The Trails at Countryside Park, League City, Texas

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Countryside Sports Park, League City, Texas
Countryside Sports Park, League City, Texas

I recently wrote about the Seabrook Hike and Bike Trail. Today I’ll tell you about the Countryside Park here in League City, Texas. Both trails are excellent for hiking, biking, walking , and running. One of the best things about both trail systems is that they are long enough to get some good mileage in.

There are a couple of other things to recommend Countryside. First, the trail is never crowded. Secondly, most of the trail is well-shaded, a real benefit now that we are experiencing the scorching days of summer.

The trail itself is concrete so it’s not as forgiving on the knees as the crushed granite trail in Seabrook, but the shade and scenery more than makes up for that. There plenty of wooded streams which makes for a pleasant view.

How to Get to Countryside Park

Getting there is easy. From I-45, turn west on FM 518 (which is Main Street in League City). Drive about 5 minutes and turn right on Bay Area Blvd. Approximately 1 mile down the road the entrance will be on your right.

Water flowing by the trail.
Water flowing by the trail.
Wildflowers are abundant.
Wildflowers are abundant.

Look for the Wildlife

A turtle catching some morning sun.
A turtle catching some morning sun.
Sub-tropical creek in the woods
Sub-tropical creek in the woods
The trail goes under the highway.
The trail goes under the highway.
A wooden bridge, about 1 mile into the hike.
A wooden bridge, about 1 mile into the hike from the parking lot.
Want to go off trail? There are many rustic side-trails.
Want to go off trail? There are many rustic side-trails.
Clear Creek flows past Countryside Park
Clear Creek flows past Countryside Park (It’s not so clear, is it? What a misnomer.)
The park benches may seem a bit eclectic.
The park benches may seem a bit eclectic.
Park trails amble off into the distance.
Park trails amble off into the distance.
Countryside Park basketball courts
Countryside Park basketball courts
A wooded ravine
A wooded ravine.
Recommended field attire for adventure.
Recommended field attire for adventure. Excuse the perma-stubble; I’m being trendy, OK?
No idea what these wildflowers are.
No idea what these wildflowers are. But I like them.

So there you have it. This (Countryside Sports Park) is another very un-utilized park in our area. That’s a good thing because we can enjoy it without undue crowding. Take time to unwind and enjoy.


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About the author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


Exploring the Seabrook Hike and Bike Trails

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A Park Bench along the Seabrook Hike and Bike Trail System
A Park Bench along the Seabrook Hike and Bike Trail System

Seabrook, Texas was founded in 1832. It is just on the north side of the Kemah Bridge on Highway 146. Like most municipalities, as the years went by it added parks to the community. The real stroke of genius was connecting many of these parks with a crushed granite trail. This became the Seabrook Hike and Bike trail.

Parking at the Seabrook Trails

There are three convenient places to park safely. The easiest is the swimming Pool parking lot at Miramar Park, halfway between Todville and Meyer. The second is where Hester Park meets with Todville. The third is at the intersection of Todville and Red Bluff Road.

This trail system is one of my go-to spots for running and hiking. Depending on which options you choose, it is easy to get in ten miles. It doesn’t hurt that trails are so much more forgiving on the knees than concrete. Any kind of exercise is beneficial, whether you take health supplements or not.

Hester Park Bamboo Forest
Hester Park Bamboo Forest

Many, many years ago Hester Park was a working nursery. The land got donated to the city and many of the plants and trees that had been for sale just stayed where they were and thrived, like this bamboo.

Hester Park Crepe Myrtles
Hester Park Crepe Myrtles
Lilies Along the Trail
Lilies Along the Trail
A Massive Oak Tree has Its Limbs Supported
A Massive Oak Tree has Its Limbs Supported
Oak Tree
Same Oak Tree, Different View
Wild Muscadine Grapes
Wild Muscadine Grapes are Abundant Along the Trail (Yum) and are Ripening Now (Late June)
Pine Gully Along the Seabrook Trails
Pine Gully Along the Seabrook Trails

Every now and then an alligator can be spotted in Pine Gully. Other wildlife such as herons, hawks, egrets, turtles, rabbits, javelina, and deer are abundant.

A Heron Waiting for Lunch
A Heron Waiting for Lunch
The Old Iron Bridge
The Old Iron Bridge
The Bridge and Pine Gully
The Bridge and Pine Gully

Seabrook Lucky Trails Marathon

The trails are also the location of the Lucky Trails races each March. An entire weekend is a flurry of activity with a full marathon, half-marathon, relay marathon and 5K. The weather is almost always perfect and these events have no problem selling out.

The Bridge Leading to Pine Gully Park
The Bridge Leading to Pine Gully Park
A Racing Firefighter at the Lucky Trails Marathon.
A Racing Firefighter at the Lucky Trails Marathon.
Passing the Gazebo at Todville Road and Red Bluff Road
Passing the Gazebo at Todville Road and Red Bluff Road

The bottom line? If you are looking for a good way to spend the day, why not explore the Seabrook Hike and Bike Trail System. As an added bonus, the Kemah Boardwalk is only a couple of miles away.


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About the author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


How to Build a Raised Garden Bed

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Raised Garden Bed
Raised Garden Bed

A raised garden bed (or raised bed garden if you prefer) is a great way to grow your own organic produce. It’s a simple weekend DIY project. The picture above shows the one I just built. It still needs a bit of tightening up but the basics are there.

Types of Raised Bed Gardens

The one I built was made using cinder blocks. The benefits are low cost of materials and the ability to expand easily. Kits are also available but they cost a bit more and not all are expandable. They can also be built using wood (cedar is a good choice) and stakes.

Height is also a consideration. The cinder block height works well for me but people with back problems do better with elevated garden kits. It’s all a matter of convenience and personal preference.

Preparing the Garden

A garden laid directly on the ground, like mine, will benefit from a layer of newspaper laid on the grass surface. This will inhibit grass and weeds from making their way up through the dirt.

On top of this goes your dirt with compost added in. It’s easy to mix using a hoe. What type of dirt? I have heard some gardeners swear by rose soil but in my experience regular garden soil works fine. If you already know what you are going to plant this is a good time to test the soil pH and adjust it using the appropriate soil amendments.

Planting Time!

You’ve got two choices–start your plants from seed or buy bedding plants. Seeds are less expensive but using plants will mean you can harvest sooner. I prefer plants. Just plant them at the recommended depth and water them in well.

Next add a couple of inches of mulch to the surface. There many varieties available. I prefer hardwood mulch because of the way it decomposes over time and feeds the soil. Whatever you do, do not use dyed mulch. That dye is chemical and you certainly don’t want roots to be taking it up!

Now toss out some organic fertilizer and some agricultural dried molasses. The molasses stimulates all the beneficial microbes and earthworms, both of which are important for the health of your soil. Microbes share a symbiotic relationship with plants. Worms will keep your soil aerated which helps in water distribution and root growth. Another consideration is spraying out some beneficial nematodes to control fleas and many other pests.

I hope you found this article on building a raised garden bed helpful. If so, please pass it along to your friends. Comments or ideas? Add them in the comment section below. Thanks for visiting and happy gardening!

About the Author:

Kelly R. Smith
Kelly R. Smith

Kelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients.


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Choosing the Right Trees

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U.S. Hardiness Zone Map
U.S. Hardiness Zone Map

Trees in our yards serve many purposes. Some are ornamental, some bear fruit, some are for privacy, and some provide shade which reduces energy bills. With that in mind, when choosing the right trees you must ask yourself what purpose they will serve.

How to Choose Fruit Trees

Many people want their own fruit trees and why not? Free food is great. Also, for some of us it’s a nice, fuzzy feeling that comes with the assurance that the fruit is truly organic. I myself fall into that category; I once made the commitment to plant one fruit tree per year. Now, I’ve about run out of real estate.

The mistake many people make is neglecting to research the required chill hours the trees need. I see it all the time; people buying trees at the local big box store. They plant them and wait. No fruit cometh forth. The map at the top of this page will show you the zone you live in and the corresponding temperature range. You might pay more for trees at a nursery but you will know what you are getting.

Republic of Texas Orange Tree
My Republic of Texas Orange Tree

Choosing Shade Trees

Shade trees are very beneficial. They help to maximize your energy efficiency. When they shade your house from the sun, you save money.  Basically, the southern side of your home will receive up to three times more sunlight than the western and eastern facing sides in the wintertime, and just one third as much during the hot summertime. Deciduous trees are a better choice than evergreens because they lose their leaves in the wintertime when you benefit from the warming sun.

Planting trees with this in mind is called a passive solar concept. One note of caution–do not plant them too close to the house or you risk root damage to your foundation. Large trees should be no closer than thirty feet away and small ones no closer than eight feet away.

Choosing Privacy Trees

Privacy trees keep those pesky peeping neighbors at bay and deter crooks from seeing what property you have on your property. Some good candidates are Thuja Green Giant, Leyland Cypress, Emerald Green Arborvitae, and Italian Cypress. Since they are relatively fast growing, the benefits arrive quickly.

A Row of Privacy Trees
A Row of Privacy Trees

Trees are not only helpful; they also add a lot of equity to your home. Select and plant them properly and they’ll take care of you. Remember to care for them with pruning and a fertilization schedule and your investment will be protected for years to come.


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DIY Home Flea Control Methods

A hideous flea under magnification
A hideous flea under magnification

Just one glance at that monster insect pest above is enough to make you want to eradicate them because of the sheer ugliness, but it gets worse. Your pet may develop flea allergy dermatitis, skin infections, and anemia. Also, if your dog or cat ingests a flea he may become infected with tapeworms.

Why are Fleas so Hard to Get Rid Of?

Why are they such effective parasites? First, their bodies are flattened sideways, allowing them to easily navigate through your carpet or your pet’s fur no matter how dense it may by.

Secondly, those claws you see in the image above allow them to cling to Fido’s skin to resist all that scratching and chewing. And those back legs? They allow the pests to jump 50 times their body length! They would easily dominate in the Insect Olympics.

How Can You Practice Organic Flea Control?

In a previous post we explained how to eliminate flea larvae in outside the home by applying beneficial nematodes. This is a preventative measure since the larvae can never reach adulthood.

But what if you already have them in your home? You need DIY home flea control methods that don’t rely on poisons. Filling your home with toxins to get rid of pests is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Following are some organic solutions.

  • Homemade Flea Spray. This is a very economical method that is non-toxic to children and pets. All you need is a spray bottle and a few ingredients that you probably already have on hand. Combine 2 cups vinegar, 1 cup water, 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of witch hazel.
  • Dawn Dish Soap. Any dish soap will work but Dawn is preferable. Simply fill small bowls with warm water and soap and place them in affected areas. Night time is most effective because fleas are nocturnal insects.
  • Orange Oil Spray. This is one of my favorites for all types of pest control. It won’t harm humans or pets but it is deadly for insects including fleas, spiders, ants and more. It can usually be purchased at your local well-stocked nursery.
  • Diatomaceous Earth. Again, look for this at the nursery. It is the microscopic remains of fossilized algae, in a fine powder form. Sprinkle the dust thinly in affected areas wearing a dust mask to avoid throat irritation. Wait two days and then vacuum thoroughly. Diatomaceous earth kills fleas by dehydrating their bodies.
  • Rosemary as a Preventative Measure. While rosemary will not kill fleas, it will certainly keep them away. They don’t like it! To prepare it, let it dry and then grind it up finely. Sprinkle it anywhere you are experiencing flea activity.

Using a combination of these methods is more effective than a single one so don’t be afraid to experiment to determine what works for you. Do you know of any other effective home flea control methods? Tell our readers about it in the comment section below. We’re all in this together!

 


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How to Find and Adopt a Rescue Dog

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Dogs playing tug-o-war
Eddie and Maggie playing tug-o-war

This article was updated on 02/20/20.

There’s no doubt about it—people love their pets. The most common pets are dogs and cats. How they go about selecting and acquiring their pets varies. Usually, one of the following methods are used.

  • Taking ownership from a friend or acquaintance. This happens when the current owner moves, loses interest, or simply can’t care for the animal properly any longer.
  • Buying one from a pet store. The problem with this method is that the buyer always runs the risk of getting an animal from a puppy mill. Not only does this often come with potential inherited health issues but the puppy mill industry is usually just a legal form of animal abuse.
  • Buying from a local breeder. This is a good solution if you want a pure-bred animal but it can be quite expensive.
  • Adopting an animal from a shelter. These are often referred to as “rescue animals” and in my mind this is the preferred method. It may be my imagination but these animals seem to appreciate being saved from life in a caged setting or often euthanasia. This blog post focuses on this method, with dog adoption in particular since that is my experience.
Dachshund and rat terrier on guard duty
Dachshund and rat terrier on guard duty


Adopting a Rescue Dog—the Process

Rescue dogs find themselves in the “system” in a number of ways. They might be strays, drop-offs, or victims of animal abuse. Once they enter the system they are relegated to municipal dog pounds, shelters, or foster homes.

Today the process of selecting your future pet is easier than ever, right from the comfort of your own home. This is because most shelters and rescue organizations have websites complete with photos and descriptions. You can narrow down your selection before making a physical trip.

Actually, this works out well for people like me. When I walk by the kennels and they are all barking for attention I’m the kind of guy that “wants to take them all home.”

There is likely to be an adoption fee; $50 dollars or so is not unusual. This fee covers things like shelter upkeep, heartworm treatment, and neutering or spaying. Still, this is a small price to pay considering that most of shelter workers are volunteers. And what can you say about foster homes? Those folks are downright saintly.

Will Your New Pet Fit in?

It is extremely important that your new dog (or cat) fit in. If you already have a pet and you are just adding to your menagerie, you should arrange a “meet and greet” where the animals can do the sniffing ritual; be sure they get along.

Another consideration is whether you have small children. The shelter workers can sometimes tell you if the dog is child-compatible. However this is not always possible if the dog was a stray and its history is non-existent.

Finally, it is important to have a backyard fence. This will ensure that your dog can run around and get exercise without escaping. This serves as a great addition to your home security as it provides a burglar disincentive. Some shelters insist on it when they screen your adoption request.

My household has four rescue dogs, a Rat Terrier (Eddie), a Dachshund mix (Sammie),  a Southern Black Mouth Cur (Frankie), and a border collie (Maggie). They all get along famously.

Frankie, Southern Black Mouth Cur
Frankie, Southern Black Mouth Cur

Eddie was a no-history dog. When this happens the shelter workers simply assign the dog a name. Eddie got the moniker “Spencer.” Well, that wasn’t going to work. So, when we got him home my wife just started calling out names. When she said, “Eddie”, his ears perked up. And that’s how he got his original name back.

The bottom line is this: when considering getting a dog, a rescue dog is often the most frugal and compassionate choice. Plus it has the added advantage that the dog is often house-trained.


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Japan Slaughters Over 300 Whales

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This article was updated on 8/18/18.

The Japanese are known for all manner of odd things — quirky cartoons, schoolgirl fetishes, and more. But by far the most curious is their tradition of slaughtering whales. Certainly the Japanese consume their fair share of seafood, but their whale meat consumption is way down since the aftermath of WWII so it hardly justifies their current hunting tradition.

What is the Japanese Fascination with Slaughtering Whales?

So why do they do it? Just this year they indulged in an annual Antarctic hunt that killed more than 300 of the mammals. It’s not for the meat and it is probably not for perfume (ambergris is produced by sperm whales and valued as an ingredient for women’s perfume for some reason).

No, the Japanese Fisheries Agency says the annual slaughter is really, “research for the purpose of studying the ecological system in the Antarctic Sea.”

Wow, didn’t see that coming. But then hey! I’m not a highly-paid Japanese press agent, right?

According to Yahoo News,  “Under the International Whaling Commission (IWC), to which Japan is a signatory, there has been a moratorium on hunting whales since 1986. Tokyo exploits a loophole allowing whales to be killed for ‘scientific research’ and claims it is trying to prove the population is large enough to sustain a return to commercial hunting.”

Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds like crappola in all its glorious splendor.

The History and Future of Whales Slaughtered by Japan

Te Japan Whaling Association to have begun around the 12th century However, Japanese whaling carried outon an industrial scale began in the 1890s when Japan started to participate in the modern whaling industry, at that time an industry in which many countries participated. Japanese whaling activities historically have extended far beyond Japanese territorial waters and even into whale sanctuaries protected by other countries. So nothing about their behavior is benign or even scientific and it is not in the realm of national sovereignty, it’s an international issue.

They also go so far as to claim that opposing their practices has nothing to do with being green. Ironically, they call their activities “capture surveys.”

Today, Japan is on board with Norway’s arguments on its own whaling activities. The thin argument is that it’s entitled to continue whaling because of the place whaling holds in its cultural heritage, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. The whale meat from these hunts is consistently sold in shops and restaurants, which negates the “scientific” justification. To take the charade further, it is showcased at an annual food festival that, in some cases, features the butchering of a whale for onlookers.

As far as the future is concerned, Japan claims that as it is simply conducting ongoing research on whale maturation. It affirms that in the absence of “verified” non-lethal sampling methods, whales would continue to be slaughtered until the feasibility of non-lethal techniques is established. It seems that the motto of the Japanese whale slaughtering industry is, “We must eliminate them to find out how to conserve them.” That sounds like Nancy Pelosi, also a windbag.

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