Friday, March 9, 2018

New Farmers' Market Comes to Sattler, Texas

A new farmers’ and artisans’ market has opened in Sattler, Texas, and gives locals the opportunity to both buy and sell foodstuffs, arts and crafts, and other things produced in our area. 

Sattler Farmer’s Market is the brainchild of Jessica Japhet, whose family moved from San Antonio to Comal County when she was in middle school in the late ’90s and who has run her own home-based Toots’ Sweets Bakery since September 2015 (shown at right in front of VFW Post 8573 in Sattler, where the Sattler Farmer's Market sets up). She has acquired some experience with farmers’ markets over the years, including the one in San Marcos, which she has exhibited at, and a number of others in the area where her parents have sold their kettle corn.

“My goal for is just to make something really nice for the community to have,” Japhet said. “We don’t have anything like this out here and it will give people a nice place to come and hang out on the weekends and educate people about our area and its agriculture and arts. Having small businesses and locals selling is also going to help our economic growth. A lot of older people live out here, too, and it will be easier for them to come here than to New Braunfels or San Marcos. I have a really good feeling about this.”

Japhet is organizing the Sattler Farmer’s Market with the cooperation of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8573 at 14625 River Road, and on Saturdays it will be located in the open area between it and the Comal County Justice of the Peace facility (and, she said, people are welcome to use the parking lots for either location). On Sundays, which Japhet said she expects to be busier than Saturdays for the market, vendors will also be set up along the River Road side of the VFW hall and people will be able to park in the lot for Real Pit BBQ, which is closed that day. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on both days and, Japhet said, every weekend for the rest of the year.

“We’ve got a great turnout so far and I’ve been reaching out to more farmers to let them know that we’re here,” Japhet said. She added that she has thus far accepted 18 applications from vendors and that they will all be present at the market this weekend, some on either Saturday or Sunday and some on both days. She also said that just this week she contacted 60 area farmers and has been following up with and hearing back from them.

“Right now we have people doing jerkies, jams, jellies, salsas, and farm-fresh eggs,” Japhet said, and she will also be selling her own baked goods at the market. “It’s open for handmade goods and local artists.” There are other local events where local artists have the opportunity to sell their work, she said, but many of them are open to only a limited number of vendors or are held just once a year.

Japhet said she believes the Sattler Farmer’s Market will grow steadily as the weather improves, especially after the tourism season begins, and is planning turning it into a bit of a fair the weekend after Easter, May 7-8, which she is referring to as a “Spring Fling.”

“We may have a BBQ, I’m thinking the fire department or police might want to come out and do a meet-and-greet, maybe have a bounce house,” she said. “Kind of make it a whole family thing for people who want to hang out and give them something to enjoy on top of purchasing things.”

For more information or a vendor application, go to Sattler Farmer’s Market also has pages on Facebook and TwitterA 10-by-10 vendor space at the market costs $15 a day and people can choose to sell their goods on either one or both days. 

Donya and Peter Kokocha of Papakoko's Woodworks were among those who exhibited at the Sattler Farmer's Market on Sunday, March 4. To their right is Jessica Japhet's own Toots' Sweets Bakery stand and, at the far right, the Bow Hunters Jerky stand. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

I Love Texas Hearts

To me, Texas Hill Country is a place that is very romantic, in the broadest sense of the word. With its rolling hills, deep wooded ravines, and slow-moving rivers, it seems as mysterious, ancient, and alluring as any rural Mediterranean province in Italy or France.

This romantic sensibility is most profoundly expressed, I think, by the local custom of referring to indigenous clam fossils as “Texas Hearts.” (OK, so fossilized clams might not be the most romantic thing I could have written about in recognition of Valentine’s Day, but the only other thing reminiscent of Texas I could think of would have been something related to beef hearts, to which most people respond to with “Yuck!”)

During the Cretaceous period (c. 145 million to 65 million BCE), the area of south-central Texas that we know today to be profoundly hilly was instead part of a warm, shallow sea, and inhabited, among other things, by a wide variety of now-extinct shellfish. The calcium from the shells of such creatures is what ultimately formed the native limestone that characterizes the area  to a depth of more than 1,000 feet in some places  and over the millennia it was uplifted by geological processes and gradually formed in to the land we know today.

Texas Hearts are, in short, fossilized bivalve clams that date to this extended geological period. And they do, in fact, look very much like actual hearts, and even a little bit like the stylized images that appear on Valentine’s Day cards and are used as used as shorthand for the word “love.”

The term “Texas Hearts” is sometimes also applied to fossilized sand dollars, sea urchins, and other marine organisms, but these do not actually look much like hearts at all, and are more properly referred to in my mind as “Texas Stars.” All such fossilized remains are, in any event, fairly common throughout Texas, from San Antonio to Fort Worth, and are a selling point for visitors.

“If you pay attention to where you walk in these limestone hills, you’re pretty apt to find all sorts of fossils,” the Bandera Convention and Visitors Bureau says on its website. “If you are lucky, you may even find what we call a ‘Texas Heart,’ which is a fossilized clam and looks just like a heart. Usually, they are about the size of a large apple.”

“One of the best places to fossil hunt is along the creek and river beds where the water has washed away the soil,” the Bandera CVB advises. “Another good place is along the road where the earth was cut back to build the road.” Anyone who has driven along appropriate roads on nice weekend days has very likely seen people applying this methodology.

And anyone taking an observant walk through Hill Country can find Texas Hearts and other fascinating evidence of its ancient and very different past; beyond the fossilized clams I have discovered over the last year-and-a-half, the most prized treasure I have found is the fossilized tooth of what must have been a gargantuan shark.

Not everyone’s own heart is, of course, stirred by such things … But, if yours is, then you will likely enjoy Texas Hill Country all the more.

Happy Valentine’s Day! 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Favorite Quotes

Once in awhile I hear someone say something I think is particularly cool, witty, funny, or absurd, or formulate something that I think is a good maxim, but almost as often I neglect to write it down and then only remember that something notable was said but not what it was. With that in mind I have started a post for material of that sort and attempt to update it periodically.

"Living with someone who suffers from depression is one thing. Living with someone who lives with depression but tells themselves they are just unhappy and that you are the cause is something else altogether — Anonymous (The person who uttered these sad and ominous words did not want his name associated with them, presumably from the fear that, however unlikely, his violently depressive spouse would see them and retaliate against him.)

"You know what I hate? I hate these 40-year-old jackholes wearing ponytails. A ponytail doesn't make you look hip, young, or cool." — Clive Owen, Shoot 'Em Up

"When I found inversion it changed my life forever, and I believe it can change yours!" — Dr. Roger Teeter (I actually own a Teeter Hang Ups inversion board and think it is great. What makes this quote amusing to me, however, is that "inversion" was historically used as a synonym for homosexuality, which can make its modern-day use hilarious when considered in that context.)

"I always feel like I' neglecting someone I love when I'm not writing. Maybe that someone is me." — Michelle Renee Lane

"Things are always going well, except for the bad shit ... " (Comment made by me in a recent online chat with my friend David Fitzgerald that I thought was worth preserving). 

"Worst ... episode ... ever!" (This periodic judgement by Comic Book Guy in The Simpsons is, like some of my favorite quotes, one that I have the opportunity to often use myself with regard to the things I end up watching.)

"If I owned Texas and all Hell, I would rent out Texas and live in Hell." — General Philip Sheridan, during a March 24, 1880, speech in Galveston at the Tremont Hotel

"There are no IT limitations, just personal limitations." — IT expert Brendan Cass (This comment was in response to a remark by me about his ability to accomplish information technology tasks that were beyond the ability of other people I had worked with.) 

"Advice is just ego and ignorance disguised as helpfulness." — Dilbert/Scott Adams, in a July 15, 2015 comic strip

"Do you understand how much I hate you?" (Uttered by the woman cited in the quote below. The person who told me this assured me that he probably does not understand how much his wife hates him, or even entirely why, but that he is dedicated to making every attempt to.) 

"I hate you so much that I can't even describe it!" (This was uttered unprovoked to a friend by his maladjusted and apparently inarticulate spouse and he, knowing she would later deny saying something so hideously inexcusable, asked me to commemorate it here. I advised him to repurpose it as a daily affirmation.)

Her: "Are you still drinking"? (Upon my wife getting up and discovering me enjoying a pre-dawn glass of wine.)
Me: "No. I'm drinking again." 

"Do not prepare, serve, or eat a meal that does not include a vegetable!" (This is one of my own recently coined guiding maxims tying in with my efforts to eat more healthily and limit my consumption of meat to just once a day. It is amazing how often people I know do not come even close to meeting this sensible standard.)

"Sometimes the only reason I don't kill myself now is because I know I can always just kill myself later." — Anonymous (Undeniably grim and clearly born from deep unhappiness but also fairly philosophical and amusing in its way.) 

"What we say about what we do is as important as what we do." — Michael O. Varhola (This is my own debatably cynical observation on the importance of promoting our own work and efforts if we want others/the public to notice them.)

"I didn't know we were going to be walking." — Diane K. Varhola (My wife has made this assertion multiple times every year for the past 25 years. We always end up walking, often in stupid and inappropriate shoes, so the basis for this statement has been questionable for a couple of decades now.) 

"We are most inclined to be creative when we are least able to be." (This is my own personal observation.)

"I should be able to visit my parents without having to die!" — Hayley Waters (Who says so? This was, in any event, my daughter's unhappy reaction to visiting a house full of cats that she is allergic to.)

"Watch out for the poop!" — Carter Valentine (This sound advice was given to me by my grandson during a walk we took together in 2013 and can certainly be viewed as a profound allegory for the human condition overall.)

The following interchange occurred between my grandson and wife on Sunday, August 18, 2012:
Diane: "What kind of chicken do you want?" (While carving up a roast chicken we picked up at Costco for dinner.)
Carter: "The chicken nugget kind." (A statement met with laughter and us letting him know this chicken did not have any such parts.)

"Ah, the plot thinnens!" (This clever twist on a common phrase is one that I use whenever appropriate. I heard it for the first time in a movie based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, although the phrase certainly does not actually appear in any of the author's stories.)

"Hideous ... ugly ... freaks!" — Denis Leary/Gil Mars, Small Soldiers (It is amazing how often one is in public that this phrase seems apropos.)

"I'll tell you what!" (This common Texas phrase is used to express agreement with something someone has said, such as an observation about the weather. I noted during a recent trip to the East Coast that, after hearing it, people unfamiliar with this expression will pause and wait for you to "tell them what.")

"Not anti-Christian, nor un-Christian, but most decidedly non-Christian." — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"What I do now I do alone. I could not do it well with thee." — Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls (I often irreverently use this quote, either just the first part or in its entirety, to announce my departure for the bathroom.)

"There is a fine line between being a romantic and being delusional, and I often tend toward the latter." — Michael O. Varhola (my own observation of my tendency to view life as I want it to be, rather than how it really is.)

"Oh, so you want to play the truth game?" — Anonymous (In response to my asking someone why they sometimes deliberately lie to their friends as a device for manipulating them.)

"We are all so lucky to live in this God-forsaken place." — Anonymous (A resident's comment upon observing the natural beauty of Canyon Lake, Texas.) 

"Crazy is as crazy does" — Michael O. Varhola (my observation upon already-crazy people who deliberately do things geared toward making them even crazier and more unhappy.)

"You may all go to Hell, and I will go to Texas." — David Crockett

"No one ever died from a gut wound." — Michael O. Varhola (I picked this up from an Army buddy of mine c. 1986-87 and use it a lot. I don't think it's true.)

"Teeheehee! I told you about it!" — Chick in an Activia yogurt commercial

"Och, Hungary! Our dogs are from Hungary!" — Richard Allan (in response to a barmaid at the pub in Paddington Station, London, reveal her country of origin; "Och" is a Scottish word that means "yes," unless you use it in conjunction with "no," in which case it means "really no!")

"I do not presume that other people's problems are harder on me than they are on them." — Michael O. Varhola

"You need to scare kids, not scar them." — Lindsey Valentine

Overheard around 8:15 p.m. near the Hoffman Center 22 cinema in Alexandria, Virginia:
Him: "Damn hippies! I'll hacky their sacks ... " (in response to some kids in shorts and tie-dye shirts crossing the street in front of him)
Her: "Uh, do I need to remind you that you just smoked dope, that you're still in your sleeping shirt, and that it shows people partying on it?"

"That was pretty metal!" — Rico Nardini, Gen Con 2011 (in response to me downing a dirty vodka martini in one sip when he said it was time for us to get going)

"Put the boots to him — medium style." (coopted from Metalocalypse and used by me and friend Jon Reichman as a catchphrase during Gen Con 2011)

"Get the butter." — Marlon Brando/Paul, Last Tango in Paris (this line can be interjected for hilarious effect in any number of circumstances, as my friends Jon Reichman, Chip Cassano, and I have all aptly demonstrated over the years)

"In a respectable household, it's useful to have a weapon." — Gitt Magrini/Jeanne's Mother, Last Tango in Paris

"Fun was had by all." (common phrase brought to my attention when it was applied to a school play in The Simpsons, and used by me since then in writeups of events I have hosted or run)

"This one goes to 11." (coopted from Spinal Tap and applicable more often than you might think; used as one of our group's catchphrases at Comicpalooza 2012)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country

One of the best places to learn about the earliest inhabitants of our area is undoubtedly the Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country. Located about halfway between Sattler and Startzville, it features exhibits devoted to the people who lived here in the years before Canyon Lake existed, to the immigrants who settled here in the 19th century, and to the Indians who hunted and gathered here before that.

Right: While the Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country is devoted to the legacy of local pioneer and Native American inhabitants, the dinosaur tracks that it preserves are its greatest claim to fame. 

“We have a German heritage, of course, in nearly all of this area, so we have a lot of German pioneer items in a couple of rooms,” said office manager Lelo Beth Cude. The museum also has numerous pieces of antique farm equipment and a room devoted to “a wonderful collection of arrowheads and Native American things that pretty much came from the Comal County area. We also have a before-and-after of Canyon Lake Dam room, with a really nice diorama.”

Left: Replicas of its tracks, T-shirts, and other dinosaur-oriented items are among the things that can be found in the museum’s gift shop. 

Below right: Antiques and artifacts from the settlers and residents of the mid-19th through the mid-20th century in our area are among the things on display at the museum.

The museum is, however, perhaps best known for preserving traces of even earlier residents, those who lived here about 125 million years ago, and is thus often referred to simply as “the Dinosaur Museum.” Two species of Cretaceous-epoch dinosaurs, in fact, walked across what was at that time a muddy coastal plain and left behind tracks that can still be seen to this day at the site.

One sort of footprints was left by a large ancestor of the Tyranosaurus Rex known as Acrocanthosaurus, which might actually have been an even deadlier predator than its more-familiar descendant and would have preyed upon a large herbivore called Iguanadon, the creature that left behind the second type of footprints. A third sort of tracks was left by at least two members of a species of large snail.

These tracks were discovered by the then-owners of the land in 1979, who because of them decided to forego plans to develop the site into an RV park and instead began operating it as an attraction called Dinosaur Flats. More than 350 tracks were ultimately discovered at the site, but many of them were subsequently damaged or destroyed by the elements over the ensuing three decades (one of these tracks can be seen at left).

Preventing that has thus been a big priority for the non-profit organization that has run the museum since 1994, which in 2008 completed a large steel-roofed structure — easily visible on the south side of FM 2673 to anyone driving between Sattler and Startzville — to protect the footprints. (Dinosaur tracks that have been discovered at nearby Canyon Lake Gorge are at the same elevation as those at the museum and might actually be a continuation of the tracks there and left by the very same creatures.)

Below right: One room of the museum is devoted to Native American artifacts and related items. 

One of the things Cude and museum volunteers are currently working on are preparations for the annual Harvestfest, the organization’s main annual fundraiser, which will be held the evening of Wednesday, October 4 (its other big event is Dinosaur Day in April).

Highlights of this event will include entertainment, a BBQ dinner and peach cobbler food prepared by local volunteers, a silent auction of items donated by local businesses, a raffle, and drawings throughout the night. Tickets for the event are $20 each and volunteers will begin selling them within a month or so.

Between 200 and 400 people typically attend the Harvestfest and this year, Cude said, the museum will be pushing for the upper end of that range and is hoping to attract people not just from Canyon Lake but also New Braunfels, Spring Branch, Bulverde, and the surrounding area.

The Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country is located at 4831 FM 2673, between Sattler and Startzville. For more information, go to or call (830) 899-4542. 

This still that is on display at the museum was used from the early 1900s through the 1930s to distill whisky at a location on the banks of nearby Cibolo Creek. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Cruisin’ Canyon Lake Getaway Weekend

Cruisin’Canyon Lake Getaway Weekend, a fun, diverse, and exciting three-day community event that debuted last year, is being reprised here next month and will have activities to choose from that include a party, dance, hikes, arts-and-crafts sessions, gardening classes, golf, kayaking, fishing, and more. It is being organized by the Pilot Club of Canyon Lake in cooperation with two other local entities and will run Friday through Sunday, September 29 – October 1.

“This really is a community-focused event,” said Diane Schaule, a member of the Pilot Club and one of the organizers. “We’ve partnered with the Friends of the TyePreston Memorial Library and with the CRRC, for use of their facilities and for volunteers.” Organizers are also encouraging people to invite their out-of-town friends to come out to the lake and participate in the weekend event.

“Our Saturday night dance, which is really the highlight of the event, is going to be held at the rec center,” Schaule said, and will include music by the Grateful Geezers, a popular Houston-based band that specializes in songs from the ’50s through ’80s. “We want the whole community to join us for the Saturday night dance,” even if they are not registered for other weekend events.

More than a dozen events will be offered as part of the three-day program and most range in cost from $7 to $40. One is free, a Friday night welcome party at Tye Preston Memorial Library for people who have registered for weekend events that will include games and displays of creations by local artisans. Other activities will be held at locations throughout Canyon Lake, to include the Community Center building behind the CRRC Rec Center, and at the Lions Pavilion next door to it. Proceeds from the second-annual fundraiser will be split equally between the three partner organizations and used to support their activities (and amounted to about $2,000 each last year).

Activities participants can choose from include a walk/run at Canyon Lake Dam; a three-hour guided tour through Canyon Gorge (shown below); an “Adult Mud Pies” class where people can make pots and then have them glazed and fired; a Battenburg Cake-making class; a session on successfully growing orchids; a walk along the Guadalupe River that includes a box lunch; a luncheon at the library; a silk scarf-painting class; the “Sconehenge” scone-making class; an afternoon high tea; and a “sip and paint” class that is being run by two local artists.

“They’re going to take some wine glasses and paint on them and drink wine too,” said the Pilot Club’s Anna Burdick, who is also helping to organize the upcoming event.

Lakeside Country Club is also offering tee times on Saturday for participants in the weekend event. Participants in the weekend program can also sign up to go kayaking on the Guadalupe River or to take fly-fishing lessons, both through the Rio Guadalupe Resort, on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

“We used last year’s experience to develop this year’s events, what worked and what didn’t,” Schaule said, in putting together the itinerary for the weekend, and that certainly shows in the variety of fun things she and her colleagues have planned.

Registration for the Cruisin’ Canyon Lake Getaway Weekend is open now and you can reserve limited spots in its great events and create a personal itinerary for yourself now by going to You cans also get updates for the event and a chance to win free passes to it on its “Cruisin’ Canyon Lake” Facebook page. Check-in for the event will be at Overlook Park off of South Access Road and run from 2–5 p.m. on Friday and from 8–11 a.m. on Saturday. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Managing Inactive Accounts on Facebook

Last summer I hit upon a trick on that can be useful to anyone who has maxed out on the number of friends they can have on Facebook but still wants to add new people. One way I have seen people manage the onerous 5,000 friend limit on Facebook is by having multiple personal accounts there, but I have seen a number of downsides with that over the years (including putting already limited time into managing supposedly co-equal accounts). 

In short, if you go into your Friends list on Facebook and scroll through it, the profile pictures for deactivated accounts will display only as silhouettes. Any number of these are presumably accounts of people who just got sick of dealing with Facebook, or who never really started using it to any extent, but a certain proportion of them are people who have died and had their accounts deactivated by friends or family members. Prior to discovering this, it would not have occurred to me that deactivated accounts would could against the number of friends someone can have, but this is indeed the case. 

If you click on one of these silhouettes, you will get this message: "This account has been deactivated. Only you can see 'John' on your friends list. You have the option to unfriend 'John'." Those last two words are hotlinked and all you have to do is click on them. Some socially awkward people only use silhouettes, however, so if you don’t want to delete them you can click on their names to see if they are still active rather than just unfriend them! On my second and most recent use of this trick, however, I looked at a number of

The first time I used this trick, about nine months prior to posting this article, I easily cleared out 305 deactivated accounts in the course of an evening while watching TV; somewhat late in the process I also decided to unfriend people without Profile Pictures who I noticed had never actually posted anything or had not done so for more than a year and were thus clearly not ever or no longer active on Facebook.

I used this trick for the second time just prior to posting this article and removed 78 inactive friends, among them a handful who had only posted a few times and not at all for a number of years.

Hope this can be as useful to others as it has been to me! It takes a little bit of effort but shows respect for people we have become friends with by not unfriending those who are still active (and is infinitely preferable to those horrible, bullying messages some people post declaring they are unfriending anyone who doesn't respond by begging to remain in contact with them). 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

An Exercise in Resolve Redux

One of the things I did throughout 2015 was post an ongoing log, month-by-month, of my daily exercise, particularly the distance I was covering and the weight of the gear I was carrying with me. In general, I was carrying either a "light" or a "medium" load and hoping to build up the a "heavy" one while not reducing the length of my walk. For reasons that seemed good at the time I decided not to continue doing this in 2016 and believe that my exercise routine suffered a bit as a result of my not tracking it (and probably also because me feet were not held to the fire by public posts). January was pretty chaotic for me, as a result of getting ready for and then going to East Asia for a couple of weeks, and I certainly did not have a regular routine — although I did get a lot of walking in when I was overseas. With the start of February, however, I once again started walking regularly (and doing other exercise somewhat less regularly), with an eye toward preparing for a long hike I would like to do this fall, and I decided to once again start tracking my activity here. 

February 1: Walked 2.0 miles with a light load. 
February 2: Walked 3.2 miles with a light load. 
February 3: Walked 2.8 miles with a light load. 
February 4: No walk! On the road for CRRC article, visit with friends, etc. 
February 5: Walked 3.2 miles with a light load. 
February 6: Walked 3.2 miles with a light load. 
February 7: Walked 3.2 miles with a light load. 
February 8: Walked 2.5 miles with a light load. 
February 9: Walked 0.6 miles with a light load (i.e., up to the mailbox and back)
February 10: No walk! Had to take a sick pet to the vet. 
February 11: Walked 3.2 miles with a light load. 
February 12: Walked 2.6 miles with a light load. 
February 13: No walk! Had to pick up a pet at the vet and it rained.
February 14: Cool, damp, and windy 57-degree day here in Texas Hill Country but managed to get in 2.5 miles with a light load! Still trying to boost my exercise ... 
February 15: Increased full walk slightly to 3.5 miles; warmed up to 64 degrees and was less windy than the day before. 
February 16: Walked just 0.6 miles, up to mailbox and back. 
February 17: No walk! Friend was visiting from out of town. 
February 18: Took a c. 3-mile overland hike with my visiting buddy Karl (below), to include a fossil hunt and visit to a 19th-century German cemetery. 
February 19: Walked 2.0 miles with a light load; achy and dragging a little. 
February 20: Walked 2.5 miles with a light load. 
February 21: Walked 3.2 miles with a light load; warm day and was feeling it. 
February 22: Walked 2.5 miles with a light load. Pretty hot, dry, and cloudless — especially for February! 
February 23: 
February 24: 
February 25: 
February 26: 
February 27: 
February 28: