Bee Happy, We Won!

Howdy. I hope you didn’t miss me too much yesterday, but I was too zonked once I got home from the Master Naturalist Conference to write anything, and I did want to spend some bonding time with Lee, since I won’t see him again until November.

Our merry band, plus a guy I don’t know, but must have been one of us once. Mike, in the back with the hat, is going to re-join us once he retires as a game warden. Apparently he was the only one who brought his gun with him. Yee-haw, Texas.

The blog title tells you two big things that made me happy yesterday, learning about bumblebees and our Chapter’s brochure winning the best brochure award at the conference. Everyone worked SO hard on it (yes, including me) that it just felt great.

Most of the folks showing off our certificate participated in the brochure project.

Of course, I was busy loading my stuff in the car when the announcement was made, but my colleagues valiantly handled it themselves.

I was so thrilled my eyeballs went crazy. Also note my fancy nails. They do glow!

As for Bumblebees

My main session yesterday morning was about bumblebees, which will be the Texas creature featured on next year’s re-certification pin (by the way, we FINALLY got our golden-cheeked warblers for this year). It turns out I didn’t know much about bumblebees. Now, I do!

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Hello and Look at My Flower Photos

I’m here in Rockwall at our Master Naturalist conference (starts tomorrow). We are enjoying the unnatural beauty of where we are. The place we are at is called Rodeo Goat. Here’s Jackie holding my beer.

It’s pretty amazing. It has a little lime in it and some herbs. Wow.

Because I’m here with the Master Naturalists, I want to get all my cultivated plants out of my system. I promise I took more native photos.

I must share the monarch and queen butterflies too. So pretty.

Queen

I’ll write more later, but I assure you it is quite pleasant at the Hilton in Rockwall.

Milkweed and More

Time for another look around our dry ranch.

A view of my riparian garden. This is the first time we ever let things grow to their full size here.

You never know what you’ll find during a walk around the Hermits’ Rest. Even in this awful weather, there are fun things to discover. I found that out today, when I went over to get a photo of the little grouping of Zizotes milkweed I’d found recently. Lo and behold, the milkweed was doing its job!

Zizotes milkweed.

Each plant had its own beautiful Queen butterfly caterpillar on it. They were merrily chomping away and waving their festive red antennae and spikes. I’ve seen a lot of Queens around this year, and I am happy to see that there will be quite a few more, if things work out well.

I took some pretty good photos, I think. (Aside: Lee just got one of the new iPhones with three cameras. I am looking forward to heading out into nature with it to see if I can get better close-ups and distance photos with it. However, I think I’m going to get myself a regular camera, too.)

I also saw more subtle beauty last night. After the Vrazels mowed our field, not much sticks up, since the grass is not growing while we are in drought. One plant is growing, and it’s the horsenettle. It’s a prickly thing, but it’s strong and tenacious, and I happen to think the flowers are beautiful.

Pretty purple nettle flower, and extreme finger close-up.

In any case, the sight of all those little purple flowers sticking up above the dead grass pleased me very much. Sometimes you have to be prickly and strong to deal with what life throws at you. Physical beauty is just a happy bonus.

I hope you can see the little spots of color from the horsenettle.

While I was admiring tenacity, I had to admit to myself that one of my least favorite garden weeds, the spotted surge, can be beautiful when allowed to flourish and grow. I’m just glad I don’t have to weed it and get all that milky stuff on me.

It looks like some kind of sea urchin or something.

Was a Little Out of It

Sorry for the absence. I was limiting my screen time, and dealing with “issues”. Then, out of the blue I got a very weird headache yesterday that lasted until 8 pm. Stress? Stroke? Jostling from the car incident? No idea.

It rained, so rain lilies and their golden cousins pop up.

I was no good to anyone in the meeting I was at in the morning. I mostly worried people. But the wildflower brochure is being printed now!

Thanks to that brochure I hit the first post-certification milestone for Master Naturalist. 250 volunteer hours. That’s me and Lisa.

I managed to get some “real job” work done, and then begged out and got my nails done. Of course, Yoe High maroon and silver. Tina did a great job making up a technique!

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Apache and the Ants

No, that’s not the name of a new musical group. It’s about why today’s ride was rather antsy for my usually patient steed, Apache’s Smoke Signal, AKA Apache AKA Patchy.

The morning went as usual. It was hot and I dripped sweat all over myself, but Sara and I got the horses (and Fiona) ready for a ride. We want to ride as much as possible, so we’re going early on weekend mornings. She goes more than I do, thanks to all my volunteering and such.

I put up with a LOT from Suna. It’s a good thing she gives me so many treats and bushes me so nicely.

The entire time we were out in the pasture where the horses usually hang out, Apache kept turning around and heading toward the gate. I turned him back around and made him trot around, go over some logs, or up and down the “hill.” He kept turning around.

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What Else Is New?

at the ranch, that is. There have been a few tidbits and sightings I wanted to share.

Weather. Ugh.

It’s bone dry, but there aren’t any bones.

First off, I know it’s hot and dry here, because the little runoff pond is bone dry. The dogs went in there to check for crawfish, but didn’t find any.

And the ground is now full of holes and big, long cracks. Along with extra-crunchy grass, this tells you we’re in the bad part of summer.

Hello, down there.

Yep. It’s hot. But there’s a stiff breeze making the front porch bearable for the moment.

Other Stuff

Three prickly pears.

Walking with the dogs always brings discoveries. Today I found things in threes, like these morning glories and prickly pear fruit. (Which reminds me of the carne asada con nopales I had Friday. Mmm. )

Three morning glories

As I was looking at the cactus, I heard a thump. Just to my left I saw that a large grasshopper had flown into the very sturdy web of one of our numerous yellow garden spiders. I started recording only seconds after it landed, which explains why I didn’t turn the phone landscape. 40 seconds later it was wrapped and paralyzed.

At least it didn’t suffer. Sara asked if I’d speeded the video up, but nope. Those spiders can MOVE!

It’s so weird. Those are holes, not raised mounds.

The other natural phenomenon I’ve been watching are the traps laid by doodlebugs, as they call ant lions here. I watch the ones over by the tack room spitting dirt out of their traps. It looks like little explosions.

Chicken Time

And I’ve figured out that two of the chickens roost next to their food. At least the other five seem okay back in their coop. For now. Tyler cleaned up the place where Buffy was hiding, but she still hangs out in the barn.

Buffy and Big Red stake their claims.

And I have a final piece of good news. After spending quite some time trying to figure out who could fix the cattle guard leading to the cabin, I looked up this morning to see the Vrazels had found someone. We thought that was part of their lease agreement, but Ralph had informed me it was my job. Dodged a bullet there. I thanked Mr. V. And the welder a whole bunch.

Dim photo of welding truck.

To sign off, here’s a differential grasshopper. Hey, it’s not a spider!

Is Everything Dead Yet?

This time of year, it’s usually looking pretty bleak out here in central Texas. By now, the grass is usually very brown and crunchy, and there are good-sized cracks in the soil. But this year it’s rained a lot more than usual, so how’s it doing?

Checking out the territory. Some green, some not.

It hasn’t rained in a couple of weeks, and that’s about all it takes to turn things back to their typical summer state. Sure enough, the grass is crunchy and the cracks are out. But the tanks (ponds) have lots more water in them than usual and the creek has plenty of water in it.

The Vrazels have made another bunch of hay out of our front pasture, which is also unusual. They are out there baling it right now, making round bales. The dogs enjoyed having a couple of days to look for vermin in the piles of grass as it was drying out. Both Vlassic and Penney like to pounce.

Future hay, full o’ vermin.
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