Kerry Miranda

Can you believe this guy is a professional photographer?  WTH – I have a plant growing out of my head.  It is hard to imagine but there was a life before the Pandemic hit.  Every year Houston hosts the largest Rodeo in the world, natch.  As much as I would love to visit, there are just too many people in one place.  This year we decided to go to our nearest town, Tomball, where the Sam Houston Trail Riders arrive by horses and wagons from Plantersville for a reception/meal/bunk.  It was cold but gloriously bright (which is maybe why Teddy couldn’t see the plant), so we arrived early in great anticipation.  The location was around the old railway station so we had a look inside, for the first time in 16 years.  Why do we always ignore the history right beside us?

Which one is real?

My husband looks like a real cowboy – until he opens his mouth…  It has been a long time since there was a working station office at Teague or Tomball but there is still a working commercial railroad.  I was 20 minutes late for a dental appointment when I had to wait patiently on the other side of the line.  We met a charming docent who told us all about the train museum.  He was fascinated by our Scottish accents and had another regular Scottish visitor who comes to the museum when he sees family in Texas.  The world is full of train geeks.

Kerry got friendly with the station master…

Halfway through the rodeo, we got news that the Pandemic had reached us and for the first time in the Houston Rodeo’s history it was cancelled.  One of the first patients in our county had visited the Rodeo but had not traveled anywhere else.  After a month in our local hospital, he finally recovered and got to go home.  It was touch and go but he was one of the lucky ones.  More posts about the trail ride to come.

 

For Eliza

Ernie and Harry

Eliza had asked to see some photographs of my regular walk around our containment pond, so without further ado… We often see all the varieties of heron fishing together. There are little snowy egrets, little green heron, night heron, Great Egrets and Great Blue Heron.

Rory, the American Robin

I love Robins – British Robins are small and vividly red like our Cardinals. The American Robins have such lovely songs and their coloring is so pretty.

Shrimpy Shrimp is always in flower – even on the coldest days!

She is a native of Mexico – beloved by butterflies and hummingbirds

Happy Hibiscus!

I love this tree sized pink Hibiscus bush which is on one of our shared neighborhood flower beds. We live in a posh commune…

Vladimira, the Black Vulture

I opened my front door and Vladimiri was standing right in front of me, drinking the water from one the neighbor’s sprinklers.  I chatted to her and admired her juvenile who flew away but she was not bothered by my presence. Unlike the next wonderful creature.

Walter, the Water Moccasin?

I am not entirely sure if this is the venomous Water Moccasin or a Diamond Back Water snake. Teddy was shouting, “Don’t get too close!”, to no avail as I was determined to get a shot of the snake swimming. It was so EXCITING!!

Pineapple Gauva Blossoms. They have delicious little fruit.

Bobby, the Blackbird

This is the American blackbird – not dissimilar to the European version but with a gorgeous flash of scarlet on the wings.

The Waltons – Whistling Ducks

Whistling Ducks are not really true ducks, nor geese – they are a sub family Dendrocygninae.  Some Whistling Ducks, further south than us, nest in trees to keep the eggs safe from alligators. I think we will have many babies soon…

Bonnie, the Eastern Bluebird

The local Bluebird Group have little houses all over our township and this year we have TWO pairs of Bluebirds of Happiness.

Fredericksburg ist Wunderbar!


It took us many hours to drive to Fredericksburg, mostly because it is 235 miles from our home but also it was Christmas time and we had to pass south of Austin. Austin has the unfortunate title of most congested city in Texas (and you thought Houston traffic was bad…) Would y’alls please stop moving to Texas??? We tried to stop in Bastrop but they were queuing out the door for the only open restaurant downtown on Sunday and it was bloody freezing. There is a distinct difference in weather between our house in the swampy south and the drier climate of the middle of Texas in hill country. We ended up at a Dunkin Donuts but it was fine.


When we finally reached Fredericksburg, we quickly unpacked and left our hotel which was disappointing. Ah well, the weather was beautiful – vividly blue skies with cool, clear weather and sunshine. It seemed that most of Austin and San Antonio was visiting Fredericksburg but there was a fun atmosphere. There seemed to be more wineries since we last visited and now you can drink wine in a disposable cup along the main street, meandering between wineries, on a SUNDAY! I bet some of the original inhabitants were turning in their graves… When we moved to Texas, almost 16 years, I was delighted and fascinated that many counties were still dry (no alcohol). Modern life has reached us but you still can’t buy hard liquor on a Sunday.

If you are wondering about my hypocrisy – ‘unwanted people moving to Texas” – of course I have German ancestors in the Heinz 57 variety of my DNA! My great grandparents were Dellingers who settled in North Texas in the 1880s. The original Dellinger was from Baden in Germany. I think that gives me a legitimate claim to thoroughly enjoy all aspects of German Texas… 😊 Just recently an Irish cousin discovered that our Leonard ancestors in Ireland were originally Leinnarts from Germany – that was a real surprise. It shouldn’t have though been because several people spoke to me in German on both visits to Fredericksburg. I just pretend that I am REALLY German because it makes visitors happy. When I was 7, I went on a trip to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. I was wearing a kilt and Aran sweater with long dark ringlets. A group of American tourists wanted to take photographs of the cute little Irish colleen and my mum whispered, “Don’t tell them you are American.”

By the time Teddy and I reached the end of the Main Street we were desperate for a drink and enjoyed a gorgeous local rose wine from a winery which quenched our thirst. We started talking to another couple, about our age, with that excitement you get when meeting another couple on vacation. They were just visiting for the day but we enjoyed chatting together, losing our inhibitions. On our solo return we realized that our tummies were empty. I could smell an amazing smell right behind this winery – Fischer and Weiser. They were only serving snacks when we went in but told us that the smell emanated from a tiny shack behind the street. I would have missed it, if the staff hadn’t pointed it out.

I haven’t eaten a burger since the ‘80s but this was the best that I have ever had! The delightful owner, Jennie, makes the burgers from smoked brisket and they were soooo good. When she told me she was from Peru then it all made sense – Peru is the gastronomic capital of Latin America. Everything tastes amazing, even the bread. So we go all the way to Fredericksburg and eat a burger made by a lovely Peruvian lady – but I bet it was local beef! It was the Sunday before Christmas but warm enough to eat outside in twilight. Welcome to Texas.

Fredericksburg Fox Squirrel

As we meandered along the beautiful High Street, we noticed that the visitors had changed. At one time it was mostly white local visitors but now the Far East and Latin America were represented. Many of them seemed like family groups – I guess this might be one of the destinations for visitors arriving at Houston. So many hundreds of thousands of snowbirds fly in during the winter holidays. On that note, I read a hilarious piece in my news feed about flocks of Grackles terrifying the North! They are migratory sub tropical birds that settle in vast roosts – so successful in the Houston area that they are spreading North.

Grackle, courtesy of Pixabay

There was too much sunshine to make this a good shot but I just love Teddy surrounded by giant Cacti!

Medina, Texas

On our little trip to Fredericksburg, in the Texas Hill Country, we took a road trip to Bandera which is the Cowboy Capital of Texas.  Teddy had been longing to buy some arrowheads that he had spotted at the huge Antique mart a few years back.  It’s possible that they were the same ones but arrowheads are plentiful in this part of Texas.  As we were browsing, I spotted the mart cat and just had to pick him up for a close cuddle.  He was a snuggly, if heavy, brown tabby cat who purred even when I handed him to Teddy.  His cuddles lightened our hearts somewhat. The staff told me they would sell him for $99.99…  I might have bought him if they weren’t joking about their much loved mouser.

We had lunch at the down home restaurant, filled with locals before we took the back road to Medina, on our return to Fredericksburg.  We spotted this old girl on our way back to the car – I want one just like that…

Medina is a small village, famous for apple orchards.  I was desperate for a good coffee and to my astonishment, I found the best latte west of Austin.  Core Coffee shop was so unique.  It was run as part of an evangelical mission and the coffee was from Honduras.  Every single item in the restaurant had a religious theme – from the crosses on the wall and mugs to the bible on the coffee table.  There were even scriptures in the immaculately clean ladies bathroom.


It was a huge improvement on the generic Starbucks and the staff were charming and friendly.  It was not a rich community but it looked like a lovely place to live.  The light was so bright that I struggled to get a decent shot of the main street so I sepia-ed the second shot.  It could be from the 1950’s.

Texas Landman business in Medina. The building is made of local limestone.

Medina Main Street

Always save the tree!

I am a map reader and find it impossible to follow a GPS instruction so I noted that the road from Bandera to Medina, then Kerrville, looked remote and interesting.  As we were driving away from Medina, I spotted what looked like a deer fence around a ranch.  Then I saw a striped animal – it  was a Zebra in the middle of Texas!  Then I realized it was an exotic animal fence but why just one Zebra?  He looked so lonely – maybe there were other friends beyond my view.  Then we started to climb dramatically.  There were switchbacks and very steep gradients with road strips that warned me I was going too fast at 30 mph – that ain’t happened before!  It was too dangerous to really look at the view or stop for many miles.

Finally, I found somewhere to stop and take in the view.  No tourists – just trees and hills.  A little piece of heaven.  Well it might have been Heaven if my passenger had stopped cringing every time I turned a precarious corner – “Watch the edge!” is still ringing in my ears. 😀

 

The Grinch won’t leave!

What is it about the holidays?  My mental health is better than it has been in months but still the festive season pushes all my buttons.  I think I used to enjoy Christmas but at some point it just became stressful.  It was better when there was very little money in our lives.  Presents were much needed and usually a delight – despite a white and brown polyester dressing gown that I had to wear for years…  In later years my late crazy mother got her knickers in a twist about the varieties of Christmas puddings and drove her daughter nuts trying to find the PERFECT one.  Remember when there was only one or you made your own?

As my mental health was improving during fall, I got very busy creating postcards from Teddy’s beautiful images.  Then I started on my handmade soaps and enjoyed the process.  I wrapped them prettily and gifted them to everyone.  It backfired somewhat as I made some friends feel that they had to reciprocate.  The true joy is in giving with no expectations.

Then Teddy got some unanticipated leave from his new job and we went to Fredericksburg for Christmas, possibly the most famous German town in central Texas Hill Country.  It was really beautifully decorated and the weather was fantastic – photos to follow.  Despite enjoying my environment, historic buildings and endless wineries, I couldn’t stop being irritated.

  • There were too many tourists yet we were two of them…
  • The other cars were driving like crazy Grinches – especially through Austin, the most traffic-congested city in Texas.
  • Our luxurious room wasn’t quite clean enough (it really wasn’t).
  • I was bored and tired.
  • The road from Medina to Kerrville was ridiculous – hairpin bends and really steep gradients. I guess I missed the point about visiting the hill country.
  • Teddy sleeps like an owl and I am like a bear. Maybe I should hibernate through winter??
  • Other guests. That’s a standalone but they were talking outside in broad daylight, beeping their cars locked and worse still, talking in their room at 7 pm.  They ate all the breakfast.

I know what you are thinking – poor Teddy.  It’s true that he put up with a Grinch wife but we still had wonderful meals and laughed all the time.  I am hoping that made up for the time, after driving for hours in silence, I turned on the CD to keep myself focused AND THEN he started talking.  I told him to Shut the F*** Up and gave him the finger.  Thirty seven years and counting – I love you Teddy!!!!

 

Hooves and Paws

This is the prettiest bison I have ever seen.  It was the color of a teddy bear, gently snoozing at Franklin Safari Park.  Franklin is a small town just north of College Station, where A & M University resides.  The Safari Park is privately owned and the animals were really well cared for.  Franklin had a F3 Tornado a few months ago.  I remember seeing it on the news and wondering where Franklin, Texas was.  Many of the workers lost their homes but all the animals survived.  Life is full of curious miracles.  We gave the park a large donation along with the entry fee.

Don’t you just want to cuddle this little calf?  So precious with a cute curly coat.

Breastfeeding the twins in public!

This is an Asian otter who refused to let me take a photo of his lovely wee face so instead you have a photo of his lovely coat and toes.

We don’t have prairie dogs near us so I love them!

Isn’t his stripe down his back lovely?

An Aussie Immigrant

Another Ankole Watuzi – even bigger horns on this one

‘Look at my perfect babies!’

‘Are you sure you don’t have snacks’?

“I only have one wing but my pink feet are so perfect”.  We noticed there were quite a few special animals at this park who were just as healthy and happy as the perfect specimens.  I have a soft spot for broken creatures just like me.

 

 

 

 

Weird Wednesday

Yeah, it’s perfectly normal to see a tame black vulture on a beat up truck in backwoods Texas…

Teddy is really blowing kisses at a camel – we miss them so much!  It’s also hump day.  Happy Wednesday!

This lovely Ankole-Watusi who has the largest horns in the bovine world made me cry with laughter.  Teddy has normal OCD and his crazy fear is sticky hands/stuff.  This glorious critter was so excited to see his first guests at Franklin Safari park that as soon as I took the photo, he leaned in and DROOLED!  It was filling up the side pocket of the car…and Teddy was beginning to panic.  Once I stopped laughing we gently rolled the window up and I passed over the disinfectant wipes that I have to carry for Teddy.  He was torn between his delight at being so close and his horror at the drool.

Only one of us could ever live at a farm…

Courtship

These are African grey crowned cranes – although it was silent I imagined I could hear tribal drums.

So many of us start a courtship with a dance.  I met Teddy at my friend’s raucous 21st birthday party and one dance was all it took.  Skip to 38 years later and we just spent a fabulous weekend visiting Franklin Safari Park, just north of College Station.  We rarely took vacations together lately because of our sick elderly cat.  I was desperate to see and touch animals because the house is so quiet and this was just perfect.  Many more amazing photographs to come.

Holy Rosary Church, Rosenberg, TX

At first glance this Roman Catholic church in Rosenberg, Texas, seemed a little plain but the stained glass was spectacular.

The names, on the historical sign, give you a little insight into the original settlers in this little town.  From the memorials, it seemed as though there was an equal mix of Czech, German, Irish and latterly Hispanic.  I was touched by the little rose garden planted for loved ones who had passed on.  Every Catholic Church I have visited in Texas has been open to any visitors and that fills me with hope for a trusting, accepting future.

Rosenberg Railroad Museum

Look at that Caboose!

I admit my ignorance; I had no idea what a caboose was until I visited the Rosenberg Railroad Museum.  This bright red MoPac Caboose went at the end of the train and the engine at the front.  It was an office of sorts for the conductor and brakeman.  This one was built in 1972 for the Missouri Pacific Railroad – don’t these railroad company names give you chills?  It brings back wonderful nostalgia of American movies for me.  With the addition of computerized systems, cabooses are no longer used on trains.

Tower 17 was commissioned in 1903 and was a fully working tower until 2004.  This is still the busiest junction in Texas, south west of Houston.  We could see the old Interlocker which operated the switches and signs but perhaps even more exciting we could view the current computerized map of the trains in that area.  There were soooo many and there was even a traffic train jam while incredibly long trains passed.  It is completely normal to sit for 20 minutes while a train passes at a railroad crossing in Texas.  I am always too amped to get annoyed at the delay; what are they carrying; which railroad company is it?  Sometimes you feel disorientated when looking at a train carrying cars when you are driving parallel on a busy highway.

The computer screen looks out of place…

Then there was all the old office equipment – it reminds me how old I am…  The little children looked with fascination at the antiques.  Does anyone remember duplicators, the precursor to photocopies?  You had to type/engrave a document and roll copies out in blue ink (that got everywhere!)  One little boy, in our tour, was 3 years old but looked 6.  He called his grandma, “Oma” which is the German version.  They were utterly Texan but descended from German immigrants, way back.  She apologized for his endless questions because he was really just a toddler.  He was adorable.

The Quebec

The Quebec above, built in 1872, was a luxury business cabin and fully renovated.  I can only imagine how lovely it was eating a proper meal while looking out at the Texas countryside.

Business Class Dining – ‘old school’

The museum was small but really informative with a miniature gauge railroad.  One of my favorite childhood memories was going on a steam train from St Enoch’s station in Glasgow to Dumfries, a city in the south west of Scotland.  The noise, steam and billowing clouds were so evocative of a different age.

Liiliput

This is one of the lovely historic buildings in Rosenberg with the Railroad Café and outside tables.  Perhaps it would be nice in the winter – the heat index was 108 degrees and even I was wilting.

Finally – the piece de resistance…

Whoo hoo – a real train passing at old Tower 17.  We could see it on the computer map just half an hour earlier – can I infuse any more enthusiasm into this train geek post???  This is the Burlington North Santa Fe Railroad Company (BNSF) whose headquarters are in Fort Worth, Texas.  The most common company I see is Union Pacific but I see others from Canada and Kansas.