I Discovered Something!

It’s been a great day, for many reasons, and a great weekend. We took Apache out again today, and he was his old self again! He and Spice were very brave when they came upon some people building a new gate between our two pastures.

This is as close as the horses would get.

But they had fun. Fiona kept plopping down and rolling whenever she found dirt.

The flies are bothering me.

I also had fun seeing things this weekend. One is that I see signs that I wasn’t mistaken, we DO have a loggerhead shrike this year. I didn’t see one last year, and I was bummed. Today I saw lots and lots of insects impaled on our fence, though!

Plus! I’m very happy to share that another chicken started laying. Her first egg is pinkish and has little blue spots! On the other hand, Hedley, the one that lays white eggs, has started spending a LOT of time in the nest box. She did lay today, but if she’s gone broody I’m just giving her three eggs and letting her go for it.

The new one is on the bottom. Cute!

I also found two new and interesting insects. First is the extremely cool Beelzebub Bee Killer Mallophora leschenaulti, which is a type of robber fly. This things is huge, loud, and intimidating. I saw two yesterday and two today.

The other new insect is what I’m excited about. It turns out that my entry of the Long-jawed Longhorn Beetle Dendrobias mandibularis is the first one Milam county and the farthest north it’s been seen.

I’m the first!

Also, this is one of the most beautiful insects I’ve ever seen. So colorful!

Look at those antennae! And it’s so shiny!

I’ve been waiting to finally see something new and different to share on iNaturalist and I finally did! I feel so scientific.

Enter Here for Surprises and Adventures

Hmm, the adventures thing may be exaggerated a bit, but I did get a new gate to go from our part of the property to the rest of the ranch. In addition, Chris smoothed all the dirt that had been disturbed when running the water line, and did a bit of grading, too. The chicken house area looks marvelous.

It’s all smooth now. At the rate the Bermuda grass grows, it will be covered in a week to ten days. Notice the feathers on the ground, which I mentioned in my previous post. It’s your fault, Bruce.

The highlight of the day was seeing this big gate that swings open mightily and allows me to easily head to see the horses. We had the gate already, so it didn’t cost anything. It’s very sturdy on the hinge side, since Chris drilled a big ole bolt through the roof support pillar. The other side is only temporary. The fencing project is not done, but at lease those of us who have to go into that pasture can do it easily (thus, Jim could drive the riding mower over the the horses to mow this morning).

I can now go from here to there without crawling under a fence or climbing over a fence and nearly knocking it over.

The entire family was pretty giddy about getting the new fence, as Lee shows here.

That man cracks me up. And there’s Alfred before I pulled those clumps of hair out.

Surprises and Adventures

I’ve used the new gate to go visit the horses twice already. Last night, I went to join Sara to feed them, and I got quite a surprise. In the field where the 18 cows should be, there were just three cows, each with a little white baby.

Who the heck are they?

These are not the 18s. First, they were afraid of me. Second, their ear tags were in the left ear, not the right. Um, where were my friendly cow buddies? Where was 18-1, bravest calf ever?

As I walked up to the barn, the Vrazels were driving by. They warned me of another surprise, a large cow and her newborn calf were in the pens. I said, hey, um, where are the 18s? Tyler laughed and laughed. “They’re in Oklahoma!”

Oklahoma? Yep, they sold them all and trucked them off when I was at work one day. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. Cattle ranching. Not for the sentimental. I am sure they got a HUGE payday out of those young cows, all of whom were due to calve in November. But still. Sniff.

On I went, and sure enough, there was a very large red Angus cow with a very small and shiny black Angus calf. I blurted out, “Hi, Sprinkles,” and Sara asked if I had to name everything. I guess I do. In any case, Sprinkles is cute as can be, and seems to have recovered from being sick and needing to be penned up. Mama, on the other hand, was mostly pissed off.

Sprinkles and I would like to leave, now.

She mooed and snorted and ran around until we left.

This morning, I came back to do some horse fun, around 9 am. It was NOT hot outside! But, dew drenched my shoes, since I wore the wrong ones. Sprinkles and Mama were still there. Between Sara’s dogs and Lakota having the utter gall to stand quietly tied to the gate, she was in a huff.

Lakota just stood there and ignored her. A real quarter horse! We proceeded head off down the race, to see how Apache would do. Sara rode Lakota, who plodded along like a livery stable horse and was generally uninterested in anything. I led Apache (hope to get riding permission soon). Here’s where it became and adventure, the good kind.

We walked all the way down the race, the place where he was refusing to ride earlier, and the place where he has been all nervous and pushy when we walked for the past month or two. Today, Apache walked beside me, not in front of me and not behind me. He stayed about two feet away from me. He did stop to get a mouthful of grass, but started right back up, every time. He did not crowd into me. He did not try to turn around. He did not rush ahead, or refuse to move forward.

He completely ignored all the “scary” parts of the path where there are big ruts. The scary tree got a nod. When all of the 19 heifers came thundering over to check us out and walk along with us, he and Lakota both looked at them, then kept going. The giant bull didn’t phase them. DAMN!

Sara and Lakota, with Fiona-bomb.

We then went on out to the big pasture where it floods (the bottom). We all walked and looked at stuff. Sara’s dogs came along, and no horse paid the least bit of attention. Even Fiona didn’t dawdle and pitch a fit. She followed right behind us cheerfully. Every time we went through a gate, everyone was fine. Even when Jim drove by on the lawn mower, they just stopped and looked for a minute.

WHO WERE THESE ANIMALS AND WHERE DID MY JUMPY HORSE GO?

I have no clue. Sara and I tried to figure out what was different. Well, we had Lakota instead of Spice…but Apache likes Spice. It was morning, not afternoon. He wasn’t starving. That’s all we could come up with. My attitude is the same (I am pretty calm even when he’s jumpy, to try to keep him calm).

We’re just in a good mood. What can we say?

I’m just going to have to accept that we had a wonderful morning, got lots of exercise, and ALL enjoyed ourselves (even Lakota, I think). I look forward to more of this kind of adventure and these kinds of surprises (but I do hope Sprinkles and his Mama go back to the pasture soon; she didn’t enjoy Sara and me pulling up some grass burs right next to the pen, either).

I hope you have some bright spots in your weekend!

Let’s Talk Chicken Feet and Dog Fur

Yes, whenever one of my personal heroes passes away, I reach out to my animal companions for comfort and distraction. I will say that while Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg may be gone, her spirit will inspire generations to come. This I know.

But, before that surprise hit me, right at sunset that signaled the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, I had been thinking about how things are sometimes right in front of you, but you don’t really see them.

Happy New Year to my Jewish friends. Pomegranate grown around the corner from my office.

That leads me to chicken feet. I guess I originally thought that all chicken feet were alike, with claws, nails, and a spur sometimes. Then I read that some have more toes than others. Hmm, that made me look at my chickens.

Bertie Lee has pink feet. They are close to the color of light-skinned humans.

All mine have three front toes and one in back, but then I realized they were lots of different colors.

Patty, who by the way, lays large brown eggs, has bright yellow feet.

I figured they’d mostly have gray legs, but that was not at all true. However, the black and gray hens do have gray legs. Too bad I never got any good photos of those hens’ feet.

And Bruce, who would not pose, has gray legs.

The pinkish lets are pretty common. Fancy Pants and Hedley’s are pink.

Yellow legs come in a variety of colors. I found it interesting that the two Welsummers have different shades of yellow in their legs. By the way, I have good news that Buttercup is walking almost normally now, so I think she’s gonna make it and be able to join the flock in a few weeks, along with Butternut! I wonder if her legs are pale because she’s not as robust? Henley, the Ancona who didn’t make it, had a very pale comb her whole life, compared to Hedley.

And finally, I guess red chickens can have red legs, because Clarence’s legs have a lot of red in them. They are also HUGE compared to the other chickens. He’s a big brute.

So, next time you see a chicken, see if it has healthy and bright feet or pale sickly ones. And if you see a guinea fowl, they might have mixed feet like Gertie:

I have fancy feet. I’d also like some more watermelon.

This leads me (awkwardly) to all the debris around the ranch right now. All the chicken mating activity means there are feathers everywhere. It’s not a gentle activity! But, not all that flutters in the wind around the area is chicken feathers.

Why, whatever could you be referring to?

It’s once again Alfred shedding season. Or maybe it always is. But, his coat is all clumpy and puffy, and the dog hair balls rolling through the house are even more numerous than usual (yes, we clean them up; they come back). Yesterday, though, he was in one of his extra loving moods and kept following me around wanting to be petted. And he let me do this!

There’s more where that came from!

He let me get hair from his hips, his neck, his chest, and EVEN his belly. He rolled over and let me pluck! Usually you get about two minutes’ worth of plucking before he goes away, but last night he was great and stuck around until I was tired! He let me hug him and tell him he was a good boy.

There, that nonsense distracted me a little. More later.

A Fitting Tribute for a Fine Cow

You may remember that I wrote about how the Queen of the Wild Type Ranch herd, R45, had started going downhill, so she had to be harvested. She had led a long life for a cow, giving birth to fine calves and leading her herdmates for a decade and a half.

I was a great cow. I enjoyed my long and pleasant life.

I mentioned at the end of the article that her beef was not going to be sold, but rather donated. Yesterday, the Cameron Herald had a front page article about where the beef was going, to the local food pantry, all 400 pounds of it. Half will be handed out now, and the other half at Thanksgiving time.

If I were a cow, I’d be honored to know that I contributed nutritious meals for hungry people. She lived a good life and and had an honorable passing. Her memory will live on, which is quite something, for a cow.

Thanks to Sara and Ralph for coming up with this idea, and for inviting other local ranchers to consider doing the same.

Fancy Ranch with Water

It’s been fun to see how our new water lines are going in. Chris sure can drive heavy machinery.

Don’t fill in our dirt!

I’m happy to see a new water spigot for the chickens’ water. The water trough got moved and cleaned, too. Where it is now, the chickens in both pens can drink from it, so I won’t have to maintain separate bowls when I’ve got young or sick ones, like now.

Yep, a faucet. Now it is attached to the water trough, and I’ll get a picture tomorrow.

There’s a faucet for horse washing and other such deeds, then there’s an outlet where a big water trough will be.

Where the trough will be.

Eventually there will be another outlet for separate horse watering. There will be happy animals out here!

The other faucet.

Chris has been out all night trying to finish the job. He’s gonna be tired tomorrow! I sure appreciate the huge improvements!

I’m keeping an eye on him, says the big porch toad.

It turns out he wanted to get the trench covered back up before the rain we expect tomorrow. Smart thinking, but exhausting.

Now It’s Chicken Heaven

Today Chris and his dad did a lot of work on a new water line for the chicken coop and new barn area. That required digging a trench.

Chickens like freshly dug dirt, a lot. Not only is it fun to explore, it has new and exciting bugs in it.

Carlton wanted to help. the blue stuff is the future water line.

Every time I checked on them today, they were all excitedly climbing around.

One good thing about the water being cut off is that I had to fill the chicken water in the garage. That gave me a chance to scrub the water dishes. I think they liked it.

Like the chickens, Rip and the new heifers also explored their new territory a lot. The other bull calves ate and ate. Eventually the new gals figured out where the cubes are and came up to the pen, but it was too dark for a photo. But I got portraits.

Everything is back in working order at the chicken coop. I even got the distressed fake rooster upright and out of the way.

Fake Rooster is guardian of the Wellsummer girls.

I wish everyone had a pet, wild animal, or other natural phenomenon to watch and enjoy. It sure makes these uneasy times easier to bear.

The beautiful Sapphire.

Poor Underprivileged Dogs Get Toys

I wrote this last night but fell asleep before I could publish it. I already post too much, so this is good.

I admit it. We don’t give the ranch dogs very many official dog toys. That’s because up until now, an expensive toy for hard-chewing dogs usually lasts about ten minutes (we DO have a rope toy that’s lasted a long time).

These two and a tennis ball are the hardy survivors.

But, yesterday I felt so bad for them, knowing three toys had been sitting on the counter since the last time I got home from Austin. I tossed each dog a toy, and fun ensued. Penney immediately took the gator outside.

Today I was surprised to see all three toys still in good shape, and all in the house. It’s been fun watching them play. They’re all a bit more gentle than they used to be. Penney kept chewing that gator, but eventually Carlton got ahold of it and slowly but surely got the crinkles out.

I’m in no hurry.

Meanwhile, Harvey fell in love with a toy that’s all the parts of a hamburger on a stretchy string. He really wanted the burger part, but every time he used his paw to get at it, the parts would slip and he’d get a face full of burger parts.

I’m gonna destroy this, yes I am.

Eventually he gave up and just held it, adoringly, between his feet.

My Love Burger

A little later, I looked down and he was holding it in his sleep. That is so NOT Harvey. He never cared for toys one way or another.

As the evening went on, the toys were traded around. Neither Carlton nor Penney could destroy the burger, and they didn’t like the blue blob much. Harvey switch allegiance to the partially eaten gator.

I feel disloyal to my burger.

Penney cane sniffing around, so he then hid the toy! This really made us laugh.

Gator? What gator? Just this ball of stuffing here, that’s all.

After dinner (we made turkey!), Penney finally disemboweled the gator, while Harvey and Carlton played together with the burger. Wow. Dogs acting like normal dogs! Not destroying toys instantly!

Maybe I’ll get them more toys. It did help to have multiples. Much less fighting.

Can’t Save Them All

I do love nature. But I admit to making a couple of creatures go away today. First, I went to make myself a cup of coffee at the office. As I began to pour creamer into the cup, something moved. It was a quite large American cockroach. Here’s how I knew what it was:

That’s one I saw at the old church.

I am very proud. I just made a little noise. That’s a far cry from my Florida childhood roach phobia (they would get in my bed). I simply took the cup and dumped the roach into the garbage can. So proud. But then I couldn’t get the bag out of the can, so I just set the whole shebang outside. Someone else can deal with it!

Meanwhile, I noticed a jumping spider on the windowsill. It was posing for me, and had lovely markings.

Pantropical jumping spider.

Of course it moved out of the sun into shadow before I could get a picture. Nor could I get a photo from the top. Anyway, I left that one to catch bugs.

When I got home and was reading The Overstory (yes, I’m actually gonna finish it), I got a text from Meghan, who had been feeding Rip the calf. Meghan does not “do” spiders. Her text had a photo of this:

Well, hello Mama, nice egg sac.

I can just imagine that poor woman when she saw that black widow, right on the fence near the hay, where both she and Jim go all the time as they feed the calves together. Eek!

So, much as I love Nature’s creatures, I felt compelled to bring out the spider spray. I don’t feel safe with them all around our ranch community! I keep picturing the horrible scar Granny Kendall had from a black widow bite.

Rip and Buster don’t want spider bites, either.

I found four nests, which are now former nests. My guess is there are plenty more out there, so I haven’t sent black widows to the brink of extinction. I’ll atone for the deaths somehow.

Human-Animal Connection

I’m baffled sometimes about how humans managed to connect so deeply with some other animals.

Fiona wanted to see my sister so badly this evening that she barged into the hay area just to be near her. Why? She’s full of love and wanted to share? I don’t know. But I do know equines sense our feelings.

95% love, 5% sass.

And tonight, though I want to go to sleep, I can’t move, because two dogs are glued to me. They’ve done this all weekend, perhaps somehow sensing I could use some comfort.

Carlton is on both of my legs. Penney is glued to the right one.

Yep. There’s a real connection between humans and animals. Even the chickens! It’s made my life better.

Do you have any stories?

Mad as a Wet Hen?

I was a bit worried about how the chickens were going to do in all this rain, as I mentioned earlier, so I made a shelter inside the pullet house for the two who like to hide and covered the cage in there.

Star and Henley check out my sad little shelter. Henley likes to hide in enclosed areas, but her cardboard box died in the rain.
The hens can still roost on top, but they can have more shelter if they want it. Meanwhile, Sapphire is relieved to have some dry food.

I really was wondering if they’d drown or something, especially with the way the skies looked all day.

Looking to the east.

However, every time I look outside, I see them roaming all over the place, delighting in all the new bugs the rain has served up. Usually the black hens stay close to the henhouse, but today they were all way out in the field. Still, when I called, they hauled butt to see me.

This is later, after I came back with more food. They come quickly!

So, none of the wet hens seem mad at all. The roosters are happy, too! Like Chris said, they’re just chickens. But, if I want to pamper them, I can, right (if you count piling tin roof materials up as pampering)?

It’s too muddy in the back of the pen, so I gave them fresh food at the front.

It was also raining like crazy when I went to the horses, so they get grass for dinner again. At least the calves are fine. They have a nice shelter. Too bad not everyone likes their accommodations.

“I still want to be in the pullet house, dammit.” Poor Patty.