Nature Is the Best Medicine

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.

Seeing a real beach bunny would cheer anyone up!

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.

A trip back in time.

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.

Not pancakes

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…

Another Post about Birds, Beaches, and Beauty

Judging from my stats, people are getting tired of my beachy posts about nature in South Carolina. Unfortunately, that’s all I have right now, since the rest of my brain is in total shutdown mode, which has not made me popular with folks who want me to do things. But, I needed a break.

So, today was a real vacation day! Lee and I went on a long boat tour to North Island, an uninhabited place an hour by boat from Georgetown, from where we embarked. It was most definitely NOT a fancy boat, but it did the job.

It’s ocean worthy!

We were promised lots of bird sightings, and we did get those, though on the way out to North Island, the water was a bit choppy for photography. I did learn my lesson last time, and got a seat near the front of the boat. That meant a bit of splash got on us, but if you’re on a small boat, you need to expect to get wet at some point!

These guys were holding still, though.

They had a naturalist doing the narration, and she was not as cheesy as the previous tour guide was. She did have a few ghost stories, since she’s written three books on it, but really had a lot of interesting history of the area to share. There’s some old stuff in this area! She also shared a lot of information about rice plantations, so I feel full of the knowledge.

We eventually got to the island and embarked on an excursion on the beach. I found one really nice shell, then got sort of dazed by how many colors of oysters they have on that beach, and I did get a few of those.

A variety of oysters, cockle shells and a whelk or something. I am not a shell person.

I was there more to look at living things, and I was not disappointed at this interesting beach. I’m glad I wore my sandals, because the beach was littered with jellyfish, but also had a lot of fascinating patterns of water, since it was low tide. The most beautiful things I saw were blue crabs, though. We had a lot of fun looking for them among the rocks in the jetty. There was lots of seaweed, barnacles, and other interesting stuff. The weirdest thing, though, was this area of clay, really slippery clay. I am going to have to look up what’s up with that.

I really enjoyed watching the crabs crabbing along and interacting with each other. They are so blue! I also found a number of hermit crabs in moon shells, but I put them back in the water before taking any photos. I sure hope no one picked those up thinking they were empty, because they are in for some bad smells, and bad karma, I guess.

Blue crab under ripples. So beautiful

Of course, I wanted to find birds. I don’t think I ever saw so many pelicans in my life, and they were a lot of fun, splashing, diving, swimming, and flying.

Brown pelicans having fun

There were also many gulls, particularly laughing gulls, who were also swooping, diving, and swimming. They were quite loud. They are entertaining and beautiful birds.

Whee, gulls on patrol.

There were also many beautiful shore birds, but we didn’t see egrets and herons on the island (there were plenty on the beaches near the old rice fields, though). I think there were sandpipers and plovers, including another black plover.

There was one more bird we were promised a sighting of, and that was the bald eagle. You can sure tell they are on the comeback trail, because we saw multiple birds (plus a couple of ospreys and one juvenile bald eagle). No, these are not great pictures, but that’s all the ole iPhone X can manage.

It was nice to just ride along and look at the scenery, even though it wasn’t a really beautiful day or anything. I haven’t been on boats in the ocean but one other time, when Anita and I took that tour of marshes. I enjoyed the relaxation aspect of being on the water as much as anything else.

Oh wait, I forgot we got to see this lighthouse, which is still doing its duty, and has for hundreds of years. There is a lot of OLD stuff here.

Even the loud motorcycles didn’t ruin my mood. Going to the island was a really different and pleasant activity. I’m going to share a couple of more photos, just because the island was so ruggedly beautiful.

Driftwood

I hope this day brought you some peace and focus.

Weathered beach

Birds, Trees, Castles, Oysters, and Adventure

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.

This broad-headed skink is not a bird.

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.

Taking pictures of plants

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.

Continue reading “Birds, Trees, Castles, Oysters, and Adventure”

News from Back at the Ranch and Seaside Sights

It’s a good thing folks back home sent me news, because I literally had meetings at 10, 11, 12, 1, 2, 3, and 4 on the books today. Luckily one got moved and a few of them were short, so I had time to breathe. And I snuck in some content creation, too. Go beach me.

News from the ranch ranges to worrisome to great. What’s worrisome is that Apache still isn’t 100% and Trixie the farrier/body worker isn’t sure why. Even on his extremely limited pasture, he’s managing to put on weight, too (still seems thin to me). Sara is taking good care of him, and even got to ride him. It turns out though, that Apache’s favorite object is now Sara’s back massager. Trixie used it on him, and according to Sara, he “melted.”

Happy horse time. More, Trixie, more!

We will figure out some way to get Apache’s diet right so he can feel okay again. That will be made better by the fact that I ordered a major ton of pipe yesterday, which will provide the foundations for our new world of fencing, pens, stalls, cattle working area, and expanded dog run (so the dogs can sit with us out front). This is going to be SO much work!

Look at all that pipe! And you can see dogs, too. Hi dogs!

Luckily we had the equipment for dealing with this stuff. We heard the Kubota tractor could not handle the weight of the pipe, so the front-end loader had to come to the rescue. We just knew that purchase was a good one.

I can handle anything.

We also hear that the dogs are having lots of fun “helping” out on the project. I can tell Harvey is having a good time!

I got to go for a ride.

Over here at the beach, we’d wanted to go back to Brookgreen, but I had too much work! I did get a moment to pick up a thank-you gift from Irina, the lady who helped us get more condo time. She is the first person I ever met from Moldova, and she was so impressed I’d heard of her home country, that she shared some of her wine with us. Who knew that Moldova was “the wine country?”

Can’t wait to try this, though I’d like to share it with friends and family.

I also got a tiny walk in between meetings, where I saw that workers were testing out some of the fancy new rides being set up near our condos. It looks like it will be a permanent installation amusement park, not a roving carnival. I will tell you this: I will not be getting on that roller coaster with a section that goes around and around in it.

Nope, not getting on that thing, ever.

It was really windy today, so we probably didn’t miss much not going anywhere to look at nature. Of course, I continued my hunt for natural beauty on Myrtle Beach, because I can’t help it. I found a rock with rainbow bubbles and a fresh little fish, soon to be seagull food.

But, the best thing we found were these jellyfish that washed up. They are just the most interesting creatures. It’s hard to believe they’re real when you look at them up close!

And now, it’s on to another evening of ocean watching, wine drinking, and eating delicious food (I made a huge piece of salmon last night, and seasoned it with crushed Doritos, since I’d forgotten to get any seasonings, and it was surprisingly tasty!).

We got to so many families enjoying themselves playing games together, got to watch a dog who couldn’t believe how lucky he was to find so much dirt to dig holes in, and even met a woman walking on the beach alone, wearing a tiara. It was her birthday, and she was rejoining her family in our building. I hope you are having fun enjoying the simple things, wherever you are.

Fun with Crustaceans and Mollusks

I’m not entirely sure how it was accomplished, but yesterday Easton went to a Buc-Ees parking lot and got a whole lot more f crawfish and oysters, along with traditional sides. I’m told there was a lot of mask wearing and social distancing involved, which relieved me.

Yum.

While the mud bugs we’re getting fetched, Kathleen and I found ripe dewberries and picked enough for a cobbler. I’m looking forward to more dewberry creations! There are lots more ripening.

More yum.

I was pretty happy to eat lots and lots of my favorite dishes.

Happy me.

The chickens got corn cobs, which they also liked a lot (no photo of that).

Happy Kathleen.

I enjoyed watching Kathleen play with crawfish. She also set some free in a pond (where there already are some).

Very happy Kathleen.

It was just great to relax and have some fun to break up all our working and isolating. I feel really, really lucky.

Fun being had by me and Chris.

Since there’s not much else to say, I’d like to thank everyone for being kind for me and treating me like one of the gang, while Lee stayed upstairs not feeling great (but not coronavirus symptoms). Enjoy the pictures.

Many many crustaceans.
The cooking broth was really good. It had citrus in it.
The dogs wanted some.
Always happy when I have oysters.

Birds Birds Birthday Birds

It’s the spouse’s birthday. That’s why we took a trip! What fun that half the day was taken up doing business! Yes! Woo!

Me taking a break and wishing I was on the beach.

Um. It wasn’t horrible and we came out with some future travel fun. I want to go places before I die. Lee will put up with it, or send me off with Anita.

Whew, he’s as old as me again, and can still hold up a tree.

Birds!

We escaped the towering beach resort at last and made it to a state park. There, I had more Nature Girl fun that humans should be allowed to have. And even Lee enjoyed the walking around my favorite thing on earth, a marsh.

It’s a marsh.

The Huntington Beach State Park is beautiful. We didn’t look at all of it, but focused on the wilder parts. The trails we walked on were spectacular, with huge old pines and oaks and much evidence of fairly recent flooding.

What a huge oak tree!

We saw SO many birds. As soon as we got out of the car, I saw cheeky chickadees, and when we got on the boardwalk, there was a family of Eastern bluebirds. They have lots of nest boxes on the island, and they seem to be working!

Blue birds!

I took lots and lots of photos on our walk, and I got more and more excited with each new bird I saw. The causeway was a real hotbed of shore birds, and I had SO much fun with other birders looking at a group of birds hanging around together, with anhingas, ospreys, and bald eagles flying over head. Wow!

Of course, I took lots of pictures of plants. This is a wild blackberry or a dewberry or some bramble.

Enjoy these photos, which are enough to make any naturalist swoon, far as I’m concerned.

After all that, we had a beautiful birthday dinner at the Sea Captain’s House, a restaurant that has been here 58 years. I had she-crab soup and then oysters (of course) for my main course. Then we shared a wonderful birthday dessert.

The picture is dark so you can see the ocean out the window. Nice.

Was it a good day? Oh yes, it was. That blue bird of happiness followed us all day!

Camellia outside the restaurant.

Where Does Our Stream Go? Mystery Solved!

I don’t usually do more than one post in a day, but Suna the Master Naturalist is all excited about something! I have an unexpectedly free and non-rainy day, so I decided to take the dogs on a walk through the woods, our favorite pastime (as you might notice).

Today my goal was to figure out why our stream and its springs are flowing away, but Walker’s Creek is dry as a bone where County Road 140 goes over it. I also wanted to see what I’d find along the creek bed.

So, the dogs and I walked through the woods by the house and inspected all the recently fallen limbs. There were lots of mushrooms, as you can see above.

I found it, Mommy!
Continue reading “Where Does Our Stream Go? Mystery Solved!”

Book Report: Unnatural Texas?

Hey from Austin! You didn’t think my holiday was all traipsing through the mosquito fields and staring at the ocean, did you? Of course not. I also read a lot. Admittedly, I read a few magazines, but I got deeply into this book, which I got at the Texas Master Naturalist Conference a couple of weeks ago. It’s whole title is Unnatural Texas? The Invasive Species Dilemma, and it was written by Robin W. Doughty and Matt Warnock Turner.

The authors didn’t want to put “invasive” in the first part of the title, because, as they frequently point out, none of the plants and animals they talk about actually invaded in the first place; someone brought them to this continent. In fact, the only animal who’s actually “invaded” that they talked about is the nine-banded armadillo, who’s been going farther and farther northward, on its own, for the past couple of hundred years. (I would add to this list the caracara/Mexican eagle and a couple of other birds that are coming northward since it’s getting warmer).

This dude invaded our neighborhood all on their own.
Continue reading “Book Report: Unnatural Texas?”

I CAN Relax, So There!

We all know that I am a busy little bee (speaking of which, look at the beautiful carpenter bee, one of many we saw on some non-native heather today).

Beautiful carpenter bee.

This week is my annual week in Hilton Head, and I vowed to actually rest and not cram every moment with work or stressful activities. Today was the big test.

Anita demonstrates a relaxing beverages.
Continue reading “I CAN Relax, So There!”

Stinky but Fun!

In my previous post, I talked about going on a walk with Kathleen (who will be here for the next year or so, getting our Hearts Homes and Hands business going) around the ranch for a long time and getting no “exercise credit” for it on my watch. While annoying, there are darned good reasons we didn’t just trek briskly around the property. Plus the dogs got stinky.

Kathleen is ready for checking out the nature!

It finally cooled off enough to go for a nice exploration of the woods, which is just not easy to do in the summer. The dogs were pretty thrilled at the prospect, and engaged all their sniffers.

We’re ready to sniff!

I hadn’t had a chance to show Kathleen what’s in the woods (mainly a lot of cedar elm and coral berry), so she had fun discovering the little stream (or where it would be if it rained more), then as we moved on, we saw the gate to nowhere, and other bottomland landmarks.

Continue reading “Stinky but Fun!”