Bullfrog Population Explosion

This weekend a lot of dirt was moved over at the Hermits’ Rest. We are making the little new pond bigger, since it will eventually be used for something good, I’m told. Now that the rains have slowed down, water is receding and it’s easier to dig. (About five minutes after I typed that, a rainstorm came through, but since it’s July, I doubt there will be much accumulation.)

As the dirt movement was going on, I thought it would be a good idea to re-check what’s in there.

I found two young turtles swimming around. And some dragonflies. Mostly, though, I saw members of the frog family.

A green pond and frogs.
The turtles are up near the top right. I think. But in this photo there are actually 14 frogs, at least. Some are in the water and some are on the shore.
Not one of the biggest ones, but you get the idea.

First I saw big ole bullfrogs sitting and floating. Then, as I looked harder, there were more and more.

At one point, I saw at least 14 of the frogs, some adults and others still young. Maybe you can see them in the photo at top, but you would really have to zoom in.

Another little one.

I guess we had a bumper crop of baby bullfrogs (I originally thought they were green frogs, but got corrected on iNaturalist).

Then, something moved. It was one of the Gulf coast toads we have lots of around the house. I know where that one came from, because Chris had just disturbed the home of a pair of them when fixing a death-trap hole near our water cutoff. They hopped on over to the pond in a huff. At least we didn’t hurt our buddies.

Hi. You messed with my house.

As I was enjoying how gigantic the toad was, my eye was drawn to what looked to be a very pretty rock, very close to the toad.

That was no rock, it was a leopard frog! So beautiful! I got all excited and tried to get some good photos, but didn’t want to scare it off. It doesn’t help that when it’s really sunny and my glasses turn dark, I can’t see the phone screen very well. Poo.

Leopard frog! Best photo I could get.

In any case, I’d never seen a leopard frog here, so that’s a new one to add to my list. That made my naturalist day!

Mr. Toad and Mr Frog.

Pretty soon, Penney dove in to take a little swim, and a great deal of splashing and “eep” noises ensued. That was the end of my fun with frogs and toads.

Just in Time (Aprés le déluge)

It’s a-floodin’ outside, so I’ll blog some. Yesterday, Chris and I left our respective work a little early (even though my coworkers really wanted me to keep going and I stayed on calls until long after I got back to the ranch), because Mary was bringing a portable horse pen and some jumps that Sara and I bought from her. No, I do not expect Apache will jump over anything.

[Pretend I wasn’t too hot to take a picture and that you see some green metal and wood.]

After the heavy lifting on that project was over (we had enough help that it went fast) Chris had time to work on ranch projects. He hauled out the backhoe and worked to finish the mini detention pond with ditch that we’ve been working on for a while.

Driving the big equipment.

Kathleen, the dogs, and I enjoyed watching it, very much. He made the pond bigger, tapering it toward the road. That pissed off a lot of 🐸 frogs. We enjoyed watching them.

The dogs went crazy running around in the dirt and swimming in the pond. We laughed a lot.

Penney swims.

Then came the fun part. Chris made a ditch that will take the water from this pond to the pond by our driveway. That solves a drainage issue we had. It was also great dog fun.

Carlton is trying to look innocent.

Penney decided to “help” with the digging and vigorously applied herself to widening a spot.

I’m helping.

As he went further, everyone supervised. I didn’t get any after pictures, but I’ll say it ended up smooth and nice.

Penney, Kathleen, Gracie and Carlton performing quality control.

Testing It Out

Chris has great timing. Last night a HUGE storm came through, so the new drainage got a workout. Actually, it’s still getting it, which is why my photos are through the window.

You can sorta see the ditch running along the driveway.

We are pleased to see water heading to the front pond in an orderly fashion. It’s working!!

Lots of puddles out there.

All the dirt piled along the side of the pond is slated for another project. Kathleen and I want to plant a palm tree 🌴 or put native plants around the finished pond, with a bench for watching our animals. I’ll have an interesting yard some day!

I’ll get more pictures soon.

Book Report: Leave Only Footprints

Tell ya what, this sheltering in place stuff has really helped me get a lot more books read. Last night I finished the latest of my series of “hot off the presses” books (the next few will be older books). Today’s recommended reading is Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey through Every National Park, by Conor Knighton. When I saw this one in “new books,” it looked just right for a nature-lover like me, so I had to get it.

Look at those big trees!

The book is written by Conor Knighton, who wrote it about a year-long contract he got from CBS television to visit all the US National Parks and report back. He had nothing to lose, thanks to just going through a bad breakup, so off he went, accompanied often by a Mexican-born photojournalist, Efrain Robles, whose perspective is often heard in the book as well.

Knighton was in his 30s during the journey, and I found it refreshing and a little off-putting at the same time to hear about what he saw from the perspective of a younger writer. I realized at some point that nearly all the nature books I’ve been reading have been by people at the ends of their careers who are sharing their vast knowledge of their topics. Here I got the perspective of someone looking at the National Parks with the fresh eyes of someone out to gain that knowledge. I really appreciate getting the chance to learn how Knighton and Robles experienced the parks, and to realize how different their experiences are from mine (there is so much about finding dates on Tinder in the book, which I realize I know nothing about).

There are some things about the book that you’d either like or get irritated by. One is how he presents the parks. Rather than go through his journey in the order he saw them, Knighton groups his encounters by themes. Thus, in one chapter he might talk about a park he visited in the summer and one he saw in the winter, or parks miles and miles away. I would have liked the organization better if his transitions weren’t so sudden. I also found some of the transitions somewhat awkward, like the editor told him he needed to put a transition sentence HERE and he did. On the other hand, talking about parks with volcanoes all at the same time makes sense, as do a lot of the other groupings.

There are photos from almost all the parks Knighton visited. It’s a nice variety of scenery and people pictures.

Another thing I didn’t like was that for some of the parks I really didn’t get much of a sense about what they were like. Occasionally we get more of “how Conor was feeling that day” than what the park was like. But, the poor guy was going through a lot, so I don’t blame him for reflecting.

Some of the most interesting parts of the book were the encounters with Park Rangers, people in the towns near (or in) parks, and people from so many different cultures that are part of the greater US. I loved learning about the people in Alaska, New Guinea, the Virgin Islands, etc., as well as the perspective of black park employees and full-time RV-ers. I guess I’m a sucker for learning about what makes people tick, and I got a lot of new information in Leave Only Footprints.

Of course, Knighton also shares the history of the National Park movement and those who inspired it. You can’t help but enjoy a good John Muir quote or two.

If you are itching to go somewhere, anywhere, right about now, you’ll get a lot of vicarious travel out of this book, and you’re guaranteed to learn a great deal about the amazing variety of landscapes and seascapes in the USA. You’ll want to go visit a park as soon as you can…and the good news is that many other countries also are a part of the National Park movement, so you can go wherever you live!

Anyone want to share their favorite National Park experiences? I’d like to hear them. I haven’t been to many, but I was glad to hear that White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, which I have visited more than once, became a National Park in 2019!

Rejoice! We Survived the Night. Today Is Glorious.

Yeah, it was a long night here. We are rejoicing to be here and making Easter dinner. And rejoice is, predictably, the final UU Lent word.

It started around 9 pm, when Chris and Kathleen were sitting on the front porch with the dogs. Carlton and Penney suddenly took off. There were barks, then a yelp, and they came back. Penney was rolling around. She’d been skunked.

We are faster than a waddling skunk.

Then everyone ran around trying to keep her off the furniture. Kathleen bathed her in ketchup, which was really nice of her. Carlton only stank a little. He’s so fast he can avoid skunk spray.

Continue reading “Rejoice! We Survived the Night. Today Is Glorious.”

Rainy Day? OK!

Today’s UU Lent word is rain. Let’s see if it’s as unpopular as “reach” was (yesterday was my lowest number of blog visitors in a LONG time). It’s all good, though, that’s the least of my worried! As for rain…

Rainy morning this morning in a strangely empty Round Rock, Texas. Photo by Amy Mathews-Muttwill, whose husband Thomas has a birthday today, so she was going to get donuts.

It’s been raining a lot for the past month or so. Here in the middle of Texas, we hope that happens every spring, so the tanks (ponds) fill up and the creeks flow for a while. The trees get their yearly long drink of water, and everything gets ready for two or three months of no rain come summer.

I spotted all these raindrops yesterday. I like them as much as “old greenbeans” (who is really Elaine) does.

Last year was the wettest year Lee ever recorded in our gauge, until the rain totally stopped for quite a while. We’ve learned to enjoy the intense green and all the wildflowers in March and April, then to have a different kind of enjoyment as it gets all brown and crispy later.

When it rains this much, I’m okay with it stopping. This is Walker’s Creek by the ranch doing its imitation of a river, April 11 2018 (the day I started this blog). Waterfront living at its finest.

I Like Rain

Lee and I used to always say, “I like rain,” to each other, after we said it at the same time early in our courtship. It was a bonding moment. I have one of those personalities that would be fine living in a damp environment, like Seattle or Ireland. Back when I had Irish inlaws, they’d apologize for the rain there, but it was mostly a light drizzle that made all the roses grow and kept the fields green. I loved it.

Rainbow in Northern Ireland. This is the kind of sight I remember from further south. Image by @joemelendez via Twenty20

And when it rains a lot, there’s always a chance of a beautiful rainbow! When the kids were little and we’d drive all over Ireland, we saw some doozies in places like the Dingle Peninsula. Good memories!

When I was a kid in Gainesville, Florida, we’d love it after tropical storms came through. We would have really big puddles and lots of water in the ditches in front of our yards. We’d get pieces of plywood and spend hours skimming in the water. Our parents would repeatedly tell us there were bad things in the water, but hey, a little ringworm was a small price to pay for all that fun.

Nope, none of these ever wandered up the ditches in Gainesville. We had a canal behind our house in south Florida, though, and it featured gators and water moccasins and such.

In high school, I lived in south Florida (Plantation, yeah I know it’s a dumb name for a town). There it also rained a lot. The typical pattern was to be all nice and sunny until later afternoon, when thunderstorms would come through for an hour or two. That always coincided with the time that 70s teen girls wanted to lay out in their bikinis and get their suntans. Probably it was Nature’s way of trying to prevent our future wrinkles and skin cancers. That rain was always warm, and if it wasn’t thundering, we’d often stay in the pool and enjoy the rain there (almost everyone had a pool back then, even the lower-middle class families like us).

A familiar sight from when I was a teen. You’d watch the rain coming down the street. Image by @cr819081 via Twenty20

No wonder I like rain. I have no idea where all those memories came from, but since I typed them, I’ll leave them here. It’s nice to think about good times in the past, anyway. It’s a good distraction.

Penney loves her little pond, which is all full thanks to the rain for the past few weeks.

So, go ahead! Share your memories about rain. Are you like Pickle, Anita’s dog, who truly loathes rain and wetness? Or are you more like Penney, who is grateful rain makes her swimming hole bigger?

I Don't Want to Write about Justice

Nope. Don’t want to write about the next extra-PC concept the UU Lent folks brought forth, justice. My Instagram says it all. I got a rock.

Rocks are grounding, though. This is my grounding rock.

I’ve never seen a lot of justice out in the world. Luckily I do see small amounts of mercy, which I find more important, anyway. Creepy people do well. Good people fail and suffer. The wrong people get punished. Whatever. Just keep moving forward one day at a time and see what you learn, but don’t expect to learn a lot about justice.

Ugh

One of my friends on Facebook said it best yesterday:

Today I hit a wall.

FB Friend

I did, too. I was trying to work on my perky email newsletter for friends of LLL, and I just didn’t have any perky in me. I read too many articles on predicted deaths, people doing unsafe things, and tragedies. I always wondered how I’d cope with one of these weird times. I guess, like many, I’ll have good and bad days.

Folks, we are allowed to have bad days, to be sad, to miss things from our previous life, and to worry like crazy about people we care about (and people we don’t know who have it worse off than us). Let’s be gentle with each other and support the people who have a hard time, even while doing our best to keep our own spirits up.

Where I spent yesterday. My ridiculous bedroom would make a great isolation area.

So yep, I spent a lot of time in bed with the dogs, reading a book. It helped. The rest of the family all worked until late in the evening. I’m worried about them, too. But, we are all doing our best and trying to do self care!

We’re entertaining.

I’m glad I have the horses and chickens, who make me go outside even when the weather is awful (we have flooding today, which means the chicken food is a mess). I’m glad the dogs can run around and play, even when it’s raining.

Playing in the wildflowers.
I like the stripe colors, anyway.

I’m glad other people are finding stuff to do. I looked on Amazon just to see what books are popular right now. Best sellers were all preschool math, for some reason, I guess homeschooling. I looked in the crafts section. I had to chuckle, because I never saw so many adult coloring books in my life. My favorite was the obscene one. Maybe I’ll get it.

I shall try to be cheered by the basement office’s art and fake flowers.

Keep in touch with me, and with those you care about. I like hearing from everyone. It helps. Now to go be perky.

Part of the Resistance

Today we have resistance as our UU Lent word. Once again the Sunday word is ripe for sermonizing. I’d rather not preach. If you know me, you’ll know I’m part of the resistance against fascism and oligarchy and such.

Deep Instagram thoughts

As I try to get back to Texas in my Mobile Social Distancing Unit (Lee’s Car), I keep thinkingw oabout how some of us have more resistance to disease than others. That’s one reason for keeping our hygiene up, to protect the vulnerable.

Not planning to die. Just sharing that Donita’s neighborhood once was a graveyard. Many homes have headstones.

Most of my upcoming activities are cancelled, and I’m supposed to work from home for the next couple of weeks. I’m glad we got to visit Flo last week, because they place she lives no longer allows guests, even family. We are wondering if the State will require Hearts Homes and Hands to only provide vital services. I guess there’s a fine line between helping and potentially harming.

Take a breath and enjoy a night view in Swansboro. Resistance is futile. You WILL relax.

I have no conspiracy theories to share, other than to be reasonably cautious. I wish I hadn’t had this week chosen to travel, but we were careful.

I was so proud I got a shot while the blinking light was on. See. I can have fun with no people around.

What we could not avoid on this part of the trip was tree pollen. Oh my. Pines, elms, oaks and more have flowers or candles, in the pines’ case, in the Carolinas right now. Donita’s car turned yellow on our drive yesterday, and I know Libba and I sucked up a lot on our long walk last night, since my sinuses were running like a babbling brook last night. Lee says his eyes are crunchy. Poor guy.

Just a little truck stop pollen.

Now to keep my germ resistance up. Y’all do the same. Let me know how it’s going!

Since fresh air is good for removing germs, eat outdoors! Does alcohol disinfect your innards? Um. No.

A Very Different Ocean View

We’ve been relaxing with Donita and Libba in Swansboro, NC. They live on the Intracoastal Waterway near the quaint old fishing town.

Me, relaxing.

While I have enjoyed my two days of shopping here and in nearby towns, it’s the birds and other animals that have made this trip special. You can see all sorts of marshes and barrier islands, which are just teeming with life.

Oysters by the sea wall

It’s a great contrast from Myrtle Beach, which is all big resorts. No natural beauty.

Laughing gull

Last night I saw an otter bopping around, which was really fun. Today I got to see a wild pony off of Beaufort. That’s pretty good viewing!

The otter was on the shore at left.

And the birds are fascinating. I saw an osprey and a gull fight over a fish. And there are so many waterfowl to enjoy, including many kinds of ducks, geese, egrets, herons, ibis, and so on. This is what makes me happy.

Ibis in Beaufort

Who needs people? I can just sit outside and observe.

Donita and Libba love boats.

What are your plans? When not working from home, I’ll be reading and knitting. And writing!

One of many amazing beach homes. Yow.

Birds Birds Birthday Birds

It’s the spouse’s birthday. That’s why we took a trip! What fun that half the day was taken up doing business! Yes! Woo!

Me taking a break and wishing I was on the beach.

Um. It wasn’t horrible and we came out with some future travel fun. I want to go places before I die. Lee will put up with it, or send me off with Anita.

Whew, he’s as old as me again, and can still hold up a tree.

Birds!

We escaped the towering beach resort at last and made it to a state park. There, I had more Nature Girl fun that humans should be allowed to have. And even Lee enjoyed the walking around my favorite thing on earth, a marsh.

It’s a marsh.

The Huntington Beach State Park is beautiful. We didn’t look at all of it, but focused on the wilder parts. The trails we walked on were spectacular, with huge old pines and oaks and much evidence of fairly recent flooding.

What a huge oak tree!

We saw SO many birds. As soon as we got out of the car, I saw cheeky chickadees, and when we got on the boardwalk, there was a family of Eastern bluebirds. They have lots of nest boxes on the island, and they seem to be working!

Blue birds!

I took lots and lots of photos on our walk, and I got more and more excited with each new bird I saw. The causeway was a real hotbed of shore birds, and I had SO much fun with other birders looking at a group of birds hanging around together, with anhingas, ospreys, and bald eagles flying over head. Wow!

Of course, I took lots of pictures of plants. This is a wild blackberry or a dewberry or some bramble.

Enjoy these photos, which are enough to make any naturalist swoon, far as I’m concerned.

After all that, we had a beautiful birthday dinner at the Sea Captain’s House, a restaurant that has been here 58 years. I had she-crab soup and then oysters (of course) for my main course. Then we shared a wonderful birthday dessert.

The picture is dark so you can see the ocean out the window. Nice.

Was it a good day? Oh yes, it was. That blue bird of happiness followed us all day!

Camellia outside the restaurant.

Trying to Do Nothing. It’s Hard.

This vacation to Myrtle Beach is for Lee to get some rest and relaxation, so I am trying to not impose my agenda on him. Today he wanted to scan in receipts and balance his budget, so okay, that’s what he did. I’m not great at just doing my regular job in a different spot (though I uploaded a post for another blog, dealt with a couple of issues for the Austin job, and such).

I just feel like if I’m in a new place, I should go check it out, so I spent much of the day looking around the resort area where we’re staying. This morning I walked a long way up the beach, and was actually glad for all the brightly colored hotels, condos, and resorts on the beach, because everything else was solid gray. The surf, sand, and sky all matched.

Gray sand, gray birds, grayish water, gray skies.

I did get to enjoy something you don’t get to see every day, though. They were tearing down a condo building that I guess isn’t big and tall enough or something. The wrecking ball had to be careful not to damage the building a few yards away from it. Half the building was rubble and half looked like people still lived there. Weird.

Future former building.

The nature watching was limited. I saw laughing gulls, pigeons, and dead jellyfish. The shells here are all broken (it’s the Atlantic, after all) but a lot of them obviously were big ole clams!

Poor jellyfish.

Lee came out of the building and walked with me to the next pier, where we had a very good lunch at the Pier 14 restaurant. Even veggies of the day were good (most places they are not even completely defrosted and have no seasoning, but these were hot and tasty). I had some good scallops. I’m managing to keep eating healthy!

The boardwalk is nice. I assume it’s much more crowded next month.

Most of Myrtle Beach reminds me of Ft. Lauderdale (a place of which I have never been fond). Not a lot of natural beauty, at least anywhere near the water. I think this place is designed for a different kind of tourist than me. If I wanted to drink, hear live music, buy cheap souvenirs, play golf (mini or otherwise), or ride Ferris wheels, though, this would be nirvana.

This is the most nature I found. The blue thing is where I had lunch.

But, I enjoyed sitting and watching the waves this afternoon, while chatting with a lady from Tennessee, and have gotten a lot of good knitting and reading in. Plus a nap. Yes, a nap! And Lee did go for a walk with me around 5 pm.

Mmm, shops and more shops.

So, I succeeded pretty well in doing nothing and avoiding large crowds. Tomorrow, though, I have been promised a trip to a park. They tend to not be hotbeds of disease.