What’s Recuperating from the Cold and Snow?

Since the weather is warm and it hasn’t started raining yet, I decided to see how the life around here is faring after last week’s bad weather. The first thing I found was that, indeed, the cold has messed the chickens up. Look what poor Buttercup laid!

Buttercup’s little egg, next to the normal one I found this morning.

Not all is bad for them, though. While they seem to dislike something in their scratch grain mix, the damp weather has been perfect for sprouting whatever it is. That will make good browsing for them or new chickens that we get!

At least the chicken run won’t be all dirt!
We prefer bugs.

I wondered if any insects and such were out, so I was happy to find a checkered butterfly and two lady bugs! I saw a moth, but it was too fast for me!

I found that most of the usual plants for this tome of year were blooming, but I was surprised to see a cranesbill had already managed to produce seeds!

Here are a few of the other blooming plants I saw. It was good to see them recovering.

I also found the wildflowers in good shape, including my favorite yellow daisies and bluebonnets. We’ll have color this year! And speaking of color, the cold gave some unusual leaf colorings.

I heard a lot of frog sounds from across the road, and plenty of birds. I heard a whooshing sound and turned around to see I’d disturbed some ducks on one of the tanks/ponds. I did get a photo of them flying, though I don’t know what kind they are.

Ducks, trees, clouds.

Spring is coming. Winter can’t stay forever. I’m glad I got some entries for iNaturalist today!

Cute Li’l Animal Tails/Tales

Now that the weather is more normal, I’ve been enjoying the antics of all the local animals. I haven’t seen them all—for example, Lee saw a large, striped bobcat cross the road yesterday. I missed that!

Obviously not a Bobcat

I did get to see this charming kitten with a crazy tail today. She’s been hanging around the cabin and barn for a month or so, and the neighbors feed her. We haven’t had a cat stay on the ranch since Cathy and her menagerie moved.

Anyway, I said I’d feed her this weekend, so I had my eye out for her when I walked by the cabin on the way to feed horses. I didn’t see her, but I saw a black dog, though I knew Copper was out of town with his owners. Wait…that was Tess the cattle dog, great-great granny of these sweet pups.

Gratuitous photo of Jess and her pups. Cattle dog pups start out white with black spots.

So, I was pretty sure ole Tess had found the kitten’s food. She isn’t too old to sniff out any morsel of food! And sure enough, the bowls were licked clean and the kitten was looking disappointed when I came back down the driveway. I refilled the bowl, and she chowed down fast.

I better eat fast. That dog might come back!

I love how the kitten holds her tail angled back like that. And she is sweet. It makes me happy to have a cat to pet again. Lee’s allergic, so we can’t have one in the house, but maybe we can get barn cats if our horse barn happens.

More Cuteness, Cattle Style

I’ve also been enjoying the cattle on our property. They get friendlier and funnier all the time.

Yesterday, I took some more food for Big Red, the chicken who lives with the horses. It was in a plastic feed bag. It was misting rain, so I was concentrating on not stepping on cow patties. I opened the gate to leave our pasture, and when I turned around, I saw that the brown cow was like three feet behind me. I didn’t hear her at all! The others were lumbering behind her.

I guess they really miss getting cattle cubes from Kathleen, and were sure my bag had cow treats, not chicken ones. She sure looked sad when I took the bag with me.

Today, the cows were insisting on standing in my path as I walked to the gate. Maybe they were thinking of shaking me down for treats. I got to the gate, then heard thundering footsteps. Jim had let Vlassic out, and he wanted to join me, like he did yesterday. But, Sara’s dogs would be there today, so Vlassic had to go back for his safety. That made me have to intrude on the cows again.

When I came by the third time, after taking Vlassic back, I had to stop and watch them. They were playing like little calves, butting their heads and jumping in circles. It was a pleasure to see them enjoying the more pleasant weather, and it was a shame to stop them, just because I was now late. I wish I’d gotten a video! The cows aren’t too far past calf-hood, so I guess they still have urges for fun.

Heck, so do I. My fun for the day was listening to this red-winged blackbird, way at the top of a willow tree.

TWEET!!!

He was alternating between the familiar chiming song they make and repeated tweet calls. I think he thought someone was answering him, because he was so loud that he had a robust echo. I wonder how long he kept that going?

There. Not every post has to be a rant or controversy. I needed some cuteness in my day today!

Laughing at Ourselves

After all the stress of the last week or so, it feels good to be able to find humor in life again. I must admit that, at a certain point yesterday, I had lost all humor. But, hooray! It’s back now, and I am happily laughing at myself, my animals, and my friends…and of course myself. Here we go.

Yesterday, as it was thawing out like crazy, Sara asked me to come help her and Ralph with some water-related chores. The water in the big, blue barrel where the horses all were, had gotten quite low. Since it was sitting crookedly and was quite full of algae and other yuckiness, it was declared to be a good day to clean it out and stabilize it.

This was not a neat and tidy job. We were in huge mud puddles that had horse/donkey poop in them and were very slick. Sara did a great job making a fairly level spot in the mud where the barrel goes, while Ralph worked on the water supply. Major oops, a water pipe had burst in a very dramatic way, so there will be no using the barn toilet until that can be fixed! That made everything even muddier, and cause cursing and such.

My job was to clean out the barrel itself. I am not the tallest of humans, so I could not reach my hand in and get to the bottom of the barrel. I had to climb in and scrub it with handfulls of hay. I felt ridiculous. Little did I know, I also looked ridiculous, and Ralph got this photo to prove it. I laughed my substantial rear end off when I got this picture!

Now, that’s dignified! You can see the mud that Sara was trying to shovel through, too.

With the trickle of water that was coming out of the hose, we managed to finish cleaning it and get it set up, then we took our muddy selves over and replenished the hay. We actually had fun in between banging on things and getting frustrated!

The barrel filled up eventually and looks pretty good.

My intention is to never have to do that again, so next time I am in Temple, I am going to get some goldfish to put in here! I am pleased to report that our little goldfish made it through the freeze AND the cow pooping in their home and are swimming around happily, with their trough topped off, too.

The tiny orange spot is one of the fish. Note how clear the water is (this was before it refilled, when I had put a few gallons in by hand).

Today was a lot easier in the horse department. Spice and Lakota got moved back to their pasture, and Lakota is still standing, mostly. Fiona and Apache are happy as can be, now that it’s all warm again, and Fiona is still curious about everything. Here she is fascinated by one of the dead birds we keep finding (at least this cowbird isn’t eaten up).

Is that food?

Fiona is a very patient donkey, even when Sara and I got a case of the giggles and put the bird on her head (bird will become falcon food for the neighboring falconers).

I didn’t ask for a crown! Grow up, humans!

Other things to laugh at are the chickens. They are back to hanging out in the garage, and I thought this picture of Bruce and Bertie Lee was cute. I think you can see where poor Bruce’s comb is worse for wear. On the other hand, they all made it!

We like it up here.

It appears that Vlassic found yet another dead bird, a dove, and messed with it. When I came out to see the chickens, they were fighting over it. That seems strange until you remember that chickens are omnivores. At least nothing is going to waste around here…I guess.

A Bertie feather

The chickens got some new food, Grubbly, which has some sort of grubs in it. They didn’t like the plain grubs at first, but now they do. Yesterday I opened the bag of that brand of food and put some in their dishes. It disappeared very quickly, so I think I’ll switch them over. I’m so glad all the animals made it through the challenging time and that all of us still have our senses of humor, even if they are weird.

What’s in the willow tree?

One more piece of cheerful news. Not only is the ice all gone in the trees, but I heard a familiar sound yesterday afternoon and followed it. Sure enough, the male redwing blackbirds have arrived! Maybe it WILL stay warm! (The females were already here.)

NOW We Lose Power!

Now that it’s warming up and the ice is melting, boom. The power went off for us and our closest neighbors. It’s been off close to 24 hours. I guess melting ice isn’t great for power lines, because there are spotty outages all over.

Enjoy a pretty ice photo.

We slept fine last night, and I’ve sure gotten a lot of reading done, in between emergencies and such. the old horse was down yesterday when I went to check. I did manage to give him colic medicine but not correctly, but I tried.

Down horse.

Sara found him up and eating today, though, so I didn’t kill him by not knowing exactly what to do. Whew. And Sara is back, so I don’t have to worry as much. I worry about Lakota.

Up horse

Otherwise it’s okay here. Chickens are alive , though Bruce has some comb damage, poor guy. But they are alive! The dead songbirds still make me sad.

Best chicken photo I could get.

I did take a little walk yesterday and got photos of the sun shining through ice. I think I’ll miss the little ice penises the most. It’s from little stems that stuck up out of the snow. They made me laugh.

Anatomically correct!

It was so shiny still! It doesn’t really come through in the photos, but I’ll share anyway. I’ll write more when we get power. I’m in the car charging things!

Reacting to Natural Disasters

Witnessing people’s reactions to the natural disaster event we’re going through here in central Texas has been most educational. People seem to fall into different groups, and I’ve been fascinated as I note their actions. I’ll share a few observations. Which of these are you?

Lee took this last night as the motion-sensor lights shone through icicles. Don’t stand under them.

The Helpers

I want to start out with these folks, because they impress me and keep my sliver of faith in humanity alive. All the sharing, caring and helping makes me so proud. Here are some examples I know of.

  • My coworker, Jason, lives out in the country near a road that has a banked curve. It froze over, of course, and people took it way too fast for the conditions (mostly because they were unaware). He and his son drove on a level back road until they were close to the road and proceeded to help people get unstuck, flagged cars down to slow them, and made sure everyone was safe. Most people had just abandoned their vehicles. He’s also monitoring the local NextDoor posts, and taking water and food to elderly neighbors. He sadly reported that some people just lectured others for not being prepared. I’m glad there are more people like him and his family out there being good neighbors.
  • My other coworkers are all sharing information, checking in, and offering to help. A woman in my department volunteered to boil water for people who have no electricity and can’t boil it for themselves (lots of people have neither water nor electricity right now).
  • Our business has a client who needs services, even in this weather. A Deputy from the Sheriff’s Department kindly drove our amazing Meghan to a neighboring smaller town than Cameron, because the roads were so bad. I can’t mention the kindnesses Meghan has performed this week, but some go way above and beyond her job duties.
Road conditions yesterday.

The Blamers

A lot of people with time and bandwidth seem to be using it to point fingers at various industries, businesses, and people for not doing a good enough job. I admit to being unhappy that nothing has been done about our road, with the icy bridge and the treacherous hill, but I know there are reasons for it (the district personnel had been under a COVID quarantine, AND Monday was a Federal holiday). I am trying to remember that no one set out to cause this mess on purpose. Still, I read a lot of this kind of stuff.

  • Texas is to blame for their own problems, because they are not on any US power grid. Well, none of US made that decision. Let’s deal with our weird system of buying power on an open marketplace and such later, and concentrate on making sure our linemen and other power service staff stay safe and get help.
  • The water companies are to blame for not maintaining pipes. Um. They need money to do that (and Cameron IS in the process of upgrading infrastructure). Also, when pipes burst, it ruins water pressure. Even homeowners who are doing their best to care for their pipes are having issues, so it’s no one’s fault.
  • People who dislike fracking and pipelines should just go build their own windmills for power. Okay, that is just dumb. The windmills didn’t freeze, anyway. Texas has a mix of power sources, which actually isn’t a bad idea…just no one could prepare for this stuff.
  • The President hasn’t come to save us. He’s a piece of sh**. Um, he cleared disaster funds days ago, when requested by the governor who’s the one who keeps bragging he don’t need no Federal dollars to help sick people. Meanwhile, Senator Cruz got on a plane and headed to a resort in Mexico. He can’t exactly fix things, but that still doesn’t make a great impression. I always enjoy it when the people who insult me for saying poor and/or homeless people can use some help and insist they pull themselves up by the bootstraps start blaming the government for not helping THEM whey THEY need it.
  • I’ll stop here. I do think blamers could better spend their time doing useful things.

The Bright-Siders

This is what I TRY to be, when I can. Like, right now puffed-up meadowlarks are flying around drinking water out of places where there is melting. And I have a lot of time to read and knit. Kathleen is the champion of not complaining ever, about anything. The power outage lets her use more candles, the ice formations in the field are pretty, etc. This is commendable, knowing what she’s actually dealing with and NOT sharing!

Who needs an icemaker, when you have this?

I see lots and lots of posts from people who are enjoying the birds and helping keep them alive with food and water. More than one has said watching birds has helped them get through the week in relatively good spirits. Thank you, Nature.

The Stoics

A lot of people are just muddling through. I guess that’s what you do when you truly don’t have any control over a situation and realize that complaining, blaming, or panicking isn’t going to change anything. They are conserving water and electricity (oops I am using it now), not endangering themselves on the road, and figuring out ways to eat and entertain themselves for another few days. They ask for help if needed, but try to be as self reliant as possible.

This seems like a good plan, to me.

And like Harvey, they find the warm spots and stay there (he found my heating pad and now loves me a lot more).

I’m gonna take care of animals, stay warm, and hope the satellite doesn’t go out again, so I can at least watch television. I have plenty of books and knitting, and the knitting keeps me warm. It’s my very first horrible natural disaster, so I’m learning things!

Stay safe, if your in the middle of this icepocalypse, and the rest of you be patient with people in this state. They just don’t have the infrastructure, and they have to live with the consequences of some interesting planning decisions.

No Longer Fun or Funny, Now Boomy

Snow and bitter cold are okay if you have a warm and cozy house to stay warm in. Ours is not cozy, but can be made semi-cozy, because we have electricity and space heaters. Most of my friends in the Austin area are without power at all or for long stretches, and there are also water outages (not to mention burst pipes). It turns out that yes, your water supply can be affected by power outages. It doesn’t just flow without help. That is NOT cozy.

Horses in the snow, photo by Ralph.

Okay, here’s a funny story, though. Apparently someone yelled at a water company employee in our area when they said the water wasn’t working due to electrical outages. They said they KNEW you can’t mix water with electricity, so they have nothing to do with each other! At least they know ONE fact.

Another fact: ice expands. It has broken the gutters in a couple of places.

I’m happy to say the chickens are still with us, and are sharing their scratch with the wild birds, who are not faring all that great. One thing that’s helping them a lot is that water is dripping off the house, so they can drink. And the sun is so bright that it has melted some bare spots. At least one little brown bird is actually finding stuff to eat!

I found the food, says Mrs. Sparrow.

The birds here do have a lot of shelter and plenty of food in the woods, but we are still getting casualties. On my front porch just now I found poor dear yellow-rumped warblers (male and female), as well as a white-winged dove. I am so sad for these creatures.

On a happier note, someone was out exploring this morning!

Bunny evidence.

The cows are running low on hay, so I’ll have to ask the neighbors for more, and they are certainly not helping their water supply. One of them pooped into the trough, and of course the poop froze to the ice. I did not enjoy trying to get all that out. Cows.

Here, look at this cool ice formation instead of cow poop. You’re welcome.

This would be all well and good if it weren’t for the fact that yet another huge wave of awfulness is coming tonight, and there might be one after that. People have no water and no heat already! I am very worried about elderly and very young people. And I no longer think my mohair shawls are “too hot.”

This shawl is JUST RIGHT.

Boom

I said there were booms, didn’t I? Yes. We have a metal roof. The sun is very, very bright right now, which means it’s warming the roof. As a consequence, very large sheets of ice are falling from the second-storey roof onto the first-storey roof. It sounds like a dump truck is in the ceiling.

Smaller ice that fell

As you may have already guessed, dogs are not happy with those booms. Harvey is as far under my desk as he can get, all scrunched into my blanket I’m under and the towel I put under there for him.

Make the booms stop.

Carlton squeezed himself into a ball in my chair. They are not thrilled one bit. Plus it is still a balmy 55 degrees in the house (not complaining; my sister and Anita both have it much worse).

I’m trying to dig a hole.

The sounds really are loud, like cannons. It turns out they are just icicles falling. Here, watch!

Wait for it…

All of you in the grips of this weather system have my sympathy, even if you live in a place that can cope with the cold and with an electrical grid that has actual PLANS for bad weather.

Shiny Wonders

What a weird day it’s been. I couldn’t work, because everyone in Austin is having power outages. I felt so cold. I felt sick. Then I felt better! The weather was horrible, but by afternoon, with the sun shining, it felt okay out! The dogs had cabin fever, so we went and played. So you get another post of snow photos.

Penney loves snow. It’s yummy.

We went out and checked the chickens and cows. Everyone was fine, even Springsteen, who was trying to disguise herself as a statue, was sitting with the others.

I just had to take pictures of the shiny trees and happy dogs. It’s beautiful, as long as you have power and the wind settles down.

All the dogs really enjoyed themselves after begging me to go out. Penney bounced and flopped and dug her nose in. She and Carlton ran and jumped in the woods. And Alfred was in his element.

I had fun, too, once the wind went down. The sun was so bright I needed sunglasses, though. I found bunny tracks and could see that the armadillo had peeked out of his hole. And the spring is still flowing in the woods.

Tonight will perhaps be the coldest night ever here. And more freezing precipitation is on its way.

But this is Texas. Warm front next week!

My Least-Favorite Weather Is…

…the weather going on right now at the ranch. Freezing rain is just the worst weather Mother Nature can come up with. It just wants to kill things.

Ice and water on the rain chain.

We were all under the impression that bad weather was coming in a few days, but surprise! Here it is! I am glad that all my animals have nice warm shelter (chickens in the garage and horses under their shelter, which is also where mama and baby calf are, to answer Catherine).

Some animals find the crunch ice fun, however, once the thunder stopped.

I’m also glad to be working from home.

Looks so pleasant, doesn’t it?

I spent 20 years in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. That particular area is often on the border between rain and snow, so I endured a lot of ice storms when I lived there. I have stories, including the time a colleague and I were stuck at the bottom of a dirt driveway on a hill and had to push my Gremlin (that was a type of car) up the hill, after my friends had slowly driven to us to help. We drove twenty miles at 15 miles per hour to get home, all covered in mud. We all had a good laugh, once it was over, but that was a truly scary drive!

Black willows by the pond, by Meghan, from her car.

Here, it’s just freezing raining really hard and has been for a few hours. That makes a nice coating of ice on…everything. It’s worse where I used to live just northwest of Austin, from accident reports and photos I’ve seen. The only thing stirring out here are the intrepid meadowlarks and Meghan, who had to have a meeting with Lee. The dogs would not leave while it was thunder-sleeting.

The gate entry keypad looks chilly. Photo by Meghan.

Well, I take it back. The birds are like, what the heck, we’re hungry, so we might as well eat. The bluebirds, phoebes, and mockingbird are all on the very cold fence looking for food. Mrs. Bluebird really looks sad. I wish my window didn’t have a screen!

That first bird is poor Mrs. Bluebird (the male bluebird and mockingbird are also there, but too blurry, thanks to my screen).
For about a half hour, the mockingbird chased the bluebirds off the fence. That rocket-like thing is a bluebird.

I’m glad we have plenty of hot cocoa and the ability to make chili, because we will need it! I’m feeling mighty bad for friends I know whose heating has gone out, and of course those of you north of us who are laughing about our complaints down here. My coworker in Minnesota got a good laugh about our whining this morning!

Well, it IS pretty.

I hope we don’t lose too many limbs or trees in this. If heavy snow starts, things will start falling. Oh well, that’s how it goes these days.

Our cold pond, photo by Meghan.

I went out and checked the rain gauge for Lee, and we had .71″ so far. I got a few more pretty photos, so please enjoy. The flowers look especially cool. You can click a photo to see it larger and not cropped.

What’s in the Creek!

Today’s Bioblitz adventure took me and the faithful canine companions over by the creek again. I was trying to see if there are any different plants in the woods and creek side. Also, I wanted to let the dogs have fun. That they did!

Happy Carlton in the creek.

Mostly Penney and Carlton enjoyed the windy, sunny day by running, smelling and splashing. It was a good distraction from staring at plants.

I crossed the creek! (Also, check out that soil layer with all the big rocks.)

The dogs running in the stream inspired me to check it out, and I found some slimy algae.

Doesn’t that look shiny and fun?

It reminded me to check the water for plants. I found two cool things I never saw before today!

I’m not sure if it’s one kind or two kinds, but crowfoot is a cool name, and cursed crowfoot is a GREAT name!

All afternoon I looked for birds. I got a vulture photo, but all the other ones hid…until I was just about to walk through the gate back to the house. Suddenly, a bird was right in front of me. By the time I got the camera up, a little ruby crowned kinglet was right in front of me! It’s the first one I’ve seen here! A good day.

Hello!!!

It was a good day all around. I also had a great ride on Apache. I think he’s having fun, too.

Knitting on Hold Due to Online Shopping Fail

Darn me. I thought I had ordered more yarn for the table runner I’m making for Lee, then wondered why it had not arrived. Sigh. The website I used had such a long and convoluted ordering process that I missed one last “finalize order” button on the bottom of a screen, because the text was so long that the button required scrolling to see. Let me just say, “Grr.”

It’s looking pretty, though, other than my ugly decreases (for which I blame the yarn texture, not my sterling technique.

So, I now have a 28-inch long piece of knitted fabric and no more yarn. The purchase HAS hit my credit card, so now I’ll just wait until next week for the rest to show up. The good news is that Lee wants the runner to be 50 inches, so the two more skeins I ordered should be enough, but not too much. That makes me happy!

Half of a table runner.

I made a mistake in the last light brown section, but it’s not bad enough to rip out. With all that crazy color and texture, who’s gonna look that hard at it, once it’s on the stereo cabinet? It just shows I’m human!

Once again, I am really glad to have a backup project! The blue shawl will get longer today, though I must admit categorizing all my Bioblitz photos takes away from my knitting time.

Still Blitzing

No one I know actually logs ALL the hours they spend on iNaturalist. For me, the time just melts away as I try to figure out what kind of plant or animal I’ve seen. Yesterday I even got a couple of bird photos, nasty, blurry ones, but yay! I actually love this one, which really doesn’t show the bird species, but looks artsy.

Mystery bird.

And I got these beautiful closeups of henbit, the omnipresent wildflower of February.

And here, I just had to take a photo of the entrance to the driveway that leads to the cabin and barns. It’s pretty to me.

Very Texas-y.

How’s your weekend going? I hope better than this dead hunk of fish I found. Yep, a good place to stop blogging.

I don’t think there’s enough of this to identify on iNaturalist, but the fish does have cool teeth. At the top is a fin.