Now I’m Happy, Thanks to Pinkney Island

I finally got to go on a hike. It rained all morning, but at some point in the afternoon it cleared up. Hooray, hooray. Off we went to a big ole nature preserve called Pinkney Island National Wildlife Refuge. I hadn’t gotten to go there before, so I was pretty excited. There’s nothing I like better than a swampy and damp woodland and marsh combo. Ooh boy. Nature and all its smells and colors. This place looks like my dreams.

My idea of fun

This beautiful place is a breeding spot for marsh birds, and we did get to enjoy seeing lots of birds at the Ibis pond, including, of all things, some white ibis! There were many fun birds swimming around there, including our friends the great heron and great white egret. There were also snowy egrets, gallinules, and coots, which were all fun to watch. And all the sounds were like being in a jungle movie. We loved it.

After that, Lee rested while I kept walking down a long path where I was completely alone with the woods. Suna Heaven. I saw so many beautiful trees, including some huge oaks, pines, and the biggest sweetgum tree I’ve ever seen. It was tree world, full of fungus, lichen, decay, and dank dampness. Ah.

There were also at least two armadillos that just totally ignored me as they busily rooted in the leaves, a lot of annoyed squirrels, and a flock of American robins. There was also a precious ruby-crowned kinglet we watched take a bath in a puddle, but I enjoyed it too much to get a picture. It was glorious! I was so happy.

But I did have to come back and find my husband, after walking nearly five miles. Even my fancy shoes were beginning to let my feet hurt, anyway.

Found him!

I enjoy walking with Lee, because I’m free to stop and take lots of pictures while he takes his time. It works for us. I took a lot of pictures of the marsh, the shore, the trees ranging from tiny to immense, and all the life that feels safe on an uninhabited island. Well, unless there’s a hurricane or anything.

We topped the trip off with a meal at an overly fancy restaurant (Nunzio’s, for Rae who wants restaurant recommendations) where you have to have reservations even at 5 pm and most of the cars in the lot were Porsches and Mercedes. Still, the halibut was perfect, and the tomato salad had the ripest, tastiest tomatoes I’ve had in ages.

I just need one day like this per vacation, so I guess I can sit around the rest of the time I’m in South Carolina. Ha ha.

Fogged in, Mostly

It’s not like me to go on one of my trips and not post daily nature images. But, well, it’s not been overly nature-ful the last few days, AND I had a big workload. However, I’m incredibly glad I’m in South Carolina, because there has been the worst ice storm anyone can remember back in Milam County. My Facebook feed has been a constant stream of photos of fallen trees, downed limbs, dangerous attack icicles, and badly damaged buildings. Friends reported that it sounded like being in a war zone with all the cracking and crashing. It’s sad, sad, sad. I may not recognize the town when I get back.

I hope all the woodland creatures are safe!

The Hermits’ Rest is okay, just very muddy, from what I’m told. All the animals are fed and warm, though I know they’ll be happy to have some warmer weather. Anyway…

Will it get damp enough for ferns to start growing out of the buildings at home?

Here, it’s just been foggy. It’s been really foggy! We woke up yesterday and it looked like someone had put white paper over the windows. We often can’t see the edge of the ocean, and there’s no horizon whatsoever.

Sometimes the fog looked sorta artsy

Now, it’s not been all bad. I’ve enjoyed some nice beach walks, sunsets, and the usual birds. The water last night turned a color I’d never seen before, a steely purple. One of my old friends called it steel bluewinkle.

Wow, blew my mind.

Yesterday, when the sun finally came out, Lee and I had a late lunch at my favorite restaurant here, Hudson’s. It’s a really cool place with such fresh seafood – they have their own boats and everything. They also catch their own oysters. I just had to have some of the cluster oysters that Anita and I enjoyed last time I was on Hiton Head.

A few oysters. I didn’t waste any time on those crackers.

Lee’s food looked just fine, but I was in heaven. I ate every single oyster, from the little bitty ones to the giant and juicy ones. It made the fact that I had to go back and work until 9 pm much more bearable.

Today I did some of my work in the business area at the main building, because the dining chairs here are not comfortable for long stretches. It was so comfy and quiet! I got lots done!

Nice view to work with.

Once I got to a stopping place, we went to a town I’m fond of, just over the bridge, Bluffton. It’s where I got some art that I love last time I was down here (I still follow the artist, Kelley Luikey at Naturemuseimagery.com), so I was happy to go back to the art galleries there again. We also visited a recently restored house that had been owned by a formerly enslaved man who did well for himself. The house is in such a beautiful spot, and the information on the signs told all about how people lived during his life. The house was right next to a working oyster company with a genuine oyster boat. I just have to say this little town is beautiful.

We ate a quick lunch at a sub shop that Lee enjoyed way more than our fancy meals. Actually I had fun, too, because the workers were hilarious. They kidded each other and laughed the whole time we were there. It’s nice to see people enjoy what they are doing. (I enjoyed taking all these beachy pictures.)

Speaking of work, there was more of that when I got home. It’s been kind of fun taking a couple of hours to be a tourist in the middle of the day, then working a bit later than usual. My favorite part is when I rest my eyes to look out on the balcony. Just at sunset, I saw something moving in the little wooded area to the left of our balcony. It was a large buck white-tailed deer. He was way bigger than the ones at home, with a fresh set of fuzzy antlers. He slowly lowered himself to the ground and took a rest. He was nicely surrounded by brush, so he must have felt safe and cozy. That makes it worth dealing with all the fog.

Birders Are Great, So Are Birds

Today it was certainly warmer here in Hilton Head than it was back at the Hermits’ Rest. Please be thinking of my friends, family, and animals tonight. I never like it when there’s a winter storm warning, but I know the animals are all protected!

Stormy weather approaches.

I enjoyed looking at large groups of ducks out in the ocean, which to me looked like hooded mergansers. They were so far out, though, that I couldn’t quite tell what they were. It was frustrating, but they and the dolphins were fun to watch. More on the ducks later.

My best photo of the ducks. What quality!

After work, Lee and I went to what passes for a town center here, and I got a couple of hats, including one that makes me look a lot like I live on Gilligan’s island. But the pink lining is oh-so-flattering.

We had an early supper at our favorite Greek restaurant, It’s Greek to Me. I had absolutely fantastic Mediterranean style cod and Lee had lamb, which he didn’t like at first, but warmed up to. I sure like the quality of food at this place!

When we got back, I headed out for a sunset beach walk, which is my favorite activity here. It was cloudy, but there was a beautiful pink and pale blue light that turned the water the color usually called seafoam green.

I even found some actual seafoam, and interesting patterns of what appears to be pollen deposited at the highest point of the tide. Elm trees are already in bloom here, so my guess is they have something to do with the formations.

I enjoyed watching seagulls at the water’s edge. They would go to the wettest part of the sand and stomp their little feet, stirring up whatever little creatures they wanted to eat. I eventually took a little movie of them. Even lowly seagulls can be fun to watch!

Dance of the Gulls

On my way back I kept stopping to look at the ducks. I saw a man with a big camera up by the dunes. Eventually he walked over and asked me if I thought those were hooded mergansers. I said I saw white on them and they had what appeared to be large heads.

The man then shared with me that they are often spotted here in big groups (rafts), but that there are other birds that they could be. He asked what else I saw, which was great, because he said that the osprey I saw is “the” osprey of this beach, and that the yellow-rumped warblers are everywhere right now, so it’s no wonder I kept seeing them.

Soon a young-ish woman (younger than the man and me) came up and asked about the ducks. We embarked on a wonderful conversation about what birds we’d seen, what apps we use, and what we’d like to see here (the man lives here, lucky dude). The woman suggested the birds might be scaups (there are two kinds here). At last, the man picked up the fancy camera and took a few pictures, after which his battery died, but not before we got to see an image. They were scaups! The white I saw was the body of these lovely water birds, which do have large heads. I should have guessed the birds were scaups, because I could tell they sit lower in the water than ducks.

photo by taarnersuaq on iNaturalist. The top bird is not a scaup. It’s a coot. A cute coot.

Just as we finished talking about terns and I was about to leave, a large bird swooped by right above the water. I said, whoa, that thing could be a skimmer! The man said it was! Lucky for us, it came back, and I got to see this fascinating bird up close. They are relatives of gulls that feed by flying barely above the water with their mouths open and the bottom jaw in the water. I got a great view of it, then got a not-so-great photo next time it considerately passed.

You can almost see its mouth.
Charles J. Sharp took this picture on Wikipedia. What a cool bird!

Wow. That’s enough birding for one day! I just enjoyed the heck out of all the birds I saw and felt so lucky to run into such generous fellow birders. I love how much information bird lovers share with each other. They are the kind of people who restore my faith in humanity.

Rainy Day and Condo Stuff

Today was a bit rainy and cloudy, but I am not complaining, since the weather looks much worse at home.

In the morning, the clouds were rolling in.

It was a really good bird watching day, though, since I have a balcony and binoculars. The coolest birds I saw were ducks. I’m pretty sure they were hooded mergansers, which do occasionally hang out in the ocean, according to Merlin Bird ID. I watched groups of 5-10 swimming fast and diving hard. There were also cormorants in the mix. The most fun I had, though, was watching a poor pelican who simply could not get rid of a gull that kept following it. They flew together, dove together, swam together and never separated.

I’ll say, though, that seeing dolphins right out the window is always a highlight of my day. I always feel my heart skip a beat when I spot them.

And I did my nails in Valentine colors. Whee.

The lowlight, as is the case with all the condo visits, is the sales pitch we inevitably have to attend unless Lee isn’t with me. They always have something new to sell you. We weren’t interested, so we played good cop/bad cop, with Lee not needing to act much as the aggressively negative person, and me trying to get my questions answered, which takes the salesperson off their desired conversational trajectory. This all went fine, our salesperson was not a creep, and we didn’t buy more condo days (I have enough now).

What I did enjoy was listening in on the sales pitches used on other families. They sure do tailor them to your perceived weaknesses…err…interests. Our guy was saying what a bad buy condos in Myrtle Beach are and what a good buy Hilton Head is (which I can see, since HH has very few condos and MB is crowded with them). The guy one group over was telling these people they didn’t need this boring area and should go to more lively MB. Another one was begging the people to just sign up for anything, even a week a year.

Condos don’t make sense for most people. I like the ones we have, since I can go work in different places and feel safe. If I were younger, I’d travel differently. At least I get to get out of Texas every so often and see Spanish moss and marshes.

Typical Hilton Head scene.

Anyway, do what works for you. I’m also looking forward to some shorter, more close-to-home RV trips. I didn’t get to travel much when young. Now’s the time, while I’m still mobile and have mental health.

I do love how lush and green this place is

After the condo meeting, we went to a restaurant on Broad Creek, which is very broad, as a matter of fact. My crabcakes were delicious, and Lee didn’t like his seafood omelet. That’s how our meals usually go. I’m a good menu-item picker. But, Lee enjoyed the guy providing the musical entertainment, who was a pleasant singer and a very good guitar player. I enjoyed his solos very much; he played a lot like my friend, Jeff, who I listened to a LOT at one point in my life.

Somewhat scenic location

Since I couldn’t do a lot of nature walking, I crocheted a lot (I am not sure this thing is working out, but I keep going), and watched football. I have a book by a friend to read, too. I’m not really fond of reading on the computer or phone, but it’s not in print yet. I could use a nice mystery, and I’ve sure been hearing a lot about this book!

Hope you all are handling whatever is challenging you. The weather’s bad in lots of the US, and there’s always something going on with most of us. I care!

A Day of Rest

No one was in a great mood much of today so I didn’t even try to do any activities. The only reason we left the condos was to get groceries in the world’s smallest and perhaps most expensive Publix supermarket. That’s ok. I still liked it, because my mom shopped at Publix when I was a wee lass.

I like how this place has lots of trees and birds. We are the top right unit.

It was a bit chilly, but warm enough to sit on the balcony and crochet long enough to realize I needed sunscreen on. I enjoyed lots of singing birds and chatty crows, plus I watched pelicans diving and an osprey hunting.

It doesn’t look like much yet. It’s another curtain or a tablecloth.

There wasn’t much reason to leave here, since I got a good lunch at the cafe along with a latte spiked with Bailey’s (which may explain the nap I took later). And it’s so pretty. Hilton Head is just so green and natural.

I did venture out on a Long Beach walk. I enjoyed looking at the patterns the tidal movement makes on the sand, saw a few dead horseshoe crabs and one dead stingray. Mostly I saw shorebirds, though, such as gulls, terns, sanderlings, and willets.

This time of year, dogs are allowed on the beaches here. I got to get my dog fix just by looking out the windows, but walking with them is even more fun. They really have a good time!

A happy fellow

We relaxed in the evening and watched two movies, which we don’t get to do often at home. The first one was an extra violent but spiritually interesting one about a Viking. I had to look away a lot. The other was Cruella, which was enjoyable.

Everyone is doing better now! Naps helped.

Home and Away Are Both Moist

I started today very early with a 6 am work question. That’s all right, because that meant I got to see a beautiful sunrise.

Fiery and frosty morning

It was cold, but so beautiful that I just had to enjoy the crispness. During my early meeting, it sounded like rain. But there wasn’t a cloud in the sky! That mystery was solved when I got outside to feed the chickens and saw just how thick the frost was on the ground.

Nature’s art

The “rain” was frost melting quickly as the sun hit our metal roof. Lee said there was .02” of precipitation in the rain gauge!

As I worked my butt off to get all my stuff done, the dog alarm went off. There was a big truck in the driveway. Oh yeah. I knew it was coming.

Note lack of frost

Today was finally the day the garage apartment and pool house would get their blown-in insulation! That will sure help the occupant stay warmer the rest of the winter.

Clean garage awaiting insulation.

The guys were all excited to do the work, but they had some equipment issues and will be back tomorrow. I’m the meantime, here are before pictures.

I won’t get to see the work, though, because I’m no longer home; I’m away. Yep. Lee and I are road tripping again. We’re going back to Hilton Head, so I can see camellias. I like working with an ocean view, as you know.

Proof we crossed the Mississippi.

The most striking thing about the drive was how wet it was. That big rain we had on Tuesday was on our route with a vengeance. There had been much bad weather and flooding.

It’s pretty barren in a hardwood forest this time of year, but I enjoyed possumhaw holly along the roadside. It provides that “pop” of color any neutral setting needs.

It was not easy to photograph this stuff from a moving car.

Honestly, this was not our most exciting drive ever, since we’re zipping along to get there tomorrow. One highlight was Buffalo, Texas, where we got to see a bored hawk by the Taco Bell. The other highlight was in Calhoun, Louisiana, home of the small but mighty CB Superstore. You just don’t see many CB stores of any sort these days.

I managed to get work done in the car and once we got to our hotel in scenic Meridian, Mississippi, so I declare today a success. I hope it dries out tomorrow and that the insulation machine perks up.

Thursday in Pictures

Almost done! Black finishing border next.
Young pond slider checking to see if I’ve left yet.
Explorers
Sparrows inspecting my dressage markers.
I bothered a huge fire ant colony by moving an upside down feed tub.
What a beauty.
Pollination process
Flies are also pollinators.
Sunset
Start of the final edge
He makes everything good.

This week has exhausted me. I will be more wordy tomorrow, maybe.

Happiness Is Birds and Beasts

This is an interesting part of my life. Outside of me, things are challenging. Inside of me, I’m feeling better than I ever have. I wish I’d learned to focus on what I can influence and let other stuff go much earlier in life. But I think only experience teaches us how important this is and helps us do it.

Vlassic is a great role model. Really lives in the moment!

I had a lovely day. Birds made me so happy, just watching them. I watched the resident great blue heron looking for food in the new pond and wondered if there are fish in there now.

Then I just watched our sparrows traveling from tree to tree, and was really impressed at how many bugs a mockingbird got while I was getting the mail. That bird was busy, and it seemed very pleased with itself.

The beast that made my day happy was Apache. We had quite a productive day. We’ve been working on cantering after jumping and in the round pen. He’s really improved since our last lesson. He was a jumping fiend today and did his cantering exercise in the round pen the best he’s done so far. He has figured out what I want him to do, and he actually seems proud of himself.

I’ve got skills.

And we had a fun ride, too, with improved skills and encouraging calmness when we went out to ride around. Things that used to be hard are getting easier, and his demeanor is so much calmer. Y’all, I keep saying this, but I’m still blown away at how much better things are getting between us. We’re a team!

See how calm I am. I’m tired from all that cantering.

I know I’m feeling good when I get goofy. For the past few days I’ve been doing arts and crafts at the horse pens. I’m making a decorative weaving with the strings that hold hay bales together. Well, that’s re-using a waste product, right?

So far, it’s mostly warp.

I’ll need more string soon, but that’s okay, since they need more hay.

Sure, some grass is here, but it’s winter, Mom!

You know, having a calm and peaceful part of my life took a lot of work. So I’m going to enjoy the heck out of it.

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.

The Mobile Office Gets Mobile

I may have mentioned that Lee got the mobile office he’d been saving up for a few weeks ago. He wanted something that could pull a horse trailer and let him work comfortably. That proved really difficult!

It’s so nice to be somewhere quiet.

After months of trying to find a custom van, he changed tactics. We both missed traveling with our two previous RVs, so Lee looked at them as potential mobile offices you could sort of live in and pull a trailer. I sure heard a lot of conversations about various formats and types. Lee wanted one with a big truck chassis, because they are reliable.

One like this

Lee actually found a low mileage used vehicle that was very nice and budget friendly (for a behemoth). And so now I can work anywhere I want to, I guess. More importantly, Lee can, too. Well, anywhere this thing can park and get cell reception.

Nice campsite.

Anyway, enough about the conveyance, let’s talk about travel. We’d wanted to try the mobile office out this weekend, but I needed to do horses yesterday.

So, we left for Lake Somerville State Park today. It was a lovely, short drive, perfect for getting used to the squeaking and rattling of a building on wheels. The noise is a small trade off for the fun of looking out of that big windshield at the world. I’d missed that. Lee has missed driving a big truck, and I truly loved seeing how happy he was driving.

I, on the other hand, got my happiness once we arrived. A Sunday in winter is not overly popular at a state park, so we can’t see any other groups and all we hear are birds (and planes flying over). That’s so rare and precious.

So private

I enjoyed wandering around the lake and looking at birds and signs of aquatic life. I love winter, when you can see through the trees. Seeing the yellow bellied sapsucker was cool. And from the sound of it, every tree had a woodpecker this afternoon. This made me so happy.

Yep. We had a lovely and EXTRA peaceful afternoon and evening, with few problems other than realizing we only had ONE fork for eating dinner! I enjoyed using the little oven, which is a combination microwave and convection oven. That saves space for the large fridge.

Plus fake fireplace. Classy.

We will be here through Tuesday. I’ll be able to work just fine, as there’s 5G out here! And Lee can work without me bothering him with my endless Zoom meetings, because I can shut the door to my office, AKA the bedroom.

I think it will be fun to work from various spots closer to home in the future. I didn’t think another RV was in the future, but this one seems like it will make my hermit husband happy and let me spend some quiet time close enough home that I’ll be able to keep up with my ranch chores and precious horses.

I’m happy at the possibility. I even have a Senior state park pass!

And maybe we can eventually bring a dog. On the other hand, there’s no barking here!

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