It’s the time of year when the lush grass of spring becomes the forage of autumn. Just yesterday we were riding the horses through the tall grass, up past Fiona’s belly. Today it looks like this:
While my friends and I were out frolicking in Temple and eating great food (Megg’s), the Vrazels had baled a lot of silage. Silage is hay that ferments a bit. Cattle love it.
They did our whole meadow, which delighted the dogs. They can run without having to bound like deer, which they cannot do amid all those wildflowers in front of the house.
The other residents who love baling season are the raptors. When I was driving back from horse riding, the air and ground were both full of hawks. I counted eight red-tails as well as the harrier. I saw a hawk leap in the air and land on a creature. Boom.
I hope there weren’t too many nests of the local sparrows destroyed. I remember finding one last year, but haven’t seen any today. I also worry about turtles. Spice nearly stepped on one yesterday!
I guess that’s how it goes here in ranching land. Life and death.
I must say that the baling machine is cool. It picks up a round hay bale, then spins it round and round as it wraps it in plastic. And that’s a life and death thing, too.
Where does that plastic end up? Lots of it’s in landfills. Even organic farms use the stuff. I just hope the advantages of silage over hay are worth the cost.
But wait, nowadays hay tends to be baled in netting, not with wire. That’s a mess, too. I’ll have to look into this more.
Fair warning: the reason I wrote nothing in any of my blogs yesterday is that even when I was resting I was doing stuff! Since I’m not at the computer yet, I’ll just summarize and write more later.
Friday was spent driving all over the county with Lee and Mandi looking for a good used car for her, and seeing if we could find a replacement for our huge diesel truck that we could actually use around Cameron.
We found that I like a Chevy Traverse and Lee likes Suburbans, which are still too giant for me. Unfortunately Lee couldn’t get the trade-in he wanted on the truck, so we walked away. But al least I realized that a smaller SUV was okay for me and at least some Chevy vehicles aren’t plasticky.
The drive was worth it, though, because the countryside on the back road to Rockdale was gorgeous.
As I was leaving to go to my Cameron office this morning, I heard a strange bird call. It didn’t sound like anything I’d ever heard, so I looked up to see what new bird was on the property. All I could see was a crow.
And that crow was acting mighty strange. It was making this weird noise, that was not the usual “caw” at all, and flying round and round the large black willow tree in our arroyo. I noticed another crow, doing the same thing.
So, I drove down the driveway to the gate. While I waited for the gate to open, I realized there were THREE rather upset crows, and they were circling because a red-tailed hawk was sitting on a branch of the tree, all huddled down. She was huddled down, because the crows were dive-bombing her over and over.
Of course, just as I got my camera out, she had enough of the torture and flew off. I inspected the tree as I drove off, and for the life of me I didn’t see any reason why the crows would have been so pissed off at the hawk. I know what a crow’s nest looks like, and there was not one on top of that tree (poor choice for a nest, the way willow branches fall off so easily). Maybe there was some other bird nest up there that the crows wanted to steal eggs from? I’ll look more closely when I get home.
I don’t cry much anymore. I used to cry multiple times a day, but I hadn’t in months, until yesterday. I thought the chickens were acting a bit off, and when I walked into the coop, I saw why.
There lay one of the older black hens, with our dear rooster, Buckbeak, lying at her side. I screamed, “Nooo!” as if that would fix things. It never does.
I was pretty stoic when all the other roosters and so many hens were attacked and killed over the winter. This one was different, since I Buckbeak was one of the oldest chickens in the flock, and I had known him since right after he hatched, around three years ago. He outlived all the other roosters, and was always there, protecting his “ladies.” Or trying to make more chickens with them. Ahem.
Once the weather settled down a bit yesterday, the local insect-eating birds had a feast (including my chickens). There were a couple of phoebes sitting on our fence wires and zipping down to pluck tasty morsels, but the most excited birds had to be our barn swallows, who view our home as a very nice barn to live on.
We discovered a new nest right above the door the dogs use to go in and out. They are a poly family, I guess, with an extra member to help feed the little ones once they hatch. Here are two of them looking displeased at me while the third one was in the nest thinking about pooping on me, no doubt. Because they are so close to the dog door, their chattering and chirping is very easy to hear in the family room. Luckily we like our noisy neighbors.
Getting back to Austin
This morning I drove back to Austin later than usual, so I’d be sure to be able to see any flooded spots along the road. I saw a lot of places that obviously were road closure spots over the weekend, judging by the debris patterns.
The saddest thing, though, was driving by the old building in San Gabriel that held the hamlet’s only “business,” two soda machines. It was surrounded by red tape declaring it a danger. The darned tornadoes got it. Here’s an article.
Today is another day
Happily, today turned out to be beautiful. Anita and I enjoyed looking at some of the native plants and insects we pass by on our walks. Two were right outside our house, next to a steep rocky slope.
No matter how hard the landscapers try, they can’t get rid of all the beautiful plants that were here before the development was here. Case in point is the cedar sage you see here. It’s native habitat is cedar brakes on caliche, where the ashe junipers are located. They like the rocky hillsides. Yep, these beautiful flowers cover the rocks our house sits on, right under the native trees that got to stay when the neighborhood was built (now they qualify as “heritage” cedars, so allergic people can’t cut them down).
Nearby were these lovely little plants with tiny pink blossoms. There are many tiny plants with pink blossoms this time of year, but these looked different from all the others I’ve been finding. Sure enough, they are slender hedeoma (Hedeoma acinoides). There is not much about them in iNaturalist, but a quick check of their habitat shows it’s mainly the middle of Texas. It’s a local! Further checks found that their common name is slender false pennyroyal. I learned something new!
At the mailbox, my housemate, Anita, started jumping around, and I saw that there was a large winged insect flying and landing, which caused that reaction. I got everything nice and calm so I could photograph it.
It appears to be a crane fly, but I’m not sure which one it is. It could be Tipula tricolor or Tipula furca, juding by the wings. I assume someone on iNaturalist will set me straight. I thought it was nice of the crane fly to hold still so I could get such a good picture!
Spring is the time when things get moving around. We’ve had mouse visitors at the ranch house, but the dogs took care of that.
The Hermit Haus office also got a visitor yesterday. Our neice, Kathleen, was there working when, to her surprise a little wriggly fellow crossed the floor. Luckily she’s a farm gal (she lives on our farm in Yorktown where Lee’s dad used to live).
According to her, it took a while, but she got the little fellow to exit the building, and he or she quickly beat a retreat down the drain outside the door. We’ve been checking for our neighbor since then, but there have been no further signs.
And those ducks
I continue to get a lot of joy from the whistling ducks. This morning, three of them were sitting on top of our house across the street. It just seems weird to see ducks up high like that.
Of course, I scared them off before I could get a closer picture. But they made that hilarious whistlig duck noise, so it’s okay!
Hope your Friday is or was a good one. At least it’s no longer cold here. Monday started off in the 30s, and on Thursday it was well over 90! Texas weather is something else!
Our Austin house is minutes away from Bull Creek District Park and Greenbelt, a popular recreation destination and one of Austin’s most charming assets. It’s sad that Anita and I haven’t made our way over there after living in the Bobcat Lair for over a year. Today I was working from home and needed a break, so we grabbed my son and his partner, had some delicious barbecue at the County Line. There we enjoyed all the turtles and the massive carp hanging around wanting to be fed.
Then headed over to check out the greenbelt. This was sort of a reconnaissance visit, since we knew we would not have time to go on a long walk or explore much, but we had plenty of fun.
There are beautiful oaks here that you know were here all along, not planted by someone.
What a joy it was to explore the quiet creek and riparian area in peace and quiet. This place can be quite busy, but we shared it only with a mother and her two sons, who reminded me of myself twenty-something years ago. The littlest one was buck naked and running around with a stick, poking it into chunks of algae and laughing in the way only a little kid with all the time in the world, cold water, and a stick can laugh.