Bastrop Animal Shelter

This is a wonderful place.

I sat down in front of the computer and looked at the empty screen wondering out loud to the two little dogs looking affectionately up at me, what are we going to write about today? Unable to respond in anything that I could understand, they just sat there with their big brown eyes looking doefully at me as if to say, “What the hell are you expecting us to do”.

I thought about it for a bit staring back at them and said,”OK, if you are not going to help, then I will do it on my own”. They wandered back to their chosen places of rest to sleep and I was alone to contemplate a blank screen and not to much going on with the grey matter between my ears. Then I remembered that Sandy and I had taken a trip yesterday to Bastrop Animal Shelter, the place where I was lucky enough to get her. Primarily, she needed a Rabies shot plus a couple of others that she was due. I couldn’t believe that it was 12 months since she and I laid eyes on each other for the first time. and had gone ahead with forging a beautiful relationship at least from her perspective. Me, I wait on her hand and foot along with Mikey, her buddy who also came from the same shelter. The two of them get along just fine with each of them taking it in turns to be the dominant partner. The reason for the trip other than for the vaccinations was so that I could get Sandy in to the groomers as like me, her hair is getting long and she is tangling up with all kinds of plant seeds and burrs and she complains bitterly when I try to comb her out. Time to get it cut short. Me, I will have to wait a bit longer before my trip to the hairdressers.

Bastrop is a nice little Shelter even though it is still a kill shelter. They try to move as many animals as posible to other shelters and of course adopt out a lot more. This is the one place where you can usually see a couple of Great Pyrenees brought in from the surrounding farms. They are put out with the farm animals to guard them from Coyotes and are notorious for wandering off from their task and ending up at the shelter. It is a long drive for me, close to 30 miles one way but worth it as they are a sponsored clinic and much cheaper than my regular vet. They only do shots and simple treatments and anything that requires surgery would have to be done elsewhere.

Their opening hours are very short so I had to get up early as they opened at 10:00 am and it takes me an hour to get there. They operate on a first come first served basis which normally is not a problem as there are some very interesting people in line. Under normal circumstances, we would all wait seated together in a medium sized waiting room with the overflow outside the door but in these troubled times, they had us wait outside. When I arrived at around 11:00 am, there were about ten or so people in front of me, some with more than one dog or cat. One guy had 3 three dogs, another lady had three or more cats in crates so I could not see the exact amount, many people had two dogs so I knew that we were in for a long wait. Normally , seated in the waiting room, there are some very interesting conversations going on with everyone putting in their five cents worth but outside, spread out as we were, the atmosphere was a little subdued. Besides, it’s hard to hold a decent conversation when you are wearing a mask because of the Corun-19 virus and are six feet away from whoever you are talking to. Not everyone wore a mask which I found a little disconcerting. There was a young couple, the guy with the three dogs, who did not. The guy was working the chewing tobacco real hard and spitting often which I found a bit much. Hopefully, the tobacco will kill any germs that he has and most certainly will kill him in later years if he keeps it up. Several other people did not wear a mask and I made sure to stay away from them by a goodly distance.

A couple of hours later, it was our turn and I dutifully handed Sandy over to the veterinary assistant and then waited around until they were through with her. In the meantime, I struck up conversations with the Clinic Staff as we spent an awful lot of last year together when Sandy was on her heartworm treatment regime from which she came through one hundred percent cured. They really are nice people. There is a lot to be said for a small town which Bastrop most certainly is.

We left home at 10:00 am and did not get back until 4:00 pm, a total of six hours of which two were for travelling but it was worth it not only for Sandy but also to renew my acquaintances with the staff at Bastrop Animal Shelter. The good news was that the Starbucks in Bastrop was open but had a long line so I drove on to the one off Hwy 290 in Austin. I at least managed to quell my thirst for a latte on the way home. We don’t need to go back for a couple of months when she is due for a couple of other shots including the one for anti-Rattlesnake venom. This is Texas after all…

Now, all that remains is to call the groomer and set up an appointment.

Written 5/4/2020

This Virus

The Line at Starbucks. Notice the pedestrians.

In the good old days, before the Covid-19 virus took over our lives, I would not give a second thought to jumping in my truck to go to whatever store that the thought had crossed my mind. Nowadays, things are just a little different. Apart from the fact that not all stores are open due to their inability to enforce social distancing because of the nature of what they sell or offer, hairdressers and massage parlors come to mind, the State Governors deemed that the only businesses that should be open are those with absolute necessities like food and hardware stores and several others. In my part of the country, that is HEB for food and Home Depot or Lowe’s for hardware. There are many others but those are the biggest and the ones that I frequent occasionally.

Lowe’s at Brodie Lane, Texas

Both of these stores have gone to extreme lengths to enforce social distancing by limiting the number of people allowed in the store at a time, placing markings on the floor at the checkout registrar and providing hand wipes and sanitizing the food carts. They have tried to make it safer for their employees by installing perspex screens between the check out and the customer and have a permanent cleaning staff who walk around all day doing nothing but wiping things down. Even so, I am very grateful that they are willing to put their lives on the line to keep the stores open. They may have other motives and I am sure they do and probably do not consider themselves to be heroes but to me and many others, they are. I realize that they are not driven out of a sense of fulfillment but something more practical like putting bread on their own table but it could come at a cost.

The reason I am on this diatribe and reverting back to my opening sentence is to understand my reluctance to go out to any of these stores. I used to visit HEB 2-3 times a week even if I only wanted a couple of items. Same with Home Depot and Lowe’s. Jump in the truck, take a quick drive to the nearest store, buy what I wanted and drive home or many times in my case, take a longer drive with a Starbucks latte to listen to an Audiobook on the way home.

Home Depot at Brodie Lane, Texas

I have one pond that has an algae problem meaning that the water is green and it needs treating, which is not a big job. It does require buying and then applying Algae Control to the water and as I happened to be nearly out of the stuff, I thought to myself, lets go to Home Depot or Lowes as both of those stores carry what I needed. So I jumped into my truck and made the short drive of around 5 miles to the one in town pulling into the Home Depot parking lot only to discover that it was pretty full and there were a lot of parked vehicles meaning that there were also a lot of people in the store. Wasting no time, I drove to the closest Lowe’s which was only half a mile down the road (these two stores are in competition with one another) only to discover that their parking lot was also full up with vehicles. I know it was a Saturday and both stores had just received the shipments of summer plants but even so, I was a little surprised how busy it was. It had not been like this a week earlier when I had reason to stop by.

Then I remembered that our Governor, Greg Abbott had just lifted some of the regulations that had been in place and some of the other stores were allowed to open as long as they practised social distancing which also included the aforementioned hairdressers, although I have yet to figure out how to cut hair and still maintain a 6 foot distance. All of those people that have been cooped up in their houses and apartments must be making the most of it and were out and about. I thought about it for a bit and decided that I had enough Algaecide at home to get started and that I would wait for midweek to make the trip to the stores if I needed more. The truth is, I did not want to go into a store where there were a lot of people, some of whom would not be very careful of how they carried themselves and would forget the rules.

Which brings me to the point of this discussion. It’s one thing having to shop for food and the other necessities of life but to return to semi normal when this pandemic is still very much alive does tend to beg the question. I know that for myself, I am very reluctant to get out into any sort of crowds or to willingly put myself in the line of fire even if there is only the remotest chance of catching the virus. I realize that I am fortunate that I am retired with sufficient income to see me through as opposed to being a working man or woman and having to put bread on the table to feed a family, which does give me choices. I choose to stay home and only venture out for necessities, in my case food, Starbucks and algaecide.

Starbucks at Escarpment, Slaughter Lane, Texas

By the way, There are several Starbucks that I visit in my immediate area. There are several next to different HEB’s but of late, it has been very difficult knowing what sort of hours they keep. Just lately, a couple are closing at 2:00 pm while others vary depending on the amount of traffic. The one at Circle C and Escarpment, which is very conveniently next to my favorite HEB, is keeping weird hours and I never know what time they will close. The few times in the past week or so that I have been there when they are open, there has been a line of 20 or so vehicles plus usually a couple of people on bikes and even a couple of walk ups. It is a little frustrating as they are not keeping regular hours and it’s a kinda hit and miss game. Probably a good thing when you get right down to it as I drink too many Lattes and spend way too much money per month/year on the stuff. I consider coffee as my only real vice as I gave up drinking more than 12 years ago coupled with the fact that the pretty girls no longer notice me and I have given up trying to attract them. To them, I am just another old man on the road of life fast reaching the end of the journey.

HEB at Escarpment, Slaughter Lane, Texas

I wonder how long it will take to return to any form of normality. Here in Texas, there have already been protests at the State Capitol as a couple of hundred noisy demonstrators complete with their armor and guns, have blockaded the road. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and beliefs but to me, it does seem a little premature to end the lockdown. It could easily start a second wave of infected people which could be far worse than the first time around and we would have to do this all over again for an even longer time period.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how it turns out. Me, I am only going to the stores when I have no other choice.

Given the choice, I would like to die in my bed, naturally…

Written 5/2/2020

Something to Say

The Roses are blooming

I haven’t written in quite a while
anything to make readers smile
about life at home or about the ponds
or even of walks that I have yet to go on
the truth being that I am in a rut
staying at home is anything but
good when there is a world to see
out there just inviting me
the truth is that I am more than concerned
that trips from home as we have learned
should only be from necessity
like going to the grocery store
and staying apart six feet or more
or maybe to the Home Depot
the hardware store to get and go
and come back home to another task
hoping that to make it last
to fill in yet a bit more time
instead of waiting here in line
at the local Starbucks Store
with cars lined up a block or more
as people yearn for normality
instead of closed shops and roads that are free
of traffic and people nowhere to be found
all staying at home contributing to the sound
of silence as we wait out the time that we need
to get back to normal and be virus freed.

Written 4/27/2020

Staying in Place

Staying in place is what they said
this is what we have to do
in order to beat the virus thing
as it is more serious than regular flu
so following orders like a good chap
and doing what they say I must do
I stayed home tending to my ponds
and writing bad poetry which is nothing new
going out when the needs must
grocery shopping to name but a few
and of course I couldn’t miss out
with a stop at my Starbucks drive thru
where the line of cars it twenty deep
as others have the same urge as I
not so much for the coffee to drink
as mingling with others the reason why
even if we are far apart
sitting in our cars as we wait in line
just to be out with others the same
almost human contact makes us feel fine
staying at home is nothing new
for me as I do it all of the time
as we grow old the needs grow less
and mixing with others is not so sublime
I have my dogs whose company I need
although they are sleeping most of the time
but the minute I move to get out of my chair
wide awake and tails wagging they are right in line
I can always find something to do
usually out in the garden I go
tend to the ponds and take care of the fish
or pull weeds in the yard with my trusty hoe
and if the weather is not so kind
and I must stay in so not to get wet
a can always listen to an Audiobook
where the hero the good guy never gets upset
and rescues the damsel that is in distress
vanquishing the bad guys for their sins
even though these are trying times
human contact few and far between
many years of living by myself
for me does not really change the scene
I will continue the way that I am
me and the dogs living alone
enjoying our company the best we can
staying in our home sweet home.

Written 4/17/2020

Another Hike at McKinney Roughs on 7-11-2015

DSC_5356On the spur of the moment, I decided to take a small hike at McKinney Roughs. I had this sudden urge to get out and walk and I knew that McKinney’s trails were fairly easy as the weather was hot and I had left it late to get out. I pulled into McKinney Trail Head East around 2:30 pm and it was already hot. I had lots of water and my wide brimmed hat with the neck cover so I was all set to go. There was one other horse trailer in the Trail Head but they were getting ready to leave so it looked like I had that end of the trails to myself.

I entered on Whitetail and walked at a steady pace. Luckily, most of the entire trail is in the shade and the few moments in the sun were bearable. When I came to the first pond, I walked as quietly as I could in order to catch a glimpse and maybe a picture of any Herons that might be there but I was out of luck. There were not very many flowers in bloom and I had to content myself with taking pictures of the many variations in the trails and later on in the hike, the different skylines I was able to see.

From Whitetail, I took Bobcat Ridge and finally to Pine Ridge which brought me back to where I had started. Pine Ridge is a very interesting trail. It starts on the high ground and there are wonderful views all around as you can see from the pictures. Then it starts to descend into the valley and in some places, the descent is on man made steps which in most cases have suffered severely from washout. When you reach the bottom, there is a plank bridge to get across the creek and then this trail winds its way upwards and towards the end, the ascent is also by the man made steps. You have to be careful as there is quite a drop off and the footing is not the best but it is well worth the challenge. Eventually, the trail comes out on top of a different ridge heading back to Whitetail and the parking lot.

I covered a little over 7 miles and was very surprised that I had been out there over 4 hours. As usual, I was soaked and had to change into some dry clothes before getting into the car and heading into Bastrop for my Starbucks reward. All in all, a very enjoyable few hours although disappointing as far as picture taking goes.

Thoughts on this time of the year.

Sunset in Texas

Sunset in Texas

Another year has almost gone
with us wondering where it did go
it flew by so fast with nary a sound
no explanations to tell us so
one day follows another as it should be
after the next at breakneck speed
and it seemed not so long ago
that it was like an eternity
as the days went slowly by
and filled our hearts with joy

It seemed like only yesterday
that I celebrated in my own way
my birthday which in January comes
and here we are a year passed by
and if on my birthday I wake to see
a year older I shall be.

Where did it go all of those days
how did I spend them, in my own way
or did others tell me what to do
of this I know for I am sure
that I chose how I was engrossed
doing the things I like the most.

With the New Year comes new hope
for accomplishments in the things we try
resolutions set with good intent
with extra effort in our mind
to do the things that we have resolved
we need to change for reasons why
we cannot fathom and yet we believe
and ourselves we do deceive
as in faith and in fate and chance to try
to be different if we apply.

Me, I no longer resolve to be
a better this or a different that
or to lose weight or give up booze
or not waste money on trivial things
to eat better and read more books
and spend more time in the gym
drink less coffee of the Starbucks kind.
and get to bed each night at nine.

No, the only thing that I resolve
is to first wake up to start the day
and to give thanks in my own way
that I opened my eyes and have my say
in this game of life for I’m ready to play
to live life to the fullest to give it my best
and trust Mother Nature to do the rest
and I will do the best that I can
to help her out with her Grand Plan.

Oh yes, Happy New Year

Pond Society Meeting – March 19, 2012

Lilly. No idea of the name

We had our monthly meeting of the Pond Society last evening which ended up being a very good one. As per usual, we were treated to our welcoming feast of good things which included cheeses, sandwiches and fresh veggies for us to munch on. This time, someone had baked some small cakes which were absolutely delicious.

On my way in, I stopped at my most favorite store next to Home Depot and Lowes, which is Starbucks, and cashed in a free drink card that I had earned by buying 15 lattes on my Starbucks card. It seems that Starbucks is doing everything they can to encourage my habit. On the other hand, I did read somewhere that coffee is good at warding of some types of cancer so in my mind, that makes it OK to drink the stuff. Heck, I don’t even like the taste that much. It seems that my car has a mind of its own and can’t pass a Starbucks without turning in. I usually have the medium Grande size but because the last one was free, I had the giant Vente size AND splurged on a hazelnut latte. It went down very well with the free food and a drink that size lasts a long time. It also encouraged many trips to the Men’s Room.

Following this 15 minutes of feeding our faces and chatting to the people around us, Bill Brister called the meeting to order. He brought up several items of business which included looking for volunteers for a couple of pond cleaning projects. There was a sign sheet going around and several people signed up to help.

B.J. got up and made another impassioned plea for volunteers to help man the tables and a couple of other things. She announced that the pond count was up to 19 with a few more to confirm so it looks like we will have a tour. Not that there was too much doubt and I know that B.J. can be very persuasive.

The speaker that had originally been scheduled was from LCRA and was going to talk to us about water and lack of it. He had to pull out at the last-minute and a replacement speaker was found to take his place. The gentleman in question is an Environmental Scientist, Andrew Clammann, working for The City‘s Watershed Protection Department.

I don’t think I have ever seen anyone more enthusiastic about his chosen field. He gave us a brief rundown of his background including a stint as a teacher at Bowie High School. In the end though, he said that he wanted to spend more time in his chosen field which is the study of all insects and creatures that inhabit our ponds and wetlands. So, he gave up studying kids for studying insects. Probably made the right decision for at least the insects don’t answer back. On the other hand, they don’t pay much attention either probably no less than the kids do.  Apologies to Andrew if I start to refer to them as bugs. Somehow, like the majority of us, anything that crawls or flies is a bug. There are good bugs and bad bugs but they are still bugs…

He brought with him many samples in little glass phials plus a whole board full of dragon flies. It seemed that either because most of us have at least seen the dragonflies as opposed to many of the other bugs he was talking about, that we spent a lot of time talking about them. He described what seemed like hundreds of them but was probably closer to ten or fifteen.

The members really warmed up to Andrew and his subject and peppered him with many questions. He described the “things” in the glass phials with the leech getting the most attention and then in response to another members question, he raised a very interesting point. He described us as pond enthusiasts as being mostly beneficial in helping to promote this vast array of water type insect life. He had already told us about the natural food chain where the smaller get eaten by the bigger and on up the line and how in order to maintain this natural order, he recommended that we leave a couple of inches of sludge and silt in the bottom of the ponds as it is a natural breeding ground for many of these water bugs. Some stay in the water for up to seven years before they emerge into some sort of flying or crawling insect and this is usually because of the urge to mate.

Needless to say, this really opened the door for those that want pristine clear water to the rest of us that let nature take its course and there followed a brief discussion on this subject. I for one, only clean out the worst of the muck from my ponds and I rely very heavily on having a good filtering system to keep the water clear. I have so many oak trees that it is a hopeless job trying to clean it all out anyway and I can’t do much to keep it clear when the fish are going through their mating ritual as they stir everything up including the female fish.

On the other hand, Andrew did talk against leaving more than a couple of inches as anything below that following the natural order of things, start to rot and turn black and when it does, it has lost all of its usefulness for any insect to live in it. So, the question is still out there. How clean is clean and how clean is too clean.

Andrew spoke for over an hour and I managed to tape most of it on video. As with most of us amateurs, the quality of the sound is not so good but I think most of you will enjoy it. At least, when you get bored, you can turn it off.

Here is a link to Andrews entire presentation. I strongly encourage you to take a look. 

I personally really enjoyed listening to Andrew. He made it very interesting and no one can ever doubt his enthusiasm for his work. Bugs took on a whole new meaning as he explained what many of them do.

Some of the things that we can look forward to in the next couple of months are April’s meeting which will be a member favorite on transplanting, replanting and potting ‘water lilies’ and bog plants.  The May meeting will be our annual plant swap. If you have any plants that you would like to pass on even if you are not interested in getting anything new, please be ready to bring your plants along.