SOWER Project - Living Stones Church / Victory Camp
Victory Camp is an outreach ministry of Living Stones Church located across the street in Alvin, Texas. It is the home of the Christmas Train which hosts thousands of riders before Christmas each year. The trip around the circuit gives a Gospel message with a Christmas theme. During other parts of the years the camp has the typical summer camp activities and hosts conferences.
This was the second SOWERS project we had worked, and here we are back again. Our first project was at ALERT Academy following the winter helping at an orphanage in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Victory Camp was at the beginning of our second winter away from the frozen wasteland to the north. We helped set up displays for the Christmas Train and built some serving counters.
This time we were the only SOWER couple on the project. Paul did the annual electrical maintenance p.m.’s on the dorms (lights, alarms and emergency lighting). One unusual (to us) thing was repairing the controller for the fountain in the main pond. The fire ants had worked their way inside the control box and filled it with mud. I disassembled it, removed the mud, dried it out, reassembled it, plugged the ingress points with duct seal and mounted it higher from the ground. Voila! Fountain worked again! Juanita worked on cleaning and helping sort food stuff to ensure all items were within expiry dates for the annual inspection.
Bush - Owen Get Together
Juanita (nee Owen) had four sisters and a brother. Three of the sisters lived in the Houston area. Maxine, who died before Juanita and I met, had nine children, seven of whom still live in the Houston area. We met up with them and their spouses in February along with Juanita’s surviving sister from Houston and the sister from California. Lots of reminiscing.
I had mentioned our plans for bird banding. The following is an excerpt of an e-mail exchange with a friend:
"My mother's second husband owned a chicken operation. Massive quonsets with 4 birds stuffed into a 2ft by 2ft cage in rows with auto feed/water and egg collection systems. I used to help carry birds to trucks when they were old and not producing eggs, for meat processing. It wasn't easy work as 2 birds/hand and flapping wings in the face allowed for the odd escape. Trying to catch an agitated bird in a confined space was a challenge so I'm wondering how you'll manage with wild birds. Good luck!!!"
I envisioned some similar wrestling match with angry, nasty waterfowl and took leather gloves and wore older clothing. The reality was more mundane and civilized.
They set up "mist nets" (so fine that you have to look at them from the correct angle to see them) vertically near bird feeders. Birds get tangled up in the nets and staff or members of the public with staff coaching untangle the birds and put them in cloth sacks with draw-string tops. The sacks are delivered to a table at which is seated a pair of "licensed" bird banders - a man and his wife. The sacks are hung on a line across the back of the couple's SUV and the birds in the sacks are processed in turn.
The bird is checked for an existing band. If so, the number is recorded and the bird is released with a cursory inspection. Otherwise the bird is carefully identified as to species, apparent age, condition, weight, amount of fat (migrating birds carry fat, resident birds do not. They will build fat prior to migrating).
As he worked, the bird bander explained how he determined the species and gender of each bird, especially the hummingbirds which can be tricky to differentiate between species. The bird was weighed and released. A number of us had the opportunity to feel the beating of a hummingbird heart before it was fed and released. Rather than release the birds himself, the bander handed them to visitors to release. Neither Juanita nor I had that experience as we deferred to the children and some obviously eager adults present.
One Saturday afternoon we took a drive toward Lake Jackson and visited the Sea Center, the Lake Jackson Museum and the Alden B. Dow Office Museum. Alden B. Dow was in charge of designing this planned community built around chemical plants supporting allied efforts in World War II.
Green Building Tour
As you drive between Alvin and Friendswood you pass a building with a couple of wind turbines. It is the Jacob White Construction Company office and home of The Green Event Center . I asked for a tour and an engineer graciously showed us around the low energy footprint building.
Highlights were the rooftop gardens and the wind turbines. The turbines are on seperate foundations to prevent unwanted vibrations in the building structure.
One evening we met up with the deputation team and the motor home from the January Update. They were on their way back from Oklahoma, Kentucky and Tennessee and stopped for the night in Cleveland, Texas about an hour north of Houston. We managed to meet up with them and visit at a nearby Chinese buffet.
This coach is the one we helped bring from Las Vegas and worked on in Harlingen. Looked like the ceiling turned out pretty well.
On a Sunday afternoon we met up with another SOWER couple traveling from the valley to their next project in Florida and had a good visit over lunch in Rosenberg, Texas before they got back on the road.