A Day of Rest

No one was in a great mood much of today so I didn’t even try to do any activities. The only reason we left the condos was to get groceries in the world’s smallest and perhaps most expensive Publix supermarket. That’s ok. I still liked it, because my mom shopped at Publix when I was a wee lass.

I like how this place has lots of trees and birds. We are the top right unit.

It was a bit chilly, but warm enough to sit on the balcony and crochet long enough to realize I needed sunscreen on. I enjoyed lots of singing birds and chatty crows, plus I watched pelicans diving and an osprey hunting.

It doesn’t look like much yet. It’s another curtain or a tablecloth.

There wasn’t much reason to leave here, since I got a good lunch at the cafe along with a latte spiked with Bailey’s (which may explain the nap I took later). And it’s so pretty. Hilton Head is just so green and natural.

I did venture out on a Long Beach walk. I enjoyed looking at the patterns the tidal movement makes on the sand, saw a few dead horseshoe crabs and one dead stingray. Mostly I saw shorebirds, though, such as gulls, terns, sanderlings, and willets.

This time of year, dogs are allowed on the beaches here. I got to get my dog fix just by looking out the windows, but walking with them is even more fun. They really have a good time!

A happy fellow

We relaxed in the evening and watched two movies, which we don’t get to do often at home. The first one was an extra violent but spiritually interesting one about a Viking. I had to look away a lot. The other was Cruella, which was enjoyable.

Everyone is doing better now! Naps helped.

Thursday in Pictures

Almost done! Black finishing border next.
Young pond slider checking to see if I’ve left yet.
Explorers
Sparrows inspecting my dressage markers.
I bothered a huge fire ant colony by moving an upside down feed tub.
What a beauty.
Pollination process
Flies are also pollinators.
Sunset
Start of the final edge
He makes everything good.

This week has exhausted me. I will be more wordy tomorrow, maybe.

Yep. Cold.

Today started out at 50° and now it’s 20°—what a drop. Plus it’s really windy. Not the best day to get my hair cut, but it had gotten rather unruly. No way was I putting a hat over my new hair!

Cold but cute

Of course we had to go out and do stuff, which included picking up Lee’s new mobile office, which he’s been talking about for a couple of years now. I’m glad the search is over, and I know it will be nice to be able to go places and still work, and Lee can work when I do horse stuff.

I broke the office in. It works.

The wind made driving the large vehicle a challenge but I enjoyed taking photos of the scenery as we drove through the crisp air.

Yes, winter came in with a vengeance. But we didn’t get snow. It’s bad all over the country! I just have to take care of the animals. After tomorrow it should start warming up.

Stay safe if you’re experiencing this polar blast!

A State Park in December

December is a good month to travel around Texas, because it’s not blazingly hot and there are fewer bugs and things that sting. For our fun outing on our anniversary weekend, Lee and I went to Mother Neff State Park, which has the honor of being the first park in the state park system. It’s located near McGregor, Texas, which is also (in)famous these days for being the home of a SpaceX facility. From the Hermits’ Rest, we can feel when they test rockets. From our vacation rental, it feels like a volcano is erupting or something. All the things in the tiny house rattled and moved around. I’m glad I don’t live here.

There, read all about it.

As for the park, it was very pleasant, and we enjoyed this year’s uncharacteristically bright autumn colors as we did a walk through a prairie and visited a cave and some other trails near a creek. Sadly, much of the park is closed to the public due to bad flooding for the past 15 years. All the historic buildings and the original park headquarters can’t be used anymore. The good news is that there are really great brand-new RV camping facilities now and a gorgeous park headquarters, where they were having Christmas activities for kids and a Santa. They were also having a geocaching demonstration. Good job, park volunteers!

I’m glad I felt well enough to walk around and enjoy the sights and (a bit of) the woodsy smells in this pretty area. The flame sumac was particularly lovely, and there were also oaks and other colorful trees.

I didn’t see any fascinating birds, just the usual vultures, cardinals, and wrens (heard mostly). I did enjoy a harvester ant nest, which always makes me happy to see (that means the fire ants haven’t killed everything else off), and I found a nice big beetle.

Mostly, it was just good to get outdoors and enjoy a part of Texas I hadn’t spent much time in. The sounds of Fort Hood and SpaceX reminded me that I wasn’t far from manmade weirdness, but that’s all right.

I’m sure we’ll be back here again. The place we stayed was so quiet. There were just a couple of dogs and a donkey (which I enjoyed, of course) and no loud trucks or people. I got good ideas for the Red House, too.

But it’s time to go home and get ready for visitors at the ranch and see my horses and dogs. I hope you had a reasonable weekend. I only have a lingering runny nose to remind me of the endless viral nonsense I’ve been dealing with, so I can now look forward to fun and learning once again1

Tromping

Whew, I was tired by the time I got home from Fredericksburg. I went home a new way, though, so I got to see some different scenery and avoid Austin traffic. To keep myself awake I tromped around the ranch on my breaks, taking pictures for the pollinator BioBlitz.

I especially enjoyed our remaining water areas. I spotted lots of fish in here.

I just wandered and wandered, bearing in mind what I learned at the conference this week. I noted there were more fish where there was no cow poop, but there were fish even in what’s left of the creek, where I found one of the old mama cows having a quiet bath.

Can I have some privacy here?

As I checked out the riparian areas, I also looked at the pastures. Yeah, they are rather over-grazed. The only plants left are what cattle don’t eat: broomweed, milkweed, and silverleaf nightshade. This made finding things to add to the BioBlitz a challenge.

There’s a lot of broomweed.

I did find lots of insects and documented every tree variety, so I feel good. My goal is to ID 100 species as my contribution, and I think if I get some at Tarrin’s, where there are different plants, I’ll pass that goal. I did hit another goal today, and that’s 600 different species here on the ranch. Hard to believe!

Even if all I see is cedar elms and greenbrier, I can’t complain. Being able to get outside is such a privilege. The variety of life that’s still thriving in this drought gives me hope for us tenacious humans, too.

I didn’t see many birds other than this coy mockingbird and a cardinal that hid completely. I did hear hawks and crows a lot.

I’m hiding!

I’m hoping the weather will turn. It actually rained a few tiny drops when I fed the horses, and there was lightning in clouds at sunset. More hope!

More photos, mainly because Barbara looks at them all.

Amazing Adventures Near Junction, Texas

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

Look at all the moths!

Native American Seed

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

Listening to Bill Neimann orient us to the business

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

Hi, Alfred!

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

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

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

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

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

Silver Farms

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

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

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

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

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

Texas Tech, in Junction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Me, All Is Well

I can’t speak for the rest of my family, but today’s been good. I got to do grocery shopping for sickly children and had fun with that. I got them a Mexican saint candle to protect sick people. I need to get one for Kathleen, too, to ward off future surprises.

Come set a spell. We’re open!

I guess I’ll just share my tack room improvements, which make me happy even if they are small. My favorite things are my Mexican pottery from my beloved old office. I really like the foal with a disapproving look on her face.

Vacuum more!

I also brought the burro planter that I’ll put something in one of these days. I hope spider plants.

My kids got me the wall hanging one year when they still did gifts.

One of the baskets my friend Gina sent me recently makes my ugly tissue box fit in well. It has a weird liner, but that’s fine. And people who are allergic to scents can take care of the problems the adjacent diffuser causes. How efficient! The diffuser makes it smell less like garlic and coconut in here (from feed).

And I grabbed a bird hanging thing to charm anyone who goes to the tack area to view Drew’s ribbons. I predict this area will be more colorful next year. There will be competition!

I was so busy writing about the vacation rental we’re working on that I didn’t share the pretty things I found on a walk through the lower pasture yesterday. I checked to see if there was still any water in the creek and yes, there is a trickle.

Cow says why don’t you have cubes for me?

Mostly I enjoyed early autumn seeds and flowers. And more mama cows. That never hurts!

What’s Pink and behind My House?

It’s a roseate spoonbill, that’s what!

…and three storks, one great egret and one great blue heron!

I was excited to see the storks visiting again, then I noticed one of the beaks trolling the shore was not black and looked sorta funny. Whoa. It was pink!

Look at that bill!

I’ve only had one visit from a spoonbill before so this made me smile. I remember looking at one up close at the collection at College Station but I’d rather see them live! I guess this one had just joined up with stork pals for a while.

It was beautiful to see them all fly off, too.

Bye!

What a happy ending to a day that was already fun.

Why was today fun?

No, not because I did my favorite work task, building an e-learning video. It’s because it was Dusty’s turn to star in a horse activity, and it’s fun to watch him bask in the glow of attention.

Dusty eye. He has blue swirls.

Sara needs to practice trimming hooves, and Dusty had four that needed attention. So she brought all her equipment over and worked on our old buddy.

Me? I’m the focus? Not attention hog Apache?

Sara is doing so great, too. As I expected, she is learning fast. It only took her an hour to do the trim, which is a big improvement!

Yep, it was time!

She had a lot more training to do, but she’s well on her way. Dusty did fine and was quite the gentleman. He had to rest his feet some, but that gave Sara a break, too. We were all happy with the results.

Everybody’s happy, and Fiona is also an attention hog.

It’s just so fun to watch my friend learn and hang out with my horse buddies.

Drew got his attention, too. Scratches with Sara’s gloves went over very well.

Life does not suck right now. It’s good, in fact. And it’s getting better! Woo hoo! Enjoy some more hoof fixing photos!

Hey, I skipped a blogging day. It was both busy and sorta boring. But I’m almost finished making the squares for my little macho camouflage blanket! I used my time wisely!

Horses in Heaven

It’s been a hard summer for the horses. Not much grass, much heat, not as much attention as last year. But today has been a good one! To start, I was able to get out early enough to give all the horses nice baths. I know Dusty was happy. He’s such a level-headed dude, but he liked the suds. And he ended up looking fine, considering his scratches from trying to eat on the other side of the barbed wire in the new pasture.

He even has some mane!

Mabel really needed the bath, because she was covered in salt crystals from sweating. She’s sure a lumpy thing, but I got lots of excess hair off her and cleaned her sweet face. She is now shiny, especially her tail, which almost looks normal again. She was so patient as she waited to dry off, too.

Look at my tail!

Drew is looking pretty ragged these days. He’s a busy boy. Somehow he got a big owie on his belly. I treated it so flies won’t get in it. But he enjoyed the suds and drank a lot from the hose. I used enough purple shampoo on him that I think his tail looks whiter. The parts of him that aren’t nicked up are soft and shiny.

Note my shininess.

Apache and I went for a nice ride before his bath. He still seems a little sore, so we mostly walked and practiced transitions. He’s doing so well now with riding around. It’s so fun. And of course he loved his bath. His mane looks so white now and I got all his brown dirt spots off.

Yes. I’m chunky. But pretty.

What he didn’t like was waiting while he dried. He stomped and complained. To make his point, he pooped right after I’d cleaned all the poop up from the grooming area. Message received! But I didn’t want him rolling while wet, which he loves to do.

I don’t care how much you like my blinding whiteness. I don’t like being tied when everyone else is free.

After all that pampering, they got another surprise. The hay ring got set up. I’m told Drew and Dusty ran up and immediately started chewing.

As they say on the Internet, nom nom.

Then the gate was opened! Freedom! Grass! Excitement!

Big deal. I have hay.

I hear that Apache, Mabel, and Fiona exited rapidly, but Dusty and Drew stayed with the dry old hay.

What made me laugh was that they all barely left the area. They found grass and stopped.

Eventually they found other grass and figured out how to cross the trenches for the electric lines (they will get filled in next week). These are some very happy horses. And the grass isn’t so green it will be a problem!

Of course, ya get thirsty eating all this grass. I love this one!

I hope your Sunday was as good as the one these guys enjoyed!

Hermits Visit a Zoo

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

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

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

Some animals were easy to see from the bus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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