Let’s Talk About Hair

Elizabeth Taylor in the movie Giant.  She always had great cowgirl hair.
Elizabeth Taylor in the movie Giant. She always had great cowgirl hair.

All cowgirls know that proper hair care is very important to maintaining a true cowgirl image.  So I went to get my hair cut the other day and had a very pleasant experience, but to be honest, it was a little boring. The stylist is very nice and a little Austin edgy; her hair is always a different color each time I see her. The salon is very nice too- it’s filled with lots of yummy smelling products and potions that I feel certain will make me look younger and hotter.

But for all the niceness, it makes me long for the golden days of gossip while getting my hair cut at the Best Lil Hair House in Texas on Chestnut Street in Bastrop, TX. Those ladies might not have been as well trained or as polished as the Austin team, but they were world-class gossips. Within their halls of heavenly hair, I learned all about the news of the town that wasn’t fit to print in the town news paper- The Bastrop Advertiser.

I might not have ever gotten a deep scalp massage at the Best Lil Hair House, but I got very best Texas tall tale ear tickling in the state. From the constant chatter I learned all about who in town was broke, who was getting a divorce, who was having another baby and what new businesses where coming to town- or leaving town because of some sorted affair. All that information actually served me in some strange way in my own business. Inside the crowded paper thin walls of the renovated house, every towns person was suspect, and every story could quickly be spun into grandeur with a simple, “I’ve always wonder about them.”

Homecoming and prom where the times for the stylist to show off their creativity and it was the crossroads for gossip and prediction. Mothers and daughters predicted who would be crowned at the homecoming game and gossiped about who had been left heart broken in the wake of a dating coup.  It was worth it to schedule a quick trim to listen to the stories and see the high school girls have their hair turned into towering piles of glittering curls. When I lived in Bastrop it seemed like body and hair glitter was very popular.

Indeed, those where the good old days of hair care. With Austin growing by 110 people a day it just makes it too hard to gossip in the way that a small town can. So yes, it is nice to listen to the soft meditative sounds of pan flutes while letting the stylist lather my locks; but I would rather be straining my ears to listen to the lady next to me tell her tale of woe while her head is tipped back in the bowl.

Transforming Our Yard

We moved into our new house in February of 2014 and I quickly started documenting what birds and other wildlife frequented the yard. My goal is to turn it into a certified wildlife habitat and restore it to a more native state.  We live in what was once the edge of Austin, TX, but is now part of the heart of the city. From our back porch we can hear I-35 raging in it’s dramatic hurry day and night, yet our house feels in many ways like a remote park.

Red shoulder hawk in the morning
Red shoulder hawk in the morning

We chose the house because it is surrounded on two sides by a greenbelt and the house sits on .5 acres on a small hilltop in the middle of a neighborhood that was once a massive live oak forest. Before many of the older oaks died from oak wilt, there were trees that were 300-400 years old lining the small wet weather drainage areas that twist down to Walnut Creek. In the parking lot of the motorcycle dealership across I-35 there is an ancient oak tree that was a sapling when Christopher Columbus sailed for the America’s; the tree sits alone, walled in by asphalt with a single historic marker that tells of its life.

Understanding how my little yard fits into the greater scheme of the ecosystem that surrounds me is important so I can make choices that have a positive impact rather than a negative one. The new house has a good foundation for changing the landscape to something that will really attract birds, butterflies, toads, lizards, deer and other wildlife that might move through the area.

green lizard 2014 Through out the spring and summer I have observed what naturally occurs in the yard, studied how the light changes during the seasons, and how the water flows. The observations will be my guide as I start the journey of removing the traditional yard to replace it with native plants, add bird feeding stations, and provide water sources for avian, mammal and reptile species.

Once the fall bird and butterfly migration has ended in December, I will have a pretty good understanding of the baseline from which I can start my documentation of the changes that occur as I alter the food and water sources. Currently, the yard has very few flowering native plants- so it wont take long to increase the butterfly, moth and hummingbird population. Stopping the bi-monthly pesticide treatments that the person that lived here before subscribed to has already increased the lizard and toad populations- they are more effective at killing bugs anyway.

This is my journey to return .5 acres of urban yard to a more native space that uses less water and attracts more wildlife.

Current trees: Live oak, Pecan, Shin Oak, Red Oak, Hackberry

Current shrubs: Yaupon, Boxwood (not native), Nandina (not native), Mountain Laurel, Jade Bush (not native), Lantana, two other’s that I’m not sure about.

Sunday Morning

Many people spend their Sunday mornings at church and that brings them peace. They feel comfort in the hymnal songs and are brought inspiration in the words delivered in the service. I too enjoy finding, peace, comfort and inspiration on a Sunday morning, but I prefer to do that outdoors with the creatures God granted us the honor of sharing this world with.

Sunflowers in the back field.
Sunflowers in the back field.

Today I spent my Sunday morning on a trail ride with my big, grey mare. At 7:45 am, there are few other people at the barn, and I could enjoy all the natural sounds of morning and few human-made noises. Although, if I stand at the right place at the barn, I can hear the droning sounds of the cooling system from the Sam Sung Plant that is a few miles away. Mostly the air is filled with the calls of the grackles, white wing doves, house finches and cardinals, with an occasional dog barking in the distance.

My mare is a quiet sole so I don’t talk that much to her when we are tacking up, or even on the trail. We can communicate a lot of information by just the most delicate of touches as we plod through the meadows and along the trails. With all the recent rains and wind storms there are a lot trees that have fallen along the path that we have to negotiate, Breeze always chooses the right path to glide over a log or get me safely under a branch- and for that I am grateful.

On today’s ride I had a certain goal in mind when we left the barn- I wanted to see the big cottonwood tree at the furthest point we can ride to on the property. The tree rests in an ox bow of one of the creeks as it cuts along through the black land prairie. The tree has stood there long before Sam Sung built their plant, or before the first rancher laid claim to the land, it has peacefully watched over the changing creek for over 100 years.

On the way back, we stopped for a quick look at the field of sunflowers. Their happy, bright yellow faces turned to greet the sun as it climbed higher over our heads. The sun was already getting hot so we returned to the barn with a slow walk through the woods where the red shoulder hawks were teaching their young to fly and the wood peckers pounded away- looking for a meal. No song I’ve ever sung in church or words from a sacred book have ever been able to fill me with the inspiration,joy and since of responsibility that I find while quietly walking through the woods, observing all God’s gifts. For each it is different; for me- this is heaven on earth.

Howdy y’all!

The name Atomic Cowgirl is something that blends the two worlds that I straddle in my daily life; the fast-paced urban world and the slower-paced realm of nature.  Growing up in Austin, TX- I have seen lots of changes since 1973, but I can still find that balance between city life and country life that I grew up with.  Granted, that balance isn’t always easy to find and some days are a struggle to continue to have that connection with nature when the demands and distractions of the urban world are pounding at the door.  I hope you will enjoy the chronicle of my journey to stay firmly planted in both worlds and perhaps you too can start to consider how you will find that balance in your life.