Camping Weekend Update

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).

See, I was happy.

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.

The fall is behind the dead branch.

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.

Bird watching station.

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!

Encouragement and Gifts of Service

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).

This view of where I live is worth dwelling on.

Today was productive in so many ways. I really enjoyed work today, though I have to say the interruptions were even better.

I interrupt you to share a fiery skipper on a thistle. Skippers are everywhere now that it stopped raining for a bit.

The first interruption was this guy here.

Hey, what’s he doing? (The dogs asked that a lot).

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!

Yay, horses can be kept in if they escape their gate again. Note that blue sky!

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.

Picture a vegetable garden on the right?

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.

It made my heart skip like a skipper. I think this is a female sachem. I could be wrong.

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.

Speaking of love…

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.

Nature, Nature, Nature

No big disasters struck today, other than realizing that new hotspot just won’t cut it for work, because it’s actually a not-so-hot hotspot. It gives up after about 40 minutes of a 60-minute Zoom call. Not helpful if you’re in the middle of helping someone out. So, I’ll be working from the Red House on Fannin for a while until we have another option.

Luckily butterflies distract me, like this crescent.

So, I’ll share some things that help one forget technology annoyances, like birds and plants. First, I got to see something rare for me as I was out trying to find something to give my chickens, now that their garden got mowed. I heard an unfamiliar bird call, and looked up to see two dark birds coming to the pond behind the house.

Where I saw them.

They circled a couple of times, which was quite lovely, then ended up at the shore of the pond. They were dark, but vaguely egret-like, so I got the binoculars to get a better view. While they refused to make a sound while I had the Merlin’s Bird ID app listening, the app did hint to me that it could be a green heron pair. I’ve seen them before, but not this time of year.

Look for the orange legs. That’s the bird.

Sure enough, the binoculars confirmed the identity. They are beautiful birds, even hiding in a very dark corner of a pond on a cloudy day. That started my day off right!

It looks more like a bird here.

I had lunch outside with Lee, and heard a few songs I didn’t recognize, in addition to the incessant dickcissels and cardinals. So, I fired up Merlin Bird ID again and had it listen for a few minutes. Now I know exactly what a painted bunting sounds like! I’d probably see them if I had a bird feeder, but if I put one in the back yard, dogs would bother the birds, and if I put one on the other side of the fence, cattle would knock it down in no time. But I can hear the beautiful song of the most beautiful bird in North America!

Painted buntings are in there somewhere!

I also got a glimpse of the turkey as Goldie yelled at it (thanks, Goldie). And I spent a lot of time listening to anxious killdeer protecting their nest, which I think is over by the front pond and not at all accessible by me. I wish they would chill out. The dickcissels drowned them out, though. Over half the photos I’ve taken of those little darlings are in mid chirp. They say their name, loudly, like phoebes do. I know they’ll move on shortly, so I’m trying to enjoy them.

There are sill some pretty patches of flowers around the ranch, where the lawn mowers can’t reach. So I can enjoy being less likely to step on a snake yet enjoy floral beauty. Enjoy my series, wildflowers with iron poles. It’s romantic.

I can’t help but try to capture some of the beauty I see. It’s the same old property but decorated differently from week to week!

Admittedly, I spent a long time today listening. I think I’m in love with the birdsong identification feature in the Merlin app. I indulged myself this evening by figuring out how many different birds were behind our house (by the pond, in the back yard, and in the woods) in twenty minutes. Whoa, there sure are bunches of birds hiding around here (I did hear a mourning dove and a barred owl the app didn’t pick up – guess I have good hearing still). But check out this list!

  • House sparrow (duh)
  • Dickcissel
  • Cardinal
  • Mockingbird
  • Barn swallow
  • Cedar waxwing
  • Carolina chickadee
  • Red bellied woodpecker
  • European starling
  • Nighthawk (!)
  • Eastern bluebird
  • Purple martin
  • Crow
  • Red-winged blackbird

That’s a lot of birds, even without hearing another painted bunting or egret in the mix. What a chorus! By the way, the app doesn’t appear to acknowledge chickens. Aren’t they birds? I guess they are too domestic.

Oh well

I hope my bird and flower enthusiasm were contagious. If so, download that app on your phone and try to listen where you live!

The Circle of Life – Not Fun

Warning: If the circle of life doesn’t go over well with you, skip this one.

I’m sort of sensitive, as you may have figured out, and while I have a realistic view of life and death, I’m still vulnerable to caring about the life around me.

So much life around here.

So, last Thursday, when I went to get in my car to go to my Master Naturalist meeting, I heard strange noises in the garage. I wondered what the heck my little dachshund mix, Vlassic, could be doing back in the tool area. I called out to him, and heard “grr” in response.

What’s back there?

I carefully approached the work area, where some things had been pushed close together to make it easier for my brother-in-law to get around with his walker. Lo and behold, something was wedged in the space between the work bench and the shed. It was not Vlassic.

In there?

It was big and gray. Was it a hog? A cattle dog? A coyote? Yes, it was a coyote. A very sad and scared coyote. I obviously could not help it. It was in pain and could hurt me. So, I ran in and told Lee. He said to go to my meeting and he’d help it get out.

He did that, and saw that it was badly injured, but no one could catch it (a wild animal) to take it anywhere for rehab. We were pretty sad about the poor thing. I admit that I cried.

The guys saw it go into the pond a couple of times, then run off after Alfred OPENED THE GATE and confronted it. Yes, Alfred can open the gate, he just chooses not to. What a great guard dog.

So, all weekend we’ve been wondering about the coyote. This morning I saw about twenty turkey vultures gathered in the pasture by the road next to the house. Was it the coyote?

Buzzard Central.

No, it was a young possum that had gotten hit by a car. I probably over-reacted, but I was sad, because I am pretty sure I saw it combing home Thursday night, snacking away on the side of the road. I’m fond of possums.

Sent good thoughts to this guy, too. One of the weird things I do it say a little “prayer” or affirmation every time I see an animal that was hit by a car. They deserve good thoughts.

Then, this afternoon, I got one of those weird feelings like I should go out behind the house and check for things. I found a beautiful milkweed plant. I kept walking, because I saw a weird “root” in the pond. I’d never seen it before, and I pretty much know what trees are in there, even after the winter storms.

A home for monarchs! Antelope horns!

Sigh, it was the coyote. What drove it into the pond? I don’t know. But it turns out it must have been run over by a car. The poor dear must have been trying to end its pain.

The pond brings peace in many ways, even to animals in pain.

Lee and I are both relieved that our coyote neighbor is out of its pain, because we sure felt bad that were were unable to help it or put it out of its pain. Circle of Life. Ugh.

Life’s a mystery, full of joy and sadness.

Living our in the country exposes you to to the beauty and the struggles in nature. All you can do is observe and do your best. I gave our coyote neighbor a flower and said what passes for a prayer for it.

I threw it a flower.

I’m glad I found it, because it could have messed up the pond by decaying in there. Now it is out (I didn’t do it) and it can feed other beings and the circle life will continue.

You never know what’s next.

It’s actually been an okay weekend, other than pondering life and death. I just had to write this out, because I need to stop processing and get some closure. Sharing the story helps the coyote live on in my memory and the memory of others. That makes it immortal!

Success and Failure: Two Sunday Projects

This morning I set out to see how the flowers and insects are doing here at the Hermits’ Rest. I needed some Nature Time and wanted to see if I could locate and dwarf blue-eyed grass, winecups, or Texas baby blue eyes. I knew they should be up by now.

At first I just found old friends and tiny wasps.

I enjoyed walking on our property all the way to the creek and back. The bluebonnets and paintbrush plants are going to seed, but there’s lots of other plants to see.

Lots to choose from

It seemed like almost every flower had an insect or two getting nectar or pollen (or eating it). It was a lot of fun to observe and later to try to identify what I saw.

I was interested in seeing what’s new, and sure enough, I eventually found all the plants I sought. The little blue eyed grass was easy to find along the driveway, now that it’s dried up a little.

Here it is!

Winecups were hiding in my horse playground, but a new patch appeared near the chicken house. This flower also hosted many insects.

The Texas baby blue eyes were harder to find, since my old patch got plowed over last year. But, when I was gazing at the far end of Walker’s Creek, I looked on the shore, and there they were. Later I finally saw some in our woods. I love these flowers, because they were my introduction to Texas wildflowers when I saw them at McKinney Falls State Park the first spring I was here.

I was happy I found the flowers I wanted. There were also SO many butterflies, many of which I photographed. Not shown are the variegated fritillary, spicewood swallowtail, and tiny sulphur.

I found a lot of new or interesting bugs and plants, especially when I took my friends Anita and Martha out to look at plants while Easter dinner was cooking. Here are highlights.

It really was a great plant day, and I really enjoyed sharing observations with friends. I left my phone in the car when I went over to Sara’s to get some leafy greens, but we had the best time just observing the flowers and insects in the pasture next to her house. There was so much clover in the field that we stood there blissfully inhaling its spicy scent. Ahh.

Spot the butterflies! Inhale!

I made the pak choi she gave me into a delicious side dish (mostly Kathleen did it), so that was FRESH.

Anyway, the time with friends was so nice, as the afternoon sun made the people, the dogs, and the flowers grow.

So, What’s the Failure?

Well…I had this nutty idea that I was going to ride the horses today, or else! I guess “else” ensued.

We’re innocent

First I got my precious boy, Droodles. I quickly realized that he resembled a chocolate-covered Easter treat. There was a dried layer of clay mud over much of his surface area.

I figured I’d just curry comb it out. Nope. I did get a lot off but I could tell it hurt him and was pulling out hair. I tried to get mud out of his tail, and hairs broke off. Oops. I realized I would not be saddling him. So I rinsed him off, but he was not thrilled. At least much mud got out of his mane and tail.

Somewhat better.

So, Plan B was to at least do some ground work. We did get some done, but when he slipped hard jumping, I ended that. I sure didn’t need to get him hurt. So he went into a pen to await his food. What did he immediately do? He rolled. At least it was in dry dirt.

Nope. Not gonna groom that quite yet, either.

I tried to get Apache in to groom, but after nearly hurting myself and losing both shoes in the mud, I gave up. I didn’t want me (myself?) or a horse hurt. Better miss your project goal than injure humans or livestock!

I enjoyed my grass on the eroded pond dirt.

At least dinner was good. Rice cooker jambalaya to feed seven! And the pak choi in sesame oil, plus a great salad from Martha and Chardonnay from Anita. I think the men liked it! No time for photos, because we ate it!

Goldie and Her Friends Attend to Important Matters

I always wonder what the animals do all say when I’m working. Today I snuck out and spied on Goldie, to see what was going on in the woods. Soon the whole pack joined her for a very important meeting with the neighbors.

Hello, hello, let’s all take our places.

Apparently, the dogs and cattle had some items to discuss, and Goldie was in charge of getting things going.

Now let’s settle down!
Where the heck are the refreshments? The cows aren’t sharing their milk.
It’s time for the meet and greet. Let’s all touch noses. Wait your turns, Brownie and Blackie!
Now that we’re all here, let’s go over the dog agenda. You cows need to stop moving around in the woods at night. We can’t hear the coyotes and hogs for all your stomping.
Wait wait! The rest of the dog committee wants to make our points!
Ooh. It’s Alfred. We have to listen to him. He guards us. Let’s all touch his nose.
Dang it, I’ve lost control of the meeting. You guys, get back with the group. Penney, go back inside.
We’re breaking into subcommittees. Mooers to the left, stompers to the right, please. Barkers in the middle.
I’m lobbying for less barking and more nose touching. Will you go along?

At the above point, Vlassic and this calf appeared deep in conversation. The calf was nodding and seriously considering what Vlassic had to offer.

Meeting adjourned! Let’s go bark, moo and stomp!

And the party is continuing as I type. The animals seem to genuinely enjoy their interactions. Humans with the agenda of napping, however, wish they’d find another venue for their get-togethers.

Things I’m Grateful for Today.

To be truthful, the number one thing I’m grateful for is my tack room. It smells pretty good in here for a room full of horse feed.

It’s clean, mouse free, and cheerful. And not stinky.

Number 2: Happy horses. Apache is calm again today, Drew has been running around with Dusty, and Mabel has let me rub all over her.

Nice smelly thing, with view of Dusty putting his leg in his food tub.

Number Three: Good health news about dear friends. I was so relieved to learn a former neighbor is recovering from a bad stroke, and my friend Jeff got his eye worked on again.

Number 3.5: the goldfish enjoying their evening snack (food that falls off horse lips after they eat)

Number Four: Returning birds. I was greeted by the sweet sound of a red-winged blackbird this morning. Plus, the barn swallows are swooping and chattering outside my office. I love that sound.

Swallow at work

Number Five: I got to see some local friends when I went to get a prescription filled. I was off really early because I’d started work at 6 am today. You can edit a lot of job aids in that silence.

I’m Not Grateful for…

Why was I working so early? Because I was awakened by the familiar horror of skunk breath. Yep, Goldie got another one. Once more I had to remove pitiful remnants of an animal who was where it shouldn’t have been. Once more Lee and I were trying to deodorize a giant dog. Ugh. But the rest of my day has been fine.

Ole Skunk Breath.

Mysteries, Musings, and Squirrels

Today has been one that made me think a lot. I’m second guessing myself a lot since Lee went off to go back to the ranch. My plan is to stay here for another week to do a lot of meditating, walking, and introspection. So far, the introspecting is making me feel a little unhinged, but that’s to be expected, since things are going a little sideways back home, but I am staying here. Selfishly? For good reasons? I’m not sure.

I’m also having technology issues. I won’t go into how long it took me to set up a new Kindle, but it was a battle involving patronizing tech support, uncooperative hotspots, and oh never mind. And now this blogging software won’t let me resize pictures. I tried to make giant wrinkled Suna above into a small photo, but it just blurred it. They keep changing WordPress, not for the better. I’m sure that’s how the people I support at work feel about how Planview software keeps changing. Give me WordPerfect for DOS, dang it. New things can be mysterious (though I DID solve the issue with the Kindle).

At least I am fairly certain the sun will come up again tomorrow, bet my bottom dollar.

Just before sunset, I did get out and hide myself in the mysteries of the Earth, conveniently located right down the road from the condos. That’s the best part of Hilton Head; you’re never far from the wild places.

Right near the roads. Southeastern coastal forest.

I walked a long way, doing nothing but smelling the lush decay of the deep leaf litter and listening to the sweet bird song. I say sweet, because some of the little darlings sound like they are saying “sweet,” not “tweet.” There was so much to hear and see, too. There was a large flock of cedar waxwings (can’t miss that sound), two pair of eastern bluebirds, endless chickadees and wrens, the many warblers, and of course, crows and more crows. As usual in woodlands full of trees in various states of decay, I heard many woodpeckers. I did hear a hawk, too. I was happy to get close enough to photograph these two:

As I walked I noticed how varied the trees were, too. There was more than one kind of oak that I had never seen before, the long- and short-leafed pines, many palms and palmettos, the gum trees, hollies, and two types of magnolia–none of which were planted by people. I tried to let myself just be a part of this glorious variety.

Two things interrupted my reverie: first was coming across this amusing little fairy garden on the side of the path. Someone must have had a lot of fun building it, and I’m glad it’s been allowed to stay.

The other thing that disturbed me was a collection of chattering and crashing squirrels. Everywhere I turned, a squirrel was looking at me.

They didn’t seemed thrilled that I was there. So, I tried to go take a breath at a little pond by a church. But then the surrounding vegetation began to make a lot of weird noises. It actually took me a while to figure out that wide variety of squeals and screeches were squirrels. I must have been very near a nest, because they were ANGRY. So, off I went, to leave them in peace.

That wasn’t the last of the squirrel issues for the day, though. When I got home, my son told me the reason his car had stopped working right. Squirrels had filled all its cavities with acorns and chewed though his wiring. Maybe Anita is right when she says squirrels are up to no good!

Squirrels are all over the grounds here, too. They were yelling at the cornhole players beneath my balcony.

I don’t know. Maybe the squirrels were telling me to go home. First there was the ice storm, now my horses are acting up and hurt my kid. And my new car finally arrived. Sigh. I think I need to just keep breathing, quit second-guessing myself. I can’t change what happens at home or what people do. I will just watch and not let things I can’t control interrupt my peace.

Wish me luck!

Drinking and Dolphins, Not at the Same Time

I didn’t write anything yesterday, because I mostly took the day off, reading, napping, and watching movies (Bullet Train was hilarious). Now, though, I’ll share the fun Lee and I had on his last weekend here at Hilton Head.

Full moon (not Chinese balloon) from the hot tub.

Yesterday we had all sorts of plans, but while it was sunny it was way too windy and cold to go on another hike or on a dolphin cruise. We had planned to go visit Mitchellville, which was the first self-governed settlement of emancipated enslaved people, but when we got there, we realized so was everyone else on the island, due to a big Black History Month event. Lee is not a fan of crowds, so we let the celebrants celebrate.

Heron is also a hermit.

So, we did an indoor activity, which was visit Hilton Head distillery, a place I like very much. Lee had never been there, and I think he enjoyed seeing their stills and learning how they make their spirits. I enjoyed it for the second time, and had a good time with the tastings and all that. The tour guide, who also works there making spirits, did tell a lot about the Gullah people’s history and their importance on the island, so I got a little of the history stuff I’d been looking for, anyway!

I do wish I’d had the foresight to eat more than a fig bar before we got there. I ended up rather tipsy, though I managed to enjoy a nice meal at the Sea Shack, which is a real favorite down-home place with great food. However, when we got back to the condo, I fell asleep for quite some time, so no more activities other than quiet ones. I sure felt silly!

Today it was a lot warmer, and the threatened rain was off the coast, so we booked a dolphin tour. First, we went for brunch at a place called Skillets, which serves food in…skillets. How about that? My meal was interesting fried or baked “grit cakes” topped with spinach, shrimp, poached eggs, and a benedict sauce. It came with very crispy/tender rosemary potatoes. That was extra delicious and fueled me up for the day’s activities, like I wish I’d done yesterday.

I had already eaten one grit cake before I thought to take a picture.

Then we went off to the docks for our ride out into the local waters. I used the same company I did when Anita and I went a few years ago. It’s a smaller company with smaller boats and longer rides. There was just one other couple on the tour.

Not a fancy boat, but quick

We enjoyed ourselves immensely. I got to see lots of interesting birds, though most of them were too far away to photograph well. There were terns, gulls, cormorants, anhingas, cried, and lots of cute bufflehead ducks. I also saw an osprey on patrol and a bald eagle in its giant nest. Of course, there were also various herons and sandpipers. It was really pretty out on the barrier islands and in the inlets.

I figured we’d see a couple of dolphins out in the distance, and that would be it, but we lucked out and saw quite a few. The best time was when the guide saw a pod he knew and we followed them in a quiet inlet. There were six of them, and he had names for them all, based on their distinguishing characteristics, like fin shape and scars. At one point, the guide turned the boat engine off and we could hear the dolphins breathing and splashing, very close to us. It was so nice to see them in their habitat, not in some show.

I don’t think the other couple had as much fun as we did, especially the woman, who seemed pretty pouty. I think she was expecting a grander vessel. The boat was not at all grand, which was fine with us. The exciting part of the trip came when we were going back at a good clip and suddenly hit a sand bar. Pouty Girl had been sort of lounging on the bow of the little boat and was thrown forward. This displeased her greatly. She whimpered at her spouse the rest of the way back and jumped off the boat as soon as we landed. We all laughed, which wasn’t very nice, I guess.

After driving through some historic old neighborhoods and getting some shoes at the outlet mall (Lee volunteered for this), we’re settling in and watching the sunset as I get ready to cook Lee a nice going away dinner. I regret to say that the Baltimore oriole I saw at the mall flew away when I tried to get its picture, which was the only downer of the day. However, I did SEE it!

We will see what I come up with to do on foot when he is gone!

something poetic

(formerly The Lost Kerryman)

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