Enter Here for Surprises and Adventures

Hmm, the adventures thing may be exaggerated a bit, but I did get a new gate to go from our part of the property to the rest of the ranch. In addition, Chris smoothed all the dirt that had been disturbed when running the water line, and did a bit of grading, too. The chicken house area looks marvelous.

It’s all smooth now. At the rate the Bermuda grass grows, it will be covered in a week to ten days. Notice the feathers on the ground, which I mentioned in my previous post. It’s your fault, Bruce.

The highlight of the day was seeing this big gate that swings open mightily and allows me to easily head to see the horses. We had the gate already, so it didn’t cost anything. It’s very sturdy on the hinge side, since Chris drilled a big ole bolt through the roof support pillar. The other side is only temporary. The fencing project is not done, but at lease those of us who have to go into that pasture can do it easily (thus, Jim could drive the riding mower over the the horses to mow this morning).

I can now go from here to there without crawling under a fence or climbing over a fence and nearly knocking it over.

The entire family was pretty giddy about getting the new fence, as Lee shows here.

That man cracks me up. And there’s Alfred before I pulled those clumps of hair out.

Surprises and Adventures

I’ve used the new gate to go visit the horses twice already. Last night, I went to join Sara to feed them, and I got quite a surprise. In the field where the 18 cows should be, there were just three cows, each with a little white baby.

Who the heck are they?

These are not the 18s. First, they were afraid of me. Second, their ear tags were in the left ear, not the right. Um, where were my friendly cow buddies? Where was 18-1, bravest calf ever?

As I walked up to the barn, the Vrazels were driving by. They warned me of another surprise, a large cow and her newborn calf were in the pens. I said, hey, um, where are the 18s? Tyler laughed and laughed. “They’re in Oklahoma!”

Oklahoma? Yep, they sold them all and trucked them off when I was at work one day. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. Cattle ranching. Not for the sentimental. I am sure they got a HUGE payday out of those young cows, all of whom were due to calve in November. But still. Sniff.

On I went, and sure enough, there was a very large red Angus cow with a very small and shiny black Angus calf. I blurted out, “Hi, Sprinkles,” and Sara asked if I had to name everything. I guess I do. In any case, Sprinkles is cute as can be, and seems to have recovered from being sick and needing to be penned up. Mama, on the other hand, was mostly pissed off.

Sprinkles and I would like to leave, now.

She mooed and snorted and ran around until we left.

This morning, I came back to do some horse fun, around 9 am. It was NOT hot outside! But, dew drenched my shoes, since I wore the wrong ones. Sprinkles and Mama were still there. Between Sara’s dogs and Lakota having the utter gall to stand quietly tied to the gate, she was in a huff.

Lakota just stood there and ignored her. A real quarter horse! We proceeded head off down the race, to see how Apache would do. Sara rode Lakota, who plodded along like a livery stable horse and was generally uninterested in anything. I led Apache (hope to get riding permission soon). Here’s where it became and adventure, the good kind.

We walked all the way down the race, the place where he was refusing to ride earlier, and the place where he has been all nervous and pushy when we walked for the past month or two. Today, Apache walked beside me, not in front of me and not behind me. He stayed about two feet away from me. He did stop to get a mouthful of grass, but started right back up, every time. He did not crowd into me. He did not try to turn around. He did not rush ahead, or refuse to move forward.

He completely ignored all the “scary” parts of the path where there are big ruts. The scary tree got a nod. When all of the 19 heifers came thundering over to check us out and walk along with us, he and Lakota both looked at them, then kept going. The giant bull didn’t phase them. DAMN!

Sara and Lakota, with Fiona-bomb.

We then went on out to the big pasture where it floods (the bottom). We all walked and looked at stuff. Sara’s dogs came along, and no horse paid the least bit of attention. Even Fiona didn’t dawdle and pitch a fit. She followed right behind us cheerfully. Every time we went through a gate, everyone was fine. Even when Jim drove by on the lawn mower, they just stopped and looked for a minute.

WHO WERE THESE ANIMALS AND WHERE DID MY JUMPY HORSE GO?

I have no clue. Sara and I tried to figure out what was different. Well, we had Lakota instead of Spice…but Apache likes Spice. It was morning, not afternoon. He wasn’t starving. That’s all we could come up with. My attitude is the same (I am pretty calm even when he’s jumpy, to try to keep him calm).

We’re just in a good mood. What can we say?

I’m just going to have to accept that we had a wonderful morning, got lots of exercise, and ALL enjoyed ourselves (even Lakota, I think). I look forward to more of this kind of adventure and these kinds of surprises (but I do hope Sprinkles and his Mama go back to the pasture soon; she didn’t enjoy Sara and me pulling up some grass burs right next to the pen, either).

I hope you have some bright spots in your weekend!

Fancy Watering Hole

Today is one of those meeting-filled and task-filled days that left me with no blogging time but lunch. So, I just have a few minutes to fill you in on a major improvement for out Hermits’ Rest livestock.

I already shared that the chickens’ water now is officially hooked up, and both pens can use the same water trough. Butternut and Buttercup especially like it when the water overflows.

Happy chickens and guinea enjoying water overflow. You can see one of the Butters sticking her head through the fence to drink. Mission accomplished there!

Yesterday, Chris brought up a bunch of very sturdy (and FREE) metal poles to use to anchor gates in our new fencing. Note the splatters. That’s all the rain we got, while Cameron got a quarter inch. Boo.

Big ole sturdy pipes, with rain droplets.

Along with the poles came something to dig the holes for the poles, a big auger.

Big ole auger, AKA post hole digger.

But, what’s made all the animals happy is the other thing he brought: a big water trough and one of those handy cut-off attachments that keeps the water level full at all times. Fiona is jealous (the one where she is leaks). Vlassic spent a lot of time thinking about whether to jump in there or not.

That looks pretty darned deep!

I foresee some happy cattle, and hopefully at some point horses and donkeys enjoying this new improvement. We’re a fancy ranch now!

Now It’s Chicken Heaven

Today Chris and his dad did a lot of work on a new water line for the chicken coop and new barn area. That required digging a trench.

Chickens like freshly dug dirt, a lot. Not only is it fun to explore, it has new and exciting bugs in it.

Carlton wanted to help. the blue stuff is the future water line.

Every time I checked on them today, they were all excitedly climbing around.

One good thing about the water being cut off is that I had to fill the chicken water in the garage. That gave me a chance to scrub the water dishes. I think they liked it.

Like the chickens, Rip and the new heifers also explored their new territory a lot. The other bull calves ate and ate. Eventually the new gals figured out where the cubes are and came up to the pen, but it was too dark for a photo. But I got portraits.

Everything is back in working order at the chicken coop. I even got the distressed fake rooster upright and out of the way.

Fake Rooster is guardian of the Wellsummer girls.

I wish everyone had a pet, wild animal, or other natural phenomenon to watch and enjoy. It sure makes these uneasy times easier to bear.

The beautiful Sapphire.

Great Day to Be a Calf – Not So Great to Be a Pullet

Yep, I got back to the ranch yesterday, just in time for some fun and news. Upon my arrival, I saw this:

There is a new fence in the front pasture, formerly known as a field. Apparently Chris came back to town and spent all Thursday night erecting this. The flags are very helpful, since it’s otherwise invisible. Why the rush to erect the fence?

Just cows

Kathleen brought back two of her cows from the farm in Yorktown to hang out here and join the three little bull calves. One of them is pregnant; I believe the brown one. They are daughters of her lovely bull, Johnny. They don’t have names, because they are just cows, and not pets (got it). The brown one is not real friendly, which is fine with me; I’ve never made it a habit of petting adult cattle unless someone says it’s okay (in other words, the only ones I have ever petted were Kathleen’s former bottle calves).

Now, what’s this?

To top off the excitement, Kathleen let the little guys out of their small pen. Their reactions were true to their personalities. Rip went crazy with glee. He ran and ran, jumped in the air, and made circles around the rock pile.

Rip flies around the rocks.

He’s still got a cough, poor guy, but that only held him up a little. He then proceeded to climb up the rock pile and try every kind of grass there was.

This is SO MUCH FUN.

Meanwhile, the other two discovered taller grass than was in their pen, and started munching away. I think they will be delicious and Rip will be a scrawny little dude forever. In any case, it was the best day of their lives. Everyone enjoyed scratching their heads on the trailer, too.

MMM, this is great, long as that dog stays on his side of the trailer.
One happy calf.

After they all settled down, the new heifers came to investigate the calves, lick on them, and start to “herd up,” as they say. Chris is working on getting the ladies more tame, by enticing them with cattle cubes (also beloved of dogs). I know the little ones feel better with some older bovines to hang out with.

I look forward to watching all of Kathleen’s herd grow. I know she and Chris are both a lot happier with some cattle to work with up here.

As for the Chickens

Today was freedom day for the two Blue Star pullets. They are a month older than the Welsummers and HUGE. They were starting to bully the smaller pullets, especially Buttercup, who hurt her foot, so we decided to let them out. Of course, that didn’t go as planned, and instead of them leaving when I opened the door, most of the other chickens came into their pen. Oops.

I quickly got rid of the roosters, so no one else would get smooshed to death, but it took Chris’s help to get Star and Sapphire out, while keeping the other two in.

We are officially hiding.

The first thing Star and Sapphire did was go check out the feed in the other coop. That meant they were prime rooster targets, which did not thrill Sapphire one bit.

Why did you put us in here with THIS brute? (Hate to tell them, but the OTHER one is the brute.)

They went outside and tried their darnedest to get back into their other pen, but I am sure once they realize how many bugs there are out in the grass, they will be fine. They are already bigger than Hedley, so they can hold their own.

Speaking of the other hens, I think, but cannot confirm it, that all five of the adult hens are finally laying. I found three eggs this morning, and they were all solid brown. The absence of a white or ombre egg means Hedley and Fancy Pants had not laid yet. Well, that took a while. And big ole Springsteen, the Jersey Giant, is now making very large eggs. What a gal!

OMG! That giant rooster is DEAD! It’s the apocalypse! Run!

Being with the animals helps me a lot. I’m so happy to have them all. I’m still a bit shaky around people and having trouble communicating, but maybe by tomorrow I will be relaxed!

Remember, beloved readers, it’s okay to acknowledge your rough times and trouble dealing with things. It helps remind everyone we aren’t alone in having challenges these days. I can be having anxiety struggles and worry about world events (fires, floods, fighting) and still enjoy what’s good in my life and be thankful for kind friends and patient family.

The Black Dachshund Mix Goes to Austin

I’m sure Vlassic was looking forward to some fun today, but the weather didn’t cooperate. It was another big rain day. For me, it was fun looking out the window while I worked upstairs.

Wetness and reflections.

For Pickle, the day meant a great deal of panting and shaking. I refrained from photographing her in her distress. Vlassic mostly slept through the storms.

Big, pre-nap yawn.

He “helped” me a lot in Zoom meetings, or acted as dead weight in my lap. He apparently gets bored hearing only one side of conversations.

I’m a cute dead weight.

He got a lot of licking in, too, especially after walking in the rain. I was really proud of him for managing to do the needful outside.

I’m about to jump in Suna’s lap.

Pickle finally got to safely go out around 5 pm. She can really hold her bladder! We got to see our neighbor, Katie, who was in the same boat. Rain is very hard on small indoor dogs. We humans were sad that book club got rained out for the second week in a row, too. Sigh.

I’m better after my walk. See, no trembling.

Vlassic is not complaining. Time spent with Suna is good time for him. He got to destroy a dog toy, so now he can spend the rest of the evening watching HGTV with Anita and Suna.

Ahh. Life as an indoor dog has its benefits.

I know Vlassic enjoys ranch life, but he sure isn’t complaining about his time in the big city, even when it’s storming outside.

Poor Underprivileged Dogs Get Toys

I wrote this last night but fell asleep before I could publish it. I already post too much, so this is good.

I admit it. We don’t give the ranch dogs very many official dog toys. That’s because up until now, an expensive toy for hard-chewing dogs usually lasts about ten minutes (we DO have a rope toy that’s lasted a long time).

These two and a tennis ball are the hardy survivors.

But, yesterday I felt so bad for them, knowing three toys had been sitting on the counter since the last time I got home from Austin. I tossed each dog a toy, and fun ensued. Penney immediately took the gator outside.

Today I was surprised to see all three toys still in good shape, and all in the house. It’s been fun watching them play. They’re all a bit more gentle than they used to be. Penney kept chewing that gator, but eventually Carlton got ahold of it and slowly but surely got the crinkles out.

I’m in no hurry.

Meanwhile, Harvey fell in love with a toy that’s all the parts of a hamburger on a stretchy string. He really wanted the burger part, but every time he used his paw to get at it, the parts would slip and he’d get a face full of burger parts.

I’m gonna destroy this, yes I am.

Eventually he gave up and just held it, adoringly, between his feet.

My Love Burger

A little later, I looked down and he was holding it in his sleep. That is so NOT Harvey. He never cared for toys one way or another.

As the evening went on, the toys were traded around. Neither Carlton nor Penney could destroy the burger, and they didn’t like the blue blob much. Harvey switch allegiance to the partially eaten gator.

I feel disloyal to my burger.

Penney cane sniffing around, so he then hid the toy! This really made us laugh.

Gator? What gator? Just this ball of stuffing here, that’s all.

After dinner (we made turkey!), Penney finally disemboweled the gator, while Harvey and Carlton played together with the burger. Wow. Dogs acting like normal dogs! Not destroying toys instantly!

Maybe I’ll get them more toys. It did help to have multiples. Much less fighting.

Can’t Save Them All

I do love nature. But I admit to making a couple of creatures go away today. First, I went to make myself a cup of coffee at the office. As I began to pour creamer into the cup, something moved. It was a quite large American cockroach. Here’s how I knew what it was:

That’s one I saw at the old church.

I am very proud. I just made a little noise. That’s a far cry from my Florida childhood roach phobia (they would get in my bed). I simply took the cup and dumped the roach into the garbage can. So proud. But then I couldn’t get the bag out of the can, so I just set the whole shebang outside. Someone else can deal with it!

Meanwhile, I noticed a jumping spider on the windowsill. It was posing for me, and had lovely markings.

Pantropical jumping spider.

Of course it moved out of the sun into shadow before I could get a picture. Nor could I get a photo from the top. Anyway, I left that one to catch bugs.

When I got home and was reading The Overstory (yes, I’m actually gonna finish it), I got a text from Meghan, who had been feeding Rip the calf. Meghan does not “do” spiders. Her text had a photo of this:

Well, hello Mama, nice egg sac.

I can just imagine that poor woman when she saw that black widow, right on the fence near the hay, where both she and Jim go all the time as they feed the calves together. Eek!

So, much as I love Nature’s creatures, I felt compelled to bring out the spider spray. I don’t feel safe with them all around our ranch community! I keep picturing the horrible scar Granny Kendall had from a black widow bite.

Rip and Buster don’t want spider bites, either.

I found four nests, which are now former nests. My guess is there are plenty more out there, so I haven’t sent black widows to the brink of extinction. I’ll atone for the deaths somehow.

Human-Animal Connection

I’m baffled sometimes about how humans managed to connect so deeply with some other animals.

Fiona wanted to see my sister so badly this evening that she barged into the hay area just to be near her. Why? She’s full of love and wanted to share? I don’t know. But I do know equines sense our feelings.

95% love, 5% sass.

And tonight, though I want to go to sleep, I can’t move, because two dogs are glued to me. They’ve done this all weekend, perhaps somehow sensing I could use some comfort.

Carlton is on both of my legs. Penney is glued to the right one.

Yep. There’s a real connection between humans and animals. Even the chickens! It’s made my life better.

Do you have any stories?

An Evening with a Black Dachshund Mix

Hi, readers of Mama Suna’s blog! I’m Vlassic, and I’ve been hanging around the Hermits’ Rest Ranch for the past two years. I like it here a lot. Wanna know why?

I’m long, but I have longer legs so I can jump high.

I have so many friends! At night I sleep in Jim’s RV. He is so nice to me, and feeds me (I don’t go in the big house because Penney acts weird in there). When I go outside, I spend half my time with my bird buddies, Bertie Lee, Gertie, Fancy Pants, and Clarence. We like how cool it is.

Stay out of our coop, dog! The black chickens don’t like me so much.

The rest of the time I spend with my new friends, the Bull calves. It’s SO much fun there! Calf poop is so delicious, and they have a wonderful water bucket just the size for me to cool off my black coat.

Wait, Rip, it’s my turn! Photo by Meghan Land.

On good days, Mama Suna takes me with her to visit my other friends. Sometimes we ride the little bumpy car. Tonight, though, we walked. It was a beautiful night.

Rays!

I chased two of the 18 series cows, but just a little, to remind them of how we used to play when they were babies. Mostly I was good, though, because I wanted to see my friends.

Here are two friends, Big Red and Apache. The horse is jealous, because the hen gets fed first.

I love this place! There are so many smells of cattle dogs! I have many places where I simply must pee. They need to know Vlassic rules…when they aren’t here.

Take that, other dogs.

There are other fun smells here, too. I especially like donkey poop. Mmm. Thanks, Fiona. Sigh, I was disappointed she didn’t get to come out and play. I love making her put her head down and shake it.

I sure love poop. Why does Mama sweep it up?

The other great thing about where my friends live is that they have an even bigger water tub! I like to swim in it, but not when it’s full.

Big Red and I like to drink from it when it’s full!

After all the friends were fed, we went back. I had to investigate this new hay. It looks funny and smells different. Mama said it’s sorghum, whatever that is. I made sure to pee on it, so it won’t smell so new next time I come.

Funny hay. Needs pee.

As we passed the cabin, Copper the dog came outside, so I ran like the wind.

I’m outa here.

I ran and ran. Meanwhile, Mama saw a new cow patty on the road, that had appeared since we came by before.

That cow patty has a head.

As she got closer, she realized it was a turtle crossing the driveway. She told it hello, but for some reason, she did NOT call me over to introduce me! Geez! I’m nice to all the other animals!

Pleased to meet you. You can leave now.

After rolling a bit in some silage (it’s an acquired smell, but I’ve acquired it!), I ran back to Rip, Poop Nugget, and Buster, to see if they’d pooped any more.

We were just digesting over here.

Then, to end the evening right, Lee and the other dogs showed up! We played! Then it rained a little. Not enough, but it made Lee and Suna smile. We need rain, because my pond is gone!

Time to go inside.

I Competently Ranched

Actually, my neighbor, Sara, competently ranched and I assisted, but it felt darn good to achieve a series of competent duties.

As you may recall from yesterday, Apache reached over the fence and chomped into the tenants’ round bales, nearly ingesting some of the netting. We wanted to nip that habit in the bud.

It doesn’t take a detective to see the evidence of this crime!

So, we planned to put an electric strand along that stretch of fence. Hmm, there was already wire. It’s as if some large spotted horse had done it before.

So, this evening, I went to get the solar unit that was over by our shipping container. Smart me. I first checked for wasps. There was a Yellowjacket nest. When Lee came to help me, I got spray and removed that menace. Sara was relieved I’d thought of it.

Then, after dinner, I headed over to the horses, and we set up the whole system. It was teamwork! I identified which wire was which. She figured out how to open the screwdriver part of the Leatherman tool to pry it open to change the battery.

Competence! Note Big Red at back left, supervising.

We got it all hooked up, and in another stroke of ranch competency, Sara inspected the connection to see if Apache had re-damaged the wire since last night. He had! But I was there to turn off the power so she could fix it.

Sara is inspecting the fence. Apache has already figured out the power is on.

Ralph came by to see if we needed help, long after we triumphantly fed our animals. He was duly impressed! We did it.

Now, hooking up an electric fence may not seem like a big deal. But for someone who had never even been on a ranch property (other than caring for turkeys at the farm for sad children that Declan went to one summer), doing something without asking for help is a big thing. It makes me feel like I sort of know what I’m doing here! No more ranch imposter syndrome for me!

I’m just innocently eating this delicious, expensive hay. After this, it’s back to the old stuff, thanks to that darned wire.

Also, once again, we had fun. I’m just racking up the fun quotient for each day. Take that, stress.