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The Hidden Gem in Texas Hill Country (It’s not even on Google Maps!)

Guadalupe river trail in texas hill country

Where the Locals Hang.

Do you ever wonder where the locals of a town actually go hiking?  I’m always tired of hiking the same trails as all the other tourists in towns I visit.  We happen to live in a pretty large tourist hotspot of Texas hill country (who am I kidding, all of Texas Hill Country is a hot spot!). Canyon Lake is where everyone comes to go tubing and fishing down on the famous blue waters of the Guadalupe river.  Many people also come to walk along the beautiful beaches and go sail boating on the giant lake our town is named after.  If you’re looking for something simple to do in the Hill Country, look no further.

Canyon Lake beach
The crystal clear waters of Canyon Lake

Enough of all the tourist talk. I’m writing this post about one of our MANY hidden gems around the lake.  Our nature walk – Guadalupe River Trail.  This short, 2.5 mile hike (start to finish), is one of the prettiest spots in the area.  This hiking trail is free to access and never really has many people on it (it’s not even on Google maps unless you know the exact name!).  It’s probably about a medium difficulty because the trails are dirt, not well kept, and the paths are steep in some places. You can find this trial right on the other side of our dam.  If you haven’t seen our dam, it’s not one to skip! It overlooks the lake and is absolutely gorgeous at sunset!  You can see all the sailboats from up high.

Guadalupe river trail in texas hill country

This picture was taken mid-winter, so you’ll have to excuse all the dormant foliage.

More about our trail

My favorite spot on this gorgeous walk along the Guadalupe river is this amazing cove under some boulders.  This little gem has its own microclimate where the water seeps out from the rocks and moss, algae, and other neat organisms thrive. I took my son’s school pictures in this spot, and they are probably my favorite to date. I’m not super comfortable posting full on facial shots of my son, so I’ll put one up of myself.

texas hill country views

There are bridges that you can cross, over hanging vines to monkey around in, and Spanish moss to enjoy!  This little walk is one of my favorite sanctuaries here in Canyon Lake.

Climbing on a tree in hill country

bridge in texas hill country

The birds! So many species of birds.  I haven’t formally gone birding in this spot yet, but I have casually seen several different neat species. Osprey regularly hang out in our giant Cypress trees that overhang the water. Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers flitter in and amongst the lower canopy of the trees, and not to mention the Great Blue Herons that are always hangin’ around fishing for their next meal.

There are tons of plants to observe here, including bald cypress trees, live oak, poison ivy, frostweed, turkscap, Texas persimmon trees, mustang grape vines and many more I couldn’t identify. Even in the dead of winter, life still goes on here since our temperatures are so mild.

I hope that you come around to the area and find this amazing trail.  It really is a neat place! If you come to see our beautiful town, please be kind and throw away any trash you may bring in with you. We have plenty of trash we have to pick up on a regular basis.  For more info on how to be friendly to our environment, and about some neat conservation programs that help with trash pick up, check out my post on conserving American White Pelicans.

hiking in texas hill country

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The American White Pelican: A Species worthy of Conservation

white pelican

The common occurrence

I have encountered numerous American white pelicans in my life; I don’t think I’ve ever been to the coast and failed to see one. These birds are absolutely everywhere down on the coast of Texas and the gulf (the only parts of the ocean I’ve ever visited). I’ve even seen these particular pelicans up in Montana and Colorado. Anywhere there are large bodies of water, white pelicans can almost always be found!  

I’ve noticed that many people overlook our most common species, so I thought I would highlight how neat our white pelicans are.

American White Pelican landing near the shore at Corpus Christi

The trip that stands out

When I think of the white pelican, one trip stands out from the rest. My first trip to the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society meeting in Corpus Christi; I was in my second year at WT in the Wildlife biology program. Since this meeting is a big deal to most in the wildlife field, there are many students who try to make the trip to wherever the meeting is held each year. Luckily, I secured a ride with my close friends, and we drove 10 hours to Corpus Christi, arriving at our hotel at 3 in the morning. We were completely exhausted and had a very busy weekend ahead of us!

After being in many different research presentations all day, my friends and I decided we needed to go birding (of course). We met up with Ashley Tubbs, an invaluable friend and incredible expert with birds and herps (reptiles and amphibians), and an exceptional photographer who has received many prestigious awards for her talents. She’s incredible. Anyway, she was kind enough to show us some hotspots for birding.  We were able to see a great number of species (many were new to me), including our endangered whooping crane population.

Did you know there are fewer whooping cranes left in the wild than there are giant pandas? Crazy, right?

Unfortunately, I didn’t catch any great photos of the cranes.

Pollywog pond was probably the coolest birding spot we went to;  I was able to see a large variety of birds in just a small area.  If you look close enough, you never know what kind of birds you can spot, especially in your own back yard.

pelicans

I saw these beautiful pelicans just off the shore, patiently waiting for scraps being thrown by the fisherman on the docks who were cleaning out their catch for the day. They were like stray cats waiting on their daily treat. You could tell the fisherman feed them on a daily basis. There were probably at least 10 white and brown pelicans gathered, not to mention all the gulls, fighting over the scraps being thrown out. It was quite entertaining to watch.

A little more information

white pelican
American White Pelican soaring over Corpus Christi

The American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) is one of only two types of pelican that can be found here in the U.S.. There are obvious differences between the two species (one’s brown, the other is white, duh!). You shouldn’t have any issues between telling the two apart.

These guys are some of the many species of birds that breed up north, then migrate to the coasts during the winter months.

They mostly eat fish (of course!), but I have seen a video of one eating another bird! Animal behavior is a crazy thing.  Once you think you have an animal figured out, they go and surprise you!  Many people think that these birds carry food in their pouches, but they typically swallow any food they might have before they take off for flight.

pelican skull
My son holding up a pelican skull

Have you ever seen a pelican “flutter” its pouch?  This funny behavior actually has a purpose.  These guys get overheated very easily; “fluttering” is how they try to rid their bodies of excess heat!

I often think of pterodactyls anytime I see a species of pelican soaring across the horizon. If you have an active imagination, like I do, maybe you can see it? No? Maybe I’m just a crazy person.

Things we can do

If you spend very long on the internet there are tons of articles, pictures, and videos about how trashed out our oceans have become.  The trash in our oceans and waterways alone are causing pelicans and other animals to die off in great numbers.

There is a simple solution to this problem.  Pick up your trash, guys.  If you see trash, please pick it up (if it’s not hazardous). We always leave the beach with at least a handful or two of trash we find (if we don’t have a bag).  There are trash cans posted all over the place usually, if there isn’t, take a bag with you.  It’s really pretty simple.  But of course, anyone who is interested enough in nature to be reading this blog, most likely won’t be littering. So, really, I’m preaching to the choir here, right?

There are numerous non-profit organizations out there who spend the majority of their time picking up trash and making neat things with it for donations.  They spread awareness, and make a great deal of difference. Conservation efforts are  how I like to judge a non-profit agency.  What are they doing to ensure our wildlife lasts for generations?

The Ocean Conservancy hosts clean-ups every year.  To check out the impact that trash has on our environment, I highly suggest checking out their blog.  They have an astounding article on how much trash was picked up last year by volunteers (over 2 million pounds of trash has been collected since 1985).  It’s incredible.  Check it out here, and while you’re over there, think about donating to their cause.

Other ways to help: reduce, reuse, and recycle.  According to one of The Ocean Conservancy’s articles, in 2012 the U.S. recycled approx. 9% of their plastics, compared to the 30% in Europe, even China recycled 25%.  Come on, guys.  We can do better than that.  “A whopping 79% of all the plastics ever produced have now been discarded. Only 21% of plastics are still in active use.” Wow.

One way we have tried to help is our REDUCTION on plastic use.  I am actively trying to cut down on our plastic consumption altogether.  I try not to buy any products with plastic packaging by buying in bulk; we don’t ever use disposable plastics unless we absolutely need to, I cloth diaper (yes, disposable diapers have plastics in them), use glass whenever possible, reusable snack bags instead of ziplocks, ect.

It’s a hard change at first, there are a lot of steps to take in the process of becoming plastic free, but after a few years, we are probably 80% free of disposables in our house.  We recycle anything else that we can.  I would consider that a pretty good percentage considering that we have two kids.

What are you doing to help rid our environment of plastics?

Check out more tips on how to help out local wildlife.

white pelican

Click here for more of my photography.  If you are interested in purchasing any, check out my contact page and we can discuss options! If you loved my post, I would appreciate it if you shared with your friends!

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How to Care for Air Plants

air plant

 

So, you are jumping on the air plant band wagon?! Great!! Welcome to taking care of some of the easiest plants on earth!  If you are anything like me (a serial plant killer), air plants are your perfect match!

They’re trendy and cute! Super easy to take care of! Require little water (eco friendly) and low lighting!! I love that these plants require such little fuss! I am a lover of all low maintenance plants! These plants, in particular, are super eco friendly since they hardly require any water! Go water savy plants!

So what ARE the care requirements for these suckers?? Let me tell you…

  1. What about the water?

These plants really don’t require much water, but they do require either high humidity (a good spritz with water every day or two) or soaking for about 10-20 minutes once per week or two. They aren’t super picky, so don’t feel like you need to stick to a strict schedule with these guys.  Don’t think they get all their nutrients from the air and make the mistake of not watering them!  If they are in need of a drink, the leaves will be wrinkly or feel really soft to the touch.  When you are done watering them, the leaves will feel full, you should be able to tell a noticeable difference!

2. Let there be light!

Air plants generally require bright, indirect light.  I find my air plants thrive in my East facing windows.  They love bright morning light.  Remember, most species grow in the understory, so they don’t require much lighting!

3. Do I need fertilizer?!

Absolutely not!  Air plants don’t require any additional nutrients; though, I’m sure they would love it every once in a while.  I would just get some organic fertilizer made for air plants off of amazon.  Eventually I will be trying to make some for the website for you guys!

4. Have fun!!

That is about it!  Plop your beautiful new pet into a terrarium, tie it to a piece of fishing line and hang it from your ceiling, or get creative!  I have many different displays for my Tillandsia.  I even saved one of my broken water goblets for displaying one of my air plants.  I just threw in some pretty sea shells for looks and there you have it!

Tillandsia recurvada, ball moss, air plant
Tillandsia recurvada (ball moss)

There are MANY different species of Tillandsia (air plant) out there, feel free to collect them all!!

Don’t forget to check out our growing collection of air plants (and others) in the store! With your purchase you are helping me stay at home with my family!

air plant care

 

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DIY Wetbag From Those Useful Plastic Mattress Zipper Bags

upcycled zipper bag

Have you ever wondered what to do with those really neat plastic zipper bags you get with sheets and mattresses?  I have a whole stash of them because they are just too cool to throw away!

upcycled zipper bag

I decided I needed more wetbags for my reusable wipes that I carry around everywhere. These aren’t completely waterproof, but they work for things like wet wipes and toiletry items. I just love useful things!  The only issue is…. these aren’t the right size, and they are just clear.  I like things to be practical AND pretty!  This is also a great way to use up some scrap fabric too! The fabric I used has been in my scrap bag for YEARS just waiting to be used.

upcycled zipper bag

Okay, so this is what I did…..

Gather your supplies

  • Plastic bag
  • Scrap fabric fit to the size of your bag x2
  • Thread and Machine

Cut your plastic bag to the size you want.

upcycled zipper bag

Mine just happened to be the right width for what I wanted.  If your bag is too wide, this project will have to be tweaked a bit.  You’ll need to cut the zipper to the width you need.  Make sure you get the head of the zipper in with your cut, and you should just be able to snip the rest of the zipper off and sew the end and sides of plastic up.

Sew your fabric together

So, I made this bag where the pretty fabric shows from the front and the back, but is still on the outside of the plastic so it doesn’t ruin from whatever you put in the bag.

First you need to figure out how much fabric you need, I just set the bag on top of it and marked where to cut on the wrong sides of the fabric.  I then cut two pieces, for the front view and back.

upcycled zipper bag

Sew the pretty sides together, leaving the bottom open, then flip.

upcycled zipper bag

Set this aside for now

Sew your bag together

upcycled zipper bag

So, you cut your bag to the right size already.  Now you need to sew it up.  Flip the bag inside out, and sew the bottom and sides if needed.  I only needed to sew the bottom together since my width was already what I wanted.

Sew the fabric to your plastic.

upcycled zipper bag

This turned out a little more difficult then I expected.  It is do-able, though. You just need to manhandle that plastic!! Show it who is boss!

Don’t forget to turn everything right side out. Then just sew your plastic to your fabric.  I just put the finished ends of the fabric starting at the zipper end then sewed all the way around, following the seam that was already there.  Then snip off the excess fabric at the bottom!

upcycled zipper bag

Voilà!  (yes, I had to look up how to spell that word… Don’t judge me)

upcycled zipper bag

Hope you enjoy!! It’s not the prettiest thing I’ve ever made… but I love making practical things pretty.  I also love up-cycling things into something I can use every day!!

upcycled zipper bag

Here’s a pretty Pin for your Pinterest!

zipper bag

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Start your disposable free home with our DIY Homemade Reusable Cloth Wipes

face cleaning wipes, green animal print wipes, cloth wipes

Are you tired of spending money on disposable products?  Have you learned how many chemicals they can contain that aren’t so great for us or the environment? What about how much waste is put into our landfills that won’t degrade for another lifetime?trash, landfill, litter

So, let’s talk about cost.

The cheapest disposable wipes I can find, for the sake of this research, are about 1 cent each.  I wouldn’t personally recommend these, they are chalk full of chemicals and are poor quality, but, the cheapest option.  From birth to potty training (we are going to say three years old, which is sparing for some kids) I’ll estimate that you use two wipes per diaper change (ha! Any parent knows this is a VERY low estimate, perhaps not even realistic).  Say you only change 6 diapers a day (yeah, right).  At these very low estimates, we are looking at 12 wipes/day @ 360 days a year for three years.  Thats 12, 960 cents.  Divided by 100 to convert to dollars = $129.60.  That’s not a whole lot over the span of three years, I’ll admit. Keep in mind my low estimates and that you are using the cheapest/lowest quality wipes on the market.  Also, who uses wipes JUST for diaper changes?  I use them for EVERYTHING.  Plus, there were some diaper changes that I used at least 10 wipes (when I used disposable).  Plus, look at all those wipes you are throwing into the environment.  How many was that? Almost 13,000!! Yes, there are more eco-friendly wipes with less chemicals, but the cost goes up astronomically.

chemicals

I’m not going to talk about chemicals because I’m not qualified to say exactly what they put in wipes that are “toxic” or cause reactions.  I don’t like uneducated assumptions about certain things.  I have taken many, many chemistry classes and I can tell you now that chemistry has a bad rep.  I do know they have harsh chemicals, but this is not the reason we don’t use them. I don’t use them just for the fact they are a disposable product that puts more trash in our landfill. I’m just mentioning this aspect because it IS more leverage to switching to cloth!

My method to switching over to cloth wipes is possibly free for you, assuming you have a sewing machine and thread available (using materials you already have around the house)! It just takes a little time and practice!

pink wipes, pink face wipes, purple face wipes, girl wipes, cloth diapers, go green, reusable wipes

If you don’t want to make them, the cost of choosing wipes is pretty minimal.  The wipes I make are about 1.30/wipe.  If you use the same estimates I did earlier in the post, you’ll need 12/day.  If you do laundry every other day, you’ll need 24 wipes.  Remember, I’m using sparing numbers, but I have to say, cloth wipes are more durable and you don’t have to use as many per change.  So… 24 wipes.  That’s $31.20.  You’ll be using these SAME wipes over the next 3 years and BEYOND.  They don’t take any extra laundry either.  Just throw them in the wash with the cloths or towels.  I like that number way better than $130!  Plus, you aren’t throwing anything away!  Let’s not mention the cute prints and the versatility of these wipes either, that would just be way too much!!

So now that you have the main reasons, let’s look at how to make them!

Homemade wipes are a great, easy solution for getting started on your journey to less disposables!  If you are looking for an easy project to sew up in just a few minutes, then this is for you!  They literally take about 10 minutes, start to finish.  You can use them out of almost anything flannel or terry too!  I use these wipes for baby wipes, face wipes, and cleaning cloths.  They are really versatile and have endless possibilities.

So how do you get started?  Do you have any left over baby receiving blankets, flannel shirts or sheets, towels, or blankets?  Any of those make great upcycle materials for wipes.  Or if you don’t want to MAKE them, I make them and sell them in my store!  You can get all kinds of cute prints.

These are from cute receiving blankets I found at a thrift store for about a dollar for a set of three.

receiving blanket, upcycling, flannel, cloth wipes

Find your cute print, and cut 2 squares of about 7×7 fabric (but any size works, I have all different sizes). To make it easiest, I have a cardboard template that I cut around with my rotary cutter.

cloth wipes, sewing project

Put the pretty sides together and sew a straight stitch all the way around, leaving about an inch or so open.

Pull the right sides of the fabric out through that hole you left open.  You can iron everything down to make the edges pretty.

Sew around the edges and close the hole and you’re done!

cloth wipes, upcycled sewing project, baby wipes, green products

Here’s a pretty pin for Pinterest for you!

If you like this project, you would probably also love my farmhouse napkins and upcycled burp cloths!