The good news is I feel better today. I was even able to ride Drew. Taking it easy was a good idea.
I had a lot to do today but nothing too stressful. After our weekly friends’ lunch, Anita came over to get the Red House ready for guests while I did a bunch of meetings. It’s nice to hang out. And after work, we sat on the porch, taking advantage of the sunshades.
I did scare a big moth while I was sweeping the porch. It’s beautiful.
After this peaceful break, all I had to do was hang out with my friends the horses and chickens, then float around in my pool of dreams.
Kathleen and I even saw another one of those cool spider wasps dragging along a hapless wolf spider. It must be wasp breeding season.
It’s really a relief to have a lull with no stress or drama. Even Lee had a good day! We are going to all enjoy the pleasant and peaceful lull while it lasts.
Someone told me last week that they just couldn’t understand how I’m able to observe so many things around me and have time to document it. I’d never thought about it being a challenge. It’s just what I do. And I find it so rewarding and fun to keep learning about life around me.
So, in true formulaic blogger fashion, I’m going to list ways that you, too, can become a nature blogger (or at least a nature noticer).
1. Look where you’re going, up and down. When I lived in suburban Brushy Creek, near Round Rock, I always took long walks through my neighborhood, long before there were the great trails they have now. I tried to get my housemate, Jeff, to come along. He said it was boring, just going by those same houses every day. That flummoxed me. For me, I saw something different every day. The seasons changed, different flowers bloomed, birds flew by…but you had to look. Literally, there’s always something interesting to look at if you make an effort.
2. Record what you see. I never go outside without my phone, because invariably there will be something I want to remember, even if I’m just checking the mail or gathering eggs. It takes a little practice to get good phone photos, and if you read this blog, you’ll know some of my images aren’t great, but they document what I’ve seen and let me look up more information.
3. Educate yourself. The reason I took the Master Naturalist class in 2018 was that I wanted to know more about where I live. This way I know what’s normal for this area and what’s unique. I learned how to use iNaturalist to narrow down what I see and to get more from Wikipedia and other sources. Just using the ID function on your phone or a simple identification app will quickly teach you what you’re likely to see and what to look out for.
4. Use all your senses. Listening for birds, butterflies, grasshoppers, and frogs helps a lot in knowing what’s around you. I wish there was a Merlin Frog ID app and a similar one for crickets and other insects. I hear them but only can ID a few frogs. And don’t forget the sense of smell! I know when rain lilies are out before I see them, and I’ve mentioned how lovely the aroma of bluebonnets and white clover can be!
5. Write it down or log it somehow. You’ll never remember all the things you see. That’s why I upload my photos to iNaturalist and add notes. It’s also really why I blog. I want to remember the stories behind where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, and how it affects me. I have a record of how the weather changes and what new things pop up. A notebook or journal is another great option. You can log the temperature and make art, like the afghan I’m making, or keep records of rainfall through the years like my husband does. It’s fascinating to analyze.
6. Keep at it. That’s the key. The longer you make the effort to observe the world around you, make a record of what you’ve seen, and written up notes, the more you’ll have to compare, the easier it will be to identify who shares this world with you, and the more likely you are to want to care for the planet that cares for you.
Well, that’s what I think. I’m glad I got to get out a little today and look around. I’ve not been feeling well for a few days, so I’ve been taking it easy. I’ve got plans to help me handle the heat better than I did over the weekend! Now enjoy the outcome of my observations today, of the ranch in late spring.
I can answer today’s blog prompt easily, because it fits in so well with what I wanted to talk about, anyway. If you didn’t already know this about me, I’ll tell you what I do that brings me joy: it’s discovering new things about the nature around me. Today was a great example.
Today I’d intended to relax and recover from yesterday, but the life around here kept pulling me in. I’ve been careful where I go lately, since scorpions appear to be this year’s plague. I found one in my bath towel, then one in an outdoor chair cushion, and finally one out in the grass, where they should be. That didn’t bring much joy, though.
What brought me great joy today were two discoveries. First, I found a plant I’d never noticed before!
It’s tiny! I know I’ve seen the plant, but never these beautiful flowers. I was extra disappointed to see it has no Wikipedia article. It appears to be native to the southwestern US and northern Mexico. I just adore it’s secret beauty.
The second nature observation came when Anita and I were sitting by the pool drinking wine, since I was too tired to cook a big dinner. Anita said something like what the hell is that, and I looked over to see a weird creature.
We quickly realized it was a wasp dragging a large wolf spider. It was making progress, too. At one point the wasp left, so I could get good photos of them separately. The first thing I did was find out what kind of wasp it was. I knew it was pretty, with a striped abdomen and blue-black wings.
Well, duh, it was a spider wasp! I looked deeper into these wasps (so glad I had my phone right there) and found out this was a female wasp, and that these wasps prey on large wolf spiders. They take them to their nests, which are shallow depressions in the dirt, and lay their eggs in the spider. Mmm.
Anita said I should get a video, so I did, forgetting to turn the camera sideways. The link is on Facebook because I can’t get it to load here. But it’s cool to see how fast the wasp drags the spider and how she climbs stairs with it. We were glad when she finally found the edge of the patio!
That was really fun. Besides that, we got to see a great blue heron right in the other side of the fence, and, right after I played the call of the yellow billed cuckoo for Anita, one flew over and made its call. I hope it hadn’t heard me.
I had other fun with domestic animals, too. The chickens were something else. Sigh. I found a small mouse in their feed, so I got it in a cup and tossed it outside, thinking I’d done a good deed. Oops. I looked out the door and realized Buttercup had instantly pounced on it. Who needs a cat, right?
In a cuter chicken anecdote, I was hanging out with Bertie Lee, the smartest chicken, and she drank out of my cup of water. I love watching them drink. She won’t let me pet her, but Billie Idyll will. They are all so different!
The horses were glad I was home and back into our normal routine. I found them conferring about it today.
Apache wasn’t even grumpy from working so hard yesterday! That brought me joy, too.
I did promise to finish writing up my trip to Pedernales Falls State Park. Gosh, I hope you like wildflowers and scenery and stinky insects. I had lots of energy for hiking/looking at plants, thanks to sleeping so well. Ahh. Total darkness and no barking or licking makes for great sleep.
So, once I woke up on Sunday morning, had my coffee, and analyzed bird songs (so many vireos), I took off for the other nearby trails. First, I took the Coyote Crossing trail, which led deep into a very humid woodland area and crossed a mostly dry creek that feeds into the river.
There were many interesting fungi, ferns, and vines in the moist environment. I also got to see a ladder back woodpecker. Mostly I enjoyed the deep green solitude.
Once past that trail the scenery was very different, with seemingly endless swaths of black-eyed Susans and their friends. There were lots of new flowers there, and I had one of those “Linda Jo moments” when I got practically giddy over plants. But I didn’t have a fellow Master Naturalist to exclaim to!
The next trail was the one that led to the swimming area of the river. I must admit I forgot there was a river to go to, because I was so mesmerized by the flowers. The trail went down steep steps. Every time I stopped I said to myself that THESE were the prettiest flowers I ever saw.
And there were so many butterflies that I felt like Snow White in the meadow. They were flitting all around me. It was magical!
I finally got to the river, and was happy to see it wasn’t crowded. There were just a few families wading around and playing, plus a woman with a big dog.
Eventually I turned to go back, stopping to photograph lizards and more flowers. I let the family with the dog pass me on their way up, then encountered the dad resting halfway up. I said something about taking it slow because I was a naturalist, and we got to talking about his interest in foraging. Talking to them made me not even notice the steep climb! Finally, someone was interested in my blathering.
They left to take a bathroom break and I headed back along the road, where I found some phlox and other plants that like sand.
The family drove by and asked if I would like a ride back, and to be honest, that sounded good. So I joined them. They said they were thinking of driving to the big falls, and invited me along. I’m glad they did. It was a ways down the road.
We had a fun walk to the falls. The best part was when I saw a dung beetle rolling a ball of poop across the path. Carl (the dad) got all excited, because he didn’t know we had them in Texas. That got the two boys and the wife excited, too. She took movies and we had a grand time watching the beetles while all sorts of people passed us, probably thinking we were weird. But it was educational!
We finally made it to the overlook, and it was gorgeous. We saw a wedding party, too. We were all too tired to go down to the river, but they were going to go Monday morning. I was fine just looking down. The photos don’t do it justice, for sure.
And that’s about it for adventures. The rest of the day we sat outside a lot and went in to watch movies. I don’t know what to think about the Legion of Superheroes movie. They did stay pretty true to the characters…but it was nowhere near as good as Ant Man and the Wasp. Marvel does make a good movie.
I was glad to get home on Monday, but sure enjoyed my wallows in nature. I needed that rejuvenation. Of course, there’s plenty of nature here. Just look at the baby birds in a nest on our back door!
Speaking of storms, one showed up out of the blue yesterday and dumped a ton of rain in a short time. It was full of thunder and lightning. The dogs were NOT thrilled, and since I was the only one in the house, all five indoor dogs clustered around me. Penney and Carlton were under my desk. Harvey was beside my chair. Alfred was standing on the other side of the chair panting into my face. At least Goldie just stayed on “her” couch.
Eventually, Penney wormed her way into my lap and did that unbearable wiggling and trying to squirm up to the top of my head, or inside me. I’m not sure what her intent is, but it’s hairy, hot, and whiny. Thank goodness I discovered the guys were stranded in the garage so I “had” to take them umbrellas. That allowed the dogs to distribute themselves among three people. Whew.
And oh yes, I’ve had my dose of cuteness. look at Jhayati! She’s so soft! And like my dad, she’s never met a stranger. Sara is in love. I’m pretty thrilled, too.
Long time no blog! I could not get anything but brief Facebook updates to upload, so I just spent quality time with nature and Seneca the RV (and yes, of course with Lee).
Pedernales State Park has so many trails! I didn’t get to anywhere near all of them. Plus they have MANY miles of equestrian trails. I went to all the ones I could walk to, though. Actually, our camping spot was right next to the entrance to the Twin Falls trail, so there were no possible excuses to not go there.
It’s a beautiful pool, surrounded by ferns. It’s off limits to people, but there’s a nice viewing area. And the trail is steep and challenging, but gorgeous, with lots of rocks, ferns, and birds. I’m so glad I have the Merlin app! I now know three different vireos but sound. And the ivory billed cuckoo. What a sound! I heard them all on this trail.
The best part of the trail was the bench where I stopped to rest on the way back up. I sat there for about five minutes, then I heard a noise. It was a doe, a large, sleek beauty. I watched as she went about her business, ignoring me completely. What a treat!
I was full of joy and peace after that walk. For some of rest of the day I sat outside a lot and enjoyed the birds. We enjoyed our neighbors, who were a family with two kids who were truly enjoying their visit. Ee kept having to find their lost baseballs.
I got the itch to go out again, so I walked to a place that’s a low-water crossing. It was very peaceful, with only a few other folks around. I had a blast hanging around the cypress trees and finding out what grew along the Pedernales River (pronounced in Texan as “purr-duh-nal-iss”). I got some really cool pictures especially the first one below.
That’s about all I packed into this long and beautiful day. Well, I did do my nails a very patriotic way, for Memorial Day.
I’ll try to write up the rest of the weekend tomorrow. I hope you enjoy some of the things I saw. I put up a LOT of photos on iNaturalist and lots were new to me. I got quite a few birds on my life list!
It’s been a good weekend. Yesterday was spent driving to Houston and back for a family errand. It reminded me that I’m glad to live outside of a small town. But it was a change of pace that still let me get all my animal stuff done.
The men in my house and I spent a lot of time this morning sitting by the pool. It was a nice, cool morning, the kind there won’t be many more of this year, so we took advantage of the opportunity.
I weeded the pool planting bed, which of course has many volunteer plants coming through the landscape cloth. It’s mostly morning glories, nut grass, and the dreaded spurge. Yuck. That’s one native plant that’s totally a weed for me.
Weeding was made much more pleasant by the presence of the portulaca (or moss rose) plants that we put in just two weeks ago. I just love these cheerful succulents! They’ve already more than doubled in size.
This is the only plant that I’ve found that thrives here in the dry, hot summers. Last year, I had three plants, and they grew huge, but died in the big freeze. If only I’d known you can take cuttings and root them over the winter for next year!
Next year, I’ll be all set for more beauty! And wow, they are so lovely. Lee is very happy that they aren’t plain pink and yellow, as he feared. But I think the yellow ones are fascinating.
It turns out that the portulaca grandiflora that we grow as an ornamental is related to the edible plant purslane, which chickens love and is full of vitamin A.
All in all, this plant is a winner and I don’t even feel too bad planting a non native. At least it’s food for someone. And it’s not showing signs of becoming invasive.
I’m not feeling bad about planting them, since they’re surrounded by red yucca, which seems to please all sorts of pollinators. We enjoyed hummingbirds this morning, plus many types of wasp visiting the yucca, which aren’t native here, but grow not too far away.
Yep, I’m looking forward to using portulaca all over the place, but I’m still going to encourage our native flowers. They take my breath away.
Yep. As long as I focus on beautiful flowers, insects, and random animal buddies, I’m okay. I hope you have something lovely to think about.
That’s the blog prompt for today. It’s a hard one. I’ve been put into the position of leadership over and over. I don’t think I’m all that good at it, though, because I spend a lot of time figuring out how to lead and keep those I’m leading happy.
You really have to accept that sometimes your leadership may not make everyone happy, though. I know trying to protect people I’m leading has cost me a couple of leadership positions.
I’ve been repeatedly told I’m not a good leader for horses, too. I’m not interested in showing them who’s boss. I’d rather lead by being the cream member who sets direction. I think I’m getting better at leading horses appropriately thanks to Tarrin’s excellent leadership (ha ha, that’s a good segue).
I see leadership as teaching others to lead, like a good horse trainer or supervisor at a job. The best leaders are more like mentors, and I’ve been good at that sometimes (sometimes not).
I find it good to be a follower sometimes, too. Not a blind follower who just does what they’re told because some authority says so, but rather a follower out of trust and respect, both of which must be earned.
Yeah, I think that became clear reading my diary from 10-11th grades. I sure didn’t follow the rules or orders of teachers I didn’t respect. But it was quite obvious how I’d do anything for the good ones.
Now, if this question was really about whether I’d rather go first or last in an activity, my answer would be different. I prefer being in front, where I can see my options, unless, of course, it’s a nature hike. I’ll end up following far behind on those. There are just so many plants, bugs, and birds to observe, plus rocks!
Naturally, I’m feeling a bit better today. A lot of it is because my friends and family have been so supportive and encouraging. Thanks to everyone who’s reminded me of my humanity and that there ARE plenty of folks not out there judging me (and that judgmental people’s judgments aren’t worth spending time on).
Today was productive in so many ways. I really enjoyed work today, though I have to say the interruptions were even better.
The first interruption was this guy here.
It was Brenham Iron Works coming to fix our gate, which has been beeping at us for over a year, then when we finally got it to shut, had a car push it open. Poor gate (and car). At the moment, it works!
It was fun watching the nice guy fix it, and the company got more business when the neighbor across the road got all excited that we actually got a repair person in that she came over and got their info. They have a similar nice gate just a year or two older than ours.
The next minor interruption was my Becker Vineyards wine delivery. I got two old favorites so I didn’t complain. A much more fun interruption was a visit from a guy who’s interested in growing some vegetables here. It sounds like a fun project, if it goes through. I’ll tell you more if it goes through. It’s just a possibility but it made me happy to just imagine it.
Lee even suggested that we use our gardener friend’s expertise to spruce up the pool area and such. He’d do way better than us! Now, this is my kind of gift. A gift of service. I was quite tickled at this development.
I love having something to look forward to, though I’ve learned not to count on anything until it happens. There are just so many sudden changes and pivots these days that it’s just the new normal. That’s fine! I’ll enjoy every day and see what happens! I feel so loved.
And it didn’t rain. The sun even shone for a while. For that reason I ended up just walking around and enjoying late afternoon light, flowers, and birds. I love it when the nighthawks come out. They’re so graceful. I’ll skip my bad bird photos, but do enjoy the other things I saw.
Thanks for bearing with me! I appreciate my community, both in person and online.
I heard a piece on NPR about the effects of nature on moods of people dealing with hard things. I have to agree that spending time in nature can help a lot. My lunch activity today was a nice walk along our road in search of peace.
As I walked, I was repeatedly reminded that humans aren’t the only important things on earth and that life and death will go on regardless of whether I’m there or not. That actually did make me feel more peaceful and part of something bigger than myself.
The highlight of my walk was finding dozens of black swallowtail caterpillars on one prairie parsley plant. I watched those little guys noshing away for a long time. I forgot all my sadness about community events for a while!
I enjoyed all the flowers I saw, and the butterflies. Even the trees were beautiful. What a nice break.
I didn’t see many birds but heard lots. I spotted a painted bunting by hearing it first. Um. You couldn’t ID it from this!
From the listening app I heard:
Robin (rare here)
English sparrow (zzz)
Painted bunting (lots)
Mockingbird (also pretended to be a blue jay)
Common yellow throat (only saw that once ever)
Nighthawk (also saw two)
Baltimore oriole (wow)
That’s a lot of birds! The vultures didn’t make any noise, but were there, too.
Not only did nature make me feel more at peace, but my friends did, too. I enjoyed my afternoon coffee with two friends, Anita and Pamela. We laughed over my high school diaries that I found yesterday and discovered were mostly in Spanish. Then we shopped at the new antiques store downtown. I was happy to see there were many customers! I got a giant piece of purple glass for my window.
After that we sat on a bench overlooking the town square, wondering how we ever ended up in Cameron, Texas and enjoying it. Fun times. I’m glad for the supportive friends I’ve finally accumulated here!
Topping the day off with a horse ride and swim in the pool brought balance back, at least for now. I hope you also find your own balance.
At least so far that’s been true. And it’s true today. It rained starting last night and kept going until right about when I stopped working. We got at least two inches, which means we now are in a series of shallow ponds and the creek is extra full.
Once the clouds parted and there was a little sun, everything perked up fast. Suddenly the pollinators were in action!
I really enjoyed how green it is this year and how many flowers there are. I’m treasuring every day this spring.
Of course, other residents came out after the rain. I saw one of our large rabbits, then found this guy enjoying the poor drainage at the horse pens. I bet the water felt good. It’s just a rat snake/chicken snake, so there was no reason to panic.
Not only the natural world came out. There are lots of new airplanes here, thanks to an air museum moving in and a flight school, too. I enjoyed these two planes going over. I don’t enjoy helicopters shooting at hogs, though (or whoever is shooting at them with a semi-automatic rifle and not letting us know).
Today was just fine. I’m glad for the peace here, because it lets me send good thoughts to friends who need them. Love to all.