Oh goodness, I skipped a day of blogging for the first time since I resolved to post every day quite a while ago. I had good reason, though, it was a busy day with lots of fun meetings, animals to care for, chores, and conversations. By the end of the day, when I could have blogged, I chose to sit on the porch and talk to my family. Who could blame me for choosing in-person interaction? (Okay, someone could, but I probably don’t like them.)
There are lots and lots of bugs (including mosquitoes) out right now, and I especially liked this fuzzy caterpillar.
I got the chickens a big brick of treats at Tractor Supply today, since they completely finished their last treat, which was watermelon rind. They can certainly clean out a watermelon.
Let’s see. I also met a large fish, who’s apparently a local celebrity in Bea’s Kitchen (more on why I was there, later). It’s a fine and friendly fish.
I seem to be unable to add captions, but the fish says hello. Sigh, WordPress seems to give new features, then take away old ones.
And in case you were thinking I forgot the dogs, here’s Carlton making himself WAY too much at home in my bed this morning.
That’s some stink-eye! I’m off to do horse things and then finish my indoor writing tasks. I wish all of you a reasonable weekend, with weather that fits your desires (mine is no rain).
For darned sure, the Universe is trying its best to teach me to expect the unexpected and examine how I deal with changes. I’ll just sidestep some of the bigger changes and just talk about some of the other surprises I got between yesterday and today.
One of my coworkers lost a family member recently, and two of us got together to send him some flowers today, to bring some cheer into his home. I thought, hey, I could use some cheer, so I made myself a little arrangement to look at while I work. There are meadow pinks, thistles, Indian blankets, black-eyed Susans and a few Indian paintbrush that are still hanging around, plus another couple random flowers.
I’d found a conjoined twin Mexican hat flower yesterday when walking back from feeding horses (yay, it was dry enough to walk). Not only does it have two seed heads, the petals are extra curvy. Nature is always there to surprise me in a good way!
The other surprise I got yesterday, was more of a shocking one. I went to pick up eggs from the coop, and discovered an uninvited guest had already helped themselves to the eggs for the day.
They sure know how to find eggs! I handled this pretty well. Said “eek” and slammed the door down, then calmly picked it up to look at the snake. It was almost as tall as me when it was removed (not by me). I hope it enjoyed the digestion.
That was enough for icky surprises. I spent some more time out looking at the flowers behind our house and had to take more photos. I found yet another type of fly I’d never seen! It has interesting stripes, and I sure wish I’d gotten a better photo. I also found something I’d never seen before, which turned out to be a wheel bug nymph. That’s interesting (to me).
My ten minutes of break are over, but maybe I’ll have time for more later. We have to deal with Apache’s feet, apparently. Sigh.
The rain has managed to fill up the tanks (ponds) at last. It really has been dribbling in, but we finally got a day with a whole inch, and that seems to have done the trick.
There was a bit of a respite this morning, and things dried out a little. I took advantage of the only hour I had without meetings today to go out and see what’s going on with the ranch plants and their friends. I’m glad I did it then, because it’s been raining and thundering again for the past two hours, which makes for some unhappy dogs.
I had set out to find invasive species, only to realize I missed the entire 2021 iNaturalist Texas invasive species survey time, because I was in South Carolina. That’s okay, though, because I enjoyed seeing what’s blooming in late spring. There’s a lot of Indian blanket, and horsemint out there, and you can tell they are native, because there are so many kinds of insects pollinating them. The fields are literally abuzz with activity. Bzzzz.
I got to see a few new-to-me insects, including two types of potter’s wasps (not exactly sure what they are), and these beautiful tachinid flies, Archytas apicifer. They are huge (for flies), have big, black hairs, and feature shiny green abdomens and bright red eyes. I often saw multiples on one black-eyed Susan flower.
And then there were butterflies! Yes, I’ve seen common buckeyes before, along with the perky little fiery skippers and the red admirals, but the pearl crescent butterfly was new to me, and wow, it’s pretty. The little white checkered skipper looks like lace from a distance, too. In addition to the ones I photographed, I also saw orange sulphurs and gray hairstreaks. That’s a lot of butterflies!
The other thing I saw were bees, ranging from honey bees to tiny ones to bumblebees. They were zipping around, so no photos. And I found a katydid and lots of jumpy grasshoppers. This was a great way to spend some of my volunteer time at work!
I hope this provides some cheer if you’re living in a dreary place right now. I’d love to know what kinds of flowers are blooming where you live. I know the irises are in full swing in the northwestern US, and I believe I’ve spotted some peony photos from elsewhere. I love it when people share their local flowers, native or not!
I’m feeling a little better, and it’s for two good reasons: I got out in nature AND I got to eat something, finally, at 2 pm (oops, one should remember to eat). I should have known spending all day cooped up in the condo yesterday wasn’t the best thing for my delicate sensibilities.
We finally drug ourselves out of the house, and I told Lee I had to eat before we went to a park. That was harder than you’d think, because most of the restaurants on the west side of the main road closed during COVID. We eventually did a U-turn and decided it was about time to eat at one of those pancake restaurants.
The first open one we found was the Plantation Pancake House, which made me just as uncomfortable as attending Plantation High School did, but, to be honest, the restaurant IS on a former plantation. What a charming, nostalgic place this was. It opened in the early 70s, and I don’t think there’s been any redecorating since then. However, it was sparkling clean and had lovely healthy hanging plants throughout.
Our food was all freshly cooked by the very nice cook (I know this, because he was chatting with customers and hugging the servers). But what made me feel like I had gone back in time was how the staff interacted. They were so incredibly cheerful and helpful, toward patrons and each other. They seemed to truly like working there, like each other, and have pride in the restaurant. Watching the servers all cleaning and straightening the restaurant at the end of the day was a real pleasure. This was simply a nice, family place who treats the staff well (and they were old, young, black, white, and Hispanic).
After the victuals, we headed just a couple of miles down the road (not wanting to waste gas) and arrived at Myrtle Beach State Park. We had a blast at this place, which is the last piece of natural beach left on the Grand Strand. We first checked out the nature center, which was very entertaining, with aquariums and terrariums, plus a real friendly volunteer to chat with. We got to see a whelk out of its shell trundling along, a couple of types of crabs, and a beautiful rat snake. We spent a LOT of time at their really nice bird feeders, too. Click to see larger and uncropped photos.
Lee and I then embarked on a tour of all the heavily wooded nature trails. I was reminded of how incredibly varied the native hardwood forests on the east coast originally were. There were oaks, pines, cherries, sycamores, magnolias, dogwoods, hickories, and even native olives. It smelled so nice and woodsy. Click to see the pictures larger.
We enjoyed the smaller plants, too, and were happy to see ducks, turtles, skinks, and a lot of different kinds of dragonflies and damselflies. There were wetlands as well as drier parts, which gave me a chance to see so many new and familiar things. And the park is so well done! They have signs on the trail marking many of the common plants, with some facts about them. That really adds to the enjoyment, I think.
This was exactly what I needed for healing: nature to touch, feel, hear, see, and smell. You could still hear the motorcycles, but you could also hear dozens of kinds of birds. I did get surprised when fighter jets took off from the nearby airport. Those things are loud.
We are two happy campers now, and I happen to know Lee is going to get even happier later tonight! Stay tuned…
Whew, today was extra windy. During my ENDLESS meetings, I kept being distracted by something that looked like fluffy dandelion seeds very briskly zipping by, completely horizontally. There were an unusually large number of them, way more than the number of dandelions we have going to seed. What had the wind blown in?
First, a brief digression. The wind brought more than fluffy bits! It also brought our long-lost housemates. We have a bunch of happy dogs and people!
For people who have gone through, shall we say, a lot since they left for a weekend back in February, or was it January, they look good! We are all excited about all the projects we need to get moving on.
In our zeal to plan things, the nephew went out with a spray can of bright orange paint, marking where Apache’s new stable and pens will be, along with cattle pens. And you know, orange paint smells good. If you’re a dog, you’d want to roll in it, especially if it complements your long, white fur.
We went over to look at another fencing area, and there, all over the ground, were the answers to my questions about the fluffy things.
It turns out that in the two days since I’d taken my photos of the small-flowered catchfly, they’d gone to seed, most spectacularly! Everywhere there were little towers covered in fluffy seed pods.
Y’all, in person this was breathtaking. The catchfly was all interspersed with starbursts of the annual trampweed. My two new flowers went to seed together and created a Magic Kingdom of weeds, as I said in my awe.
All this beauty was after so many of the seeds blew away this morning. Wow. So many seeds. And none of us remember ever seeing the two white fluff-makers before. What a welcome home gift to our family!
To be honest, my whole day was magical. I achieved all my goals in my pushback campaign, and it’s only Wednesday! I’ll share more about that tomorrow. Right now, I’m pretty dang tired and don’t even know where I’ll sleep tonight (that’s a GOOD thing).
I am, once again, grateful for the support and encouragement of my friends, colleagues, readers and listeners. You’re all incredible in your own unique way.
One of the things I like about being a Master Naturalist is that I have learned to be a more careful observer, wherever I go. I’m happiest that I’ve been entering what I see on our ranch into iNaturalist, because I can see when flowers bloom or go to seed every year, when butterflies arrive, etc. Today’s butterflies included these:
Even though our observations on our own property no longer are approved by the state office, I still observe for my own study and analysis. I have a project where all observations here are stored, and I hope some day to be able to do some analysis.
My expedition yesterday was helped greatly by something that had originally broken my heart a little. You see, Lee’s brother likes to mow, and he decided to mow all those “weeds” on the side of the road. Thank goodness Lee saw it and asked him to stop. Apparently the conversation was sort of funny, with Jim insisting it was weeds and Lee saying, “Don’t you see the flowers?”
The good thing about it is that it made a little path that enabled me to easily see all the butterflies and bugs and get closer photos.
This year’s been pretty interesting, which shouldn’t be surprising after the weird weather. I’ve been quite surprised to see common plants, like Indian paintbrush, not as prominent, with some new plants popping up.
One plant we have in super abundance is this annual trampweed (Facelisretusa). It’s really pretty in early spring. Then, when it blossoms, you don’t really see the flowers, just white buds, followed by exuberant star-shaped seed heads.
I’d never noticed this plant before, and it’s everywhere this year. Now it’s one of my favorites.
Another plant I’d never noticed around here is small-flowered catchfly (Silene gallica). It’s another one of those tiny flowers from up high. At first I thought it was that chickweed or something.
Once you touch it, though, you know it’s different. You also know how it got its name. It’s sticky! It could certainly catch a fly. You can see all the hairs in the photos.
The little flowers range from pink to white. I had honestly never seen it before. Did I not notice it or did it come in with floods? Is it something that grows better after a hard freeze or two? I’m sure I just didn’t notice it, even though I’ve been trying so hard to identify everything here!
The third “new” plant I wasn’t even sure of its ID. None of the things that are suggested on iNaturalist really match the way it looks, but since I know plants can differ in color from place to place, labeled it dwarf blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium minus), and hooray, I was right! Linda Jo identified it for me. It’s another tiny little fellow, but it’s really pretty.
Another “new” plant really isn’t new. It’s a pink evening primrose. But I never saw one so white. I thought it was a petunia from a distance.
That’s quite a contrast to the usual ones, though they do come in many shades of pink. I always love to look at the clouds of them on the roadside or in fields, with all the shadings.
I really enjoy seeing what’s blooming every day. It was great to see the black-eyed Susans have started to bloom, and apparently the bugs that enjoy their pollen are also happy.
There are a few things I can’t get close enough to take a photo of when I’m wearing sandals (I only do that on the grass Lee and Jim have mowed), but I’ll get to them at some point this week.
I’m glad it rained, too, because that will keep the ground moist and let more plants get going before everything turns brown.
I’m glad to see that the bluebonnets are going to seed quite well, so we will have lots more next year, and my favorite patch of Engelman daisy is in full bloom. There’s always something pretty to look at here, and when you’ve just gotten yet another blow at ye olde workplace, I’m glad for all my new and old plant and animal friends at the ranch.
For you blog readers, here are more things I saw yesterday. I hope the flowers and bugs are fun to look at.
Let’s get out there and “do the needful” as they say in India. I guess I’ve had enough coffee to be strong and carry on!
Today, I’m being more explicit about what I’m grateful for than my usual gratitude practice, which is more like, “Thank goodness X is in my life, or I can do Y, or Z happened.” I want to say how grateful I am to Lee for deciding to get our retirement property early, build a house on it, and start with the rural fun and learning experiment we call the Hermits’ Rest Ranch. It’s saving my butt, that’s for sure.
Every Sunday morning, I wake up, make coffee, and hang around with Lee and the dogs up in our bedroom. It’s a huge room, so it has a loveseat, chairs, a little dining table (now Lee’s desk), and coffee fixings. Usually the dogs take turns wanting to sit by me and get petted. It’s such a gentle way to ease into the day. Weekends are the best.
This morning I had Carlton for a long time, and he was not about to let me do anything with my left hand except pet his long neck while he stretched his head straight up. Then big ole Harvey wanted some time with me. I’ve mentioned before that he thinks he’s a lapdog now, and sure enough, he managed to drape himself over my entire lap. We had a nice snuggle (I originally wrote “struggle,” which may, in fact, be accurate), though that bulky dog sure is heavy.
It is nice to review your previous day up in the bedroom, so I thought back on how happy I was to find out that all the guinea eggs from yesterday were still good, and wondered what to do with them, since I’m not heading into Austin for a few weeks, I can’t get them to my coworker who’s allergic to chicken eggs, but not guinea eggs. I guess we eat them.
I also reminded myself how good I am at being patient in difficult situations, which yesterday’s time with Apache once again proved. Both he and Ace were antsy, like there was something going on around them that put them on alert. I never did figure out what it was, but it led to more dancing around and trying to do what HE wanted to from Apache. He just wasn’t thinking. But, we stopped, had a little chat, and eventually went on to have a nice ride. He really likes it when I talk to him calmly.
And for those of you suggesting lessons, I’m actually signed up for some with a local trainer. That’s why I got a Coggins test for Apache when the vet was here. Sara will take Ace and I will take Apache. That means we get to practice trailer loading, because it’s been a long time since we’ve gone anywhere out of town. He used to love going to Kerri April’s to learn Parelli stuff.
I roused myself from all my musings and went out to see what’s going on with the chickens and such. Every single step I took, Bertie Lee was right with me. She’s the Big Red of my main flock. That hen just likes me. When I checked the chicks, they’d knocked their little feeder over and messed up the water, so I fixed all that and gave Star more adult chicken food (the kind they don’t like, but my shipment of Grubbly feed has not arrived yet, due to high order volumes).
They are not starving, anyway, since every time I look in they are eating away at the plant growth in and around their little coop. I’m sure no bug stands a chance in there, either!
Then I just sat around, watched the chicks preen their feathers (it appears that they are trying to get the fluff off, so their fine new feathers can grow out), and enjoying the pond, trees, and butterflies. I got to watch the little ones go up and down the ramp, and it’s clear they are way faster at it than their mom, who carefully steps down the ramp. They also jump up and down off the small tree branch I put in their area and flap their little wings when they go to land. They will be strong! I wonder how old they will be before they can fly?
Naturally, I looked up the answer on the Googles and found they start testing their wings at around a week (check), but they don’t get their flight feathers until around 5 weeks, so we have something to look forward to!
Just looking around the ranch keeps me focused and gives me perspective. My challenges are just small bumps in the road compared to all that goes on around me every day in nature. And, like my friend Vicki has been reminding me lately:
I’ve survived all those previous hard times, so I will probably survive this one, too.
I don’t want to just survive, I want to thrive! So I’m going to keep focused on the fact that life is good, I’m surrounded by supportive friends and family, and the new events we’ll go through will make us stronger and wiser. This is what I hope for all you out there, too.
And don’t forget to visit the podcast if you need something to listen to that’s fairly uplifting and pleasant. For me, it’s a nice break between some of my more intense podcasts! And if you want to help out with my blogging fees, consider visiting the support link at the top of the page.
Our Master Naturalist chapter is slowly and carefully starting to do some activities that fall under our guidelines for safety. We really wanted to do something for Earth Day, so a few members got all organized and set up some tables over at Bird and Bee Farm, where our Wildscape project is located. I headed over there, since I had some little pins to give out, and since I hadn’t seen most of them since last year.
Our members had put together all sorts of stuff to give away for adults and kids, and by the time I left, they’d had nearly 80 visitors! Luckily, they were spread out over 4 hours, so we didn’t have any scary germy crowds. We were all very glad to see each other, which was a nice feeling.
I even got presents, including a festive wrap Catherine (from the comments on the blog) found while thrifting with her daughter, and a great book on roadside wildflowers by the woman in charge of the plantings in Texas.
As always, I enjoyed talking to people about Earth Day, but I enjoyed even more the fact that Catherine took me and Joyce C. on a little hike to look at the bird-watching station they are creating in the woods behind the chicken housing. It’s in a pretty, circular area surrounded by a variety of native trees, including one very large oak, under which I got a photo of me looking very tiny.
I got to do some plant and insect identification with my scientific buddy, Eric, which I’ve missed a lot, and we all discussed rainfall amounts from yesterday (we got close to a half inch).
And of course, there were chickens and guinea fowl. We even found some guinea eggs, and I got to take a few home, courtesy of the really nice young man who works there helping out. There were a few hens who really looked interesting, and I was pretty much awestruck by the coop the Weks built for their personal chickens. Photos were taken as examples for future projects at the Hermits’ Rest (distant future).
It was just plain great to go somewhere, see different scenery, and get to say hello to my friends. This is one case where I’m really glad we’re all so old, because everyone’s vaccinated! All we have to do is take the reasonable precautions. Whee!
First, I want to thank everyone, especially blog reader Julia, for your helpful comments on yesterday’s essay on not being responsible for the happiness of another person. I hope it’s clear that I will always be available to support and help people I care about; I just don’t have a functioning magic wand to turn that frown upside down.
I read that eggs take 21 days to hatch, so today may be the day Star’s three eggs hatch. I haven’t “candled” them (no tools) to see if there’s a developing baby in there, so I have no idea if any of the eggs are actually viable. If they all hatch, we will have mothers who produce white, tan, and brown eggs, all fathered by Bruce, who carries the gene for blue eggs.
If any chicks turn out to be hens (oh please!) they should lay olive eggs. Won’t that be fun?
Yesterday I brilliantly realized I hadn’t gotten chick feed. Oops. I got the medicated kind, because I can’t give a chicken a shot, even though I got a demo once. While I was at the local farm store/boutique/dry cleaners, I got a small feeder and waterer that will fit in the nest box area.
I got all worried last night that newborn chicks would fall out of the nesting area. So, I put a rectangular, wood sign up across the entrance that should block the chicks but let Star climb over and get out to eat adult chicken food.
I hope to get some help with a better system soon, but I did my best! Now I just have to stay patient. I drank a lot of liquid patience (that’s what my new coffee mug from the Bling Box says) this morning, to reinforce it.
I’m really glad there are these positive and interesting things going on at the ranch right now, because my anxiety levels are absolutely through the roof. I just keep going outside, looking at the life all around me, and breathing. I’m trying to work on the things I can affect and let the things that are out of my range of influence just drop. That’s what Lee said a Stoic would do.
The distraction today was how many different pollinators were buzzing around the false dandelions over by the chicken run. I saw at least four different kinds, ranging from tiny hoverflies to a long-horned bee about the size of a honeybee.
We have also had very, very large ground bees or something like that flying around. They are different from bumblebees in that they hover and dart around very fast. On iNaturalist, they identified one of my photos as a bumblebee and one as a carpenter bee, but judging from the behavior, I think it’s the latter.
I do know what my last photo is, because I managed to look it up. It’s Carolina bristlemallow with seeds. They look so interesting, don’t they?
I’m sincerely hoping you have something interesting and maybe even fun to distract you from whatever challenges you’re facing today. We’re all in it together, and I’m busy trying to make my own happiness over here. Sure I am.
It’s a good thing we don’t live in town, or we’d be getting little notices that we need to mow. Actually, I’m surprised we haven’t gotten them for our town properties. Yes, our lives are filled with little clusters of impediments that drive us all to distraction, and the spring grass situation is one of them. We don’t want long grass by the house, because it attracts our snake friends, and some snakes we’d rather not be all that close to.
Many of you know that our usual ranch-mates have been stuck at the other farm for a long time, thanks to a snake bite that went bad, very bad. Kathleen can’t drive, so her devoted spouse has had to stay there and help. That is all fine by us! However, the equipment maintenance over here at the Hermits’ Rest is in his hands. That’s been a problem, though not his fault.
Why? Because every single one of our mowing devices has developed an issue that Lee and his brother can’t fix. The brother set out to mow one day, but boom, a belt popped off and he’s in no shape to fix it. We don’t know exactly what’s up with the ZTR, but it isn’t going either. And certainly the push mower is not cut out for our acreage…but it’s not working either.
Well, Suna, any observant neighbor or in this case, Hearts Homes and Hands employee, would point out, the grass is so long and lush that we really need to shred it (in Texan, that means mow with an attachment on your tractor). We have a tractor (it runs!). We have a shredder (it works!). What we don’t have is anyone who can attach said shredder to said tractor.
Other inquiring neighbors might ask, well, why don’t you just get someone to fix your mowers? Or pay someone to mow? Well, heck yeah, those are good questions! I’m sure it’s occurred frequently to the poor people across the road, who mow many acres to a carpetlike perfection weekly. They have to look at our flower-covered mess, shudder, and shake their heads.
The thing is, every week we expect to be reunited with our family. Once we’re all back at the ranch, we’ll be a well-oiled machine of accomplishments and the doing of things. Every week, the darned wound will not heal. I can assure you we are ALL frustrated by this, but you have to deal with what life hands you.
The good news is that we are finally breaking down and seeing if our tenant will fix the mower belt and hope to see if he’ll help Lee attach the shredder. That would let us at least get started. I won’t be quite so worried about a snake in the long grass biting ME that way.
The Bright Side
Of course there’s a bright side to all this! We have beautiful wildflowers all over the fields in front of and behind the house now. Because we don’t spray herbicides on our pastures, all kinds of native grasses and flowers are showing up.
We have way more scarlet pimpernel than I ever noticed before, and the blue eyed grass has made it to the back part of the house. I have to say an entire wildflower meadow for a yard, that I didn’t even have to plant, is a fine thing.
I can’t think of anything prettier than fields of evening primrose, either. I remember when we first moved here and Sara and Ralph were still ranching on our larger pastures, they would bloom into a sea of pink. It was spectacular. But, we have our own little ponds (or tanks?) of pink in the parts we maintain!
Still, we do know we need to mow. We do wish the deities of functioning machinery weren’t so hard on us and that the germs in south Texas weren’t so tenacious in that snake wound. But, THIS week things will change, one way or another! (We will leave some flowers, though.)
Getting in touch with your emotional truth, by processing feelings to improve the human condition in the 21st century. Living out loud by my motto,"Triumphing over Trauma" 🌈
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