Those Wiley Canines Thwart My Photography

It’s true that I just posted something, but I wanted to put this story up, too. You see, early this afternoon, I noticed that the mail had come and wanted to get another couple of flower photos for my post about our unmown lawn. I cautiously let the dogs out, hoping to keep them close by so they wouldn’t chase anything. It’s true! They didn’t chase…much.

I went out to see why the hens were cackling away, and then saw something very beautiful. There were three cattle egrets in the pink evening primrose out by the future barn area. So pretty, but I guess they were bothering the chickens.

Sample bothered chicken. Look at Bruce go. The egrets (I swear, there ARE egrets in this photo) just stood there.

I went out to try to get some photos of them, since they looked so pretty in the pink flowers. Just about the time I finally got close enough to get anything resembling a picture where the birds actually showed up, Penney and Carlton noticed them. I guess it’s good, because I got some nice flying pictures.

I don’t think the dogs bothered them too much, though, because as I type this, there are seven of them out there eating the many ladybugs, no doubt.

Time to go get that mail, I thought, so I wandered over by our little pond. Now, last year, Kathleen had an “episode” that involved her throwing many live crawfish into that pond during a crawfish boil. We’d been curious as to whether any of them lived.

My favorite photo of her, ever. This was about a year ago.

To my great pleasure, when I looked into the shallow end of the little pond, I saw a bunch of inch-long crawfish! They made it and had babies! I got down to try to get a photo for Kathleen, but, SPLASH. The precious dogs thought I was inviting them to go for a swim.

Note the trail of mud, through which no one can see a baby crawfish.

Well, Penney got her comeuppance quite quickly. Suddenly one of our big bullfrogs jumped into the water and landed right beside her. Penney’s exit had me laughing so hard I had to forgive her. Thank you, frog friend.

We then headed to the mailbox, at last. Well, I got the mail and all the dogs stayed behind the gate like they are supposed to. I think we’ve had enough problems with dogs that go past the gate. They had a LOT of fun running and rolling in the grass, then paraded back to the house single file.

Harvey, Penney, Vlassic, and Carlton head back to the house.

Don’t worry, the parade did include Alfred. He was behind me, as always, guarding the pack.

I’m coming! Got to make sure no bad guys sneak in the gate!
The blurry shape to the left of the bubbles IS a baby crawfish.

When I came back, the water had settled and I sort of got a picture of one of the baby crawfish. They are quite small, like an inch or so, and exactly the color of the mud. Like Lee says, that’s why they call them mud bugs! But I know this will make Kathleen happy, and maybe if the drought isn’t too bad this year, we’ll get to enjoy watching them grow!

What fun stuff are you up to this weekend? I’m going to stop blogging and relax. I already worked four hours, and have another delayed project to get moving on. Oh, and by the way, that swimming brought out the skunk oil still lingering on Penney. It smells horrible in our house. Thanks, Penney.

Inquiring Neighbors Want to Know: Why Isn’t Your Lawn Mowed?

It’s a good thing we don’t live in town, or we’d be getting little notices that we need to mow. Actually, I’m surprised we haven’t gotten them for our town properties. Yes, our lives are filled with little clusters of impediments that drive us all to distraction, and the spring grass situation is one of them. We don’t want long grass by the house, because it attracts our snake friends, and some snakes we’d rather not be all that close to.

This is not particularly attractive, or safe to wander in. Plus, it’s mostly burr clover.

Many of you know that our usual ranch-mates have been stuck at the other farm for a long time, thanks to a snake bite that went bad, very bad. Kathleen can’t drive, so her devoted spouse has had to stay there and help. That is all fine by us! However, the equipment maintenance over here at the Hermits’ Rest is in his hands. That’s been a problem, though not his fault.

This is all sunflowers. Also not something we want to cultivate in such huge numbers (we usually leave a few, hence, more show up).

Why? Because every single one of our mowing devices has developed an issue that Lee and his brother can’t fix. The brother set out to mow one day, but boom, a belt popped off and he’s in no shape to fix it. We don’t know exactly what’s up with the ZTR, but it isn’t going either. And certainly the push mower is not cut out for our acreage…but it’s not working either.

Yep, this looks like snake heaven, too.

Well, Suna, any observant neighbor or in this case, Hearts Homes and Hands employee, would point out, the grass is so long and lush that we really need to shred it (in Texan, that means mow with an attachment on your tractor). We have a tractor (it runs!). We have a shredder (it works!). What we don’t have is anyone who can attach said shredder to said tractor.

Lee re-enacting a photo I once took with lots of evening primrose. Directly behind him is the SHREDDER.

Other inquiring neighbors might ask, well, why don’t you just get someone to fix your mowers? Or pay someone to mow? Well, heck yeah, those are good questions! I’m sure it’s occurred frequently to the poor people across the road, who mow many acres to a carpetlike perfection weekly. They have to look at our flower-covered mess, shudder, and shake their heads.

If we’d mowed, we’d have missed these backyard beauties.

The thing is, every week we expect to be reunited with our family. Once we’re all back at the ranch, we’ll be a well-oiled machine of accomplishments and the doing of things. Every week, the darned wound will not heal. I can assure you we are ALL frustrated by this, but you have to deal with what life hands you.

Heck, even the mock dandelions are enjoyable, especially when they have a cool long-horned bee in them.

The good news is that we are finally breaking down and seeing if our tenant will fix the mower belt and hope to see if he’ll help Lee attach the shredder. That would let us at least get started. I won’t be quite so worried about a snake in the long grass biting ME that way.

The Bright Side

Of course there’s a bright side to all this! We have beautiful wildflowers all over the fields in front of and behind the house now. Because we don’t spray herbicides on our pastures, all kinds of native grasses and flowers are showing up.

Every one of these flowers came off our “lawn.”

We have way more scarlet pimpernel than I ever noticed before, and the blue eyed grass has made it to the back part of the house. I have to say an entire wildflower meadow for a yard, that I didn’t even have to plant, is a fine thing.

The little scarlet pimpernel.

I can’t think of anything prettier than fields of evening primrose, either. I remember when we first moved here and Sara and Ralph were still ranching on our larger pastures, they would bloom into a sea of pink. It was spectacular. But, we have our own little ponds (or tanks?) of pink in the parts we maintain!

This “tank” of pink evening primrose is waving in the wind like an actual body of water.

Still, we do know we need to mow. We do wish the deities of functioning machinery weren’t so hard on us and that the germs in south Texas weren’t so tenacious in that snake wound. But, THIS week things will change, one way or another! (We will leave some flowers, though.)

It turns out that the trampweed doesn’t really flower. It goes straight to these happy little puffballs.

Summertime Is Coming and the Chickens Are Laying

I hear y’all like my ranchy stories, so here’s what excitement greeted me when I got back to the ranch today. Since no one had picked up eggs, the first thing I did was check the top of the garage fridge. There were at least three eggs per hen, but 5 white ones. Little Henley had gone into overdrive! I’m guessing she laid two in one day. Wow. One was tiny compared to her usual eggs.

One of these eggs is teeny!

Then I went to find Bertie Lee’s eggs. But there were NONE where I found the last bunch. So I looked under everything. Voila! There were 7 eggs, one broken, in the original corner where she first started hiding her eggs, on an old mop. Let’s hope she keeps this location up.

All 19 eggs I found.

That just left Big Red. The little darling had laid two while I was in Austin. Oddly, they were two different colors. That led me and Sara to wonder if she’s really two hens, but they never appear in public together. That’s plausible, right?

So many shades of brown!

Now I am about ready to sell or give away some of the eggs. We have lots now!

There are other signs summer’s coming around here! I’ve seen scissor tail flycatchers already. Another summer of watching their beauty has commenced! And the intensely fuchsia wine cups on our property showed up. I’m relieved.

My favorite jewel of a flower. Look at all the pollen!

I’ve saved the best for last, though. My favorite violent murderer bird is back! I really missed the loggerhead shrike when it left last year. I haven’t seen it. But it’s handiwork is easy to see.

Loggerhead shrikes impale insects and save them for later. This is a female grasshopper, because you can see her wings.

I was never so happy to see two dead bugs in my life!

Beautiful scarab on barbed wire.

Yeah, it’s hot already. But I’ve got my two red buddies, Apache and Big Red, to entertain me. After my long week, I just sat and watched them this afternoon while Sara worked with Ace. As always, being with them helped. It’s yet another way I can maintain my equilibrium.

My buddies in peace.

Hope you have a peaceful or fun weekend. I have a Zoom wedding to look forward to.

Sometimes You HAVE to Be Goofy

No doubt I was a lot goofier in my youth. I recall that I was laughing or crying pretty much through my whole teen and college years. I’ve moderated since then, probably thanks to the Prozac. Or maybe I’ve matured.

Hi, I’m one fun sloth.

Still, when big chunks of your life basically suck in a lot of ways, a bit of goofiness can really help. Yesterday was a day of painfully difficult work conversations followed immediately by leading the latest Master Naturalist meeting (I love the meetings, but trying to host them, be the secretary, somehow get the member who can’t do Zoom able to listen on the phone, answer people’s emails who lost their credentials, and ensure that everyone gets in is not easy). I was out of spoons, as they say.

When I was finally free, I went straight up to my bedroom and plopped down. I couldn’t even focus my eyes. I was reeling trying to figure out what my options are in so many areas…where to live, when to make changes, how to support my work team, how to support my family, and whatever. I KNEW I needed to breathe and let it go, which is exactly what I did.

Glamour Pickle

It’s amazing how 15 minutes of meditation can help. After that, Anita came in, and we just chatted about stuff and played with little Pickle the dog. We just got goofier and goofier as the time went by. We were acting like high school Anita and Suna, laughing and picking on each other.

I have a stuffed sloth, who used to be a Christmas sloth from the late, lamented Pier 1 store, but he took off his outfit and is just my buddy Slothie. The house cleaner loves to arrange him in poses when she cleans, which cracks me up.

Pickle was chilly up on my bed, so I wrapped her up in Slothie’s long arms and legs, and she got all settled in and happy. She looked so darn cozy that I started taking “glamour” photos of her.

Then she started yawning while I was still aiming the camera at her. I moved quickly and succeeded in capturing the action (for once). The results were PRICELESS.

Yep, the dog was goofy, too!

That got us laughing even harder, and once Pickle got up out of my lap, Anita and I ended up slapping each other with those sloth arms and legs and making Slothie do funny things, just innocent, goofy fun. We both really needed some goofy time, not thinking about what we have to do, what we ought to be doing, or the complications of our life.

We’re not as cute as we once were, perhaps, but are still quite skilled in the goofiness department.

It reminded me of a recent episode of the Farmhouse Fixer show where Jonathan Knight from New Kids on the Block and his really fun sidekick totally stopped working on their renovation project to jump into a huge pile of leaves, rolling around, doing bad cartwheels, and throwing leaves at each other. I truly appreciated that celebration of goofiness! That let them get back to work in a good frame of mind.

Our fun evening led me to a good night of sleep, so I was ready to face the challenges this morning. Hooray for me!

Meditation + Goofiness = Relaxation.

Have you done anything goofy to relieve your stress?

Ways We Cope with Stress: Featuring Plants

Because I’m so darned introspective, I’ve been examining how I cope with stress these days. I find that I can only handle a subset of the priorities I could before, and I avoid duties that appear like they’ll bring on more stress. That’s how I’m coping now, to the detriment of a couple of projects. But, as I look around I realize mine is only one way to cope. I also notice it’s not just us people who cope in different ways, so rather than call out people today, I’ll illustrate my points with how local plants are coping with the stress from Winter Storm Uri.

A perfect example is how some trees have died, some are struggling to come back, and some look fantastic, and this difference can happen in the same types of trees.

Some of us seem to deal with stress as if it’s not there at all. These people are often deeply grounded, have been through a lot, or have lots of support (roots!). These people, just like the Ashe juniper trees, often support others.

Others retreat and focus on one thing at a time, and try their best to do it well, like a rose bush with just one perfect flower.

Only one blossom, but it’s a good one.

There are people, and I know quite a few of them, who not only handle stress well, they thrive on it and so some of their best work when there’s a lot going on. Sometimes doing something is a way of coping and staying busy (I’m guilty of this), while others find challenges energizing. They enthusiastically bloom where they’re planted!

There are those, and who can blame them, who go into hiding, and only begin to peek out when the danger is over. Even then, they go slowly. It takes a lot out of people and plants to get their bearings when a stressful situation begins to ease up.

Stress tends to scatter some folks, too. They try this method of coping, and that method of coping, trying to find one that will actually work and get them through the hard times. I see this a lot in stressed oaks, which start putting out new growth all over, and not just at the ends of their branches. Some pop up along old limbs, and other pop up from the roots (very common).

This motte of oaks is sending out new sprouts all over the limbs and trunks.

When stress is really causing problems in living your usual life, though, sometimes starting again in a new place might help, like the redbud trees I’ve seem who look pretty sad up top, but have vibrant new growth farther down their trunks.

How many of us know people who have no choice to start over, even when that, too, is a struggle. I saw this poor tree with no leaves or other signs of life on its branches, but that hadn’t given up completely, and was starting again, hesitantly, and perhaps slowly. But, it’s still THERE! I count those of us who are in this situation as stronger than they realize.

I’m coming back!

Many of us fail to thrive during stressful periods. And it’s hard to say who’s going to cope well and who’s going to fall apart. One thing I noticed was that often there are two or more trees of the same variety near each other, and one looks great, while another struggles or succumbed to the weather? What’s the difference? You can’t tell on the surface what internal resources a tree or person has. That’s why we need to be patient and not blame people for their problems.

Same tree (an oak), different success rate.

I think flexibility, along with resilience, makes a difference in how we weather the inevitable Winter Storm Uri events in our lives. People who lived very rigid, inflexible lives really have had trouble with pandemic changes, just like a plant that’s been groomed into a stiff hedge with no choice in how it grows may have more trouble in a winter storm.

There are hundreds of these around the office, all very sad looking.

Those of us who aren’t well situated in the first place or already have anxiety issues may cope by throwing things every which way. A lot of the plants I seem seem to be reproducing like crazy, trying to grow, and growing in weird ways, like they’re trying ALL the options to make sure they’re making a good, healthy, happy impression. This has to take a lot of energy, and I wonder how well they’re going to do if they keep all that extra-perky energy up. I’ve noticed some crashing and burning of late…maybe a bit by me, to be honest.

This inland sea oats has come back strong, and has generated dozens of little buddies, just in case things don’t work out.

Now, some of the trees, and some of the people don’t make it at all through intense stress. I know more than one person who seems to be hanging by a thread right now. Some of us are just out of our element, like tropical trees (palms and such) that look pretty awful right now. I can’t fault them, and can only offer support and virtual hugs. And I will honor those we have lost.

We salute you, fallen non-native and non-cold hardy tree.

Looking at all the ways we humans and plants deal with unexpected stress is a good exercise for me. I can easily see the parallels among us, and what’s most clear is that there’s no right or wrong way to cope, nor are we all going to cope equally well. So, I’ll try to be patient with those who are struggling, including those who cope differently from me. I hope you can, too.

I Am Woman, Hear My Woe

A Story of Empathy and Imagined Equality

No, I’m not particularly full of woe, but for the past few days I’ve been metaphorically girding my loins, knowing that a tale of woe is coming. Wow, I’ve listened a lot the past few days. The thing is, every single person venting, lamenting, kvetching, or sniffling is totally justified. Every so often it gets this way, when there seems to be a dark cloud over my social circle.

Rain lily in rocks. Beauty in a tough space.

I’m privileged to listen to people and not try to solve problems. We all need someone to listen to us from time to time. I know my turn will come! The problem today is that I’ve heard so much woe that I’m not able to come up with ideas for making the things better that it’s my JOB to make better. I’m all jumbled up. I guess I better go breathe and let some of it out by tomorrow!

Evening primrose and concrete.

As I went for a walk around the Austin house neighborhood to clear my mind (and take pictures), I started wondering if all this empathetic listening is one of those stereotypical woman things, you know, women are nurturing and all that. Do people assume I’ll listen because I’m a woman or because I just come across as gender-neutral empathetic? (Rhetorical question)

Drummond’s onion. Beautiful. Look at all those little antses!

Stick with me here. That musing led to a surprising thought. I just don’t spend a lot of thought on my status as a woman. In my mind I’m Suna, and being female is not one of my more important parts of my identity. I’m not on the alert for sexist comments or put-downs for being a woman. I don’t feel discriminated against at work or at home. What???

Nightshade.

Oh of course I know there’s sexism out there and stubborn areas of inequality that need to be addressed. You know, just like we’re not in a post-racist society, either. But I’m not feeling constricted by being labeled female anymore. I am quite confused by my lack of concern about this inequality, especially given that I get all righteously indignant about discrimination against other kinds of people.

Cedar sage by the Bobcat Lair.

I wonder if my privilege from my whiteness and being perceived as cisgender compensate for being female, to where most people treat me as equals. Or…I just assume people think I’m their equal and act accordingly? That may well be it. I feel equal so I don’t let myself be treated any other way.

Anita’s hibiscus.

Hmmm. I don’t know what to think about this. Life is complicated. I feel way too lucky to feel so free and equal when so many people I know feel oppressed, put down, or truly challenged just because of who their parents were, where they came from, or who they love.

Ruth’s succulent in bloom.

What can I do? I know that! I’ll keep advocating for the creation of a world where our diversity is celebrated and our differences used to our advantage. I’ll keep learning about ways to realize my prejudices and biases and be an ally for those not as privileged as me.

I’m also privileged to live in a beautiful place.

My question to you women out there is whether you feel like this or am I having atypical experiences? Where are you feeling discriminated against or thwarted in your life because of your sex? What’s your source of woe, or do you experience freedom and joy?

Creepy Crawlies, but Not Worms

I think it’s time to stop messing with the oak trees for a while. Don’t get me wrong; I had a nice break today, out walking around my work building and checking out what was dead, what was still alive, and what was going on with the oak trees in north Austin. But, it’s the time of the year for the “tree worms,” as people around here call them.

This guy would not leave my hand, even when I silked it to a tree.

I learned from Tallamy’s book about oak trees that these squirmy worm-esque creatures that hang by threads from oak trees right around when the oaks are blooming are not worms, but rather caterpillars of various oak moths (all of which seem to be brown and mottled, to blend in with oak bark and limbs). They hang from a strand of silk to make it harder for insect-eating birds and others to get to them. They can not only wiggle, but move up and down their strands of silk fairly rapidly.

Aren’t they fascinating? Sure, unless they are getting all over you and crawling around. I had this brilliant idea that I could get a picture of one of these caterpillars hanging from its silken thread, and spent at least 5 minutes trying to focus on one, but it kept swaying and wiggling. That was hard on the phone camera. Meanwhile, I was concentrating so hard I didn’t realize how many “worms” had landed on me.

No idea what these are but you can see their insides.

I gave up and moved on to looking at one of my favorite groupings of oaks and other trees that shelter the office building from traffic noise. The motte of trees was generating its own sounds, though. A group of cedar waxwings was going to town on some of those bugs and singing, too. And there was one of those very loud wrens bopping up and down a tree trunk, along with a mockingbird, who was getting bugs off the ground. I saw evidence of a crow, too, and a big nest, just the right size for squirrels. Yes, there’s a lot going on in these city hideaways. No wonder the birds were singing, the trees contained quite the insect cafeteria for them.

I wandered back to the central courtyard a while later, and that’s where I found these tiny possumhaw holly blossoms. It made me feel more hopeful that at least the native plants in the courtyard made it. And with the rate things are coming and going in my life right now, that is a very good thing.

Tiny blossoms
This little yellow one came out blurry, darn it.

Unfortunately, when I got back to work, I kept finding caterpillars and bits of web on me. Good thing the little darlings don’t bite people. I put them all in a cup and let them go when I left for the day. Sorry, but I didn’t feel like photographing that collection. I still feel itchy, though. I do believe I’ll shower very carefully and thoroughly this evening. I bet no one would blame me!

Nonetheless. Hooray for all our resilient native plants and the life they support. Do you have yearly visits from the tree worms where you live? Are they all one kind, or a variety?

Social Media Update

Our blog and podcast now have an Instagram account! Follow #hermitsrestranch for updates there.

I Can’t Muster Up Schadenfreude

Wow. I’m not saying I’m a saint who never has bad thoughts about others, but when presented an actual opportunity to experience some good old schadenfreude, roll around in it, wallow for a while, and maybe even gloat, I find I can’t dredge it up.

Let me share what happened, as vaguely as I can. Last year, my favorite boss ever, was “let go” as they always said in La Leche League while firing anyone with institutional knowledge or history in the organization who didn’t drink some very bitter Kool-Aid.

Even though we were prepared, those of us who worked for this boss were sad, really sad, because we’d done a lot of good work together and were a great team. Of course, we had nothing to do with whatever the C suite’s issues were, and that wasn’t our call. But, it hurt some of us a lot, including the old boss.

Everybody’s beautiful, in their own way, right? This Japanese maple sure is.
Changes make me want to hide, like this budding hydrangea.

Fast forward to today, and the person responsible for that “letting go” (and for me losing the two coworkers I tried to hire last year) was let go today. I had dreamed of the day when that darned so-and-so got their comeuppance. I was ready to take immense pleasure in the pain of that other person, true schadenfreude. But, no. I felt sad, instead. I know how hard it is to see that unemployment train coming and have it roll over you. All I could feel was empathy toward my former nemesis.

Why? Well, I’d recently gotten to know that executive as a person, and saw them as more than just the instigator of a really bad year. I found out things we had in common, and our mutual humanity won out over my biases. Shoot, the stuff in those unconscious bias books is actually true; you really can’t hate someone you know as a well rounded person.

It’s okay!

How about that? I’m not as vindictive as I thought I could be, when it comes down to it. And that’s a good lesson to learn. I’m sure I’ll be fine as the changes keep coming where I work. It’s normal, corporate America stuff, after all. But I can still have empathy with former colleagues as I keep trying to keep up with the changes.

Actually, I feel like I had an omen or portent of the future this afternoon. As I was walking in the courtyard trying to get my bearings (me and big changes are just not friends), I found myself surrounded by common whitetail dragonflies, all female. They’re a symbol of change, metamorphosis, and good things to me. I felt comforted.

Knowing Your Issues Doesn’t Fix Everything, Nor Should It!

As always, things are changing in my life. One of the changes anticipated for this year is that Anita and I will need to move out of the Bobcat Lair house in Austin. That’s sad, because we really love the setting, the house, and most of all, the neighbors. But, the cost of just paying the City of Austin property taxes is more than the mortgage to our old house, and now that we are getting closer to me retiring from paid employment, we’ll need the money from that house as part of our income stream. Things are winding down, and it’s time for investments to pay off.

It’s the Austin house (Bobcat Lair) showing lovely dark rain clouds. Ah.

Yes, that’s all logical and good. Anita has her own little house in Cameron that we hope to get renovated as soon as her contractor is available and her tenant, who’s already month to month, knowing Anita is going to need to live in the house herself, finds another place to live. This is all quite reasonable, right?

But, when Anita started talking to me yesterday about how much she’s packed up already (she does all her moves all by herself, because she would rather invest her time than her money), and that she gave her tenant notice that she needs to be out, I found myself going back into one of my old, unproductive ways of reacting. I am not good with moving, AT ALL, and the thought of having to leave my beloved sanctuary sent me into a panic. It just seemed like a HUGE amount of work, change, and uproar was impending, and I kind of shut down.

A little wine on the deck helped me feel better, too.

Anita (bless her) kept talking me through it, and I began to realize that I can do things in stages, that I actually don’t have all THAT much furniture in the Bobcat Lair, and that I even have a place to store things like my books and such. And all the boxes I still haven’t unpacked (though there aren’t all that many now!!).

Plus, I plan to rent an apartment near my work, so I can easily figure out what things go where, move them, then get the rest moved to Cameron (except for what’s needed to stage the house). I’m just trying to breathe as I think of more things that need to be done, like electrical work to fix outlets that stopped working…but it’s not too much.

I just have to face it; I’m who I am, and I’m going to have trouble with changing things when it comes to my home, because having my own place grounds me. I’m still a fine person!

Ernesto apparently agreed with my coping strategy. Photo by  @juleslang via Twenty20.

I’m Not Alone

Speaking of my issues, which I am, I had an odd experience last night watching the PBS show on Ernest Hemingway. Now, he’s not someone I ever would have thought I had anything in common with, other than being fond of short sentences (he was way better at actually writing them, though). As I learned how he grew up, the experiences he had with his family, and how he coped later, I was really surprised to see how we have a LOT in common when it comes to our inner demons and how we deal with them.

One part of the show, in particular, hit me hard. He was talking about how happy he was when he had both his wife and another woman he was also in love with. He said it made him inexplicably content, even if he knew it was hurtful. And then he talked about how, in his relationships, he always made sure to have another love interest all lined up before he left someone. Ouch. Those were my destructive patterns in my younger days.

Hemingway statue in Cuba that apparently chokes people up.  @prezioso02 via Twenty20.

I’m really glad I didn’t live such a public life as Hemingway did, because reading all the criticism of my life, like he had to, would have been really uncomfortable. I’m glad I just got to judge myself harshly without too much help from others (except former partners).

I don’t think Hemingway was able to get much control over his demons, much like his father, who committed suicide when he couldn’t get a handle on his mental struggles. He knew perfectly well what his problems were, which is clear from his books, but knowing what his challenges were didn’t mean he could fix them, any more than I can help my issues with moving.

I’m glad I had help, good reading, and inner work that has gotten me out of destructive patterns, at least with romantic and friendship relationships. I’ll be interested in watching the rest of this series and getting more insight into this fascinating writer and historical figure.

What a good thing that we happened to watch this interesting Ken Burns documentary right after I was beating myself up for repeating patterns from my youth (I know perfectly well that I hate to move house because leaving my beloved home as a teenager was so hard on me). It gives me perspective to cut myself some slack and bear in mind that some of our personality “features” are deeply ingrained, just like those unconscious biases.

We can only do the best we can and keep making an effort to improve. Thank goodness I’m a lifelong learner and never plan to stop enjoying the challenges of living up to my best intentions. Let’s all keep open to ways to learn more about ourselves and others, and be patient with ourselves.

That’s my lecture for today. Take what works for you and leave the rest!

A Note from a Friend

After reading my blog (with all the typos I just fixed), my friend Kelli Martin Brew responded to echo my thoughts. I really got a lot from what she said, so I’m happy she allowed me to share her thoughts with you:

I love this. The longer I live, the more it seems clear that a lot of who we are and what we do is hardwired. But how I have wanted to believe that knowing something was the same as changing it! At this stage in life, I think we can use this hard-won knowledge to be more merciful – and to be honest about our own struggles and behavior. I grew up with a huge mandate to “be a good example.” At this point in life, I have contented myself with being just an honest “example” of… something. Whether it is deemed “good” or not will be decided sometime in the future, if at all.

Kelli, Facebook, April 6, 2121

I really treasure connections that allow us to share our inner thoughts, struggles, and learnings. I plan to be an example, too!

Pet News, Some Good, Some Not

There’s been a lot going on in the pet department around our ranch community. The first is good news, which is that right now there are two puppies to enjoy over at the neighbors’ house. They use Australian cattle dogs as working animals, and the elderly matriarch (Tess) is no longer able to do much. So, they decided to allow their breeder friend to get puppies from their youngest female (Jess) and one of the breeders’ unrelated males. The two female pups and Jess came home from the breeder’s house this weekend, and I got to enjoy them. They are so soft at this age!

Bess is the one with brown on her, who’s on the go. The other one’s a real snuggler, so her new family will enjoy her!

One of the little cuties has another home, where she’s going in a week or so, but we get to enjoy the other one (Bess) and watch her grow. Nothing like a bunch of rhyming cattle dogs to brighten the neighborhood! They now have 5 generations of the same maternal line at their house.

Other nice pet news is seeing how well Ace is fitting in with the other equines. We caught him touching noses with Fiona yesterday, which was so sweet. Immediately afterwards, though Apache broke up the love fest. I guess Fiona is HIS lady.

Hello, little buddy.

The amusement we’re getting out of the paint horses shedding continues. There are interesting areas of white in the pastures. When you get up close, you can see they are horse shaped, if that horse happened to be rolling on the ground. Spice left one where you can actually see her brown spots and her white ones, like a map of her coat. I couldn’t photograph that, since we were wrangling three horses, but I did get a picture of one from Apache, which is all white. Poor Spice will get brushed out next time I’m back at the ranch, since she looks like Apache did last week (since Sara hasn’t been riding her, she hasn’t had her usual amount of grooming).

It’s like Apache made a snow angel with is hair.

The sad pet news is that we appear to have lost Gracie Lou, Kathleen’s little white dog, and Vlassic’s favorite companion out here. She just never came in Saturday. We can’t keep her fenced in, because she’s so little that she slips through the gates, but she always has come in and asked to go nap in her bed in Kathleen’s room, and of course, to eat.

Gracie joined us last April.

We put a notice on Milam Touch of Love and asked all the neighbors (all four of them!), but no one has seen her. I went up and down the road and didn’t see any evidence of foul play, either. She just vanished. Maybe she encountered a hawk or a coyote, or a big cat, but only the hawk makes sense, because she disappeared in daylight, AND the harrier’s been around. Lee’s favorite theory is that she was sniffing on the side of the road and someone picked her up, thinking she was lost of something. She is very friendly and will jump into cars.

So, we’re hoping someone realizes we are looking for her and brings her back. She’s always been such a tough ranch dog, and more of an outdoor animal than indoor. It seems weird for something to get her after she survived the farm in Yorktown for so long, as well as our place for over a year! Keep your fingers crossed she turns up again.

A New Supporter!

Let’s end this on a happy note, though. I’m going to have to get those knitting needles warmed up again, because The Hermits’ Rest blog and podcast have a new supporter! Thank you to Kathleen Caso of Hearts, Homes and Hands for becoming a monthly supporter! She’s hoping to share podcasts about the ranch with our home-bound clients, who enjoy listening to stories. I enjoy telling stories, so THAT all works out. And then, if they want to see pictures, they can look at the blog. Great idea, right?

You, too can support us for as little as dollar a month by signing up at https://anchor.fm/sue-ann-suna-kendall/support – or just keep reading and listening. I’m happy to have all of you around!