingly close.

cacti

The night was mild, with pretty good stars, but the moon was more than half full, so we couldn’t see as many stars as I’d hoped. Then another perfect day.

morning

We returned along the same road (but it always looks different going in the opposite direction), had a go at the indoor plumbing at Sauceda, then headed out for our second night’s camp site at Chorro Vista [blue line on the map].

chorro vista

Another incredible camp site!

tent

And by climbing a dozen or so feet we had a view in all directions. This is the rim of El Solitario, an ancient collapsed volcano. It ejected 25-30 times as much material as Mt. St. Helens, then collapsed in on itself. It’s several miles in diameter.

solitario

Another very temperate night, then back to the trailer to load up. Inevitably we ran into a guy at the horse pens who wanted to know “Whatcha got there?” I wish MRA had a handout for all these gabby men (women never ask about the FJ40). We exited the park the correct way this time (red line then onto the green line), drove to Presidio, then as far as Alpine, where we spent the night, and home the next day. It was such a relaxing trip — I think the best vacations are the ones where you’re completely away from news, computers, phones, TVs, etc. It was dusty camping but having tried both now, I would say I prefer dust to mud. Sometime it might be nice to camp on clean, dry grass.


Good day for ducks
Sunday, March 7th, 2010

It has rained a little, but actually this turned out to be a good day to SEE ducks. Our usual joke is that we won’t see any ducks but we won’t know why until we go — no ducks, ducks too far away, sun in the wrong place, raining, too dark, etc. — but this time it worked out. We went down to Hornsby Bend (which sounds as if it might be nice but is actually the local sewage ponds) and there were some interesting ducks and water birds!

There were about 20 white pelicans (which we’ve NEVER seen around here before), a cinnamon teal (also very unusual around here), and several American pipits! A pipit looks like a cross between a thrush and a sparrow, and we probably wouldn’t have figured out what it was except that I noticed that it had black legs. It turns out that not many birds have black legs.

Then there was the usual horde of shovellers, lots of ruddy ducks, the odd green-winged teal, a couple of buffleheads (probably my favorite duck; they’re so perky), and several eared grebes starting to get their summer “ears”. There was a cormorant trying to dry its wings, without any luck since it’s thoroughly overcast.

I wished I had taken my camera because there were masses of early flowers (ok, weeds). Swathes of purple mints and masses of yellow mustards. The wood floor was covered with intensely green bedstraw (Galium aparine). It has tiny white flowers but its most noticeable feature is those spring-green leaves, in whorls of 6. It’s a dreary day but that’s just the way (some) spring days should be. (Obviously, you can take the girl out of Michigan but you can’t take the Michigan out of the girl.)

We stopped at the Applied Materials ponds on the way home, as always. For some reason it always has completely different ducks. This time we saw gadwalls, American widgeons, scaups, a redhead, and a pied-billed grebe.

All in all, a good day for ducks!


The simple life (power outage edition)
Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

As I was lying in bed this morning thinking about getting up (it doesn’t do to rush into these things) there was a tremendous BOOM, as if Big Bird had flown into a window. I got up and asked MRA what that was? He said there was a flash associated with it so apparently a transformer had blown up. Sure enough, no electricity.

The first thing that occurred to me is that I can’t fill orders. Then I remembered that one had requested express shipping. Can’t email her to tell her the order won’t go out today — I could call her, if only I could get to her phone number which is only on the computer.

So what CAN I do? Here’s what I came up with.

  1. Dust, by hand.
  2. Pick up clutter.
  3. Read a book (near a window).
  4. Practice the violin (near a window).
  5. Mop the kitchen floor.
  6. Go for a walk.
  7. Do some yoga (what I can remember without the DVD).
  8. Make Happy-New-Year calls, if the cell phone is charged (unlikely).
  9. Play with the cats.

When I was in high school, we lived in a house with a well (and an electric pump), and when the power was out, there wasn’t any water, either. What a drag that was!

But obviously the power is back on now, so I’m back to filling orders. That alternative day sounded kind of nice…


Christmas in Texas II
Friday, January 1st, 2010

One of the oddest things people do here is wrap lights around the trunks and lower branches of live oaks. We don’t have conifers, mostly, so people have to decorate what they have, but it creates a very strange torso effect. I’ve never been able to take good pictures of them, so here goes with bad pictures. (The lack of a tripod makes them sort of arty, she says hopefully.)

Lights 5

Clusters of trees look best, I think.

Lights 4

Single trees remind me of an old movie, “Monster Tree Stump”.

Lights 2

Lights 1

Everybody does this.

Lights 3

Then there’s the Christmas pig, or maybe it’s a bear. I don’t really get this. I would argue that it takes more than a Santa hat to make something a Christmas decoration, but obviously not everyone agrees.


Christmas in Texas
Friday, December 25th, 2009

It’s a little different.

Longhorns

At night the longhorns have orange lights all over them, making them not just Texas longhorns but University of Texas longhorns. I don’t get the rein-dog.

Agaves

There aren’t many conifers around but people decorate what they have!

Agaves 2

I love the decorated agaves!

Santa

Nandina

The Nandina is Christmasy! Merry Christmas, everyone.




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