My first of the season: Tick bite, and prevention

I discovered a tick on myself last week and curious how it managed to latch onto my ear as I had not been “in the weeds” for days. I can only think it got on me through my rummaging through plants at the garden center. It may have hitched a ride to the garden center from wherever they brought the plants. Our dog is an indoor dog and she is on a leash as we take her outside for potty duties, so I don’t think she could have gotten into any grasses with ticks, but it’s a possibility.

Once I pulled it off, I wanted to save it to identify it. I had an unused contact lens case that was perfect. I got it in and covered it with alcohol. I wanted to know what kind it was so I found a cool website here
http://www.tickencounter.org/

They also want people to report tick encounters. I was able to answer a couple of questions, such as person or pet bitten, date, location in US, etc., and then I took a picture of my little menace and I should hear back from them what it is. It just didn’t look like any in our area. There is an interactive map; click on the region you’re in and it pops up photos of the most common ticks in various life stages for identification.

I am reading through the website on tick prevention with ways to treat clothes, treating yards and gardens, and also pets.

In the meantime, a day or so late my ear became swollen and tender into my jaw and neck, but not running any fever, and so to rule out any serious issues, I went to the clinic, and brought the tick with me I had put in alcohol in a contact lens case to preserve it. Before I closed the lid I took a picture of it in case it needed to be examined. The doctor wanted to see the tick and determined it was not any kind that would carry Lyme disease, but just to eliminate any chance of serious infection he prescribed an antibiotic I am not allergic to (I have severe allergy to Sulfa, so that ruled out the first drug he intended to prescribe) and I am on it for ten days. He said this happens to be the exact drug they use for Lyme disease, and as I was reading through the drug informational pamphlet, it is also used to protect against mosquito borne Malaria.
tick01222014northeastTexas

We all tramped down to the pond this weekend and fished and we all checked for ticks when we got back; I wore a hat, which I always do going outside, long pants tucked into tall socks and wearing tall Wellies. I should have also worn long sleeves and not short sleeves. Prevention is worth the time to spray clothing, skin and wear protective clothing. There is even clothing you can buy that is coated with tick protection that is good through multiple washings I have spent many more hours in discomfort and inconvenience than it would take to put on protective clothing and spray. Here is a good post-outdoor inspection check list at this website http://www.lymepa.org/html/protecting_yourself.html:

After returning indoors

Immediately perform a careful tick check. Deer ticks are tiny and difficult to see. If possible, have someone else inspect you. Be sure to check your hairline and were clothes fit tightly. Parents should check children. Shower promptly using a washcloth to remove unattached ticks. Remove attached ticks immediately using fine pointed tweezers or tick-removal tool. Grasp tick close to the skin, pull gently straight out. Do not use petroleum jelly, alcohol, soap, lit match or cigarette as this might cause the tick to regurgitate Lyme bacteria into you. Save tick in a plastic bag or vial with a moistened cotton ball for identification and possible testing. After removing the tick, call your doctor promptly and consider requesting immediate antibiotic treatment. If the tick is infected, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment is key to recovery. Delay will allow the infection to disseminate in the body where treatment is often less effective.

Consider keeping outdoor clothes in the garage or shed as ticks can migrate from clothing brought indoors and invade the home. You can also wash and dry your clothes immediately. Some people put the clothes in a trash bag then spray with permethrin and tie up the bag to kill the ticks before washing. Washing alone will not kill ticks, but a 30-minute hot cycle in a dryer will.

Pond wildlife: What is That?

Our pond is a busy place right now. It has rained abundantly (but still not enough to get us out of a drought) and the pond has topped out.
bigcatfish
Going down to feed the catfish (and other fish brave enough to challenge the large catfish for food), we spied something moving along the bank. Then it plopped into the water for a swim and was hard to figure out what it was.

Well, after much tracking and picture taking, it turned out it is a beaver. What in the world, in a north Texas pond, is a beaver doing here? Apparently, it is not unusual and they don’t hurt a thing, unless they start eating trees you want to keep.

beavertail

beaverswimming

Quickly researching our new visitor, it seems this time of year the two-year olds are kicked out of the family den and must find their own place to live. They can roam five or six miles to find their own piece of heaven. They can also get very big, with adults reaching up to 100 pounds, but typically usually around 60 lbs. They are rodents and vegetarian, so the fish and turtles are safe. We will keep an eye open for signs of a den, as they can dam up a spot to their liking so the water will stay at a level that they like. Our pond is fed through two giant culverts that are under the abandoned railroad that is now a hiking/biking trail along one side of our property. It is nice because it really fills our pond when it does rain. It has never gone dry while we have had the property these past two years.

So this uninvited guest may choose to hang around, or move on. As long as he doesn’t upset the ecosystem, he can stay.

Landscaping with native plants

Native Plant Society of Texas http://npsot.org/wp/

Because I am deep in the process of trying to get landscaping established around the house, I have been doing research on plants I want to use, and also try to find native plants I can use. I don’t have many choices to go to for plants locally, and so it has been a challenge to get much accomplished except in small spurts.

I want to keep it all easy to maintain, and have learned a few things over the years that help accomplish that. I was able to work a little magic at the previous house. It had not been landscaped at all on the back of the house, so I worked little sections each year. By the time we moved, there wasn’t really much more to accomplish; it all worked well and was easy to keep up. The various perennials reappeared each year and just needed a little dividing as they got too cramped in their spaces. I had landscaped around the entire perimeter of the house foundation, and added pavers to a previous owner’s mudpit that collected water, and created a nice little sitting area outside the back entry breezeway porch among the flowers.

2013-06-24 garden 06242013 002

2013-06-24 garden 06242013 006

I am finishing up the front flower beds. Mulch is in, soaker hoses in place, and just a few more larger evergreen shrubs to get and I am done with it, this year anyway. I am trying to get the beds in so we can get some sod put in. I am ready to start work on the back of our new house
back of house view (2)
and will be looking for more rosemary, some Russian sage, purple coneflowers, Shasta daisies, and salvias, to get started. It will collect the heat of summer on this side and needs to be drought tolerant. Soaker hoses and mulch are our friends in the summer, so these will be integrated in the beds. I should get started this week as soon as the rain lets up.

Where is Spring?

More thunderstorms came through here with a cold front following them. Today, it is in the 40’s here, with a stiff northerly wind. We have a freeze warning for tonight. In Oklahoma, it is snowing.

I have been putting off getting started on flower bed design and install until the weather warmed up. We had some nice warm days that reached into high 70’s and low 80’s, and so off to Lowe’s I went and got metal edging, mulch, mushroom compost, Moo-nure, (that name made me laugh), and shrubs and flowers. I know from experience, I can only manage a section of new flower bed install per season. Otherwise, it’s hard to keep up with watering and maintenance, especially when it hits 102 degrees in summer and we are on water restrictions.

I started by retrieving some of our left over building bricks piled out by the back fence. I used most of them to make a nice edging along the front entry sidewalk. Then I laid out the metal edging in a curving shape so the lawn tractor can mow around it with no sharp turns it can’t reach. I placed my still potted plantings so I could get a feel for spacing and where it needed to be Once I got all of it pounded into the ground I started on planting. I managed it all myself, except my husband was able to dig some of the large shrub holes so I could finish up before dark. Since he is still recovering from all his chemo treatments and surgery, his stamina is not yet up to speed, but it’s getting much better.
brick edge with juniper and begonias

entry flower bed

So I worked on the entry sidewalk, spanning from driveway to porch, and where it ties in along the front of the house under the kitchen windows and big dining room windows. The planting along this area included Blue Star juniper, http://www.hortmag.com/plants/plants-we-love/blue-star-juniper-makes-a-great-dwarf-evergreen-shrub, with red begonias mixed between.

Then, moving under the kitchen windows, I have Lipstick Red Autumn Sage. http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=SAGR4

Progressing under the dining windows I am using repeat blooming Pistachio Hydrangeas http://foreverandeverplants.com/Plant.aspx?code=TBN10072&type=hydrangea, and a Rosemary herb border. The Rosemary stays evergreen in this area and grows fast and can be trimmed to shape easily. They can also be replaced easily and grow quickly to fill in, if needed.
under kitchen and dining

I still need to lay in drip hoses and mulch heavily. It will look much better when the mulch is installed. This area will get morning sun and afternoon shade, which should suit them all perfectly. The begonias, lipstick sage and hydrangea all have red in them to create continuity. I amended the clay soil as I was planting and mulch will break down and continue to amend the clay soil. Now I can work at getting some type of grass seed started around this front yard to meet up with the pasture grass beyond. In the fall I will work on the next section of beds here in front.

I have the back of the house beds to do, along the master bedroom, laundry, and under living room windows, which will all be perennial coneflowers, more salvias, some daisies that stay evergreen during winter, and some Knock Out roses and David Austin roses (my favorite Graham Thomas yellow rose) near the bedroom windows for some beauty and fragrance. I will attack those beds next as I have used these flowers before and they love heat and flourish well. These I plan to keep in simple rectangle shaped planting beds mirroring the lines of the house and easy to maintain.

Pond+Fish

Our pond was roughly calculated at 1-1/2 acres surface by the local Farm Service agent and we don’t have any idea how deep they dug it, but it has not gone dry in the last couple years we have had the property, and we are talking “drought”.

We just got a fantastic rain this past week, and narrowly missed the tornado that was just a very few close miles east of us. They all got ripped apart over there. I was waiting for huge winds to rip out my newly planted trees and tear off our shiny metal roof; fortunately, the winds stayed fairly slow as we hunkered in the hall under the stairs until it all passed by, and were without electricity for 12 hours.

full pond

The pond did get filled up to the brim so our fishies and turtles should be pretty happy about that. I was reading online that when drought causes the waters to recede and expose the muddy areas, the microbes get to work and start composting bad stuff and cleansing the soil, getting ready for the fresh water at the next rains. Everything works together to create a healthy habitat.

It had been suggested to feed the fish with purchased pond fish food; this will beef up the catfish and we can catch and keep some (regretfully, I will have to learn how to prepare these) that reach over the 1.5 pound mark. Some of the other fish will benefit too. We’re not sure what all is in there, but we have caught catfish and some different kinds of bass. Weeding out the really large fish keeps the The turtles we see sunning on the banks, and the visiting ducks, herons and geese enjoy eating whatever they eat.

Our last stroll a couple weeks ago around the pond saw big cat tracks, and last year we saw deer tracks on the perimeter. We have been warned there are panthers in the surrounding woods of our area and have killed some neighbor dogs. Coyotes are around also, which I love to hear howling at night. Last night it sounded like a lot of young ones, with their high pitched yips. We’ve also seen raccoon tracks, and lots of little pond bank bird tracks, not sure what they are.

We got our grandson, who is an athletic and busy three year old, his own fishing rod for his birthday and he is ready to get down there to fish on his next visit with us.

Windows, windows, windows

We have 60? assorted windows. We love light, and sunshine, and the outdoors. Example: our sitting room has six windows; the master bedroom/closet/bath has twelve; the garage/workshop has ten. So, window coverings are needed on some to shade, shield and block out the sun, depending on the room’s use. Not all the windows will be needing shades, but a few windows are needing some custom shades.

For the master bedroom windows and guest bedroom I was able to buy off-the-shelf white faux plantation Levolor’s at Lowe’s. Very nice; I’ve used them before. However, the upstairs office space has custom windows that could not use off the shelf products. Plus, we wanted something other than white in those windows. I remembered hearing about Blindsgalore, an online source of all kinds of window coverings. I actually checked out some Levolor and Bali blinds sample books at Lowe’s and decided what I wanted to use; colors, surface finish, blind depth.

upstairs office
Because these particular windows include casements on each side of the fixed middle window, the depth is shallower with the handle configuration intruding into the opening. I needed skinny slats, so we went with metal shades, in a complementary grey color, and a matte finish in a subtle texture. I could choose which sides I wanted the wand and lift cords. Blindsgalore has an exceptional return policy; even if you mismeasure and the blinds don’t fit, they will take them back, for any reason actually. We should be getting them early next week. They have a very quick turnaround and I’ve already gotten my email that says they have been shipped.

grey Granbury chopped; Maritech windows
Next windows to address are the living room. I have requested my free shade samples from Blindsgalore and will decide on those pretty quickly. Four windows flanking the fireplace will be solar screens with open weave to just shade the windows but still see out, two on adjacent wall will be a solid weave to provide night time privacy on just a couple windows that face the road. It is very hard for me to commit to something that we will have probably forever, so the shades and blinds are very critical for me to address space by space and make sure they function as needed and look very nice.

A garage as intended

Finally our garage has room for our cars. Since we moved in here late in November (Thanksgiving weekend; too busy for turkey), the ice and snow storms just were not conducive to working in the garage and clearing it out. So it has been in a literal “holding” pattern until just a few weeks back in March. It was up in the 70’s one Saturday, but expected to plunge back down into the freezing temps the next day, so we got busy.

I did not take a picture then because it was too embarrassing to have it crammed full of stuff. We got busy tossing, boxing for donations, and moving furniture “keepers” and my garden supplies out to the 16×32 metal building we had moved here from our other place. It was formerly fitted for my husband’s woodworking shop. Since we designed a workshop space for him attached to the garage, the building is now mine to use. One-third of it is walled off for storage space; the rest is going to be for me and all my garden stuff and potting bench, supplies for my chickens I will be getting, and just general outdoor accessories. I am really trying to keep clutter to a minimum so I will try my hardest to not junk it up.

We now have a livable space for our two cars. The mower will move into the workshop once it gets shelves and benches built so things are organized and off the floor. The shop space is still a mess, but a thousand times better.

semi clean garage

workshop to organize

We do have a few projects in the garage to clean it up even more. A mud bench to be built to house our Wellies and outdoor shoes and hangup hooks for coats. The big metal cabinet is my project I am just getting started on, first priming then painting it black. It stores all my paints and painting paraphernalia.

The little refrigerator is being used mostly for a “very few” overflow groceries, but mostly it is sentimental. It belonged to my husband’s parents, and they purchased it in about 1948. It needs some exterior refurbishing, but it still runs and keeps things cold for waters and power drinks (nice in summer) and keeps a few things in the tiny freezer.

Westinghouse refrig exterior

Westinghouse interior

It just feels good to have a usable garage again. It will look even better very soon, now that warmer weather is here to stay.