The good news is I feel better today. I was even able to ride Drew. Taking it easy was a good idea.
I had a lot to do today but nothing too stressful. After our weekly friends’ lunch, Anita came over to get the Red House ready for guests while I did a bunch of meetings. It’s nice to hang out. And after work, we sat on the porch, taking advantage of the sunshades.
I did scare a big moth while I was sweeping the porch. It’s beautiful.
After this peaceful break, all I had to do was hang out with my friends the horses and chickens, then float around in my pool of dreams.
Kathleen and I even saw another one of those cool spider wasps dragging along a hapless wolf spider. It must be wasp breeding season.
It’s really a relief to have a lull with no stress or drama. Even Lee had a good day! We are going to all enjoy the pleasant and peaceful lull while it lasts.
Someone told me last week that they just couldn’t understand how I’m able to observe so many things around me and have time to document it. I’d never thought about it being a challenge. It’s just what I do. And I find it so rewarding and fun to keep learning about life around me.
So, in true formulaic blogger fashion, I’m going to list ways that you, too, can become a nature blogger (or at least a nature noticer).
1. Look where you’re going, up and down. When I lived in suburban Brushy Creek, near Round Rock, I always took long walks through my neighborhood, long before there were the great trails they have now. I tried to get my housemate, Jeff, to come along. He said it was boring, just going by those same houses every day. That flummoxed me. For me, I saw something different every day. The seasons changed, different flowers bloomed, birds flew by…but you had to look. Literally, there’s always something interesting to look at if you make an effort.
2. Record what you see. I never go outside without my phone, because invariably there will be something I want to remember, even if I’m just checking the mail or gathering eggs. It takes a little practice to get good phone photos, and if you read this blog, you’ll know some of my images aren’t great, but they document what I’ve seen and let me look up more information.
3. Educate yourself. The reason I took the Master Naturalist class in 2018 was that I wanted to know more about where I live. This way I know what’s normal for this area and what’s unique. I learned how to use iNaturalist to narrow down what I see and to get more from Wikipedia and other sources. Just using the ID function on your phone or a simple identification app will quickly teach you what you’re likely to see and what to look out for.
4. Use all your senses. Listening for birds, butterflies, grasshoppers, and frogs helps a lot in knowing what’s around you. I wish there was a Merlin Frog ID app and a similar one for crickets and other insects. I hear them but only can ID a few frogs. And don’t forget the sense of smell! I know when rain lilies are out before I see them, and I’ve mentioned how lovely the aroma of bluebonnets and white clover can be!
5. Write it down or log it somehow. You’ll never remember all the things you see. That’s why I upload my photos to iNaturalist and add notes. It’s also really why I blog. I want to remember the stories behind where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, and how it affects me. I have a record of how the weather changes and what new things pop up. A notebook or journal is another great option. You can log the temperature and make art, like the afghan I’m making, or keep records of rainfall through the years like my husband does. It’s fascinating to analyze.
6. Keep at it. That’s the key. The longer you make the effort to observe the world around you, make a record of what you’ve seen, and written up notes, the more you’ll have to compare, the easier it will be to identify who shares this world with you, and the more likely you are to want to care for the planet that cares for you.
Well, that’s what I think. I’m glad I got to get out a little today and look around. I’ve not been feeling well for a few days, so I’ve been taking it easy. I’ve got plans to help me handle the heat better than I did over the weekend! Now enjoy the outcome of my observations today, of the ranch in late spring.
I can answer today’s blog prompt easily, because it fits in so well with what I wanted to talk about, anyway. If you didn’t already know this about me, I’ll tell you what I do that brings me joy: it’s discovering new things about the nature around me. Today was a great example.
Today I’d intended to relax and recover from yesterday, but the life around here kept pulling me in. I’ve been careful where I go lately, since scorpions appear to be this year’s plague. I found one in my bath towel, then one in an outdoor chair cushion, and finally one out in the grass, where they should be. That didn’t bring much joy, though.
What brought me great joy today were two discoveries. First, I found a plant I’d never noticed before!
It’s tiny! I know I’ve seen the plant, but never these beautiful flowers. I was extra disappointed to see it has no Wikipedia article. It appears to be native to the southwestern US and northern Mexico. I just adore it’s secret beauty.
The second nature observation came when Anita and I were sitting by the pool drinking wine, since I was too tired to cook a big dinner. Anita said something like what the hell is that, and I looked over to see a weird creature.
We quickly realized it was a wasp dragging a large wolf spider. It was making progress, too. At one point the wasp left, so I could get good photos of them separately. The first thing I did was find out what kind of wasp it was. I knew it was pretty, with a striped abdomen and blue-black wings.
Well, duh, it was a spider wasp! I looked deeper into these wasps (so glad I had my phone right there) and found out this was a female wasp, and that these wasps prey on large wolf spiders. They take them to their nests, which are shallow depressions in the dirt, and lay their eggs in the spider. Mmm.
Anita said I should get a video, so I did, forgetting to turn the camera sideways. The link is on Facebook because I can’t get it to load here. But it’s cool to see how fast the wasp drags the spider and how she climbs stairs with it. We were glad when she finally found the edge of the patio!
That was really fun. Besides that, we got to see a great blue heron right in the other side of the fence, and, right after I played the call of the yellow billed cuckoo for Anita, one flew over and made its call. I hope it hadn’t heard me.
I had other fun with domestic animals, too. The chickens were something else. Sigh. I found a small mouse in their feed, so I got it in a cup and tossed it outside, thinking I’d done a good deed. Oops. I looked out the door and realized Buttercup had instantly pounced on it. Who needs a cat, right?
In a cuter chicken anecdote, I was hanging out with Bertie Lee, the smartest chicken, and she drank out of my cup of water. I love watching them drink. She won’t let me pet her, but Billie Idyll will. They are all so different!
The horses were glad I was home and back into our normal routine. I found them conferring about it today.
Apache wasn’t even grumpy from working so hard yesterday! That brought me joy, too.
As I mentioned yesterday, there was a horse show for our Working Horse Central. It was the Summer Sizzler and lived up to its name. A bit humid and hot for some of us delicate flowers, but really not all that bad.
It was a great show with many participants, including a good number of youngsters. They really did great, even when their horses weren’t cooperating. And one young woman was kind enough to lead and help out most of them. This really impressed me. That girl will be a good trainer in the future.
Apache and I did the best we’ve ever done, according to Sara. I was annoyed that I messed up the pattern in Functionality. I know we could have done better, but we each did our best. Apache did better on the Trail part, though I messed up the flag carry and he knocked over some blocks and really didn’t like the gate. Oh well. We did great trotting! Not great form or aids, but we improved.
We don’t have any pictures of me and Apache yet, because no one other than Tarrin’s son took any (Sara was helping me during the last two parts). But I took some of her. And I’m glad I did, because she and Aragorn did their best performance ever.
After their first event, I had goosebumps. It was so beautiful. She and Aragorn even got blue ribbons for this performance, over our much more experienced friend. We are all thrilled for her! Of course, our friend also did well and it was great to watch her and her horse, too. And her show outfit, which is all Spanish.
The whole time was impressive. All the horses and riders have made great progress. I was so happy to see this. Tarrin told everyone this, too. It helped me see that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself!
There ended up only being two entries in our class, because another friend wasn’t feeling well and the heat would not have helped a bit. So, we’re number two this time! I don’t mind at all, because Jackie and Jambo did great. It’s so fun to watch them together.
It was a fun day other than the heat making me a bit emotional for no good reason. I’m so glad we have our community of Tarrin’s students to support each other and grow together! I feel very lucky for myself and my horses.
Our poor horses were certainly glad to get home. They looked pretty good, since we’d wet them down nicely before we left. I had so much nice bonding time with Apache, since he got a bit bored and agitated by himself. He was doing everything I asked of him, so it was the least I could do to walk him around and let him nibble some grass. And hey, he didn’t break any more of my toes; he just stomped on his bridle. Good boy.
Here are a few random photos from the day. I hope some make you smile.
This afternoon my neighbor Sara and I managed to pack all our luggage as well as our horses’ luggage, and brought Apache and Aragorn up to the Watts Way arena for the summer Working Horse Central show. Yes, we know it’s technically spring. It sure is hot and humid right now, so all the hay toting and equipment wrangling made me sweat.
We had a very pleasant drive up to the Brennan, Texas area, and easily got our horses set up in their stalls. I’m really glad for the collapsible wagon I now have. The air was so still that we sweated here, too. I was glad when Sara’s friend, Kate, bathed her beautiful stallion, so I could enjoy the spray.
Kate left to go have dinner, so Sara is looking after Volem, the white stallion. We decided our guys needed a treat, so we took them for a walk in a pasture that was recently hayed. It was so peaceful.
Aragorn and Apache munched on grass, and Sara and I enjoyed looking at the beautiful horses here. Three were very curious about our guys, and it was fun watching them running around.
It was so relaxing to be in a quiet, very well cared for space. I think both the horses and humans relaxed!
We are lucky to be staying at the little apartment on the grounds. It’s almost as nice as the RV, plus Lee doesn’t have to waste a day!We’ve enjoyed the view and all the amenities, which I hope will allow us to do our best tomorrow!
What a pleasant day. I’m grateful to be able to do this with all my horse friends! I feel well prepared. Let’s hope Apache does, too.
Well, that’s an exaggeration for sure. But hey, I did find one plant volunteering on the fence line next to where the chickens used to be. It’s a squash! Now I just hope no one gets it with the weed eater.
My other “crop” is a potato that’s growing where I put some old ones to add to compost. We will see if anything grows. At least it’s something green. I have such bad luck growing things here.
My only other crop is my poor asparagus. It got weedeaten. I can’t blame our helper; it’s in with a bunch of annoying native plants (weeds) and some sorta edible native plants we don’t eat. That’s because all my plants failed. But look at it! It’s coming back. I’m going to put my weird tomato stakes on my volunteer and hidden crops so the kind people who take care of the yard will know what’s not a weed.
That’s what I have for you today. I’m tired from training people at work, from waking up extra early, and four hours of horse stuff in the sun. All this was fun, though. The horses are making me proud, and I’m figuring out lots of the things I need to work on! I’m looking forward to a weekend show and learning more. Check out these running boys. Tarrin worked them HARD, but she hosed them off later.
Happy trails! And look, Apache is showing good form!
I did promise to finish writing up my trip to Pedernales Falls State Park. Gosh, I hope you like wildflowers and scenery and stinky insects. I had lots of energy for hiking/looking at plants, thanks to sleeping so well. Ahh. Total darkness and no barking or licking makes for great sleep.
So, once I woke up on Sunday morning, had my coffee, and analyzed bird songs (so many vireos), I took off for the other nearby trails. First, I took the Coyote Crossing trail, which led deep into a very humid woodland area and crossed a mostly dry creek that feeds into the river.
There were many interesting fungi, ferns, and vines in the moist environment. I also got to see a ladder back woodpecker. Mostly I enjoyed the deep green solitude.
Once past that trail the scenery was very different, with seemingly endless swaths of black-eyed Susans and their friends. There were lots of new flowers there, and I had one of those “Linda Jo moments” when I got practically giddy over plants. But I didn’t have a fellow Master Naturalist to exclaim to!
The next trail was the one that led to the swimming area of the river. I must admit I forgot there was a river to go to, because I was so mesmerized by the flowers. The trail went down steep steps. Every time I stopped I said to myself that THESE were the prettiest flowers I ever saw.
And there were so many butterflies that I felt like Snow White in the meadow. They were flitting all around me. It was magical!
I finally got to the river, and was happy to see it wasn’t crowded. There were just a few families wading around and playing, plus a woman with a big dog.
Eventually I turned to go back, stopping to photograph lizards and more flowers. I let the family with the dog pass me on their way up, then encountered the dad resting halfway up. I said something about taking it slow because I was a naturalist, and we got to talking about his interest in foraging. Talking to them made me not even notice the steep climb! Finally, someone was interested in my blathering.
They left to take a bathroom break and I headed back along the road, where I found some phlox and other plants that like sand.
The family drove by and asked if I would like a ride back, and to be honest, that sounded good. So I joined them. They said they were thinking of driving to the big falls, and invited me along. I’m glad they did. It was a ways down the road.
We had a fun walk to the falls. The best part was when I saw a dung beetle rolling a ball of poop across the path. Carl (the dad) got all excited, because he didn’t know we had them in Texas. That got the two boys and the wife excited, too. She took movies and we had a grand time watching the beetles while all sorts of people passed us, probably thinking we were weird. But it was educational!
We finally made it to the overlook, and it was gorgeous. We saw a wedding party, too. We were all too tired to go down to the river, but they were going to go Monday morning. I was fine just looking down. The photos don’t do it justice, for sure.
And that’s about it for adventures. The rest of the day we sat outside a lot and went in to watch movies. I don’t know what to think about the Legion of Superheroes movie. They did stay pretty true to the characters…but it was nowhere near as good as Ant Man and the Wasp. Marvel does make a good movie.
I was glad to get home on Monday, but sure enjoyed my wallows in nature. I needed that rejuvenation. Of course, there’s plenty of nature here. Just look at the baby birds in a nest on our back door!
Speaking of storms, one showed up out of the blue yesterday and dumped a ton of rain in a short time. It was full of thunder and lightning. The dogs were NOT thrilled, and since I was the only one in the house, all five indoor dogs clustered around me. Penney and Carlton were under my desk. Harvey was beside my chair. Alfred was standing on the other side of the chair panting into my face. At least Goldie just stayed on “her” couch.
Eventually, Penney wormed her way into my lap and did that unbearable wiggling and trying to squirm up to the top of my head, or inside me. I’m not sure what her intent is, but it’s hairy, hot, and whiny. Thank goodness I discovered the guys were stranded in the garage so I “had” to take them umbrellas. That allowed the dogs to distribute themselves among three people. Whew.
And oh yes, I’ve had my dose of cuteness. look at Jhayati! She’s so soft! And like my dad, she’s never met a stranger. Sara is in love. I’m pretty thrilled, too.
Todays blog prompt made me lol. Do I have any collections? Afraid so. And it started early. Heck I still have some of the first things I ever collected, porcelain horses from my grandfather, as I mentioned recently.
I come by this honestly. I love sorting and categorizing things, as did my mom. I guess it kept me out of trouble as a kid! I was so busy organizing piggy banks, making card catalogs for my books and lining up my Hot Wheels cars that there was no time to get in trouble.
So, I declare that collections are healthy and only a problem when you think they’re a problem. No, I’m not a minimalist.
I have collected things with pansies on them for decades. They still make me smile. Mom loved pansies. Mom also had some cool purple glass stuff. I recently shared my purple glass window in the bathroom. Here are teacups.
And there are still more horse statues. And rocks. And nail polish (I need to stop that one). And books, yarn, crystal, wine corks, dogs, horses, ugh. Too much. It makes me happy, sparks joy, or whatever.
If my collections become a problem later in life, I’m sure someone else will enjoy them when they go thrifting. It’s fine with me.
The vet came today. This is our annual reminder that having lots of animals is very expensive. But I’m glad we can avoid certain illnesses, know the dogs don’t have heart worms, and soon will know the horses passed their annual Coggins test.
The dogs were better than usual. That’s not saying much, since four had to be sedated. Goldie had a great time and volunteered to go back in the trailer numerous times, even though she got bonus shots for allergies and her leg sore she won’t stop licking.
Penney, the unstable one, managed to get her shots like a big girl. Harvey still growled through sedation, Alfred got real zonked, Vlassic had to be carried into the trailer, and Carlton was quite a challenge to catch. He even ran off while sedated. But they all did it!
I was too busy helping to take horse photos, but they were troopers, even when the assistant was learning to take blood and give shots. She did great! Mabel was deemed too thin, Apache was too fat, and the other two were just right. I’m glad to get that taken care of for another year.
Lee is probably right. I don’t just sit often enough. I’m always jumping up to do something, like take a picture or pull weeds. Indoors, I have to read or knit. I want to learn how to just sit more.
I did get some practice today, though. First, some of our old outdoor furniture got delivered to the Red House this afternoon. That’s because we will soon have new stuff! The back porch is great for relaxing and looking at flowers, while the front porch will be fun for watching the citizens of Cameron wandering around (one guy wandered by at least four times while I was working today).
I’m going to put red cushions on both the wooden benches, even though they’re the wrong shade of red. I washed them this evening.
This was good timing, since we have a paying guest this long weekend. I hope they like the outdoor options. They will get to enjoy lots of flowers, which Anita and I did after finishing work (me) and house cleaning (her). We just sat!
When I got home and finished chores, I decided to sit some more. I failed at first, because I remembered that pulling weeds was on my to-do list. So, I pulled most of the evil spurge out of the pool garden. Sigh. I’ve gotten everything else under control, but these sappy things are tenacious.
I even looked it (Euphorbia maculata) up on Wikipedia. No redeeming qualities other than being native. Sap causes rashes. Plant causes cancer. Geez. The tap roots can be two feet long! It’s sure hard to remove. But I got another section done, so I could sit with my beverage.
I ended up sitting for an hour! There were really happy bunnies frolicking over by the horse pens for a long time. It was so much fun watching them leap and run around. Plus I had good conversation with the family members who joined me. What a nice evening…just sitting a spell.
I hope you get at least a few minutes to just sit every so often!j
Today was a more encouraging day than many in the past few weeks have been. And I’m going to pay myself on the back, because twice today when people told me what a good job I’m doing, I didn’t say, “Aww shucks,” or downplay what I’ve done. I thanked them and agreed.
I finally was able to fit a horse lesson in today, after the mud dried up a bit. I enjoyed riding both horses a lot. All that time I’ve been spending with them has paid off. Even though Apache once again wasn’t thrilled at jumping, our riding was tons of fun. He’s so willing to do what I ask!
Tarrin did some ground work with him and helped him figure out his uncoordinated canter a bit. In the end she had him flying. I don’t know if he loved that, but he did love the nice hosing off he got as a reward for very hard work. We had a great time learning!
When Tarrin told me she was proud of how far we’ve come, I said thanks and did not try to downplay it. Nope. We HAVE improved. Compliment accepted.
Drew was also a lot of fun to work with today. Even though we each had some things to work harder on, the improvement in how we work together is sorta surprising. He’s getting to where I’m able to ride him confidently. Tarrin said we are getting close to being able to do shows. At first I doubted it, but then I could see what she meant. I accepted that praise.
When he and I were finished working on circles and trotting straight, Drew got to listen to Tarrin remind him of what he should be doing. He’s still a teen with opinions!
I’m going to now compliment my horses. For as much time as they’d spent in the mud and rain, they seem calmer and more eager to work than ever. They were great in the trailer, calm while waiting, and all-around good citizens. Hard work pays off. Knowing there will be ups and downs also pays off, though.
On the way home today, Lee repeated to me how impressed he is with what working with the horses has done for my confidence and mental health. I didn’t disagree. He’s right!
I didn’t want to write two blogs, so I’ll just stick this good news in here. Today on my walk, I heard “gobble gobble,” so I turned back towards the creek and found Tom here walking around eating bugs.
This was my first chance to really watch the turkey up close. I’m so glad we have them here again! My friends up North who have them everywhere don’t see why I’m so excited, but we didn’t have them here for a long time.
Even better news followed. As I was approaching our driveway, I saw something large walking down the road. It was another turkey! I think it was the hen, but I’m bot sure. I couldn’t get too close since I needed to go back to work.
Indeed, it was a good day for accepting praise and enjoying Nature’s surprises.