Missed Moments: A Whirlwind 2017 … In Forgotten Pictures

My sister's donkey, Pedro, gives me a smile.

“Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and softly sit upon your shoulder.” ~ The Daily Crescent (1848)

The last time I blogged with any enthusiasm was during less-than-ideal conditions — Hurricane Harvey was on its way out. It seems like eons ago, anything written since being thrown together with a few nice nature pics or a simple how-to in the garden. In six years of blogging this has been a record hiatus.

You may not have missed me, but I sure as heck have missed you.

The future of DirtNKids Blog is uncertain. Sure, the Kids are all quite capable teens now, freeing me up to do other necessary and engaging non-mom Dirt tasks (like the school gardens), but seeing as none of them are full-time driving yet, time spent in the 15-year-old minivan running to this place or that increased exponentially with each new activity. There’s one of me and four of them and quite literally no time left for anything else.

Perhaps I should convert the blog back to KidsNDirt — it’s much more representative of these life and times.

As for my favorite hobby, photography, the camera bag has found an equally dark cobweb-filled corner, replaced by the mobile phone camera with it’s push-to-the-cloud image storage and convenient pocket size. Needless to say, fiddling with RAW images in software requiring more computer time remains in my future. Only in-camera processed JPG’s for the time-being.

I present you 2017 … in a few images that didn’t quite make the cut (or came in late).

~ Shannon @ DirtNKids Blog

A few years back, the house rabbits came along. Their little tum-tums are like clockwork, and if the kibble doesn’t rattle in the bowl by a certain time every morning or evening, they will come find you. Chaka — the buck’s herd leader — is so proficient with his back foot thumper technique that he will successfully ward off the herd of deer he sees outside his room habitat.

Though there are no pictures for proof, the boys and I witnessed the rabbits and deer matriarch nose to nose in the outdoor rabbitat the last day of school before summer. We hope to see that super-charged charade again some time; perhaps I’ll be ready to record it.

If you’ve not followed here long enough, you can always look back to see these guys (and my kids) featured through fun photos and videos. They really are pretty cute.

Shadow Bunny A$$ Puppet

I don’t do selfies; occasionally, however, the situation warrants it. Like when biting black fly midges were so bad early spring, the only way I to keep them out of my ears and off my neck was to gear up in winter wear, even though temps were in the 70’s. I’m sure my neighbors think I’m weird, but I don’t care.

Garden Ninja

The year began with an outdoor work exercise a couple hours away: burning brush that had been previously cleared on a friend’s property. It wasn’t all work. Miss Betty — my ‘other mother’ as a kid — also had a Foosball table, billiards, board games, fireworks, and archery for the kids to while away their time as we mothers caught up. It was positively the best way to ring in a new year. We really hoped to repeat the fun this New Year’s Day, but a norther’s freezing temps had us opt for the comfort of our homes and off the icy roads instead.

Perhaps later this week.

Containing Plasma

As ‘other mothers’ go, two of the most prominent in my life both passed in 2017, one in January to bone cancer and the other in December to Alzheimer’s. My mother’s older sisters will be greatly missed in all the days to be, but their legacy lives on in two strong, confident women that I call my daughters. We will always love and cherish you, Aunt B and Aunt Ah-weeze. We sure had some fun times together!

With Louise and Angie, 2016

Great-Aunts Louise and Barbara

There were many days spent outside looking for birds and generally escaping a crowded and hectic Suburbia. This flooded prairie near Brazos Bend is always reliable for waterfowl and the predatory birds who follow them. We went there often.

The World Turns

As more and more raw land continues to be developed around our home, more and more animals lose their habitats and are forced to cross busy highways in order to get from one small wooded sanctuary to another. Roadkill is a reminder that we need to be more vigilant in protecting and preserving wild spaces for all those who need it. Even wrote a poem about it.

Handsome-Tho-Dead Bobcat

Too many painful hours were spent at the DPS getting all we needed for the first teen to become a driver. Too bad he doesn’t particularly like speeds above 30 mph with other cars whizzing past or he might actually get out of the neighborhood. That may be both a blessing and a curse.

Granny Teen
Driving ‘Granny’ the Van

For the third year straight, John volunteers to be a summer camp counselor at one of our favorite suburban nature centers in Houston. This year, his 13-year-old sister joins him in the service.

Nature Kids
Teaching Nature Kids

The beach and its surf and sand remains to be a favorite for day trips. This summer, another family joined up with us at a rental and peninsula-wide black out had us one-upping each other with spooky stories rather than the planned movie night. These are the memories that make a childhood complete.

Bathing Beauties

Our eldest is now officially taller than Dad at 6-ft 2-inches. His brother is quickly catching up, and my daughter is now looking me in the eye.

Which One’s Which?
Only the hair gives it away.

In the summer, we learned of a mother with three young children who escaped domestic violence, moved from the local women’s center into an empty apartment to start her new life as a single mom. Our teens had already outgrown their toddler/child furnishings, so we donated it all to this family, freeing up rooms for something more adult. We found plans on-line for lofts — four, modified for extra height and length — which Dad put together in the course of a weekend. With space now in each room for a third twin, friends and cousins now have real beds to sleep in.

Mom was kept busy painting them while Hurricane Harvey was hovering.

College Living — At Home
Best DIY Project of 2017

‘On the trail’ is our favorite place to be. At these semi-wild spaces and birding hot spots, we regularly find members of our nature tribe. Like Brian on our anniversary at Anahuac NWR looking for the Least Bittern (found him!) or with Emily and Kevin birding the Galveston haunts — and hopefully as ‘Bird Buds’ well into the future. We even managed to run into a fellow blogger, Tanja, while hundreds of miles away from home. She recognized me by my do rag!

People on the trail are perpetually upbeat and happy, no matter the weather or circumstance. It’s where I choose to live when time allows.

In Case Anyone Was Wondering

Garden of the Gods, CO

Tanja and Me — Garden of the Gods
Spring Break In Colorado Springs

Where The Birds Are
(There’s one … a Wilson’s Pharalope)

And of course, my love of the small — and sometimes the not-so-small — never ends. Days in the dirt or on the trail were always rewarded with visits by my little exoskeleton little friends.

Ox Beetle Garden Pal

Naughty Preying Mantid
Hunting migratory hummingbirds … on the feeder!

Naughtier Field Lubber
XXX Boardwalk Romp

School Garden Monarchs
Thanksgiving Day Twins

Our year was full of babies, from the back porch wren nest whose entire process we watched from beginning (with building) to end (with fledging), to the hawks and bluebirds and herons out back, to the family of ducks I rescued off a busy freeway.I Everywhere we looked, it seemed, nature was working to fight back against human development.

Then there were the fawns. The first fawn of the year, Sean, born from Siobahn the matriarch came just one day before my 50th birthday. She trusted me enough to watch them nurse from a few feet away and she even bedded him down next to my swing or in my garden — where she knew I’d be. Sadly, he didn’t make through the summer.

But Siobhan’s daughter, Kelly — our fawn from last year — surprisingly gave birth to her first baby in our yard. We didn’t even know she was expecting! We named her Gardenia, for her favorite plant to nibble. The kids and I assisted in her escape from fence entrapment only once, and we were blessed to watch her grow throughout the year, eventually losing her spots altogether. She is now the fourth female in our small herd yard.

It’s clear they call our yard home, and the herd is growing.

Sean the Fawn


We finally got to return to The Big Bend for one more week of camping before the year’s end. Though expected, the storm that brought colder temps to our vacation days also brought 9″ of snow, which was unexpected. Thankfully, the new Coleman tent held up to the wind, high gusts, rain, sleet and snow as we enjoyed the basin hikes and waits until the snow plow arrived to free us from our adventure. Due to the inclement weather, we had the place practically all to ourselves, though warmth, coffee, and food required a significant hike in the ice and snow. No biggie.

Big Bend National Park was our 12th national park stamp of the year! We are calling it our ‘Dirt-y Dozen for 2017.’

Closing In

Chisos Basin Camping

West Texas Sunset

Before The Storm


First Night Blizzard
6″ of snow all day

End Of Storm

Second Night Snow
Shoveled 18″ off the tent

To top off the year, a pair of Bald Eagles flew into the yard on our last day of 2017.

That’s better than a champagne toast, if you ask me.

Bald Eagle Juvenile
Last Bird of 2017

A prosperous and adventurous 2018 to all of you!

24 thoughts on “Missed Moments: A Whirlwind 2017 … In Forgotten Pictures

  1. Oh Wow Shannon! I am so glad I kept this in my Inbox to be able to peruse at leisure! What a treat! Love the photos! I don’t do cold OR snow very well, but I will take cold over the white stuff any day! Living in MI for 4 years broke me of any love for it. We got a little bit of snow this week but unfortunately it came with ice underneath which closed all schools including my university for 2 days. I am looking forward to the 67 degrees today.. even if it comes with rain!! ❤


    1. Well hey, Courtney! Happy not-so-New Year to you. Being an outdoor girl, and given I have more than 200 elementary school students who are dying to dig in the garden, the warm winter can’t come soon enough. Enjoyed a walk without head gear today — a good sign. Thanks for your uplifting comment, and I’m wishing you some rain-free warm sunny days coming your way!


  2. This is a whirlwind, for sure. It’s impossible to comment specifically on everything I liked, especially in the photos, but I am curious about that flooded prairie up by Brazos Bend. I’ve not explored that territory much — where exactly is that?

    I did like the ox beetle, and I couldn’t help looking at those big camera lenses and wondering, “How in the world do they hold those steady?” Maybe I’d better start pumping lenses.

    For all of the complications and aggravations (there surely are some!) I can’t help thinking again how much fun it must be to be part of a large family. As an only child I wasn’t precisely lonely, but there are experiences that can only come with being part of a larger group, and that I had to learn later in life.

    Best wishes for the new year. Who knows? We may finally bump into each other in one of these places. Have you been over to Deer Park Prairie yet? It’s another wonderful site, for birds as well as for native plants.


    1. About having a large family, the time suck is really the only downside. I don’t know yet about college costs, but that’s sure to be a significant downer as well. LOL Upside is that my kids are very, very close and are likely to be good friends later in life.

      I have a good chiropractor! And she has me on daily muscle building exercises which keeps my neck strong when 5 lbs are on it. I’m never been one for lugging a tripod which seriously inhibits flexibility for (bird) subject composure. I prefer hiking (kneeling, crawling, squatting) rather than standing and waiting for the birds to come to a drip-line.

      Davis Estates Road is an iBird hot spot northwest of Brazos Bend SP, far from civilization which makes it’s an auditory paradise. Last month we went, there was NO WATER; not sure what’s up with that.

      Hope you’re enjoying the cooler temps, Linda, and Happy New Year! I look forward to hooking up sometime this year. Drop me an email any time!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Happy New Year!

    That’s funny about the camera. I’ve had the exact same conundrum. I own all this great SLR stuff (Canon) but I find I’m using it less and less. It’s such a hassle to hook up the camera, import the photos, process them (I use Apple Photos), then sync the ones I like out to my phone, etc. Of course the photos are always better in the end, but the convenience of the phone usually outweighs all that. I’m noticing that even my dad (Mr. SLR!) is falling into the same pattern with his new iPhone 8.

    Anyway, here’s to a good 2018!

    Talk soon! Andrew



    1. Hey Andrew! Welcome to 2018. Funny that we’re not alone … I’ve even seen some of my trail friends without all the camera gear, donning only the binocular necklace and smartphone. Downside is that, when I do spot something rare, I must digiscope for a confirmation image when reporting. It works, but it’s less-than-optimal for image ‘collecting,’ something I’m quite addicted to.

      I’ll be in touch off-line. Cheers!


      1. Your “binocular necklace” made me wonder whether anyone else has used that figurative phrase. I discovered that lots of actual necklaces with a little binocular charm on them are for sale:


        I’ve occasionally used an iPhone for nature pictures. Sometimes its camera has been up to the task, other times inadequate. Probably my favorite iPhone nature photograph is this one:


        Yeah, it can be a pain (sometimes literally) to schlep around a 15-lb. camera bag, but sometimes there’s no other way to get a good picture. Call it my tribute to gravity.


      2. Ha! I prefer my binocular necklace to be useful. What can one do with a trinket one?

        Thankfully, when the big lens is strapped on the front, the backpack is much lighter resulting in a nice balance from front-to-back. It’s better not carrying anything at all though. The thing I like the least about the iPhone is using the screen as a viewfinder/focuser.


  4. Welcome back, Shannon. What a year you have had. I am sorry for your losses. There are times when one wants to scream “enough”. You seem to be finding comfort in nature, too, our best therapy!
    Here is to a satisfying and fulfilling year 2018.


    1. ‘Comfort in nature.’ That sums up 2017 nicely! This year won’t have the traveling (and with it the birds), but it’s already looking to be a full one. I’ll tackle each task head on … and I might even blog about it. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

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