Holiday Weekend Glamping

IMG_1577A snapshot of Americana Camping. We are currently at Bonito Hollow RV and Camp Ground outside Ruidoso, NM. The weather is perfect, partly cloudy, cool and the air is filled with various scents of BBQ, smoke and pine.

Our neighbors in campsite 10 are about 8 to 10 feet from us with their RV angled just right so that it blocks our view of the majority of their activity. However, we can see that they are setting up a small village between their 2 campsites. They have a full outdoor kitchen including items such as; crockpot, BBQ grill, fan, carpet, flattop griddle, 2 pop-up-tents, chairs, and several coolers. Did I mention the full spice rack / shelving unit that houses a family size bottle of Log Cabin syrup and over 400 paper plates? I’m sure the wildlife in the area has already alerted to their location and are plotting an evening ransack.

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Our little campsite

Their tribe is very colorful. Some of the women are sporting red and blue hair for the 4th of July holiday. And I can see a parade of colorful footwear appear as I peep through the space under their trailer as they pop in and out of their portable home.

Across the dirt driveway is another couple who is also setting up a small village. They have far less people they are setting up for, but seem to have an equal amount of gear. They’re campsite is a bit more color coordinated with a variety of green and yellow sundries. The wife just popped out of their fifth-wheel to inspect her husband’s work, and she even has a green flyswatter. They are now putting out humming bird feeders in the Pinion Pine.

A family of four just drove past with a pop-up trailer heading for one of the campsites down the hill. Each truck that passes is filled to the brim with chairs, grills, bikes, and other household items to make camping seem just like home.

On the other side of us the father of the family of six camping in a little tent city just popped open his first beer of the day at 3:15 pm and announced his valiant action to the rest of his tribe. Yesterday, their kids where playing with a projectile toy, and it landed on the top of our RV.IMG_1608

In about an hour all 60 plus campsites should be filled with campers, each seeking an outdoor moment on a holiday weekend. With every campsite full, it feels like a makeshift town that has sprung up in a matter of hours rather than an outdoor experience. But we humans are social animals and this is just part of being an American human.

A gentle rain just started, but we are sheltered under our 19 foot awning. Thomas is in is lawn chair and the dogs are all hunkered down around us. We took them for a 4 mile hike this morning and they are in full lazy paws mode. This is also our 14th day of camping so the dogs are seasoned campsite dogs. Casino wishes he had the lady’s flyswatter from campsite 22.

The sound of pounding tent stakes now echoes through the campsite as the tent campers deploy their rain flies.

But the winner of the Great American Campout in Bonito Hollow is up the hill at site number 50 something. The giant fifth-wheel is decorated with red, white and blue bunting, sparking lights, lawn chairs for ever member of their extended family, grills, lanterns, and windsocks. A true patriot decked out in the colors of our flag.IMG_1654

In a frenzy to keep up with the other campers, we deployed all of our outdoor wares.  We set out our matching reclining lawn chairs on our large matt, strung the retro RV Christmas lights, and erected our folding table. In a moment of feeling totally outdone by our neighbors, we considered bringing out the standalone ice maker. Then we realized even that was no match for the level of gear the other families brought.

A woman just walked past in high heels carrying a pink clutch purse. Anything goes here at Bonito Hollow, just as anything goes here in the U.S. of A.

 

 

 

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Yard Make Over at 20 Paws Ranch

 

20 Paws Ranch

20 Paws Ranch

When we moved into our house the yard was filled with non-native plants, grass and some amazing trees. None of the plants bloomed and few offered any resources for wildlife. Over the past year and ½ I have systematically removed all the invasive and non-native plants (accept the grass.) This summer I decided to start replacing the plants with native plants that bloom and offer a food source to birds, butterflies, and other wildlife.                                                                                                                                It hasn’t been easy! Removing invasive plants is a lot of work. More often than not they come back unless they are sprayed and I don’t like to use herbicide. So I have to hack at them several times or totally remove their roots. But it’s totally worth it- I love Texas and I only want Texas plants in my yard!

This summer I ordered 1 ton of limestone and 2 yards of pea gravel to complete my flowerbeds. This afternoon I completed the second flowerbed. It has lots of native plants that will grow into the space, a place for me to coil up my water hose (finally!) and I installed a birdbath with a drip.

The birdbath with a drip is key to attracting birds in the front yard. It sits on a rock pile that I built to cover an old tree stump. The layered rocks provide places for toad and lizards to live- which in turn cuts down on insects.

The before photo- big hedges and no flowers

The before photo- big hedges and no flowers

I also have started mowing the large lawn in sections to the fireflies have habitat.  They love longer, moist grasses and plants. The results of that experiment have been amazing.  We have tons of fireflies every night. Oh- and another thing I did for the fireflies was eliminate all outdoor lighting.  The outdoor lights now only come on when someone passes by instead of always flooding the property.

In May I certified our yard as a Wildlife Habitat and Bird Habitat with National Wildlife Federation. The certification means that our yard has the following elements:

Water– we have 2 birdbaths and now a drip, plus a wet weather creek.

Food– we have large trees that produce acorns, pecans, and seeds, plus we now have a variety of native plants that provide nectar and seeds. We have bird feeders with seed and hummingbird feeders.

Birdbath, rock pile and gnom

Birdbath, rock pile and gnom

Shelter– we have large trees, log pile and rock piles.

Chemicals– we don’t use any chemicals on the lawn.

I purchase all my plants at Barton Creek Nursery – locally owned and locally grown.

The birdbath and other bird feeders come from Wild Birds Unlimited– also locally owned.

We also added gutters and rain barrels this spring to capture the water to use on the yard and plants.  They’ve been a big help this year.

 

Rain Barrel

Rain Barrel

Installing the plants, rock and gravel

Installing the plants, rock and gravel

Wildlife in the Woods

Our nephew helping us move the game camera.

Our nephew helping us move the game camera.

A year ago, my husband and I moved around the corner from our old house into the home we are in now. One of the main reasons we moved was because the property of our new house is buffered on 2 sides by greenbelt with a little wet weather creek and thick woods. Even though we are in the City of Austin, we feel like we are in the country within the confines of our little sanctuary.

In January we decided to document the wildlife that lives in the small greenbelt that buffers the neighborhood and connects up with Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park. We installed a game camera on a tree that was near the little path that the animals made in the woods.

Grey Fox walking through the woods at night.

Grey Fox walking through the woods at night.

In the first two days we found that the woods have a ton of wildlife. The first photo was of an armadillo, then a fox, possum, deer, feral cat, squirrel, birds, a big buck, mouse, and finally kids playing in the woods.

Since then we have moved the camera to several different spots to see if we can capture photos of any other species of animals wandering through. So far we don’t have a photo of a cotton-tailed rabbit, jackrabbit or a coyote, but we’ve heard coyotes on more than one occasion. However, I don’t think we have bobcat this close into the city.

When the weather gets warmer, we will move the camera closer to the creek to see if we can document any type of reptiles. We have also documented over 25 species of birds that live in the area or migrate through.

Here is a list of all the wildlife we’ve seen so far in the yard or in the woods behind the house.

Game Camera hiding in plain sight.

Game Camera hiding in plain sight.

Mammals:

Armadillo, Fox, Raccoon, Squirrel, Mouse, Deer, Possum

 Birds:

Great Horned Owl, Screech Owl, Red Shoulder Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Crested Cara Cara, Carolina Wren, White Wing Dove, Mourning Dove, Red Bellied Wood Pecker, Downy Wood Pecker, Ladder Back Wood Pecker, Chimney Swift, Purple Martin, Cedar Waxwing, Blue Jay, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal, Great Tailed Grackle, American Gold Finch, House Finch, Lessor Gold Finch, Blue Grey Gnatcatcher, Tennessee Warbler, House Sparrow, Ruby Throated Hummingbird, Black Chinned Humming Bird, Back Crested Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee.