Independence Day for Hermits

Chris and Suna create desktops and chicken coops from scraps and leftovers.

One thing’s for sure, the hermits of Hermits’ Rest sure know how to celebrate without leaving the property. I’m proud of us.

Most of the day, Chris and I worked on two projects, a second hen house and nest box, and my new desk.

My project was the desk. First I spent a couple of hours sanding the doors, one of which is the desk top and one the “modesty panel.” I’m so modest, you see. I just wanted to rough them up a bit.

The modesty panel door.

By the way, the doors came from the Pope Residence, and were a bathroom and closet door, so smaller than standard.

Here it is with a coat of red paint.

The desk top was painted white. It’s paint was peeling and hard to sand, so it took a while. I forgot to take a “before” picture. I’ll blame the heat. I did really well not overheating today!

The desk top looks much brighter, since it’s base was white.

No doubt you notice the doors don’t match. It’s okay. This interesting shade of coral red (made by mixing my bathroom tomato red with the red from our Christmas float) will be an undercoat.

Two coats on. Red enough.

Both doors look nice and “rustic” so I’m happy. Tomorrow the MAGIC will happen, so come back for Day 2 of the door desk paint project!

Meanwhile, Chris was finishing the nest boxes he started, which are nicely hinged now.

Hinged box.

Then he got to work turning a shipping crate that held the tile for our house 5 years ago into a chicken coop. He added a roosting shelf, and attached the nest boxes.

Roosting shelf.

The outside he covered in more of the tin we used in the Pope Residence.

He just improvises. But measures carefully.

By the time we called it quits, he’d measured the roof and got the supports up. The hardware cloth (wire mesh) is ready for the ventilation openings. This should also get done tomorrow!

Roof supports are up. The triangles will be air vents. Hens need them.

We also hope to get more shade cover for the birds and to enlarge the pens, like I mentioned earlier. That will keep us busy at home for another day!

Did I mention that these projects only cost us labor? All materials are scraps or leftover stuff from other projects. Fun doesn’t have to be expensive! It does help to have a creative and talented team lead, though. Go team!

Earth Day at 50

As a certified Master Naturalist, I am obliged to acknowledge that today’s the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. As a human being, I relish the opportunity to dwell on my concerns about the planet we all share and to remind myself to keep doing the things I do to help our green and blue mother stay a welcoming home for us all.

Thanks, Earth, for bringing us sights like this. Photo by @simogarb via Twenty20.

It’s hard to think about the Big Picture when so much little stuff is on our minds. But, it can do us a lot of good, too. We get presents from the Earth every day. Surely we can give back some, too!

This is little quaking grass. It’s seed-heads look like rattlesnake tails, or tiny Christmas trees to me. Behind it is our doggy swimming hole, which is FULL of tadpoles right now. Thanks, Earth!

What Can You Do?

Sure, we’re all avoiding big gatherings, so our Master Naturalist chapter isn’t doing an event like we usually do (actually, we’d canceled anyway). But the internet is just full of ideas. Here are some things I’ve read as well as my own suggestions:

  • Do some of these great ideas from the Kresge Foundation. They include live virtual events, social media ideas, and even a musical playlist.
  • Read a book! Head on over to my Book Reports Page and find one of the many nature books I’ve recommended over the past two years, or go ahead and get Nature’s Best Hope. We all need that inspiration sometimes, and reading takes our minds off “stuff.”
  • Go outside! Take a walk with your eyes, your ears, and your mind open to what the Earth has to share with you. Do you hear birds, squirrels, dogs, or coyotes? Do you see butterflies and moths? Are there plants growing in all sorts of places you don’t normally see? Make a list; you might be surprised at what the Earth has for you, no matter where you are.
  • Share with others. Remind people you know that it’s Earth Day and that they can do something to help. Use Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, email, your Zoom meetings…whatever! Word of mouth is always the best way to encourage new learning.
  • Start a new tradition. My friend Donna just told me that she has planted a tree every single Earth Day for the past 50 years. Hers is already in the ground. You can start your own Earth Day practice now!
  • Recycle something. Even better, re-use something you already have. I’ve made chicken feed scoops from plastic containers that have lasted months and months. I’m saving wine bottles and corks for projects (can’t wait for all my shiny bottle trees to start sprouting!). Let us know what YOU do!
Venus’ looking glass was my gift from the Earth yesterday.

I hope that’s given you some ways to celebrate Earth Day from the comfort of your property. The Earth is our home, and it never hearts to tidy her up, make her beautiful, and keep her safe.

Happy Earth Day #50!

Lent? Do I Do as UU?

I used to be a member of a Unitarian Universalist church. This is a religious denomination known for being extra-open to spiritual paths of all sorts. I still like a lot of the things UUs do, and one of them is the idea of “UU Lent,” which is a chance to do some intentional thought about a word per day leading up to the time when many faiths celebrate Easter. And you’re supposed to do a photo each day to show what represents that word to you, as described below (check out the honorifics on the designers; UUs are extra woke).

Here are all the words. They HAD to start with the hard one. Thanks to Robin Slaw for inspiring me.

I’ll post mine on Instagram/Facebook, but also here at the end of each blog post, so you can read ’em or skip ’em, as you see fit. Let’s get reflecting, shall we?

(Note for y’all who don’t know me well: I encourage you to practice your religion however you wish! I respect all of you who take the time out to think about something bigger than you. Yes, even those of you who think I’m on the short path to Hell. We’ll see.)

UU Lent for February 26: Prayer

This has never been my favorite concept, because I just never liked how so many people I was around did it. They tell some Daddy in the Sky to get to blessing them and the people they like right now. I have never been comfortable telling a deity what to do or asking for special favors. And when I eventually realized that my “deity” was good ole Ma Earth, I just felt like I should let Earth deal with things.

Suna's altar
I have this collection of objects in my living room that remind me of who I am and who my spiritual role models are. Both the St. Bridget/Goddess Brighid and the white invoking goddess a friend look like they are praying, so that’s my image for “prayer.” All the nature things, even the candle wax that looks like a triple moon, help me focus on taking care of all of our planet.

On the other hand, I’ve never had a problem putting out intentions into the world, but I guess it felt more like I was making an effort to make change happen, not passively waiting on some other entity to do it. And I do occasionally meditate on a topic, which is prayer-ish.

On the third hand, you know, the invisible one, I’ve seen many people perform “prayers” that I found quite moving and comfortable to me. I’m glad I got old enough to really understand that everyone’s ideas about God(dess) and their spiritual paths are their own and not my problem (well, until I get punished for not participating in the dominant paradigm, which can happen…).

Happy Hallmark Holiday

I’ve never been a fan of those holidays that seem to be designed just to sell stuff. Sweetest Day (what?) comes to mind. And after reading years’ worth of people saying how sad they feel on Valentine’s Day, or gloating about what they got…yeah, I’m not so big on that.

Valentine’s DAZE

Except

This is me in my heart attire telling all you nice readers that I appreciate you SO MUCH!

I like reminding my friends and family that I am fond of them. I like seeing people smile at a little surprise. So, this year, when Anita and I were at the H-E-B (the best grocery store chain in Texas) early in the season, when there were still some “good” gifts and cards out, I picked up some little things for the gang in Cameron. It was nice-ish cards and a few little cute things.

Good quality corporate gifts.

But, where are they now? Heck if I know! At least it’s given everybody a good laugh, and we all know we like each other, presents or no. And Kathleen and her helpers DID get gifts out to all our clients and business contacts at Hearts Homes and Hands. You should just be our client for the presents!

My advice to everyone is to use a day like today to tell someone you care, do something kind for someone, or give yourself a big old hug, because YOU deserve it.

Aftermath of the Aftermath

After much discussion and many good ideas from family and friends, we decided to get some of the things you put on stairs to make them less slippery, and apply them to the area where Anita and I walk out of the Bobcat Lair house when dog walking. That’s the place we walk most when it’s rainy, since the dogs have to do their duty no matter what. We’re hoping they hold up and prevent falls until we can get the deck rebuilt with better materials.

This will help give us back our confidence walking on the deck when it’s rainy. We just won’t go out if it’s icy!

I had been all worried about my chickens when someone told me they knew of a bunch that had died from huddling together too intently during the recent very cold rain. Chris sent me a picture to prove they are alive, and Lee went out to check on them after the first freeze. I guess they figured something out!

We are just fine, Suna! Soon we will make eggs!

PS

Thanks for all the fascinating comments on Facebook about your personal prejudices. I think it helps that we realize we all have these irrational feelings about people, and maybe we can cut each other some slack about our areas for growth. I have some fascinating friends.

I got anti-falling stuff. Kathleen got little cakes! (The cup was from Lee.)

Love, Peace, Happiness. The Big Letdown

Many times, I write about how the passage of time and the learning opportunities I’ve taken advantage of have led me to be more content. And it’s true. I’m handling life’s ups and downs fairly well right now. That doesn’t mean I don’t notice what’s wrong in the world, though.

Frosty sunrise.

All day today, I’ve been reading about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the things he said and did. (His actual birthday was last week, but the US loves Monday holidays.) I also listened to a lovely song imploring us to listen to what John Lennon said, give peace a chance and all that. Today, I’m reminded that King said:

“Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children.”

 Speech to the Negro American Labor Council, 1961.

I came of age in the 1970s. It wasn’t a perfect time, but to me it seemed like things were going in the right direction. Women were working toward equal rights in all ways. Black people could marry white people. Gay friends were emerging hesitantly from their closets. People talked so much about peace, love, and equality.

Now that I’m over here, looking back from over 60 years wandering our poor beleaguered planet, I think I was quite wrong. By surrounding myself with my “tribe” of people like me, I was blissfully ignorant of much of US society, and certainly VERY naive about how businesses and capitalism worked.

I know there are still people out there like me, working to improve the environment, feed the hungry, bring peace and understanding among our fellow humans, and all that. I see that in my volunteer work every day. But, I no longer have confidence that we have the numbers or the strength to accomplish much. (I’ll still keep doing my part.)

Really, stop reading if rants bore you like they do me.

Here’s Why (Or Stop Reading Now)

The heart of my sadness is this: I once believed people were basically good and kind, just sometimes they were confused or misled. I now see too many people taking pleasure out of harming others, spurred on by their own “tribes.”

Continue reading “Love, Peace, Happiness. The Big Letdown”

Holiday for Harvey

Whew. I was not a hermit today, as I spent a fun bit exhausting day surrounded by people. But I did fine, laughed a lot, and made it through dinner for nine people at the ranch table this evening.

I think Apache missed me.

The highlight of the day came toward the end of the delayed present opening. For some reason, Harvey really likes presents. He tried to take Lee’s wrapping paper, then was just SURE some hand cream I got was a treat for him. Glad he didn’t chomp down on it.

Kathleen admires Harvey’s dignity.

Here’s the cutest. My sister gave Lee some pint glasses that were carefully wrapped in bubble wrap. Lee threw it on the floor. Harvey, usually a slow mover, pounced on that precious wrap like the happiest toddler in America.

I’m so happy.

He then proceeded to vigorously shred it, tossing each piece gleefully in the air. Triumph!

Action shot!

He spent five minutes on this, before getting distracted by some tissue paper.

Visitors Easton and Nicole crack up as Chris watches.

Only then did Carlton and Penney take a turn.

Yay! Our turn.

That wasn’t the end of Harvey’s holiday fun. Chris and I had built the first fire in our outdoor fireplace this evening. We all took turns sitting by it in the chilly air. At one point I looked over, and there was Harvey, sharing a loveseat with our friend, Mike. He genuinely looked like he was part of the gathering as a fellow friend.

Romantic outdoor fire.

What a good dog.

I’m a good dog.

Festive Nestivus to All Fellow Hermits

I was taking the day off from blogging, but when I read this post on the Sweatpants and Coffee blog, I had to share this wonderful new holiday, which I’m apparently celebrating today! I’m already in the mood, as my Snapchat picture shows.

Santa after Christmas.

I love the idea of a celebration of introversion. By sitting here on the balcony, drinking coffee, and watching the marauding band of feral cats go back and forth. I’m properly celebrating this Holy Day.

We’re not a gang, we’re a club. (SNL quote from long ago).

According to the creator of Nestivus, Nanea Hoffman, this defines the holiday:

Brilliant! From the blog linked above.

She suggests we cuddle in blankets, pet your animals or squeeze something soft, and communicate in our preferred introvert method, avoiding eye contact, if desired. Ahh.

A vulture just flew by so close I could count its feathers. There are titmice, chickadees, and cardinals in the trees (when the cats are elsewhere), and the child in the next building has stopped hysterically squeaking a toy and yelling , “Here kitty kitty!”

Mrs Cardinal is quietly chirping in the bushes in this photo I made nice and cozy for the Nestivus celebrations.

Mrs. Cardinal and I are both relieved. Festive Nestivus to you, unless you are out in a crowd celebrating Boxing Day, the extrovert alternative.

Angsty Holiday Introspection: Christmas Eve with the Hermits

Here I sit, alone with my fellow Hermit, each of us typing on our separate keyboards, listening to a dog bark in the distance. Ah, Christmas Eve.

More than one of my friends, and one family member in particular, has asked why I’ve gone out of town for the past three Christmases. So, I’ll answer that instead of giving another boring nature report (I’ll do that tomorrow; I did cool stuff today). The short answer is: self preservation. The longer answer, and how I plan to deal with my holiday angst follows.

We interrupt this angst for a cowboy Christmas display. Carry on.

Background on how I’m wired: One of my major “love languages” is gifts. I’m one of those people who hang on to things for years, just because they remind me of the person who gave them. I have my Kathy Dettwyler Faberge pansy thing, my cake cover and weird quilts from my Granny Kendall, a pod sculpture and a goddess from my friends in Illinois…on and on.

Because of this, I always loved Christmas. I treasured so many gifts, even ones I didn’t actually like, because I knew some family member or friend took time and effort to choose it. That made me feel loved. I looked forward to my sister’s gifts, as well as those from my brother and later my boyfriend, because they were just what I liked (all three of them have the gift knack, which I don’t think I actually got). I just loved being with family and enjoying each other as we exchanged thoughtful and fun gifts (we were never much for expensive ones).

Pause to enjoy a ranch in Bandera County.

When my kids came along, I just loved buying and making gifts for them, because I loved them so much and wanted to see them happy. Same for the rest of the family.

At some point, I realized I was going way overboard and buying too many things for too many people I cared for. It became clear when I found many carefully chosen and hand-made gifts discarded when Declan’s first girlfriend moved out. I realized many of the nice/carefully chosen things I’d given my own kids weren’t treasured; they were just tossed in a pile in their rooms to be found when I cleaned them out. (I KNOW some kid gifts are just for fun and don’t last forever!)

Mr and Mrs Goose honk a holiday hello.

Then it dawned on me that no one in my current family was big on giving gifts. I guess it isn’t their love language. (My spouse likes to give surprise gifts, but doesn’t like Christmas.)

PLUS, I always wanted to have a wonderful family meal for Christmas. When it began to also include all the neighbors and many friends, I got overwhelmed, though, and the planning started to stress me out. The last time I hosted a dinner, I looked out and saw three people cooking and serving like crazy and the rest just staring at each other.

Ah, deer. They prevent angst.

That was 2016, the same year that half the people invited didn’t even have the courtesy to bring a token gift or food contribution. I’m all for giving. Honest. It just suddenly struck me as really unequal, and I felt like I was giving like crazy without even thanks (I am sure I was thanked; I was over-exaggerating, a thing I have been known to do.)

I looked around after that Christmas dinner and exchange of 90% gifts from me and very few gifts for me. I said this isn’t working for me. It’s also not working for them. Why am I trying to give them the Christmas experience I want? What do they actually want? I decided that next Christmas would be different.

High-quality fencing is all one needs for Christmas.

The next year I booked us a week in New Mexico, and my kids, the current partner of Declan, Lee, and Anita all showed up. We drove around, hiked, shopped, relaxed, and played games. It was great.

Continue reading “Angsty Holiday Introspection: Christmas Eve with the Hermits”

Ha Ha! Today Didn’t Suck!

What do you know! A group of people determined to have fun despite setbacks CAN do it. My little department at work is like that little engine that could in the kids’ story. We just keep on doing good stuff and having a mostly positive attitude.

My house looked so good.

We had three people with sickness or sick children, but ended up having a lot of fun at the little party we had at the Bobcat Lair house this afternoon.

Maggie shows off the yeasty rolls.

It helps to have a pro party planner on the team. Maggie chose a great caterer who brought a traditional holiday meal to the house, while we did appetizers and desserts. I picked out decor items. It ended up so pretty!

People actually wore their hats.

And I just wish I could make green beans as good as theirs. Yum. I managed not to overdo carbs, too! But I enjoyed myself!

Jen dressed tastefully but festively. I screamed Christmas.
We ate at the table to thwart the dogs.

The best part was our white elephant exchange. We encouraged fun and funny gifts, and for a small group we had our share of great ones.

Beautiful sardines. Jason said he’d eat them.
Marlene says, “Hmm,” about the Mac and cheese

In the food department, Anita and I found a sampler of sardines. And Maggie brought a dozen Velveeta Shells and Cheese. There was a hilarious game of Golden Girls Trivial Pursuit and one called Kenny G Keeping It Saxy. That got stolen a lot.

Vlassic loved his new buddy Craig.

Vlassic was the most popular boy in the room. He hardly barked at all, and only stole one giant cookie. I’m proud of my dog.

Pickle got into the love action, too.

What I enjoyed most from the humans was seeing all of us relaxed and happy. I work with some very smart and humorous people. It’s sure good to enjoy each other and get to know each other better. It helps that we could all talk together, because there weren’t too many or too few.

Our second annual group photo!

Whoops

When I wrote yesterday about a feeling of dread, more than one reader responded that they felt clumsy at those times.

Doom came to this squirrel. Great shot of the black vulture by Anita!

Sure enough, today was full of minor oops errors and even a major one. And it wasn’t just me. My poor friends and colleagues dealt with it, too.

I got Maggie this fine hat as a consolation for not getting to go to Party City with me.

There were also disappointments and such at work. Even the good news of the day went sour. I couldn’t even make things better by shopping for our department party (at the Bobcat Lair) with coworker Maggie, because traffic got weird.

I’ll just cheer you up with photos of our Christmas lights, all from a box we found in the garage.

But hey, I remembered lots of positive things at therapy, too, and managed to go out with Anita to get the last party and family gifts just in time. I wish I hadn’t broken a delicate glass orb, though (the major error of the day), but I only got a small cut!

I even put lights in the cedar trees ( ashe junipers).

So yeah, those feelings of doom seem to portend something. But all in all, I’m grateful to the people who brighten my days.

Those blurs are snowflakes. Wish I had more!

I’ll be way more interesting after tomorrow’s party! In the meantime I hope you like our hodgepodge of holiday lights.