Welcome to the Hermits’ Rest Aviary

This week, I’ve truly felt like I live in some kind of private bird sanctuary or something. There are so many beautiful birds to enjoy. This morning I went out to feed the hens, and the ground was heavy with dew, which must have made all the birds in the world happy. Once again, we were heavy on the heron family, with the usual great blue heron and green heron (the tricolored heron did not make an appearance) joined by an entire flock of great egrets (usually we just have one or two). There were also a couple of cattle egrets (distinguished by their yellow legs as opposed to the black legs on the larger birds).

Fun times at the pond.

Plus, there were ten or twelve black vultures, hopping and bopping along the edge of the pond or tank. They were drawn by the dead armadillo, who’s contributing to the Circle of Life by feeding both these guys and turkey vultures, who were out in force yesterday. Turkey vultures have red heads, while black vultures’ heads are black. That makes for easy identification.

Vultures taking flight

There were also the twittering English sparrows flitting around, along with all the grackles that sit on the electrical wires then fly around in a huge murmuration, descending on the fields, then departing again. Cardinals are constantly coming and going, as well. Plus there was something that makes a big screech sound, which I haven’t managed to catch on the Picture Bird software to see what it is.

That’s a lot of birds. Plus the storks are still around, which warms my heart.

When I tire of the pond, I go over to the black willow trees beside the front tank, which now has a little water in it, thanks to a bit more rain (hooray for the rainy season).

A little more water this morning!

There I’ve been seeing one, and just one, scissortail flycatcher. I wonder if it somehow didn’t migrate. By the way, did you know they’re related to the Western kingbird? We have those here, too!

I like it here

The trees are just chock full of tiny birds, including chickadees, orchard orioles, and warblers I can only hear but not see. Oh yeah, and the mockingbird whose territory is the telephone pole across the street, who mimics the woodpecker who also hangs out there. Since I don’t have photos of those guys, here are some sparkly dew-encrusted tiny mushrooms.

What a symphony! That’s what I’ve been enjoying lately. I’ll spare you the cuckoo, owls, and many sparrows in the woods. It’s too muddy to try to get photos of them, so I just listen.

I can’t wait to watch the geese and cranes migrating.

I Try to Cheer Up

I feel sorta silly for being sad about a rooster. But it’s sort of on top of three people I know losing beloved horses recently, too. Livestock? Friends? Fellow beings who enrich our lives? Sure.

Portraits of Carlton make me feel better.

I went out to remind myself of how we are all part of something bigger. Tiny mushrooms said, “Look at us!” I spent about ten minutes just looking at the first one there. So detailed.

I went in and tried to work. I’m glad I’m doing something that requires concentrating. It makes time pass quickly. But it’s not terribly cheerful. So, I decided to do something that would please Lee and make the house look better, too. I put actual china in the old china cabinet that one day I’m gonna spiff up. It looks better with Lee’s family china and my green and purple stuff in it. Some day I’ll find the rest of the china.

That made me feel a little better. It still needs some color. I sure was fond of tan and wood when I built this house.

There’s new life, though. A baby snake said hi.

And now it’s raining again so that feels better. I just needed to remind myself of what is good. Life is good, even when it’s hard and we lose our companions. That’s just how it goes.

Yay.

Hi There

Not much is going on other than the dizzy thing and working hard. Work is good, of course. I could do without queasy and dizzy.

This will make it all better.

The liquor is a prop, as is the hat. We were celebrating a coworker’s birthday today, so we wore party hats, made signs, and brought celebratory beverages to our 8:30 am meeting. Party on Zoom! It made Lenna cry. That’s a good way to start sprint planning (if you don’t know what that is, consider yourself lucky).

Why didn’t you invite ME? Well, Apache, you don’t like hats.

Declan put a set of blinds that didn’t fit on another project in the tack room. This is the only one that worked, but it’s okay, because that’s the one that gets lots of morning sun and heats things up.

Ok. Later I will hang up the little art I’ve had since I lived in my first house in Illinois.

And since I was too woozy to exercise, I did a fun thing at lunch. Kathleen gave me one of those kid sun-catcher crafts to cheer me up. It was a paint horse, and I made it look like Apache. It’s got his mane and tail plus a white nose. I had fun, and it’s cheerful in a window.

And one more thing, I found yet another mushroom variety today. The puffballs are back! And yesterday’s ink caps are already fading. Maybe my mold issue will, too.

The look like golf balls grow!

Slime Mold, Mystery Mold, Shimmering Fungi

Well, shoot, no wonder my head is full of mush, there is so much mold, fungus, and who knows what other damp-loving organisms right now after the rain. I was feeling better after taking the Mucinex, but then I went outside and did stuff with the horses and BOOM I’m a dizzy, queasy mess again. I think I need to stay in, but when you have these precious beings wandering around, you want to go out!

Someone let us out! Extra green grass!

As for things that might attack my head, I’ve seen some old and some new. The first thing I saw I have no clue what it is. It looks like strands of fungus growing on the ground. There were a bunch of large masses of them in the grass yesterday.

It could be the web of a spider, but I don’t think that’s it. Any ideas?

The weirdest thing I’ve seen, and one that has probably helped make me sick, is the aptly named dog vomit slime mold. At least I think that’s what it is. It weirdly covers all the plants. Yesterday I thought it was bird poop. Today, ewww. That is one fascinating thing.

Well, that’s an interesting thing.

There’s more “normal” stuff out there that I’ve enjoyed. I posted photos of some mushrooms yesterday that I call poop shrooms. I do not think they are “magic mushrooms,” but just normal Panaeolus antellarum. This is a mushroom that’s actually edible, but since it grows on dung, not a lot of us would really want to eat them. Certainly, there are enough to feed many people right now! Every pile of horse poop has its own little colony.

There are other mushrooms that have popped up, and I’ve always enjoyed them. The inkcaps are so delicate that they wave in the wind. Watch the video; it’s so pretty.

Prettiest poop ever.

I wrote about this because I know it won’t last. The mold and fungi will be gone in a few days once it dries out (though I hope it rains some more).

The horses like damp hay so they dig little holes to get to where it’s still wet.

It was dry enough today to get more work done on the front pond. These silt up quickly, so it’s always good to get in there and clean them out when a dry spell comes up. We now have a mountain of beautiful dirt to spread across the pasture, and maybe make the horses a little hill to run up and down. It’s a great opportunity to make the slopes on the side a little less steep, especially where we need to mow.

I’m not complaining about all these weather changes! You see so many interesting natural phenomena if you just look carefully.

Goodbye to a Bird Friend, Hello to Others

Well, there was apparently an actual cock fight last night, and Peeper lost. I was not surprised, but sad. Bruce was just being a rooster. I tried. Sniff. Poultry are sure hard to keep.

Starlings and dewberries across the road.

In good bird news, I’ve heard my first red-winged blackbird of the year. And in better news, the scissor-tail flycatchers are swooping and soaring again. That’s good, because the barn swallows need help with all the flying ants and other swarming creatures.

Mr Robotto, the pool cleaner, was filled with tiny wings yesterday. Yuck.

But all is not bad. Look at the giant mushroom that’s just sitting in front of the house. It looks like an ostrich egg or a softball!

Drew is holding his own. I spent a lot of time with him today. I groomed him a long time and groomed filthy Apache even longer. That horse is still shedding like crazy. Drew is too, but not so badly. And in Drew news you didn’t probably want to hear, he pooped today, which means he’s functioning normally.

No photos of Drew, but right next to him is a newly organized shipping container.

We are about to get to where the tack room will be built out, which sure makes me happy. Then we will be on to our next ranch improvement project, which involves a little building down the road.

Isn’t it cute?

And on one last note, it’s also gnat season. It’s always something here. Enjoy some flowers and an insect.

PS: a hummingbird moth just landed on my phone as I was labeling the flowers. Nature is full of surprises.

Shiny and Strange Things, for Christi

I started work extra early today, so I got to stop before the pre-solstice sunset caught up with me. It had rained and misted much of the day, but the late-afternoon sun was shyly peeking out from the clouds. It turned the ranch into a jewel box of shining droplets hanging from every fence, blade of grass, and plant.

A twinkling world

I walked along just wishing I had someone to share this with. Lee was up working. Kathleen isn’t here. Mandi was at work, sigh. I know the little things I was enjoying so much weren’t the kind of things a lot of people would even notice. I mean, there was also a lot of holes from hogs or something, animal poop, and normal ranchy things.

For example, I was surprised to see these kernels of corn in the middle of our pasture. Did it come out in deer poop? Did a bird drop it? I have no idea. It has to be deer corn, because no one grew corn around here this year.

It came to me that these were the kinds of things my friend Christi often posted as she looked out on her own ranch. Trees, sunsets, random cactuses, weird mushrooms, corn in the middle of the field. Tears came to my eyes, because I’d just been reading about when her memorial service would be held, fittingly enough, right in the middle of Sara’s and my lessons with her trainer friend. She’d probably get a chuckle out of that.

There were a bunch of these interesting stinkhorn mushrooms in the field today.

Well, then, I said, as my heart literally began to ache, I should share the shiny and quirky things I see around the Hermits’ Rest today, in honor of her memory and her love of this part of Texas.

Willow branches

I hope you enjoy how even the lowliest blades of grass became shimmering waves of diamonds in the sun today. It’s a real tribute to a shining soul. Be sure to look at the pictures up close, so you can see all the droplets.

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!

Soggy and Soggier

It’s still raining today. There were brief respites, but we’ve had at least an inch. Whew. The good news is we have a lot of mushrooms to enjoy.

Happy puffballs.

I tried to go check out what was going on at the fence project. But it started raining real hard, so we went off to see a horse that we may board over here to keep Apache company. It’s all alone, and belongs to some folks who live near our office.

Howdy. I’m Prince.

He needs a Coggins test and stuff, but if he came here, his owner says we can ride him. That would be fun. At least he’s small, and he’s named after my dad. This isn’t a done deal, but a possibility. In any case, I got to meet a friendly horse.

It then rained more. But, not before I went out to take some pictures of the Black-eyed Susans. I lucked out and Penney joined me. I got some lovely photos of her looking romantic.

I’m so romantic.

She sure blends in well with scenery.

This is just so beautiful. I love the storm clouds.

Being with the dogs makes you notice so many things! I didn’t even get mad at Vlassic when he jumped up and got my entire outfit muddy.

Who, me?

But even muddy weather has its good points. There’s always beautiful nature to enjoy. Like, why were there so many mud daubers on sunflower leaves? And why is Mr. Toad living in this trough?

All in all, it’s good to be back in the swing of things. I got work done and caught up with my Master Naturalist blogging. It’s volunteer week at work, so it was authorized. What fun! I’ll try to get more fascinating tomorrow. I’m still wiped out.

Penney is tired too. All that glamour wore her out.

Book Report: Fantastic Fungi

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Yes, another book report. That’s what happens when you take time off from your usual busy-ness-hood. Today’s book is another really special one that I bought after the Master Naturalist meeting. Fantastic Fungi is a companion to a film I need to see. The book is edited by Paul Stamets, an expert on mushrooms, who also contributes essays.

Cool book cover, plus Penney.

Before I go on and on about the writing, though, let me gush about the illustrations, which are mostly gorgeous photographs by Taylor Lockwood and others. I could look at them all day. The variety of shapes, textures, colors, and forms that mushrooms and other fungi can take surprised me. There are things in this book that I’m awed by.

The inside back cover. Look at those things!

And now for the content of the book. There are lots of short essays, interrupted by annoying large subheadings (my only complaint). The greats of mushroom science contributed, and it’s weird to read “and I discovered x in my research,” rather than “this famous person discovered x.”

Since mushrooms are an area where I lacked knowledge, I learned a lot about how mycelium and fungal networks are organized. I knew they could be very large and very old, but the contribution they make to life on this planet are way more significant than I’d realized.

My favorite page, because of all those shapes.

And that’s where this book switched from being a pretty book about a part of nature I only knew a little about to something much more significant. Over and over, the contributors to Fantastic Fungi, stressed that fungi have much to teach us and may even be able to save us, if we learn how. The subtitle is: How Mushrooms Can Heal, Shift Consciousness and Save the Planet, after all.

Reading about how we seem to be designed to use the nutrients, chemicals, and other aspects of mushrooms makes me realize we are related. And that’s the point the contributors are trying to make. Without mushrooms, plants and animals would suffer greatly. Paul Stamets, especially, speaks eloquently.

A core concept of evolution is that, through natural selection, the strongest and fittest survive. In truth, (and scientifically proven), communities survive better than individuals, especially communities that rely on cooperation. Acting on such a principe, people want to give in order to receive, which I think reflects the power of an essential goodness.

Paul Stamets, p. 66

It becomes clear from Stamets and others that all of the organisms here in Earth depend on each other. Humans have been woefully ignorant of this.

Then, they bring in the heavy hitters, Michael Pollan and people he’s worked with to talk about how mushrooms (psilocybin) can help humans realize this (which I did read about in How to Change Your Mind). And they bring in more research on the experiences people have with these mushrooms. Good stuff.

What they mainly say is that people overwhelmingly have experiences of oneness and connection with other people and the earth. Maybe this is what mushrooms are trying to tell us? If so, I’m all for it. A bit more acknowledgment of our commonality and less artificial differentiation would be fine with me.

I’m inspired. And it strikes me that focusing on this kind of mutual connection is yet another way we can help get past racism, bullying, and needless antagonism. Thank you, fungi.

Hmm. I seem to be on a journey, don’t I? Are those mushrooms growing on the cow patties what I need?

(No, I’m not gonna do it. Too law abiding. And don’t want to poison myself.)

Baby Steps to a Comfortable Life

Work Comfort

I’m realizing that my life is coming back, slowly. It’s different, but things I care about keep coming back. For example, going back to my Austin office has let me visit my tree friends in the courtyard (even if we can no longer see them from our desks).

Courtyard oaks.

I’ve known the trees since I moved to this area. We used to drive by them all the time while they were building my house. Then they were mottes of trees in beautiful meadows. Now they got saved when an office complex got built.

So restful.

I saw extra cool honey mushrooms in the rocky karst area.

Home Improvements

Our Bobcat Lair house has been stuck in February mode. The front tree has had Valentine decor, and there was a broken statue on the dining table for months. I was hardly ever home, and Anita stayed downstairs.

Farewell February!

But tonight Declan and Rollie came over and fixed that. We put up all the decorations we have, and Rollie really wanted orange lights, so we have them.

And we did the mantel. Yay.

It felt so good to be doing something together. I miss having the kids around. And they helped so much. We may have been wearing masks and keeping our distance, but we were doing fun seasonal stuff. Time has stopped freezing.

Spooky young people. They ARE smiling.

And we all walked the dogs together. That has always been my favorite family activity, ever since I was a kid. Traditions continue. Life goes on. Love can’t be stopped!

Sending air hugs to all.

BottomsUpOrange

All Things Crochet!

Crissi McDonald

Heartline Horse Training

sara annon

seeking the middle path

Tonya's Tall Tales

My life with horses, bunnies, chickens, ducks, and cows.

rfljenksy - Practicing Simplicity

Legendary Whining and Dining World Tour.

The Backyard Horse Blog

All about keeping horses at home

Hazel's Animal Adventures

My life on the ranch.

Katie Zapfel

Children's book author. Mom blogger.

365 Knit Socks

I knit a lot of socks and I make a few other things

recoveringpornaddictcom.wordpress.com/

Coach, author and educator

The daily addict

The daily life of an addict in recovery

Just Vee

A regular gal who likes to stop and smell the flowers.

Happy Heidi's Happenings

My life in the country.

BrownesPups

A family of dog lovers, owners & breeders since 2015

The Adventures of a Mountain Coward

panic-stricken mountain adventuring!

Something Over Tea

Scribbles from my notebook

The Renegade Press

Tales from the mouth of a wolf

Heccateisis's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

The Upstate Gardener

The Upstate Gardening blog with Gardening Information, Recipies, Home Improvement Ideas, and Crafts Projects to make your life more beautiful and healthy.

Read, Learn, Live

Look closely around and about you, and you will see all forms of beauty.

Nature And Photography

Bring Nature Into Life

AT PATHO

no streetlights, just star light

Words and Stitches

woolgathering at its best

The Grief Reality

Normalising the conversation about Grief.

iRoseStudios.com

Art Studio Dumfriesshire

The Creative Pixie

eat up some crafty goodness with this creative mama

Writings of a Furious Woman

My thoughts, sentiments, and scribbles on womanhood

Paws Bark

Dogs Leave Paw Print in your Heart

Yeshua's Child Art

Art that Expresses the Heart

Chicken Coop Plans

Build Your Chicken a Home

Leaf And Twig

Where observation and imagination meet nature in poetry.

Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Cathartic Tendencies

motivational posts, rants, and stories!

TotallyTexasGifts.com

Featuring Fine Arts & Crafts created and sold by Texans

Seasons As My Teacher

Truth Written In The Wind

claudiajustsaying

Aging & Attitude

The Tragedy Kween

A boisterous introvert illustrating her way through life.