A Different Winter Wonderland

I’d planned a fun nature walk with my little group yesterday, but thanks to COVID, I ended up on a solo walk. I explored a part of the woods that’s near the house, but not often visited. It was warm and sunny, but still a winter wonderland to me.

A dream in green

The green you see is a mix of rye grass and chickweed.

And mushrooms!

I went over to the tank/pond on the other side of the woods from the one behind our house. It’s the most attractive one and is always full of life.

Cows love it, but they haven’t pooped all the life out of it.

It’s often hard to get to from our place, because there’s a fence marking a property line that ends in a place that stays damp for a long time after it floods. But, the recent tree-killing knocked it down in a spot, so I could explore the pond while it’s full.

We only have a couple of months when the trees have no leaves. You can see more!

This pond has lots of aquatic plants in it. Some are blooming. I forget what they are, but it’s pretty.

The water looks brown, but there are lots of fish.

It always smells nice and earthy around the pond when it’s wet. Admittedly, some parts smell more cattle-y. It smelled fresh today.

Looking towards the dam.

The highlight of my little walk was checking out where the water comes into the pond, which I’d never seen from this side while the stream was flowing.

Coral berry lines the little stream.

The stream had dozens of minnows in it. It was fun to watch them dart around. In the photo you see their shadows better than them! I also figured out that the stream comes out of a spring at the base of our pond. It doesn’t seem to drain our pond, or if it does, it’s slow.

I felt like an explorer in my own back yard. I found a freshly dug hole where some animal lives.

And I encountered an ant swarm on a log. Probably fire ants but still cool to watch. I didn’t stick my fingers in there to check.

Can you see the ones with wings?

It is always refreshing to hang out in nature, no matter what time of year. It’s healing and reminds you of the big picture. None of us is alone. Please enjoy more images of our small, green wonderland.

Weirdest Day Ever

Sure, it’s been a weird couple of weeks for me. I’ve not shared most of it. Lots isn’t mine to share. But today. Wow. I literally was left with my mouth hanging open a couple of times.

I spent some time on the porch sorta glazed over, watching hummingbirds. They are monotone, because that’s how I feel.

I got a new laptop of my own, so I won’t be relying on work machines, but I’m so un confident in myself that I’ll wait until tomorrow to get it going. I am just zonked.

It’s silver.

So, here are some plants.

And look, a baby water snake and fish I need to rescue, once my brain engages again.

But wait. I did get to laugh last night. Mandi and I were talking to Lee on the porch, and Goldie got thirsty. She did her usual drinking method, where she buries her head and blows bubbles. We were so humor starved that we just laughed and laughed. Here’s Goldie today, though I couldn’t get a shot with bubbles.

See, even the weirdest day ever isn’t all bad. That’s worth remembering.

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!

Just a Few Cute Animals

Oh goodness, I skipped a day of blogging for the first time since I resolved to post every day quite a while ago. I had good reason, though, it was a busy day with lots of fun meetings, animals to care for, chores, and conversations. By the end of the day, when I could have blogged, I chose to sit on the porch and talk to my family. Who could blame me for choosing in-person interaction? (Okay, someone could, but I probably don’t like them.)

A grasshopper.

There are lots and lots of bugs (including mosquitoes) out right now, and I especially liked this fuzzy caterpillar.

I got the chickens a big brick of treats at Tractor Supply today, since they completely finished their last treat, which was watermelon rind. They can certainly clean out a watermelon.

Let’s see. I also met a large fish, who’s apparently a local celebrity in Bea’s Kitchen (more on why I was there, later). It’s a fine and friendly fish.

I seem to be unable to add captions, but the fish says hello. Sigh, WordPress seems to give new features, then take away old ones.

And in case you were thinking I forgot the dogs, here’s Carlton making himself WAY too much at home in my bed this morning.

That’s some stink-eye! I’m off to do horse things and then finish my indoor writing tasks. I wish all of you a reasonable weekend, with weather that fits your desires (mine is no rain).

Birds, Trees, Castles, Oysters, and Adventure

Here’s another blog just chock full of photos, and not all of them are nature. It’s all good though. We just had a long day of visiting a variety of sights and sites.

This broad-headed skink is not a bird.

We set out early (for us), determined to see everything possible at Huntington Beach State Park. It’s across the road from Brookgreen Gardens, and features nature, birds, beaches, and a really interesting house that belonged to the people who used to own both the properties, the Huntingtons. Last year I saw better birds, but we still had a good time today.

We first went out to see the nature, where, of course, I spent a lot of time taking close-up pictures of plants. Lee says this is what I always look like.

Taking pictures of plants

I did find some pretty things to take pictures of, though some of them were Lee. There were many native berries, a spider, and the MOST exciting, a painted bunting.

From there, we headed over to Atalaya, the “castle” where the Huntington family lived in the winters. Folks, this is a really, really weird house. It’s all brick, even the floors, and all one story. It’s in the shape of a huge square with a very large courtyard in the middle. Every room, even the bathrooms, has a fireplace. I find that interesting, but it does get cold enough, even in South Carolina, to need some winter warmth.

Continue reading “Birds, Trees, Castles, Oysters, and Adventure”

News from Back at the Ranch and Seaside Sights

It’s a good thing folks back home sent me news, because I literally had meetings at 10, 11, 12, 1, 2, 3, and 4 on the books today. Luckily one got moved and a few of them were short, so I had time to breathe. And I snuck in some content creation, too. Go beach me.

News from the ranch ranges to worrisome to great. What’s worrisome is that Apache still isn’t 100% and Trixie the farrier/body worker isn’t sure why. Even on his extremely limited pasture, he’s managing to put on weight, too (still seems thin to me). Sara is taking good care of him, and even got to ride him. It turns out though, that Apache’s favorite object is now Sara’s back massager. Trixie used it on him, and according to Sara, he “melted.”

Happy horse time. More, Trixie, more!

We will figure out some way to get Apache’s diet right so he can feel okay again. That will be made better by the fact that I ordered a major ton of pipe yesterday, which will provide the foundations for our new world of fencing, pens, stalls, cattle working area, and expanded dog run (so the dogs can sit with us out front). This is going to be SO much work!

Look at all that pipe! And you can see dogs, too. Hi dogs!

Luckily we had the equipment for dealing with this stuff. We heard the Kubota tractor could not handle the weight of the pipe, so the front-end loader had to come to the rescue. We just knew that purchase was a good one.

I can handle anything.

We also hear that the dogs are having lots of fun “helping” out on the project. I can tell Harvey is having a good time!

I got to go for a ride.

Over here at the beach, we’d wanted to go back to Brookgreen, but I had too much work! I did get a moment to pick up a thank-you gift from Irina, the lady who helped us get more condo time. She is the first person I ever met from Moldova, and she was so impressed I’d heard of her home country, that she shared some of her wine with us. Who knew that Moldova was “the wine country?”

Can’t wait to try this, though I’d like to share it with friends and family.

I also got a tiny walk in between meetings, where I saw that workers were testing out some of the fancy new rides being set up near our condos. It looks like it will be a permanent installation amusement park, not a roving carnival. I will tell you this: I will not be getting on that roller coaster with a section that goes around and around in it.

Nope, not getting on that thing, ever.

It was really windy today, so we probably didn’t miss much not going anywhere to look at nature. Of course, I continued my hunt for natural beauty on Myrtle Beach, because I can’t help it. I found a rock with rainbow bubbles and a fresh little fish, soon to be seagull food.

But, the best thing we found were these jellyfish that washed up. They are just the most interesting creatures. It’s hard to believe they’re real when you look at them up close!

And now, it’s on to another evening of ocean watching, wine drinking, and eating delicious food (I made a huge piece of salmon last night, and seasoned it with crushed Doritos, since I’d forgotten to get any seasonings, and it was surprisingly tasty!).

We got to so many families enjoying themselves playing games together, got to watch a dog who couldn’t believe how lucky he was to find so much dirt to dig holes in, and even met a woman walking on the beach alone, wearing a tiara. It was her birthday, and she was rejoining her family in our building. I hope you are having fun enjoying the simple things, wherever you are.

Exploring the Wild Violet

Today was just the best day I’ve had in quite a while. As if finding the eggs wasn’t enough, I got to explore a new place, and wow, I found some mighty fine bits of nature!

Spoiler alert.

My friend Pamela had told me she’s seen fresh evidence of beavers on her property, which isn’t far from the Hermits’ Rest. I talked my way into an invitation to go check them out this afternoon after work. I put on cowboy boots and headed with her and Ruby the hound over to the spring-fed stream out at the edge of the hay fields.

It’s a pretty place.

The stream eventually goes to Big Elm Creek, but until it gets there it wanders around.

Near the start of the stream, which is on another property.

We set off to find beavers. There was definitely evidence of beaver activity, such as holes heading to the water and chewed saplings. But the first brush pile we looked at turned out to be a logjam, not animal work.

We enjoyed looking at plants and flowers until we got a little further down. You could see THIS was a beaver dam. It had lots of mud, sticks piled carefully, and entrance holes. We were happy! I took pictures of the holes, but to be honest, holes don’t photograph well.

All the water flows through one little area. How cool. Anyway we kept going, looking at dewberries and wild garlic and such.

Bugs, too!

We were enchanted by these very shiny, small primroses neither of us recognized. Maybe it’s an early buttercup? They are exquisite!

Then, as I trudged along the bank of the stream, I glimpsed purple. I squealed and said a curse word, but from happiness. I found violets! Wild violets!

Oh, my dear friends!

I’ve loved violets my whole life, and have missed them here. As we looked carefully, Pamela and I saw more and more. She was as delighted as I was, and we just had the best time spotting them.

Next, I got all excited to see cute little frogs and some minnows. Always good to see waterways alive with life!

Suddenly I saw a…thing. A big thing. Was it a fish, a salamander, or what? I yelled for Pamela to come see this huge thing.

Uh. It’s a…

Finally I figured out it was a dead frog, the biggest frog I ever saw in the wild (and I’ve seen those cane toads).

Not a great photo, but it was hard to get to.

Judging from its yellow throat, I’m guessing it’s a male bullfrog. It must have died of old age! I took a photo with Ruby in it to show the size. Ruby is a hound dog, not small at all.

Large.

After that, everything else was less dramatic, though we enjoyed the moss and other water-loving plants. We decided to name the little body of water Wild Violet Creek. Now it has a name!

Wild Violet Creek

I ended up going all the way to the back of Pamela’s property, where there’s a nice pool. Some short-horned cows came to see if I had any food.

Food, please.

I just ran around like a little kid taking in all the space, the hay fields, trees with woodpecker holes, and a very brisk wind. I didn’t mind. It was such a beautiful spring day!

Land spreading out so far and wide!

The water, woods, trees, and flowers washed away all the stress of the previous few days. Everyone needs access to something like this.

Peace, quiet, and beauty in the middle of Texas.

I hope you can find some springtime natural inspiration wherever you are. And maybe a giant frog or some violets.

Tired. It Happens.

Today was one of those do nothing but clean up and get stuff done days. For some reason, floor cleaning hurts my back, so I am zonked. But you need to dust and clean occasionally, right?

I got some good knitting in. My entrelac looks like something now. I enjoy knitting forward and backward, so I never have to turn the work.

A little lumpy, but nice colors.

The other one I started took a while to figure out, but will look good as it gets bigger. It’s a lot of slip stitches.

Hmm. Barf or nice?

I did see a few pretty plants and other living things today, plus I checked on the new fish, who all seem to be in the barrel. Enjoy these!

My sister made me and Lee a salmon dinner followed by a nice cake. Good ending to the birthday weekend.

I have been thinking about a few things and will get more interesting next week. Until then, here’s a checkered skipper butterfly.

Knitting on Hold Due to Online Shopping Fail

Darn me. I thought I had ordered more yarn for the table runner I’m making for Lee, then wondered why it had not arrived. Sigh. The website I used had such a long and convoluted ordering process that I missed one last “finalize order” button on the bottom of a screen, because the text was so long that the button required scrolling to see. Let me just say, “Grr.”

It’s looking pretty, though, other than my ugly decreases (for which I blame the yarn texture, not my sterling technique.

So, I now have a 28-inch long piece of knitted fabric and no more yarn. The purchase HAS hit my credit card, so now I’ll just wait until next week for the rest to show up. The good news is that Lee wants the runner to be 50 inches, so the two more skeins I ordered should be enough, but not too much. That makes me happy!

Half of a table runner.

I made a mistake in the last light brown section, but it’s not bad enough to rip out. With all that crazy color and texture, who’s gonna look that hard at it, once it’s on the stereo cabinet? It just shows I’m human!

Once again, I am really glad to have a backup project! The blue shawl will get longer today, though I must admit categorizing all my Bioblitz photos takes away from my knitting time.

Still Blitzing

No one I know actually logs ALL the hours they spend on iNaturalist. For me, the time just melts away as I try to figure out what kind of plant or animal I’ve seen. Yesterday I even got a couple of bird photos, nasty, blurry ones, but yay! I actually love this one, which really doesn’t show the bird species, but looks artsy.

Mystery bird.

And I got these beautiful closeups of henbit, the omnipresent wildflower of February.

And here, I just had to take a photo of the entrance to the driveway that leads to the cabin and barns. It’s pretty to me.

Very Texas-y.

How’s your weekend going? I hope better than this dead hunk of fish I found. Yep, a good place to stop blogging.

I don’t think there’s enough of this to identify on iNaturalist, but the fish does have cool teeth. At the top is a fin.
Katie Zapfel

Children's book author. Mom blogger.

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