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!

Now I’m Happy, Thanks to Pinkney Island

I finally got to go on a hike. It rained all morning, but at some point in the afternoon it cleared up. Hooray, hooray. Off we went to a big ole nature preserve called Pinkney Island National Wildlife Refuge. I hadn’t gotten to go there before, so I was pretty excited. There’s nothing I like better than a swampy and damp woodland and marsh combo. Ooh boy. Nature and all its smells and colors. This place looks like my dreams.

My idea of fun

This beautiful place is a breeding spot for marsh birds, and we did get to enjoy seeing lots of birds at the Ibis pond, including, of all things, some white ibis! There were many fun birds swimming around there, including our friends the great heron and great white egret. There were also snowy egrets, gallinules, and coots, which were all fun to watch. And all the sounds were like being in a jungle movie. We loved it.

After that, Lee rested while I kept walking down a long path where I was completely alone with the woods. Suna Heaven. I saw so many beautiful trees, including some huge oaks, pines, and the biggest sweetgum tree I’ve ever seen. It was tree world, full of fungus, lichen, decay, and dank dampness. Ah.

There were also at least two armadillos that just totally ignored me as they busily rooted in the leaves, a lot of annoyed squirrels, and a flock of American robins. There was also a precious ruby-crowned kinglet we watched take a bath in a puddle, but I enjoyed it too much to get a picture. It was glorious! I was so happy.

But I did have to come back and find my husband, after walking nearly five miles. Even my fancy shoes were beginning to let my feet hurt, anyway.

Found him!

I enjoy walking with Lee, because I’m free to stop and take lots of pictures while he takes his time. It works for us. I took a lot of pictures of the marsh, the shore, the trees ranging from tiny to immense, and all the life that feels safe on an uninhabited island. Well, unless there’s a hurricane or anything.

We topped the trip off with a meal at an overly fancy restaurant (Nunzio’s, for Rae who wants restaurant recommendations) where you have to have reservations even at 5 pm and most of the cars in the lot were Porsches and Mercedes. Still, the halibut was perfect, and the tomato salad had the ripest, tastiest tomatoes I’ve had in ages.

I just need one day like this per vacation, so I guess I can sit around the rest of the time I’m in South Carolina. Ha ha.

Fogged in, Mostly

It’s not like me to go on one of my trips and not post daily nature images. But, well, it’s not been overly nature-ful the last few days, AND I had a big workload. However, I’m incredibly glad I’m in South Carolina, because there has been the worst ice storm anyone can remember back in Milam County. My Facebook feed has been a constant stream of photos of fallen trees, downed limbs, dangerous attack icicles, and badly damaged buildings. Friends reported that it sounded like being in a war zone with all the cracking and crashing. It’s sad, sad, sad. I may not recognize the town when I get back.

I hope all the woodland creatures are safe!

The Hermits’ Rest is okay, just very muddy, from what I’m told. All the animals are fed and warm, though I know they’ll be happy to have some warmer weather. Anyway…

Will it get damp enough for ferns to start growing out of the buildings at home?

Here, it’s just been foggy. It’s been really foggy! We woke up yesterday and it looked like someone had put white paper over the windows. We often can’t see the edge of the ocean, and there’s no horizon whatsoever.

Sometimes the fog looked sorta artsy

Now, it’s not been all bad. I’ve enjoyed some nice beach walks, sunsets, and the usual birds. The water last night turned a color I’d never seen before, a steely purple. One of my old friends called it steel bluewinkle.

Wow, blew my mind.

Yesterday, when the sun finally came out, Lee and I had a late lunch at my favorite restaurant here, Hudson’s. It’s a really cool place with such fresh seafood – they have their own boats and everything. They also catch their own oysters. I just had to have some of the cluster oysters that Anita and I enjoyed last time I was on Hiton Head.

A few oysters. I didn’t waste any time on those crackers.

Lee’s food looked just fine, but I was in heaven. I ate every single oyster, from the little bitty ones to the giant and juicy ones. It made the fact that I had to go back and work until 9 pm much more bearable.

Today I did some of my work in the business area at the main building, because the dining chairs here are not comfortable for long stretches. It was so comfy and quiet! I got lots done!

Nice view to work with.

Once I got to a stopping place, we went to a town I’m fond of, just over the bridge, Bluffton. It’s where I got some art that I love last time I was down here (I still follow the artist, Kelley Luikey at Naturemuseimagery.com), so I was happy to go back to the art galleries there again. We also visited a recently restored house that had been owned by a formerly enslaved man who did well for himself. The house is in such a beautiful spot, and the information on the signs told all about how people lived during his life. The house was right next to a working oyster company with a genuine oyster boat. I just have to say this little town is beautiful.

We ate a quick lunch at a sub shop that Lee enjoyed way more than our fancy meals. Actually I had fun, too, because the workers were hilarious. They kidded each other and laughed the whole time we were there. It’s nice to see people enjoy what they are doing. (I enjoyed taking all these beachy pictures.)

Speaking of work, there was more of that when I got home. It’s been kind of fun taking a couple of hours to be a tourist in the middle of the day, then working a bit later than usual. My favorite part is when I rest my eyes to look out on the balcony. Just at sunset, I saw something moving in the little wooded area to the left of our balcony. It was a large buck white-tailed deer. He was way bigger than the ones at home, with a fresh set of fuzzy antlers. He slowly lowered himself to the ground and took a rest. He was nicely surrounded by brush, so he must have felt safe and cozy. That makes it worth dealing with all the fog.

Crafty Crafting

It’s nice to be back to normal. Life here is just fine, working hard, playing with horses, and enjoying new plants as they return each season. No complaints.

Shepherd‘s purse is back!

I’m glad I’ve relaxed about a lot of things, like caring about people’s opinions of me, trying to lose weight…etc. One thing I’ve also let go of is trying to be perfect in my crafts. I always used to beat myself up over mistakes. Now I just go with it.

I’ve been putting a very bright border on the mosaic rug I’m working on. About halfway through, I realized the first row should have been the orange color. Shoot. But I just kept going. Now that I got to the end, I got crafty.

The example, with slip stitch embellishment at top.

I decided to add some embellishments in the right color and I think it looks cute! I’m just slip stitching, and I think it looks correct from a distance and interesting up close. I’m going to add another border repeat in two other colors. Then poor, patient Rollie will finally get their Christmas gift!

Here’s to crafty crafts and embracing imperfections!

Excellent Birds! Unusual Plants! Nature Fun!

Today we stayed at Lake Somerville State Park, which was a lovely place to work. I enjoyed my lake view from the mobile office and had no problems with internet or anything like that. I got lots of work done AND saw so many wonderful things on my breaks and after work. I could get used to this.

It’s so great to see NO ONE when camping

I went out early in the morning and was thrilled to see two different bald eagles in trees. It turns out the local high school mascot is the eagles, since there are lots at this lake. It’s always great to see them. And as I went on the walk, I was greeted by additional raptors. I first saw a peregrine falcon, who came out even blurrier than the eagles did, then another merlin showed up. I got to see it really well with the binoculars, even though my photos aren’t great.

But whoa, I did NOT expect the next thing I saw. I was looking at a pretty group of ring-neck gulls through my binoculars when I realized one of those gulls was awfully big. It was a beautiful white pelican! I watched it swimming around and diving for fish for a long time. Then, as I was sitting outside doing a call, I saw a bunch of big, white birds. The pelican had friends. They were a LONG way away, so forgive the blurriness of the photos.

By the way, the sandy outcropping where the gulls and pelicans were also had other cool birds. I saw greater yellowlegs, killdeer, grebes, and two beautiful white birds with black and white wings. They had a black bill and long legs. I swear they are American avocets, though they aren’t supposed to be here right now. I did check, and they have been seen here, so I’m not imagining things.

This is what the birds look like. Borrowed from mombliss on iNaturalist.

As I mentioned yesterday, there are lots of woodpeckers around here. I saw two more types today, a flicker and a big ole pileated woodpecker, which I managed to photograph as it flew off. It’s SO loud. Since I saw the yellow-bellied sapsucker yesterday, it means I saw the smallest and largest woodpeckers in the US!

I also saw lots and lots of chickadees and cardinals. Of the sparrows I saw, I could ID a chipping sparrow and a white-crowned sparrow. There were also phoebes, a yellow warbler, and some very entertaining vultures, both turkey vultures and black vultures. I enjoyed watching them flying, roosting, and preening.

I also saw some butterflies and moths, which surprised me. There were sulphur butterflies, buckeyes, a black or pipevine swallowtail (hard to tell), and lots of little moths. Most of my photos were just blurs. The best insect I saw, though, was a leafcutter ant carrying a leaf it had cut. I’d never seen one of those!

The only mammal I saw was a big, fat squirrel. But I saw evidence of deer and coyotes (plus coyotes woke me up at 5am).

I enjoyed looking at lots of beautiful trees as I hiked and saw excellent mosses as well. Many trees are dead, but lots of them were from when they made the lake and it was higher. I think it will be higher once it rains some more again. The dead trees sure look like they host many types of life. I passed one tree that was literally abuzz with bees and others with holes in them for animals to live in.

And the silence was glorious, at least until a whiny child hiked by. Literally ONE child is in the area, and it’s loud enough to be heard all over. Wow!

I saw one spider, this gray jumping spider

Lee and I are heading home tomorrow in between meetings, but this stay has been so enjoyable and restorative. I’m glad for the chance to travel more.

Hopefully I can see more stuff like beard lichen.
Or whatever this lichen is. So pretty.

The Mobile Office Gets Mobile

I may have mentioned that Lee got the mobile office he’d been saving up for a few weeks ago. He wanted something that could pull a horse trailer and let him work comfortably. That proved really difficult!

It’s so nice to be somewhere quiet.

After months of trying to find a custom van, he changed tactics. We both missed traveling with our two previous RVs, so Lee looked at them as potential mobile offices you could sort of live in and pull a trailer. I sure heard a lot of conversations about various formats and types. Lee wanted one with a big truck chassis, because they are reliable.

One like this

Lee actually found a low mileage used vehicle that was very nice and budget friendly (for a behemoth). And so now I can work anywhere I want to, I guess. More importantly, Lee can, too. Well, anywhere this thing can park and get cell reception.

Nice campsite.

Anyway, enough about the conveyance, let’s talk about travel. We’d wanted to try the mobile office out this weekend, but I needed to do horses yesterday.

So, we left for Lake Somerville State Park today. It was a lovely, short drive, perfect for getting used to the squeaking and rattling of a building on wheels. The noise is a small trade off for the fun of looking out of that big windshield at the world. I’d missed that. Lee has missed driving a big truck, and I truly loved seeing how happy he was driving.

I, on the other hand, got my happiness once we arrived. A Sunday in winter is not overly popular at a state park, so we can’t see any other groups and all we hear are birds (and planes flying over). That’s so rare and precious.

So private

I enjoyed wandering around the lake and looking at birds and signs of aquatic life. I love winter, when you can see through the trees. Seeing the yellow bellied sapsucker was cool. And from the sound of it, every tree had a woodpecker this afternoon. This made me so happy.

Yep. We had a lovely and EXTRA peaceful afternoon and evening, with few problems other than realizing we only had ONE fork for eating dinner! I enjoyed using the little oven, which is a combination microwave and convection oven. That saves space for the large fridge.

Plus fake fireplace. Classy.

We will be here through Tuesday. I’ll be able to work just fine, as there’s 5G out here! And Lee can work without me bothering him with my endless Zoom meetings, because I can shut the door to my office, AKA the bedroom.

I think it will be fun to work from various spots closer to home in the future. I didn’t think another RV was in the future, but this one seems like it will make my hermit husband happy and let me spend some quiet time close enough home that I’ll be able to keep up with my ranch chores and precious horses.

I’m happy at the possibility. I even have a Senior state park pass!

And maybe we can eventually bring a dog. On the other hand, there’s no barking here!

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

We Interrupt This Scenic Beauty…

…with a whine

The height of “fall color” has arrived, and I’m really enjoying looking at it.

My view.

But oh my goodness, I am sick and tired of being sick and tired! How long can a cold last, anyway? How much mucous can one nasal cavity hold? I guess I am going to find out, because I feel just awful, still.

Head toward the light, Vlassic!

I had 5 straight hours of meetings this morning, many of which required speaking and acting intelligent. That was no easy task. And before the weather gets bad again, I want to ride Apache and Drew. But I feel like crap.

Thanks, trees.

I got to wondering if maybe this is more than a cold, so I took yet another COVID test, but it just mocked me.

That’s a negative

I had been thinking COVID because I am tired and if I exercise a lot, it’s hard to breathe. But hey, a cold will do that, too. Or maybe the flu tests missed some kind of flu and I have that. All I know is I’m almost finished with antibiotics, which means I’ll probably get a sinus infection next. (Yes, I take probiotics.)

That brush pile may be ugly, but it houses a lot of white-crowned sparrows!

Anyway, that’s my whine. I am tired of being sick, even if I’m a Bad Ass, according to my coworker who sent a mug just like hers. That was a kind gesture, wasn’t it? And yes, I look like I feel. Crappy.

One more meeting and I can collapse.

Autumn of Life Is Here

When the fall color arrives here in the middle of Texas, it’s subtle, and you don’t see it coming. I love this season and take comfort in the quiet beauty of our cedar elms and oaks as they prepare to lose their leaves for the winter.

I see some orange and yellow out there.

Today dawned sunny and crisp, but not cold. It was a welcome relief to see the sun for the first time in many days, and even more welcome was the sight of the new pond finally completely full and draining to the other side of the dam. After four cloudy, drizzly days, we had a large front move through overnight that brought enough rain to fill the drought-parched tanks for the first time since last spring. I guess the drought is over, at last.

It’s full!
I keep you healthy

The way this season has crept up reminds me of how I’ve been moving into the autumn of my life and not realizing it. I’ve been lucky to be very healthy since we came out to the Hermits’ Rest and have been growing stronger and more capable thanks to working with the horses and other animals.

Realistically, I am old.

But this illness that came up last week has been a very unsubtle reminder that I’m not a young person anymore. A cold that I’d usually just power through over a few days has made me weak and tired. I didn’t expect that at all. I keep trying to go out and get things done, only to feel worse and fall asleep for a few hours. I’m not bouncing back.

I am glad that it’s been so wet and muddy out, because it the weather had been good, I know I’d have been trying to force myself out to work with Drew, who needs me on him and working with him. But our working area is a little lake right now, and I am barely able to maneuver across the muck to get the food buckets for the poor horses. (They are not suffering; in fact, I think they are enjoying the pleasant temperatures and the abundant hay.)

And the horses have puddles to stomp in.

As I’m pulling myself out of the depression episode and feeling my mortality more than usual, it’s taking effort to not go into reflective mode and dwell on goals not achieved, mistakes made, and errors unaddressed. The sun’s helping me remind myself that I’m still able to learn new things, be kind to those who’ll accept kindness, and forgive others.

I should do more looking at reflections and less reflecting. This is the creek, with water at last.

While it’s true that I notice my memory failing and don’t know how much longer I’ll be a useful member of society, I do have confidence that no matter what, I’ll be able to enjoy each new autumn when it arrives. It may just be different from now on as I go from the autumn to the winter of life.

Off into the Wildlife Preserve

Today I got up early. I’m getting good at early weekend mornings. I met some of the Master Naturalist chapter in downtown Cameron and we carpooled off to a genuine field trip, like in the old days! We went to the Balcones Canyonland National Wildlife refuge. It’s a place I’ve driven by many times but never stopped at before. So glad we went there!

It’s there to protect the endangered golden cheeked warbler (who is out of town right now). It’s huge, which is good because suburbs are creeping toward it rapidly. There’s not gonna be much nature within a big radius of Austin soon.

Nature

We had lots of fun on a good walk with Chris Harper, an old friend of our chapter, who now works at the refuge. We learned lots about the flora and fauna of the area, which is like where I used to live in Brushy Creek.

Our intrepid group

I enjoyed finding new plants, even though most were past their prime. Still, there’s much beauty in a Hill Country autumn. Here is just a sampling of what we saw. It’s such a beautiful place, with a creek, meadows, and limestone hills.

I also took a lot of pictures of plants of course. I just love the unusual plants that grow in this area. The karst and limestone make for interesting flowers, not just Ashe juniper that you usually see.

It’s what the golden cheeked warbler nests in. It’s not totally bad! They make nests from the “cedar” bark.

Anyway, it was fun guessing what the dried up flowers were when in full bloom. The liatris, a vivid purple in bloom, is now pale and whiteish. It’s still pretty.

You don’t need to reading me analyzing each plant. But here are some.

See. I didn’t even label them all! But I enjoyed it. If you want to know you can always go to iNaturalist and search for sunasak.

To be honest, I’m in pain. From somehow wrenching my diaphragm muscle yesterday slipping on horse poop while running after the doofuses yesterday. So. Time to rest.

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