A Pleasant Walk around the Ranch

There was frost last night! It’s amazing how quickly it goes from boiling hot to frost around here. Luckily none of my plants were damaged, since I thought they’d still be ok outside. I look forward to putting them in the greenhouse, though!

I decided to take one more sweep of the ranch for the pollinator BioBlitz, just to see if I would find anything different, and I’m glad I did, because I did stumble upon a few things. I’d say the most interesting one is the buffalo gourd.

Cucurbita foetidissima (means stinky)

Here’s some info on these plants, which Lee’s dad called “smell apples.” I’m always amused by giant squash in the middle of the pasture.

Cucurbita foetidissima is a tuberous xerophytic plant found in the central and southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It has numerous common names, including: buffalo gourd, calabazilla, chilicote, coyote gourd, fetid gourd, fetid wild pumpkin, Missouri gourd, prairie gourd, stinking gourd, wild gourd, and wild pumpkin. The type specimen was collected from Mexico by Alexander von Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland sometime before 1817. In Latin, foetidissima means ill smelling.

The feral perennial buffalo gourd has evolved in the semiarid regions and is well-adapted to desert environments. It contains high amounts of protein and carbohydrates and yields abundant oil. The carbohydrates that are formed in the tap root have led to the idea of growing the plant for biofuel.

The fruit is consumed by both humans and animals. When mature, a stage marked by increasing desiccation of vine, leaves, fruit-stem, and fruit, the fruit begins its final gourd stage. (from iNaturalist/Wikipedia)

I enjoyed seeing things other than the plants, too. There was a kettle of black vultures circling around. And I identified what they were all gathered around recently on my son’s driveway/access road. It was a skunk. What a cool skeleton! And I got greeted by the current “bull in residence” in the pasture next to ours. He is really friendly and beautiful. I look forward to his babies.

It’s pretty this time of year, and the grass has greened up a little. Finding plants is hard, so I’ve resorted to looking for spring plants that are coming up already and some pretty sad drought-damaged dock. But they all count, and I’m still ranked in the 30s in the BioBlitz. Wait until tomorrow. My camera will be snapping like crazy on the field trip I’m attending in Houston.

I was happy to see all the twin calves having a good time in the pasture behind us. The cow who was hugely pregnant did indeed have twins. I’m sure she’s really glad to get them OUT of her. The little one’s a hoot. He got hungry and started bellowing for her. She came through!

It’s simply restorative to just take in all that you see around here. Then I feel good heading in for more technical writing and helping lovely people with their software dilemmas. I even enjoyed the sparrows that eat all my chicken food. And of course, my horsies!

Amazing Adventures Near Junction, Texas

I think my idea of Junction, Texas was that it was some kind of wasteland with some gas stations in it. I was wrong, and I’ll always be grateful for this year’s Bennett Trust Women’s Conference: “Building A Legacy of Environmental Stewardship”, which concluded today with the field trips. We went to three very different places in the Junction area. I learned a ton, PLUS I got to add a bunch of observations to the 2022 Texas Pollinator Bioblitz over on iNaturalist!

Look at all the moths!

Native American Seed

Our first stop was a visit to a place I’d never dreamed I’d actually get to visit: the farms for Native American Seed, one of my favorite catalogs. Not only that, we got greeted by Bill Neimann, co-founder of the company. He comes very close to being one of the coolest humans I’ve ever met. He lives his life principles every single day, and spreads a great message across the world.

Listening to Bill Neimann orient us to the business

The farm is located in a beautiful spot on the Llano River, and they have places where people can stay and have programs, etc., too. Plus a friendly guardian dog. Was I in heaven? Yes.

Hi, Alfred!

The view from the main house was spectacular, as it overlooked an area planted with native plants that spread out to acres and acres of native grasses under cultivation. Mind-blowingly beautiful.

While we were there, we had three presentations, one on bird-watching that resulted in one loggerhead shrike and a loud but hidden chickadee. That’s OK. There were so many great plants that I was fine. There were many I’d never seen before, so I was in Suna Happy Place.

The second presentation was on doing ecotourism, and I learned some good tidbits about making money from people who want to look at birds on your property. I wish I could bring the storks in on cue!

Our speaker on bird tourism doesn’t actually like birds.

The third presentation involved going into the growing fields. We were short on time for this, which was too bad, but I was in awe of the people who work there and have figured out ways to grow these now-rare plants for seed to distribute all over the place. Plus, I got to watch harvester ants, you know, harvesting.

Silver Farms

Next, we went to lunch, but it was much, much more than just lunch. It was a farm-to-table lunch with all the aspects of it prepared by women. The farm raises show goats and sheep, as well as some meat lambs. We had the best roast lamb I ever ate for our main course. For the salad, a company that consists of two homeschooled teens prepared it. That was one of the best salads ever, too, and I’m not making that up. There was goat cheese in it, home-grown greens, local pecans, etc., in it. I had two helpings and was not alone in this. There were also cheesy potatoes, homemade herb breads, and a chocolate dessert.

Getting ready for lunch. No lunch photos because we were eating!

Oh, and there was wine from friends of the owners, and it was all delicious as well. When we finished eating, all the people who brought the meal together spoke to us about how they came to do what they do. It was really encouraging to see all these new businesses cropping up in rural Kimble County.

Once that was over, we got to go look at the sheep and goats! You know that was a highlight for me! They were Hampshire sheep, which are nice and big. There was one pen full of ewes getting worked on by one lucky ram. You can tell which ram got to a ewe, because they put paint on his chest and it rubs off on the lucky gals. The ram in the pen had red paint, but a blue one had been there earlier.

There was another area where the show animals were. They all wear little outfits to protect their coats. I was not aware of this practice. They were a hoot to watch, though, but we had to leave.

Texas Tech, in Junction

Back on the buses we went, to find the Texas Tech campus in Junction, which looks mostly like a summer camp. That was fine with me, because we got to go look at the river. Hooray, I love the river. The presentation here was by folks from Texas Parks and Wildlife and AgriLife. It covered managing riparian areas and dealing with axis deer.

It was shocking to see how badly the deer had grazed the area down, compared with an area they had fenced to keep wildlife out, which had lovely long grass and a variety of kinds.

I learned a lot about how to tell if your land is holding a good amount of deer or is being over-grazed, depending on what plants they have eaten. I am happy to report we have plenty of the stuff deer like to eat, and also that there aren’t any axis deer on this side of I-35 yet. Whew.

We’re pretty but not welcome in Texas. You can shoot us any time of year, if you pay someone enough money. Sniff.

What are axis deer? Imported animals native to northern India and the area around there, who have escaped and gone crazy breeding in Texas.

Anyway, it was all extra interesting, and I had a grand time, all the while taking more and more pictures of wildlife. I got into the top 50 of the BioBlitz just by taking all these pictures. There really were lots of butterflies and moths. There was one plant I saw four or five types of moths on at once!

Enjoy just a FEW of the photos I took, including some of the new things I saw.

The only negative thing is I have to get up early and drive home in the morning. But, that’s not the end of the world!

Things I Would Say to a Mouse

Not the mouse I’m addressing.
  • I love you and think you’re cute as heck. Outdoors.
  • Your chances of a long life are much better of living a long life if you avoid our house, which is full of large dogs.
  • Plastic is not good for you.
  • You are very clever how you simply move the baited sticky trap so you can get to the delicious horse food and eat more of its spout.
  • There’s lots to eat in the pasture. You could go there.
  • HA! I have put the delicious horse food in a sealed container where you can’t get to it.
  • Yes, I can see that your larger cousin is also visiting the tack room. Evidence.
  • I have lots more traps. Go outside! run!
  • I truly regret the large gaps in the doors to the tack room that welcome you so well.
  • Your brazen takeover of my henhouse has not gone unnoticed. You sure poop a lot.
  • Note that the food in the henhouse is also in a sealed container. HA!
Horses’ expensive oil is now hiding with the alfalfa. Take that, rodents.

So Many Dead Things

I’ll write more in the Master Naturalist blog about this (update, I forgot to do so), but I did enjoy a visit to the Texas A&M Biodiversity Research and Teaching Collections this morning. My friend Pamela and I drove over and met up with another Master Naturalist and her granddaughter, who’s high school age, and enjoyed it as much as we did, I think. We were sad that more of our group couldn’t join us.

Art is from 3D images of animals.

Our guides were curators Heather Prestridge, an ichthyologist, and Gary Voelker, an ornithologist. They were informal with our small group, informative, and entertaining as well. I had a blast learning about how many specimens they have, how long the collection has been growing (since the 1930s), and how they preserve the animals for research.

Specimen jars. Stop here if you don’t want to see preserved animals and such.

The collections of herps (snakes, lizards, frogs, etc.) are immense. It’s cool to see where they all come from. There is much from Texas but also around the world. They are preserved in formaldehyde.

The fish were fascinating as well. My favorite was the box fish. There were just so many to categorize. Wow. There’s a lot of work for their grad students and volunteers! The other thing they do with the specimens is take tissue samples and freeze them (really cold) for future research on DNA and the like. What a resource this is!

Of course the birds fascinated me. I was probably really annoying with all my questions but wow, there were things here I’d never seen before, like the Hoatzin. What the heck. This bird’s young have claws on their wings!! It’s also called a stink bird, because it digests food in its crop, which is smelly. It’s a really different bird!

Pamela is amazed at the hoatzin bird

Dr. Voelker was great at sharing information about the birds. We saw the largest and smallest owls and an awesome variety of kingfishers, some that were an indescribable blue. Africa has some darn colorful birds.

Look at these roseate spoonbills. They are so many shades of pink. and I was fascinated to see the bill up close. Such specialization!

There was a lovely domed collection of hummingbirds that had been donated to Heather. Someone had it in their family for years!

That’s something else!

I’ll spare you the details but we learned about 3D imaging and printing of specimens. They find what’s in the animals’ stomachs and can ID them. Huh.

And look! A giraffe skull! Look at the horns!

They didn’t talk much about boring old mammals but I checked them out.

Believe it or not, I managed to get hungry after all those dead things. Good thing we’d arranged to meet our friend, Lynn at a restaurant at the old airport terminal. Ah. A nice restaurant. And airplanes! What a good time.

Let’s Hike and Drive

Our last day in California we didn’t have any plans so I decided to take a hike on my last day of pleasant temperatures. I found parts of the resort I hadn’t seen before and then a trail head! Off I went.

View of resort from trail.

Carlsbad has a large network of trails that I wish I’d found earlier. I chose to go downhill the whole way, which was fun. I didn’t see any new plants or animals, but it was peaceful and scenic.

The trail took me through a golf course and had a cool tunnel. I had fun. Suna fun.

When the trail ended, I walked down the road, which skirted other trails. There I saw many holes.

Holes!

I thought to myself that it looked like where ground squirrels might live. I was right! So I saw them scampering around and going into the holes. Photos are from a long way away, so blurry

I looked up the California ground squirrel and learned that each one has its own hole. This made me realize there are a LOT of squirrels in that wilderness. I bet they really annoy nearby homeowners with their irrigated manicured lawns.

The real highlight of Thursday was that I spent all afternoon by the pool just relaxing. I had the hot tub all to myself and enjoyed it until I moved to a big round couch and crocheted on my blanket and watched some teens having fun in the pool. It was so nice to have no agenda, no chores, and no work to do. I’ll cherish those hours, even though I’ll be happy to be back into my ranch routine.

Blanket progress. Sure is random.

We headed out yesterday morning and took a different route to our first destination. I enjoyed seeing Palm Springs and other desert towns from I-20. There are so many windmills and solar farms out there! Nice to see.

Electricity for Palm Springs

There was lots of very barren desert with some oases in between. I was happy to get back to the mountains so I could take more pictures of rocks. I just think that area is gorgeous.

We got to Globe, Arizona, where we stayed at a very cute family-owned Best Western. It had great landscaping and friendly owners.

Sunset with rain. View from our room!

The room had too much scent in it for Lee, but we had a good night followed by a home-cooked breakfast! We had great conversation with the cook and an elderly couple who were fascinating. We talked about horses, spiders and other poisonous things, and travel. A great start to the day! Enjoy a few more photos of Globe, whose main industry is copper mining.

Thanks for all your kind words about Kathleen yesterday. She’s hanging in there, though the toxin has affected her bladder! Keep the good vibes coming!

Hermits Visit a Zoo

Both my spouse and I like animals. I like plants. The San Diego Zoo has lots of each. It also has crowds, though, and neither of us likes crowds. Especially with good ole COVID getting worse again. But we were nearby, and that’s one of the best zoos on earth, so we went.

This guy reminded me of Lee. Plopped down and immediately started snoozing.

We survived the line for the bus tour, and after that it wasn’t too crowded. So we lived, though it wore Lee out.

Some animals were easy to see from the bus.

Lee truly endeared himself to me when he suggested we try to hit all the aviaries. That was good with me. I liked them, because they all have plants common in the areas where the birds are from. And bird spotting is so fun!

My favorite was this fancy pheasant of some sort who really wanted to get a fish!

We got to see birds eating, nesting, and building nests. Some were really entertaining.

Mr. Pigeon here did a mating display, including really impressive vocalizations.

I probably would have been fine just looking at birds and plants. Here are just a few of the dozens of interesting birds we saw. Forgive me for not knowing what they all are. There were so many! I never realized how many kinds of doves there are!

I did look at some animals. I managed to see all the apes and most bears. I didn’t get photos but got a great look at a huge anteater. Those are some interesting animals! I was too busy looking to take many photos, but here are a few.

I guess that was our big tourist activity of the trip. We are really concentrating on spending quiet time together with as little stress as possible, given the unending health challenges of the folks at home. They tell us to stay here, so we have done so! We even manage to look happy.

What’s Blooming and Growing, May Day edition

Around May, the dominant wildflowers change from bluebonnets and paintbrushes to Indian blankets and Black-eyed Susans.

Our front field

What else is blooming now? Here are a few familiar friends I was glad to see back again.

But the best new thing over in our world is an animal. Look who Sara saw shortly after I left her place this afternoon? And she had kits! exciting new life!

Beautiful gray fox!

The chickens say this is why I need to lock them in each night, however. No foxes allowed in the henhouse.

This way we don’t have to sleep with the snakes.

Good night from the Hermits’ Rest, where we spent a lovely evening watching ducks and tiny birds flying in formation. I hope they were eating all the swarming termites…that’s another story. Still. A good life.

Murmurating. Or whatever.

Skunk-tastic Day of Chores

Honest, I was so proud of myself for all the chores I’d accomplished today. House, tack room, trailer, and garage floor, all clean. Horses all fed. I sad down to eat some cereal in mid afternoon. The dogs went nuts. And one of them foolishly went after a skunk.

I blame you, Suna. You moved my house.

I started the day enjoying my horses’ love of hay. Don’t these guys look happy?

Mmmm

I had on gloves so I could lift the hay bales after Sara brought them to me when she returned the trailer. Then, when the hay was out and everyone was chomping, I patted Apache. I guess I’ll be grooming away later.

This will be fun to clean. Maybe I’ll just soak it in skunk juice.

Lee and I went to Tractor Supply to get Apache food and more food for the other four, who are really looking better after I started giving them senior food and a magnesium supplement. I got a shovel for horse poop in the trailer and wanted a little wagon but couldn’t find one.

What is this? A cleaner tack room!

Then I cleaned. The trailer looks good now, even after Drew’s copious output yesterday. Then off I went to load up that food and clean the current tack room. I’d been waiting to clean it until the new one was ready, but I couldn’t take it anymore. At least most of the remnants of the rat invasion are gone and some debris is out.

Isn’t the garbage can Kathleen’s friend painted for her cute? It’s full of senior feed!

The room needs lots more work. Someone just tossed some boxes in there and now they are a mess. I think some may be my knitting stuff. That room would make a cool craft room, after it’s next use.

Meanwhile, Lee moved the new tack room closer to its final destination. Part is even on a block. That is probably what caused the skunk issue.

The occupant of the shipping container was not amused.

I got finished and just sat down to eat some weird healthy cereal when the dogs went nuts. Lee went out to check, and the two big dogs were running around foaming at the mouth. One or both had gone after a skunk in the side yard. Oh great.

Poor skunk.

We think it was the one who lived over by the horse pens. It’s smelled skunky there for months, and we’d each seen one. I’d hoped to live peacefully, but once it came into the yard during the day, its hours were numbered.

It’s been disposed of. That was also stinky. I’ve sprayed the dogs with Angry Orange stuff and Febreeze. It’s still bad. We sealed off the bedroom and my office.

Nothing covers up skunk.

What a day. We will wash the washable dogs with Dawn dishwashing detergent. That works better for us than tomato products. Thanks in advance for not telling us what to do. We are handling it!

Three bottles!

Lucky for me, I unpacked more wine from the Austin house. When I looked at my Cabernet Sauvignon section, I saw I have three of one of my favorites! This is so good. I now have two, and also a 2016 and 2018. I think I drank 2019 already, but it may still be in stores.

And I’d thought today would be lonely and boring! Ha!

Not a Good Day to Be Harvey

Things can go downhill really fast when you have seven dogs with seven different personalities. Just last night, Goldie and Carlton played and played and played. Goldie would put her entire mouth around Carlton’s neck, and Carlton would gleefully gnaw on Goldie’s jowls. They invited each other to play with a toy and just had so much fun.

Today, Goldie had a totally different interaction with Harvey (who is a totally different dog from happy-go-lucky Carlton). Harvey has a history of getting grumpy with other dogs, as anyone who has known the dogs for a while is aware.

I had gone to get a delivery from the UPS lady, and all the dogs happily barked at her as we exchanged pleasantries. I set that package down and went to the mailbox to see what was crammed in there today. As I did so, the dogs kept barking. I got the mail, and heard some really upset barking coming from Carlton, like a cry-bark. So, I turned and saw six of the seven dogs all in a big ball. Then Harvey ran off and everyone else sniffed the ground.

It turned out that he and Goldie had gotten into a disagreement of some sort, and the normally mild-mannered Goldie must have snapped or something. Harvey was bleeding profusely and I saw blood everywhere. Carlton had blood on him, Goldie had blood on her, and even Penney had some. Vlassic and Gracie looked okay, and luckily Alfred was inside.

Goldie had cuts on her face and ear, and I thought Carlton did, too, but later it was clear he just was in the way of blood flinging, as was Penney. Harvey looked so bad that I got upset and called for Lee, who was not happy with me for my “hysterics” (no woman likes to have being upset labeled hysteria, by the way). He kept telling me they were all just fine, but I disagreed. Harvey looked bad.

See, no more blood on Carlton. And Lee cleaned the house, for which I am grateful.

He was sitting in a corner on a rug, trembling and bleeding. I realized it was Thursday, the day Dr. Amy is in Cameron, so I knew she could see him. We somehow got him outside by dragging the rug but could not lift him into the car. I called Dr. Amy, and the assistant said they were really busy and already had two house calls to do, so could we please try to bring him in?

STOP HERE IF YOU DON’T LIKE THE SIGHT OF BLOOD. THANKS.

I had to call Chris (sorry, I had to name him for this one post) and ask him to come help us, which of course he did, along with Marcus, who’s helping on Anita’s house. It took a while, but they guys got Harvey in the car by using a sheet to carry him, and we all took off to the mobile vet place.

Poor ole Harvey just sat there and bled, though he was interested in the car ride. I tried not to look at the gaping holes in his fur.

At least I got to go on a ride!

At the vet place, Amy bravely injected something in Harvey to settle him down, and after the second injection, he snoozed off. The clock was then ticking on repairs.

The poor assistant had a hard time shaving around the injuries, but Chris was able to help her out, so by the time Dr. Amy was finished neutering some dogs, he was ready. Some of the bites were BAD. There were big teethmarks and puncture wounds. Goldie must have really been pissed off, because his neck, shoulders and back legs were a mess.

Before shaving the wounds.

There was even a tendon sticking out of his leg. The tendon was what made me decide a vet visit was in order in the first place! Luckily, it was not a major tendon, and he will be okay without it.

Big ole tooth holes. And tendon.

I was impressed with how fast Dr. Amy worked to test each injury to see if it had damaged any organs. Harvey’s layer of fat helped a lot in that respect. See, Harvey, it’s good you are no longer Starvey. One set of holes went in and out, so she put a drain in it. The deeper holes were also left to drain, so there would be less likelihood of a big ole abscess forming.

Inserting the drain

More superficial wounds got stapled. All wounds got some goopy stuff slapped in it that will help heal. We will put more of that in the open wounds daily for a while. Harvey also got pain killers and antibiotics, a Z Pack for dogs.

Stapled up and heading home.

We got some for Carlton and Goldie, though it turns out Carlton doesn’t need them. Goldie may. I wish I knew what set the dogs off!

We got Harvey back in the car and back into the house. I’m glad Chris is so strong. Harvey is now in my office, separated from all the other dogs, sleeping his ordeal off. He is going to be in a lot of pain for a while, and we will be watching to see if he has blood in his urine or coughs up blood. Poor guy.

Sleeping it off.

I’m glad my coworkers were able to help me out when I missed a meeting today, and that my Indian colleagues forgave me for not being able to answer their questions immediately. Harvey came first!

She looks all right. Just has a few flesh wounds.

Don’t worry, I’ll keep you all posted on how the dogs are recovering and what we do about the issue. I want everyone safe.

PS: our sweet neighbor, Seth, got Harvey some get-well treats. He made sure to get soft ones, in case Harvey’s mouth was sore. Sniff.

Harvey would say thanks, if he was awake.

It’s Not Sunday, It’s Sunaday

Have you ever wondered what Suna would do with a day entirely to herself with no one else’s agenda (other than a deadline)? Truthfully, neither did Suna.

Samhain greetings, by the way.

But, today was indeed Sunaday, and I got to do whatever the heck I wanted to, all day long. I did have a newsletter to make, so I did it MY way, and gave myself little incentives like if I worked for an hour I could knit four rows, go for a walk, or have a mini Hershey’s bar (you know, in case anyone knocked on the door looking for candy, which did NOT happen in this building full of old people).

I looked at nature, duh.

Other than that, quirkiness ruled. I did many things I can’t do at home, like set food on the coffee table with NO consequences, burn a smelly candle all day long, sit around in bed watching CBS This Morning (what a comforting show), and watch things on the computer (gasp, not eating up all Lee’s bandwidth!).

Right outside the resort.

One thing that I did that wasn’t atypical was watch football all day. But, I did do other things, so there was no lolling on the couch without being productive. I still can’t manage that.

Tree hugging another tree.

The highlight of the day was going around the neighborhood. It wasn’t too cold yet, so I got to look at all the trees and listen to all the fun birds around here. The most fun birds, for sure, were the magpies, who were very vocal and active. They and the crows seem to be the biggest birds here.

My other favorite site was perhaps the cutest squirrel I ever saw. It was an Abert’s squirrel. They are small and have fun tassels on their ears. Of course, I did not see any moose or other large animals, since I was in a neighborhood of condos and resorts.

You could hear it chewing

Still, there were a lot of remnants of flowers and beautiful evergreens to enjoy. It smells quite nice here up in the sky.

In other news, I got a few photos of the pool, and I was surprised to find out that the little tiles they put on the steps glow in the dark! I guess we hadn’t gone outside after dark since they put them in.

That will look cool under water.

According to Lee, there is still a lot of tile work to go, since we chose that difficult but visually stunning Versailles pattern. Good for us.

Tomorrow starts my week of 6 am meetings. I have a great attitude and am sure I’ll do fine. Today put me in a great mood. A Sunaday is a good day, whatever day of the week it is.

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