Whirlwind Family Visit

It’s not even noon on Saturday, and we’ve already had a busy and fun weekend. This may be a long post, but it’s just nice to write about something that went right. I’m hoping we were able to be good to others and relieve a bit of stress for them.

Yesterday, Kathleen and Chris came by, with Lee’s brother Jim and Eva, who is usually the caregiver for Jim’s wife, but was along on this trip to help out with Jim. Also among the visitors was 14-year-old Joe, Eva’s son, who gets to do some heavy lifting and helping out.

The gang’s all here.
Rose Gold. It’s subtle.

We all had a nice lunch at Dutchtowne, of course, where I spent a bunch of time taking pictures of my hair, because the light was good. I did also take a picture of the group.

After the business reason for the trip, in which Lee, Jim, and I signed a bunch of papers and Mandi notarized them, the family ran off to do errands in Temple (Vlassic asked to go with them, so he did, that traveling fool), while I tried to work as people took down the ceiling in our offices. I was forced out due to dust. This will be a topic of the Hermit Haus Redevelopment blog shortly.

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Batty Bits

It’s been quite a week with so much work and such that it’s been hard to find time to write. I may perhaps have too many jobs and volunteer positions, but I love them all!

I especially enjoy my Master Naturalist group and its members. I get a lot out of observing their personalities and learning their interests. Sometimes they are a bit quiet, but always in an endearing way.

Last night’s chapter meeting dealt with bats, a topic our speaker, Cindy, is very attached to. I wrote a lot about her talk in the Master Naturalist blog, so here I’ll just say I learned a few bits of information I didn’t know before, and they will stick with me.

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Summer Dead Stuff

Hey again. I’ve got some more deep thinking coming up, but first I have to say it’s hard to get anything at all done this time of year, because there’s always something interesting and deceased laying around.

Our first thing isn’t dead, just empty. That’s the tiny nest the baby finch tried to fall out of yesterday. It’s so small and exposed! But birds successfully fledged.

Awkward photo of awkward bird nest

The next best is bigger and more protected.

There’s still a bird in there.

But at least two fledglings ended up on the porch this morning!

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Chickens Can NOT Catch a Break

I’m beginning to think my poor chickens are living under a black cloud, are haunted, or broke a mirror sometime in their past. They really just can’t catch a break.

Here’s a rat snake that was found in a shopping cart in Midland. So friendly.

You may recall that just last Saturday, I found an adult Texas rat snake curled up happily in the henhouse, with three eggs embedded inside him or her. That snake was removed, so I was really thinking all was well.

Nope. Wednesday night, Seth, the chicken tending volunteer, got scared witless when he saw TWO snakes in the hen house. He didn’t stop to try to identify them. For someone who lived in the boonies most of his life, he’s not real “ranchy.”

Here’s a cute spider to take your mind off snakes.

He called his mom, who told me. I said, hey, remember Tyler who lives right there? He can take care of snakes. Then I heard nothing.

I asked Mandi how it all went, and she said she wasn’t sure. He wasn’t talking about it. Wow. Nature is not kind to that boy (age 19). But I do understand that many people have big issues with snakes, even non-venomous ones.

So, I asked Tyler, who IS ranchy, what the heck had happened. He said the two snakes were the same kind and size as last week.

What, are they a family? If so, one of them ought to tell the others that the fun times at our coop don’t have happy endings.

Mostly, though, I feel bad for those poor remaining 8 chickens. We took care of one set of predators, only to be joined by another one. I think my friend Mike and I need to get working on the new and improved coop, not just talking about it.

Now, That’s Nature: Post Oaks Plus

It has rained so much the past few days that it feels like I live at a mosquito farm. Everywhere I go I’ve been eaten up, though the barn swallows are trying to keep up with them at the ranch.

“Lake Travis” in Cameron. Photo by Martha Nethers.

Martha says that our old office on Travis is now located at “Lake Travis.” Birds love to bathe in it, but they can’t enjoy their lovely patio at the moment. (By the way, they recently saw a mother opossum and all her babies on her back–sure with I had a photo!)

Sink spider

The rains have also driven a lot of things indoors. A group of wolf spiders is hanging out in the kitchen of the old church building. I hope they scoot back out before the pest control dudes come!

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Creepy? Cute? Pretty?

It’s prime time for observing flowers and insects right now. I thought I’d share a couple of the things I’ve been observing, and give an update on my cactus that I shared a photo of a couple of days ago.

Insect of the Month

I’d say this is my favorite insect observation this month. Look at that big, green head! It’s a compost fly, and quite tiny. It was calm enough sitting on my hand that I could get a couple of nice images of it.

Not only am I cute, I’m helpful.

I don’t think I’d ever heard of compost flies before. It turns out they are a type of soldier fly.

Solider Flies are brilliant mimics of wasps and bees, but they do not sting and are so tiny, they may be difficult to find.

BugIdentification.org

It turns out these are insect Good Citizens, too! The bug identification site continues: “This species of Soldier Fly can be found in woods, gardens, and parks, with populations of adults hovering or standing over rotting plant matter. They are very small in size. These Solider Flies are not pests and do not seem interested in humans or their buildings like House Flies. They have been seen on compost heaps, piles of grass clippings, and other decomposing vegetation. Females lay fertilized eggs on the plant matter, so they are also called Compost Flies. Maggots are also small and tan in color with ten segments to their worm-like bodies. The Solider Fly maggots eat the compost and their presence may deter other types of pesky flies from inhabiting the same area. Adults are believed to drink flower nectar.”

This sounds like an insect I’d like to see more of at the Hermits’ Rest. What a little helper!


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Finished the Bug Book

Not much going on here, because I was busy researching the history of our Cameron properties for a blog post yesterday. I’m learning a lot about the church and the houses around it. I’ll share links to other posts on this topic, in case folks are interested. Here’s my favorite aerial shot of the neighborhood in 1960:

The area of old Cameron around our office building, which used to be the First Christian Church.

But, otherwise I am still reading a lot. I finally finished Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live. I would recommend it to any of you naturalists, biologists, entomologists, parasite lovers, and such.

I was fascinated by the last chapter, where they talked about about sourdough starters and how the microbes and such on the hands of the bakers make breads taste different. I was wondering about this, since the sourdough my friend Barron’s wife makes always tastes really good to me, but some other people’s is just to “sour” for me. Now I know why!

My other favorite part of the book was where the author, Rob Dunn, tells us not to mess with the spiders in our houses, because they are our friends and eat all sorts of things that we would LIKE for them to eat. Another tidbit was that most of the things people think of as “spider bites” are really staph infections. I was surprised, but there was plenty of research backing it up, according to the HUGE notes section.

So, there’s a book review for you. It looks like my next non-book club book will be the one Barron recommended that’s about the mind-gut connection. More microbes for me! Whee!