Borrego Springs, CA

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Scenes....on the refuge

For almost a year, I blogged the Sunday Blast from the Past, but eventually my blog caught up to my then present location.  I've decided to start a new Sunday theme today....Sunday Scenes.  This week, it will be scenes taken as Emma and I walked down from our site towards headquarters.

One of the issues that the refuge is dealing with is Oak Wilt.  It is killing off the live-oak trees.  What twisted branches this old oak tree had!  It stands in mute silence to it's now ended life.

Some of the other volunteers have suggested that I put Emma, on my work days, in one of the bull pens that are just south of our rigs.  We walked down to check them out.

That got me thinking about the words bull pen.  I always thought of bull pens as where pitchers warm up in baseball.  (I suppose that is due to my growing up near and going to Wrigley Field in Chicago)  Thinking about Texas ranches, I decided it was where they kept the bulls before they serviced the ladies. :) Hmmm, similarities there...both pitchers and steers waiting to score!  After googling it this afternoon, it turns out that on the ranching side, it's where bulls were kept before going to slaughter.  Ugh, I like my version better.

Anyway, after looking at the enclosures, I decided it would take too much work to make those pens Emma proof for the amount of time I'll be here.  She would certainly have plenty of room to run around, but there are too many spots that she could sneak through since they haven't been used since at least 1992 when the refuge was established.

As we walked down the hill along the pens, I marveled at the intricate designs left behind by a dying prickly pear cactus.  It was like looking at a snowflake stuck on a window, only it didn't melt away.  Or maybe the web of a very industrious spider..........such beauty in death.

Speaking of death, we also discovered a wire cage with multiple feral hog skulls in it.  Don't know why this was out in the grass.  I do know that feral hogs are a real problem on many refuges in Texas, and there were actually hunters up in planes this weekend trying to eliminate any hogs they found.

I thought these cacti looked like a gathering for a family reunion.  :)

As we neared Headquarters, we stopped at the photo blind that was built to resemble many of the karst caves in the area.  Last year, I did an education program in this "cave" on cave dwelling insects.  A local artist has painted the inside walls with depictions of cave inhabitants.  This is really a very unique photo blind...

and here's the view out the front of the blind.  In a few weeks, migrating birds will be bubbling around in the vegetation.  I can't wait.  Well, that's the end of this week's scenes.

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later,  Judy

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Michael J. Fox

Okay, not Michael J. Fox, but picnic jay fox.  :)

Since last spring, a local boy scout earned his Eagle Scout status by building very substantial picnic tables for the volunteer RV sites.  That's wonderful, except that was before the two new sites were put in just weeks ago. 

Happily, for me, the guys started building tables for the two new sites.  That's Dub, on the right, and John on the left.  Dub is a local officer in the Friends of Balcones Canyonlands NWR group, and puts in close to forty hours a week volunteering on the refuge.  He is in charge of all the maintenance volunteers and helps everyone get settled in their sites when they arrive.  I should have a nice big table outside my rig by the middle of next week.  Wahoo!

This afternoon, we all packed up and headed to Dub's (and his wife Ruth) house for the going away potluck for volunteers Mel and Maryanne.  Dub built a house on top of one of the hills about five miles from the refuge.  What a scenic location they have, and a drop dead gorgeous house.  They have numerous bird feeders hanging in the trees surrounding the house, and a beautiful covered patio with numerous chairs for enjoying the view and the birds.

The Scrub Jay is one of the avian visitors that they have that I don't, so of course I had to get a picture.  Since I was the first one to arrive at the party, I plunked myself out on the patio to see what I could see.  It was very peaceful looking out over the surrounding hills.  I hadn't gotten my camera out yet, when I saw something out of the corner of my eye.  It disappeared as I tried to get my camera out of the bag.

It wasn't long, though, before the crafty little fox returned, and this time I was ready for him/her.

By this time, the rest of the folks had arrived, and Peggy and Karen joined me out on the patio with their cameras.

The vixen had spotted a piece of bread in the yard and began it's move toward it.

We were privileged to see two foxes before we went inside for dinner.  I'm sure glad I brought my camera!

As usual, the food and companionship were outstanding, and we even sang Happy Birthday to Peggy.  What a great day today was.  But now....

it's time to make an exit............

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later,  Judy

Friday, February 26, 2010

Different strokes for different folks

Mel and Maryanne, fellow volunteers here at Balcones, will packing up their rig this weekend and heading out on Monday morning.  They have been volunteering here since November, and have put in many hours of service.  Today, several of the staff and all other volunteers took them out for lunch to say thanks.  They will be returning here next winter.  They have decided to return to their house in Minnesota.  I guess that's the reason I don't think they are totally crazy.  Why would anyone want to go to Minnesota at this time of the year?  I sure wouldn't.  Brrrrr! As a fulltime RVer, I won't be going near Minnesota until May. 

I left a message earlier in the week at a state wildlife area in Oregon.  I have applied to volunteer there this coming summer, but so far they haven't called back.  I guess I'll have to try again next week.

This morning I drove up to the Flying X, and five of us loaded up the van with all the education stuff we brought up there for the training yesterday.  Now it's back down at headquarters for  a week and a half  before we load it up again for our first school program of the year.

It was supposed to be pleasant outside today, but it wasn't.  The temps stayed in the forties and the winds were really strong.  Even the Texans are getting tired of this winter.  ;)

I have the weekend off, but I'll be fixing something to take to the potluck we're having tomorrow for Mel and Maryanne.  Lots of good food is on the horizon!

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The training session

Thirty some people showed up for the educational training session today, and I think it was a great success.  Because of the high winds (which are not unusual up at the Flying X), four of the sessions had to be brought inside.  That's too bad, but it was impossible to do them outside today.

I was on the platform just before lunch, which can be a challenge after folks had been listening to lectures for three hours.  :)  I decided to insert several banding stories from my experience to lighten things up and it seemed to work.  The crowd was responsive, had a few laughs, and asked lots of questions.  That's a good thing in my opinion.  I even put in a plea for them to sign up to help at my station when the Lago Vista fifth graders come to the refuge in a little under two weeks.  After I finished, I had four people come up and volunteer for the dates.  That's fantastic!

Karen Kilfeather is a local volunteer and a fantastic photographer.  She was at the training today to photographically record the happenings.  She got a short video of part of my presentation which she'll be sending me.  I'm hoping to be able to include in a blog post.....maybe tomorrow.  I've never included a video, so this will be a learning curve for me.  :)  She shot the video as I was relating a banding story and demonstrating how and why I had a Goshawk sinking it's talons into my wrist.  Time will tell whether it's worth posting.  I hope I helped get some of these folks from the Texas Master Naturalist program to volunteer at Balcones Canyonlands NWR.

It looks promising, out the window, that tonight's sunset might be picturesque, so I'm going to put publishing tonight's post on hold for about an hour.  Keep your fingers crossed!  Some clouds are rolling in before the latest of several approaching fronts.

Well, it was a dissapointment, but any sunset is better than the alternative.  ;)

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later,  Judy 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Furbuster

One of the unwelcome side effects of traveling with a canine companion in an RV is the abundance of hair that seems to accumulate everywhere.  It seems to me that most dogs should really be bald if you considered the amount of hair that they shed.  But alas, they are not bald and the hair continues to be a never ending challenge.  Last summer, while I was volunteering at Swan Lake NWR, I noticed that Pam Wood, a fellow volunteer, was grooming her dog with something that didn't look like an ordinary brush.  She told me that she swears by the Furminator dog grooming brush.  I needed to look into that.

What I found at a local Pet Smart store was the Furbuster.

It's about half the price of the Furminator and does the same job.  It has really been a help to me in keeping a lid on Emma's shedding.  If I use a regular dog brush, I don't get much hair, but with the Furbuster, it really catches hairs that would otherwise fall inside the rig.  So, if you travel with a dog, I'd recommend this product.

As was predicted, the skies were blue today and all the snow melted away.  I headed out first thing this morning to take all the education boxes up to the Flying X for tomorrow's training.  Peggy and Paul were ready when I arrived, and we spent the entire morning setting things up.  There will be about 32 people coming for the training tomorrow, and we're ready for them!  I will set up my station on bird banding outside in the morning. 

I had packed the extra propane tank into the van this morning, so after everything was set up, I headed for the small town of Liberty Hill to get the tank filled.  I am so happy that I have the extent-a-stay option for propane since the temps have been so unusually low.  After almost four years of really conserving on heat, I am basking in 70* temps inside since I got the e-a-s setup. 

Of course, since I was going to Liberty Hill I had to stop at the local market.  It's a small grocery store, but it has an excellent butcher shop.  I like this place because they have excellent meats, and I can choose exactly what pork chop or steak I want, and can buy only one of each.  It's hard to find a grocery store where you can purchase only one of a certain meat item.  They are also known for their excellent rib eye steaks, so I splurged!  That steak will give me two delicious meals.

I'll close with tonight's sunset....

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later,  Judy

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A weather event????

When I woke up this morning, I lifted the shade and this is what I saw out my window.  What's up with this?  Snow in Austin, TX???  Sure enough!  After temps in the upper 70's on Sunday, the roller coaster headed down to the 30's this morning.  Didn't I leave Minnesota to avoid this white stuff?

According to the evening news, this snowstorm (which anyone in Minnesota would ignore) is the worst since 1985.  I guess it's a weather event for sure around here.  The birds sure hit the feeders early...

and this cardinal surely must be wondering what's going on.

I headed in to work at the office.  We spent the morning getting the van loaded up with all the education program supplies that we'll need on Thursday for the training session.  Since I have the van, I'll drive them up to the Flying X tomorrow morning, and we'll get everything set up.  The few volunteers that were working, headed home for lunch with no thoughts to return for the afternoon.  Coming from the north, it's amazing to me how a little snow can shut things down in the south.

After lunch, I decided to talk Emma for a run and see what photo opportunities might present themselves.  Snow is such a rarity here I felt I had to record it.  :)

To say Emma was excited is an understatement.  This is only the second time in her life that she has seen snow, and it affected her in the same way that a sandy beach does....she went berserk!  See her ears flying in the air as she sped down the trail?  She was in heaven.

I decided to duplicate some of the pictures that I posted a few days ago when it was sunny and warm.

A little different take on this old corral.

Emma coursing down the old rock fence line.  She didn't find any treasures to bring home today, but I'm sure she covered about a five mile run before I called her in back to the leash.  I have to admit that it was a little surprising to me that she actually obeyed,,, eventually.  :)  :(   She's not perfect....yet.

A rear view to our site as we returned home.  I refilled the bird feeders, and we headed inside for the remainder of the afternoon while flurries continued.

I couldn't resist.  :)

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later,  Judy

Monday, February 22, 2010

Restful days off

I pretty much just calmly enjoyed my days off this weekend.  Today's excitement consisted of doing the laundry and getting a hair cut.  Whoopee!  Austin will be under a winter storm warning tomorrow.  I thought we were done with that stuff!

Yesterday, the temps rose to the middle 70's.  Five of us headed out in the early afternoon for the fantastic hamburger joint....and what a joint it was.  It turned out to be a little further away than we thought, though.  It took us two hours to get there.  Would you drive 70 miles in the hill country for a burger?  Well, the company was good and the weather was perfect.  The only problem was, when we got there it was so packed that it would have taken an hour to get a table (inside or out).  Since none of us had eaten lunch and it was nearing 4:00, we decided not to wait.  On the way home, we stopped at a restaurant in Johnson City.  The food was pretty good, but a little pricey for what you got in my opinion.  Guess we'll have to try again on a weekday for burgers.  :(  The hamburger place reminded me of Harley's down in the Rio Grande Valley.

The forecast of rain/sleet/snow for the morning means I'll probably be doing office work again tomorrow.  Phooey. 

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later,  Judy

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Just a note

Not much to report for today.  It's been overcast and drizzly all day, so other than several walks with Emma, I've spent most of the day playing flipWORDS2 on the internet.  I do enjoy the competition with other players!

Tomorrow, some of us are going out to a reportedly wonderful hamburger joint.  I'm looking forward to that.

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later,  Judy

Friday, February 19, 2010

Emma's treasure and signs of spring

Since I didn't have to work today, Emma and I headed off for a nice hike in the hills.  I have been allowing her off leash occasionally so that she can burn up some of that never ending energy.  On the way back to the rig, she was the leader and had found a treasure to bring back home.

She found this shed deer antler and proudly carried it all the way home.  Last year we found a feral hog skull; this year it's an antler.  I wonder if she'll find the other antler the next time, or maybe it has been consumed by a porcupine.

I've been noticing some signs of spring's approach this past week.

Notice the cardinal, and notice the van.  The parking lot has turned into a gladiator's arena.  Kind of like David and Goliath!

It's the great springtime battle of the cardinal vs. the mirrors!  Last year, we had to finally cover the mirrors with bags so the cardinal wouldn't knock himself out.  He also leaves quite a mess on the mirrors and windows.

On a less violent note........

the wildflowers are beginning to bloom.

I think these are just color variations of the same flower.  I'll have to check with Chuck, the biologist next week.

I, for one, am happy to see these signs appear.  I've had enough of winter for this year.

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Starting the bird surveys

I decided to start my bird surveys at Doeskin Ranch this morning.  Settlers first came here in the 1850's to establish ranches.  Doeskin Ranch was one of the first acquisitions when Balcones Canyonlands NWR was established in 1992. 

The trails at Doeskin lead down from the parking lot.  There have been quite a few changes since last year.  There is an added paved parking area with  a paved switch back trail that is handicapped accessible down to the new bathrooms.  While not all trails are accessible, folks in wheelchairs can get a good feel for the various habitats of the ranch.

I didn't do all the trails today, but I did check out the Creek Trail, the Prairie and Pond Trail, and a portion of the Ridgeline Trail.  I started with the Ridgeline Trail....

but found I was not prepared to do the whole trail.  When I was here last year, the area was suffering from a very severe drought.  At that time, it was easy to walk across the Doeskin Branch on exposed rocks.  As you can see, the stepping stones are now submerged and I didn't have proper footwear to cross. Bird migration hasn't really begun yet, so I'm sure I didn't miss much by not proceeding.

I backtracked and headed out on the Creek Trail in reverse.  This trail weaves in and out between the grassland and along the branch.

I was amazed at the abundance of water coursing down the branch.  Last year, there was barely a trickle.  It was a great day to enjoy the sounds of the rushing creek.  Bird life was very sparse.  Because it's still February, that's pretty much what I had expected.

I took advantage of the strategically placed benches to enjoy the solitude and appreciate how important this life giving supply of water must have been to early settlers.  Before the advent of the white man, Comanche warriors and families roamed this area.  What a welcome respite this creek must have afforded.  I didn't record many birds today, but my spirit was rejuvenated on today's hike.  This is why I do what I do.

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later,  Judy

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Making a concession to age

As time marches on, we must all deal with our changing physical abilities.  I remember my mother telling me that her mother felt frustrated when she came to the point that she didn't seem to have the strength to do things that were so easy and natural at a younger age.  Yes, I can relate to that.  I just don't have the strength that I used to, or the balance that I used to.  I use a walking stick now if I'm hiking through uneven terrain, but I push on.  I've adjusted to those changes.

I've always had pretty good eyesight.  Yes, I had to get reading glasses in my fifties, but doesn't everyone?  But, today is the day that I conceded that I needed to wear glasses just about all of the time.  I thought I could still see good, but today while I had my driving glasses on I noticed a hawk up in the sky.  I took my glasses off as I grabbed my binoculars.

 When I looked back up into the sky I couldn't find that hawk.   I put my glasses back on, and there it was!  Oh, oh............

That meant I had to fold those eye cups down and look through the binoculars into the sky with my glasses on.  And guess what?  I found that beautiful red-tailed hawk easily!

So my concession to advancing age is that I guess I need to wear those glasses all the time.  That's not easy for me to take, but if it's going to interfere with my birding, I guess I'll adjust.  :)  I can just hear my daughter, Robyn, saying "Boo hoo, so sad, deal with it!"  OK, ok, I'll deal with it.  I just hope my hearing doesn't take a dive in the near future.  I guess I'll have to get a new picture for the header of this blog with me wearing glasses.

The birds are emptying my feeders daily.  I may have to get a job to afford the birdseed!

Thought I'd include a picture of both the male (on right) and female house finch tonight so you can see the difference.  They are already beginning courtship activities, so spring must be on it's way.

After work today, I got a little help setting up an exterior propane tank to my extend-a-stay hookup so I won't have to move the rig in order to get more propane.  Temps have been unusually low in Texas this winter and continue to be below freezing at night.  That auxiliary tank means I can be as warm as I like in the rig.  It's an easy task to take the tank for a fill up compared to packing up and moving the whole rig.  I've certainly made good use of that extend-a-stay hookup that I bought at Anahuac in December.

I leave you with tonight's sunset....not too shabby!

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later,  Judy

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Frost on the windshield this morning

It was a chilly 27* when I took Emma out this morning.  It's a good thing I left the water trickling over night in the kitchen sink, or else I probably would have had a frozen hose and no water.  Just before nine, I headed for headquarters to see if Rob had anything for me to do.  I stopped on the way at the fire crew office to pick up their laminator.  Last year, I was the laminating queen as we got everything ready for the education programs.  I'll be teaching the teachers next week, so I wanted to have everything ready for the class I'll lead on banding birds.  Rob did have a few other things he wanted laminated, so that pretty much took up the morning.

I spent the afternoon calling Texas DOT traveler's centers to see if they'd be interested in putting out some pamphlets that we have about birds.  I only needed to get in touch with about half of the centers on the list to find takers for the 1750 extra pamphlets we have available to give away.  I'll pack them up for Fed-Ex tomorrow, and then I'm going to head for the hills!  A day and a half of office work is about my limit.  Those birds are calling me.  :)

Each night I keep hoping there is going to be a spectacular sunset here.  So far, I've been disappointed.  Quite often the sunset looks promising, but as the sun goes down, the clouds dissipate, and it's not anything worth taking a picture of.  I do love gorgeous sunsets, so I'm hoping tonight is the night.  I've got about twenty minutes to wait.....I'll let you know.

These clouds almost reminded me of fireworks spiraling into the sky.

I had to walk over to the other volunteers sites to get these shots since my site is pretty well surrounded by trees to the west.  If you look very closely at the top of the picture from the middle to the left, you may be able to pick out a flock of about 150 birds in the sky heading toward the sunset.  They just look like dots in the sky, and I don't know what they are since I didn't notice them until I uploaded this photo.

One last shot before Emma and I headed back to the rig.  Although this sunset wasn't spectacular, I'm happy to at least see something besides solid overcast.  :)

For my woman readers:  As I sat outside Sunday afternoon in my rocker enjoying the sun, it was warm enough for me to put on a pair of shorts.  Ugh!  Not only were my legs lily white, but I had obviously neglected to shave my legs for some time.  :(  Added warmth for the cold winter????  I decided to remedy that situation last night.  I got out my electric shaver and buzzed away.  When I went to clean out the blades over the kitchen garbage can with that little brush, the whole contraption seemed to explode in my hand with various pieces falling into my almost full bag of garbage.  What's up with that?  After all, I've only had this shaver for 22 years!  I'm thinking shoddy workmanship for sure!  I decided I wasn't going to go dumpster diving for parts, so I guess I'll just have to replace it.  Perhaps, like my new computer, they've made technical advancements in the last 22 years.  Maybe now all I'll have to do is point it at my legs and the hairs will fly off!  What do you think?

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later,  Judy

Monday, February 15, 2010

Thar she blows!

Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting outside in my rocker enjoying the sun (for a change) and reading a magazine.  Along about three o'clock the wind suddenly blasted out of the northwest catching me by surprise.  That really put my nerves on end as I quickly jumped up to roll up the awning.  A similar gust of wind ripped my awning this summer before I could get it rolled up.  I was lucky yesterday...no rips.  That initial gust turned into high winds for the rest of the day, overnight, and today.  It has been one "whale" of a wind storm.

After spending yesterday relaxing, I got busy today with my chores of cleaning the rig and doing the laundry.  I can't believe the improvement in my Internet reception since I got my new laptop.  I don't think I've ever had such fast reception.  I'm thinking it's a combination of the new computer and taking my son-in-law's advice to go to a Sprint store to have them install my air-card software.  When I plug in the air-card, I get a totally different small window on the screen than before and it says 3G.  I remember being at this same location last year, and it could take up to 30 minutes to upload one picture to the blog.  Now I can upload five pictures in just a few minutes.  I have to say that this has been money well spent!  ;)

There are several games that I enjoy playing on the computer like spider solitaire and scrabble.  A year ago, I purchased a $7.00 game called Flip WORDS2.  It is a word game similar to Wheel of Fortune, where you solve phrases only there is no wheel.  In order to get a letter, you have to form a word beginning with the letter you want from a grid of jumbled letters.  With it installed on my old laptop, I had used up about 60% of the phrases in a year's time.  When I reinstalled it on the new laptop things started over.  That means I'll probably have another two years of playing.  Talk about an entertainment bargain!  Anyway, the game also offers an online version that you can play against others over the airwaves.  I've occasionally tried to sign into the online game, but never had a strong enough connection to be able to play.  So today while the clothes were drying, I gave the online game a try, and wonder of wonders, it worked.  Oh boy, there are players all across the country that play this game, and are they ever fast at finding words!  In no time at all, it seemed, ninety minutes had gone by and I was still enjoying myself.  I'm thinking this could be addicting.  :)  I'll just tell myself that I'm keeping my mind nimble and warding off Alzheimer's!

I must say Happy Birthday to my granddaughter Avery Jade.  She has now embarked on her terrible twos!  If they are terrible, I'll be surprised.  She has been such an easy going baby for my daughter. 

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later,  Judy

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I'm pooped!

I was on the road this morning in the dense fog by 7:00.  It was a 50 mile drive through the hills to the Country Store restaurant where we all met before heading out for a day of birding.  12 people joined me in the refuge van and we headed for the water treatment plant in Burnet, TX.  A member of the Upper Hill Country Bird and Flower Society had made arrangements for us to be allowed in.  Normally, the public is not allowed.  Water treatment plants are quite often some of the better places to go birding.  However, the fog was so thick this morning that the ducks that were on the ponds were barely visible, and as we approached, they paddled away into the mist.  An employee was waiting patiently in a truck for us to finish so he could lock up the gates behind us.  That eliminated our idea of coming back after the fog lifted. 

We headed off for a ranch that is in the ecotourism business.  Since the group had reservations, we were met by the owners and guided on a hike through the ranch after spending some time on the patio viewing the visitors to their numerous bird feeders.  The woodpeckers especially liked the tall slender tree stump that was plastered with peanut butter.  I think the hike was a little under two miles which included an interesting and muddy creek crossing.  I'm sure glad I wore my oldest shoes. Texans in this area are experiencing unusually high water levels after almost two years of severe drought.  The ranch does an excellent job of maintaining trails, bird feeders, and water devices for wildlife.  I'm thinking I'd like to come back during the spring migration.

We got back a little late to the restaurant for lunch, but none of the food was prepared ahead (other than the soup), so everything was hot and fresh.  For a little restaurant out in the middle of nowhere, they were a little overwhelmed with twenty starving birders descending on them at the same time.  Of course, they knew we were coming, and had put on extra staff for the lunch.  I had a delicious hamburger.

By the time everyone got fed, it was 2:30.  We headed to the nearby Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery, and hiked around all of the ponds and down along the Colorado river.  It was great to spend a day with a bunch of enthusiastic birders, and the stipend I received for being the bird guru will just about pay for the tire I had to buy yesterday.  A profitable day in more than one way!  :)

After ten hours in her crate, Emma was more than happy to see me return and we spent the remainder of today's daylight outside.  This is the first time that I have left her for such an extended period, but she did fine.  Since she's been so cooped up, I'm sure the TV won't have the only Olympics happening tonight.  :)

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later,  Judy

Friday, February 12, 2010

An emergency repair and a walk in the hills

This morning, I headed out for Cedar Park to pick up a case of wine that I had ordered.  It's about a 17 mile trip up, down, and around the hill country.  Once you get to Lago Vista, it becomes a four lane roller coaster like drive with a 55 mph limit. About half way to Cedar Park, there was an audible beep from the dashboard, and a message that there was low tire pressure.  Hmmm, I've never had a car let me know when a tire was low on air before.  I slowed down quite a bit and slowly made my way down the highway.  I passed several gas stations, but in these modern times that's all they are....gas and snacks...no mechanics.  As I neared town, I noticed Pampered Auto Repair, pulled in, and explained my situation to the mechanic.  He said that the monitoring systems are sometimes very touchy and that it could just be the colder temperatures that made the monitor go off.  He drove the Focus into a bay and checked all of the tires.  Each was a couple of pounds low, but the back passenger tire was down 15 pounds.  While pumping it up, he noticed a screw stuck into the side of the tire.  It turns out they don't do tire repairs at this shop, and he said that he wasn't sure anyone would repair it since the screw was not in the bottom tread of the tire.  It would be unsafe to use a plug to repair a puncture in the side of the tire.

Great!!!  I asked if he knew where I could take the car, and he gave me two recommendations.  I headed for the nearest one, pulled in, and explained my problem.  They came up with the same diagnosis.  A repair could not safely be done, so after only 8000 miles, I had to replace the tire.  Oh well, at least it didn't blow while I was driving down the highway.

With my wallet a little lighter, I finished the rest of my shopping chores which included getting a big bag of bird seed.  I have had to fill both feeders every day, so I was running low on oil seed.  I don't mind since I get such enjoyment out of watching my feathered friends.

This afternoon after the clouds finally cleared, Emma and I took a nice long walk in the hills.

About a half mile from the rig, there's an old  cedar post corral.  Most of the lands acquired by the refuge in the last 18 years were former ranches.  This prickly pear cactus growing inside the coral attests to the years it has been unused.

Since this is the hill country, there are an abundance of rocks and they were used along with cedar posts to create fence lines.  Everyone around here calls the green trees  in the background cedars, but they are really ash junipers.  February is the month that the male juniper trees emit their pollen, and many folks have severe allergies to the pollen.  Thank goodness, it doesn't bother me.

At the top of one hill, looking toward another.  What a peaceful place to take a hike, and it's my backyard for a couple of months!

Of course, I'll have to end this post with two bird pictures.  ;)

Here's the male lesser goldfinch on the Niger seed sock.

He was soon joined by an American goldfinch.

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later,  Judy