nature, Opt Outside in Texas

Alluring Bald Cypress Trees at Two Texas Parks

Bald cypress trees are delightful, intricate works of art. Luckily, I live a short drive from many great locations to view these beauties.

The two locations I’m highlighting today are the Cibolo Nature Center in Boerne, TX and Cypress Bend Park in New Braunfels, TX.

The trail at the Cibolo Nature Center has quickly become one of my favorite destinations. It’s family-friendly (note that not all of the trail by the water is wheel accessible) and quite peaceful. I regularly observe people doing photography sessions.

Did you know? Cypress are in the Cupressaceae family.

Cupressaceae (Cypress family) description (conifers.org)

Cypress Bend Park in the City of New Braunfels has big open fields to run in as well as an accessible trail. On the day I went, there were people fishing, walking their dogs, and just all-in-all having a great time. It’s a short and sweet trail.

According to the Cypress Bend park webpage, it is the last public exit for tubers to get out of the Guadalupe River.

In addition to the alluring cypress trees, both locations offer a variety of flora and fauna to enjoy.

Thanks for joining me and remember to explore your local parks + learning centers!

nature, Opt Outside in Texas, Travel & Tourism, U.S. Destinations

Wine, Bread, and Hiking? Castroville, Texas Has It All!

This post was updated on 4 April 2021 to include information about the Castroville Poppy House.

Texas travel and tourism has no shortage of small-town stopping points. One of my favorite things about Texas is that travel here often involves history, nature, or some combination of the two. Today’s post is about Castroville, “the Little Alsace of Texas” and a small town west of San Antonio. At first glance, Castroville seems unassuming, with Highway 90 running down the middle and a lack of bells and whistles. For those in the know, it’s not a place to pass through, it’s a whole destination: Haby’s Alsatian Bakery, Medina River Winery, historic landmarks such as the Castroville Poppy House, and public parks. There’s plenty to do to make Castroville your next staycation or vacation.

Hiking is fun for the whole family!

My personal favorite place to go is Castroville Regional Park. It boasts a pool, RV park, hiking trails, and I’ve seen people depart their vehicles with pool floaties destined for the Medina River. It’s a great location for picnics with family and friends. Be cautious of the wildlife and heed all warning signs. Bring lots of water and watch your step!

If you’re anything like me then after your hike at the park, you’ll want to stop by the Magnolia Filling Station for some iced coffee.

Castroville-based Black Rose Writing sponsors a Little Free Library next to the Magnolia Filling Station

Wine lovers are not forgotten in Castroville. Medina River Winery is locally owned and operated. My personal favorite is the Blanc Dubois. They are currently open for pickup – send them a message to reserve a bottle!

Castroville boasts another unique feat: At the turn of the 21st century, an entire 1,200+ sq ft, 17th century Alsatian house was disassembled in France and put back together in Castroville (see below pic to get an idea of the style). Click here to learn more about the Steinbach House.

Photo by Pierre Blachu00e9 on Pexels.com

Another gem is Haby’s Alsatian Bakery, which has such a delicious assortment of treats and sweets that as I write this I am very tempted to drive over and get some. In addition to ready-made breads, donuts, and pastries, they fill custom orders and supply bread for Sammy’s Restaurant across the street.

Over Easter weekend, my son and I visited the Castroville Poppy House. I drove by it on my way to the regional park and thought, where did all these flowers come from?? Fortunately, Lloyd and Sally have opened their historic property during the months of March and April for visits and photographs. Their beautiful dog, Jack, is ready to greet you with a friendly tail wag – if that doesn’t entice you further, I don’t know what else will!

(The following information comes from the Castroville Area Chamber of Commerce 2020 Visitor Guide.) The home on the property is the G. L. Haass House and was built in the late 1840s/early 1850s, with room additions occurring over the subsequent years. “The house was constructed using hand-hewed native cypress for beaming and framing with locally quarried limestone for the foundation… The original hand-made front doors are of a unique French style assembled using wooden dowels no nails. All windows were 12 paned double hung windows with louvered shutters.”

It is believed that the log cabin – located next to the windmill and well – was relocated to this property from another site but the reason is unknown. According to the 2020 Visitor Guide, it is “the last original free standing one room log cabin left in Castroville from the early pioneer days.”

George Haass was deeded this property by Henri Castro (for whom Castroville is named after) in 1847. “George Haass, a native of Durkheim, Bavaria Germany, was one of Henri Castro’s original colonists. He was one of two paid guides leading the colonists out of San Antonio on September 1, 1844, to settle near the Medina River on September 3, 1844, and was one of the original signers naming and founding Castroville on September 12, 1844.” Haass also went on to become Castroville’s first constable in 1844, the first sheriff of Medina County in 1848, and was a mayor, among other business ventures.

Can you imagine saddling up and heading west to Castroville? Now, we get there in no time – all we have to do is load up the car and head down Highway 90 or the farm-to-market road (my preferred route, actually, I like taking the back roads 🙂 ).

In some more good news, Lloyd shared that they are planning to turn the A. H. Tondre House (catty-cornered to the G. L. Haass house) into a bed and breakfast. Sign me up for that! The A. H. Tondre house is an early 1900s Sears, Roebuck and Co model.

Information on the properties listed above as well as much more is available in the Chamber’s visitor guide, which also includes a map and descriptions of the 70+ properties on the Castroville Walking Tour.

Castroville has so much to offer for history and nature lovers and anyone seeking a laid-back weekend. (I can’t wait to do the historic walking tour!) Visit the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Castroville to learn more!

nature, Special Guests, Wellness

Bloom Where You’re Planted: Q+A with Hannah!

Bloom where you’re planted.

Today’s post explores the benefits of houseplants and gardening.

Gardening can be rewarding mentally, physically, spiritually, and even economically. Bringing the outside in brightens up living spaces and helps with air quality – not to mention the sweet scents of the flowers!

Read on to explore Hannah’s love of plants – both houseplants and outdoor – and learn about the benefits of your local plant nurseries.

***

What draws you to plants and gardening? 
I like how gardening makes me feel, especially since it’s so rewarding to watch them grow and bloom.  My mom loved gardening and always had a lot of flowers growing in her yard so I think that’s what kick started my interest as a kid.  As an adult I became more interested in restorative agriculture and permaculture so that drove my focus to fruit trees, fruit bushes, herbs, and pollinator-friendly plants.

(Learn more about restorative agriculture and permaculture!)

When did you start getting into planting?
I really got into gardening once I bought my home in 2018.  I have a good sized yard (at least larger than any yard I had growing up) so the possibilities seemed endless. 

What are your favorite plants and flowers?
My favorite houseplant is my monstera (I call her Monsty) and my favorite flowers are currently dahlias (my favorite flowers tend to change year to year).  I have a few varieties of dahlia bulbs getting sent to me next month and I’m very excited to plant them!  They’ll bloom in the summertime.

I remember you planted some fruit trees in 2019. How are those doing?
So far so good!  In 2019 I planted an apple tree (grafted with four varieties), a pear tree (grafted with four varieties), a fig tree, apricot tree, peach tree, and walnut tree.  Sadly the walnut tree didn’t make it but everything else is doing well. The only tree that has produced fruit yet is the fig tree but I’m hoping that this year I can start seeing some peaches and apricots.  The apple and pear won’t produce for at least another 3-6 years.

Plants make a home feel cozier. Do you have them in every room of your house?
Actually I don’t! I keep all my plants on the first floor of my home.  I have a south facing window in my dining room so most of my indoor plants are centered around there.  In my dining room I have about 30 plants in total. I have a few plants and cuttings in my kitchen and I keep my bigger cacti in my sunroom.  I used to keep my succulents in my sunroom but I recently made a “succulent station” on an old bookshelf in my dining room.  I have UV lights on a timer to make sure the succulents get plenty of light and don’t become leggy. 

What are your go-to plant and gardening resources?
I have found a lot of support on reddit on these communities: r/gardening, r/houseplants,  r/homestead, r/permaculture, and r/flowers.  There is a wealth of information in those forums and an active community ready to help and answer any questions you may have. 

Also, Better Homes and Gardens has a lot of great information online including pre-made garden plans.  If you have an area that you’d like to fill with blooms I highly recommend you look at their plans and find something that you love.

“Be patient with yourself, be patient with your plants, and most of all forgive yourself when you make mistakes.”

What benefits do you perceive from working with plants?
It really teaches you to be patient and forgiving with yourself.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve killed more plants than I can count but it’s all part of the learning process.  There are some plants I refuse to have because I can’t keep them alive to save my life and at this point it seems cruel to keep trying. So far my no-go list is peace lilies, ferns, and orchids.  Everyone has their talents and interests and it’s all about finding them.  Be patient with yourself, be patient with your plants, and most of all forgive yourself when you make mistakes. 

And finally – since this is a book blog after all – what are you currently reading?
Dune by Frank Herbert

***

With a few quick internet searches, you can discover the ideal plants for your area as well as local nurseries to explore!

Here in San Antonio, I’ve visited the Rainbow Gardens Nursery which has not only plants but also statues, potting materials, and other garden decor. They also offer tons of information on their Learning Center.

The Monthly Gardening section even lists what vegetables you should plant by month.

What are your favorite plants to work with? Happy planting, friends!

Many thanks to Hannah for being today’s special guest!

Disclaimer/Disclosure: Views and opinions shared by guests may not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Oak + River Books. Information contained within this post are for entertainment purposes only and should not be used or referenced as professional advice. Please contact a professional for information regarding any of the contents above. Unless otherwise noted, photos on this post are owned by Hannah and used with her permission; she is to be credited in any sharing of the materials contained on this post.

nature, Wellness

10 Ideas for Including Nature in a Joyful Life

What’s the difference between being happy and living a joyful life? How can we incorporate nature into a joyful life?

Happiness is fleeting –whether we want to admit it or not. A joyful life is overall content with the way things are while recognizing the moments that bring peace into your heart.

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

We all know someone like this. How are they so happy all the time? we ask ourselves.

The truth is…

They are not happy all the time!

They have learned to create a joyful life through acceptance and action.

Just like love, joy isn’t something that we go looking for and once we find it everything is hunky-dory. It takes a little practice.

How do we accept our situation as we go throughout life?

For what I hope are obvious reasons, 2020 could be called the Year of the Introvert. But even introverts need a little bit of sunlight and socialization.

We recently got rained on during a walk, but didn’t let that dampen our spirits! Instead, we found it to be a refreshing way to start the day. The smell of wet soil and pavement is nostalgic for me.

While avoiding large crowds is not a big deal for me, some people thrive on the energy. If they’ve made the decision to social distance, phone calls and video chats could be their new norm, and sometimes it’s just not enough.

But what about the rest of the time? What about all the people who were already unhappy before COVID-19 hit?

Learning to appreciate the small moments goes along way toward creating an abundance of joy.

Joy = big leaves on a morning walk

What actions can we take to be joyful?

There are lots of ways to take action to include joy in your lives: volunteer work, meditation, writing in a journal (not just buying every pretty one you see *guilty*).

A few weeks ago, my post Summer, Sunshine, and Sunflowers listed 10 ways to still have fun in the summer while social distancing. Today I am give you 10 new ways to incorporate nature in your life of joy!

Inside or outside, near or far, these activities are versatile enough to suit your lifestyle.

  1. Hike and walk – If you have time for an outdoor hike, awesome! If not, totally reasonable and understandable. Walking can be done literally everywhere, even if you need to walk in place in your yard or your living room; a quick 10 minutes is enough to be effective.
  2. Go on a picnic – Go to your favorite park or sit on a blanket in the yard and enjoy your favorite treats and age-appropriate beverages. Remember: leave no trace and don’t feed the wildlife.
  3. Collect and identify leaves – This collection can be turned into a beautiful family keepsake and is a project that’s extremely kid-friendly.
  4. Conduct a photoshoot – of plants and landscapes! Fancy phones are always coming out with updated camera technology, so it’s very easy to have good quality photos at your fingertips. I have ordered a few wall art pieces from Shutterfly to hang in my home that showcase my own photos.
  5. Get down with the dirt – Gardening is a soothing way to focus on something and feel, dare I say it, grounded. Get a little dirt under your nails and pot some flowers or vegetables; plus, working with soil is good for you, body and soul.
  6. Visit a botanical garden – Botanical gardens are the perfect places to see birds, bees, butterflies, and smiling faces!
  7. Listen to a music with scenery channel on the TV – Bring nature inside by enjoying the sights and sounds of nature from your own living room; Soothing Relaxation has a lot of great videos with nature scenes, and a quick YouTube search will reveal tons more; this is a great option if you want to listen to a stream or even thunder and lightning.
  8. Create art – While wine and paint night and at-home Bob Ross tutorials have grown in popularity, nature can be incorporated into every art medium: drawing, scrapbooking, crocheting, pottery, etc.
  9. Do an outdoor workout – Do some lunges and squats in your driveway; boost that Vitamin D intake and wear appropriate sunscreen! When not social distancing, join an outdoor workout group or meet up with a friend.
  10. Read nature books, poetry, and articles – Expand your knowledge by learning something new or kick back with a faithful favorite.

You’ll notice none of these ideas are particularly strenuous – that’s because I believe they shouldn’t be. Enjoying nature can be as simple or complex as you want it to be.

I love the botanical gardens but don’t always want to drive 30 minutes to end up in potential downtown traffic; sometimes watching the cardinals or the doves in my backyard is enough. I love doing a in-person 5ks and 10ks but wouldn’t necessarily want to do one every weekend (okay, maybe every other weekend!).

Can you spot the dove hanging out on my crape myrtle?

What do you do to include nature in your joyful life? Do you think it’s possible to have a joyful life without nature?

Have a joyful day, friends!

nature, Opt Outside in Texas, Travel & Tourism, U.S. Destinations

Lost Maples State Natural Area

One brisk day during our first Texas autumn, I woke up early, packed up my son and our dog, and drove an hour and a half west to Lost Maples State Natural Area. It was so beautiful and peaceful. We got there very early so there weren’t a lot of people. The leaves smelled amazing, the air was fresh, and we got our exercise in.

My hiking buddies 💜
I did not realize beforehand that would end up traversing what felt like a small mountain – Mama got her workout in that day 💪

Lost Maples is an important wildlife and natural habitat. It “protects a special stand of Uvalde bigtooth maples” and is home to the endangered golden-cheeked warbler.(1) In 1988, a refuge population of Guadalupe bass was established in the Sabinal River in the park to encourage reproduction and try to restore the bass to its former numbers after it was determined that cross-breeding between the Guadalupe bass and smallmouth bass created a hybrid fish and almost eradicated the pure Guadalupe bass.(2)

Scroll down to view more photos from our hike. If you decide to visit, I highly recommend making a day pass reservation so that you have a confirmed parking spot!

To learn more about Lost Maples and explore Texas’s other state park destinations, visit the Texas Parks & Wildlife Lost Maples page.

For more details about the Uvalde bigtooth maple, visit their page on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website.

References

  1. Texas Parks & Wildlife. Accessed 23 July 2020. https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/lost-maples
  2. Fry Cortez, D. March 2018. Accessed 13 July 2020. https://tpwmagazine.com/archive/2018/mar/ed_3_bass/index.phtml