I felt a little better today, so I was able to get work done and enjoy my immediate surroundings. I also had some good talks with family, and that always helps. So, let’s see what’s going on with all those projects around here.
The tack room (Suna Shack) is moving right along. I love the look of the wood they use for the walls and ceilings. The guys are doing a great job on it, too.
I love watching them work. The picture below warmed my heart. Those two are in the exact same pose and look the same from a distance. I think that’s sort of important. We all have a lot more in common than differences. This young white man and older black man look the same from this angle!
The big thing that’s happened is they’ve taken a small window out and replaced it with two larger ones, which will make the Suna Shack area full of light, even with the air conditioner being in one window. That was not an easy task, either. There was much grumbling about how hard it was to get straight cuts with the Saws-All (no idea how that is spelled).
Lots of new lighting is also going in, plus a circuit breaker. It’s a class act, for sure. Motion sensors will make walking up to the tack room in the dark during the winter a lot safer and easier. The nephew thinks of everything.
Meanwhile, the hens are enjoying their henhouse, except when the door slams. I think they’d prefer I not check for eggs so often. So far, seven hens are happily using the nest boxes, and not all the same one, even. The exception is Bertie Lee, who lays her egg right inside the chicken entrance every day. She never ceases to make me chuckle.
Speaking of chuckling, dorky chicken signs were on sale at Tractor Supply when we stopped there on the way back from Mabel’s vet visit. I actually think the “Hen-trance” and “Egg-sit” signs are helpful to let you know which of the doors actually is the one to use. And it makes me laugh. I need to laugh.
PS: I also wrote Texas Governor Abbott a letter and reminded him he’s actually supposed to represent people, not lobbies. He spoke at the NRA Convention, along with a former US President and some other doofuses who forgot who they are supposed to be serving.
I hinted that things were different at the ranch when I came home. I didn’t notice it at first, because it was hiding behind cars and tractors, but the men in the family had conspired to upgrade the chickens’ living quarters. A lot. They even moved!
Wow! The chicken run is now attached to the tack room barn, which is no longer full of saddles and horse feed. It has a full-fledged roosting and nesting room in it.
My nephew, husband, and son (along with their helper Marcus) conspired to move the tack room over and convert it to the Hen House. It also has space for all the food, my workbench, and the brown chair, for chicken watching. That’s fancy.
Even fancier is the coop. Holy cow these are some lucky chickens. There are lovely roosts that they will probably use in the winter. They still like their branch outside. And there are a bunch of nest boxes. Sixteen! I need more chickens.
Can you stand the cuteness? The chickens have a little door to come in that we will be able to shut if needed. Plans are to put in a heat lamp for winter. Yes! Electricity! No air conditioner, though.
It’s all very charming. I think the chickens are wondering what they did to deserve a palace. I’m wondering what I did, too!
We have all the stuff needed to do babies, deal with a sick chicken, or introduce new flock members, too. I’ve got to start giving away or selling more eggs.
So, you may ask a question. If the Hen House is the old tack room, where’s your horse stuff? See next blog! I’m a truly grateful gal.
Whee! Yesterday was so much fun for me, as it tends to be when I go to a state park in any state. As we do every year we visit this area, Lee and I made a pilgrimage to Huntington Beach State Park, which is just a beautiful place full of nature, in addition to being a beach where zillions of people go. Last year we looked at the house where the Huntingtons lived, which was weird, to say the least, but this year, I just wanted to look at some birds. So I did.
We lucked out, because since it was a Sunday, the place was getting crowded by the time we arrived. But, in we got, and we were pleased to see only fellow bird nerds at the nature center boardwalk. I really enjoy learning more about birds and the marsh from people who know more than me, so I was in heaven. In fact, I learned a lot from a couple of little kids and their grandparents. It must be such a joy to have grandchildren to teach about things you care about.
There were birds a-plenty on the boardwalk , mostly dunlins and sanderlings, but I was happy to get to watch a beautiful plover in breeding plumage and the big thrill, a clapper rail. It’s a fairly large brown bird, but since they are shy, they are often hard to find. This one was preening, so we got to watch that really well.
There was also a very pretty snowy egret, who was later joined by a buddy. I love all their fancy feathers this time of year. There were lots of great egrets (bigger white birds), too. The best in the heron family, though, was a tricolored heron that I got to be the first to spot. It was gorgeous, with shiny feathers, red eyes, and a bright blue bill. We got to watch it for a long time, and the dude with the immense camera lens must have gotten some great photos.
Birds weren’t the only attractions, though. In addition to listening to the fun sounds of popping shrimp, we got to watch hundreds of fiddler crabs busy at work in the mud, and we were enthralled watching the oysters spitting. Some of them can really spit (sorry, no photos). It’s how they breathe, so when they are exposed, the water turns into a fountain. I also so lots of pretty fish and a blue crab doing its crab work. There is SO much life in a marsh!
In the wildlife center, we watched birds at the feeder for a while, then I enjoyed seeing what they had in some aquariums with native life in them. Watching the ray swimming around was mesmerizing.
After we left there, we headed over to my favorite nature walk along the marsh. I was happy to see that the area is recovering nicely from a fire a couple of years ago. I can tell woodpeckers are loving all the dead trees. You can hear them everywhere. As usual, I took lots of pictures, many of which I shared on Facebook, but here are some highlights. We were charmed by the signs some group had hung on some of the trees. Every sign had an uplifting, positive message that added to the pleasure of walking among all the huge trees and listening to the variety of birds.
I was pretty thrilled to see many painted buntings on this trip, but the best sight was in one eastern red cedar tree on this walk, where there were so many songbirds it felt like you were in an aviary. There were multiple painted bunting pairs, a cardinal family, a blue jay, tufted titmice, and a tiny, tiny bird that I think was a vireo. I had to take a picture of the tree and thank it.
After getting some pictures at the Octopus Tree (one that fell in a storm but didn’t die), we moved on to the next exciting portion of my day.
I knew I couldn’t leave without walking across the dam the road into the park is on, checking out that boardwalk, and seeing what was there. On the little boardwalk, I turned to take a photo of some “old man moss” and scared the heck out of a large white-tailed deer doe. I was happy to see something other than a bird! As I looked out across the water, I saw multiple alligators, and I soon learned why there are so many.
Another Diversion into Memories
As I walked down the dam, on the side that’s a lake, I saw a familiar sight, mullet jumping out of the water and making a big splash. It brought back memories for me. One was when my brother and I were pretty young and took the bus from Ft. Lauderdale to Gainesville to visit our grandmother. We ended up on the local bus that stopped over and over. We befriended an older black woman, who told us all about where we were. When we got to Lake Okeechobee she told us to look out the window, NOW. There, in the light of the setting sun, were dozens and dozens of mullet flying into the air and splashing down, creating diamonds of water droplets. I’ve never forgotten this sight.
When we lived in Plantation (1972-1980 or so), there was a Corps of Engineers canal behind us (C-10). These were the canals they used to drain the Everglades so crappy suburbs could be built where the alligators once roamed. Well, alligators still roamed there, but the best part for my family was sitting on an old footlocker we’d found and labeled “Davy Jones’s Locker” and watching the mullet as the breached in the late afternoon. Dad said they did that to kill parasites by exposing them to the sun. All I know is they sure were pretty. I’m glad I have some good memories of that place!
Back to the Present
Anyway, I enjoyed watching the fish jump and move around right under the surface of the water. I was watching a particularly rollicking roil of fishie exuberance when I realized I was not the only audience member. Someone was trolling for lunch.
I continued to watch the alligator as I defended my spot on the observation deck from a couple of barn swallows who were busy building a nest next to where I was standing. That reminded me of hanging out on the patio at home!
As I prepared to leave, I heard a noise where the fish were and picked up my binoculars. What a sight I saw! The alligator had found something to nosh on and was chomping away. I’d never seen a gator eat a meal before, despite living in Gator Country much of my life (really wish you could hear my mom’s gator call). There was lots of stuff sticking out of its mouth, and I could not tell if it had caught a blue crab or a mullet that had been surrounded by reeds (a recent storm had really filled the water with reeds).
All that gator action made up for the fact that there weren’t all that many interesting birds out, since I was there around mid-day. I enjoyed the ones I did see, then graciously allowed poor Lee to go back to the condo, since he was distressingly hangry. Here are a few more bird and people and landscape pix!
We had a surprisingly good meal at the Mexican restaurant next to the condo building. The food was very fresh and different from Tex Mex. The salsa was obviously fresh, but not quite what we were used to. However, when I declared it to be gazpacho, I loved it.
We just chilled in the room the rest of the evening, so I made great knitting progress and caught up with HGTV.
Lee is driving home today, so that’s it for me traveling anywhere, unless I take an Uber to the nice shopping center one evening or a guest magically appears (it HAS happened before). I have plenty of work to do, have the beach and hot tubs and pools at my disposal, and there is always someone friendly downstairs. I’m good. I do miss my friends, family, and animals, though.
When I finally get a day off, I can cram a lot of fun into it, that’s for sure, and yesterday I even stepped outside my comfort zone successfully, more than once. I’m so proud.
One thing I’m happy with myself for doing is finding my own fun by myself. As Lee has gotten more and more into the Hermit Life, I’ve found myself slipping into it as well (and COVID helped form the habit of being solo). Since I wake up ridiculously early here, I usually have five hours or so to kill before Lee is able to do anything. I sit on the balcony, read, or knit, but I’m so used to getting up and doing a bunch of chores that I’ve taken to just leaving and finding stuff to do outside.
Admittedly, some of the stuff I do involves fruity drinks and beach chairs, but I wander around, take pictures, and talk to folks. I swear I’m turning into my dad with all this talking to folks stuff. Not very hermit-like.
When Lee was awake, he suggested we go take advantage of the free putt-putt golf we get as part of our stay. I think the hotel chain bought this sorta run-down course, since it’s right across from one of the properties and counts as an amenity. Here’s an admission. I had NEVER played putt-putt before, or any other golf-like activity.
A Chapter for My Memoirs
Backstory: In my horrible only year at Plantation Middle School, some person without much forethought had the great idea of having a bunch of young girls, many from backgrounds that didn’t include elitist sports like golf (back then, well-to-do white people played golf), learn the sport in physical education. Golf includes golf balls and golf clubs, both things that needed to be treated with respect. There were rules, like only swinging your club behind a certain line, not swinging without checking your surroundings, and not driving the ball while people were out retrieving their shots. Good rules. Who can guess what happened?
Yep. I had finally hit my ball far enough to get an extra point (a thing I needed because PE was my worst class) and was about to pick it up when WHAM, one of the little darlings in class swung her club onto my head. I was so focused on getting my extra point that I simply went back to the teacher to report my success. She asked me what was on my gym outfit. That would be blood. I had to go to the nurse’s office, which was hard to do when you had no idea where that was in the crazy building and you were dripping. I was so angry that I smeared blood on the exterior wall of the school, quite an act of rebellion for the rule-follower I was at the time.
The nurse washed me up and called my mom to come get me. Mom was in the middle of her nervous breakdown from having to move away from Gainesville, so she was not happy to have to drive down Sunrise Boulevard (she didn’t like four-lane roads) to come get me. She looked at the hole in my head and declared something like it was just a flesh wound and took me home with no doctor visit or anything. Mom was frugal and didn’t want to waste health care dollars on us kids when she needed so much (thus, we had no trips to the dentist until our teens, my brother’s lazy eye was not addressed until too late to fix it, etc.).
The results were that I had headaches for years and sharp pains if I moved a certain way. I have avoided golf entirely. I wasn’t the only one permanently damaged by middle school golf. Another classmate had a chunk of her chin removed by someone who didn’t check her surroundings, and as far as I know, still has a nasty scar. I believe that was the end of the golf program at Plantation Middle School.
Back to Put-Putt
Anyway, Lee likes golf and used to be really good at mini-golf, so I agreed to go. I’m so glad I did. It was great fun, and I was nowhere near as horrible at it as I feared I would be. In fact, I was even under par on one hole, and made par on a couple more. The first hole was pretty bad, since I had to figure out how hard to hit the ball to make it do what I wanted it to do, but after that, I found it most amusing to see where the ball would go and what it would do.
I declare that I would do it again, perhaps at a nicer course. But, we got a lot of laughs out of the outing and it was great to see Lee actually enjoying an activity on a trip.
Off to Calabash
We decided we wanted some good seafood, so we motored off to North Carolina (barely) to the beautiful little town of Calabash, where we’d had a great meal last year. Once again, I knitted a lot. I am trying to get that baby blanket finished before that baby is born. We tried the restaurant next door to the one where we ate last year, and were not disappointed.
I got a huge amount of food in my platter, unlike the small serving we had in Murrell’s Inlet a couple of days ago. And it was fried so beautifully that my grandmother would have approved (the great connoisseur of Florida seafood). The oysters were immense and the scallops delicate and tender. The shrimp were local (from right next door!) and the fish was glorious.
While the service was a little slow, I could not complain, since there was quite a show among the local bird population for me to enjoy. Grackles were mating and building nests, so they were in great form (and loud, being grackles).
The seagulls were also in squabbling mode, so there was lots of action. Plus, there were pelicans zooming around and catching fish. They are so beautiful to me.
After the meal, I went for a walk on the little boardwalk and boat docks, where I got to enjoy pelicans having some kind of bird party next to a party boat, which cracked me up (easily amused).
I also realized why all the birds are so dang happy right there in Calabash. The water was literally teeming with little fish. No shore bird could go hungry with all those fishies everywhere they looked!
While I was gone, Lee was paying the check, and since he was alone with our leftovers, the laughing gulls got bolder. He got a great shot of a laughing gull taking one of my shrimp.
Once we got home, I needed to burn off that fried food, so I walked on the boardwalk until I got all my steps in, then decided to enjoy an Old Fashioned and knit a table at the upstairs bar (I had been outside until a loud family arrived). A lady said I shouldn’t be sitting alone and invited me to the bar to sit with them. I ended up talking to them and another couple for a long time. Lee even came down for a while.
And in talking to the staff, I discovered that Kevin the bartender is also a history professor who specialized in my very own ancestors in Florida! His family is also from north Florida with deep roots there. Who would have guessed? This condo has the best staff, that’s for sure.
I ended up meeting another couple and stayed too long and had three drinks, so I was not at my best when I got home. Lee said I was cuddly, so I must have been out of my mind, ha ha. It was worth it, though. I truly enjoy hearing the stories of all the people I run into and finding our commonalities without ruining things by getting into politics or religion. Granted, anyone I meet here fits certain criteria or they wouldn’t be here. Hilton sure does check your credit scores and incomes. But I’ve met people from many places and backgrounds, and that’s what I like and have missed so much the past few years.
While I’m still primarily doing outdoor things (we’ve been eating on patios), at least I’m no longer scared to talk to people. I’m back to having a nice balance of being alone and in peace and interacting with others.
Once again, I woke up extra early and got to work by 6 am home time. I guess not having the dogs keeping me from sleeping soundly let’s me get enough in just 7 hours. Of course I still miss the dogs.
After a much more successful day of meetings, training , and spreadsheet analysis (with no more fire alarms), Lee and I went downstairs to go for a boat ride we were given as a bribe or thanks for going to yet another condo sales pitch.
We had a reasonably good time on the paddlewheel trip down the intracoastal waterway. It was a cute little boat, and we had what I thought was a good meal. There were ribs and some good chicken with rice.
I enjoyed looking at fancy houses and their landscaping. I was happy to see that many of the residents had veggie gardens.
Of course I kept an eye out for birds. There were cormorants, mallards, Canada geese, and swallows, who skimmed the water as they got bugs off the surface. It was sure fun to watch them.
There were just 40 people on the trip, but it was too many for poor Lee. Plus an Elvis impersonator sang karaoke for the entire trip. He wasn’t too bad, nor too loud. But I’m not big on an endless parade of country and “I Love America” songs. I did enjoy Purple Rain, which he sang for the nice woman with the Prince purse.
It was a good break for me. Of course I have to spend an hour listening to some upgrade pitch tomorrow. I’ll live. It’s a small price to pay to get a free boat ride. Did I mention the open bar?
Maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to write more deep stuff. Right now I just want to watch nature shows. First some nice musician drove a Harley to look at woods in Wisconsin, and now David Attenborough is telling us how cool eggs are. Yay. Nature. Here’s some more, plus evidence of humans.
I started reading about the universal theory of beauty, but didn’t get far enough to say anything wise about it. I was comforted to know there is such a theory, though.
Much of today I had my head buried in work. I do miss vacations, but Planview would have sent me to a mental health facility by now if I’d stayed.
When I was finished, I rewarded myself with some time in the hot tub (alone!), some splashing in the pool, and a mango daiquiri.
Then I enjoyed a quick beach walk at high tide, which let me see actual sea life and intact shells, a rarity here at the tourist beach. And the waves were great colors. Sea foam green is a real thing.
Lee and I went to the Murrell’s Inlet boardwalk for dinner at a seafood place. I was very pleased with my blood orange old fashioned I drank and the “crab stack” I ate. Crab, mango, avocado, cilantro oil and siracha (however you spell it) are all among my favorites.
We topped the meal off with a walk along the boardwalk, which features a goat island, oyster shells, and birds. Not bad for an area with like 20 restaurants in it.
The best part of the boardwalk I didn’t get a picture of, because we were enjoying it so much. There were these twinkles and tiny splashes. At first I thought it was something swimming under the water. But no, it was eensy fishies jumping together! Little sparkly fishies! We were charmed.
Today I got to have all the funs, to celebrate an actual day off, and have some emotional recharge. And of course I had to do some deep thinking. I’m on a roll with wonder and wondering.
You may remember that Lee forgot to pack any shirts for the trip. The t- shirts he got were fine. But. He got one long-sleeved shirt at Kohl’s when we stopped at one on the way, and it turned out to be weird and too big. So, he declared we would go to Tractor Supply and get more Lee-esque shirts. Why? It got chilly overnight!
Imagine my happiness when I saw that next to the store was a beautiful wooded area with a stream running through it. It was sort of like what I imagine in my mind when I think of a southern American woods. There were oaks, sweet gums, ash, and holly trees, with ferns and palmettos underneath. There were jack-in-the-pulpits and lizard’s tail. Vines included muscadine grape, poison ivy, and Virginia Creeper. I was in heaven. Plus I got to buy a windbreaker.
As if that wasn’t enough, we were actually in our way to our favorite spot, Brookgreen Gardens. It’s always great, but we lucked out this time. For one, the butterfly exhibit at the zoo has recently re-opened. We got to see some butterflies we’d never seen before. And the flowers weren’t bad, either.
While waiting in line, I met a fellow horse owner and traded photos, of course. But dang, look at these beauties! I don’t know what they are, though.
Of course, I had to get bird photos, too. I didn’t take many of the captive birds, but the ducks were so pretty I had to. At least I got some pretty wild birds, too.
I’ve saved the best for last. Just yesterday, a new exhibit opened. It’s sculpture by two married people, Babette Bloch and Marc Mellon.
Mellon has had his work at Texas A&M (to impress the locals) at the Bush Presidential Library. He also designed an official medal for President Obama. His main work has been statues of female athletes. He makes them look strong as well as beautiful. He also did a horse. I liked that.
My heart melted when I started looking at Bloch’s work. She started out in bronze, but then moved on to making art with laser-cut steel. It’s lots of flowers. As you know, I am fond of flowers.
I had two favorites. One is a phoenix. The base of the sculpture is based on Bloch’s face!
My second favorite was a wall with dozens of flowers in bowls with color behind them. Each bowl was someone’s family heirloom. It moved me to tears to see the old things become new art.
All her work was interesting and different from anything I ever saw. The burnished parts were mesmerizing. Here’s some more of her work. Lee just loved the dog, of course.
To top it all off, I went back in at the end of our visit, and I got to tell Bloch how much her work and the stories behind it moved me. That felt great. My heart is full. What a great day.
My Deep Thiughts
Being at Brookgreen and enjoying the art made me wonder something. Do humans always seek beauty? Have they always done so? Are there things that just naturally please humans?
I seem to remember that symmetry is often found beautiful, like in people’s faces. And there’s that golden ratio that’s supposedly pleasing.
Any thoughts? I’m going to do some research. I guess I shouldn’t take time off from work and chores. I start wondering.
Around May, the dominant wildflowers change from bluebonnets and paintbrushes to Indian blankets and Black-eyed Susans.
What else is blooming now? Here are a few familiar friends I was glad to see back again.
But the best new thing over in our world is an animal. Look who Sara saw shortly after I left her place this afternoon? And she had kits! exciting new life!
The chickens say this is why I need to lock them in each night, however. No foxes allowed in the henhouse.
Good night from the Hermits’ Rest, where we spent a lovely evening watching ducks and tiny birds flying in formation. I hope they were eating all the swarming termites…that’s another story. Still. A good life.
I always look forward to the snapping turtle mating season, when they wander around looking for friends or places to lay eggs or something. This morning I had my camera out in case the cat showed up. A movement caught my eye, and at first I thought it was an armadillo. But nope, it was this traveler.
We see these often, as readers are aware, but this was a good chance to get nice pictures, since I’d caused my buddy to stop ambling.
I’d wanted a good rear view of a common snapping turtle, so this gave me a great opportunity. Thanks for holding still, pal.
We have other visitors. I did finally get a blurry picture of the cat who’s hanging around here.
Barn swallows are the loudest visitors. We love them and their nests on our patios anyway. They do eat bugs!
And here’s a couple I found while looking for new flowers.