Chicken Wrangling Success

Good news for me! I think I have the situation with Star and her week-old babies under more control now. Lee went out and got me the same feeder and waterer I had for the previous chicks that had gotten thrown out accidentally. I got those set up, and no matter how hard the dang mama hen tries to scratch at the water, she can’t get into it, and at least when it’s pretty full, she can’t turn it over and ruin everything in the cage.

This place is a mess (I have cleaned up).

The chick food also has stayed nice and dry and pristine since I got the feeder set up. Star’s food is still in a dish, and it seems okay now. She just likes to scratch. So, I gave her some scratch today. The chicks seem to like it first, unaware that they should only be eating medicated chick food.

The Brown Chick shows their new feathers coming in and their pretty eyes.

They seem fine and dandy, however, bright eyed and flapping their wings like they already want to take off and fly. Luckily, their wing feathers have not grown in very much. I guess they’ll be taking off sooner rather than later, though.

The Black Chick is probably a gray chick, but the wing feathers are pretty dark.

Ha! They can fly all they want, but they can’t get out! Hooray! They will have a little platform to stand on, a perch, and such. They already seem to like the little tree branch I put in there for them.

The rain has been pretty persistent, but the chicken cage has just gotten a little damp, which is not bad at all.

Rain damaged fire ant nest looks like it could be in the Grand Canyon area.

The rain has led to some interesting things outside the chicken world, like fire ants building interesting looking nests (yes, I’ll get rid of them, but sometimes they are fun to look at).

And the pool guys are back today. I guess yesterday was too rainy. In any case, I’m glad the chickens are okay and the horses have shelter. I’ve ordered even better feeding and watering stuff that should come in soo, so maybe the chickens will be fine for a while.

Lunch hour is over. Time to go make some documents.

It Was a Good Break, No Bull

Time for something that won’t get a zillion hits (so it’s not about changing jobs). I enjoyed this weekend’s little break at a ranch outside of Bandera, Texas. We didn’t even leave the place the whole time. Yesterday, everyone mostly sat around in the very comfortable house, read books, or watched football.

Howdy from me and howdy.

I, of course, went outside to see what I could see. You’d think 29 acres of pasture wouldn’t yield anything, but that’s not the case! There is a lot of native grass and other plants out here, so I was able to find some new things to put in iNaturalist. And since I’m always scrounging around, I found interesting poop and some dead things (a large mouse and a fairly recently deceased fawn (boo hoo)). I’ll spare you photos of that.

I had to get Kathleen’s picture with the big guy, too!

I also spent a lot of time with the longhorns that live here. The steer (Howdy) is really well trained, and used to work at shows and stuff. He puts his giant head down so you can pat him between the horns. That’s the safest place. When flies bother him, he flings his head, and those attached horns, pretty dang hard. Anyway, that’s the no bull part. The cow is Little Sister, and she is friendly, but just learning to accept pats.

Really, though, the woman who owns this place is great with animals. The two horses are so well behaved and happy, the longhorns are friendly, and her dogs are a total hoot. She has one Aussie shepherd that apparently is a double merle, so he is deaf and can only see in one eye, so the other one leads him around and fetches him when she calls. Aww. (Sorry no pics.)

These are the broodmares next door. They have very fancy hay feeders.

Enjoy some of the things I saw as I wandered around looking at the neighboring very fancy quarter horses and the random plants. I’m heading back home after a work meeting (yay Zoom) to pee in a cup and prove I am a US citizen for the new job. Then it’s back to “normality” for a couple of weeks.

Comfort from Nature’s Rhythms

I didn’t have an easy morning this morning, even though there sure was a cool sunrise. I wish I could have gone out and gotten a better photo, but here it is through the upstairs window.

There was a thick cloud that didn’t totally block the sun.

It’s a time of year that is hard for many of us, with tomorrow’s anniversary of the terrorist attacks, and that isn’t helping much either. But, when you’re feeling your trauma ramping up, feel trapped, are weary of being second guessed, or have to deal with the consequences of other people’s actions, you do have options. One of them is to leave.

Familiar signs of approaching autumn: snow on the prairie, wild morning glories, and balloon vines (all hiding behind that dang Johnson grass)

So, this morning, after I did all I could do to be useful, I took a nice walk. Looking around at the ranch and its life made it so much easier to put things into the perspective of life going on as best as it can, year by year.

This is the dry season, so Walker’s Creek is no longer flowing. It’s a series of puddles.

The cows next door are starting to calve, as they do every year around this time. It’s reassuring to see the same cows in the field, still providing new babies for their ranchers.

Mature mamas getting ready to do their job: make more beef.

Even while I was feeling reassured by the repeated patterns and rhythms of the year, I was finding new things. For example, I don’t think I realized before that the giant cane (Arundo donax) smelled good when it was blooming. I guess it has something going for it, after all!

Still, it’s one annoying nonnative and invasive plant!

It was cooler this morning, too, which really makes me hopeful for the return of more bearable horse-riding weather. And as always, I found beauty in the little things, once I slowed down to look. Check out the patterns the large puddles make when they dry up!

There are cracks in the dirt everywhere, actually.

More little things included the small flowers in the snow on the prairie plants, and the dozens of dusky skipper butterflies making the most out of the morning glories. They were everywhere!

After enjoying the life around me, and reminding myself that whatever is happening now is temporary, I felt a lot better and was able to come back and get work and meetings done. Thanks again to the healing properties of the Hermits’ Rest. The land and its residents are always here for me. And I didn’t have to get in the car and go for a long drive!

Hay ready to harvest. Time’s marching on, and every day brings new things to see, even in old familiar places.

Watermelon Fun Overload

Today we had some old watermelon to dispose of. Usually I give melon to the chickens, who immediately go into a pecking frenzy. Today it was suggested that I see if Fiona wanted some.

This looks suspicious.

She sniffed it carefully. When I broke off a piece and offered it to her, she delicately took it between her lips, then went to town chomping. But, when I set it back down, she went up and touched it, but switched back to grass. Maybe it was too cold for her.

Brr. It’s cold!

Hmph, I thought to myself. I’ll see if any of the other horses appreciate it. I conveniently forgot I’m not supposed to give Mabel treats.

Hey, what’s this??

Lucky for me, Mabel didn’t get much of it. Dusty, one of the Buckskin Buddies, must be familiar with watermelon, because he chowed down big time. Much smacking and melon tossing went on, and I was completely charmed by his happiness. Here he is picking it up for better chomping.

This is fun.

The chickens did get to enjoy some, too. They eat it down to the rind.

Watermelon is for chickens!!

Okay, I’ll close with a happy picture or two. This is the first Ruby-throated hummingbird I’ve identified here at the Hermits’ Rest. All the ones I usually see are black-chinned ones. But, they’re migrating right now. What fun!

Oh, I just keep seeing cool things. That’s what I get for writing from the porch.

Shameless Insects and Encouraging Horse Time

I took yesterday off. After some errands, I just sat and read all day. I’ll tell you what makes it hard to concentrate, though, and that’s the thought of MORE grasshoppers in my future.

Hey. We’re pretty comfortable here.

I was trying to read and talk to my family when I realized my chair had become the grasshoppers’ special place. Uh. Nice. As if we hadn’t had a plague of these already this year.

Rocking and rolling on my rocker.

Well I guess it was good, because I could get a really good picture of how the male twists around to manage his role.

He snakes his abdomen around. Huh.

I’m fine with no more lengthy experiences with grasshopper propagation. They kept going a long time. obviously I didn’t blog yesterday because it was not exciting here.

On Another Note

Let’s move on. Apache has been doing better with his schooling. He still sometimes wanders way off the circle when trotting. But today he did a whole circle without hitting a cone. I felt like he was feeling well, so we went into his grazing area and walked and turned and stuff. He was mostly good, and even his disagreements with me were smaller than usual.

We were heading back to dismount when we had a surprise. A skunk walked across our path and ducked into the red shipping container. Oops. Apache stopped very nicely and waited until the coast was clear. We calmly walked over to share the skunk news, and Apache was so good, we kept going.

After the ride. Super clean and sound horse.

He did his stopping and grabbing grass thing twice, but otherwise was just great, like old times. He went up to say hi to Goldie, walked all over the front pasture, up to the gate, and across the pasture where he often goes nutty, but he didn’t! We made it back, all sweaty but happy.

I feel pretty.

To thank Apache, I gave him a good bath. Ooh he finally got really clean and dander free. I even got him to hold his head still and let me wash it. I was amazed to go back later and find he hadn’t rolled yet!

Glad he didn’t roll on one of these velvet ants, since they are actually wingless wasps.

It’s so hot today that I can’t help do outdoor stuff like I’d hoped to. I’ll cram everything in from 6:30 to sunset, I guess.

It’s August. It’s Drying Up.

I’m very grateful for all the opportunities I get here at the Hermits’ Rest to observe weather patterns and natural cycles. Today was a good example.

There’s plenty of water, but it’s down at least a foot.

I’d gone to open the gate for Trixie and was intrigued by how many butterflies I saw, so I hung around the front pond, the one we made so we could build our driveway. I noticed that the pond is losing water rapidly, though it has more in it than usual this time of year.

All gone

The wet parts of the arroyo are all dried up, but you can see how much life they support. There are crawfish mounds and bird footprints in the former mud. And all around are wetland or riparian plants, like sedges and rushes.

My favorite grass, silver bluestem, foreground.

This part of our property has more than just coastal Bermuda grass, which brings so many interesting creatures, like those butterflies I saw.

I saw a common buckeye, a tiger swallowtail, and a larger sulphur butterfly, but not where I could get pictures. And there are still a few flowers in among the drying grassy.

Look at those pink evening primroses!

The star of the pasture right now, though, are the ballon vines. They are everywhere, ready to float away in the next flood and populate another area downstream. The little yellow butterfly above is feeding on their tiny white flowers, which are quite a contrast to the seed pods!

Little balloons everywhere.

It even rained a little today, which won’t fill the pond back up, but it sure felt good on me and the horses. Drew my horse baby and I had a rainy hug fest. By the way, Trixie said his procedure worked, so he doesn’t need more work, just strengthening.

Hard to believe this was once a barren ditch.

This is the weirdest August ever, but I’ve got horses, dogs, chickens, ponds, and native plants to enjoy. How could I be lonely?

See the dragonfly?

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!

Mentoring Is Scary

I’ve had more than one conversation on the topic of mentoring in the past couple of weeks, starting with the Lisa Eggerton talk they had at work. The general consensus is that “mentor” is rather off-putting for lots of people. When someone asks to be your mentor, you start to imagine having to have regular meetings on top of your already busy day, think of ways to build up this other person, and scariest of all, be wise at all costs! After all, you’re a mentor!

Penney is my mentor in reminding me I need to rest a LOT.

No one’s ever asked me to be a mentor, which makes sense, because I’m not a high-powered executive and haven’t been for a long time. In fact, my career path is headed in a pretty downward direction right now. But, does that mean I don’t mentor people? Nope, not at all.

The consensus among the women I’ve been talking to about mentoring is that it actually works better on an informal basis. When someone comes to you and tells you they’ve got a thorny problem to deal with and asks your advice, you’re mentoring them. And when a colleague gives you an insight into how you can do something better, that was being mentored. Not so scary. No one was under any (imagined) pressure to be wise and pithy, just to be helpful.

I guess the older chickens finally mentored the young ones about roosting, because they finally all sleep together.

Thinking back, most of my mentors didn’t set out to mentor me at all; they just lived their lives ethically, kindly, and insightfully. I just watched, listened, learned, and asked a few questions. I didn’t formally ask, “Will you be my mentor?” like we were going to go steady (or however they put it now). (Thanks to Doc, Georgia, Steve, Roberta, Hedy, Mike, and Craig, to name a few who may have no idea they were mentors.)

And now, I do find colleagues asking me questions, often in my managerial role, where I give them pointers and ideas for doing their jobs better. I think that’s the most important role of a people manager: to help people grow in their jobs, find work they enjoy, and be productive. So, yay, I’m a mentor, too.

Nothing to do with mentoring; I just liked this beetle’s antennae and how big an Alfred hair looks next to it. It’s a Southern Masked Chafer, a type of scarab beetle.

Sure, formal mentorship programs have their place, and there are some good ones where I work and in other workplaces. But, don’t think that you can’t serve as a mentor if you’re not a manager or if you’re “just” a friend. When we talk to each other, ask good questions, and really listen, we’ll find mentors everywhere we look!

Take advantage of your opportunities to both learn and teach others. It’s a good plan. Thanks to the coworkers who helped me think about this!

In the Gloom: Life, Death, and Joyful Canines

Wow, it’s rainy and cloudy again today, but sometimes gloomy weather makes even a simple walk with the dogs an adventure sort of creepy. It doesn’t help that I just looked out the window and there are dozens of creepy cowbirds covering the grass. I hope they appreciate the local cardinals for hatching their babies…

Anyway, this morning the dogs and I went out for a quick walk in between my work meetings. They were chock full of energy, and were running around like there was some bunny to chase.

Come on, let’s go, Suna!

I was getting dizzy watching them run around each other. It was almost like lunging Drew. Things did get gloomier as we approached the trees and watery area.

The dark skies and moody greens of all the vines creeping around the pond and arroyo added to the feeling of impending doom. There are tie vines, bindweed vines, passion vines, dewberries, smilax, poison ivy (further downstream) and balloon vines. It’s dark and mysterious.

All dem vines

To save me going on and on, here are some of the dismal, yet lovely in their own right, sights the dogs and I saw.

Yes, whenever I see a mama spider all covered with babies, I admit to shuddering a bit. Thanks to Lee for finding that one. However, I’d say the thing that enthralled me the most, in a macabre way, was watching the garden spider encasing a grasshopper in its web. I’ve seen it a couple of times lately, but this was the first time I was close enough to film it. Keep watching the video, because you can see the silk coming out of the spider toward the end. Fascinating, but eww.

Life and death, right here at the Hermits’ Rest

But, don’t worry there will be more grasshoppers. How do I know? Oh, you know me and all my observation skills.

Can we have some privacy here?

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!

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