Excellent Birds! Unusual Plants! Nature Fun!

Today we stayed at Lake Somerville State Park, which was a lovely place to work. I enjoyed my lake view from the mobile office and had no problems with internet or anything like that. I got lots of work done AND saw so many wonderful things on my breaks and after work. I could get used to this.

It’s so great to see NO ONE when camping

I went out early in the morning and was thrilled to see two different bald eagles in trees. It turns out the local high school mascot is the eagles, since there are lots at this lake. It’s always great to see them. And as I went on the walk, I was greeted by additional raptors. I first saw a peregrine falcon, who came out even blurrier than the eagles did, then another merlin showed up. I got to see it really well with the binoculars, even though my photos aren’t great.

But whoa, I did NOT expect the next thing I saw. I was looking at a pretty group of ring-neck gulls through my binoculars when I realized one of those gulls was awfully big. It was a beautiful white pelican! I watched it swimming around and diving for fish for a long time. Then, as I was sitting outside doing a call, I saw a bunch of big, white birds. The pelican had friends. They were a LONG way away, so forgive the blurriness of the photos.

By the way, the sandy outcropping where the gulls and pelicans were also had other cool birds. I saw greater yellowlegs, killdeer, grebes, and two beautiful white birds with black and white wings. They had a black bill and long legs. I swear they are American avocets, though they aren’t supposed to be here right now. I did check, and they have been seen here, so I’m not imagining things.

This is what the birds look like. Borrowed from mombliss on iNaturalist.

As I mentioned yesterday, there are lots of woodpeckers around here. I saw two more types today, a flicker and a big ole pileated woodpecker, which I managed to photograph as it flew off. It’s SO loud. Since I saw the yellow-bellied sapsucker yesterday, it means I saw the smallest and largest woodpeckers in the US!

I also saw lots and lots of chickadees and cardinals. Of the sparrows I saw, I could ID a chipping sparrow and a white-crowned sparrow. There were also phoebes, a yellow warbler, and some very entertaining vultures, both turkey vultures and black vultures. I enjoyed watching them flying, roosting, and preening.

I also saw some butterflies and moths, which surprised me. There were sulphur butterflies, buckeyes, a black or pipevine swallowtail (hard to tell), and lots of little moths. Most of my photos were just blurs. The best insect I saw, though, was a leafcutter ant carrying a leaf it had cut. I’d never seen one of those!

The only mammal I saw was a big, fat squirrel. But I saw evidence of deer and coyotes (plus coyotes woke me up at 5am).

I enjoyed looking at lots of beautiful trees as I hiked and saw excellent mosses as well. Many trees are dead, but lots of them were from when they made the lake and it was higher. I think it will be higher once it rains some more again. The dead trees sure look like they host many types of life. I passed one tree that was literally abuzz with bees and others with holes in them for animals to live in.

And the silence was glorious, at least until a whiny child hiked by. Literally ONE child is in the area, and it’s loud enough to be heard all over. Wow!

I saw one spider, this gray jumping spider

Lee and I are heading home tomorrow in between meetings, but this stay has been so enjoyable and restorative. I’m glad for the chance to travel more.

Hopefully I can see more stuff like beard lichen.
Or whatever this lichen is. So pretty.

Bizarro World

When I was young, I read comic books as much as I could. I loved the Superman family (especially Supergirl and the Legion of Superheroes). Sometimes the writers seemed to run out of ideas and published some really dumb concepts. Bizarro Superman, from Bizarro World was one of those concepts, but always good for a laugh.

This is from 1960. From hipcomic.com

Things in Bizarro World were recognizable but just not quite right. It confused both the Bizarros and the “real” world. (I feel as if BW might not go over as well today, though apparently the tradition still lives.)

Bizarre? No, good. Grass is growing on our new little hill and a flock of killdeer has taken over the bank.

In conversation with…well…with everyone I’ve communicated with about our lives, I’ve heard tale after tale of how life has just gotten strange recently. More than one person has said, “I feel like I live in a different world,” or words to that effect.

Ack! Giant spider eats wasp! Bizarre!

I’m right there with them. Things have happened in the past few years that have made my world unfamiliar. Recent elections. What the heck? People mass shooting each other so often it’s become commonplace. I don’t get it. People shooting up infrastructure that supports innocent families and businesses because…why?

Breathe, Suna

That’s just the big picture. People are getting weird sicknesses. Families are falling apart no matter how hard they try. My generation is trying to figure out how to support elders who spent all their money but expect…stuff. I’m pessimistic about the future.

Bizarro World.

Regular World with noms

Honestly, I’m so glad I have dogs and horses and they are still acting like dogs and horses. I need something consistent and not weirdly out of left field.

Ommm

I just feel like the world is so odd and unpredictable that I don’t want to make much effort. So I got my 2022 snow globe that says “love is love.” And some tree candles. No real tree, just a few decorations. Many say “peace,” which seems bizarrely impossible these days.

Spot my overly subtle Yule decor.

How about you? Are you in a ball of pessimism like me? What’s bizarre in your life? What helps you keep it together? Sunsets? Full moons. Here are some, anyway.

Nature’s Jewels and Metaphorical Lumps of Coal

It was a wondrous and ephemeral morning. When I went out to feed the chickens I was surrounded by a swirling fog and glistening dew. I stood there and watched the hens enjoying treats inside a cloud.

Great start to my day.

I turned to go back inside and glanced at the RV parked next to the garage. That’s when I found Nature’s jewels.

They were dancing in a light breeze

As I looked around I realized the spiders had been very busy around the house, catching so many bugs for us. The dew just highlighted their artistry and industry. Thank you, spiders. I hope you enjoy what I found.

The beauty of the morning helped me get through some painful memories, so I was truly thankful.

Now about those lumps of coal. It’s not coal. It’s those ubiquitous cockleburs.

Mommy, fix it!

We plan to move the horses to the pasture with the hay ring, so I went out with my loppers to eradicate the burs growing there. What a pain. But everything east of the pond is in the burn pile!

Bye bye.

Those things are so persistent. They were all over me today, too. But all equines are now bur free.

Grr. On my fancy shirt.

And thanks to the rain, they are still growing! Why are their flowers so pretty?

Sigh

Tomorrow’s lunch hour will see me out lopping away between the pond and the driveway. I’m not giving up! And hey, I’ll get to enjoy the new life in the pond, where I saw bullfrogs this afternoon. I’m pretty sure there are new dragonfly larvae for them to enjoy.

Nature’s Jewels and Metaphorical Lumps of Coal

It was a wondrous and ephemeral morning. When I went out to feed the chickens I was surrounded by a swirling fog and glistening dew. I stood there and watched the hens enjoying treats inside a cloud.

Great start to my day.

I turned to go back inside and glanced at the RV parked next to the garage. That’s when I found Nature’s jewels.

They were dancing in a light breeze

As I looked around I realized the spiders had been very busy around the house, catching so many bugs for us. The dew just highlighted their artistry and industry. Thank you, spiders. I hope you enjoy what I found.

The beauty of the morning helped me get through some painful memories, so I was truly thankful.

Now about those lumps of coal. It’s not coal. It’s those ubiquitous cockleburs.

Mommy, fix it!

We plan to move the horses to the pasture with the hay ring, so I went out with my loppers to eradicate the burs growing there. What a pain. But everything east of the pond is in the burn pile!

Bye bye.

Those things are so persistent. They were all over me today, too. But all equines are now bur free.

Grr. On my fancy shirt.

And thanks to the rain, they are still growing! Why are their flowers so pretty?

Sigh

Tomorrow’s lunch hour will see me out lopping away between the pond and the driveway. I’m not giving up! And hey, I’ll get to enjoy the new life in the pond, where I saw bullfrogs this afternoon. I’m pretty sure there are new dragonfly larvae for them to enjoy.

Tromping

Whew, I was tired by the time I got home from Fredericksburg. I went home a new way, though, so I got to see some different scenery and avoid Austin traffic. To keep myself awake I tromped around the ranch on my breaks, taking pictures for the pollinator BioBlitz.

I especially enjoyed our remaining water areas. I spotted lots of fish in here.

I just wandered and wandered, bearing in mind what I learned at the conference this week. I noted there were more fish where there was no cow poop, but there were fish even in what’s left of the creek, where I found one of the old mama cows having a quiet bath.

Can I have some privacy here?

As I checked out the riparian areas, I also looked at the pastures. Yeah, they are rather over-grazed. The only plants left are what cattle don’t eat: broomweed, milkweed, and silverleaf nightshade. This made finding things to add to the BioBlitz a challenge.

There’s a lot of broomweed.

I did find lots of insects and documented every tree variety, so I feel good. My goal is to ID 100 species as my contribution, and I think if I get some at Tarrin’s, where there are different plants, I’ll pass that goal. I did hit another goal today, and that’s 600 different species here on the ranch. Hard to believe!

Even if all I see is cedar elms and greenbrier, I can’t complain. Being able to get outside is such a privilege. The variety of life that’s still thriving in this drought gives me hope for us tenacious humans, too.

I didn’t see many birds other than this coy mockingbird and a cardinal that hid completely. I did hear hawks and crows a lot.

I’m hiding!

I’m hoping the weather will turn. It actually rained a few tiny drops when I fed the horses, and there was lightning in clouds at sunset. More hope!

More photos, mainly because Barbara looks at them all.

Ups, Ups, Downs

Things have been good here lately. I spend a lot of time watching cute animals.

That’s a relaxed dog.

I even rescued a trapped English sparrow today who couldn’t figure out how to get out of the henhouse. I caught her and took her out. She was so exhausted that she just sat on my hand. Poor dear. No photos, since I had five hen eggs in my other hand!

So, here’s another friend, the gate spider. Apparently a Western spotted orb weaver.

There’s just so much joy in our animals. The dogs love evenings when we’re in the pool, because they can run and play with an audience. I take them out in the mornings for a little play, too, which makes for a nice work break.

Things continue to be good with the horses, too. We had good lessons today. Drew showed Tarrin how hard we’ve been working and then learned new backups. And poor Apache struggled a lot with moving his butt when asked. My left leg is tired! But, those two bring me such joy. I’m so lucky to be able to learn and grow with them.

But there are so many animals to enjoy here. My son found this really cool snake in his cabin. He just caught it and took it outside and caulked up the hole it came in. That’s my boy.

And today, I went to water the plants and was startled when I reached to turn on the spigot. Along the house was a complete snakeskin, I’m pretty sure it was one of our rat snakes. I love it when you get the whole skin.

I guess that’s enough animal fun for a Saturday evening. Hoping all is well with you. We’re having more family illness stuff. That’s the down part of the post title.

What’s Good with You?

I hope you’re finding good things in your life. They’re in there somewhere! Today I enjoyed a sunrise. Ok. The sunrise. There was just one.

Southern sunrise

It was pretty in every direction.

Northern sunrise

I was surrounded by color!

This is the western sunrise! Huh!
The east. With the actual sun.

That was my idea of goodness. No day that starts this pretty could be all bad. Even when you realize your pond has gone dry.

Ooh a barrel. Maybe Drew can pull it out!

There’s stuff blooming, though. And I found a passion fruit.

I even have a new friend, the garden spider who guards the henhouse. She decided to build her nest right across the door. I walked through it. Yuck. And she’d started rebuilding by the time I finished feeding the chickens. She’s good, though. I got to watch her deal with a grasshopper that got in her web. In mere seconds, it was all wrapped up and probably wondering what the heck just happened.

One more bit of goodness was that I saw an unfamiliar bird land on the back pond, the one with water. Then another. It was big, but not as big as a vulture or heron. But it looked like a heron…something was different about its head. Sure enough, it IDed as a tricolored heron! Yay! Now I’ve seen five: great blue, great egret, green heron, cattle egret, and the tricolor.

That’s plenty of good. Plus I got out of the house to go look at houses this afternoon AND ate dinner out with Kathleen. So glad she’s recovering! To celebrate, enjoy dog photos!

Heat. Sick.

Feeling bad today. Stomach stress and literally falling asleep randomly. No COVID, so my social life didn’t kill me. Glad for those free test kits. I think I’ve just tried to do too much outside the past few days.

Me and Carlton. Zonked.

I’m sure I’ll be better tomorrow. At least I picked colors for our next renovation project and look forward to a bigger project coming soon. More details soon!

Why I couldn’t take a nap. Four howling dogs and one trying to escape. Look at Alfred!

It really needs to rain here. Even with the pool, it’s getting to us all. The horses just stand in the shade. The dogs lay around the house. The people do their best. I just feel icky. Sleep should do the trick, and electrolytes.


Creature of the Day. Large wolf spider. Now outdoors.

Shocking News?

It’s shocking, all right. The electric lines are being laid for all our outbuildings, but we do t think any actual shocks will happen since we are using professional electricians. It’s nice to see a little bit of progress after all the setbacks and such.

The Ditch Witch chugged into action on Wednesday and started digging the trenches for the electric lines. Then, it suddenly stopped working after getting the lines to the tack room, shipping container, and much of the chicken house done. That was disappointing, since the electricians were due today.

One long trench

Luckily, they got her up and running again this morning and finished the trenches so that the conduit could go in. None of this was easy in the baked clay soil we have in this part of the ranch. The worst parts were where they had to dig by hand and carve out curves in the path. My son looked like he was about to pass out, though of course he was well hydrated and got breaks.

Conduit, with curve, hard earned.

Now that all the pipes are in, the electrician could get exact measurements for all the wiring and such that they’d need. Everything’s so expensive right now that no one wants to waste any money on excess supplies. They will be back tomorrow. By then there should be an air conditioner for the tack room, too. Am I excited? Yes, I sure am. And very grateful. The chickens will be, too, when they get a fan to help keep them cooler.

Long…

What else is new since I got all whacked out about my diagnosis? Well, it IS the Hermits’ Rest Ranch, so of course it’s not shocking that another poisonous beast had to show up. This little darling was right under my feet while I was working. It is now a former bloodsucking conenose (or kissing bug, Triatoma sanguisuga). These bite people on their mouths and feed on the blood while the people are sleeping. Then the people get sick. Luckily, they have never been seen upstairs here.

Also luckily, Marcus spent part of his day spraying all around the house and pool for spiders. He found a big nest of black widows on the back side of the pool. They are former spiders now. I may be a Master Naturalist, but things that want to kill me need to go live outside my personal bubble. I’m tired of killer insects and spiders.

Yesterday

And it’s not a day at the Hermits’ Rest if someone doesn’t need to see a doctor. Today it was Goldie. I noticed a swelling on her yesterday, and thought it looked odd. It wasn’t there last time I looked.

Much bigger!

Today the swelling was bigger. It being Thursday, her favorite human was able to take her to see Dr. Amy and get it looked at. Turns out it was a scratch or bite or some other kind of “booboo” that got infected.

I gots an owie.

Dr. Amy drained it and disinfected it and put poor Goldie on antibiotics. She seems fine now, but now she has lots of scars on her belly!

Let’s hope tomorrow is a peaceful day. We could use one.

Black Widows Are Not Our Friends

While we’ve been traveling, there’s been drama at the ranch. Our niece Kathleen, who lives on the ranch with us, has been dealing with some health challenges, so while she’s still getting lots of work done, she also needs to rest more than usual. Very soon after posting a photo of relaxing and reading on the porch, she shared this.

Yes, it’s a black widow. Those words were repeated a lot.

What a way to spend July 4! I was at my horse lesson. By the time I got home, she was at the ER. This has been a worry for me. Our pest control gets most of them (sorry nature lovers; I don’t like poison things in the house, so we try to minimize these guys, scorpions, and brown recluses), but it can’t get them all. I dreaded the day this would happen.

Interesting to me is the fact that they didn’t give her any anti-venom. They seemed to think the best thing to do was to just treat the symptoms. So, she sat in the hospital a couple of days in horrible pain watching the venom eat at her foot. Ugh.

Not a pretty sight!

Since she’d just spent days at a hospital with another family member, I’m sure this was the last thing Kathleen wanted, but she needed monitoring. She did get to go home, though, and even felt like riding Dusty one day, when it wasn’t 113° (I guess the worst heat wave in decades is a good time to be confined indoors).

It’s my turn, finally!

Black widows are powerful. I knew that from my grandmother’s huge scar on her leg. Their venom stays in a long time. Dang neurotoxins. About the time I’d stopped worrying so hard, we got notice she had to go back to the ER due to pain and more symptoms. That poor woman can’t catch a break. It’s a huge test of anyone’s ability to be positive, even someone who’s been working as hard on their mental health as she has.

This does not look much better to me.

This appears to be a long healing process. She was told it could take months for the toxin to get out of her system. I assure you I’m more committed than ever to shake out every towel and cushion on the porch before sitting down. The spiders hide in dark places, so it’s prudent to check. But, as we have learned, in Texas, stinging and biting things are everywhere. I just wish they’d leave Kathleen alone.

There’s always hope!

I’m impressed that she’s keeping her spirits up. She knows her friends and family are with her. Someone even sent her a visiting pigeon this morning. It looked like it was there just for her.

I’ll hang out with you, Kathleen.

She kept telling us to stay in California, but I’m glad to be heading back so I can take care of the animals and let her recover and let everyone else do their stuff. I was supposed to leave town again next month, but there has just been too much going on at home (most of which I’m not at liberty to discuss). Plus COVID is worse. And air travel has gotten so weird. I’ll stay home with the family and animals!

If you have spare good thoughts, send them this way. Kathleen is so good at staying cheerful and optimistic, but this is an unexpected added challenge for the ranch family. Send more doves, pigeons, butterflies and wolf spiders (they eat black widow).

Send energy, too!

I hope she’s home again by the time we get there. There’s still a lot of desert between us and the Hermits’ Rest.


All images and stories shared with permission.

Joys Of Creating

crafts, hobbies, gardening & nonsense

sara annon

seeking the middle path

Tonya's Tall Tales

My life with horses, bunnies, chickens, ducks, and cows.

rfljenksy - Practicing Simplicity

Legendary Whining and Dining World Tour.

The Backyard Horse Blog

All about keeping horses at home

Hazel's Animal Adventures

My life on the ranch.

Katie Zapfel

Children's book author. Mom blogger.

365 Knit Socks

I knit a lot of socks

recoveringpornaddictcom.wordpress.com/

Coach, author and educator

The daily addict

The daily life of an addict in recovery

Happy Heidi's Happenings

My life in the country.

BrownesPups

A family of dog lovers, owners & breeders since 2015

The Adventures of a Mountain Coward

panic-stricken mountain adventuring!

Something Over Tea

Scribbles from my notebook

The Renegade Press

Tales from the mouth of a wolf

Heccateisis's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

The Upstate Gardener

The Upstate Gardening blog with Gardening Information, Recipies, Home Improvement Ideas, and Crafts Projects to make your life more beautiful and healthy.

Nature And Photography

Bring Nature Into Life

AT PATHO

no streetlights, just star light

Words and Stitches

woolgathering at its best

The Grief Reality

Normalising the conversation about Grief.

iRoseStudios.com

Art Studio Dumfriesshire

The Creative Pixie

eat up some crafty goodness with this creative mama

Writings of a Furious Woman

My thoughts, sentiments, and scribbles on womanhood

Paws Bark

Dogs Leave Paw Print in your Heart

Yeshua's Child Art

Art that Expresses the Heart

Chicken Coop Plans

Build Your Chicken a Home

Writing about...Writing

Some coffee, a keyboard and my soul! My first true friends!

Leaf And Twig

Where observation and imagination meet nature in poetry.

Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Cathartic Tendencies

motivational posts, rants, and stories!

TotallyTexasGifts.com

Featuring Fine Arts & Crafts created and sold by Texans

Seasons As My Teacher

Truth Written In The Wind

claudiajustsaying

Aging & Attitude

The Tragedy Kween

A boisterous introvert illustrating her way through life.

Zoewiezoe

Where a little insanity goes a long way