The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!
This is a time of upheaval, and I’m really glad I spent my whole life up to now preparing for lots of stress and lots of change. I think if the past year had happened with my coping skills back when I was 20-something, I’d be curled up in a ball every single day. So, if you are that way now, don’t beat yourself up over it.
This week I have three meetings for three different organization, and of course I’m the secretary of all but one (that means I have to pay attention). Plus, there have been lots of shakeups and changes at my Austin job. Hard ones, some of them. But, I was doing well today, having finally gotten the temperature in my office under control, my webcam set right, and a fine ambiance. I even took a cheerful photo of myself to use on some PowerPoint for a work project.
Suddenly, I got a message that I have to be out of the office for two weeks, to be sure we’re all safe and following instructions from the state. I was like, “Right now?” Yep. Thank goodness I could finish the meeting I was in! So, I untangled all my cords and wires and brought all the things I needed over to my office at the Hermits’ Rest, which I’d been avoiding using for work, due to barking dogs and such.
Lee brought my office chair, so I don’t have to sit in a dining chair! Once you get things all set up for a modern “work from home” situation, you don’t realize how much stuff is involved. I had to move my fancy work headphones, my HD webcam, my ergonomic mouse, and my cute keyboard. Oh yes, and all the power cords and USB attachments for all of them. Good thing I have a lot of USB plugs. We did have to go back and get things I forgot, but now I’m set.
I got everything plugged in and working, though it’s not pretty. The desk is pretty (solid labradorite), but it’s pretty much all cords.
Well, I have no choice but to embrace this change and find the good parts.
Working in my office/den will encourage me to clean up some clutter that’s showed up here (I did clean up the air bed leftover from our last guest).
I have a really nice bathroom with birds all over it.
I have usually well behaved dogs lying around and sighing.
I brought all my pens, so I can write in color!
I get to look out a window and see birds and trees.
I can go feed my horses this afternoon with plenty of time to come back for my evening meeting, rather than having to drive back and forth to the office.
Um, and the commute is shorter! I will welcome more snow!
Oh, really, this is just a little glitch, and it will all be just fine. I’ll deal with it, I’ll deal with whatever comes up at work, I’ll deal with challenges my friends are facing, and I’ll do my best to remain positive about how next week will go, government-wise.
I know I’m supposed to embrace change! Honest! But, we are allowed to get a little annoyed, for a little while, before moving on and getting things done, doing the needful, etc. Keep me in your thoughts, and I promise to do the same!
Another crazy day in the US, but I’m feeling a little better, because I took my own advice and got outside more. It helped that the weather was a bit better. Even just taking a walk around the office brought me delight. I picked these pretty pecans (which I will take home and eat!).
I also enjoyed stopping at one of the least-attractive parts of my walk to enjoy the Carolina snailseed vine in its winter glory.
The vine really grew over the summer as no one’s maintained the properties this fence supposedly demarcates.
When I got home, I enjoyed walking to see the horses. They’re all fine. I keep having to fix Lakota’s blanket, but it’s gonna get cold again, so he needs his comfort blanket.
Speaking of comfort, my knitting has really provided a lot for me this week. I knit hugs into every stitch. Look how big it is now!
I hit a snag last night, though. My knitting needle tip came out! That caused stitches to go BOING. Oops. Thank goodness I have two sets of this size needle tip, and I can switch them out. I’m sad, because I love the set I’d been using, but I realized they are at least ten years old!
I like the clear ones, too. They are a little more “sticky” so I like them for lace. They’re working fine on this shawl. Thank goodness I have so much knitting stuff I hardly ever have to buy anything.
Nowadays there are much fancier sets, but these work. And my old friend needles bring me comfort. I’ll take it wherever I can get it.
I have been doing a fairly good job of keeping good spirits until last week, when I saw how many people whom I’ve been extending the benefit of the doubt, supporting their right to their beliefs, etc., are willing to try to bring down the government and the precious Constitution they kept braying about for so many years. Beating police officers, whose lives I thought mattered to them, with American flags, which I thought they held sacred, etc., all brought out my worst fears.
Knowing me, and I sorta do, it’s clear that I can handle one or two crises at a time pretty well. By the time yesterday came along, the crisis count went over my limit. There are a couple of things that I can’t talk about but weigh heavy on my mind. Plus way too many horrible illnesses in my extended circle. Then stuff happened at my job over the past week or so went over my limit for calmly dealing with the barrage of change that comes with an Agile organization owned by a new set of venture capitalists.
By the time my final meeting ended last night, at 7 pm, I’d had it. The darkness enveloped me, literally and figuratively, as I made my way back to the ranch, and I just couldn’t take another thing. I want to help people, I want to talk to folks who need to talk to me, and I want to get things done that I’ve committed to do. But wow, I’m only human.
You know what, all of you are only human, too. It is important to know when you’ve hit a limit and do something about it.
I am not someone who feels better by just ignoring current events, but I CAN find good things to balance them. That’s my hope for all of you, too, that you keep listening to the advice I repeatedly give to turn to nature and find its timeless beauty. Breathe. Take a walk. Surround yourself with what makes you happy (like all my silly Valentine’s Day decorations in the office). Talk to a friend. Maybe talk to a friend who is NOT overwhelmed like me!
I will now sign off and follow my own advice. Love to all, and I mean ALL.
After enjoying all the snow on Sunday, things thawed away yesterday, leaving really big puddles to slog though as I went to care for the horses and chickens. The chickens were pretty funny wading away and looking more like ducks. I enjoyed watching how the water flowed as it made its way to Walker’s Creek, which was more flooded yesterday than right after it snowed. Anyway, sunset was nice.
It was at least pretty when the sunset reflected in the mush.
Overnight it got really cold (for here). The cold weather combined with the very moist ground led to something I don’t recall experiencing before, freezing fog. It was really eerie looking this morning. The sun was having a hard time peeking through, and all the areas that had turned green or brown were white again.
The frost was very heavy on the grass, and truly looked beautiful. I wish I could have stayed for a long time taking pictures of the frost on tree branches and such, but I had to go to a company meeting. Boo hoo.
As if that freezing fog wasn’t interesting enough, there was another kind of frozen precipitation down at the other farm near Yorktown (the farm Lee inherited from his dad), where Kathleen and the family are right now.
Kathleen was baffled by this stuff, but then she found out it’s graupel.
I guess the frozen fog and the graupel both are types of rime. I would attempt to summarize what rime is, but think I should probably just let you see what Wikipedia says. I had no idea there were so many kinds of ice (or I forgot, since I have not taken a weather class in a long time).
Rime ice forms when supercooled water liquid droplets freeze onto surfaces. Meteorologists distinguish between three basic types of ice forming on vertical and horizontal surfaces by deposition of supercooled water droplets. There are also intermediate formations.
Soft rime is less dense than hard rime and is milky and crystalline, like sugar. Soft rime appears similar to hoar frost.
Hard rime is somewhat less milky, especially if it is not heavy.
Clear ice is transparent and homogeneous and resembles ice-cube ice in appearance. Its amorphous, dense structure helps it cling tenaciously to any surface on which it forms.
Both rime types are less dense than clear ice and cling less tenaciously, therefore damage due to rime is generally minor compared to clear ice. Glaze ice is similar in appearance to clear ice but it is the result of a completely different process, occurring during freezing rain or drizzle.
Well, that was informative.
I’ve had lots of experience with freezing rain, and have seen graupel before, but only a couple of times. The freezing fog was a first, though. Isn’t it amazing how Mother Nature always has something surprising to share?
How’s your weather? Weird? Good? Bad, but in a non-interesting way?
I’ve interrupted my planned cadence of knitting projects to finish with the leftover yarn from the afghan. I have a long-time friend who’s transitioning from male to female, and I wanted to make her something to feel cozy and loved in while recovering from surgery at the end of the month. The yarn happens to have colors pretty close to the trans flag, which is a nice coincidence.
I figured a shawl would do the trick, and that it would work up quickly in the bulky yarn. Ha ha, that WOULD have been true if I hadn’t started the darned thing three times. That’s to be expected if you’re making something up, of course. The first time, didn’t like my cast-on, so I ripped out a few inches.
The second time, I set off to make a stockinette stitch (smooth on one side, bumpy on the other, for those non-knitters who made it to the third paragraph) triangular shawl. I got into the third stripe, but started doubting myself, and thought maybe I was increasing wrong, because the straight side didn’t look like it was straight. I ripped that all out (it’s called “frogging” because you rip-it, rip-it).
All annoyed at myself, I looked for a pattern on Ravelry for a simple, triangular shawl, so I’d be sure to make the right shape. Of course, when I found them, I realized I hadn’t screwed up before. Sigh. But the good news is that I found a pattern with a little texture in it that might look good with the stripes, called LaLa’s Simple Shawl. I knew I’d have to adjust the pattern, since as the shawl gets bigger, the stripes will get more narrow. Here’s what it looks like so far:
Sure enough, by the time I got to the white stripe, I was having to add more yarn from the other ball. That’s just fine, because I have the yarn. Once I finish the next color, the purply-pink, I will switch it out and do one stripe in stockinette and one in garter until it’s the right size.
I am hoping to have enough yarn left by the time it’s long enough to bind off in a cute picot (little sawtooth kind of shapes), which will look nice and make sure the shawl is flowy. We’ll see.
My goal is to get finished by next weekend, which is plenty of time. I hope to see the recipient in a few weeks. If not, I can mail it to her.
I hope this description of trial and error gives any of you who are not very confident knitters the courage to just give things a try and start over again if they don’t work out. Sometimes you get something a lot better than what you started out trying to do!
This isn’t enough for a whole blog post, but I wanted to share that the roads in Milam County were fine, and I made it to work. We lost a big tree limb at the office, but it didn’t hit any cars or the building, so that’s good. The power was out at the Bobcat Lair house for 7 hours, but Anita and Pickle survived.
Hooray! The minute I wrote that the weather was boring, it started getting interesting. While we do get a dusting of snow here in Central Texas, today is the first time I’ve ever seen it really snow. It’s been as pretty as when I was in Utah!
We got around 4 inches as the day went on, and at times it snowed pretty hard. I’m so glad I didn’t have to work today, because all I did was look out the window
The most fun, though has been going out and playing with the dogs. Here’s the best one.
Penney and Carlton acted like the snow was a big present for them. I’ve never seen them happier. Here’s the first time they went out.
Harvey finds sheltered spots to pee, then comes back in. Not a snow dog. The others sure are. I took Penney and Carlton out in the woods, and the joy all three of us felt was enough to erase all my stress.
Hmph. So many local people I know are posting photos of their kids seeing their first snow and such. What do we have at the Hermits’ Rest Ranch? Rain. Sleet at best.
Yep. We managed to get right between the snowy parts. There was some “wintry mix” earlier, because I see white stuff outside and there is some ice on the metal roof. and the precipitation is falling at an odd angle.
All is not lost, though. the temperature is going down. We may well get some pretty stuff to enjoy. And I don’t have to drive today!
Glad to have a closet organization project to work on in between knitting and reading my next fascinating book.
I’ll be back with something more interesting than this slice of my Sunday morning later today. So far, all I have is watching murders of crows fly back and forth and looking at sleet. I have confidence we will get our rare mid-Texas snow!
How to make it snow
Blog that you’re pouting about a lack of snow. This is less than 5 minutes after I first posted.
I know! I know! The ideal time is when there’s a winter storm warning for later in the day, with a forecast of snow! I got the bulky-weight afghan I made for my relative long enough to cover them (I added 5 inches to the length, since I had plenty of yarn).
Now I just have to block it, which will happen this evening when I get back to the ranch. I started a little bonus project with the leftover yarn, which I’ll show you later.
Speaking of being at my office, here’s a newsflash. Old houses with no insulation are cold when it’s cold outside. I’m really glad I put my desk in the middle of the room, because the exterior wall is brisk and has draughts. Duh. I knew that. So, I just bundle up and fire up my little fake fireplace heater. The mini-split unit is belching warm air, but the exterior cold is too much for it. I also discovered that a warm meal helps, so I got chicken and dumplings from Dairy Queen. Well, it was warm, at least.
Now I just need to finish taking all the Christmas stuff down and replacing it with hearts and such. That requires going outside, ugh. While I’m at it, I’m going to spruce up my closet. Away with the 50 shoeboxes! In with organizers!
I am NOT complaining that I have a boring and domestic weekend ahead of me. Boring seems really good, and hiding in my house watching snow sounds way better than witnessing mayhem.
Speaking of Warm Blankets
I also put the really warm blanket on Lakota, the old horse. I am hoping I did it right. I took three tries to figure out the front from the back. Lucky for me, Lakota was patient about it. All the other horses and Fiona have thick winter coats, so they are fine.
I wish all of you a calm respite, since I don’t think things will be completely calm for a while.
This week, I’ve taken my mind off things by observing my surroundings and seeing when I’ve been helpful without realizing it. Actually, one of the main ways I’ve gotten through the past few years has been knowing that, while I can’t fix big problems, I can often help with smaller problems that might be big to someone else, even those who don’t realize it or can’t express it in words.
For example, today I helped get a dog from Austin to Cameron, as part of my Milam Touch of Love volunteer work that I don’t do nearly enough of. That wasn’t much of a big deal on my part. I happened to be going from Austin to Cameron anyway, and just made a detour. To the dog’s owner, someone in crisis, this was a huge deal and solved a huge, nasty problem. The owner said those of us helping out were sent from Heaven. No, we are people who know that the right thing to do when you know of a person or animal in need and you CAN help, you DO help. It’s doing the right thing, not out of fear, but out of respect and love.
The dog was confused, and had no idea it needed help. It could not thank me other than with a wagging tail. But I knew I helped and am glad it’s safe.
Changing the Subject Somewhat
In the dog transport case, my friends and I knew we were doing something helpful. But, as I observed some of ways I’ve helped some living things. Since they can’t talk, we had to pay attention to see how we’ve helped. I’m talking about plants here.
How do you know you’ve helped a houseplant? Well, it will grow and thrive in a place that’s not where it naturally would end up. Most house plants are really tropical plants that have been hybridized to do okay in pots. Usually they don’t get very big in our houses.
Both spider plants and pothos are way bigger when they grow outdoors, but are usually pretty small in our homes. Pothos or devil’s ivy (Epipremnum aureum) leaves can be 39×18″ in the wild! They don’t bloom spontaneously, sniff. I know they are happy when the leaves don’t start dropping off.
Epipremnum aureum is an evergreen vine growing to 20 m (66 ft) tall, with stems up to 4 cm (2 in) in diameter, climbing by means of aerial roots which adhere to surfaces. The leaves are alternate, heart-shaped, entire on juvenile plants, but irregularly pinnatifid on mature plants, up to 100 cm (39 in) long and 45 cm (18 in) broad; juvenile leaves are much smaller, typically under 20 cm (8 in) long.
Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) get up to two feet tall in nature (I’ve seen it, since I’ve lived in the subtropics), and I know mine are happy when they bloom. Or that means they’re rootbound. They don’t talk a lot. I feel like the little bonus plants they grow are little gifts to me, even though I’ve seen them take over huge areas when there is no freezing weather to keep them under control.
Anita grows a lot of cactus plants and succulents. They show her she’s taken good care of them by growing, but more excitingly, by blooming. We both get excited when one of her plants blooms. Take a look at this one!
Many of my own house plants have been around a long time. I’ve had some bad luck lately, but when a plant is happy, it stays. Here is a house plant a money tree Pachira aquatica) that we’ve had for well over a decade, and it was a gift from another family when they moved.
This poor plant lived a long time on the deck while the Bobcat Lair house was getting renovated, where it got too much sun, received too little water, was besieged by aphids, and looked very sad. We had no place to put it in the casita!
It had tiny leaves, and most had fallen off. I kept wondering if I should put it out of its misery. But look! It’s funny looking, but it has nice big leaves now, which cover the plant. And it’s new growth is no longer sticky from aphids! It only took me a couple of years to fix that. I helped my old friend.
[I should never look on Wikipedia for stuff. I got all distracted discovering that this thing really IS a huge tree where it comes from, its flowers are the largest of any flowering tree, and it has edible nuts, when roasted. They call it the Malabar Chestnut. Raw nuts are toxic to rats. Enough of this.]
Another plant I now realize I helped is this mother-in-law’s tongue/snake plant that was being thrown away when we moved to new offices at work. I have three different pots of it now, but the happiest one is at the Bobcat Lair. How do I know it’s happy? It’s going to bloom! I’ve never seen one of these bloom.
I discovered the little bloom stalk on Monday of this week. I’d hoped it would flower before I had to come back to Cameron.
But, the stalk is still growing. Maybe I’ll get to see the blossom next time I’m in town! I wonder if it’s blooming because it’s filled the container with leaves and feels the need to reproduce, or if it’s telling me thanks for giving it such good light and appropriate watering for the past few years. You just can’t tell. But, I’m convinced that I helped.
Seeing my plant companions thriving makes ME grateful, so I’ve helped both inarticulate friends and myself. Plus, contributing to life on this planet feels to me like it’s creating some balance, which we need. Not everything is destructive and selfish. Kindness is out there! We can help.
Last night, while I could not get to sleep. I was watching lawmakers on television suddenly deciding to say things that made sense, that would calm people down, and that might lead to a better society. I cynically thought to myself that they didn’t do this as long as pretending to be loyal to an incompetent leader was to their advantage. How did they know when it was time to do the right thing rather than the thing that they knew was wrong, but would keep them in power?
I don’t know. It could be fearing for their lives as their buddies tried to break into the building where all the non-President leadership of the US was hanging out. Perhaps the incompetent leader finally became so incompetent that there was no more pretending “He was just kidding, ya know, that’s how he is. What a card!”
The lawmakers’ actions aren’t unfamiliar to many of us, I’m sure. Sometimes it’s so much easier to just ignore something that’s wrong, but more trouble to correct than to live with. To be honest, I’m doing that, myself, with a situation I know needs to be remedied, but I can’t figure out a way to do it without making a bunch of people angry, hurt, or put out. That can have dire consequences. Hmm. Yes, that’s just like the lawmakers’ dilemma.
I can tell those government representatives to just suck it up and not hand over the power to affect their courage to stand up for reason to the personality-cult members who voted for them. But then I’d need to tell myself to suck it up, too. I’m no better than they are. Probably a LOT of us give people who make a lot of noise and make life difficult the power to affect what we do.
But, we know what’s right. Perhaps the lawmakers are beginning to see that by treating a minority of loud and upset people with kid gloves, they are putting everyone else in danger, including themselves.
I just want to see some logical consequences start to occur. Jerks to jail, lawmakers remember why they were elected…reason. Civility. Back to dreaming.
Maybe. I don’t know. It’s a really confusing time.