I Discovered Something!

It’s been a great day, for many reasons, and a great weekend. We took Apache out again today, and he was his old self again! He and Spice were very brave when they came upon some people building a new gate between our two pastures.

This is as close as the horses would get.

But they had fun. Fiona kept plopping down and rolling whenever she found dirt.

The flies are bothering me.

I also had fun seeing things this weekend. One is that I see signs that I wasn’t mistaken, we DO have a loggerhead shrike this year. I didn’t see one last year, and I was bummed. Today I saw lots and lots of insects impaled on our fence, though!

Plus! I’m very happy to share that another chicken started laying. Her first egg is pinkish and has little blue spots! On the other hand, Hedley, the one that lays white eggs, has started spending a LOT of time in the nest box. She did lay today, but if she’s gone broody I’m just giving her three eggs and letting her go for it.

The new one is on the bottom. Cute!

I also found two new and interesting insects. First is the extremely cool Beelzebub Bee Killer Mallophora leschenaulti, which is a type of robber fly. This things is huge, loud, and intimidating. I saw two yesterday and two today.

The other new insect is what I’m excited about. It turns out that my entry of the Long-jawed Longhorn Beetle Dendrobias mandibularis is the first one Milam county and the farthest north it’s been seen.

I’m the first!

Also, this is one of the most beautiful insects I’ve ever seen. So colorful!

Look at those antennae! And it’s so shiny!

I’ve been waiting to finally see something new and different to share on iNaturalist and I finally did! I feel so scientific.

Fancy Watering Hole

Today is one of those meeting-filled and task-filled days that left me with no blogging time but lunch. So, I just have a few minutes to fill you in on a major improvement for out Hermits’ Rest livestock.

I already shared that the chickens’ water now is officially hooked up, and both pens can use the same water trough. Butternut and Buttercup especially like it when the water overflows.

Happy chickens and guinea enjoying water overflow. You can see one of the Butters sticking her head through the fence to drink. Mission accomplished there!

Yesterday, Chris brought up a bunch of very sturdy (and FREE) metal poles to use to anchor gates in our new fencing. Note the splatters. That’s all the rain we got, while Cameron got a quarter inch. Boo.

Big ole sturdy pipes, with rain droplets.

Along with the poles came something to dig the holes for the poles, a big auger.

Big ole auger, AKA post hole digger.

But, what’s made all the animals happy is the other thing he brought: a big water trough and one of those handy cut-off attachments that keeps the water level full at all times. Fiona is jealous (the one where she is leaks). Vlassic spent a lot of time thinking about whether to jump in there or not.

That looks pretty darned deep!

I foresee some happy cattle, and hopefully at some point horses and donkeys enjoying this new improvement. We’re a fancy ranch now!

Now It’s Chicken Heaven

Today Chris and his dad did a lot of work on a new water line for the chicken coop and new barn area. That required digging a trench.

Chickens like freshly dug dirt, a lot. Not only is it fun to explore, it has new and exciting bugs in it.

Carlton wanted to help. the blue stuff is the future water line.

Every time I checked on them today, they were all excitedly climbing around.

One good thing about the water being cut off is that I had to fill the chicken water in the garage. That gave me a chance to scrub the water dishes. I think they liked it.

Like the chickens, Rip and the new heifers also explored their new territory a lot. The other bull calves ate and ate. Eventually the new gals figured out where the cubes are and came up to the pen, but it was too dark for a photo. But I got portraits.

Everything is back in working order at the chicken coop. I even got the distressed fake rooster upright and out of the way.

Fake Rooster is guardian of the Wellsummer girls.

I wish everyone had a pet, wild animal, or other natural phenomenon to watch and enjoy. It sure makes these uneasy times easier to bear.

The beautiful Sapphire.

Great Day to Be a Calf – Not So Great to Be a Pullet

Yep, I got back to the ranch yesterday, just in time for some fun and news. Upon my arrival, I saw this:

There is a new fence in the front pasture, formerly known as a field. Apparently Chris came back to town and spent all Thursday night erecting this. The flags are very helpful, since it’s otherwise invisible. Why the rush to erect the fence?

Just cows

Kathleen brought back two of her cows from the farm in Yorktown to hang out here and join the three little bull calves. One of them is pregnant; I believe the brown one. They are daughters of her lovely bull, Johnny. They don’t have names, because they are just cows, and not pets (got it). The brown one is not real friendly, which is fine with me; I’ve never made it a habit of petting adult cattle unless someone says it’s okay (in other words, the only ones I have ever petted were Kathleen’s former bottle calves).

Now, what’s this?

To top off the excitement, Kathleen let the little guys out of their small pen. Their reactions were true to their personalities. Rip went crazy with glee. He ran and ran, jumped in the air, and made circles around the rock pile.

Rip flies around the rocks.

He’s still got a cough, poor guy, but that only held him up a little. He then proceeded to climb up the rock pile and try every kind of grass there was.

This is SO MUCH FUN.

Meanwhile, the other two discovered taller grass than was in their pen, and started munching away. I think they will be delicious and Rip will be a scrawny little dude forever. In any case, it was the best day of their lives. Everyone enjoyed scratching their heads on the trailer, too.

MMM, this is great, long as that dog stays on his side of the trailer.
One happy calf.

After they all settled down, the new heifers came to investigate the calves, lick on them, and start to “herd up,” as they say. Chris is working on getting the ladies more tame, by enticing them with cattle cubes (also beloved of dogs). I know the little ones feel better with some older bovines to hang out with.

I look forward to watching all of Kathleen’s herd grow. I know she and Chris are both a lot happier with some cattle to work with up here.

As for the Chickens

Today was freedom day for the two Blue Star pullets. They are a month older than the Welsummers and HUGE. They were starting to bully the smaller pullets, especially Buttercup, who hurt her foot, so we decided to let them out. Of course, that didn’t go as planned, and instead of them leaving when I opened the door, most of the other chickens came into their pen. Oops.

I quickly got rid of the roosters, so no one else would get smooshed to death, but it took Chris’s help to get Star and Sapphire out, while keeping the other two in.

We are officially hiding.

The first thing Star and Sapphire did was go check out the feed in the other coop. That meant they were prime rooster targets, which did not thrill Sapphire one bit.

Why did you put us in here with THIS brute? (Hate to tell them, but the OTHER one is the brute.)

They went outside and tried their darnedest to get back into their other pen, but I am sure once they realize how many bugs there are out in the grass, they will be fine. They are already bigger than Hedley, so they can hold their own.

Speaking of the other hens, I think, but cannot confirm it, that all five of the adult hens are finally laying. I found three eggs this morning, and they were all solid brown. The absence of a white or ombre egg means Hedley and Fancy Pants had not laid yet. Well, that took a while. And big ole Springsteen, the Jersey Giant, is now making very large eggs. What a gal!

OMG! That giant rooster is DEAD! It’s the apocalypse! Run!

Being with the animals helps me a lot. I’m so happy to have them all. I’m still a bit shaky around people and having trouble communicating, but maybe by tomorrow I will be relaxed!

Remember, beloved readers, it’s okay to acknowledge your rough times and trouble dealing with things. It helps remind everyone we aren’t alone in having challenges these days. I can be having anxiety struggles and worry about world events (fires, floods, fighting) and still enjoy what’s good in my life and be thankful for kind friends and patient family.

Something Fishy

I got an interesting surprise as I was heading to the office to write a bunch of blog posts. I saw a large group of black vultures (my favorites, because they seem more…attractive than turkey vultures) pecking away at something over by where the pond runoff comes out of the culvert under our driveway (which is secretly a dam).

You can see by the debris how high the water was yesterday.

I thought maybe they had a snake, and I thought I should go see what kind of snake it was. However, it was not a snake. It was this!

It’s a fish out of water! Poor thing!

Oh, what a bummer. It appears that this delicious largemouth bass must have passed through the culvert and gotten dumped into the runoff area. It must have ended up in a part that was too shallow to swim in. Sniff.

Also, check out the attractive green bottle flies. I guess only a naturalist would say that. Sorry if it’s sort of icky for you.

But what did that tell me? It told me we have giant bass in our pond!* Who knew? Mandi should come fishing, or someone who likes to fish, anyway. Now that it’s mowed to the edge, the pond should be easier to work with. I figure we also have catfish, since I’ve seen channel cats that got pushed through the culvert before. Mandi and I totally failed at catching them, darn it.

As if that wasn’t enough excitement, when I got to the Pope Residence, I saw all sorts of things flying around right above the grass. What could that be? I spent some time trying to follow them around to see what they were, but then I realized I just had to look DOWN and they were everywhere. I thought they were Japanese beetles, but when I looked it up on iNaturalist, it said they are common green Junebugs. I guess they all decided to hatch after the rain.

Well, whatever they are, there are a LOT of them. I hope there are some at the ranch, so the chickens can have a treat.

And here’s a treat for YOU, readers! A nice picture of how cute the dogs are as they sleep with Lee. Maybe that will cleanse your palate from the fish, flies, and beetles.

Snoozy Penney and Harvey. Photo by Lee Bruns.

* I am aware that this is a normal sized fish. It is big to me.

Mad as a Wet Hen?

I was a bit worried about how the chickens were going to do in all this rain, as I mentioned earlier, so I made a shelter inside the pullet house for the two who like to hide and covered the cage in there.

Star and Henley check out my sad little shelter. Henley likes to hide in enclosed areas, but her cardboard box died in the rain.
The hens can still roost on top, but they can have more shelter if they want it. Meanwhile, Sapphire is relieved to have some dry food.

I really was wondering if they’d drown or something, especially with the way the skies looked all day.

Looking to the east.

However, every time I look outside, I see them roaming all over the place, delighting in all the new bugs the rain has served up. Usually the black hens stay close to the henhouse, but today they were all way out in the field. Still, when I called, they hauled butt to see me.

This is later, after I came back with more food. They come quickly!

So, none of the wet hens seem mad at all. The roosters are happy, too! Like Chris said, they’re just chickens. But, if I want to pamper them, I can, right (if you count piling tin roof materials up as pampering)?

It’s too muddy in the back of the pen, so I gave them fresh food at the front.

It was also raining like crazy when I went to the horses, so they get grass for dinner again. At least the calves are fine. They have a nice shelter. Too bad not everyone likes their accommodations.

“I still want to be in the pullet house, dammit.” Poor Patty.

Nature Endures and Brings Surprises

Happy Friday to all! I’m especially happy, because I slept like a rock last night and am taking the day off to just do whatever I want to do, as long as it isn’t in a crowd of people!

What I wanted to do this morning was go check out the flooding. It rained a good deal again last night, and the creek spilled its banks, the fields are all full of puddles, and happy egrets and herons are everywhere. I’m happy to report that since the little pond filled back up, there is at least one bullfrog remaining (heard it last night, saw it splashing into the pond this morning).

Still not finished, but it’s full again. Note willow tree already trying to grow on the banks.

It was good to see the front pond all full. The dogs will be able to swim in there now, since Chris mowed all the plants from around it. And the water is happily flowing through the arroyo and down to the stream. That always makes me happy.

Our gate had stopped working this morning, probably just ran out of juice from not getting much sun for a couple of days. I got it to open and made it stay open so our caregiver can get to Jim in the RV. Then I decided to take a walk, since there were no dogs outside and it was safe to go down the road. I was interested to see what was still alive and thriving after over a month with just a trace of rain. Here are some!

I continued walking, and enjoyed seeing all sorts of rain-laden clouds, and wet vultures drying their wings, chatting, or whatever they do on the fence.

The most exciting thing I saw was this:

Eggs!

Since they had obviously come out of a mound in the dirt, I figure these are turtle eggs that had recently hatched, perhaps prompted by the rain and lower temperatures. They are rubbery and soft, not like chicken or other bird eggs. I actually saw two nests with eggshells, and once I realized they are there, a few more nests that are still “cooking” (which I did not disturb).

Turtles like to lay nests on the sides of roads, because they tend to have loose and sandy soil for easy digging. I hope these little guys made it and are off swimming away to wherever the floods take them!

Speaking of the flooding, I got a couple of photos of the creek. The new fence technique the Vrazels used across the creek seems to have held up, and it appears no new giant logs came through. This is a fairly normal amount of flooding for our little creek bottom, so it mostly made me happy to know the weather cycle is normal this year.

I came back to check on the chickens, who all appear to have made it. They made four eggs yesterday, so the rain didn’t bother them too much. But, wow, the wet chicken area is stinky. I’ve got to get to work figuring out better ways to keep their food dry, too, especially the ones who aren’t free range (they all ran out yesterday while I was trying to cover the cage in the run where the new ones are, but in the end, they all ended up in the right place (though a couple of pullets lost their virginity, thanks to Bruce).

A symphony in gray, or hello from Gertie.

All in all, I think today is a good reward after working hard all week (and succeeding!). I’m glad I wasn’t too tired to go feed horses and check on them, too, because last night I had a good chat with the Ralph and the Vrazels, who were getting ready to harvest a couple of steers. It’s good to catch up on what’s going on, and being outdoors makes it a lot easier.

What I’m NOT Doing between Now and November

Lately, a lot of my friends and other contacts have been publicly inviting people who disagree with their choice of candidates, platforms, or political parties to “unfriend me now!” I can empathize with what prompts such declarations. You get tired of being called ignorant, or sheep, or whatever, by people you thought cared for you, and who you care(d) about. Or you get tired of those one or two people who sniff out any tiny whiff of partisanship on your part and then blast your friends with the tenacity of a dog with a bone.

Let me tell you ONE more time why I think you’re wrong…gnaw gnaw. Image by @9_fingers_ via Twenty20

Now, I have some pretty strong beliefs on political, social, and religious grounds, and I am not ashamed of them, so I’m not going to succumb to fear and never be who I am in social media. If they come and round me up later for expressing my beliefs, well, I will have led a good and consistent life, and I’ll deal with the consequences.

I don’t think it’s helping one bit to egg people on and act like the stereotype you’re trying to deny you’re a part of, though. So, here’s what I plan to do between now and the beginning of November, which is a big election time in the US (some of you may not know; the US isn’t the most important place for everyone on earth, I’m told).

I’m also going to spend a lot more time looking at nature, like this extra cool Apache jumping spider.

I’m not going to remove from my social media accounts all my friends, coworkers, business contacts, and family members who express their affiliation with a different candidate than the one I favor. Believe it or not, I find that I do have other things in common with them, or like them for other reasons. It’s possible if your mindset isn’t that, “Every Party X member is a doofus.” (I will point out that yes, some Party X members are doofuses; some party Y and Z members are ALSO doofuses.)

Right? Image by  @desteniev via Twenty20.

I will “snooze” some folks on Facebook if something they say upsets me, but I won’t un-follow, unfriend, or whatever, unless someone comes across as genuinely dangerous or unhinged. So, yeah, if you threaten to kill me or people I love, I might put some distance between us. That’s just common sense.

I’m not going to waste my breath and time trying to “educate” or chastise people who say things I disagree with or find mildly offensive in response to comments on other people’s Facebook posts, tweets, or Instagrams. I have learned that’s how you (along wity people like yourself) earn bad reputations with other groups. I see it enough in comments on my own posts, and know how damned hard it can be not to respond (I do fail at times). Just go vote, folks, and realize most others have already made up their minds.

A good plan. Image by @MargJohnsonVA via Twenty20

If I share memes, I’m going to try to make it the constructive and encouraging kind, not the kind that puts down others. I have friends who share some real doozies that I enjoy, because I’m human, but every time I’ve even slightly hinted that some other bunch of folks might not have the right idea about something, I end up feeling bad about doing it. I guess I’m pretty firm that passive-aggressive memes serve more to make the person sharing them look bad than to shame the intended audience.

Slightly off topic, but hey, it’s my blog:

Honestly, I don’t need any help to know I’ve been a bad friend or done some things I shouldn’t have that won’t be forgiven or forgotten. I’m trying to forgive my own dang self and learn from the mistakes, so rubbing my nose in it just makes me resentful, not a better person. I wonder if all the nameless people so many accusatory memes are aimed at feel that way, too, if they see themselves in the words, of course. Targeted memes (personal or political) probably mostly miss the intended audience.

Also off topic: I did finally get a photo of the green heron!

Back on track

Anyway, another thing I’m going to do in social media and in person between now and November is be friendly to everybody I run across. I can find something neutral or positive to talk to just about anyone about, and that is what helps us all remember there’s good in everyone. Engaging with the people around me is one concrete thing I can do to help heal the divisiveness and partisan negativity we seem so mired in these days.

We’re all just chickens, say Springsteen and Patty.

I know I’m not alone in seeing people as fellow humans first, and labels second. It’s easy to disparage a faceless group, but one on one, it’s a lot harder. I am glad to have people around me who are great role models in this way of interacting, and yes, some of the best ones do not agree with all of my political and social views. When I’m feeling frustrated, I think of all the hard-working and thoughtful people I know who are trying to make the world better by working with each other. Thanks to everyone who helps with that!

How about you, are you up for trying any of the things I’m going to try to do for the next couple of months? If you’re not, what is your plan for dealing with the challenges of the pre-election period? What’s working for you?

Let’s talk!

Random Goodness

I may as well share the good and/or interesting stuff of the day. Maybe I’ll do this every so often.

First, I got the little bistro sets up in the break area by the stairs at the Pope Residence. They surprised me by fitting. I even ate lunch at one. Now that no one else eats in the office, I’ll fine solo in style!

Kathleen and I picked these out in hopes that they would fit.

And I opened the box with the dishes for the office. I just set out coffee cups, in case a visitor wanted some coffee. The rest are i. The cabinets for now.

If it’s deemed too junky, I can put them away.

So that was fun. I also had fun looking at birds this afternoon. I finally determined the small heron I keep seeing is a green heron. It was out with the blue heron behind the house, and while I was looking at them and turtles, I spied the BIGGEST bullfrog I ever saw. Turns out they can weigh up to 1.5 pounds!

There was no way to get a photo of the frog, but I did get a picture of this scary kissing bug. It will not give me Chagas’ disease because it is deceased. Buddhism fail.

Eek

The best news is this! We had four eggs today! That’s the first time I got four eggs since we built the hen house here by our house. Thanks, Springsteen!

Bertie, Fancy Pants, Springsteen, and Hedley.

By the fall molting season, we may have a few more kick in! It would be nice to be able to share them with friends and family before they shut down to molt.

Self Care and Pottery

I had nothing on my agenda today, so rather than lounge around the house, I decided to do whatever I wanted to.

I went over and visited the calves, and got to feed Rip while the new guys were worked on. Then I just sat and watched the chickens. Why not? It’s fun. I got a few more portraits. Because it’s fun.

After that excitement, I drove off and daringly went to the local nursery all by myself. I wanted a few more little plants for the office. Instead I got two small plants and a monster. Meet Eduardo!

He’s a basket plant, I think. He will be spectacular in the window with the spider plant.

A tiny angel wing begonia and uh, a succulent rounded out the plant fun.

I’ll repot them tomorrow.

Look to the right of those plants and you’ll see I brought my stained glass windows over, too. I cleaned them all up so maybe Chris can hang them next week, if there’s time. I also brought down the hanging lamp to put up in the reading nook. It’s all clean and ready to go up, too!

I didn’t take pictures of those, so here’s the pothos I put in Tubby Jr. with some wandering Jew I found on the ground at the nursery. The guy laughed when I asked what it cost.

As if that wasn’t enough fun, I next went to my friend Pamela’s studio and had fun with clay. It’s hard to concentrate, though, because she has such cool stuff.

Ceramics and found objects combined.

Anyway, she’d made some soap dishes large enough to hold those huge Posh bars I have. She asked what colors I wanted, then suggested I come select my glazes. That sounded fun.

Little did I know that she was also going to let me glaze them myself! It’s been so long since I got to do that. So, I made one orange and gold and one red and pink. I did a bunch of layers, so we will see if they show up or not.

This is orange and gold, believe it or not.

In the past, I have failed as many times as I succeeded in my glazing, but I always do it that way, anyway. Besides, the soap dishes Pamela made are so pretty that my glaze won’t mess them up.

This is two shades of pink with red under it. Hope it comes out!

Well that’s self care. I got to see someone but not too close! The studio is open to the air, too. Fun times. Good for the soul.