He’s Got a Ticket to Ride

He, being Apache. Tonight it was finally not too hot or too busy, so Sara and I checked on how Apache’s feet were doing since his abscess.

He’s shiny but chubby again

Sara says he’s as fat as he ever was. Sigh. I really need to get him in his pen half the day, but I blew it by going to the auction today. Tomorrow will be another day.

He does clean up well

Anyway, I took him out in the round pen, where he walked and trotted just fine. He did buck on the way to start circling, which was not so great. But otherwise, he was a gentleman.

Sara put the bareback saddle and bridle on him and rode him around. He was pretty darned good and did nice turns and back ups. Sara diagnosed him as fine for walking, so I’ll try riding 15 minutes or so tomorrow morning.

Look at my summer coat!

The other good thing is that Fiona has finally gotten rid of her winter coat. She’s one fine looking long-eared gal.

Snakes

To make a long day even longer, as I walked home from the horses, the hay bailer was hard at work. It scared up two rat snakes who didn’t even notice me as they slid across the driveway.

Then, after dark, when I finally came in, this fat and sassy fellow greeted me in the porch.

It’s a snake.

Not to worry, it’s a diamondback water snake. Check the head and lack of rattles.

Best I can do in the dark, but you can see the pattern.

Okay. Enough scary stuff for one day. Oh no, there was a dead scorpion next to where I keep my boots. Hint: always check inside boots for spiders, scorpions, or even toads (happened to Sara once).

Dead.

Ranch life is not for wimps.

A Day at the Cattle Auction

Today has been very educational. It’s Friday, and I’m off work, so I was able to go to the local cattle auction to see how it works firsthand (their website has some really good photos, so check it out). I’ve heard a lot about cattle auctions from various sources, and it was about what I expected. They don’t just have cattle; at least once they had a donkey (Fiona!).

I had never seen the front of the building before (it’s way off the road).

There were over 1300 cattle auctioned today. Whew! That’s a lot to go through. They ranged from some pretty spectacular longhorns to tough corrientes to plain ole cows. And they ranged in age from newborn to around 8. The buyers sit in a really nice, air conditioned area, and the cattle are sent through from the pens, usually one at a time (exceptions are cow/calf pairs and a few that went together for some reason).

We were in the balcony, and this is what it looked like.

The reason the place is so nice is that there was a really bad fire there last July, which I think was arson, and the whole community came together to replace it as quickly as possible, since everyone depends on it so much. It was wonderful to see how people donated equipment, material, and their labor to rebuild in record time.

The reception area, offices, and kitchen are all new and lovely.

I enjoyed seeing all the cattle come through and listening to the auctioneers. One I could not understand at all, but I could understand Kenny, the owner, pretty well. You really have to have a good eye for cattle to buy at these things, because you get to see each one about 15 seconds, unless the preceding cow won’t leave the exit chute and it gets held up.

Cattle come in through the right doors, and leave through the left ones.

There are a lot of cowboys whose job it is to make the cattle turn so buyers can see the whole animal and to “encourage” them to go to the exit quickly. Some of it was reasonable prodding, but I (squeamish city girl that I am) was less than thrilled when they whacked them in the face and used the prod more than necessary (but how am I to know…I am not a cattle prodder).

Action shot of longhorn cow and calf

It was mostly pretty fun, and I learned a whole lot about what makes a good cow and what makes a bad one, how they are priced, and such. Plus, I got one of the delicious locally-famous cheeseburgers from the restaurant, which I’d wanted to try for years. It was as good as advertised.

That’s the one that came to the ranch. The red sign is the weight of the calf, I think.

When they were on break, I got to see the pens where the cattle are. You get to walk on a cool metal walkway above the cattle and their dust. I saw all the working cowboys and cowgirls moving the cattle, and heard a great deal of mooing. The pens are really spacious and well ventilated. I wasn’t hot at all, and the animals didn’t seem distressed by the heat (though I can imagine the whole auction experience is not a cow picnic).

We went home and got the cattle trailer so we could pick up the small cow and her nice-looking heifer that will join the herd here. I enjoyed watching the cowgirl load them up quite efficiently after the trailer was backed into a chute area. This whole operation is quite well designed and runs like a well-oiled machine, which I guess it is! Lots of money exchanges hands here every week.

The cowgirl jumped off her horse and shoed the cow and calf into the trailer from our ranch.

Once we got the pair home, they ran out of the trailer and didn’t stop running until they got to the far end of the pasture. I did not blame them one bit. The second the other cattle saw them, they ran up and checked out the new ladies. It will not be long until they are all happy.

It was so great to get to see one of the most important businesses in our town, and hope to get to go back again sometime. I never thought I’d get a chance to learn about ranching, cattle, and all this stuff, so I’m quite grateful for the opportunity to learn how things work, rather than just looking at the cows and saying they are cute.

What a face!

It will be fun to see what gets done with the Hermits’ Rest Ranch’s cattle residents as the pens get built out and cattle equipment comes in (my domain is strictly horses, donkeys, and chickens). I bet I learn a lot now that I’m even closer to the action than I was with the neighbors’ cattle or the cows the tenants raise, which I just get to adore from afar.

Oh What a Beautiful Evening

Wow. It’s been the most pleasant evening I can remember. Once the sun went behind clouds, a breeze came up, and the stifling heat dissipated.

Awesome.

I took lots of pictures today, and when I went back to look at them, I realized it’s been a beautiful day!

The horizontal pipes are going up!

And yes, a lot of work got done on the horse pens. It’s really moving along! After work and my Friends of LLL meeting, I got to watch the process for making the tools to set the vertical bars that are next. These hooks were made from straight pieces of metal.

Hooks, tape measure, torch.

The hooks were shaped on this piece of pipe, which made cool smoke when the metal got hot.

This will ensure the hooks hang from the vertical pipe.

It’s fascinating to watch the tools being made. Such craftsmanship!

Meanwhile, I watered the chickens (Buttercup loves the hose spray), watched the dogs playing happily, and then saw what I thought was Vlassic chasing the cows. When I got up to yell at him, I realized it was a little too big of a fast, black animal to be him. It was our cute little calf, Baby Blue, who is just about the most playful calf I ever saw.

Racing back to the herd.

She ran around her mom and two others, then tore off like a racing cow, if there was such a thing, then ran all the way to the edge of the pasture. She then zoomed back up to her mama for a refreshing drink. I could NOT stop grinning.

I‘m tired now.

Really, who needs television? It’s darned entertaining around here. And I couldn’t even drag myself back into the house, because clouds beckoned.

It’s just beautiful.

I hadn’t seen a nice sunset in a long time. It was too rainy for a long time, then it’s been so blazingly hot I didn’t go out to look, though Lee reported at least one good one. Tonight? Glorious.

Dog, clouds, rain shower

You just don’t get many days this pleasant, that’s for sure. And even though I got a lot of work done, Goldie “made” me take a nap.

A nap for two.

Treasure your good days. Let them fill your heart with joy.

Make hay while the sun shines! Tyler V. did!

AI Thinks I’m a Dude

Recently, I was talking to one of my old friends about being mistaken for a man. It happens to her fairly often, depending on how she’s dressed, since she is not shaped like the stereotypical Barbie-doll person, has short hair, often dresses androgynously, and is blessed with a deep voice (one of my favorite former singing partners). It doesn’t happen to me very often, probably because I like shiny accessories so much. Neither my friend nor I are particularly bothered by being mis-gendered, though I know it can be really difficult for some of our other friends, especially those who are trans.

I’ve talked about this before, but I tend to see my father’s face when I look in a mirror; I don’t have especially “feminine” features. And, now that my hair is quite short, it’s more noticeable, even though we all probably know enough people with different lengths, styles, and colors of hair to realize that any hair stereotype out there is pretty outdated. So, I was prepared to see interesting results when I tried that new AI software that turns your photographs into cartoons or paintings. As you can see, one setting gave me blue eyes and made me look like a 12-year-old boy.

My lovely friend.

I’d seen a few that my female-identified friends had done, and they looked cute/pretty and like women. I admit my example here is extremely lovely, but you can see they gave her eyelashes, lipstick, and such. That makes me think that the software makes a guess about whether an image is of a male or a female. I’d love to see more images from people who don’t identify one way or the other or who provide few cues to what they are trying to tell the world about themselves.

Adding glasses made me look more like a woman, but increased bye crossed-eyes.

Another thing that I notice about this software is that it’s very literal. I appear to have a “lazy eye” in most of the AI renderings, though at least in some of the photos I used I had appropriately brown eyes. The thing is, these things look nothing at all like me, whereas the ones I’ve seen of other people at least resemble them enough that you can say, “Ah, that’s so and so.” Well, it’s no big secret that AI is not perfect and that it is worse with women and people of color than men. Of note: none of my friends with darker complexions posted their little cartoon heads, unless I just didn’t see it in my feed, which is a possibility.

The bottom line for me is that the images are just plain…plain. Dare I say unattractive? I don’t imagine myself as some raving beauty, but I hope I am not as aesthetically displeasing as these images came out. The ambiguous, gender-fluid aspect is fine, even fun, but I’d like to be an attractive guy!

Oh, vanity, thy name turns out to be Suna, and THAT is not pretty, at all. Let’s change the topic, so you can enjoy Alfred and Goldie getting along well, and a nice photo of Goldie. I wish they hadn’t cropped her ears, but she’s still got a sweet, yet noble face. Like me!

Have you tried playing with the AI toy? Do you find it fun? I guess it appeals to fans of the selfie. Sometimes I am one of those, just because observing and recording the aging process is pretty fascinating.

Penney Succumbs to Goldie’s Charms

I must share this good news. All the other dogs are getting along with Goldie the Great Dane. But Penney has been snarly and snappy since Goldie arrived. Until tonight.

Even Gracie is shocked.

As the day went on, she was nicer and nicer when they passed each other. Alfred is the same. No mote gruff barks. This is great. But when both Carlton AND Penney joined in the puppy playtime, my heart just melted.

Goldie isn’t graceful, but she’s enthusiastic.

I guess we will get to keep her! Kathleen has been enjoying feeding the dogs and hanging out with them. I’m glad she has her dream dog. Life is good.

Angles, Poles, and Alignment

Wow, the fence posts/poles are all up for the horse stalls, and I have to say I am amazed at how straight and aligned they are. There are 5 poles behind the one in this picture, but so perfectly lined up that you can’t see them.

This is very perpendicular, too.

And they are all absolutely straight in the ground, too. I’ve seen the level as proof! It is hard to believe that one person was able to dig the holes, put in the poles, and fill them in with such accuracy.

It looks like one of those zig zag courses for dogs to run through.

The project of putting up the horizontal poles is next. Then rods will drop down from those poles. Those of you as fascinated by this project as me may wonder why some of the poles are taller than others. Well, looking closer, you can see they each have a line on them. Those are all 6 feet high, I think. They’re taller than me, in any case.

I think these will hold a horse or a cow.

There would be a lot more done, but the backhoe has decided it doesn’t want to start. That makes for more doggie playtime, or did until Harvey zapped his poor nose on the electric fence.

It smells good here in the dirt.

I am able to sit in the shade pretty comfortably, which bodes well for giving horses some relief in the summer. The way we are going to arrange the other shipping container will help keep winter bearable, too.

Ahh. Relief.

Today I’m very grateful for my family, who are helping make the ranch so much more fun (and profitable, eventually). And I’m grateful for coworkers who help keep me going and positive, even in weird times.

Now if only that backhoe would start.

Yeah, Maybe Goldie Is Happy

Perhaps I’m posting too many dog blogs, but who cares? It appears that the dogs have come to truces and are enjoying each other. There are still occasional growls and snaps (Penney and Harvey), but we all had such a fun and funny day that I had to share. Goldie had breakfast in my office, for privacy.

I just want to eat in peace.

Then she and Harvey joined Lee for some couch chatting time while he ate his breakfast. It was, I guess, cozy. Good thing she is gentle with furniture.

Much of today she stayed with me, but she did figure out the dog door at last, so she could go out. Carlton and Penney and Harvey made it mighty snug in my office, but they were pretty quiet!

Ahh, the cool floor.

After work (and a fantastic conversation with my wonderful dear friend formerly known as Nancy Jo), we all went out to play. At least it wasn’t as hot as yesterday! After running around, they had to cool off.

Alfred and Goldie looked like luxury liners out in the big pond. After explaining to the two guardian dogs that they did NOT need to bark at one of the cows, we all ran back. Well, Alfred and I walked.

Let’s race!

I sat on the porch for a while to enjoy the breeze. Since the dogs were cooler, they could play. Carlton and Goldie looked like they were dancing.

That tired them out, so they got on the ground to rest. Then they rolled.

Whew

And, as I knew it would happen, even Alfred rolled. He looks so happy.

See, I can roll, too!

I missed getting Harvey rolling, but there was quite a lot of it. The grass is so beautiful right now; who could blame them?

Were you worried that Penney didn’t get to play? Not to worry. She stayed upstairs with Lee, but Harvey went up and wrestled with her when we came back in.

Now we are all cooling off again. I think Goldie is settled in.

These humans have nice houses.

Geez. She is a big dog.

Who, me?

Gracie, the littlest Hermits’ Rest dog, spent the afternoon on the porch in her favorite chair. But she did get exercise. She moved to her favorite INDOOR chair. Cutie.

This is MY chair.

A Tiny Win for Me (Radio Edition)

Sometimes the little things really mean a lot. You see, quite a while ago I bought a radio, yes, an actual radio, which has a weather band in addition to AM and FM. It has a stronger antenna than most, so my hope was to be able to listen to the Austin NPR station, KUT, from here north of Cameron, two counties away.

I was very excited, but when I turned the radio on, I barely could hear my station. So, I only used it to listen to the local station, KMIL, for the rural news and Tejano/Czech Polka music. I’m weird. I really like that oom-pa stuff.

Every so often, I’d try KUT, hoping maybe they had boosted their signal or something. But, no, until TODAY! I tried again, and there was Morning Edition, clear as a bell. I was thrilled, and way more excited than, say, new dog Goldie was yesterday afternoon when she came in from the heat.

I’m really going to enjoy the radio when I’m not in meetings and just chilling with the dogs in the home office. One thing I was concerned about when we made plans for me to move out of the Austin house sooner rather than later was that I would miss my news source, which is not the same as the rest of the household prefers. I don’t like sensationalism, and the format of Lee’s television news drives me nuts. Too many teasers.

Photos of dogs are just because they are so cute. At one point I had four in here snoozing yesterday.

Anyway, that’s my happy morning news.

Book Report: Finding the Mother Tree

Rating: 4 out of 5.

My excuse for not finishing this one sooner is that I was trying to catch up on magazines, thanks to all the “subtle” hints that I have too many piles of them. I did at least get all the horse and decorating magazines finished, so last night I got myself to the end of Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest, by Suzanne Simard (2021). What a journey this book is!

If this doesn’t make you go hug a tree, nothing will.

I got the book the minute it came out, which is no surprise given how many books on trees, how trees talk to each other, and forest ecology I’ve read in the past couple of years! Simard wrote it in an interesting way, where autobiographical sections are interspersed with some pretty hard-core science content. If you just like stories, you can skim the science; if you just want to know exactly how trees communicate with and support one another, you can bypass the story of her life (but you’d be missing out on an interesting life!).

Simard was born, full of curiosity, into a western Canadian family full of loggers and tough woodland pioneers. It’s no wonder she ended up as a biologist. And she, too, is a pioneer. She had a very hard time getting anyone to listen to her as she explained the effects of clear cutting and re-planting as it was practiced at the end of the 20th century. I really came to admire her tenacity and conviction that she was right.

Mother tree I saw at the horse competition.

Of course, it helped that all her data backed her up, and that eventually she got enough grad students and fellow researchers to make it clear that trees help each other and need each other to survive. I’m glad she did, because her findings are fascinating. Different types of trees are connected, and certain ones use different kinds of fungi help different kinds of trees in their connections, too. It’s all complicated, as one would expect, but fascinating.

The highlight of the book is when Simard talks about “mother trees,” which appear in healthy forests. They are very old, and very well connected. They give their energy to new seedlings and distressed neighbors. It kept making me sad to read about them getting cut down, but I have to credit Simard for acknowledging that we need wood; we just need to be careful with managing forests so they can keep giving us wood!

I know the tree I have pictures of here is or was a mother tree. Just look at her beautiful roots.

Forests that are managed and have all the trees the same age, planted in rows, don’t get the advantages of having mother trees, nor of the diversity of companion trees and understory plants necessary for optimal health, resistance to pests, and protection from diseases.

I’m so glad scientists, and now foresters, are listening to Simard, and that she has passed her work on to her daughter. This woman is an amazing role model for us all.

How Are the New Dog and Chickens Doing?

I have already been asked this today, so I may as well write a quick update for you. I’m happy to report it’s all good news!

Goldie is very happy and eating a lot, which she needs to do. She is also sleeping much better since her mommy Kathleen went out and got her a new and gigantic crate to sleep in. Ah, how I have missed having crate trained dogs. I’m told she slept like a log last night. She also got a fine and festive new collar!

This morning on my chicken-feeding break, I looked over to the horse fencing construction area and saw Goldie and Carlton, happily in the shade, supervising the drilling of more holes.

We like the shade.

Goldie went out to inspect the auger when it stopped moving for a bit, but she got the heck out of there once it went back to scattering dirt everywhere.

Yikes!

It’s nice to see at least some of the dogs getting along together. Goldie is very persistent, and repeatedly asks Penney to play with her, but she gets nothing back but growls and snaps. That one may take a while. Harvey has gotten to where they have smelled butts, but he still growls at her (but less ferociously than before). Goldie and Alfred just stay out of each other’s way. Slowly but surely, everyone is adjusting.

I like it here.

As for the new pullets, they also seem to be acclimating well. They have their roosting spots and their resting spots, and are going through chick food like crazy. The two who had seemed to be having trouble are both looking a LOT better. Blanca was up and foraging around with the others this morning.

And little Billy Idyl has no more blood on her, and seems perky and chipper. I’m glad. She is so darned cute. She runs around like a roadrunner, too. In the photo, I was TRYING to get a picture with her whole head in it!

Of course, I DO have other chickens, and I haven’t forgotten them! We got a watermelon in the house yesterday, and it all got cut up for snacking (and a fine watermelon it is, too). Of course Bruce and his ladies got to enjoy the rind this morning.

It will be fun to see how long it takes them to reduce the melon halves to nothing but the very edge of the rind like they did last time.

Since all I’d given them yesterday was a green tomato that had fallen off the vine at the cabin, I feel better in the treat department. If they are lucky they may well get to peck at some ends of zucchini and cucumber that we were given yesterday!

Ain’t life grand, if you are a dog or a chicken? Especially at the Hermits’ Rest?