Saturday, April 22, 2017

Bee Season

Carpenter bees love the two bottom steps.

It’s that time of year again. It’s carpenter bee season. It starts in early March and extends to the end of September. My annual spring battle is on.

I first wrote about these pesky insects two years ago.The problem hasn’t gone away. It hasn’t gotten better.

I had my azalea bushes cut down to the ground. I was hoping that without sustenance, the worrisome winged varmints would go away. Not a chance. They draw on wildflowers, like my oak leaf hydrangeas and soon, my dogwood trees. 

Last spring, or maybe it was fall, I called Battle Creek Log Homes about how to prevent squirrels from chewing on my log home. They had never heard of such a thing. In our conversation, they mentioned something about sealing the logs. It was the first time in the 15 years I had lived here that I knew sealing was necessary.

My handyman pressure-washed my log house, then sprayed a clear sealant on it. It looked great until the sealant was totally absorbed. In other words, about two or three months. He used a brand meant for decks and porches. It doesn’t work well for log homes. Now it’s got to be done again. I’m willing to pay a little more and use a product meant for logs homes. Also, there’s an additive I’ve read about that will deter the bees for two years. Gotta get me some of that!

I don’t know about squirrels, but carpenter bees aren’t bothered much by sealants. Paint keeps them out, but I don’t want to paint my logs. The bees won’t bore through fine-mesh, wire screens, either. So a few years ago I bought a roll of wire screen material and had my tenant put pieces under each step of my front porch. The bees prefer drilling holes under steps and porch rails, because they’re protected from the rain. Trouble is, my tenant  didn’t install the screen all the way to the front edge at the two bottom steps, and that’s where I have the biggest problem. The 6.5-inch long nozzle of my dust sprayer isn’t flexible, so I can’t spray Drione dust into the holes under those two steps. Their bottoms are too close to the ground.

I’m getting desperate. I think about having my wooden steps ripped out and replaced with stone or concrete. I may do just the two bottom steps. We’ll see.

Every year, I say I’m going to start spraying the logs early. I have a liquid chemical that needs to be sprayed once a month during peak bee season (early Spring). As I’ve written here before, March is the time to start. March is a windy month. That means the spray flies back into my face. So I procrastinate. 

Sometimes, I don’t do anything except hang more bee traps. I like swatting  bees with my flyswatter, too. I have to find where one lands, though, and step on it. Swatting only stuns it.

I know that their numbers are legion. Swatting a few is like pulling weeds. There are always more to take their place.  Nevertheless, I find it immensely satisfying.

I just wish I were as resilient as those $%*#+@ bees!

Saturday, March 25, 2017


I’m going to be a grandmother again. Neither of my daughters is pregnant, though. This will be a four-legged addition to my family. It’s coming with a tail and a mane. 

My TWH mare, Mallory, is pregnant. I found out Valentine’s Day. How romantic.

As best I can calculate, she’s due the first week of June. Horses gestate 11 months. When the vet preg-checked her February 14, he said she was about seven-and-a-half to eight months along. Flashback to my July 8, 2016, blog about her getting hung up on my fence, with her back half in my neighbor’s pasture, her front half in mine. Picture my neighbor’s stud munching contentedly as we worked to free her. Yep, that must have been the day.

“He took advantage of her while she was in a vulnerable position,” my youngest daughter said, when I told her the news.

“Are you kidding? “ I replied. “The shameless hussy backed up to him. How do you think she got into that position in the first place?”

My feelings are mixed. Yes, I’m excited. I’ve thought about getting a foal out of Mallory. I’ve thought about the fun of raising one. Foals are cute from Day One. They come out all legs. They stand on wobbly stilts within an hour of birth. 

Someone told me it would be difficult for her to get pregnant for the first time at her age. (She’ll be 15 in April.) So much for that argument.

Raising a foal is a lot of work. You have to handle it from Day One. You have to gentle it. You have to feed it. You have to train it. All of that takes time and money. I know nothing about the daddy’s side of the family — he was a rescue with no papers. Even when you know the lineage, you can’t be sure you’ll get a good horse out of the deal. 

Mixed emotions aside, I’ve been thinking about names. Ever since I watched Richard Boone in the 1950s television show, “Have Gun, Will Travel,” I’ve wanted a black horse named Paladin. If Mallory’s foal is a black colt, that will be his name. It might be even if he isn’t black. His daddy was red, so who knows? I’m contemplating “Cheyanne” if it’s a philly. I’m not set on that one.

Any suggestions?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Texas In Our Rear-View Mirror

Nothing makes a road trip more enjoyable than connecting with old friends and making new ones. Lucy and Ethyl left Boerne, Texas, Monday morning, March 13, bound for home after a stop in the Houston area. Judy Salyer, a friend from Ashville, moved there about a year and a half ago, along with her mother, to be near her sister. By the time we got home, we had made a new friend, although we’ll probably never see him again.

We wore our new road trip shirts purchased from Buc-ee’s, a convenience store that is spreading like prickly-pear cactus all over Texas. We already had road-trip tees from Gruene, TX, but they had a small logo on the front and a large one on the back. Our new ones feature an old pickup truck with the words “country deep” on its tail gate, “Luv N” on its license plate, and “Road Trippin” in huge letters on the front. Now we can face the camera head-on instead of looking back over our shoulders. Much less awkward.
Elaine & Judy in front of her apartment

 We arrived at Judy’s apartment in Kingwood, a Houston suburb, about 2 p.m., and there were plenty of hugs to go around. Her complex has lots of activities for residents, including weekly movies, water aerobics, dancing to live music and its own fitness center. Judy teaches a painting class, attends a local church that picks her up on Sundays, and goes to Bible study at another church at least once a week. She has a more active social life than I do! “I’m the happiest now that I’ve ever been,” she remarked. She was disappointed that we could stay only two hours, but we wanted to get to Carthage by nightfall. We had an adventure planned for the next day. 

Ethyl had discovered an obscure piece of Texas history that was smack dab on the border between Louisiana and Texas, off FM 31 if you’re leaving The Lone Star State. A relic from the days when Logansport, Louisiana, was the western edge of the American southwest, it is the only known international boundary marker in the United States. It was placed there in 1841 to separate the Republic of Texas from the U.S. The Texas Historical Foundation purchased this site to provide public access to the early boundary marker. If you’re a history buff, it’s worth hitting the back roads to see it.

When we made a pit stop at the Mississippi welcome center on I-20 (we don’t always take the back roads home), I spotted a young Asian man fiddling with his camera. There was no one with him, so I offered to take his photo in front of the “Welcome to Mississippi” sign, with the mighty river in the background. He readily agreed, then took pictures of Lucy and Ethyl with our cell phones and his own camera. Imagine our surprise when he flagged us down a few hours later at the Alabama welcome center! He seemed genuinely happy to see us, and we made another round of photos in front of the “Welcome to Alabama” sign.

Instead of stopping for lunch, Ethyl and I snacked on the remaining cheese, nuts and summer sausage I had brought from home in a cooler. Dinner would be our meal of the day, and when I mentioned Tuscaloosa, Ethyl said she’d like to try Dreamland Barbecue. We found the original location, and we weren’t disappointed. In the beginning, the joint served only ribs and white bread, but it has added traditional sides such as cole slaw, baked beans and potato salad to its menu over the years. Each if us had a half-slab of ribs; Ethyl accompanied hers with potato salad, I had the slaw. Yum!

We arrived home about 8 p.m., and after feeding my barn critters, we decided to try a shot of the Códego 1530 tequila I had purchased in Texas. George Strait is a brand partner and investor in this top-shelf tequila that was until recently a private, nameless product distilled for four generations by the same family in Amatitán, Mexico. There are five tiers in the brand, and I bought the middle one, the reposado. Frankly, it isn’t worth the price, at least not when sipped au natural. Maybe I should reserve my judgment until I’ve had it in a margarita. Then again, maybe my taste buds just aren’t as refined as those of King George.

The next planned adventure of the Back Roads Babes isn’t until next December, when we’ll see George in concert in Las Vegas and attend the National Rodeo Finals. Yee-haw!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Let's Go To Luckenbach, Texas

Sunday was a leisurely day of sleeping late and taking our own sweet time getting ready. We were tired from five days of traveling and two days at the roping, and the time change didn't help any.

We hit the road for Fredericksburg about 10 a.m., stopping just inside the city limits at Das Peach Haus. Established in 1969 as a roadside fruit stand at a peach orchard, the little store is built of logs from a 147-year-old German cabin. The store sells its own gourmet sauces, salsas, jams, jellies and more. They had samples of some of their sauces poured over blocks of cream cheese. Spread onto crackers, they were delicious. They had a "Buy three, get our Original Roasted Raspberry Chipolte Sauce free" special, so I bought Harvest Peach & Hatch Pepper, Whiskey-Soaked Cherry Pasilla,  and Smokey Ancho Cherry. Annette bought a small piece of pottery that could be used for pouring syrup or cream.

Fredericksburg was covered up with tourists, and we had to park on a back street. It was safe, though, because it was across the street from the Lutheran church and right in front of the pastor's home. He walked up and welcomed us to town. Probably hoped we might be new congregants.

This is our third visit to Fredericksburg. On our first Texas Road Trip in 2015, I bought a beautiful watch with colorful stone inlays there. It was designed by New Mexico artist Calvin Begay. The fastener keeps catching on open-weave fabrics, so I went back to look for one with purple stones on a stretch band. Big mistake. I came out with a silver chain, gorgeous horse pendant and, yep, the watch I had hoped to find. The guy made me a deal, "giving" me the pendant (also made by Begay) and chain for buying the watch because I was a repeat customer. I'm sure he didn't lose any money, though. He probably has a hefty markup.

We stopped in another fabric shop, where Annette bought some western-print cloth to make a boot-themed quilt. I bought some western-print flannel to make winter lounging pants. We got out for a lot less money than what I spent in the jewelry store.

Elaine at Luckenbach
After leaving Fredericksburg, we swung by Luckenbach, the town made famous by the Willie Nelson-Waylon Jennings song, long enough to take photos in front of the old post office sign. Believe it or not, we didn't even go inside the souvenir shop. We wanted to get to Wildseed Farms before it closed at 5 p.m. Annette got two more prints by Georgetown, Texas, watercolor artist Kathleen McElwaine, and a table runner with bluebonnets on it. She had bought one of McElwaine's longhorn prints there last year, and I had managed to snag one of her originals at a gallery in Kerrville. I swear I didn't buy a single thing at Wildseed.

Annette in Wildseed's bluebonnet patch

Monday we left for home, perhaps stopping to visit a friend who moved from Ashville to a Houston suburb about a year and a half ago. We got home Tuesday about 8:30 a.m., spent Wednesday in a hazy and did absolutely nothing but download photos. I'll tell you about our two-day return trip in tomorrow's blog.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Technical Difficulties

Dear Reader:

Due to technical difficulties -- the computer room at the Comfort Inn where we're staying in Boerne has been dismantled for remodeling -- I won't be able to do another post until I get home. I have today's blog written, but can't upload the photos via my iPad. We should arrive in Ashvillle late Tuesday, and I'll catch up Wednesday. Stand by.

Saturday, March 11, 2017


Between the hats and hinies, the colorful ropes and the $567,000 payout, not to mention the King of Country Music himself, there was plenty of cowboy candy to go around at the San Antonio Rose Palace this weekend. If you're looking for a cowboy, a team roping event is the place to be.

It was the 35th annual George Strait Team Roping Classic (GSTRC), March 10-11 this year. Take 541 teams and multiply by two, because each team has a header and a heeler, and you'll have the number of cowboys in the roping. That doesn't count flag men, the announcers, the onlookers in the bleachers and the cowboys at the booths that served beer and margaritas. Even James Pickens Jr., the actor who played Dr. Richard Webber on TV's Grey's Anatomy, was spotted in the crowd. And every cowboy you spoke to said, "Yes m'am."

Friday was rather boring, but that allowed for a lot of shopping time in the vendor section. Today was much more exciting. The top 50 teams from yesterday's competition returned for three rotations. The winning team, Clay Cooper and Aaron Tsinigine, had a combined total of 14.47 seconds for their three, which enabled them to take home a 2017 Chevrolet Silverado dually and Bruton Strait X-Treme bumper-pull horse trailer each, plus $203,200 in cash between them.

What made Saturday so exciting was watching the last six or eight teams in the third rotation.  Each was faster than the one before it, with the announcer saying something like, "These guys need a 6.3 (or a 5.8, or whatever) to put them in first place." And each team kept beating
the necessary time.
The King of  Country Music

I had always thought of ropes as being a neutral color, like hay, but some of the GSTRC entrants used aqua, pink and even lavender ones to rope their steers. I never could find out why. Maybe the colors made them easier to see while in motion, but who would have thought cowboys could be as colorful as little girls' Easter dresses.

The camaraderie among fans grew as the hours passed. By the time today's finals were over around 2 p.m., those of us who had sat together for two days were old buddies. The jokes and puns were flying. One guy's girlfriend told him to fasten the snap on his shirt at his belly. I turned around and told him if he were going to undo a button, he should start at the top so I could see his chest. Later, as he was returning from lunch, he leaned over, unbuttoned his top two buttons to reveal some gray hairs, and said, "This is for you." We all had a great laugh over that, except for his girlfriend, who wasn't sure what all the commotion was about.

Steers in a holding pen
Another guy sitting next to me from Pflugerville, TX, near Austin, had a Nikon camera with an 80x zoom lens. He was getting some great photos of George and family, who were sitting in the glass-enclosed VIP box across the arena. He showed me those, along with some photos he had taken at his home. When I commented on the photo of a full moon, he quipped, "We have full moons in Pflugerville, too." Then I pretended to stand up, turned my backside his way, and announced, "I'll show you a full moon!" Everyone around us laughed hysterically, and his face turned beet red. "You got me," he said, good-naturedly.

Of course, most folks came to see George Strait. He doesn't perform at this event any more, unless you can call riding his horse around the arena at the opening the second day while thanking the sponsors a performance. Guess it was, because folks were hanging off the rails just to touch his hand as he rode by.

Ride 'em cowboy

One of the truck-dully teams awarded the winners

Thursday, March 9, 2017


"Cross The Brazos at Waco, ride on and I make it by dawn; Cross the Brazos at Waco, I'm safe when I reach San Antone."

Those lyrics, recorded by Billy Walker and Marty Robbins, kept playing in my head as we approached Waco last night, and again when we got up this morning. We came here to see Magnolia Market, but it wasn't nearly as interesting to this old cowgirl as the sculptures of the wranglers and longhorns beside the Brazos River.
Magnolia Market is a group of buildings housing a home-decor market, small bakery and flower/ seed shop. Owned and operated by HGTV's Chip and Joanna Gaines, the compound includes a playground for children and two old grain silos that the couple has plans for later. The market didn't move me, because I'm not into decorating with silk flowers, cotton bolls and milk cans. It was a bit pricey, too, but folks were lined up at the door half an hour before it's 9 a.m. opening. They pawed over dinnerware and table linens, bought tee shirts and magnets, signs and magnolia-scented candles. I purchased a rectangular butter dish because I needed one, and a Magnolia Market magnet. It was just another upscale decorator's shop to me, because I like to fill my home with objects d'art that have special meaning to me. To each his own.

When we left the market, we circled back to the banks of the Brazos River to see a group of bronze longhorn cattle and drovers by Texas sculptor Robert Summers called, "The Waco Chisholm Trail Heritage." The sculptures are on one side of the historic Waco Suspension Bridge, where cattlemen used to drive their herds across the river. It's a single-span suspension bridge that's now used by pedestrians and bicyclists, and naturally I had to walk across just to say I had crossed the Brazos at Waco. 

The sculptures were marvelous in their depiction of a vaquero, a black drover and a trail boss. Cowboys, their horses and the longhorns were caught in motion, as if the men really were driving the cattle across the river.

We took I-35 South down to Boerne, and again were rewarded by the wildflowers. Texas Bluebonnets, the state flower, are in bloom, and it was worth putting up with interstate traffic just to see them.

Tomorrow the George Strait Team Roping Classic starts, and we need to have the truck in line at the San Antonio Rose Palace by 7 a.m. I probably won't post again until Saturday night, so I can sum up the team roping.