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Happy New Year to All!

Happy New Year!

Another year, 2016, is coming to an end.  We are happily ensconced in our winter home here in Texas.  I’d say deep in the heart of Texas but it is more like the tippy-toes of Texas, way down south almost on the US-Mexico border.  We had a light shower this morning so my outside work is delayed until the ground and grass dry.  I’m enlarging the patio in our back yard and adding a walkway alongside the house to replace the path I’ve worn in the dirt.  The lawn needs mowing and I need to check the roof after a particularly windy night earlier this week.  None of this was necessary when we were full time!!!

I just picked up my iPad to check the weather.  What an amazing device the iPad is.  It’s a second computer that I can grab and get information from almost instantly.  Handier for checking information than opening a document on my computer.  Pop it open and get an address or phone number, open a map and zoom to any area you want in just a minute.  The world at my fingertips.  I like to reference it while driving the motor home but of course I can’t so I turn that duty over to Louise.  She is less a fan.  I need to talk her through step by step to get the information that I want.  Occasionally, she will agree that it is helpful to be able to zoom in on a map and see road detail that isn’t in the trucker’s atlas.  We use it to search for cheap diesel, find rest stops, overnight parking, and campgrounds.  It saves us money and makes life on the road much easier.

Several years ago, I took the training to get my certification as a Texas Master Naturalist.  It is similar to the Master Gardner program.  The focus is on all of nature, not just plants and gardening.  In fact, the Master Naturalist Program began here in Texas when some Master Gardeners became adventuresome and were introducing many fringe areas to the Master Gardner meetings.  They were bringing in bugs, birds, butterflies, soil science, water conservation, native plants, invasive species and a host of other topics that were related to gardening but not quite part of the Master Gardner area of focus.  So, they started something new.  It has grown from a single chapter in San Antonio to over 40 chapters state-wide and is now found in many other states.  I mention this because when we return to Texas I pick up the mantle of a Master Naturalist and dig into volunteer work at some of the local nature and wildlife parks here in the Rio Grande Valley. 

January is the beginning of our annual class for certification and we have 24 people lined up for the training in our local chapter.  I will have the stage at the orientation session as I describe the program, it’s history, purpose and the training program which starts them on the path to certification.  I will mentor three of the new trainees, giving them encouragement and advice to help them reach their goal.  I also do the website for the chapter. 

My favorite volunteer activity is to assist a local high school teacher, a trained wildlife biologist, with his bird banding.  It has expanded my experience with birds and pushed me to learn new skills.  There is nothing like having a bird in the hand.  What amazing creatures they are.  Of course, there is the occasional Cardinal that will get it’s beak on a bit of a finger and it won’t let loose until it draws blood.  Putting bands on birds is real research, helping us learn more about the birds, their migration patterns, their longevity, their patterns of movement and much more. 

On our return to the RGV in late October, we stopped north of Houston so I could attend the Master Naturalist annual meeting in Montgomery.  I enjoy these meetings.  We stayed at the KOA in Montgomery, a nice very large park with strange KOA rules.  Louise is happy to have some time to read and relax outside in the sunshine while I’m spending the day in meetings.  There is always something new to learn and this meeting was no exception.  Meeting other TMN’s and learning about their activities is inspiring.  There were over 300 TMN’s from all over Texas in attendance.  One of my friends received an award for 4000 hours of volunteer time and the corresponding Presidential Volunteer Certificate of Recognition.  This is the program started by President George H. W. Bush, his “Thousand Points of Light.”  Her husband received an award for 5000 volunteer hours.  That is some real dedication to the community and its nature parks and centers.

Our motor home has spent the last two months in the shop.  There were several things that needed work on the motor home and some body damage from an ill-advised backing maneuver so we decided to get all the work done at one time.  We didn’t anticipate it taking two months but ordering parts takes time and then I think of one more thing and that takes another part so here we go again.  I’ve already moved it from the RV shop to Freightliner for some chassis work, brakes, belts and more.  That was done while waiting for one of the last parts to be ordered.  Then I found that the step cover that slides out to keep the grandchildren from falling into the stairwell wasn’t working.  That means another part…

When the RV shop releases it, I’ll take it to the flooring shop to get new carpet.  We debated going to tile or other flooring product but finally decided the simplest thing was to simply replace the carpet.  Once it returns home we will do a complete restocking.  We cleaned it out completely before turning it over to the RV shop.  That is something that hasn’t happened since we moved into it in November of 2003.  I’m guessing more than a few things that we removed won’t go back.  It needed a good housecleaning. 

Here’s hoping that 2017 finds all well with you and that the coming year will bring you good fortune and happy travels.

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