Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Back in the CAVEMAN days...

Can you find me in this picture? I'm leaning my elbow on my best friend, Janice. The blonde to my left, Monica, is my other best friend who had joined the Navy with me on the buddy program. (Click photo to enlarge)

My daughter always teases me that I'm "old" and that I was born in the era of the covered wagons. But technically speaking, I can tell her that I came from the era of the CAVEMAN. The photo above is my highschool senior class. We had our group picture taken in a cave. For the life of me, I can't remember which cave - I spent so much of my teen years exploring the country side, I get all the caves mixed up. After all, there are over 220 caves in our county alone!

I'm guessing this cave to be the one in Richland, Missouri above the Gasconade River. This cave has now been turned into a restaurant.

I am so ready to make another trip to Missouri! If my sister is reading this, let's split the gas and plan that trip!

Class of 81

Monday, April 28, 2008


Yes, we finally went GREEN. No, not the tree hugging, whale saving, ozone worshipping "green", but the, I'm-tired-of-breaking-my-back-to-start-my-mower-and-choking-on-fumes-and-flying-rocks, type of GREEN!

Right from the beginning my husband was skeptical. After all, we used to own a Sears model back when we lived in Lubbock. I think we paid around $89 for it. From what I recall, we didn't have much of a lawn to practice on. We ended up having to sell our push mower in a yardsale when we packed up to move to Austin.

THIS time I was sure we'd love a nice, quiet PUSH MOWER, on our beautiful soft green lawn. No more hauling the gas can around, taking breaks in-between pulling the string to start the mower (sometimes it would take about 50 tries)...

I hated and dreaded mowing our yard. I even hate it when our neighbors mow THEIR yards. Especially when I'm in the pool, or trying to relax while listening to the birds...

So, I went online and researched PUSH MOWERS on Amazon.com --- I was impressed with the 260+ reviews for the Scotts 20-Inch Push Reel Mower. On top of that, FREE shipping.

I researched other mowers and kept coming back to Amazon. I couldn't deny that the excellent reviews were too hard to ignore, not to mention, the price wasn't bad at all. $119.00 and free shipping.

I finally decided I had nothing to lose except a flying rock, some gas fumes and bicep exercise (from starting the gas mower.) So, I purchased the Scotts 20-inch Push Reel Mower exactly one week ago.

TODAY, it arrived by UPS at my door. All I had to do was attach the handles (which was a no brainer.) Yes, I do have a brain, but I didn't have to use it for the handle. (The few people who didn't leave a 5-star on the reviews complained the handle was too hard to put together.)

In comparison to our gas mower, the REEL MOWER did an awesome job, if not better! No more flying debris, no more noise, and no more gas fumes! Just a quiet clickety-clickety-clickety-clickety-clickety-clickety as we pushed the mower over the blades of grass, leaving a path of freshly cut grass in it's wake. BEST OF ALL, my 10-year-old daughter wanted to mow!!! (Can life get any better than THAT?)

The reviews pointed out that NEIGHBORS might curiously appear out of nowhere.

They were correct. My neighbor across the street walked over and said, "Oh WOW..." She was impressed with our new mower.

Our other neighbor gave me a thumbs up and smiled. I then realized he was deaf...

What did he notice different about our mower, since he couldn't hear loud lawn mowers to begin with?

Maybe he didn't notice our "mower" --- but rather he noticed we were SMILING while we were mowing! That WOULD seem strange...

SMILING and MOWING -- normally these two things don't happen together.

Either way, I like the idea of tackling the yard on a crisp summer morning, while it is yet still cool and the neighbors are fast asleep... Walking over the grass barefoot, with coffee in one hand and the mower in the other --- clickety-clickety-clickety-clickety-clickety-clickety... Okay, maybe I'm stretching it with drinking coffee while pushing the mower, but you get the point.

Either way, if you decide to go GREEN, I give this REEL MOWER a hearty GREEN THUMBS UP!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Two Weeks later...

The first tomato appeared and everything is blooming on schedule. I can already make out the bell and hot peppers. Wednesday I planted cucumbers.

The Malabar spinach took two weeks to germinate. I remember inspecting the pot that Monday and wondering if they were EVER going to appear. Then on Tuesday morning, there they were. The next picture is from Wednesday. They ARE growing fast.

In those two weeks, the pool went from green, to a beautiful aqua blue. Now we're just waiting for the water to clear. Everything looks very good, running on schedule, and the water temps are 70 degrees. We'll be swimming (if it doesn't rain) THIS weekend!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fishing in Walnut Creek

This Saturday we spent the day at the farm again fishing, exploring the woods, and hanging out with friends and family. As expected, the fish were biting and THIS TIME we had a fish fry! Some of us took a break from the fishing and just hiked around the area. Walnut Creek runs the entire length of the farm behind the woods. Fresh water from underground aquafers seeps to the surface and feeds into the creek - in most parts of the creek, the water is so clear, you can see huge catfish and Bass swimming around. Walnut creek spans 22 miles and drains into the Colorado River. The creek is also home to the Golden Cheeked Warbler. This bird is known to live nowhere on the planet except in Texas, with a migration each winter to Central America. Above the creek and under some ancient Oak trees, is the Tonkawa Indian Campsite, preserved by the farm. In the near future, this site too will be opened to the public. The creek winds and turns mysteriously through the woods and many of us are adamant that there's a nearby cave on the farm. 13 caves have been discovered so far off of Walnut Creek in Austin, but I'm not sure exactly where they're located. I'm planning to attend a meeting with the Texas Underground grotto (local cavers/spelunkers) and plan to ask them what they know about those 13 caves and possibly get a few people together (from the farm) for ridgewalking - this consists of looking for sinkholes, rock outcroppings, water disappearing into the ground, etc. Can you see Josh on the bluff? Alan on the bank. Caitlin. More Bass! This is one of the biggest Perch I've ever seen. Last night was the first time I've eaten fresh Perch in a long time! Brought back memories of my old fishing days back in Missouri when we used to fish off of Turkey Ridge. I'll have to ask my mother if she has any pictures to scan of our fishing escapades!

Tonkawa Indian Site

Friday, April 18, 2008

Country Popcorn!

Wanting a popcorn popper for camping trips, I went on eBay and bid on an antique basket popcorn popper. The bid started at .99 cents but I won highest bid at $5.50 - which isn't bad at all! I was looking at newer models and they were running near $45!

I got to try out my new popper at the farm today. I was originally going to cook outdoors, but since it was windy, I decided to take the popping indoors. I settled for the parlour fireplace at the homestead.

The girls and I collected some logs and searched for kindling to get the fire started.

Then I poured about 1/3 a cup of popcorn kernels into the basket.

After cooking about 10 baskets of popcorn, this is what I learned: Even though the fire was roaring and (((hot))) it really wasn't enough to get the kernels to pop. When it REALLY started popping was when I allowed the flames to lick at the basket, then (((POP))) (((POP))) (((POP))) they went! We didn't hold the basket in the fire, but held it just at the surface of the flames.

Occasionally some of the popcorn got scorched, but as we neared our 10th round, and full of practice, the basket was bulging with fluffy white popcorn!

The popcorn was very delicious and a big hit with our visitors that came to the farm. Some of the school kids were asking if popcorn was invented back in the 1800's. I had to patiently explain that popcorn's been around for thousands of years. In fact, the colonists used to eat it for breakfast with sugar and cream!

I think I'll try that with company one of these days. Who wants to come visit me and have popcorn for breakfast?? =)

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Saturday was CAVE DAY in Cedar Park. This is an event that is held every 6 months for the public. The public meets at the Kay Redden Park and from there they go on guided cave tours, collect maps and directions to other area caves, and to talk with local spelunkers (professional cavers) from all over Texas. It was thrilling to realize we had so many caves in the area. There was so much to do and see, we were unable to visit all the caves. Fortunately, there's another cave day in September! Can't wait!

We met up with some of Pamela's homeschool Girl Scout troop and had a private tour guide take us on a hike. The first series of caves we visited were sealed and protected against the public. It was fascinating to walk from one cave to the next, learning about sink holes, how tree roots dig into caves searching for water and how to scout possible nearby cave entrances. The hike was VERY pleasant (except for an unfortunate child who fell over a cactus) and we stopped occasionally to take snapshots, admire the clusters of wildflowers or to stoop and examne the rocks. We couldn't have asked for more perfect weather!

It was exhausting putting all these pictures together, as I had taken so many. I had to upload all the pictures from my camera into the computer and to index and identify which picture belonged where. But it was well worth it! This pictorial diary gives a glimpse into the beauty of the area we live in and the opportunities that we have to explore and admire God's beautiful creation. I anxiously look forward to caving and I earnestly look forward to more hikes with the family. What better way to spend one's day (with only the expense of gasoline and a picnic lunch) we can have so much fun with the family without breaking the bank! (Click pictures to enlarge!)

The Twin Creeks Historical Area has an 1800's log cabin, beautiful springs, tall trees, running water year round and even an Indian Shelter Cave. After stopping for food to take on a picnic, we parked our car and climbed down a ravine and followed the long winding trail. The trees and brooks were beautiful - crystal clear water, fish, colorful wildflowers, butterflies, and the weather was PERFECT!

We crossed over a small bridge and made our way to the cabin and there we sat and enjoyed our lunch. Afterwards, we followed the trail behind the cabin into the woods... a winding path that took us up a hill.

We ducked under branches, avoided what looked like poison Ivy and Oak, and stopped to admire the boulders and rugged terrain. The Indian Shelter Cave was beathtakingly beautiful! Flint and broken arrowheads were found in abundance! Pamela was excited to actually hold and see for herself what the Native Americans had once held in their own hands. Clustered under the overhead, were fascinating nests of Granddaddy Long-legs. Don't forget to view the video of this cave!

Video of Indian Cave!

It was right after 3 p.m. when we made it to Avery Ranch Cave. The line was long. Like the other underground caves we had seen, THIS one we got to climb into! We felt lucky to have been the last group of people to enter the cave. In fact, as the family photographer, I ended up being the last one out of the cave and bumping my head!

The cave won't be open again to the public until September.

We had to crawl down a ladder single file, careful to not bump our heads as we ducked under the cavern wall. After we stepped off the ladder, we descended down some steep steps into the cavern. WOW! It was well worth the exertion!

Immediately I could feel the warm humidity as I climbed deeper into the cave. My pictures do not give this cave justice! You would have to be there to experience this. In fact, I had to use Photoshop to doctor up the pictures as some of the photos were just too dark.

All in all, we wrapped up the day after 6 hours of steady hiking and cave exploring!

Spying from the rearview mirror!