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!
You haven’t heard from me for a couple of reasons. One is that I’ve had so much fun stuff to do that it’s been hard finding time to write. I had lots of guests last weekend, and my company has been busy buying houses and commercial buildings. That’s all good.
The other is that it has been “one of those weeks” in which one weird thing after another keeps happening. I’ve been losing things, had a near-miss accident, have said some really odd and atypical things to others, and more.
The good news is that I’ve managed to get all my work done and am ready for a mini-vacation in Fredericksburg, so there should be some good nature stuff come out of that.
In the woods
Last weekend, Justin (nephew of the ranch neighbors) was here, and he and I had a great time tromping through our woods with the dogs (it was the first real tromp for the two newest ones). He is very much like me, in that he really notices things.
We have been trying to get used to having five dogs here at the Hermits’ Rest. It’s quite a circus when they are all awake and wanting to play or tussle. Luckily, it’s quite calm when they are all zonked out from playing.
Our newest buddy, Vlassic, has really been fitting in well with the pack. He is playful, especially with Carlton and Harvey, but also cuddly in the extreme. Quite the lapdog he is.
He is also very much a dachshund. We’re guessing he may be more than half. And it’s his doxie heritage that got him in trouble this week!
It’s so cute, but…
Lee was out walking the dogs in the late afternoon, as is his practice. It’s beautiful and not so oppressively hot once the sun is behind the trees. The puppies found one of the toads that lives around here. I do wish I had a photo to ID it, but it’s the usual toad.
Carlton and Vlassic were fascinated, especially Vlassic. He was jumping straight in the air and then poking it, like a doxie going after the vermin it’s bred to go after. Lee was really enjoying the antics of the dogs as they played. Vlassic even play-bowed to the toad, to try to get it to play back.
Then, Lee realized that the black bouncer wasn’t just poking. He was nipping at the toad. Whoops. Toads have secretions to keep animals from doing just that. They are NOT good for puppies.
As Vlassic began to foam at the mouth, Lee rushed the dogs back into the house and proceded to do his version of first aid, which, according to him, consisted of basically water-boarding the pup. The idea was to rinse all the toad secretions off his face and, is possibly, from inside his mouth.
Vlassic was not thrilled. But he did stop foaming. He ate all his dinner and fell asleep.
About 5:30 am, all that food came back up. But, once that was taken care of, he seemed okay.
Poor Lee was so relieved that he hadn’t let our little friend get poisoned to death.
Moral: keep dogs away from toads, even if they look friendly and playful.
Keep Vlassic in your thoughts. Tomorrow he loses his favorite body parts. Doing our part to be good citizens and not create more unwanted pets.
For reasons I don’t really understand, my dear spouse decided to get me an Apple Watch a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps that’s because it was 50% off? I didn’t want to waste it, so, I have said goodbye to my trusty Fitbit (it’s going to Anita soon) and started using the watch.
Lee stuck his 50%-off watch on his arm, determined how to use Siri with it, and went on his merry way. Not me. I love to learn about technology and didn’t want my watch to look like everyone else’s.
Since I am on this learning spree, I immediately went off and found the owner’s manual to the Apple Watch, and read every single page of it, adjusting Peach Perfection (the watch’s name) at every opportunity, until I ended up with just what I wanted. See that watch face in the top photo? It’s based on this picture of me and the handsome Apache, to always remind me of the ranch:
That’s cool. (I just looked at the watch. My teeth appeared in the watch face. I just about spewed my lime water. So sorry I have no photo.)
Am I alone in this?
I mentioned my foray into deep watch knowledge to my boss, who’s had an Apple Watch since I’ve known him (three years now?). I’d hoped to use him as my Subject Matter Expert on these fancy appliances. He thought that reading the user guide was a novel concept, and declared me the new expert, since he’s never looked at any instructions. Sigh. He is the BOSS of all the people who WRITE user guides to things! And he doesn’t read them! (I don’t actually think he’s alone in this, since Lee didn’t look either.)
Doesn’t anyone look at the Help for things anymore? I’m a reader, so I read the manual, but there are loads and loads of videos one could watch, too. There’s no reason to allow any little watch detail to bug you! Be curious! I am finding that curiosity is a total hoot.
Some information was hard to find. I had to go back and scour the manual to find out how to change my fitness goals, but it WAS there. Apple is really, really succinct in their help writing style, and sometimes they are a bit light on details, though. So, if any of you know of helpful places to find out MORE information, let me know.
But, geez. I write user guides and training guides, and supervise people who make training videos. We all need jobs! Folks, check out the manuals to your phones, watches, software, and other complicated helpers! (I wish the husband and dogs came with user guides.)
Watches are fun
I was really thrilled to find out that the watch face wasn’t the only thing I could easily change on this thing. I can change out the band anytime I want! Today I am yellow, but I have blue leather, some happy patterns, orange, red, bright stripes, and so on. The wimpy pink band that came with the watch went away fast.
I do have the “big” one, which has taken some getting used to. I have always been a fan of tiny watches for my tiny wrist. See, I can grow.
PS: I’d be happy to be your Apple Watch fitness friend.
Who’s that playing with that puppy we only got a few months ago (and by the way, happy 7 month birthday to Carlton!)? Why, that’s Vlassic, so named by Sara the neighbor, because he looks like Anita’s dog, Pickle.
Honest. Not looking for a dog.
We’ve only had the beautiful Carlton for a few months, and we’ve been enjoying him very much. He gets along great with the other dogs, and we’re happy.
But, on Sunday, Sara was meditating in her office, when she saw something on the porch. She thought it was something one of her kids had left outside, but then it moved! It was a very, very black dachshund mix dog. He turned out to be very friendly, very healthy, and obviously a house dog.
Sometimes one’s professional and personal interests merge, and this is one of those cases. Those of you who know me in person know that I’ve used my voice both for work and fun most of my life. (And oh yes, I almost forgot the MANY years I studied linguistics; perhaps I learned something about how speech works there.)
I’ve always adored choral singing. Harmony gives me goosebumps, a lot. Singing was my escape from teen angst in high school, brought me joy in the Unitarian Universalist church choir, challenged me when I was in a folk/rock trio, and stretched my skills in some larger local choruses, where I got to sing beautiful music with talented people.
I’ve also used my voice for work, from teaching to recording voiceovers for corporate training material. I love to read aloud, so this was always fun, and I learned so much about making myself sound clear and natural during the years I did this.
That was then, but now is now
Well, now two things have happened, one good, and one bad.
The bad thing is that a couple of years ago I “lost” part of my vocal range. Suddenly, the notes B, C, and D above middle C would not come out. That put the kaibosh on my choral singing efforts. When you are the only person singing a part, and your notes don’t come out, it feels really bad. I had my suspicions about what had happened (and no, it was not a blocked throat chakra), but I wanted to know why.
The good thing is that I started to work again with the team at who narrates some of our training materials at my day job. I had heard they were interested in improving their narration skills, so I thought maybe I could read up on it to see if there was some way to help.
I’ve talked about this before, but I’m still really thrilled with the idea of eating things found right here on the ranch. It started when Sean Wall spoke at the Master Naturalist meeting a while back. I was gobsmacked to know that some of the plants that I saw every day were not only edible, but delicious.
I immediately devoured his book (get it, devoured? edible natives?) and ran around tasting things.
I’ve noticed something new about myself in the past few months. Coinciding with a general good mood and attitude towards life has been a giant uptick in curiosity. If there’s something I don’t know much about, I dive in and learn as much about it as possible (you might have noticed that in my long-ass articles on dog coat genetics). I read every book I can get ahold of, and if I can, I take a class.
I thank the Master Naturalist program for jump-starting me back to being my old curious self. My brain is so happy, though probably the people around me are growing tired of me spouting off about something I just learned. They’ll really get sick of me after the conference coming up in October!
Over the next few days, I’ll share what I’ve been thinking about lately, along with some resources.
So, What about Needlework and Crafts?
This is NOT a new interest for me, as anyone whose looked at my rather dormant Ravelry profile would notice. I have been stitching something or other pretty much since I could read a set of instructions. I even still have my second embroidery (my first was a sampler that seems to be lost). For years I concentrated on knitting, my favorite. I knitted a lot of garments, and then in the 2000s I got into teaching knitting classes, which was fun while it lasted. I had a pretty popular knitting blog and still have a lot of online knitting friends.
I’ve recently been put in charge of chicken feeding on the weekends, so I’m spending more time than I used to around our flock. They are a very happy bunch, and I got a request for more information on them, so I thought I’d share some of their antics and such.
History of the flock
When I first came to the ranch, our Wild Type neighbors had just a few chickens, who lived in an interesting coop made by Ralph the neighbor. The coop is next to the old cabin, so the residents of the cabin “get” to listen to chickens all day.
Later, the neighbors bought a dozen chicks and raised them. I can’t remember what breed they were, but I think they all produced brown eggs. But, disaster stuck. All the chickens but a couple disappeared one day! We still don’t know if it was some bad animal or bad people.
After a while, we got a dozen Brown Sex Links from Ideal Poultry, which is actually a local Cameron, Texas business. These chickens have a weird name, but are pretty, lay brown eggs, and are friendly. The hens are dark red and the roostes are white, which you can see on Buckbeak, above. They also bought some black meat. Originally they had planned to share them with a friend, but we ended up with all of them. So, we had a lot of chickens.
It turned out that the “all female” chickens turned out to have a lot of roosters in them, so we kept all the hens. The black ones laid fine eggs, just not as strong as the red ones. All the future roosters other than Buckbeak became dinner. Our chicken keepers at the time, Cathy and Kayla, liked to name the chickens, so we inherited some names!
After a period of vaguely okay weather, with some rainy days and nice things like that, it is now extra-July here in the middle of Texas.
Combine that heat with all that Saharan dust, and people are staying indoors in droves. In fact, if I had a Gratitude Journal, my only entry this week would say, “Air Conditioning!” I’ve been dealing with most annoying asthma symptoms all week.
Mandi was trying to paint the inside of the house she’s remodeling this week, but it doesn’t have air conditioning yet. She now has heat exhaustion.
I’m being careful and plan to feed horses and chickens at sunset, and will probably drive over there rather than walk.
After learning all about foraging from Sean Wall in our Master Naturalist training, I’ve been pretty excited to see what we can find around the Hermits’ Rest that we can eat or turn into something useful.
I know I could have done a lot more with all those dewberries besides make cobbler. I just need to be brave enough to try canning. Maybe next year!
The midsummer bounty that magically appears every year are mustang grapes, which are native to the area and a great food source for animals. We have two trees that are completely covered in grape vines, plus a lot across the road from the gate.
In fact, I thought the grape vines were dying, they looked so black last week. Nope, it was all grapes.
Now, I knew my Master Naturalist friend Burt likes to make wine, mead, applejack, and other tasty beverages. And I’d been looking for a reason to invite him and his wife, Jenecia (and their daughter to be), over to see the ranch. So, I announced that I have all the free mustang grapes a vintner could want, for free. (A couple of other folks had lots, too; it’s a great year for the mustang grape.)
They said they’d come by over the weekend, and so they did.