Creatures Great and Small

My potted Texas mountal laurel is going to bloom! I didn’t kill it.

Yesterday the weather was beautiful, so Anita, the dogs, and I spent the late afternoon outdoors in Austin. Honestly, I just wanted to get some exercise and enjoy the air, but I just can’t stop with the nature observations. I guess iNaturalist is the winner there!

Trailing lantana, invading our hillside. Can you see ants on it?

As we walked the dogs, Anita asked me what a pretty white flower was. I could see it was a type of lantana, but it was not in a spot where anyone would have planted it. So, I submitted it to iNaturalist and hoped for the best.

Continue reading “Creatures Great and Small”
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Let’s Read Nonfiction

You might not be surprised to learn that I mostly read nonfiction (when not reading my many magazine subscriptions). I do this, because I really love to learn new things, especially how the natural world works and what makes living organisms tick.

For example, two of my past favorite books were an excellent history of the pencil and a book called Salt, which showed the importance of salt to commerce and history.

I also really like memoirs and biographies, so I’m really happy that my book club chose Becoming, by Michelle Obama as our next assigned reading. My quick recommendations for this genre from recent years include the memoirs/biographies of Keith Richards, Warren Zevon, Bruce Springsteen, and Sally Field (see, not all of them are musicians).

What am I reading now?

At the moment, I’m in the middle of the book you see here, Underground. It’s Will Hunt’s first book, but what a fun one! He goes all over the world looking at caves, mines, catacombs, and tunnels. Each chapter is very different, but always fascinating.

I learned a lot about what’s underneath Paris, and right now am learning a lot more about the significance of red ochre to civilizations around the world, while Hunt visits an ancient site in Australia and learns of how holy it is to the people of the region.

If you’re not a sufferer of second-hand claustrophobia, I recommend it!

I just received my copy of Never Home Alone, in which Rob Dunn makes it abundantly clear that you can’t clean a house well enough to eliminate all your uninvited “neighbors.” I can’t wait to learn all about spiders, crickets, dust mites, and their teeny-tiny cohorts!

This book really drives home the point that you can’t escape “nature” by staying indoors! It appears quite plausible that there can be “indoor master naturalists” who just focus inside the house. Hmm, with my never-ending battle against the moths in my kitchen cabinets and the yearly cricket invasions, I may already be one of those.

Oakleaf hydrangea. I love the contrast between last year’s purple leaves and the newly emerging ones that are so pale green that they are almost white.

Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments! As a reward, here are a couple of photos of some beautiful new spring growth.

Work redbud. If only you could hear the birds and smell the sweet olive!

PS: Baby hawks should be on the way! Mating was observed. They have no shame. Of course. They’re birds.

Can’t Stop Hawk Watching

The Cooper’s hawk family is so exciting that I can’t stop watching them. They’re also yelling a lot, as if to declare that THEY rule the courtyard.

Coming in for a landing.

We’ve seen them going in and out of the nest, sitting together on the building roof, and carrying food.

Zoom!

So here are some action shots from my iPhone through a dirty window. Because it’s fun.

What’s One More Blog, Right?

Because I am such a volunteering maniac, I said I would make a blog for the El Camino Real Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists. And I did it! Hooray for follow through and all that.

It just popped into my head at our last meeting that we had no way to share and archive our nature stories, reports on training, etc. It’s a lot of work to make a paper newsletter, so we haven’t had one in a while, and though we do have a Facebook page, it’s more about news, since member posts don’t show up on the main page. A blog is a great way to share.

Also, blogging is a great way to get volunteer hours. Master Naturalists like those.

How did I do it?

I always forget what goes into setting up a new WordPress blog, customizing its look and feel, and making it do what I want it to do. I like the theme I chose for this one, especially since the top menus stay at the top of the screen as you scroll down. I also think it looks pretty elegant and simple.

Here’s a blog page. It has a right column with archives, sign-up informatio,n and stats.

What I didn’t like about the theme was that there was no way to put a blog archive on the home page. The home page has no right column, and you can’t easily modify the top. I did put the archives at the bottom of the page, but, who’s going to go all the way down there?

This shows the small top menu that stays when you scroll down. Also, note that archives menu.

So, I made an archive top-level page. Problem solved, I hope.

Off we go

Feedback I got from the small group I ran it by was that it was hard to subscribe to the blog (I made sure to put both the email follow link and the WordPress follow link). And some typos got spotted, which I always appreciate.

I was happy to receive two items to post as soon as the group voted to start a blog. That way not all the articles will be by me! I plan to continue to re-blog my more naturalist-oriented posts here, but am looking forward to seeing lots more from my fellow Master Naturalists.

So, make sure YOU follow that blog, too!

Weekend Ranch Excitement

It’s been a fun weekend here at the Hermits’ Rest. I managed to go horseback riding twice, which is rare, and Apache and I had lots of fun.

Sara is setting up our cone obstacle course.

Sara set up cones, so we got to ride in patterns. He did way better on Day 2, like he figured it out. I also prevented him from eating thistles unless it was my idea.

Today we went into the pasture where a lot of cattle were. Spice did a great job herding them, and Apache managed not to panic when a big mama came toward him. Baby steps.

The new veggie garden at the cabin. Tyler hopes it will be chicken free.

Meanwhile, Fiona was “helping” Tyler work on his new vegetable garden. And hee-hawing. He has patiently built a fence and covered it, to keep the chickens out. That’s nice of him.

Let me out of this car.

Even more exciting was the fact that the sheep’s owner had come to pick them up to shear them. She got the male in her SUV but the ewe would NOT be caught. She thinks she’s a cow, dang it. In the end, they let Sheep Man back out. That’s one for them!

Ooh! Carrots and celery! Thanks!

As for the chickens, they were excited this weekend by food fun. I got them some dried mealworms, which they love. They’re sort of creepy, though, because they look sort of alive when you pour them. Plus, they got even more excited when I bought them veggie leftovers from the dinner I was cooking.

One of these eggs is not like the other!

The it was my turn to get excited! The chocolate brown eggs have started! It’s amazing how tiny pullet eggs are. I want to save the shell!

Homemade chicken and dumplings. Comfort food rules.

Now to eat my chicken and dumplings. Dumplings are secretly flour tortillas cut up. Chicken is not from my hens!

Little Wonders

It’s a beautiful day today, so I’ve done a bit of wandering around. I’m always surprised at the beauty I see, just walking around the ranch.

Just a beautiful day to have dog fun.

Today the dogs and I checked out the arroyo, and they had a lot of fun sniffing and stomping, as usual.

That is a BIG hole. Glad I know where it is, so I won’t step on it.

I was surprised to see just how big the armadillo’s hole has gotten. Every time I walk by there’s more dirt outside it. That is one busy dillo.

You can’t really see as much orange as I saw in person, but hey, these will be a lot of delicous berries!

The trees and bushes are all budding out, and sometimes the color really surprises me. The dewberries are all red and yellow, and look almost autumnal!

A brief pause between screeches.

There are also many, many birds out today, including a family of mockingbirds who would really like to be left alone. They yelled and yelled at me for messing around in “their” tree, trying to get a picture of some raccoon poop. I think the raccoon may hang out in the tree, too.

But the best!

The best nature sight came slightly off the ranch, on our county road. I saw something white as I was driving into town this morning, so when I came back, I parked to check things out. There, in the middle of a field, were dozens of white irises. They were so pretty.

The irises are right in the center of this picture.

I wish I could have gotten closer, but you know, snakes. My guess is that there was once a house where the overgrown trees and such are now. There is still a huge oak that may have been planted by someone. And, next door, there are a lot of the same flowers planted around a tree. Maybe they dug some of the ones in the field up.

Here you can see the flowers and the big tree. And an annoying post.

I’ll just have to ask the people who live there one day!

That Dog

Just a funny little Vlassic story.

I’m friendly, that’s all.

This morning I had to gas up the car before heading to Cameron. I pulled into the bay, got out, and Vlassic jumped out right after me.

I was worried he’d get hit by a car at the very busy station.

But no. He ran around the car at the pump next to me, which had also just pulled up, and jumped into that car. He was ready to go.

The man at the other pump laughed and laughed. He said, “He must have known I have a dog that looks just like that!”

How dare those men park here!

Right now we are waiting for Lee at the scenic Buckholts State Bank, where Vlassic is focusing his laser vision on people who have the nerve to park next to us.

Scenic Buckholts State Bank, as seen through a wet windshield.

(Weather report sidebar: yes, it’s raining again. We sure enjoyed that one sunny day this week.)

I need a knife.

When the people leave, he’s trying to break into my giant box of egg cartons.