COVID +1, Ice 0

Ice is zero, because that’s how cold it is in Celsius. COVID is +1, because I got my first Moderna vaccination today. I’m really relieved to get the process started, because it means I might be able to go back to my nice office in Cameron without being so paranoid about potential exposure from Hearts, Homes and Hands staff who work with so many clients (and we are glad they do). Anyway, that’s why I got to get the shot before turning 65 or 64 or whatever age it is.

This is a good thing.

The Vaccination

The County Health Department has the luxury of two closed hospitals to use in cases like this (thanks to all the rural hospitals closing down…moving on…). That meant there were lots of rooms for counseling and giving the shots. Everyone was SO nice. You could just see how happy they are to be doing this for our citizens.

Sad room, wishing it could be part of a hospital again.

The nurse who counseled me was especially nice, and we spent a lot of time praising the County Judge, who has been quite the stoic through this whole pandemic. Half the county says he’s the Devil and half says he’s a Saint. Whichever, the job certainly has been more than he thought it would be when he ran for office!

All fogged up. And I have on two masks.

The only part about the whole thing was that, because it’s truly cold and most of the people getting their vaccines are elderly, they had everyone wait inside rather than sitting in their cars and being called in. I truly understand why they did it, but GEEZ I felt claustrophobic waiting in a hallway filled with fragile people, where there was no way to get 6 feet away from anyone. I did double mask, though, and I’m sure most of those folks were like me and never leave their houses except for things like vaccinations!

They DID have chairs spaced out. The ones next to each other are for couples.

Now I just have to wait a month to get the other shot, then two more weeks and I’ll feel a bit better interacting with folks (with mask).

The Ice

One thing I realized when I was driving to Rockdale for the vaccination is that up here in Walker’s Creek/Silver City (or wherever I live), we got much more ice than only a few miles south of us did. Some of Rockdale’s trees looked perfectly normal. On the other hand, there are lots of trees down here (and my friends in northwest Austin really, really had lots of damage).

These poor trees just keep getting smaller and smaller every time there’s bad weather.

On the other hand, ice sure is pretty.

I love this ice-encapsulated beggar’s purse!

I’m glad the temperature is a balmy 32 F (0 C) today, since I need to load up on hay for Apache for the upcoming Polar Vortex. Sara and Ralph got blankets on all the horses, but Fiona is so fuzzy, she’s fine. Everyone has shelter and seemed just fine this morning, once I broke the ice in the water troughs, which I will have to do again this evening, I’m sure.

We are fine, and have hay. And all the cattle are munching away, happy as can be.

Enjoy some more photos of our icy time. By Sunday we should be getting snow or worse. It may get down to the OTHER 0 degrees! This is NOT normal Texas weather!

My Least-Favorite Weather Is…

…the weather going on right now at the ranch. Freezing rain is just the worst weather Mother Nature can come up with. It just wants to kill things.

Ice and water on the rain chain.

We were all under the impression that bad weather was coming in a few days, but surprise! Here it is! I am glad that all my animals have nice warm shelter (chickens in the garage and horses under their shelter, which is also where mama and baby calf are, to answer Catherine).

Some animals find the crunch ice fun, however, once the thunder stopped.

I’m also glad to be working from home.

Looks so pleasant, doesn’t it?

I spent 20 years in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. That particular area is often on the border between rain and snow, so I endured a lot of ice storms when I lived there. I have stories, including the time a colleague and I were stuck at the bottom of a dirt driveway on a hill and had to push my Gremlin (that was a type of car) up the hill, after my friends had slowly driven to us to help. We drove twenty miles at 15 miles per hour to get home, all covered in mud. We all had a good laugh, once it was over, but that was a truly scary drive!

Black willows by the pond, by Meghan, from her car.

Here, it’s just freezing raining really hard and has been for a few hours. That makes a nice coating of ice on…everything. It’s worse where I used to live just northwest of Austin, from accident reports and photos I’ve seen. The only thing stirring out here are the intrepid meadowlarks and Meghan, who had to have a meeting with Lee. The dogs would not leave while it was thunder-sleeting.

The gate entry keypad looks chilly. Photo by Meghan.

Well, I take it back. The birds are like, what the heck, we’re hungry, so we might as well eat. The bluebirds, phoebes, and mockingbird are all on the very cold fence looking for food. Mrs. Bluebird really looks sad. I wish my window didn’t have a screen!

That first bird is poor Mrs. Bluebird (the male bluebird and mockingbird are also there, but too blurry, thanks to my screen).
For about a half hour, the mockingbird chased the bluebirds off the fence. That rocket-like thing is a bluebird.

I’m glad we have plenty of hot cocoa and the ability to make chili, because we will need it! I’m feeling mighty bad for friends I know whose heating has gone out, and of course those of you north of us who are laughing about our complaints down here. My coworker in Minnesota got a good laugh about our whining this morning!

Well, it IS pretty.

I hope we don’t lose too many limbs or trees in this. If heavy snow starts, things will start falling. Oh well, that’s how it goes these days.

Our cold pond, photo by Meghan.

I went out and checked the rain gauge for Lee, and we had .71″ so far. I got a few more pretty photos, so please enjoy. The flowers look especially cool. You can click a photo to see it larger and not cropped.

What’s in the Creek!

Today’s Bioblitz adventure took me and the faithful canine companions over by the creek again. I was trying to see if there are any different plants in the woods and creek side. Also, I wanted to let the dogs have fun. That they did!

Happy Carlton in the creek.

Mostly Penney and Carlton enjoyed the windy, sunny day by running, smelling and splashing. It was a good distraction from staring at plants.

I crossed the creek! (Also, check out that soil layer with all the big rocks.)

The dogs running in the stream inspired me to check it out, and I found some slimy algae.

Doesn’t that look shiny and fun?

It reminded me to check the water for plants. I found two cool things I never saw before today!

I’m not sure if it’s one kind or two kinds, but crowfoot is a cool name, and cursed crowfoot is a GREAT name!

All afternoon I looked for birds. I got a vulture photo, but all the other ones hid…until I was just about to walk through the gate back to the house. Suddenly, a bird was right in front of me. By the time I got the camera up, a little ruby crowned kinglet was right in front of me! It’s the first one I’ve seen here! A good day.

Hello!!!

It was a good day all around. I also had a great ride on Apache. I think he’s having fun, too.

So Much Annoyance, You Just Gotta Laugh

Geez, folks, this week I’m being tested for something. Perhaps it’s, “Can Suna find humor in everything?” “Is there a reason to smile hiding in any annoyance?” I hope I pass the exam, because I’m really trying to find humor and beauty, but today has, basically, sucked.

Nature’s always there to rescue me and remind me there’s good out there. So, here ya go, it’s the bloom off my mother-in-law’s tongue plant. How delicate and wondrous that is. Getting a houseplant to bloom has to make you smile (for pictures of it when it was budding, check out my very long houseplant post).

And, my daily commute (yay, I have the all-clear to go to the office) started and ended with one of my favorite sounds, cedar waxwings in large flocks. They flew over, but none were close enough to to photograph. I just love those whistles they make.

In between the commutes was a very frustrating work day, in which all my hardware components decided they were tired of functioning normally. My monitors did a devlish dance that was hard for me to believe. The really nice IT dude drove over (most people work from home) to try to help, which resulted in one monitor ceasing to let itself be found, my new keyboard and mouse stopped working, and my dock gave up the ghost. Well, shoot. I have not yet found the humor in that situation…it just happens when you rely on technology for your job!

Look, there’s a second bloom stalk hiding back there!

So, I ended up having to do delicate meetings on the phone. I started pacing, which apparently made everyone else on the call nauseated. It did give my boss something to laugh about, so there, a good thing came out of it. We were doing meetings that were not fun for us, so there was more than the usual amount of gentle ribbing, photos of dogs, and other distractions. See, not all bad. And I was pivoting, like a good Agile worker.

I got home and was reminded of the other thing that had me annoyed, from yesterday. I left my dang knitting project over at the Hermits’ Rest house. Having gone through a bunch of minor annoyances yesterday, I really wanted to knit, so I ran all over the Bobcat Lair house until I found a yarn I’d bought years ago back when I had knitting friends and went to the Kid ‘n Ewe festival.

Who needs a pattern when the yarn is so lovely, right<

I decided to just start out with a plain triangular shawl, with a classy tabbed start. I’m going to throw in some simple lace later, now that I realize that the blues and purples aren’t too distracting. The yarn is hand dyed from a Texas dyer that’s no longer in business, but I like how it has a matte thread and a shiny thread plied together. So, that’s one more annoyance I was able to laugh at.


Hey, thanks for the nice words and comments on my previous post. I have some really great readers. And by the way, you can always go read blogs on WordPress if you want to cheer up. There’s so much beauty, and at least a river isn’t flooding my back yard (garden) like poor @knittingjane of Woolly Wednesday. Go read a blog! And take care!

Comfort Walking and Knitting

Another crazy day in the US, but I’m feeling a little better, because I took my own advice and got outside more. It helped that the weather was a bit better. Even just taking a walk around the office brought me delight. I picked these pretty pecans (which I will take home and eat!).

Such pretty nuts

I also enjoyed stopping at one of the least-attractive parts of my walk to enjoy the Carolina snailseed vine in its winter glory.

The seeds look like little jewels.

The vine really grew over the summer as no one’s maintained the properties this fence supposedly demarcates.

Note the little strip of leftover snow!

When I got home, I enjoyed walking to see the horses. They’re all fine. I keep having to fix Lakota’s blanket, but it’s gonna get cold again, so he needs his comfort blanket.

Speaking of comfort, my knitting has really provided a lot for me this week. I knit hugs into every stitch. Look how big it is now!

I’ve gone through all the colors.

I hit a snag last night, though. My knitting needle tip came out! That caused stitches to go BOING. Oops. Thank goodness I have two sets of this size needle tip, and I can switch them out. I’m sad, because I love the set I’d been using, but I realized they are at least ten years old!

This is an original KnitPicks interchangeable needle set.

I like the clear ones, too. They are a little more “sticky” so I like them for lace. They’re working fine on this shawl. Thank goodness I have so much knitting stuff I hardly ever have to buy anything.

See through needle tip. It’s pretty.

Nowadays there are much fancier sets, but these work. And my old friend needles bring me comfort. I’ll take it wherever I can get it.

What’s comforting you?

Let’s Help Inarticulate Beings

This week, I’ve taken my mind off things by observing my surroundings and seeing when I’ve been helpful without realizing it. Actually, one of the main ways I’ve gotten through the past few years has been knowing that, while I can’t fix big problems, I can often help with smaller problems that might be big to someone else, even those who don’t realize it or can’t express it in words.

I can’t show you the actual dog and me on our drive, so enjoy this actor portrayal of a prettier person and dog. Image by @darinatravel via Twenty20.

For example, today I helped get a dog from Austin to Cameron, as part of my Milam Touch of Love volunteer work that I don’t do nearly enough of. That wasn’t much of a big deal on my part. I happened to be going from Austin to Cameron anyway, and just made a detour. To the dog’s owner, someone in crisis, this was a huge deal and solved a huge, nasty problem. The owner said those of us helping out were sent from Heaven. No, we are people who know that the right thing to do when you know of a person or animal in need and you CAN help, you DO help. It’s doing the right thing, not out of fear, but out of respect and love.

The dog was confused, and had no idea it needed help. It could not thank me other than with a wagging tail. But I knew I helped and am glad it’s safe.

Changing the Subject Somewhat

In the dog transport case, my friends and I knew we were doing something helpful. But, as I observed some of ways I’ve helped some living things. Since they can’t talk, we had to pay attention to see how we’ve helped. I’m talking about plants here.

My pothos (Golden Queen) in my office (also some other plant is in there). The leaves are not very big.

How do you know you’ve helped a houseplant? Well, it will grow and thrive in a place that’s not where it naturally would end up. Most house plants are really tropical plants that have been hybridized to do okay in pots. Usually they don’t get very big in our houses.

Both spider plants and pothos are way bigger when they grow outdoors, but are usually pretty small in our homes. Pothos or devil’s ivy (Epipremnum aureum) leaves can be 39×18″ in the wild! They don’t bloom spontaneously, sniff. I know they are happy when the leaves don’t start dropping off.

Epipremnum aureum is an evergreen vine growing to 20 m (66 ft) tall, with stems up to 4 cm (2 in) in diameter, climbing by means of aerial roots which adhere to surfaces. The leaves are alternate, heart-shaped, entire on juvenile plants, but irregularly pinnatifid on mature plants, up to 100 cm (39 in) long and 45 cm (18 in) broad; juvenile leaves are much smaller, typically under 20 cm (8 in) long.

Wikipedia
My Golden Queen is not as big as this mama.
A spider plant blossom. By Wildfeuer – Self-photographed, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1460984

Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) get up to two feet tall in nature (I’ve seen it, since I’ve lived in the subtropics), and I know mine are happy when they bloom. Or that means they’re rootbound. They don’t talk a lot. I feel like the little bonus plants they grow are little gifts to me, even though I’ve seen them take over huge areas when there is no freezing weather to keep them under control.

Anita grows a lot of cactus plants and succulents. They show her she’s taken good care of them by growing, but more excitingly, by blooming. We both get excited when one of her plants blooms. Take a look at this one!

The plant just threw up a big ole stalk and bloomed.
That’s quite a stalk (and quite a cool effect the double-paned windows make with the reflections!)

Many of my own house plants have been around a long time. I’ve had some bad luck lately, but when a plant is happy, it stays. Here is a house plant a money tree Pachira aquatica) that we’ve had for well over a decade, and it was a gift from another family when they moved.

The way-too-big houseplant. Also, note pothos that is less happy than the other one. It’s getting moved and repotted soon.
It’s a flowering tree that also has edible nuts. By © Hans Hillewaert, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7898452

This poor plant lived a long time on the deck while the Bobcat Lair house was getting renovated, where it got too much sun, received too little water, was besieged by aphids, and looked very sad. We had no place to put it in the casita!

It had tiny leaves, and most had fallen off. I kept wondering if I should put it out of its misery. But look! It’s funny looking, but it has nice big leaves now, which cover the plant. And it’s new growth is no longer sticky from aphids! It only took me a couple of years to fix that. I helped my old friend.

[I should never look on Wikipedia for stuff. I got all distracted discovering that this thing really IS a huge tree where it comes from, its flowers are the largest of any flowering tree, and it has edible nuts, when roasted. They call it the Malabar Chestnut. Raw nuts are toxic to rats. Enough of this.]

Monday.

Another plant I now realize I helped is this mother-in-law’s tongue/snake plant that was being thrown away when we moved to new offices at work. I have three different pots of it now, but the happiest one is at the Bobcat Lair. How do I know it’s happy? It’s going to bloom! I’ve never seen one of these bloom.

Friday

I discovered the little bloom stalk on Monday of this week. I’d hoped it would flower before I had to come back to Cameron.

But, the stalk is still growing. Maybe I’ll get to see the blossom next time I’m in town! I wonder if it’s blooming because it’s filled the container with leaves and feels the need to reproduce, or if it’s telling me thanks for giving it such good light and appropriate watering for the past few years. You just can’t tell. But, I’m convinced that I helped.

Seeing my plant companions thriving makes ME grateful, so I’ve helped both inarticulate friends and myself. Plus, contributing to life on this planet feels to me like it’s creating some balance, which we need. Not everything is destructive and selfish. Kindness is out there! We can help.

Here’s a photo of what the blossoms look like. In the wild, there will then be orange berries! By Arungolas – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=89254511

Have Yourself a Hermits’ Rest-y Christmas

Glorious. That’s the word for today. So, I went out to the woods to look for signs of Christmas and miracles. I found some of each!

The first miracle was water in the stream.

I ended up standing right where the above photo was taken for a long time, just listening to bird songs and watching them flit around. It’s lots easier to spot them in winter. I saw one I could not identify that could have been a black phoebe.

Too blurry. Wah. Not a miracle.

Once I got walking, the subtle signs of Texas Christmas began to appear. First, there was a Christmas cholla. That’s pretty obvious.

Then I found our one holly plant, a possumhaw (deciduous holly).

Cheerful berries.

So, how much more holiday greenery could I find? Of course, mistletoe!

I brought it home but no one will stand under it. Correction: Lee is willing.
Continue reading “Have Yourself a Hermits’ Rest-y Christmas”

The Mystery Fig

Allow me to return to the original purpose of this blog, which was to document my nature observations and Master Naturalist activities. I want to share that I finally solved our Bobcat Lair fruit mystery.

For a few weeks we’ve been seeing these weird fruits in the road and in the grass near our house. Anita and the neighbors had been baffled. A plant identification mystery!

What the heck?

Finally, last week, Anita and neighbor Angela determined that they were coming from across the street from us, where new owners had recently trimmed back some overgrown shrubbery. That’s been letting more fruit be seen. And it appeared to be coming from…a cedar (Ashe juniper) tree?

Tree is just to the right of the lights. We had never seen the porch lights on or Christmas lights here before recently.

Looking harder, at the tree we realized there was something non-juniper-esque in there, which we never could see before. Well, we couldn’t see the house, either.

There it is!

I took a photo of the fruit, which resembled a fig or a banana or a cashew to us. It was identified on iNaturalist as a snail. Nope. I posted to our chapter Facebook group and a couple people said a fig. But it didn’t feel like a fig.

The picture that looks a lot like a snail.

So, today I took more photos, including the leaves, by crawling in the neighbor yard. Hmm. That tree could be a big vine.

I also got more fruit and cut one open. Hey, there were lots and lots of tiny seeds in there! Like a fig. Okay, so I have fig and vine.

The inside. Spongy pulp and teeny seeds.

I uploaded all my photos, and finally found a match. And it’s both a fig and a vine.

It doesn’t always have small leaves.

This seems to be a weird plant. It often has tiny leaves, but also parts with large leaves. I think the one across the street has both. (Look at what’s growing on the tree trunk above.) And those weird pulpy fruit! They are not like figs you eat. And they are in the mulberry family?

I looked into it more. Mulberries are a big family. So is ficus. Breadfruit is also one. Here’s more from Wikipedia (donate to them) about our new figgy friend:

But what the heck is a liana? I have a friend named Liana…what is she named for? It’s a woody, bridgy viney thing.

Do any of you know more about these plants? Interesting, huh?

Ranching, Hay, Art, Friends

Well, what more can you want besides all those things (figuratively)? What this all means is that the late afternoon and early evening were a fun and fulfilling time. I’m so glad to be back in familiar surroundings!

No wonder we’re having fun, we got to see a bottle tree!

What’s going on is that, since Apache has to stay in the small paddock while he heals up, we need to give him and Fiona hay every day. We’ve gone through most of the hay we got over at Cindy and Don’s ranch, so my friend Pamela had some square bales made for me last time her fields got hayed.

There’s the hay field beyond the fence.

Of course, all that happened while none of our family were at the ranch, so it took a while to actually go get our stuff. Yesterday, though, was the day! We knew a rare rain was scheduled for today, so we made time to head over to her house and pick it up.

Where old equipment goes to rest until a creative re-use is found.

We spent a lot of the time just enjoying the beauty of Pamela’s property, which isn’t far from ours, basically there’s our hill, and hers is the next one over, on the other side of the highway, with a river bottom in between. The views are just beautiful, so there was a lot of enjoyment and discussion of hayfield maintenance techniques.

Lots and lots of hay.

It turned out they hadn’t made that many actual square bales, but it was fun picking them up. Lee’s brother drove the truck from bale to bale, while the rest of us picked them up and loaded them. I actually got pretty good at the loading and had a lot of fun marching along the fields. It was a great way to get exercise and enjoy the outdoors.

The hay we got from the field

We also got a bit of hay from a previous harvest, which we will use first, since we don’t want to give Apache any delicious fresh hay, due to his delicate constitution.

Ruby the hound enjoys all the space to run around (artsy photo, huh)

After we were finished, we had a great conversation about hay, art installations, and cattle grazing principles. It was great to be able to talk to Pamela in person, since we were outdoors and distanced.

Discussing cattle rotation principles

On the way home, I followed the guys back to the ranch. Naturally, a bale fell off. And, of course it fell smack dab in the middle of the bridge over Walker’s Creek, where a vehicle coming in either direction would hit it, in the dark. I was able to drag it off the bridge (it’s much harder to lift baling wire with no gloves) until the truck and trailer could come back to get it.

Just before we left, the sun in the trees was particularly beautiful.

As we were putting the hay away (especially one bale that had burst), we made a bit of noise with the pickup, which concerned Ralph. That way, we also got a chance to chat with him about wild hogs and the humane way of disposing of them. A fun evening was had by all, and we were darned tired when we got home!

It was this dark when we were finally done.

Snacky Hawky Time

Yesterday was my last day in the Austin office for a while. There were at most three other people on my floor today, so it was pretty darned quiet. At least no one breathed on me!

The excitement started when I was getting ready to go home. I had decided to walk the parking garage for a little exercise, for old times’ sake, and just started out when I heard all sorts of commotion, consisting of upset bird chirps, upset squirrel sounds and the unmistakable call of a red-shouldered hawk.

I ran to the side of the garage that looks over the courtyard and saw a lot of wings, flapping, and screeching. I followed the sounds of the hawk (certainly not a subtle hunter) to the oak tree next to last year’s nest. There he or she sat, triumphantly pecking away at whatever creature got caught in all that commotion.

Allow me to screech about my current meal.

I’m not sure, but I think it was one of the squirrels. I couldn’t get a good enough photo to tell for sure, since the sun was at an awkward angle. It certainly appeared to be a satisfactory snack.

I’m trying to hide over here. Go away.

I hung around a while to see what all the bird sounds were. I saw a mockingbird, what appeared to me to be a nuthatch, and some really pretty birds with red on them, but I’m not sure what they were. I wish I always had binoculars!

The other thing I saw all over the courtyard were these masses of leaves in the trees, mostly the cedar elms, but others as well.

There are dozens and dozens of these clumps of leaves.

I knew they just weren’t leaves the trees had shed, because they are stuck on their really well, no matter how windy it gets or anything. I figured there must be an insect or something in there, so I looked closer.

Aha, webs.

Sure enough, it’s webs that are holding the masses of leaves together. I wonder what it is? I’ve gone with fall webworm moths on iNaturalist, but am patiently waiting to see if that’s verified. If it is, we’re in for a lot of pretty moths at some point.

I’m so glad to have this oasis of nature right next to the building where I work in Austin. I often give silent thanks to whoever preserved this little bit of nature and added so many native plants to the courtyard to make it a wonderful respite for so many people. I miss my desk with a view of the hawk nest, squirrel nests, and birds.

And now, back to Cameron, where I shall avoid germs like…um…the plague.