We Have Fence Poles

This is happy stuff! There are now poles in our stall area! Thank you, Mother Nature for a dry day!

The area near the shipping container. The square pole is part of our roof support.

There are a lot of holes to dig and concrete to pour, but it’s coming along! The big auger makes short work of the digging, but the concrete has to be poured by hand.

Posts are leaning because they are just sitting in big ole holes.

When I’m not working and working and working, I can help with the fencing, too. Some of the fence poles just have dirt in them, so I got to fill the holes back up with a weird hoe. Quite the manual laborer I am.

In front is a sturdy concrete post, behind is one I helped with.

However, I truly wish I’d been outside to see the big gate support go up. It must have been quite a sight! And quite a feat. No wonder I’m impressed with the new horse fencing!

That’s one fine gate support. I feel like we have a real ranch.

I’m looking forward to gates, some of which will be hand made, too. Wow. Apache and the cattle will have fancy digs.

I’m a fancy dog. In a tractor.

In Bug News

And as a postscript I have two cool insect photos to share. First, I saw a spider wasp dragging a hapless wolf spider off for dinner.

The circle of life

Also, my friend Pamela saw baby preying mantises on her property and got a shot of one whose shadow looked exactly like a giraffe. Cute!

See the giraffe?

Sad Sombreros and Beautiful Beetles

I spent a nice time today just looking at the plants and insects around the Hermits’ Rest. As I was walking down the path I enjoyed the Mexican Hat flowers (Ratibida columnifera or upright prairie coneflower).

They come in lots of colors.

I’ve always loved these plants, because they look cheerful, have cool leaves, smell interesting, and attract lots of insects.

They are just plain cute.

I’m glad they are all along the drive between the two main houses, because I get to be distracted by the butterflies, bees, and bugs.

Hungry beetle.

What’s weird is that I’ve been noticing weird flowers in the Mexican Hats. Really weird flowers.

They range from double flowers to extra flowers growing out of the cones to multiple cones. It’s quite odd.

This looks like Mickey Mouse’s hand.

Of course these aren’t “normal.” I see no flowers like that along the roadside. These flowers are next to the field where the oats were grown that became this year’s silage for the cows on the land we’ve leased out. They applied herbicide to get rid of non-oats, and it landed on the edges of the oats.

Engelmann daisies and Mexican Hats in front of the oat area.

I feel bad for the flowers, but we gave permission for the spraying. That’s modern farming. As a Naturalist I may have a different viewpoint, but these folks need to make a living and feed their cattle efficiently. And they ARE cute when they are young.

Feed us.

There’s plenty of wild space here at the ranch, so I’m happy. Look at this gorgeous milkweed beetle!

I’m cool. More than just monarchs eat milkweed.

It’s grasshopper season, too. There are just “a few” in the pasture where Sara’s horses are.

A popular hangout.

And I just have to say some of the bugs make me smile. This flower scarab beetle with its pollen butt is just cute.

Stop looking at my butt.
Another scarab and thistle.

I’m very grateful to have so many things to discover and observe here. I really enjoy sharing it with all of you. It’s a great journey.

Good evening!

Ranching, at the Ranch

Yesterday was quite a good day! I don’t think I have ranched so hard in a long time. So many things to do, and so many involving dirt and more dirt. It was great to have a non-rainy day.

To start the day, Sara and I played on the ground with Apache and the cute mare, Bonnie. Everyone got very clean, even Fiona, and we all had a nice time walking around. Apache still looks good (other than that abscess, his feet look like a textbook illustration of a fine horse foot), and Bonnie’s a nice girl. Since I don’t have more photos of that, enjoy Alfred drying off after a quick bath in the Little Pond. Gracie says, hmm.

What is he doing?

After that, I “helped” with the horse fencing project by holding tape measures and other vitally helpful things. I even got to move something in the tractor to help the auger thing work right. So ranchy.

Ready to drill.

Next up will be putting poles in at all the marked spots, if it doesn’t rain.

It’s all lined up.

But wait, there’s more! I hope to get some new pullets from Bird and Bee this week, so we worked to get a separate setup for them in the chicken run. As long as I keep giving the chickens tomatoes, they don’t care who moves in next door.

Just give us more tomatoes.

It came out pretty spiffy for something made out of stuff we had on hand! All my chicks escaped while I was out of town, but don’t worry, we will try hatching again, with a new, more secure area.

It looks welcoming.

Later, it was time to move some cattle that recently arrived at the Hermits’ Rest, and I got to “help” wrangle an escapee, which turned into a fun time with lots of help from others and good conversation. I enjoyed watching the new cattle settle in and establish their “pecking order.”

All ready to put in posts.

I’ve been ordering some supplies for my tack room over here and for taking care of Apache and Fiona in our paddocks. I needed a few more chicken and horse things, so off we went to Tractor Supply, with me all covered in really disgusting mud (okay, not all covered, but you couldn’t miss it). I was told to wear my work cowboy hat, so I looked pretty legit. The best thing we got was a cool utility cart for hauling horse poop. It will be fun to use and looks to be quite sturdy.

I got a chicken feeder and horse bandages.

Actually the most fun part of the trip was getting lost wandering around the area where the ranch is. There are some pretty homesteads and lots of nice land out here. But, I’m still a hermit, so don’t move here (or Austin, if you can afford the skyrocketing home prices).

Since I have no photo of getting lost, enjoy Spice and Lakota eating each other’s food, because they knew Sara was paying attention to Bonnie the new gal on the block.

The other horse’s food is so good.

On the other hand, the ranch seems to have opened up post COVID. Lee’s friend from high school, Matt (who reads the blog), was here for a couple of days, so that was our first overnight visitor. You can tell Matt was here, because the brother-in-law mowed around his car. And my son and partner are coming today!

I’d say the coolest visitor, though, was the guy who delivered all the bags of concrete for the poles.

He had a fun little forklift kind of vehicle that made the process seem easy! I really enjoyed watching him drive the concrete around, plus he seemed like a nice guy. You can’t beat that in a delivery, right?

And, it’s raining. Oh, weather, you annoy me. How’s it going with you?

Fun with Dickcissels and Horses

It’s looking

In years past I’ve mentioned my fondness for the migratory dickcissel birds that come through here at the Hermits’ Rest each year. They’re small sparrow-sized birds with big sound and friendly personalities.

I usually see them on barbed wire or electric wire. This is a female.

They have a charming gurgling song and often chirp away after sunset. I don’t know why this is.

This is a male.

They hang around here late spring through mid summer. I wasn’t sure if they bred here or not until today when I was walking over to see Apache and Fiona.

Friendly female

Females followed me along the road, moving down the fence as I passed.

Look at her mouth!

Eventually I made it to the old, hollow, cedar elm just before the cattle guard. There I saw much dickcissel activity, and both a male and a female. They were working on a nest!

Looking for building supplies.

I was so pleased to see this! I hope to soon see or hear babies when I walk by. Here’s a bit more on these birds from iNaturalist.

Horse update

I’m other news, we have Bonnie the quarter horse visiting for a while. She’s 19, and wanting to do stuff.

Looking forward to more horse fun.

Apache went for a walk with her (and us humans) and they got along fine as long as Apache didn’t get too close, because her flank must look delicious.

Practicing being a perfect gentleman.

It’s looking like Apache is healing well. We walk and walk, and he is fine. I’m hoping riding can resume by the weekend.

Just a Few Cute Animals

Oh goodness, I skipped a day of blogging for the first time since I resolved to post every day quite a while ago. I had good reason, though, it was a busy day with lots of fun meetings, animals to care for, chores, and conversations. By the end of the day, when I could have blogged, I chose to sit on the porch and talk to my family. Who could blame me for choosing in-person interaction? (Okay, someone could, but I probably don’t like them.)

A grasshopper.

There are lots and lots of bugs (including mosquitoes) out right now, and I especially liked this fuzzy caterpillar.

I got the chickens a big brick of treats at Tractor Supply today, since they completely finished their last treat, which was watermelon rind. They can certainly clean out a watermelon.

Let’s see. I also met a large fish, who’s apparently a local celebrity in Bea’s Kitchen (more on why I was there, later). It’s a fine and friendly fish.

I seem to be unable to add captions, but the fish says hello. Sigh, WordPress seems to give new features, then take away old ones.

And in case you were thinking I forgot the dogs, here’s Carlton making himself WAY too much at home in my bed this morning.

That’s some stink-eye! I’m off to do horse things and then finish my indoor writing tasks. I wish all of you a reasonable weekend, with weather that fits your desires (mine is no rain).

Dampness Reigns, or Rains

I knew those two relatively dry days in a row were flukes. Last night it poured and poured, right after Trixie showed up to do Apache and Ace’s feet. She was running late due to some car trouble, which gave me lots of time to love on Apache and Fiona. That is always good.

Pet me more.

And I got to love on Sara’s heelers, including the charming and smiling baby Bess. She melts your heart.

I’m a very happy puppy.

Sara had asked Trixie if she had a horse that needed miles on it, and that prompted her to bring her small fancy stallion along with her. He’s gray, and named Archie.

Here comes the man horse.

His arrival sent all equines into a tizzy (except Fiona). Much neighing and prancing commenced. Archie, on the other hand, but on a show like he was a Lipizzaner. Yow. He leapt in the air, twisted, bucked, yelled, and otherwise made his presence quite obvious. I’m hoping he settles down.

WTF?

I made it home after Apache got trimmed, barely asking if his feet looked okay, and hearing Trixie say they looked real good. Two minutes after I got home, the skies opened up. I worried about the rest of the gang, and texted Sara my huge thanks for letting me go first.

Good thing I got all these eggs earlier! One per hen.

It rained all night, hard. It’s the most rain in one day that we’ve had during this long rainy spell. Many days it just drizzled and rained for short periods, so we only got one inch one day in May; the rest were small amounts that did add up to puddles.

First time the pond has filled and spilled in many months.

Last night we got over two inches, so June already has a good rain total! Lee’s stats will be fun to see. I’m hoping to get to Austin this afternoon, once some of the creek flooding is down and before the next round starts. It’s also really wet there!

The newly expanded “little pond” filled for the first time, too, sending its runoff down to the bigger pond. That dirt will be used on another project soon.

Have a good June. I’m ready to support all my LGBTQIA+ friends during PRIDE month!

Cleaning Can Be Fun

That’s not normally something I’d say, but after seeing the progress Sara and I made on our tack room, I’ve changed my tune. However, I feel sorta like Apache right now—ready for a nap!

Suna tired me out this morning. All that walking!

It had gotten to be quite a mess in there, especially after the salt licks melted onto the floor from the humidity. Sara spent hours yesterday cleaning up the floor and everything on it, which was not easy. And she cleaned the A/C filter. Yuck.

I felt a little bit bad when I cleaned the fridge, because it was full of beet pulp, which got on the clean floor, but even when I was cleaning scary spiderwebs (Sara found brown recluses yesterday) off the windows and such, I kept the floor pretty good.

This may look like a mess, but it’s organized and dusted!

Some of the cleaning was quite challenging, but I enjoyed organizing our stuff, getting rid of old things, and seeing what we have. Now I know where all the medicine is, and will have all the stuff Mandi put together last year to start my collection. Fungal things stay with Sara, hoof things go with me, thanks to our horses’ issues.

Now that the table is clean, we can see what’s what, too.

I found duplicate things and stored them, arranged cow stuff sensibly, and have a little area for bath stuff. So proud of myself.

That dresser looks WAY better compared to the before pictures!

I even cleaned out my tack box. I may have done it one other time, but it was before Sara got her nice new one. Now I have just the things I use every day.

A semi-clean donkey

One of the items got a lot of use today, the black pumice-like brick that looks like a grill cleaner. It got a lot of Fiona’s winter hair off, and she really enjoyed it. She certainly liked it better than fly spray or wound cleaner (she has a little cut on her leg).

Here’s Ace keeping an eye on that dog!

It was nice hanging out and cleaning, plus it was fun watching Sara work with Ace. He’s made a breakthrough and is progressing fast all of a sudden! His new eating plan is already helping his metabolism, and it’s also helping his mind!

All is well. How about that?

Fencing! Amazing!

I don’t even know where to start telling you how cool our new fencing is. The craftsmanship is incredible. My gratitude is immense. But look, here’s one completed run.

Harvey is trapped! Not really.

The fence may look like normal horse fencing (not all barbed wire like cattle fencing), but what you can’t see is that all the parts were fabricated by one person and the whole thing was installed by one person, not a team. Plus, many of the tools used to make this a one-man show were hand-made, as well.

The industrial-strength auger

All the heavy braces required deep holes filled with concrete. You can’t dig those with a shovel! Luckily, the nephew happened to own a big, yellow auger that attaches to a tractor. But, what to do with it in between uses? He fashioned a way to hang it from the rafters of the future stall roof, then dug a hole for stability. Cool!

Daisuke at work

But, how the heck will all those t-posts and the metal support poles get dug? Well, I wish you could have seen it in person! First, each post got spray painted to show how deep it needed to go. Then they all got started by hand, which involved climbing up the front-end loader forks and pounding them down with a huge mallet. One mallet made the supreme sacrifice and separated from its handle during the process. Always have a backup!

Doing a wheelie. Some posts didn’t go in as easily as others. I forgot to edit this one, so the world looks sideways.

Then, one by one, Daisuke, our “big helper” tractor did the work of sinking all the posts. It is really fun to watch, especially when a post hits a rock and won’t go any further. Daisuke’s front tires go off the ground. We may have to break out the bigger tractor for some fine tuning.

Just getting started, but a good photo of the fencing on its spindle.

So, how do you string all the fencing by yourself? First you make a spindle kind of thing. It’s like a record player, and goes round and round. You put a pole on it, then put the roll of fencing on that. You can then attach to one end, and just slowly drive Daisuke backwards and unspool the wire. Ta da!

The tensioner, right after it was finished.

Great, so after that, you have a length of fencing, but it’s pretty loose and wobbly. You need to tighten it, which is much easier with a helper. However, if you’re a master welder, you “just” (easier said than done) make yourself a tensioner to attach to the tractor. There are the same number of hooks on it as there are spaces in the fencing. You hook them on the end of the fencing, and gradually tighten it, then fasten. That’s really clever.

Getting ready to stretch. Pretty cool.

Before the afternoon was over, there was an entire length of fencing, which confused the heck out of the cattle.

Fencing row number one.

By the end of the day, two rows of posts were laid out, and the top strand of barbed wire was up on the second row. Once there are three rows (we are making two pens to rotate the horses between, for parasite management), the more detailed work of putting in the fencing around the stalls, adding gates, and setting things up will start. There’s plenty of work left for our one-man crew.

Two rows of posts, and fencing ready to be strung.

And the cattle aren’t being ignored. There’s a shiny new gate that holds their heads in place so they can have their shots and other things done to them. That should work with these fairly docile cattle. We’ll still have to borrow the fancier equipment over at the Wild Type area for palpitation and anything that requires no movement. (I say “we” but I mean “he.”)

A head gate, I think it’s called.

We are glad it didn’t rain yesterday, so all this stuff could get done! Since it’s a US holiday to honor people who died in wars, I’m off work today. That means I can do my own physical labor and help with cleaning the tack room. Sara did the floors yesterday, so I get to do everything above floor level today. I’m not complaining; it needs doing, very much!

All clean and shiny, and no longer limping. Hooray! Patchy may not be as pretty as some of those fancy horses, but he’s beautiful to me.

Plus, I’ll get to hang out with Apache and Fiona. Apache feels good enough to do ground work, and Fiona is finally shedding, so I’m working on her coat. She does love attention!

I hope you are having a fun time, whether it’s a holiday or a “real” Monday for you. Life feels so much more “normal” now, with everyone home and doing stuff (and I even had a traveling friend drop by yesterday!). I’m savoring every moment.

The Dogs and Cattle Are So Happy

Today I spent much of the morning watching new fencing going up. Since I was there to keep an eye on them, I was able to take the dogs with me.

I’m protecting you, Suna.

There was all sorts of fun stuff to explore, like puddles that were revealed when the future Apache pasture was mown very short.

Mud! Perfect for white dogs.

All the dogs frolicked in it, but one in particular was in ecstasy. Harvey was absolutely hilarious. He’d plop himself in a puddle, then jump up and stick his head in the water, shaking vigorously.

Splash!
Pounce!

He must have done this ten minutes, running from puddle to puddle. That’s a lot of play for our most sedentary fellow. Carlton and Gracie joined in and got almost as muddy as Harvey, but he looked like a chocolate covered dog at one point.

All having fun.
I’ll help!

I laughed so hard my cheeks hurt.

I’m just a little dirty!

Meanwhile, the cattle were having their own fun. Haggard the young bull has joined the happy mini-herd, and he’s fit right in. He and the black cow have been “having fun” but not really figuring it out. They’ve certainly been trying. I’ll spare you images of cattle sex, however.

Perhaps the issue is that the cow is bigger than the bull?

To be honest, they were as interested in the fencing operation as the dogs were. They had to go up and sniff all the new material.

Moo! This fencing material is fascinating! Let’s lick it!

The fancy white heifers currently behind us were quite jealous and wanted to join in the fun. They played with the dogs and the black cows as much as they could, and mooed at Haggard.

We wanna play.

All in all, everyone had a good time. I did, too! I sure missed dog and cattle fun when I was gone!

Yes, they now play together.

I even got to have some quiet time with Vlassic today, and it was hreat, except he deposited mud on all my clothes.

It was fun, Mom!

Next, I’ll share fascinating fence facts.

My First Horse Show

That’s right. I’d never been to a horse show until yesterday, when Sara and I returned to the beautiful McClennan Community College Highlander Ranch for a working equitation competition. Fun was had by us, and we sure learned a lot!

Amazingly beautiful grounds with immense oaks.

It was hard not to drool at all the gorgeous gaited horses, Gypsy vanners, and giant warmbloods. but, thanks to the very welcoming people at Heart of Texas Working Equitation, we did learn what was going on, what the goals of the dressage and obstacle competitions were aiming at. What fun.

Here are Pam and Jed in the dressage part of the competition. They won!

We lucked out in that two really experienced women were sitting near us, and they were nice about explaining what made a good horse, what made a good rider, and the history of some of the competitors. That made it lots of fun.

Our favorite of the many great stories we heard during the day was about Pam and her gray paint/something fancy Jed. It turned out he had a year like Apache did last year, only worse. His feet were so bad that they recommended he be put down, but they managed to nurse him back to health. This was their first time in the arena since 2019 (well, they didn’t compete last year anyway, but he wouldn’t have been there).

This is BEFORE she got the overall best rosette! We were all so happy for her.

He is such a great horse that I see why she didn’t want to lose him. He basically slept between his events, breathing so heavily on Pam that her shirt was wet. Then, when she put his bridle on, he perked up, went out, and won the obstacle course, too!

I just cut the nice lady’s head off, because all I cared about was her horse. It’s the family pet, raised by them, and with an incredibly laid-back disposition. He also aced every move and won the more advanced class.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was very happy to get to see my first Gypsy vanner horses in person. These are small but robust horses that were used to pull wagons, but also had to be very tame, because they were always around children. They are a perfect “Suna size” horse. And of course, there is the hair. The glorious hair. Brush, brush, wash wash, braid braid. Sounds like a good retirement hobby to me.

This one is their stallion, doing the gate opening activity. The judge is behind them. Can you see how long the braid is that’s keeping his mane out of the way?

Naturally, these are really expensive horses, so I will admire them from afar. But, they are living My Little Ponies!

It was also fascinating to watch all the gaited horses, which have a different, smoother “trot” than quarter horses and most other horses. The horse looks quite busy when gaiting, but the rider is smooth as if they are sitting on a couch. I am really tempted to get one of those, since Apache has a really rough trot (one of the horses in the show did, too, and its rider was bouncing around at both trot and canter). I’m afraid I was too enthralled with the warmbloods and hair horses, so I didn’t get any photos.

I did enjoy one little quarter horse, mainly because she was such a great size. This is the one where Sara asked if she was a former brood mare, and her owner said no, she was a nightmare. But, she did pretty well considering her history of not doing much until she was older, and was a very friendly girl

They are in Western dressage attire.

It was exciting to watch the experience riders, who were on Lusitano and Andalusian horses. Those are the big ones. They are able to do all sorts of collection moves, fancy walks, snazzy trots, and things I will never do in my entire life, but are fun to watch.

The final part of the day was where they ran the course as fast as they could. That was a lot of fun. Two of the most fun were when Doreen, the woman who did yesterday’s clinic, didn’t go fast, but did the whole course as smoothly and with as few extra steps as possible. She wasn’t getting scored, because her gaucho pants had knocked over something and disqualified her in the obstacle course. She was a great example of taking one’s mistakes with grace, and showed that even the experts have mishaps.

They are backing up.

But the most fun one to watch was a woman who raises Australian stock horses. She and her horse ran that thing like a race, and it was a hoot to watch. And in this part you are allowed to cheer. It was a great way to end the day!

Zoom!

I look forward to doing some of these obstacle things with Apache, if I can ever ride again, and to taking some lessons to become a better rider, even if I’d never get past the first level of this stuff!

Thanks for bearing with my horse love. I am moving on to another topic soon, I promise!