New Chicks Are Laying, I Hope in the Right Place

There’s good chicken news all around. First, Star’s three days of solitary confinement seem to have worked, and she is now running around and acting like a normal hen again. That’s just in time, because this morning I found a new egg, on the ground, over by where the new hens hang out.

Big for a first egg

It’s a different shade of brown from any of the others, so I know it’s a new one. Plus, it’s really not much smaller than the eggs the older hens lay, so good job, whichever one of you laid that! However, the middle of the ground is not a great place to lay. I thought I’d better get some fake eggs to put in the boxes, since I keep taking up every egg I find (to thwart the snakes).

So, off I went to the local feed store. Of course, they didn’t have any, so I sat in my car and pondered other places where I could get some fake eggs. It dawned on me that I have some about ten feet from where I am sitting at my desk right now.

Yes, the bird themed bathroom has fake eggs in it (and non-bird items).

That was quite a duh moment, when I realized I hadn’t had to make that trip into town (though it was good to get gas). I went home and gathered up the fake eggs, as well as some sturdy cardboard boxes. The reason I did that is that the new chickens still seem more comfortable over in the west end of the chicken run, where they were when they first got here. So, I made a few nest boxes and stuck them in various potentially enticing spots. Since it probably won’t rain again for quite a while, cardboard will be fine, and when I figure out where they like to lay, I can get a wooden one made, or buy one.

Blondie is already checking one box out, and Betsy had been looking until I bothered her.

I also took some of the endless supply of grass clippings and fluffed up our other nest boxes, to try to get them interested in laying where the other hens do. I’ve seen them going in there and looking around, so maybe someone else is going to start laying soon!

Enticement

And if my fake yellow eggs disappear then, more’s the better. I’d like to see a snake digest one of them!

We’ll see, as Lee’s dad always said.

Lee Has a New Project

This is exciting! Lee has been thinking of doing something for a long time, and decided that now’s the time to get going on it. He’s working on a series of decorative ponds for the front of the house (these will not be cattle tanks, but nice ponds, with water plants and such).

A project begins. That orange paint got all over Lee, by the way.

He got started over the weekend, and spent much of yesterday digging the holes to hold a waterfall and a main pond, next to our new walkway. Since it was a very hot day, this all went in stages! Kathleen and I served as consultants and beverage fetchers. That’s very important!

Water will flow out of the top one, which will be covered by a big rock.

The idea with the pond is to eventually have the current one flow down a little creek lined with river rocks into a much larger pond, then recirculate back up. Rain overflow will go into another planned diversion.

The general idea of the pond. The pipes are for going under the path, I think. I need to get rid of that grass.

We will have to see whether we can put anything in there other than native mosquito fish, because we don’t want goldfish washing into Walker’s Creek, which is bad news! And we realize birds will want to snack on fish, dogs will want to mess with the pond, etc. So, this is all to be determined. At this point, Lee is going to get the small pond and waterfall going.

The stream will go down that low area, over to the new pond at the corner of the house. We like ponds.

And Dogs

I can’t resist sharing dog stories. Yesterday, before our biweekly Board meeting, Goldie decided I was a chair. I guess anything’s a chair to her.

I’m gonna nap right here.

We’ve also been enjoying watching all the dogs play. Goldie and Carlton have ended their embarrassing love affair, now that Goldie’s heat is over at last, and are now just buddies again. They have a lot of fun together.

Playtime is all the time!

Let’s see what further adventures this new week brings!

Broody Hen, Moody Horses

What better thing to do on a full moon than to try new things? Right. I did it anyway. Good ole Star went broody again, and with something taking the eggs every night, it was fruitless to let her set on them. What to do?

Do something about that hen!

She was also hogging the preferred egg-laying spot, which made me worry about the new chickens when they go to finally start laying. Hmm.

Enjoy a passion vine in bloom while imagining me trying to figure out what to do.

Finally, reading the backyard chickens for newbies group paid off. Someone shared that if you put a broody hen in a dog cage with airflow under it, they would feel the cool air under them and go back to normal. It’s called a broody breaker. Why, there’s one of those in our coop. So…

What are you in jail for?

I thought I’d need help, so I gathered Lee and Kathleen around. But all I needed was someone to open the door for me. I just picked her up and set her in there, with food and water. She is not happy. I hope this works!

It’s cute how all the other chickens keep checking on her. Bruce is especially concerned. He’s such a good rooster.

Moody Horses

I’m not having a lot of horse luck. I’m beginning to think it’s user error, and maybe I should not be riding until I get my lessons going. After not having much luck with Apache the previous day, I figured he’s not feeling well, so I just walked him (and Fiona) around.

Yet another picture of Apache eating.

He had just gotten out of his pen, so he really wanted to eat. That was frustrating, but we had fun anyway. Fiona followed us, and really seemed to enjoy exploring her new territory.

Hey, wait for me! (She’s that fit in the horizon)

Both of them liked the change of scenery, and I enjoyed the restful interlude.

This poison ivy looks fascinating.

I then tried to ride Andrew. I managed to eventually get the saddle and bridle adjusted for him. And he did okay in the round pen, but will now only go one direction. Anyway, I mounted, and he acted all barn sour and was hard to get to move out. Eventually he followed Dusty some, but I had to hood on through some spooking, and he crowded poor Kathleen and Dusty. In the end, Kathleen walked us around until neither he nor Dusty would do anything but investigate a feed dish. I’ll try another day. Who knows where the issue lies? I need help, but will get it soon.

I’m so glad Jim mowed. There’s hay everywhere. All I want to do is eat and gain weight and go lame. I’m a load of fun.

I just want a horse I can go riding on and learn new skills. I can’t do any of the exercises in the working equitation book, because I don’t have a clue what driving through the hindquarters means, and no horse of mine can side pass. I need patience! It’s not a race and is supposed to be fun. Maybe I’m the moody ones here.

Saturday Morning Ranch Sightings

Here at the Hermits’ Rest, weekend mornings start early for some and slow for others. But there’s always something lovely to see or fun to do. This morning was typical. Lee has started taking a walk every morning and asked me to join him. He may not do it again, as I had him go with me to feed the chickens and move Apache into his pen for the day, but we did eventually get to walking and looking at what’s growing and changing along our arroyo, which is still springy after the recent rains. I’m rather fond of the native plants and even the bad ole invasives (the water primrose) that line the stream.

It’s pretty to me.

Heck, to me tie vine is as lovely as fancy morning glories, and the ruellia is as pretty as a garden petunia. Plus, they are free!

A plant I hadn’t noticed much before is blooming right now, and the blooms are so tiny and hidden among the leaves that you almost wouldn’t notice them. It’s called scarlet toothcup (Ammannia coccinea). It’s a riparian plant, which means it grows in moist areas along streams and such. I think the little flowers are lovely.

Lee and I enjoyed many sights. What a great start to the day!

Next it was time to do some work, since the rest of the household had already been up working with horses and other chores. I got to help cut mesquite down where Sara’s horses currently are, in preparation for the cows that live here to rotate there. That was a lot of fun, and I saw some beautiful iron weed growing in that field.

It was good to be able to help by loading branches and opening gates. Plus, I got to see the other horses and more native plants and insects. I’ll spare you the endless supply of grasshoppers.

Everyone was busy this morning. The tenants were haying and Kathleen was horsing with her herd. I enjoy watching her ride. They’re all progressing according to plan, from what I can tell.

The dogs are just having fun, as usual, swimming, running, and rolling. I love seeing a happy Alfred!

Welcoming Deaths and Treasuring Lives

It’s an interesting time for me, when it comes to life passages. While I’m fine and not going through a life change, I am privileged to know people who are heading toward the end of their time on this earth, as well as people who are honoring lives of loved ones whose spirits left before their bodies did. I’ve never been one of those people who feared death or worried about it much, but I have always been intrigued about the legacies our loved ones leave behind. So, I’m going to share some stories that have been causing me to think. Some readers who are mutual friends may be familiar with some of these, but I’m not naming names.

Coincidentally, I spent some time this afternoon with my friend Holly, who’s documenting graves at Walkers Creek Cemetery. This one was like a jigsaw puzzle.

The Strong Spirits

My colleagues at La Leche League tend to be people of great fortitude and spiritual depth. My very first role model in living a good life while facing death was my mentor, Roberta Bishop Johnson, who shared many insights and nuggets while she dealt with breast cancer in the 1990s. She made sure she was participating in the lives of her friends, offering up ideas, and sharing her love for her family right up until when she passed. That stuck with me.

Two of my other long-time LLL friends are nearing the ends of their journeys here with us, and both have been incredibly open about sharing their ups and downs, feelings about their bodies and what’s happening to them, and coming to terms with the fact that things are winding down. I really appreciate their openness and willingness to share.

Not everyone is up to doing this; I’ve known people who didn’t share what was going on with them at all, which is a completely understandable option, but takes away their friends and families’ ability to share life with them as fully as possible while they are here. But I get it; people don’t want to appear to whine, to bring others down, or to share the painful details.

For me, learning about how these two women have made sure to do things they’ve always wanted to do, while they can (one married the love of her life, and one made sure to get in travel with her children, especially to the beach), how they carefully planned for things after they are gone, and how they enjoyed their friends and family to the fullest all contributed to making me much more comfortable with dying on your own terms. I’m not saying they are lucky, but they do have the luxury of knowing what is happening and being able to plan accordingly. I know my dad would have liked that chance, so much.

One thing that comforts me greatly about knowing I won’t have these friends around much longer is that I know their spirits and legacies will remain. After Roberta passed away, I could still hear her tell me what she thought about what I was doing in my life. And I also still hear my dad (and tell him stuff; I can’t help it). We will feel these generous friends with us for years.

This tree growing around a t-post reminds me of the struggle to fight unwelcome things growing inside us. Sometimes you just have to accept them and keep growing anyway.

The Ones Whose Losses Happened before Death

Another set of friends I’ve learned a lot from in the past few weeks are two dear local friends whose mothers passed away recently, but had been gone in spirit since an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. These women felt like they’d lost their parents long before they actually passed away.

One just had the memorial get-together with her extended family, and it was more of a nice gathering to share good memories and enjoy each other. The mourning had happened years ago, when they lost her personality, or essence, or something. The other friend seems to have gone more into business mode, of taking care of details. She had been so kind to her mother, though, even with the difficulties of COVID. Who could blame her for feeling some relief and just wanting to move on to the next phase?

I feel a lot of sympathy for these people and their families. They’re sad, yet relieved that their parents aren’t dealing with confusion now (though, I know some people with dementia who are happy just as they are…it varies so much).

Takeaways

Watching all these events as a third party, not intimately involved like families are, has taught me some lessons, maybe not consciously. I think the reason I’ve gotten a second horse and plan to start lessons again is that I want to do these things while I still can. And getting a swimming pool installed and making the ranch house look better, too, were things I’d been putting off or giving up on. But, if I can’t have fun now, when am I supposed to?

To show how far I will go to make things fun, I spent quite some time trying to line up my head and my hat so it would look like I am wearing a tiny cowboy hat.

AND, as I’ve been telling myself for the last couple of years, I need to recommit to being with people who bring me joy and make my life pleasant, go places and do things that expand my mind, and take the time to find the fun in whatever I’m doing. I think that’s the key to enjoying whatever time we have here in this life–enjoying where you are and who you are with NOW.

With love in my heart for my friends heading toward big transitions or recovering from them, I invite you all to do something fun with someone you care about.

Penney’s Adopt-a-versary

My memories on Facebook alerted me to the fact that we have had Penney for two years now. I can’t say she is the easiest dog to own, but she has her own special charms, and has come a long way in her behavior.

Penney likes to be on my lap, when Carlton isn’t there, to supervise activities, like playing with toys.

She no longer insists on licking me in the face and sleeping on top of me. She sleeps by my feet, which is just fine. She is a lot less “needy” but still doesn’t like it when other dogs get attention. She does love to sleep in her little bed beside my office chair (usually with Goldie and Carlton on the couch, and Harvey on the floor).

Her spot by my chair.

She enjoys swimming and playing with the other dogs when they are outside, even Vlassic, who occasionally comes in the house now, after she attacked him in the night for daring to sleep beside me, soon after she arrived. It’s a good thing Vlassic enjoys sleeping over in the RV with Lee’s brother (and he is so good for the brother, too)!

Everybody having fun.

Penney is a real wiggle worm and cracks us up with her extra-submissive behavior sometimes. We just wish it didn’t make her pee on the floor. She was doing a lot better with that for a while, but since Goldie showed up, it’s worse. The two of them get annoyed with each other, especially in the house, when they both want Lee’s attention.

Pay attention to ME!

But, outside, she and Goldie are buddies. Lee told me this morning that they went on a little exploratory walk together, and they looked like they were having a lot of fun.

I’m glad we have her and can take care of her, special needs and all. Penney is full of love, just expresses it funny sometimes!

All the Horse Health News That Fits the Blog

With all these skinny new horses, we have to keep an eye on their health. Kathleen was getting worried about some cuts on poor Mabel’s legs, and we both thought she seemed sad. We weren’t sure if she was sick or what.

Mabel in the stable

So today they took her to yet another equine facility, and Kathleen liked them a lot. Mabel got all bandaged up so she can heal from what are apparently rope burns from being tied, from a previous owner. That makes us all even more glad she is here now. Other than her weight, though, she’s okay. Her sadness is just her taking time to adjust to her new surroundings, which makes sense.

I think she already feels better, because while confined to the mini-pen we discovered can be made from our flexible gates, she actually came up to me and asked to be rubbed on. What a good sign!

What about me?

Meanwhile, my little pony Andrew (not really a pony) is also feeling better. Today’s the first day his eye hasn’t been all goopy in a week! I’m sure he’s glad people aren’t messing with his eyelids anymore!

These guys love each other, but Remi picks on Granny Amaretto

Today Lee had to take his car in for recalls in Rockdale, so I followed him and took the opportunity to get horse supplies from Tractor Supply. The highlight, for my steeds, was new hanging feed bowls for them, like Kathleen’s horses have. These hang on the fence and give them a chance to eat at a different height, which I read is good for them.

Happy spotted butts.

I also got a different girth for Drew, the kind the nephew recommended, and wormer for Fiona. She will love THAT. Plus, I got new treats. No sugar, low carb ones for a certain tubby paint horse. He ate one, so I guess they’re ok!

What about meee?

Don’t worry, dog lovers, my next blog will feature them!

Progress Report on Horses Drew and Apache, Plus Future Plans

Here we are at mid week, and things have calmed down at least a little. We’re getting into a routine with all the new horses and our very workable facility. While there will be improvements, like more roof and the tack room, what we have now feels quite luxurious!

Drew wishes he had Apache’s dinner, but it has very few calories, so he wouldn’t get much out of it.

It is so nice to have the round pen right there to warm up horses and to work with Drew. I’m happy to say that he is a lot better on the lunge line and now walks and trots more than trotting and cantering. Plus, he is starting to figure out that I am asking him to transition. He is also being a much better citizen when walking on a lead, and only crowds me in crowded spots. There’s work to do, but also progress. On the other hand, I have not found his “back” button.

Wow, exercise area, feeding area, pasture, shelter, and even a temporary washing station are here!

I’ve been riding Apache as often as possible. Yesterday, he acted like his right back hoof hurt and did not want to trot in the round pen, so I’m watching for another abscess. Yet, we went for a very long trail ride all over the cow pasture, front yard, and such, and he did just great. There’s a lot of progress with him, too, and I’m relaxing my feet more in the Western stirrups.

And look at this! We have trails mowed into the pasture for us, on both sides of the fence. We sure appreciate that!

The new horses of Kathleen’s are enjoying their lives very much. She’s been riding Dusty for hours every day, and they also are making huge progress. It’s fun to watch them. She walks all the horses daily and does tons of grooming. She’s the horsiest!

Dusty says, I’m enjoying riding around with Kathleen, and I’m gaining some weight!

Mabel has been looking sort of droopy, though, so she’s going to the vet ahead of schedule, just to be sure she is all right.

I’m eating a lot, but still working on filling out these old ribs of mine, says Granny Amaretto.

As for me, I know I am not equipped to train a young horse myself, so I have been talking to a local trainer whose philosophy and ideas agree with mine about getting him started the right way. She’s the woman who was the judge at the Working Equitation show we went to a while back. Starting in October, Drew will spend some time learning manners and skills, and I will also learn how to work with him the way he’s been trained.

Excuse me, I’m a teenager. I do not need manners. But, at least I’m clean, says Drew.

In the meantime, I’m going to start going to lessons with Apache, to help the two of us get more in tune and refine my riding and his horsing. I really look forward to finally getting some real lessons in horsemanship, after all these years of not doing it. It’s an investment into my future retirement fun. I can’t wait for Apache to get more balanced, so I can ride him at a trot and canter and maybe help get some of that weight off.

The Latest Case of Missing Eggs: Solved

I may have mentioned that the family reported no eggs the entire time I was in Austin last week. I found a few over the weekend, but not the usual amount.

Don’t blame me; I’m not laying yet.

In case the fact that Star had gone broody was making laying hard on the other hens, I set up two cardboard boxes with bedding in them, to make more compartments in the old roosting area. No one used them, far as I could tell.

High-quality nesting boxes

Then on Saturday, when I went to check for additional eggs under Star, I realized that the eggs I’d marked with a star were no longer there. Three different eggs were there. THAT is when I decided eggs were being laid, but consumed. Grr.

I can’t make the grass around the coop die and the big mower can’t reach it. I thought putting the food container in that space would be useful, but…ants came.

I knew it had to be a snake, because nothing else, other than a human, can get in. Then I was worried for Star, since she is setting so dedicatedly on her nest! I must have checked for a snake a dozen times this weekend, and other people were checking, too.

These blurry but happy chickens are eating all the food I had to throw out due to ants. They also eat ants.

So, today, when I FINALLY had a chance to move my butt off my office chair, I went to check the chickens. There were two eggs under Star. Good. Then, I went back, because I was thinking that perhaps if I set the new nesting boxes I put in sideways, the hens might like them better. I moved the one on the left, and heard the weirdest sound. I carefully peeked in the other box, and there, under the chicken bedding, was a very content rat snake. I KNEW it had to be lying around somewhere nearby, and it was just hiding! I’d probably missed it earlier.

The culprit

I asked the nephew to please eliminate the snake, which he did quite efficiently. As always, I hate doing this, but I know it would come right back if I just moved it off to the woods (previous experience). Besides, I am pretty confident we have a LOT of rat snakes here, so I’m not leading to their extinction. Ranch life is hard. To cheer you up, though, here’s one of our herons in the tank behind the house.

If you put goldfish in the troughs, expect a visit from me, the fish killer.

And…it’s raining again. I’d hoped to go visit Aragorn the beautiful dream horse at Sara’s later today, so I hope there’s a break!