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…
Here’s another blog just chock full of photos, and not all of them are nature. It’s all good though. We just had a long day of visiting a variety of sights and sites.
We set out early (for us), determined to see everything possible at Huntington Beach State Park. It’s across the road from Brookgreen Gardens, and features nature, birds, beaches, and a really interesting house that belonged to the people who used to own both the properties, the Huntingtons. Last year I saw better birds, but we still had a good time today.
We first went out to see the nature, where, of course, I spent a lot of time taking close-up pictures of plants. Lee says this is what I always look like.
I did find some pretty things to take pictures of, though some of them were Lee. There were many native berries, a spider, and the MOST exciting, a painted bunting.
From there, we headed over to Atalaya, the “castle” where the Huntington family lived in the winters. Folks, this is a really, really weird house. It’s all brick, even the floors, and all one story. It’s in the shape of a huge square with a very large courtyard in the middle. Every room, even the bathrooms, has a fireplace. I find that interesting, but it does get cold enough, even in South Carolina, to need some winter warmth.
My patience paid off! I have been scanning the ocean from our room every day since we got to Myrtle Beach. I mentioned before that it was oddly empty of…anything. Slowly, but surely, more things have showed up. I saw a couple of yachts, a kayak, and sailboats yesterday, and today there are parasailing boats, sailboats, jet skis and all sorts of activity. Maybe today is the first official day of “the season” or something.
What I was actually looking for all that time was dolphins. I knew they were there, but all I saw was a glassy sea. Today, though, I saw something black out there. I figured it was a sea duck or something, so I grabbed the binoculars (so glad I brought them) to check.
There was at least one, and maybe two pods of dolphins out there, playing and jumping. At one point, three of them were jumping together. It was mighty fine entertainment! I had a blast, and I felt like it was my Mother’s Day gift from my Mom and Mother Nature. What a full heart I had watching those families playing together!
It’s Mother’s Day in the US as I mentioned. It’s been hard since my older son stopped speaking to me, but I think he knows I love him anyway. Maybe I’ll hear from the other one today! I liked the new Facebook background that showed up today, of love cactuses. That’s how family is; you love them, even if it’s prickly.
Sometimes you lose loved ones, they don’t appreciate you, they don’t understand your motives, or they have challenges that make loving hard for them. I’m sending love to all of them, as well as to my own loved ones I don’t understand. I’m no saint about it, myself!
Hug someone you’re allowed to safely hug today, and enjoy whatever gift Mother Nature brings to you, my friends!
However, we didn’t head to Woodstock; we went back to Brookgreen Garden. We rose with the sun and both worked hard today, so we really needed to take advantage of the multi-day tickets we had.
We headed in a different direction this time, and of course saw lots of flowers. I’m amazed at the variety.
There were, of course, many beautiful statues. My favorite was three women sitting on a framework of metal, just lounging around naked. Such ennui. It’s just what they do!
I also liked the Don Quixote statue, which was in a lovely planting of Texas plants. At least I think that’s what it was. I’ve seen all the plants there at home, anyway.
Eventually, we made our way to the BEST PART of the whole place. It’s a Low Country trail and zoo with native animals and farm animals that would have been on the plantations. My favorites were the river otters. I teared up watching them play.
I enjoyed goats, horses, an interesting cow, owls (lots of cool ones, but hard to photograph), a big ole alligator, and chickens. Bit by far the best exhibit was the aviary. I was in heaven there. So many of my my favorite birds, up close and personal.
The habitat was truly beautiful. You could watch the birds catch and stalk fish, interact, and even build nests! This was so much fun, and interesting. We saw a few other animals, like a little green frog, Canada geese, a pretty skink, and many more brown thrashers.
All that stuff was good, but I’d have honestly been fine just walking around looking at the ancient trees and the rice fields that are going back to nature. I feel so at home among the shadows and moss. I hope you enjoy some of my landscape images.
Anita, Stop Reading Here
And now for my final fun observation. I was really wanting to get some photos of the really interesting squirrels here. There were many fine gray squirrels, and sure, I enjoyed them.
I’d never seen the other kind of squirrel they have here, though. They are big, with long and curly tails, plus black heads with white noses. What cuties! So, I obsessively tried to get a good photo of one. Instead, I got a bunch of okay but blurry pictures.
You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard these were fox squirrels, the same kind we have in Texas. But these look so cool. Of course, I looked it up on iNaturalist. Sure enough, fox squirrels come in a bunch of different colors. They can also be black.
Hooray for me. I learned a new nature fact AND relaxed. It’s time to actually vacation, I think.
PS: Anita did NOT stop reading when she got to the squirrel part. I did warn her!
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!
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!
I’ve always contended that I plan to keep learning new things until I die. I often think of my friend, Marian, who, well into her 90s gets all excited about the new topics she’s reading about, new technology she’s mastered, and new ideas she’s heard. I hope that’s me in 30 years!
And you certainly never know where you’ll find teachers and mentors, or where you’ll find your education. For sure, my neighbor, Sara, who you hear about a lot in my musings, is a great teacher and mentor in many ways. We’re very different, but have similar interests, which makes us a good team.
I’m sure glad I have her with me when I’m out with my Paint/Arabian mix horse, Apache. Sara has a lot more training and experience, which helps her figure out my problems. I’m also learning a lot watching her work with Ace, the Black Beauty she’s working with. I read this in Western Horseman (SUCH a great magazine) last night:
…when you ride by yourself you perfect your mistakes.
Chuck Reid, quoted in “All-Around Horseman,” by Jennifer Dennison, Western Horseman May 2021, p. 21.
But, are you really alone when you’re riding? No. You always have your equine partner with you! And Apache is one intense task-master. I mentioned last week that his back was hurting. Maybe this had something to do with the fact that the last few times I’d ridden him, he has been pretty scary. Whatever I asked him to do, he reacted by trotting nervously wherever HE wanted to go. He had absolutely no interest in turning right (making me think he was hurting). His head would either be tossing around or down frantically gulping grass. It was not a fun experience, and I even got a bit scared when he started backing and turning sideways.
And on the ground, he was patently uninterested in doing his warm ups. He’d walk a couple of steps, then eat grass. It would take a lot of effort to get him to move, back, or pay attention to me. And when he WAS paying attention, he’d stop in the middle of doing something, face me, move his head up and down, and paw the ground, as if to say he was DONE with whatever we were doing. He was trying to tell me something, but what?
Ah, the work week is over. I made it, and even did well. I only checked on the chicks three times today, and was able to watch one of them drink water. They’re definitely eating!
We did get more rain, but it let up in time to go see the horses with Sara. What a happy surprise it was to see little Bess along with her other cattle dogs. She’s such a cutie.
Sara introduced her to Apache and told her not to chase Big Red. Big Red also told her! There’s certainly a lot for a young dog to learn!
After playing with Bess for a while, Sara went to get Ace. Bess was very interested, and watched intently.
However, once that giant beast came walking up, Bess glued herself to my side, not taking her eyes off him. I petted her and told her she was okay. I could see her little ears trembling, so I volunteered to take her back to the house.
Yeah, that was SUCH a burden, right? It’s so wonderful to hold a warm, soft living being who snuggles up to you and softly licks your fingers to show her contentment. Cattle dog pups are so soft, for dogs with such sturdy fur as adults. And since I was chilly from walking through the wet grass and getting jumped on by her tiny wet feet, she kept me cozy. Yep, love is a wet puppy.
When I got my damp self back to the Hermits’ Rest, certain dogs were very aware I’d been with a puppy. Penney glued her nose to me for ten minutes. And when I sat down, with clean, dry clothes on, Harvey jumped into my lap (a new, awkward habit of his) and proceeded to sniff and drool extensively on my pants and shirt. I was all wet again.
That Harvey. He really likes laps these days, especially Lee’s. And once he’s draped across you, you aren’t going anywhere for a while. I guess love is also a large wet dog.
Oh my gosh. Today got even better! There I was, talking to my boss, all serious-like, when Lee came in carrying something that looked like a small Carlton. Only it was GRACIE LOU! We hadn’t seen her in over a week!
Of course, there was one place we hadn’t looked for her, and that’s where she was. She’d been in our garage storage room. One of us must have gone in there for some reason and she followed us in.
I have a sinking feeling it was me, because I vaguely remember going in there at some point. That guilt will stay with me forever, every time I look at that sweet face.
I guess the “good” part is that we locked the right dog in there. Gracie, as I mentioned before, is a tough farm dog, despite her delicate good looks. It was obvious she had mice to eat in the storeroom and knew how to catch them. Wow.
We had to ration water when she first came back to the house, because we know too much water when you’re dehydrated isn’t great. She seems okay now, friendly and sweet as ever.
One thing we can’t figure out is why we never heard her barking. I spend a lot of time in the garage looking for eggs, after all. But, now that I think of it, I was in Austin last week! Ah! That explains it. Still, I didn’t hear her from Friday to today. It’s a mystery, I guess.
After all this drama, I went out to sit on the porch and stare blankly at the trees. I got to enjoy a fine show of Harvey, Penney, and Carlton chasing each other and playing. It’s like having my own circus act.
I’m so glad we found Kathleen’s sweet and tough dog. We’ve had enough losses and bad news lately!
I made a mistake in my piece on waiting for the chicks to hatch! I said it took 15 days, and that’s totally wrong; it’s 21! I appreciate our supporter, Dorothy, for pointing that out and telling me how to candle eggs with a flashlight!
I was trying to create a funny essay yesterday when I wrote about our property not being mowed yet, but it sparked some Facebook controversy. Some people were thrilled and others were appalled that we were doing it. I don’t know why I was surprised, since mowing is always controversial! Like so many things out here in the country, you have to sometimes decide who is a priority and who needs to sacrifice for the greater good. In this case, the safety of our elderly residents and visitors has to come before some flowers, mice, and such.
We need to have the area by the house mowed short enough that we can see snakes and holes that pop up randomly. I don’t want my sister or brother-in-law falling or getting bitten. We let things go a lot longer farther out, and luckily they can’t get to ALL my dewberries, ha ha.
In any case, we are really grateful to our young neighbor, Tyler, who is quite mechanically inclined and strong for getting the riding mower belt back on so the brother-in-law can mow. Jim’s happy about that, and is all decked out in his hat, mask, and other protection.
Meanwhile, Lee’s in the tractor shredding. He’s shredding high, just to knock the tops off the thistles and their kin (don’t worry, there is PLENTY on the roadside for many, many birds). Speaking of birds, the hawks and eagles are quite happy he’s shredding. He had a caracara (Mexican eagle) watching quite intently yesterday. I see a couple of hawks have joined in, too. Buffet time!
But honestly, we don’t have too many mammals that don’t live underground in the area we’re mowing, because the rabbits have learned to go elsewhere to avoid the dogs, and we have mouse predators up the wazoo, both flying and barking. Plus, they will come back, believe me.
The area will look nice for the dinner we’re having tonight, where I hope my son and partner will join us!
The Horse Part of the Story
Have you noticed it’s always something with the horses, especially Apache? I have. Sigh. Yesterday afternoon, I headed out to try riding again, took him out of his paddock, and started grooming him. I got to his back, and he startled. I thought maybe he saw something or was surprised by Ace arriving. I started again, and he moved away. That was odd. He was acting like the curry comb was hurting his back. Just the day before yesterday I could groom him just fine there.
I called Sara over and demonstrated on the other side. This time he curved his back downward to avoid the brush. So, Sara, who knows a lot more horse stuff than I do, did a test with her hands going down his spine, and whoa, did he react right at his withers (shoulder area). Obviously, I was NOT going to ride him. Poor guy!
Instead, I took him into the round pen where he patently ignored me, not at all like his usual self. He sort of moped around and tried to eat. We walked around together, and he was fine. Next, I took him out and put a long rope on him, something I don’t do often because, clumsy as I am, I always trip on the rope and get tangled. But, I wanted to try him in big circles, to see if he’d walk better that way.
As soon as I asked him to walk, he started out really close, so I waved my carrot stick thingie at him to encourage him to walk further out. Yow! Instead he took off like some kind of green colt. He launched into a canter, bucked and farted numerous times, bucked, started to gallop, and generally acted most unlike his usual self. He stopped when I asked him to, though, but when I signaled to walk in the other direction, he reared and went off like a race horse.
Both Sara and I were thinking it was a bit dangerous, but I just waited until he settled down into a trot and stopped him. He was quite wound up, and blowing through his nose. I honestly had never seen him like this since I met him, unless he was out playing!
Sara suggested I give him something to do to make him think and not wallow in his emotions, so I had him walk over telephone poles on the long lead, walk up and down the poles with me on the other side of them, go over our little jumps, and eventually walk calmly down the driveway. He seemed to be having a lot of fun with all those activities, so I considered that a win and we went back.
I’m going to have to ask Trixie, our farrier and horse body work expert, what could be wrong with him. Maybe he twisted his back rolling (they are all rolling a lot right now, due to flies)? Maybe he has worms, again (can’t wait to move him out of that paddock and all the old poop)? Maybe he’s a diva? Sigh.
On to the next horse, how about it? Sara has been working with Ace, who has a very interesting personality. When he knows what he’s doing, he’s amazingly cooperative and follows instructions like a dream. But, when he gets confused and doesn’t know what to do, his go-to response is to buck and run. That doesn’t sound like riding would be fun, to me.
But, yesterday he made great progress, and Sara decided to get him used to someone on his back. I was the photographer, and got good pictures of her putting weight on his back, stepping up, and finally getting on. He was quite fine with the whole person sitting on his back concept. Way to go, Ace!
He’s not as fine with reins and bits, and whenever Sara asked him to move forward, he’d back up. My uneducated theory was that he was trying to get away from the pressure by moving backwards, not realizing the pressure would stop if he just went forward. Horse brains are very interesting. I think she got him to take one step forward. But, on the other hand, there was no bucking, spinning, leaping or running off! I declare it to be quite successful for a first try! I’m sure she’ll make a lot more progress today!
Believe it or not, someone asked me what I was going to do with the baby chicks when they arrive on Wednesday. I had a couple of ideas, which I want to run by the nephew, but my current one is to make them a little area that includes the white nest boxes. That would provide shelter and a roosting space, plus room for chick food that the older chickens can’t get to. Star would be able to eat grown-up hen food, too, and I can easily give them water.
Soon enough, I’ll be able to let them all out. I do have another idea involving the cage we used for the guineas, but it needs some rain shelter. We’ll see, as Lee’s dad always said.
And, the moving egg laying saga continues. Springsteen has decided she likes the corner where Bertie Lee is laying. I found two eggs there yesterday, definitely not from the same hen. Oh, chickens.
I’m looking forward to another nice day at the Hermits’ Rest, plus the Zoom wedding. How pleasant it is to have positive plans! Hope your plans are positive as well.
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" 🌈
In light and in shadow, always with ❤