Fancy Ranch with Water

It’s been fun to see how our new water lines are going in. Chris sure can drive heavy machinery.

Don’t fill in our dirt!

I’m happy to see a new water spigot for the chickens’ water. The water trough got moved and cleaned, too. Where it is now, the chickens in both pens can drink from it, so I won’t have to maintain separate bowls when I’ve got young or sick ones, like now.

Yep, a faucet. Now it is attached to the water trough, and I’ll get a picture tomorrow.

There’s a faucet for horse washing and other such deeds, then there’s an outlet where a big water trough will be.

Where the trough will be.

Eventually there will be another outlet for separate horse watering. There will be happy animals out here!

The other faucet.

Chris has been out all night trying to finish the job. He’s gonna be tired tomorrow! I sure appreciate the huge improvements!

I’m keeping an eye on him, says the big porch toad.

It turns out he wanted to get the trench covered back up before the rain we expect tomorrow. Smart thinking, but exhausting.

Human-Animal Connection

I’m baffled sometimes about how humans managed to connect so deeply with some other animals.

Fiona wanted to see my sister so badly this evening that she barged into the hay area just to be near her. Why? She’s full of love and wanted to share? I don’t know. But I do know equines sense our feelings.

95% love, 5% sass.

And tonight, though I want to go to sleep, I can’t move, because two dogs are glued to me. They’ve done this all weekend, perhaps somehow sensing I could use some comfort.

Carlton is on both of my legs. Penney is glued to the right one.

Yep. There’s a real connection between humans and animals. Even the chickens! It’s made my life better.

Do you have any stories?

The Wonder of Babies

Maybe you know this, and maybe you don’t, but back in the early days of the internet, I was a semi-famous web designer, specializing in sites for people working with breastfeeding mothers and babies. Now, THAT was a career I never would have foreseen (besides not knowing there would BE a World Wide Web, I was pretty sure I would never reproduce. My first love didn’t want children (and never had them, just cats), and I thought they’d slow down my feminist agenda, or something.

Turned out, though, that not only did I like babies quite a lot, doing websites allowed me to stay home and watch them grow, with plenty of time left to support other mothers and babies. And by gosh, I got a career out of the whole deal. That pretty much fit right in with my agenda, after all.

While that career path has dwindled a bit (oh wait, I am still the webmaster for some organizations), my enjoyment of babies has stuck with me. I love the potential. I love watching them change every day (though I haven’t had a chance to do that in a long time), I love watching parents grow and rise up to all the inevitable challenges, or lean on others when those challenges overwhelm.

This was my challenge. No sleep! Lost me a spouse! I wasn’t much fun. Photo by @andreafwagner via Twenty20.

Parenting brought me life-long friends (I have some from 30 years ago, when I first got pregnant and looked up information on online bulletin boards). Now that my friends are grandparenting, I get the joy of watching those relationships develop. It’s really amazing how my friends have been helping their children’s children during the pandemic, ranging from caring for them so the parents can work from home to home-schooling programs on Zoom.

It doesn’t appear that I’ll be a grandparent (I guess if K fathered children, I’d not get to see them, and there are some challenges for D). I guess that’s good for overpopulation. But I’ll miss having the chance to be there for my sons and their partners, and to hold and smell little ones again (yes, I remember there are also bad smells).

This generic newborn stands in for the real one, who I don’t want to plaster all over the internet, since he’s not my child. Photo by @christyhermogenes via Twenty20.

But, other people’s kids aren’t quite so set on not having babies, so I got to be a great aunt by marriage a few days ago. I’m excited, though the pandemic means I only get to see photos of the little guy. I look into his face, with eyes old beyond his age, and see so much potential. He already shows what he might look like when he’s older, with a large mouth, lots of hair, and very expressive eyes. What a wonder, indeed. His young mama is enjoying him, and his grandparents are ridiculously excited, as they should be. I get to enjoy it vicariously, which is better than a kick in the head!

The actual baby. I got permission to share. Isn’t he adorable.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few very scary months in the world, but I’m very glad that I will have a sweet baby boy to distract me and to remind me of the timeless wonder of babies as they grow. May he grow into a world full of peace, love, and kindness.

Book Report: Wonder

Even though practically no one reads my book reviews, I have another one already. That’s what you get when you pick up a Young Adult selection; they go fast.

The Wall Street Journal is right! The cover does not lie.

Oddly enough, I am not sure where this book came from. Maybe someone loaned it to me? Maybe I bought it that last, wonderful time I went to Barnes & Noble and got it on sale? Anyway, I’m glad Wonder, by R.J. Palacio (apparently a pseudonym) showed up magically in my stack of books to read. I needed something uplifting and cheerful, in which everyone learns from their mistakes and grows.

I can see why Wonder was a best seller and why lots and lots of adults read it. All the characters in the book were interesting and fun to learn about. It made you want to follow them as they go through the rest of school. It’s great to see how people learn and screw up and keep learning, including the adults in the book.

Also, it’s just funny, and I think that’s important, since a book about the trials of a child with facial deformities going to school for the first time could be mostly heartbreak, otherwise. Instead, you empathize along with everyone as the hero, Auggie, shows how much of a normal (and resilient) kid he is and makes it through the ups and downs of his first year in a school.

Lee and Penney patiently waited for me to read the book aloud, but I told them I’d do it later.

If you have a child who’s “different” in any way, this would be good to read along with. And if you were a “different” child, you’ll enjoy rooting for Auggie and his family. I’m glad I had parents who were supportive like his, since I played the role of Auggie’s big sister in protecting my younger brother, who wore an eye patch and got picked on when he was little. We both ended up fine, or at least survived to adulthood!

I promise I’ll write something on another topic later. Until then, enjoy the new week.

What’s Cuter Than a Tiny New Calf?

Two Tiny New Calves!

Yep, Chris didn’t get to go look at farm equipment yesterday, so he did the next best thing and headed over to the Sale Barn. There were more inexpensive young cows to be had!

Where are we? What happened? Where’s Mama?

He saw lots of good ones, but stayed within his budget and returned with two new friends for Rip.

One is pretty big and muscular. It makes you wonder what the rest of his herd looks like if he’s a reject. He’s older than Rip and the other one, so we wonder if he’ll take milk from a bottle.

I’m big and pretty.

The other one is small and skinny, like Rip, and a very dark brown. When he laid down, he looked just like a turd, so I’m calling him Poop Nugget. I’ll let Kathleen name the other one, because I know there are more characters in that television show. She may well rename Nugget. I don’t have naming rights to their calves!

I’m a fuzzy little nugget.

I’m sure Rip will be happier with friends, and also when he gets over his mild pneumonia. He’s on antibiotics. He doesn’t like shots. Who does? Just ask Vlassic!

Those other guys don’t know what they’re missing. Mmm. Milk.

Speaking of dogs, Vlassic and Gracie seemed to think the calves were invaders, and kept chasing them. They ignore Rip. They also ignore the birds, who wander around with no worries.

We don’t like these strange calves.

Chris and Kathleen tried their best to get the new babies to drink from a bottle, but they weren’t interested yet. Maybe they’ll be hungry and less confused today.

Rip says he will drink it if Nugget won’t.

There was lots of mooing last night. Let’s hope they settle in and grow big and strong. They have an expanded pen to roam in and lots of cattle cubes. Our ranch family will do our best to give them good lives.

Our motley herd. Chris is in the Cameron cow biz.

Alfred the Brave, and a Scary Vet Visit

Once again, I was in meetings all day, 8:30-7:30. It won’t be that way too much longer, but I have a tired brain. Meetings meant I couldn’t be there for the annual shot day for the dog pack, where Dr. Amy drives her mobile office up to the ranch and get it all done with little stress.

There were lots of surprises, according to Lee. I wish I’d been there to see the dogs’ true personalities shine through. Gracie apparently took everything like a champ. Good girl!

I’m good! I just have a little tartar.

No surprise here, but Carlton was in perfect health. He was also well behaved. That’s my boy.

I’m all inoculated.

Harvey was not our big brave boy. He cried and shook. But, he was well behaved and let them take care of him. Surprise! And he was not called out for being overweight! Double surprise!

I’m a big softy. But I’m not too big and soft.

Penney was not having anything to do with all those strange veterinary people. Then she noticed the other dogs were getting what she wants more than anything in the world: attention. Lee said she figured that out and ran over to get in between the techs and the other dogs. She is truly an Attention Hound.

I just want petting, even if I have to get shots.

And then there is Vlassic, the nicest dog in the world, right? When they drew blood, it hurt. He yelped and tried his damnedest to get away. He even snapped his teeth at a tech (a thing he does even when not afraid). So, he had to get tranquilizer. That let them also trim his nails, which will sure make Anita happy.

Butterfly break. I have no Vlassic photo, because he’s zonked out at Jim’s RV.

There’s one dog left, big Alfred. The plan was always to anesthetize him. He had to get his dewclaws trimmed again, because they were almost grown back into his leg.

That’s better!

While he was out, Lee asked them to look at a spot he’s had on his side for a while. It looked to us like he had a burr in his fur infect his skin. Imagine Lee’s surprise when they shaved the area and it revealed what actually happened.

Oh no. Poor Alfred.

He’d been bitten by a very large snake. They guess it was a couple of weeks ago. We never noticed a change in his behavior, other than a bit of lethargy a while back. And if it was swollen, we couldn’t tell for all his hair.

I’m woozy. But gonna make it.

It’s good Alfred is so big. And it’s good he had the rattlesnake vaccine. It gave him some protection. But dang, that poor dog! Out there protecting us and being brave, and never complaining.

In fact, Alfred has been acting happier, more energetic, and more fun that he ever has. His joy at seeing us and playing with us is so endearing. I’m glad he’s okay. I’m glad we are able to keep all these dogs safe and healthy. It’s a commitment.

Blinded in a Good Way

Lee had been waiting patiently for the rest of the blinds to go up at the Pope Residence, to save on electricity. The new-ish windows aren’t terribly efficient, but not old enough to replace.

Now that the stair rails are done, and the custom sized blinds for the really long windows are in, Lee’s dream can come true. They’re going up.

There are even blinds for the upstairs rooms we haven’t renovated yet.

Sadly for some, I like light, as do my plants. So my shade stays up.

Plus there’s the collection of brass birds, which I don’t want to touch.

Lee and Chris quickly got Kathleen’s shades up, while she was working offsite. I also spotted the snakeskin she recently found, displayed on her light fixture. So cool.

Lee’s office has been amazingly bright and cheerful. No wonder he hasn’t moved much in. It’s also pretty warm in there. Once the blinds are up, it will be a lot more hermitage in mood, and efficient in electricity needed.

Well, I like light. I need my shiny stuff to shine!

My favorite office area, so far.

Blind Weirdness

Here’s something. The blinds for the building were all ordered on the same day, from the same store. They are the same brand and style (real wood, but not fancy).

The push up and down model.

However, there are three different mechanisms for raising and lowering them. Some you just push up and pull down, like in my office. Some have sophisticated buttons you have to press before raising or lowering, like in Lee’s office.

The snazzy buttons.

Others have the traditional string pulls, like in Kathleen’s office. Those may be challenging.

Annoying strings.

More Blinds

Anyway, the whole downstairs is blinded now. Lee is very happy with his dimness.

The reception room now really wants its furniture!

I wanted to see how the blinds looked from outside then I remembered all the sand burs and the fact that the grass is knee high. But I did it, so you can see.

The outside pictures really make it clear that the exterior also needs a lot of work. We will get there! In the meantime, I look forward to enjoying my office from all angles, every day. Next week?

So rustic and cheerful!

Baby’s First Hay

Rip the bull calf has had a lot of adventures in his short bovine career. He was born! Something happened! He rumbled around! He was in a scary place with many frightened animals! He rode in another rumbly thing! A human fed him milk! He was in a grassy place. He slept. Many humans and dogs appeared. He ate and slept.

Sleep and eat.

Then, one day the human who fed him and the large human picked him up (he’s a small calf still) and put him in another rumbly thing, only one that smelled better and wasn’t so rumbly. They called the SUV.

Rumble rumble.

They rumbled along for a while. When Rip had to poop, they stopped and took the poop away. Weird. After some time, they let him out, and he was in a new place! It had other cows and calves. And different friendly humans, one who appeared to be ready to calve soon, herself.

She has a calf in there! See!

Rip liked the place. He still got his milk, but also had a herd to hang with, when they’d let him. There was some tasty grass, too.

A few days later, though, they put him back in the fancy rumbly thing. He had to poop in the same place, and also peed. The female human said she sure was glad they put a tarp in the back seat. So, that’s what the strange slippery brown dirt he was standing on was called.

Next time the rumbling stopped, he was back at the first place with all the dogs. He liked to try to play with the little white one, but the male human didn’t like it.

I’ve put on a little weight!

The other female made him feel better by giving him a delicious kind of feed she called a peppermint horse treat. That was fun to chew.

More horse treats, please! (He won’t get any!)

There was a rectangular prickly thing in the wheelbarrow next to Rip’s pen. It smelled really good. The big male human broke some of it off and tried to get Rip to nibble on it. Nope.

No, thanks. Sniff, sniff.

Then he set some of it on the ground. Rip changed his mind about it, after a lot of sniffing. He put a bit of it in his mouth and chewed. Not bad!

Mmmm.

The humans called it hay, and they kept telling him it was just like grass, just dry. Rip, having so far only lived in the height of summer drought, thought all grass was pretty dry.

Hay is good.

It was time for a nap. His plan is to eat and nap enough to get big and strong, so no human can pick him up and rumble him off again.

Shh, don’t tell him about trailers, and how he’s being trained to walk on a lead for easy loading. Dream on, Rip.

Family Kudos

I just wanted to say how happy I am with the amazing job our little family team has been doing as we work together to build our Hearts, Homes and Hands (HHH) business over the past year plus. We each have contributed time, effort, and sweat to the endeavor. And it’s been quite a learning process! No doubt it will continue to be.

I rarely get to share decorative plants, so here are some I saw walking around our Austin neighborhood.

I encourage all the readers of this blog to also follow the HHH blog, which features lots of writing on elder care and health issues, along with business updates. That’s where you hear more from our chief hermit, Lee, too.

My contribution is helpful, but minimal, since I have another full-time job at the moment. I do the blog, maintain the Facebook page and LinkedIn, and write some newspaper articles. And I help with renovating our buildings by selecting materials and such.

On the other hand, Kathleen, Lee, and Chris have been working so, so hard that it’s been hard on their mental and physical health. Still they’ve kept going, and it shows by how much the business has grown!

Lee has become quite the financial analyst for a writer, or for anyone. He helps us see where we’ve been and where we’re going. His attention to detail awes me.

I’ve mentioned Chris and his work many times here, since I enjoy sharing rehab updates. His ability to design structures and then build them has been amazing to watch. The stairs! The crown molding! My bathroom! The ceilings! I can’t wait until he can have a team helping him, which will be a lot easier when the office is done. I’m really grateful for his patience and willingness to do this work.

And wow, Kathleen has done a yeoman’s job of getting us set up, keeping state-required records, training the initial staff, and recruiting customers. It’s really a job for more than one person, and it’s been hard on her! Many days she just comes home and goes to bed, unable to deal with anything else! I don’t blame her one bit.

I’m glad she’s got enough staff trained to help with the day-to-day operations of our business, because I know she will really be an amazing marketer when her time is less booked. Well, and when the pandemic makes doing things in person a challenge.

That’s the thing, we’ve done darned well to be still going after the past few months. I’m so grateful for all our talented family members, and for the great staff that is providing the much-needed personal assistance service to this county. Kudos to all.

The Joy of Typos

This morning, Lee was reading over my recent posts, and he spotted a couple of typos. While I was fixing one, I found another. It’s great to have another set of eyes to look over things for you.

One of the errors was pretty funny, in which I called Lee’s brother, Jim, his father. He’s Chris’s father, not Lee’s! That gave us a good laugh.

Then, Lee said he wrote about being grateful for typos in his journal today (he always says what he’s grateful for as he plans his day and does the dozens of other activities his journaling system entails. He kindly shared it with me:

That says:

Gratitude: Typos and awkward, ambiguous sentences are mistakes we all make and I believe we can all admit to. They give us the opportunity to practice gracefully admitting our imperfections. Hopefully we can apply these lessons to other areas of our lives.

Lee Bruns, personal journal

I thought that was a lovely way to look at our human slip-ups, as chances to practice grace and acknowledge our all-too-human slips.

What’s not to love?

That said, you can always let me know if you see a typo, or if you don’t understand something I’m trying to convey here. Since I’m mostly just “thinking as I type” here, I’m bound to get lost at times. I appreciate the chance to interact with readers, anyway!

And now, I must shift to what will be a difficult volunteer group meeting, if they get to the hard topic before I have to leave for a paid work meeting.