A leopard hopped…

This is a Southern Leopard Frog.  Isn’t he perfectly camouflaged in the mulch beside the Blue Lagoon (former Infinity Pool)?  Teddy and I were so excited about a new garden pet and ran for cameras.  ‘Leo’ sat patiently and posed for the paparazzi.  Then we Googled him.  They are indigenous and live in the south east portion of the US.  There are 23 types of Leopard frog in the Americas – who knew?  I loved the names of the unusual species such as Bigfoot Leopard Frog, Vegas Valley Leopard Frog and my favorite, Montezuma’s Leopard Frog.

They need to live by water so I guess the containment pond is close enough.  He has a very distinctive call – Their croaking, chuckling call has been compared to the sound of rubbing an inflated balloon.  That is one of the many reasons why I have to wear earplugs at night…  Judging the cacophony outside my window there are thousands hundreds living in our reserve.

National Geographic states:

Leopard frogs will eat just about anything they can fit in their mouths. They sit still and wait for prey to happen by, then pounce with their powerful legs. They eat beetles, ants, flies, worms, smaller frogs, including their own species, and even birds, and garter snakes.

WOW!  That is an impressive little predator with quite an appetite – and most welcome in our well stocked jungle preserve.

Then Teddy and I realized we had seen a leopard frog before.  When we first moved into the street, I was enchanted by all the pumpkins you could buy in autumn.  It was a very hot, steamy October and we kept hearing frogs outside the front door.  Later we realized that the wee pumpkins had rotted with delicious larvae inside, attracting all the frogs.  Even Tim Burton couldn’t create a Halloween scenario like that one!

In retrospect, we wonder if this little green tree frog was hopping away from the gluttonous leopard frog near the pumpkins… It really is a jungle out there!

This is our delightful Frog Lady guide on a trip to El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rica. The Coqui Frog is the symbol of Puerto Rico and sings all night long. This is a link to my post about El Yunque.

references – National Geographic, USNF and Wikipedia

Blue Lagoon

It’s official – Infinity is a bust!  More precisely, our Pyrex Infinity Pool was not appreciated by our garden critters.  We watched as they walked cautiously around it, looking at it suspiciously. “What did the People do with the old bowl???”  I think they couldn’t see the bottom of it or the edge and it made them wary about how deep it was.  The critters had spoken and we trekked off to our favorite ‘antique’ shop in Tomball  to replace their pool.  We enjoyed our antiquing but you know it is time to stop when you wonder if they would like our stuff…  The precious bowl Blue Lagoon was actually found at the church shop and cost $2.

Infinity’s a bust!

I was tickled that it was a genuine ceramic from the Coushatta Casino Resort in Louisiana. The Coushatta Tribe moved from their home base in south west Louisiana to Alabama to avoid Spanish explorer Hernandez DeSoto after an encounter in 1540.  They relocated back to their homelands and some live in East Texas.  Gambling casinos are illegal in Texas despite a recent bill in the Texas Senate.  Teddy felt that we should have made some miniature roulette tables to our lagoon but it is too hot to be bothered now!

The new Blue Lagoon is a hit with the garden critters as you can see at the top and below with the infra- red camera.  That is an indigenous pack rat sitting on the diving rock.  Given his occupation, he would have loved rummaging through the antique shop.  My favorite find was a George Bush doll! 

Perfect for a pack rat!

Does anyone else remember old school desks that still had the inkwell in them?  By the 60s we had stopped using the inkwell but I do remember having a few fountain pens.  It was a really hot sticky day so Teddy and I enjoyed a wee glass of Pinot Grigio at this lovely outside bar.  Afterwards we realized we hadn’t had any breakfast – we are turning into retired reprobates.

Cheers!! Sláinte!! Salud!! Prost!!

The Dystopian State of Texas – 2038

My favorite reading genre is science fiction.  This is just a tale of the future inspired by current events.  It is written in the first person.

Map key

Red line – fortified wall between Texas and Mexico

Green line – almost impenetrable forest between Texas and The Louisiana Wasteland

Gray dotted line – new El Paso territory

It has been 15 years since Imperator Trump became leader of the New American Federation.  No longer the 50 United States but some 30 disparate states, many with new boundaries and names.  In 2018 we were unaware that medical and DNA facilities were collating data about our ethnicity.  Under the guise of scientific advancement, the government had colluded with the data gatherers to make America as white as possible.  Anyone with 85% white or Caucasian genes was reclassified as Pure Citizens.  All others were no longer citizens but subjects; in a caste system.  On rare occasions, subjects could pass as citizens but dare not procreate for fear of recessive genetics.  The caste system is not truly based on darkness of color but your worth to this new society.

A Nigerian doctor might be part of Caste #1 but a Guatemalan farmer could be Caste #4.  Many people of color fled after rezoning to Free States such as those in the Pacific West (formerly known as California, Oregon and Washington) or to other continents.  Curiously, white Neo-Nazis from Northern Europe and Argentina flocked to immigrate to New America and they were welcomed by Imperator Trump.  No one dare call him any other name but they can’t control our thoughts.  I am now an old woman stuck in a country I despise, the country of my birth and ancestors.  Despite my mixed blood, I have 85% Caucasian genes and look as fair as any Aryan.  My hair is snow white, my faded dark blue eyes are cloudy and my skin as fair as milk.  I am treated with veneration to my disgust; for safety I smile at all the compliments and kindness.  Even monsters have some capacity for good, don’t they?

Those subjects who were unable to escape New America now live in ghettos.  Some are better than others; just old suburban areas but clearly differentiated.  No one from Caste #1 can marry, live or have a relationship with someone in Caste #4, for example.  Two doctors of different color in Caste #1 can marry even if one is of Chinese ethnicity and the other Mexican.  To the white citizens, they are all less than pure.  The 85%, as we are known, live in fully armed and gated communities.  A very few are similar to the Mar-a-Lago estates of the old days.  Fort Trump is an example with multi-million dollar homes, gilded from top to bottom.  Imperator style is ornate and gaudy; like one of Imperator Trump’s many casinos.

When the states separated, I hoped that democracy would prevail in Texas but “Make America White” struck a chord in a Republican State.  El Paso had always been blue and was able to create a new territory which is governed and protected by Mexico.  New Mexico, mostly Hispanic, is a Protectorate of Mexico.  Oklahoma and Arkansas merged into what they once were – Indian Territories. In this strange new world, Native Americans have retained power and sovereignty but are not Citizens.  Louisiana is a wasteland; devastated by flooding, hurricanes and poverty.  It has become a disease ridden swamp that only Cajuns and other indigenous people can survive in.

Houston too did not survive the vagaries of the increasingly turbulent weather systems.  The coastline has retreated further north and Galveston has reverted back to a sliver of sandbar.  New Houston has taken the place of Austin as State Capitol.  It is a grim city with no rainbows or sunshine.  It is full of dangerous ghettos as is South City formerly known as San Antonio.  All Spanish words are banned, so Amarillo was renamed Yellow City, a literal translation.  Many times over the years I wished I had kept my Spanish maiden name but a white name kept me safe.  I whisper it under my breath to remind myself of who I am.

So why didn’t I escape to Mexico or Pacific West?  By the time I realized that Texas would succumb, I was a widow and too frail.  I live in the Big Thicket in the same house that I always did.  The forest has encroached and the roads are barely passable.  The ocean is much closer than it used to be and you can smell the ozone on the breeze.  Since I was stuck inside the New Federation and inconspicuous, I have secretly volunteered for the Underground Railroad.  We are close to the Louisiana border and despite the danger many people are willing to brave their lives just for a chance at freedom.  Small boats are guided through swamps by the Cajun Navy until they reach open water.  If they are lucky a refugee rescue boat will attempt to take them to safety.

I laugh bitterly because all we used to worry about was a wall.

Postscript

I wrote this fictional post in 2018 because of my growing alarm about the MAGA movement and Neo Nazi groups.

 

Nutcrackers…

…are they naughty or nice?  My husband can’t stand German Christmas nutcrackers.  In his mind they are akin to the clown in the Stephen King book IT, or any clown for that matter.  As a result, I have one pathetic little nutcracker that someone gifted me.  My neighbor has a huge collection of them and Teddy would run shuddering from her house.  He doesn’t like their mouths and won’t accept the logic that they are NUTCRACKERS!

We live in a German area of Texas so nutcrackers are just a part of holiday life, much like scary tree roaches in the summer.  To my joy, I noticed that our village (the Township is divided into villages, each with grocery stores, cafes, doctors, dentists and other essential stuff) had new holiday decorations.  We are now guarded by giant silver Nutcracker soldiers.  It is a big upgrade to the ancient ‘doves’ which look like pigeons or geese or some other mutation.

Early one morning I went down to our Market Street and saw this window display, above.  My friend forwarded me a article from Saxony, in Germany, where traditional Nutcracker makers have created a new Virologist with mask. 

Do you see what he is standing on? Let’s stamp this Corona virus out!! The woodcarvers are struggling like many other businesses. Click here for the article – Saxon Woodcarvers.

This is my tiny nutcracker and tiny tree and tiny elf. Teddy hasn’t noticed him yet… On a brief segue, I read the book IT many years ago and have never felt the same way about clowns/bridges. At the time I had to trek through our very dark hamlet in northern Scotland to the school at the top of the hill. I crossed a railway line and then a wooden bridge across a stream. One very dark morning a heron flew out from the bridge just as I was crossing. There were some choice words directed at the poor heron.

Yee Haw!

There was a tangible sense of excitement as the lead horse approached, dancing his way across the main street in Tomball that was closed for this yearly pilgrimage of trail riders to the Houston Rodeo, the biggest in the USA.  Then the crowd started cheering as they welcomed the wagons with mules and horse riders.

Sam Houston Trail Ride

There are 12 trail rides that come from all over the south Texas area to converge in Memorial Park in central Houston.  The Sam Houston Trail arrives in Tomball on their third day.  They are on route to Houston and the trail originates from Pinehurst, Montgomery County.  All the trails are astonishing when you think that they have to traverse a vast city full of interstates but it reflects the original settler’s routes which eventually turned into proper roads.

It tugs on my heart strings because I can envision how life was like for my early pioneer ancestors, especially my great grandparents, Sam Houston and Lillie Dellinger who settled in Oklahoma and north Texas.  He was named after the original Sam Houston, one of the original leaders of the Texas Revolution.  My great grandfather was an intriguing man, well named, some might say.  Even my father’s middle name was Houston.  All the signs were pointing to us ending up as Texan folks even though I was born in California.

I love all animals but I am particularly fond of donkeys and mules – an elderly donkey was one of my first sponsored animals as a child.  The wagons were just amazingly well restored.

One of the groups comprised of two charming brothers from Cajun Country in Louisiana.  They had taken the animals on trucks over to Pinehurst to join the trail.  One of them asked me if I would like to get on his horse!  He was so handsome that I would have been delighted if it was a euphemism… 😉 Teddy was there, however, and I stupidly wore a short skirt so couldn’t attempt getting on his horse without taking my skirt off first.  Maybe in 2022 we will have conquered Covid-19, the trail riders will visit again and I could try to get on my first horse!

This softly spoken cowboy was whispering sweet nothings to his adorable mare in case she was frightened by the crowd.  Everyone was so well behaved especially the little children.

 

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!!!!