Goldie the Great Dane Goes Mudding

You don’t have to go out of town to have adventures, as the Hermits’ Rest’s biggest canine, Goldie, discovered today. We made it home from Bandera and getting new job paperwork done in plenty of time for daily chores and a bit of fun.

Explorer Goldie.

The deer stand on the property had gotten blown over by the wind, so I went along to watch the tractor right it. Goldie ran alongside us.

It’s pretty here.

Once the stand was righted, we just had to enjoy the beauty of the back part of the ranch. I love it there, where all you see is grass and trees. It’s really fun on a horse, but pretty darned good on foot.

Up it goes.

We wandered around a bit finding big rocks for Lee’s pond. Then we went to check one of the small tanks/ponds that hides back there. I got all distracted by this walking stick on a Christmas cholla cactus.

The brown thing is an insect.

Goldie decided she was thirsty. After all, it got over 100 degrees today, and she ran all this way. She did her best to get to the water in the muddle of the pond, but nope. The mud was up past her knees.

I can’t get to the water.

The sound of Goldie pulling her feet out of the mud was the definition of “suck.” It was pretty funny, but I was glad she didn’t get stuck. She was too.

She was sooo dirty.

It’s hard to say what’s more

This evening, though, we looked down and saw Carlton patiently cleaning Goldie’s legs. They made a lot of progress before all the dogs erupted in play. Yeah, we miss our dogs when we leave.

Apache Rocks, and So Do Rocks

I’ve needed a self esteem boost for a few days, but this morning Apache made me feel really dim, and I didn’t need any more of that! I went to get him this morning for a lesson, then noticed Drew was still in his pen. I went to release Drew, and saw Apache head out the gate to his pen, which I’d not shut. He then went through the gate to his little paddock.

I wanna go back out.

That’s okay, I thought. Then I saw the gate to the big pasture was open and Apache was trotting right through it. Sigh. Off he went to join the Buckskin Buddies. I went over to get him and he trotted away. One he galloped. But, in the end, he let me halter him, saddle him, and load up.

After that, all was well! Our practice has paid off! I was amazed at how well he did on the circles and figure 8s. Even when he messes up, I’m getting better at correcting. That’s important. Now we are refining techniques. Wow, that feels good.

If I’m so good, why didn’t I get anything from Dairy Queen?

And we started a slalom formation where I learn to bend and turn, speed up and slow down (transitions). I was really surprised at how far we got on it today. Of course, there is a lot to learn, still, but it was fun to get to start so soon! Then, the trainer told me what great progress we are making quickly. It’s rewarding to be figuring this stuff out, at last.

I wanna be free.

And Apache rocks! No grass eating all lesson.

Speaking of Rocks

Remember yesterday, when I found that we have a layer of light rock a few feet down? One of our readers, Trisha, mentioned that it may be an aquatic layer.

White rock

So, I went out to look at the rock up close, to see if I could figure anything else out about it. The layer is very thin and powdery.

This shows the layer.

When I touched the rock, it crumbled. It doesn’t hold together like limestone usually does. It falls into little chunks or granules, whereas the soil above it sticks together and is very clayey.

Clay

Also in our soil are large rounded rocks. They have a flint-like interior.

Rock on top of the clay soil.

Anyway, the white stuff seems to be a chalk, which makes me think there was some point in the past that this area was covered by water and supported something with shells, but not for too long.

Hunk of chalky stuff.

I saved the piece above so maybe I can get it analyzed. And I’ll try to figure out when we were underwater more recently than the Paleozoic period (this rock isn’t that deep).

Comfort from Nature’s Rhythms

I didn’t have an easy morning this morning, even though there sure was a cool sunrise. I wish I could have gone out and gotten a better photo, but here it is through the upstairs window.

There was a thick cloud that didn’t totally block the sun.

It’s a time of year that is hard for many of us, with tomorrow’s anniversary of the terrorist attacks, and that isn’t helping much either. But, when you’re feeling your trauma ramping up, feel trapped, are weary of being second guessed, or have to deal with the consequences of other people’s actions, you do have options. One of them is to leave.

Familiar signs of approaching autumn: snow on the prairie, wild morning glories, and balloon vines (all hiding behind that dang Johnson grass)

So, this morning, after I did all I could do to be useful, I took a nice walk. Looking around at the ranch and its life made it so much easier to put things into the perspective of life going on as best as it can, year by year.

This is the dry season, so Walker’s Creek is no longer flowing. It’s a series of puddles.

The cows next door are starting to calve, as they do every year around this time. It’s reassuring to see the same cows in the field, still providing new babies for their ranchers.

Mature mamas getting ready to do their job: make more beef.

Even while I was feeling reassured by the repeated patterns and rhythms of the year, I was finding new things. For example, I don’t think I realized before that the giant cane (Arundo donax) smelled good when it was blooming. I guess it has something going for it, after all!

Still, it’s one annoying nonnative and invasive plant!

It was cooler this morning, too, which really makes me hopeful for the return of more bearable horse-riding weather. And as always, I found beauty in the little things, once I slowed down to look. Check out the patterns the large puddles make when they dry up!

There are cracks in the dirt everywhere, actually.

More little things included the small flowers in the snow on the prairie plants, and the dozens of dusky skipper butterflies making the most out of the morning glories. They were everywhere!

After enjoying the life around me, and reminding myself that whatever is happening now is temporary, I felt a lot better and was able to come back and get work and meetings done. Thanks again to the healing properties of the Hermits’ Rest. The land and its residents are always here for me. And I didn’t have to get in the car and go for a long drive!

Hay ready to harvest. Time’s marching on, and every day brings new things to see, even in old familiar places.

It’s August. It’s Drying Up.

I’m very grateful for all the opportunities I get here at the Hermits’ Rest to observe weather patterns and natural cycles. Today was a good example.

There’s plenty of water, but it’s down at least a foot.

I’d gone to open the gate for Trixie and was intrigued by how many butterflies I saw, so I hung around the front pond, the one we made so we could build our driveway. I noticed that the pond is losing water rapidly, though it has more in it than usual this time of year.

All gone

The wet parts of the arroyo are all dried up, but you can see how much life they support. There are crawfish mounds and bird footprints in the former mud. And all around are wetland or riparian plants, like sedges and rushes.

My favorite grass, silver bluestem, foreground.

This part of our property has more than just coastal Bermuda grass, which brings so many interesting creatures, like those butterflies I saw.

I saw a common buckeye, a tiger swallowtail, and a larger sulphur butterfly, but not where I could get pictures. And there are still a few flowers in among the drying grassy.

Look at those pink evening primroses!

The star of the pasture right now, though, are the ballon vines. They are everywhere, ready to float away in the next flood and populate another area downstream. The little yellow butterfly above is feeding on their tiny white flowers, which are quite a contrast to the seed pods!

Little balloons everywhere.

It even rained a little today, which won’t fill the pond back up, but it sure felt good on me and the horses. Drew my horse baby and I had a rainy hug fest. By the way, Trixie said his procedure worked, so he doesn’t need more work, just strengthening.

Hard to believe this was once a barren ditch.

This is the weirdest August ever, but I’ve got horses, dogs, chickens, ponds, and native plants to enjoy. How could I be lonely?

See the dragonfly?

The Little Pond Miracle

I mentioned a while back that Lee was building a pond for in front of the house. He has worked very hard on it, hand-placing every decorative rock, and constantly rearranging it. We were mighty disappointed when the water started disappearing out of the lower part every night. We’d come in, and there would be just a small amount of water in the bottom.

Pond, in good shape, with grass that needs to be dealt with.

Lee worked hard to fix it. First he put some foam stuff in to seal the leaky area (or as far as we could tell where the leaky area was. The next day the foam was floating like a black iceberg, and the water was down again.

Next, he tried some paint-on stuff. Nope. Third, he tried different stuff, and it appeared not to work. We left it for a few days with just that little bit of water in it. However, Sunday night he filled it up again, just so we could enjoy the sound as we sat around enjoying the sunset with our friends.

The fountain has rocks with shell fossils in them, from the driveway. Maybe not great for fish health.

The next day, a miracle occurred. The pool held. It’s still holding. I think the last stuff just needed to cure longer than we were letting it cure. Happy dance! Of course, thanks for sitting still for those few days, the pond was now a mosquito hazard. Something had to be done.

Yuck.
I’m full.

I went and fetched two goldfish out of the horse troughs and put them in there. I am not sure how much good that’s doing, since the fish can only eat so much. Plus, the pond gets a bit hot for them. I’m going to look for some of those mosquito fish. Or, I’ll put the goldfish back where they were and put in mosquito dunks. Sigh. I don’t like using chemicals.

There also appears to be a dog growing in the upper pond.

Anyway, there is still a bigger plan for all this pond stuff, so I’m going to sit back and wait to see how Lee does it. I’m proud that he fixed it after all his persistence!

Alfred has not managed to get rid of many larvae, but he does explain why we have a hose right there. He and Goldie are heavy drinkers.

The dogs are very happy with their new outdoor water bowl and are convinced we made it just for them, so they don’t have to walk ALL the way to the pond on the other side of the driveway. Besides, the bullfrogs scare Goldie. And the grasshoppers think I put the pond plants in there just for their snacking, at least the ones who live. I got a net to fish out the dead grasshoppers.

I look forward to sitting on the porch and listening to the water gurgle, which should make things harder for the mosquitoes. Another reason not to wear shorts!

Donkey versus Dog, and Other Ranch Sights

Maintaining my detachment from things out of my control is a challenge right now, so there are LOTS of nature walks going on. The benefit is that you get to see drama, birth and death, and beauty throughout the day. This morning, for example, I went out to do the usual chicken feeding and horse moving while it was still relatively cool out. That meant all the animals were frisky, especially the dogs and equines. As I was trying to give Apache his daily hay, Goldie was “helping,” as usual. She made the mistake of getting between Fiona and the hay, and Fiona finally connected with one of her kicks, and got poor Goldie on the side. Much yelping occurred.

Goldie may even be taller than Fiona at the shoulders.
Perhaps too extreme of a close-up, but it’s worse than it looks here. But, Goldie is fine and her usual cheerful self.

Fiona has been warning Goldie and the other dogs to keep back by flattening her ears and back-kicking (to the extent that I no longer stand behind Fiona when dogs are around), but she’s just so fascinating to Goldie, who is her match in size, but not in bulk. Carlton has learned to keep his distance. I’d like to say Goldie has, but the photo above was taken AFTER the kick.

There’s always someone kicking, scratching, or biting someone else around here. That’s how they maintain their pecking order (literally, in the case of the hens). I also got to enjoy watching the beautiful swallows figuring out their pecking order from their morning launch station. There are always dozens of them sitting on east side of the house each morning as they get those insects.

Lee is always telling me how observant I am, and I know that just comes from a lot of practice going on hikes and entertaining my younger son with all the different bugs and flowers we saw. Anyway, this morning was one of those sparkling mornings with lots of dew. Also some of the really ephemeral parasol mushrooms that appear and quickly fade away were up. They are so delicate that they tremble at any slight breeze.

A little later in the morning, it was Lee’s turn to want to get some nature walking in, so I accompanied him. We went over to the dam, and found all sorts of interesting things. The MOST interesting is that there are dozens of baby catfish in the overflow area. There are so many of them, and I know that water will dry up way sooner than our other ponds, so I think I will try to catch some and transfer them.

Look at all those little guys!

When I was young, my mom caught some baby catfish in Noonan’s Lake near Gainesville, Florida. She put them in our goldfish pond, and we watched them grow and grow. By the time we moved away, they were a foot long and we loved to try to drop food straight into their huge mouths. The goldfish were also really big. Dad did a great job on that pond.

When we turned around to go back, after enjoying the fishies, I saw lots and lots of insects on the velvetweed. At first I thought there were three kinds, but when I uploaded to iNaturalist, I realized I saw juvenile and adults of the same insect, the eastern leaf-footed bug. There was a stink bug of some type, too, but I failed at taking its picture well enough to ID it, as you can see below. Well, and there were zillions of differential grasshoppers, zzz.

Well, that just shows you what you can find if you look hard and are patient. Focusing on the teeming life all around you reminds you that you are just a small part of the big picture. And watching the animals handle their disagreements with no hard feelings is a good lesson for us, too. Now if I can just maintain that feeling of oneness with the Universe, detachment from unhealthy attachments, and goodwill to all!

Going Cuckoo over Gloomy Beauty

It’s time for another post with mostly photos. The rainy day brought a lot of sights, from a bird and insects I’d never seen before to animals dealing with water. That’s right, the title of this post isn’t an insensitive ableist phrase, I actually saw a cuckoo!

In the center is a yellow-billed cuckoo!

I knew we had them here, but I’d never seen a cuckoo before. It must have been recovering from the most recent downpour. I read that these birds are called storm birds, because they tend to sing after a storm. This one wasn’t singing.

Close up.

The other fun part of today was enjoying the wet animals. Poor Fiona thought she was trapped in one of the pens until Apache walked over and showed her it wasn’t a lake.

I’m outa here!

Here are some other images from around the pens.

Here are my insect finds. most are new to me, but not the fire ants. They messed up my foot night before last.

I’ll close with more moody weather photos. It was a pretty interesting day after all.

Lughnasadh Blessing

Yesterday was not only our third anniversary of Vlassic arriving at our ranch, but it was Lughnasadh or Lammas, the early harvest festival in the Celtic tradition I enjoy observing (among many traditions).

This is our fun wheel of the year calendar we hang on the wall. You rotate it to put the current season on top. From sacredsource.com

One thing people do for this celebration is thank Mother Nature for her bounty. Today we’re thanking her for a surprise rain event that’s filled up the little pond and made some good puddles.

Lee’s new and improved drainage system also works!

We had already had an inch of welcome rain by the time I went out this morning, and we’ve had more heavy showers since. Wow, we might have the creek flowing well into this month! It had started to dry up from the previous rain, but this is a nice reprieve!

View out my window.

It’s a good thing Lee got lots of dirt moved around and made the bigger drainage pipes yesterday. His new pond might have gotten messed up.

Making a better path.

When he got overheated, he could sit and listen to his fountain, which makes it worthwhile!

Making things smooth. The rain will help!

I’m glad the horses are getting a free bath, and sure hope it dries out by afternoon! The rain has killed my ability to upload or download, so my work, both paid and voluntary, is hosed. The joys of rural life!

Note to grasshopper: that’s a fake plant. Hope it starts growing soon.

Enjoy whatever you’re celebrating this time of year. I’m going to rejoice in the fact that it’s only 77 F outside!

Happy 3 years to V. He is my biggest blessing of the season. Also, his nose seems to be healing.

Lee Has a New Project

This is exciting! Lee has been thinking of doing something for a long time, and decided that now’s the time to get going on it. He’s working on a series of decorative ponds for the front of the house (these will not be cattle tanks, but nice ponds, with water plants and such).

A project begins. That orange paint got all over Lee, by the way.

He got started over the weekend, and spent much of yesterday digging the holes to hold a waterfall and a main pond, next to our new walkway. Since it was a very hot day, this all went in stages! Kathleen and I served as consultants and beverage fetchers. That’s very important!

Water will flow out of the top one, which will be covered by a big rock.

The idea with the pond is to eventually have the current one flow down a little creek lined with river rocks into a much larger pond, then recirculate back up. Rain overflow will go into another planned diversion.

The general idea of the pond. The pipes are for going under the path, I think. I need to get rid of that grass.

We will have to see whether we can put anything in there other than native mosquito fish, because we don’t want goldfish washing into Walker’s Creek, which is bad news! And we realize birds will want to snack on fish, dogs will want to mess with the pond, etc. So, this is all to be determined. At this point, Lee is going to get the small pond and waterfall going.

The stream will go down that low area, over to the new pond at the corner of the house. We like ponds.

And Dogs

I can’t resist sharing dog stories. Yesterday, before our biweekly Board meeting, Goldie decided I was a chair. I guess anything’s a chair to her.

I’m gonna nap right here.

We’ve also been enjoying watching all the dogs play. Goldie and Carlton have ended their embarrassing love affair, now that Goldie’s heat is over at last, and are now just buddies again. They have a lot of fun together.

Playtime is all the time!

Let’s see what further adventures this new week brings!

Too Much Thunder

So, yesterday it didn’t rain but a little. Last night, though, a huge storm came up just before dawn, and there was lightning really near the house. This made for some scared dogs!

Didn’t look much better this morning.

Poor Penney was right on top of me. Everyone else was under the bed. It was scary for us!

We did get a break this morning, so between meetings I was able to go out and feed my guys and the chickens. Sadly, Barbara didn’t make it through the night. Poor dear. I hope to get another one like her, though.

The scalped back yard and more rain (wiggly things are tomato stakes)

Last night’s storm brought over an inch of rain. The second wave, which is still going on, has already brought another inch. The creek is well over its banks, and the poor horses are in mud again. We plan to get sand soon, and the very next thing in our plan is to add a lot more cover over the stalls.

We’re scared, so we are down here by Suna’s feet.

In the meantime, I don’t have a lot of hope for Trixie making it today. There’s no place to work on horses that isn’t all muddy.

I’ll just hang around in the house, with all these huddled dogs and hope it clears up. Definitely a weird July in these parts.