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!
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.
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.
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.
PS: Baby hawks should be on the way! Mating was observed. They have no shame. Of course. They’re birds.
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.
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?
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
Now to eat my chicken and dumplings. Dumplings are secretly flour tortillas cut up. Chicken is not from my hens!
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.
Today the dogs and I checked out the arroyo, and they had a lot of fun sniffing and stomping, as usual.
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.
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!
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.
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.
I’ll just have to ask the people who live there one day!
It was nice to have more of a normal evening at home last night. No drama, just friendship and fun.
As I was buying the ingredients for yet another Instant Pot dinner, I decided to liven up the Austin house with some flowers. It made Anita really happy to see that I bought some ranunculus (also known as buttercups), which are some of her favorites.
Anyway, our friend Chriztine came to visit, and she cooked that Instant Pot dinner, which was a really interesting version of beef stroganoff that is made with boursin cheese spread for the cheesy part. We served it over zucchini spirals, and it was delish!
After that, Anita and I just chilled. Chilling is good. I’ll try to come up with something more exciting once I get back to the Hermits’ Rest!
Last night Anita and I attended the neighborhood book club meeting. We eventually got around to discussing The Poisonwood Bible, which I actually read (yay me). The discussion ranged to many topics, and I apparently am the Nature Expert of the group. I also LOVED the house we visited, because the owner was very clever in displaying her many collections.
I’d been noticing a lot of tweeting birds in the mornings when I walk the dog, and my thoughts were confirmed when the attendees began to describe large flocks of robins all over the neighborhood. This morning, I was on the lookout, and saw dozens of them in one tree (where I got this not-so-great picture), and more in other trees. The sound was amazing! Just as lovely as when all the cedar waxwings show up.
Then I got to work!
Right as I walked into work, I saw one of our hawks swooping. She landed in a NEST! I’d thought it was a squirrel nest, but there she was, hanging around, while the other hawk (smaller, so I figured it was the male) hung around on the building or the parking garage.
Later we saw a squirrel in the nest, so we were wondering if the hawk was just messing with baby squirrels or what. Last year, as you may remember, the hawks built their nest on the other side of the office park, on some metal structures.
When we saw the hawk bringing food to the nest, though, we became certain that the squirrel was just curious (and should be careful!).
As you can imagine, my coworkers are quite psyched to watch the hawks raise some babies. Binoculars will be brought out, and a lot of oohing and aahing will occure, if today is any indication.
Yes, that’s right, after nearly three days of the temperature outside not varying beyond 40-43 degrees, the blazing ball of sky fire showed up again this morning.
I had a lot of time to see it, since I kept being stopped by flaggers at the many, many pipeline construction areas along my way from Cameron. I’ll write more about those later, but wow, they make a mess.
I was in Cameron last night to attend the 85th Annual Chamber of Commerce banquet, representing both our Hermits’ Rest Enterprises company and the Master Naturalists. I was proud to see so many people I admire being singled out for honors, but MOST proud that my very own spouse got a special award for his contributions to the town this past year. He was truly surprised. Aww. I guess we are fitting in!
We enjoyed hearing the speaker, too, Bob Phillips, who has been doing the Texas Country Reporter television show since 1972. It’s the longest running independent television show in the US. He sure had some cool mentors, like Tom Landry and Charles Kurault.
I got ALL worried yesterday, when Mandi reported that no eggs had been in the nest boxes for two days. That seemed weird, since I got seven on Sunday, and at least two of them were definitely from the new birds (they are laying smaller “pullet eggs” still.
So, this morning I felt compelled to check on the hens before I left to go back to Austin to work. I gingerly walked in, disturbing two hens who were trying to lay. I looked in the last two boxes. There were a dozen eggs, plus evidene that the poor chicken who lays dud eggs had also laid.
My guess is that the chicken feeder/egg feeder person either didn’t look all the way in the nest area, or actually didn’t check and just told his mom there was nothing there. He also said someone else had fed the chickens, so there’s still some kind of mystery!
I’m happy to share that the hawk couple who nested where I work in Austin have returned. We’ve been enjoying watching them fly around together. This morning I heard some weird bird sounds, and looked up to see one of the hawks was scolding me. Aww.