I wrote this blog entry originally for Milam Touch of Love, our animal welfare organization, but hey, who doesn’t love a story about beautiful kitties (other than Lee)?

This week I’m in Bandera County, Texas, which is west of San Antonio in the Hill Country. I’m staying in a cozy log cabin in a pleasant, older “resort” that’s perfect for hermits. It’s mostly scenery and quiet.

View from the picnic pavilion where all the cats are.

However, there are cats. Lots of cats. They’re feral, but obviously very well fed. I thought my husband was going to explode when he saw all the cats (as much as he loves dogs, Lee is not fond of cats and has a convenient “cat allergy” to prevent us from having any). 

Excuse us. You’re interrupting our meal.

This morning, I put my MTOL Board hat on (it’s really an ear warmer) and set out to investigate. As I walked around the complex, I noted a number of plastic bowls full of cat food. I also noticed three lovely shelters built out of boxes covered with blankets and with a tarp over them. Hmm. Someone is taking care of those kitties!

Can you count the kitties?

I wandered over to the picnic pavilion, where I found a LOT of very happy cats smacking away at bowls of milk, drinking fresh water, and eating cat food. They were not happy to see me, however.

So, I decided to find out more about the situation and headed into the office for the complex. There is a really sweet woman who works there (it’s a small resort) who I’ve already talked to a couple of times. 

Continue reading “Cat-astrophe?”

What’s in Bandera, Texas? Many Armadillos and African Game Animals

Lee and I are spending Christmas week holed up in a log-cabin condo outside of Bandera, Texas. Why? It was the only place I could use my travel points on that was within driving distance of Austin. Also, it’s the Cowboy Capital of the World, you know. And it’s in the Texas Hill Country, a thing Lee and I agree on the niceness of (miracle!).

I’ll get all angsty and tell you why we aren’t doing holidays at home again this year tomorrow, maybe.

While I have yet to see any actual cowpersons in Bandera so far (we haven’t checked out the stores yet), we did see quite a few on the trip down from Cameron. We also saw plenty of livestock up close while waiting for traffic to clear up.

Today we drove through the scenic route to Kerrville through Medina, and then came back to Bandera another way. On this drive we saw many hills and large, fancy ranches. On these large and fancy ranches I saw exactly one native American animal, a bison.

I’m amazed to be on the river!

The European imports (goats, horses, and cattle) were far outnumbered by animals brought in from African stock. I saw a healthy-looking zebra, many blackbuck, some gnu, and all sorts of antelope and things that end in -bok. Oh and wildebeast.

In fact, we were driving past one particularly dense population of cute li’l antelope, when I realized a whole bunch of them were OUTSIDE the fence, just grazing away and watching cars go by. I guess I’ve now seen first hand what the book on invasive animals in Texas was talking about. I’m sure those creatures will do just fine in Texas, but I wonder what native animal’s niche they will encroach on?

Continue reading “What’s in Bandera, Texas? Many Armadillos and African Game Animals”

Solstice Tidings (Why I Have Wet Feet)

The Winter Solstice here in North America is a favorite day for me. I know the days are getting longer, which is good. But I also like to stop and savor the pale sunlight and see what winter is bringing to the ranch.

So, since my horseback ride was canceled, I took the dogs out to check the moisture levels in the ponds and springs. We all had a good time!

There went a bunny. Gone now.

For it being damp and chilly, we ran into lots of wildlife. A flock of chopping sparrows was irritated by the dogs and flapped and flitted, which sent a rabbit dashing away. A little peregrine falcon twirled above us making its little hawk sound.

Poison ivy berries. Don’t eat them.

And hooray! Yesterday’s quarter inch of rain was plenty to keep our newly active springs flowing nicely. I could even hear the water trickle along. Vlassic caught a crawfish but wouldn’t let me get a picture.

In between pounces.

I decided to find the larger spring that’s feeding our stream. We tromped around and could see where the arroyo was still just damp and not flowing, but I got my feet so wet and my shirt so full of burs that I gave up. I’ll try again in January.

Hey cow!

I came back by the pasture and enjoyed watching Penney and Vlassic play with cows, which is always fun. Not a bad way to start a new season.

Oh, those pesky pooches! Moo!

Get ready for adventures! We’re on the road right now. A week with just my husband is coming up! I’ll get caught up, read, knit, and hike.

The wild blue yonder beckons.

Have a cool Yule!

These Eyes…See Weird Things

Time for a ramble! The things my eyes have been seeing…and not seeing. First off, my eyes are on my mind. Yesterday was my annual eye doctor appointment, which I generally view as all those annoying things I have to look at so that I can later have lots of fun looking at frames. I do so love me some eyeglasses frames, and Helen and Gloria at the Far West Optical Land of Fancy Frames are happy to indulge me. (I know there are fancier frame shops in the area, but you could never get me out of them.)

Yesterday, though, the new-to-me young man who did the preliminary stuff was all solemn, and informed me that my exam counted as a medical one, so my vision coverage wouldn’t accept it. He was really worried I couldn’t pay, or something. I never could get it out of my mouth that I had enough in my Flex account for it.

The exam took 1.5 hours! Mostly Barbara, the eye doctor/friend from church, was looking for some drusen in my eyes. However, she could not find them. I had no idea what the big deal was until I looked it up and found that drusen are the first stage of macular degeneration. They are also fatty deposits. Probably my recent diet change has positively affected them. Yay, I’m not going blind.

Future eyewear. The orange is more of a coral and according to the gals, made me look like Sharon Osborne.

Also I picked out some new sunglasses and regular glasses, and got a good deal on them (a rare thing in this place). The sunglasses have Liberty of London fabric in them, though Helen kept calling it Lloyd’s of London. It gave us all a chuckle. I do enjoy that place.

Other Things My Eyes Saw

I’ll just share this one other thing that made me laugh. I was trying to get holiday pictures taken for our real estate and personal assistance services companies today. No one dressed for it (because I hadn’t asked them to), so we held our packages from the float.

It was really, really hard to get us looking good, but Mandi got some really funny candid shots of the Hearts Homes and Hands team. I cannot un-see them.

I’ll be putting the GOOD pictures up on Facebook, but here is the Hermits’ Rest Enterprises team looking as good as we can:

The real estate team

And here is the HHH team:

Doing our best. I could perhaps have found a more flattering ensemble, but, hey, it has a donkey on it.

Holiday greetings from us all!

Alfred Takes a Long Strange Nap

Today was a very different day for Alfred, our immense Anatolian Shepherd dog. We had thought maybe we’d get by this year without having to anesthetize him to groom him. He’d done a lot better than last year, thanks to Carlton gnawing off many of his burs.

What? I’m not perfect?

But then we noticed one of his huge double dewclaws had formed a circle and grown into his leg. It made him limp. That had to be dealt with!

I like to nap. I also like Lee.

So, our friendly mobile vet, Dr. Amy, who has probably funded her cool trailer off our pets, drove over to deal with our big, sweet boy.

I’m Alfred’s nurse, says Penney.

The nice thing is that he got sedated in the foyer, on his rug. He didn’t even know what happened. Just he suddenly had to NAP NOW.

They fixed his nail and trimmed all the others, which we certainly can’t do when he is awake. Then he had a nice snooze for an hour or so.

All fixed.
Continue reading “Alfred Takes a Long Strange Nap”

Book Report: Ragtime

I didn’t buy a hardback copy. But, it was a well-constructed paperback.

Proud of myself, I am, for finishing the latest book in the neighborhood book club series, especially since this is not something I would have picked out for myself. But, the assignment was Ragtime, by E.L. Doctorow, so I read it!

As someone interested in history, I did enjoy all the historical references and real people who came and went throughout the book, some of whom happened to be favorites of mine (like Emma Goldman, the anarchist). I think it helps to have some clue as to what was going on around the beginning of the twentieth century, though I guess you learn a lot even without any helpful background knowledge. This great review by the late John Brooks said it really well:

This mixture of fact and fiction may confuse or mislead the unwary or historically uninformed reader, and it suggests a projection onto the past of the suspect techniques of the New Journalism. I, for one, although no friend of that aberration, am willing to forgive any historical novelist who makes his flights from historical fact as funny and pertinent as Doctorow makes his. Like Houdini’s audiences, I am made to enjoy being fooled. As to the topical descriptions, they appear to be accurate enough to satisfy an exacting student of Americana. Certainly they are alive enough never to smell the research in old newspaper files that they must have required.

John Brooks: From the Archives: A review of E.L. Doctorow’s ‘Ragtime’, Chicago Tribune, March 05, 2015 (Suna’s birthday)

Now, as much as I enjoyed getting to know some fun details about historical figures, especially the imagined inner thoughts of Harry Houdini, the ground-breaking way the book was written seemed a little contrived and sometimes annoying. Here’s how John Brooks (a man of many more words than Suna) put it:

Continue reading “Book Report: Ragtime”

Ha Ha! Today Didn’t Suck!

What do you know! A group of people determined to have fun despite setbacks CAN do it. My little department at work is like that little engine that could in the kids’ story. We just keep on doing good stuff and having a mostly positive attitude.

My house looked so good.

We had three people with sickness or sick children, but ended up having a lot of fun at the little party we had at the Bobcat Lair house this afternoon.

Maggie shows off the yeasty rolls.

It helps to have a pro party planner on the team. Maggie chose a great caterer who brought a traditional holiday meal to the house, while we did appetizers and desserts. I picked out decor items. It ended up so pretty!

People actually wore their hats.

And I just wish I could make green beans as good as theirs. Yum. I managed not to overdo carbs, too! But I enjoyed myself!

Jen dressed tastefully but festively. I screamed Christmas.
We ate at the table to thwart the dogs.

The best part was our white elephant exchange. We encouraged fun and funny gifts, and for a small group we had our share of great ones.

Beautiful sardines. Jason said he’d eat them.
Marlene says, “Hmm,” about the Mac and cheese

In the food department, Anita and I found a sampler of sardines. And Maggie brought a dozen Velveeta Shells and Cheese. There was a hilarious game of Golden Girls Trivial Pursuit and one called Kenny G Keeping It Saxy. That got stolen a lot.

Vlassic loved his new buddy Craig.

Vlassic was the most popular boy in the room. He hardly barked at all, and only stole one giant cookie. I’m proud of my dog.

Pickle got into the love action, too.

What I enjoyed most from the humans was seeing all of us relaxed and happy. I work with some very smart and humorous people. It’s sure good to enjoy each other and get to know each other better. It helps that we could all talk together, because there weren’t too many or too few.

Our second annual group photo!


When I wrote yesterday about a feeling of dread, more than one reader responded that they felt clumsy at those times.

Doom came to this squirrel. Great shot of the black vulture by Anita!

Sure enough, today was full of minor oops errors and even a major one. And it wasn’t just me. My poor friends and colleagues dealt with it, too.

I got Maggie this fine hat as a consolation for not getting to go to Party City with me.

There were also disappointments and such at work. Even the good news of the day went sour. I couldn’t even make things better by shopping for our department party (at the Bobcat Lair) with coworker Maggie, because traffic got weird.

I’ll just cheer you up with photos of our Christmas lights, all from a box we found in the garage.

But hey, I remembered lots of positive things at therapy, too, and managed to go out with Anita to get the last party and family gifts just in time. I wish I hadn’t broken a delicate glass orb, though (the major error of the day), but I only got a small cut!

I even put lights in the cedar trees ( ashe junipers).

So yeah, those feelings of doom seem to portend something. But all in all, I’m grateful to the people who brighten my days.

Those blurs are snowflakes. Wish I had more!

I’ll be way more interesting after tomorrow’s party! In the meantime I hope you like our hodgepodge of holiday lights.

Gut Feelings, Not the Indigestion Kind

Okay, am I the only one who occasionally wakes up with a feeling that something isn’t right, but you don’t know what it is? That’s me today. I woke up with some kind of dread in the pit of my stomach, like something had gone wrong, somewhere, with someone I care about. My innards are just fine. I just have vague worries and concerns that I can’t pinpoint. Oy.

But, WHY do I have a bad feeling?

I asked a bunch of people if they were all right, then I got to worrying that it was my step-mother, so I ordered her Christmas flowers. Interesting path to guilthood there! Who knows, maybe I should call (except that phoning is this introvert’s biggest nightmare).

There’s no reason to feel this way, at least no conscious reason. I got good news today at work, got some things done, and supported a friend. Nothing bad there! But still, there the feeling is. Sitting on my psyche and squishing it.

The bright side: I checked in on people! People like that. If something’s going on with YOU, let me know. Until them I will keep randomly messaging people to be sure they’re okay.

What I’ll Not Do

Continue reading “Gut Feelings, Not the Indigestion Kind”

Jumpy Horses Are Worth the Challenge

Today Sara and I had time to go play with the horses today. The weather was ideal, though a bit breezy. The horses were waiting for us, which felt good.

Our warm-ups were fine. I see a lot of progress in Apache and me.

Kissing equines.

But once we went off riding, everyone went goofy. Fiona was hilarious, actually. She scooted around, kicked up her little heels, bucked an generally made mayhem. She tried to get the horses to chase her.

Spice was also jumpy as heck, requiring a lot of work by Sara. She threw her head and wanted to canter and run nervously. So, Sara kept her going until she cantered calmly. By then she was all sweated up.

Meanwhile, Mr. Perfect, Apache, was also hepped up for some reason. He wanted to run hither and yon, screech to a halt and eat grass, and go in whatever direction I didn’t want to go. That was annoying, but I knew I needed to not mirror his emotions and get upset.

Our ass shows us her ass.

Suddenly we were back to normal! We had a really nice walk around the fence line, then visited with the neighbors at the cabin. Everyone was well behaved. Fiona was especially good.

I started breathing more slowly and talking to him. I got him going in figure 8s and he settled. When we went into the other pasture I concentrated on aiming at objects and relaxing. It worked.

Continue reading “Jumpy Horses Are Worth the Challenge”