Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Life with Oak Wilt

Some of you know that the Texas Hill Country is being hit with Oak Wilt.  Jack and I began our fight with it in June 2012.   In late 2012, we purchased an additional 43 acres in front of our existing house.  The land had over 600 trees on it and a stock tank.    In 2013 we discovered some of these trees had oak wilt.

In 2013, we treated the trees that could be saved with a fungicide and had a six-foot trench dug around the trees to try to contain the spread of the disease to the rest of the trees.   We continued this process through 2013 and thought we had stopped the spread.

Unfortunately in late 2014 we discovered the disease had jumped the trench so we treated with the bigger trees with fungicide again and dug an even longer deeper trench almost encircling the diseased trees.  Click on any picture to get a better view.

Fungicide pouring into the roots.

Rock saw digging trench

In February this year we hired Chad Ottmers who turned out to be a fifth cousin descended from Conrad Bock, to bring his 150 HP bulldozer over and began pushing over trees.   

Since February, Jack and Luis have been putting those trees in burn piles.  Then they burn them after it has rained here or even during a rain.  If you ever wonder why farmers are leaving all their dead trees in the fields, wonder no more.

These lovely big oaks have big roots and it takes large equipment and hard work to remove them.

Jack's tractor at the start of this project.  This might be a foreshadowing of things to come....

Unfortunately  in June 2015, this year we looked out one day after a storm and discovered that one of our beloved trees between the quilt haus and the Heinrich Lindig cabin had a dead limb.  Here are the trees this past spring!

At the time, we thought lighting had struck it. This mott of live oaks was far from the other diseased trees and it was a new infection!.  So fungicide was applied to no avail and we lost these trees within two months.

Here is a picture of those same trees this fall.   It's hard to believe but we went through a grieving period for these once beautiful trees.

Because these trees were big and between the two buildings, our neighbor George Irwin came over with his " brush claw" to push over these trees in early December.  He then picked up the trees and carried them over the fence.

Jack tried to cut off the limbs to decrease the weight of the trees but barely kept up with George and his big equipment.

However, at some point, George's equipment was too small to deal with the roots of the big trees so we rented a back hoe so that he could dig out the roots and push over the trees.

Now, all those trunks and branches are sitting in the ditch waiting to be burned.  For those of you close by, it will look like the funeral pyres on the Ganges.   But don't worry, again we will be burning after a rain and have our sons and grandsons helping Jack.

At this point we have given up the battle and decided to plant new trees and push over the dead trees. We like to think we are returning the land to how it looked when the early German settlers arrived.

Stay tuned for episode 2  ----   planting new trees and burning old ones !

Monday, May 11, 2015

Today, while feeding the hummingbirds and wondering where the rain was, Jack discovered baby walking sticks had hatched on our table on the porch.  They are about 1/2 inch in size.  The cap is a milk bottle cap.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Remember the bluebird eggs?   Five pretty blue eggs on March 23.  According to Eastern Bluebirds incubate their eggs 12 to 14 days so .......
Get Ready      
Here they are on April 15th.  They were very shy!  They are probably a week or two old.  Click on the photo for a bird's eye view.  

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Every year Jack and I look forward to all the wildflowers and especially the plant called Fragrant or Pink Mimosa.  The Wildflowers of Texas Hill Country book describe it as an erect tortured looking bush growing on hillsides and in brushy areas.
The flowers look like little pink puff balls and are about 1/2 inch.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Another visitor to our fountain!

Sometimes you get lucky!   I was out filling the hummingbird feeders for the second time today and heard a familiar sound.   Sound!     I waited and then quietly went into the house to get the camera.  Here is what visited us today.  A male Summer Tanager

Yes that is a black-chinned hummingbird that came to see who was using his water fountain.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

I learned how to sew with oilcloth last week from a friend.  Here is my first bag.  Of course, I had to go out and buy lots more oilcloth to make more STUFF!.

First it was a set of placemats.  Then I talked my daughter, Carolyn,  into buying more oilcloth and bringing it when she came to visit.  She made another  set of placemats.  The great thing about the them is is they can be wiped off and they are reversible.
Then my granddaughter and daughter-in-law came to visit and Carolyn and I were off making more bags.    Danae's bag has pockets on the inside and outside.  
And here is Katie with her new bag.  

Tomorrow I am off to cover composition notebooks, and anything else that doesn't move!  The great thing about oilcloth is you can use all the small pieces left over for coasters or wallets.  

Want oilcloth?  You can find it at El Interior or Zinger's in Austin, Valli and Kim in Dripping Springs, or Things In A Room in Fredericksburg.  

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Hummingbirds and Bluebonnets

Here is the new fountain that Jack finished yesterday,  The calcium in the water coated the old fountain.    We thought we would reuse the old fountain after we soaked it in vinegar but alas on the way to its bath, it fell out of the tractor bucket.

The hummers found it this morning.  They didn't mind that we had changed it.  Do they think this is a big feeder?  It isn't even red!    The hummingbirds love to play at the edges of the fountain and they sometimes skate across the pond.

For our neighbor, Pete, here are some bluebonnets in our yard.  They are appearing everywhere. 

Spring is here!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

I missed a day of blogging.  I have been trying to capture the number of hummingbirds that we have but they are being really shy this year.    We probably had about 60 tonight but I couldn't step out to get their picture.  They just scattered.  The cool front caused the hummers to "bunch" up before continuing there trek north.     We have five feeders up.  HEB is out of the big bags of sugar so I know everyone else in the hill country is feeding them too.   Hopefully tomorrow I can get a better photo.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring is such a wonderful time here in the country.  It's hard to keep up with the daily activities of our fellow residents.  We are supposed to be working on the flower beds or quilts and get side-tracked into watching the birds, turkeys, foxes, skunks, snakes, lizards, and frogs.

Here is a preview of what's to come.  

 On 3/18 Jack took this picture.  Guess who's egg it is.

Five days later on 3/23, there are five eggs.  A bluebird lays one egg per day.

In about 12 days, we should have chicks.

And about 16 days later, they will fledge.

Bluebirds don't mind us looking in their nest and it helps us make sure a cowbird hasn't tried to fool momma bluebird.

Amazingly, she will probably have another set of chicks after these leave the nest. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

We started with six hummingbirds this morning and by evening we had twelve.  I spent a lot of time trying to capture them at the feeders but they are still a little skittish.  One of the hummingbirds has taken to sitting on the Weather Stick guarding one of the feeders!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Turkey Day

Today was a cool, rainy day. We got about an inch of rain.   For some reason the turkeys find this to be romantic weather.  The toms spend a lot of time showing off and the hens keep on eating.  

Hens lay about 11 eggs over a two week period and then begin to incubate their eggs.  This lasts for about 28 days.  Turkeys lay their eggs in nests on the ground.  Mortality is high for the poults until they can nest in trees.  Poults (newly hatched turkeys) begin to roost in trees after about two weeks.
Rio Grande Turkeys

If you look real close, you can see a squirrel sitting on top of the bird feeder!

Friday, March 20, 2015


Today, we have three hummingbirds and lots of house, lesser and gold finches.   In addition, I saw a turkey flying from the top of the hill out into the field below.  He must have been 30 feet in the air. He glided past like a B52 without flapping a wing. Of course, I didn't get my camera up in time to capture this event.

As we wait for the rain, the gobblers have been busy showing up their magnificen
t plumage.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Spring is so close .......  The birds have been returning for weeks.  On Saturday, March 14, we saw our first black-chinned hummingbird. He joins a broad-tailed female that has stayed with us all winter.  We keep thinking she will move north soon.  However, today she was guarding the feeder from the new intruder.