Beaches and Birds

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“We sit in the mud…and reach for the stars.” ~ Ivan Turgenev

Twenty years together is a milestone for a married couple, but it seems like yesterday that he and I made the transition from friends to lovers.  Where does the time go?  Oh yeah.  I forgot about the four kids we threw into the mix.  That really eats into the daytime hours.

The first week of October in Houston, coupled with even the slightest drop in temperature (woke up to 58, a high of 82 today!), gets us itching for one of two things:   camping or beach going.  As it may be another month before the mosquitoes will even allow us to camp comfortably (i.e., they are completely gone), we opted for the beach instead.  The kids, of course, couldn’t wait to put their little toes in the Mississippi silt Galveston sand.  Mom and Dad had other plans; we wanted a few fall migratory birds for our list.

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Butternut Squash, September Captured

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“Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.” ~ Samuel Butler

Speaking of fruits, the squash, for me anyway, screams autumn! And not in just a jack-o-lantern of way. A perpetual squash-something-or-rather can be plucked from our fridge here through January.  They’re cheap to buy, easy to grow, [most] can be stored right on the countertop or in a cool basement or garage, and their flesh adds vital winter nutrients and texture to just about any cooked dish.  My absolute favorite squash recipe is Curried Butternut Squash Soup.  I like to keep some on hand for those comfort moments where others might lean on a Starbucks latte.  It just feels like a warm hug in a mug…without all the nasty stuff or a long wait in the line.

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Hummingbird Banding Xtravaganza

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“The hummingbird competes with the stillness of the air.” ~ Chogyam Trungpa

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The coming of autumn in Houston is always marked by the Ruby-throated Hummingbird migration to the south.  We are smack dab in the Texas flyway, through which these little jewels have traveled hundreds of miles already from as far north as Alaska — just to tank up at my backyard feeders.  With the goal of building up fat stores with lots and lots of sugar water, they will finish their journey to the south — flying several hundred more miles directly across the Gulf of Mexico.

It is an amazing journey for an amazing species.

Because I go through the trouble of maintaining feeders in my yard year after year, they return to guard them like it’s the last meal they’ll ever have.  They will linger in significant numbers, through October.   See for yourself!

Our Big Year journey coupled with prodding birding friends have had my family eager to attend a hummingbird banding session before the year end.  Lucky for us, the great folks at the Gulf Coast Birding Observatory had one this weekend.  The event is geared specifically toward enlisting all the young, budding naturalists into the field of ornithology; adults pay $2 each, but if you’re a kid, you get to enjoy it all for FREE.

And what each child takes away is just priceless.

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DirtNKids (no Ice) Bucket Challenge: Water Conservation

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US_Ice_Bucket_Challenge

Photo credit: No Idea

Like millions of others, I watch friends and family take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and laugh and amuse myself.  Arguably, it’s a fun and crazy way to spread the word about this dreadful disease.  My children already know about Lou Gehrig’s Disease and its affiliates, that there is currently no cure for it, that it can strike anyone at any time. As children of nature and science, we are too familiar with Stephen Hawking‘s contributions to the world of astronomy and physics, despite his affliction with ALS.

Not to knock any diseases of homo sapiens, this is the real picture in my head every time I watch an Ice Bucket Challenge video.Not US Water Bucket Challenge

It contrasts with the one at the beginning of this post, wouldn’t you say?  It’s really hard to focus on one human disease when drinking from a water puddle brings to mind many diseases, all of which can be prevented just by providing clean water — free from contaminants.  Watching all that H2O wasted just to become some 15-second video sensation seems…well, kind of selfish.

Where the average American consumes around 100 gallons of clean water, the average sub-Saharan African uses only two.  What we need now is a paradigm shift and a renewed appreciation for our most valuable natural resource – clean, fresh drinkable water.

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