No Longer Fun or Funny, Now Boomy

Snow and bitter cold are okay if you have a warm and cozy house to stay warm in. Ours is not cozy, but can be made semi-cozy, because we have electricity and space heaters. Most of my friends in the Austin area are without power at all or for long stretches, and there are also water outages (not to mention burst pipes). It turns out that yes, your water supply can be affected by power outages. It doesn’t just flow without help. That is NOT cozy.

Horses in the snow, photo by Ralph.

Okay, here’s a funny story, though. Apparently someone yelled at a water company employee in our area when they said the water wasn’t working due to electrical outages. They said they KNEW you can’t mix water with electricity, so they have nothing to do with each other! At least they know ONE fact.

Another fact: ice expands. It has broken the gutters in a couple of places.

I’m happy to say the chickens are still with us, and are sharing their scratch with the wild birds, who are not faring all that great. One thing that’s helping them a lot is that water is dripping off the house, so they can drink. And the sun is so bright that it has melted some bare spots. At least one little brown bird is actually finding stuff to eat!

I found the food, says Mrs. Sparrow.

The birds here do have a lot of shelter and plenty of food in the woods, but we are still getting casualties. On my front porch just now I found poor dear yellow-rumped warblers (male and female), as well as a white-winged dove. I am so sad for these creatures.

On a happier note, someone was out exploring this morning!

Bunny evidence.

The cows are running low on hay, so I’ll have to ask the neighbors for more, and they are certainly not helping their water supply. One of them pooped into the trough, and of course the poop froze to the ice. I did not enjoy trying to get all that out. Cows.

Here, look at this cool ice formation instead of cow poop. You’re welcome.

This would be all well and good if it weren’t for the fact that yet another huge wave of awfulness is coming tonight, and there might be one after that. People have no water and no heat already! I am very worried about elderly and very young people. And I no longer think my mohair shawls are “too hot.”

This shawl is JUST RIGHT.

Boom

I said there were booms, didn’t I? Yes. We have a metal roof. The sun is very, very bright right now, which means it’s warming the roof. As a consequence, very large sheets of ice are falling from the second-storey roof onto the first-storey roof. It sounds like a dump truck is in the ceiling.

Smaller ice that fell

As you may have already guessed, dogs are not happy with those booms. Harvey is as far under my desk as he can get, all scrunched into my blanket I’m under and the towel I put under there for him.

Make the booms stop.

Carlton squeezed himself into a ball in my chair. They are not thrilled one bit. Plus it is still a balmy 55 degrees in the house (not complaining; my sister and Anita both have it much worse).

I’m trying to dig a hole.

The sounds really are loud, like cannons. It turns out they are just icicles falling. Here, watch!

Wait for it…

All of you in the grips of this weather system have my sympathy, even if you live in a place that can cope with the cold and with an electrical grid that has actual PLANS for bad weather.

Shiny Wonders

What a weird day it’s been. I couldn’t work, because everyone in Austin is having power outages. I felt so cold. I felt sick. Then I felt better! The weather was horrible, but by afternoon, with the sun shining, it felt okay out! The dogs had cabin fever, so we went and played. So you get another post of snow photos.

Penney loves snow. It’s yummy.

We went out and checked the chickens and cows. Everyone was fine, even Springsteen, who was trying to disguise herself as a statue, was sitting with the others.

I just had to take pictures of the shiny trees and happy dogs. It’s beautiful, as long as you have power and the wind settles down.

All the dogs really enjoyed themselves after begging me to go out. Penney bounced and flopped and dug her nose in. She and Carlton ran and jumped in the woods. And Alfred was in his element.

I had fun, too, once the wind went down. The sun was so bright I needed sunglasses, though. I found bunny tracks and could see that the armadillo had peeked out of his hole. And the spring is still flowing in the woods.

Tonight will perhaps be the coldest night ever here. And more freezing precipitation is on its way.

But this is Texas. Warm front next week!

Frigid-Pocalypse! The Cold!

I’m not apologizing to anyone tired of weather posts. All we have here is weather, and since we can’t go anywhere or do anything, it’s weather-post-a-rama here in the ice cube known as the middle of Texas. It’s cold as when I used to live in Illinois, only that it not at all normal here. No one remembers it being this cold. And last night’s blizzard of sleet and snow was something else. The good news is that the sun is out for the first time in days.

Blurry, since there’s no way I was going out to actually get this shot up close, but it WAS pretty this morning.
Here’s the farther-out view.

And we do have power, which is good. Many parts of the area are dealing with rolling blackouts or just plain outages. The less good thing is that our heating system can’t cope, so it was 45 degrees this morning in our bedroom. My office is the warmest place, and I found a heating pad. We sent the space heater over to Jim in the RV, who needs it way worse than we do!

Chickens, cows, and all are still there. The pond/tank froze for the first time!

Today’s snow isn’t as pretty as last time, because the wind blew it out of the trees, but I’ve been enjoying bird watching out the window. Cardinals always look spectacular against the snow, and the little sparrows are bopping around like crazy. The crows are cawing (celebrating all their wins, I guess), and the doves are flopping around grumpily. I saw at least one live chicken outside (I have NOT dared to walk around, since it is 8 degrees outside).

Sunrise through the screen. It’s cold.

I’m very thankful Ralph said he would check on the horses, since driving over there would be dangerous without four-wheel drive, even though it isn’t very far. Mandi slid down the hill going up to the cemetery yesterday, when she was attempting to go UP. So, we will not be leaving the house.

Frigid.

We managed to sleep fine last night with sufficient blankets and warm dogs. Carlton stayed under the blankets all night, but surprisingly enough, he and Penney went out and ran around and played for a while. They’re tough, but not like the cows. They just want their water trough de-iced!

Whee! Penney’s feet don’t want to touch the snow!
All the frolicking did not last long.

It has even snowed in Yorktown, where Kathleen and them are, a thing they don’t remember ever happening. Lee says his dad experienced it, but then, he lived through most of the 20th Century! Yorktown is not that far from the Gulf of Mexico, so that’s saying something. It’s a big weather day for Texas!

Luckily, I have lots to blog about and enough bird-watching and knitting to get me through the day, but my longest exercise streak died yesterday, what with all the sickness and the confinement to quarters.

From what I can tell, nothing’s been down our county road today.
Rather accurate depiction of me.

I only feel a little sickly today, so it looks like I’ve kicked the vaccine’s butt and my immune system is strong and vigorous. Hooray.

If you are in any of the many, many areas in the US hit by this awful weather, I hope you stay safe and warm. It’s bad all over, and much worse in the north. You are all in my thoughts.

Feel free to share your experiences or commiseration!

Bah. Sick.

As if it isn’t bad enough the heat can’t keep the house above 60 degrees, I’m not feeling well. Feverish and achy. Can’t stay awake.

To top it off, I managed to mess up my simple knitting project and had to undo 1800 stitches! Ugh!

At least I got the horses fed a LOT this morning. I’m wishing for helpers today! I think I can get some food to them. And tomorrow I assume I’ll have slept it off and will see how I cope with historic low temperatures.

Anyway, no interesting blog from me today. Sleet has started and it’s really icy. Fun times.

Heat and Love

We have been warned of historically bad weather coming. I look forward to the coming snow, and enjoyed some great pictures from my friends in Washington! But, it’s gonna get cold and wet, which means power outages are possible.

Totally iced over by Walker’s Creek church.

I said to Lee that I wished we had installed the extra gas fireplace we had leftover from our last renovation project. We couldn’t find it, which is weird, because we both remember it sitting around…somewhere.

It looks sort of eerie.

Then it occurred to us that the store nearby where we bought most of our furniture sells fireplace inserts. Lee dropped by, but they didn’t have any in stock (they usually order them custom). Then she remembered there were some laying around…somewhere.

All the fences look interesting.

But, yay! They found stuff! All we had to do was pick it up! We went over there, which gave me a chance to take pictures of the icy landscape in our area. It’s just so…white. I’m sure it would have been spectacular if the sun came out. However, that’s unlikely for a few days.

Ice at the furniture warehouse.

When we got home, it was clear that these weren’t fancy new fireplace inserts. But, they are fine looking.

Carlton really wanted to help Lee install the logs and such, but his paws were too big.

How can I assist you?

Lee didn’t put the fancy controls in. We will wait until our resident expert comes back. It works now, though! And the logs are just fine! I consider this my Valentine and a true display of Lee’s eternal love. Aww.

Installation in progress.

We are quite pleased to have backup heat at the Hermits’ Rest, just in time for the wintry mix and such. I’m so grateful to Franci at the furniture store for going above and beyond to help out. Love to her family, too!

Fire time!

And hey, I made chili with some of the 5 pounds of dried pinto beans Meghan brought us. We won’t starve. We are ready For the deep cold. Brr.

Mmm. Chili.

The Aftermath: Brr + Ow

Honest, I’m not a weather wimp. I recall only recently writing a post about how much I love to exercise in the snow. I do! It’s hard to exercise on ice, though, and that’s what we still have at the moment here in the middle of the Texas icefield (subject to change). Today was just not a great day for me to have to get out and deal with the cold and its consequences.

Carlton was not about to go out with me!

But, I am doing the needful, as they say in India, where it might be warmer right now, at least in some parts. The problem is that I am that lucky rare person to get ALL the vaccine side effects! Yippee! So, my arm feels like a dead weight and prefers to not be lifted, thanks. And I have had a raging headache since yesterday, plus I feel like I have the flu. This will all be temporary, but I sure didn’t want to venture out into 26-degree F weather this morning.

As Sara pointed out to me while she was texting my instructions, you have to be a responsible livestock owner. And right now I’m responsible not only for my livestock, but the cows over here and all the horses. Sara is stuck at her other house for a few more days, so I am happy to help. Luckily, Ralph is helping out with his cattle and is going to bring over a LOT of hay, which will make things easier.

I wish I had a picture of my horse feeding outfit. I was plenty warm, especially because I had a great combo of a ear-covering band, a hoodie, and my facemask to keep my head warm. My thick gloves worked great until they got wet from breaking up ice in water troughs, but I know all the livestock appreciated it. Kathleen’s cows were looking at me like, “Help!” this morning, even though they DO still have water in the arroyo.

The chicken water is totally frozen, but they also have other sources once they are out of their coop. I’m sure glad we built that small pond near the house!

Visual proof all horses have been moved.

When I got to the horses, my job was to move Spice and Lakota from the pasture they are in to the pen where Apache and Fiona are, so they will have more shelter and some hay. I was really glad when my fellow rancher arrived to help me open the frozen gates to the pen where the tiny calf had been (tiny calf was spotted yesterday romping through the icy field with his buddies!), which gives the horses more shelter AND Fiona a more accessible water trough. There was much banging (which totally annoyed Big Red, who was trying to eat her chicken scratch).

Those open gates were not easily accomplished. So grateful for the help!

Moving the horses went fine, and I was pleasantly shocked to find that Spice’s blanket was still on her. She’d somehow torn the back of it up, and completely broken off one of the straps. I managed to McGuyver up a way to keep it on, and by gosh, it was still on this morning! Yay! I also found one more blanket, which is good. If that one goes, there is a spare. There were none in Tractor Supply yesterday, and my friend Courtney said she bought the last one. (As an aside, her story of making their pony a blanket out of a fleece blanket, some plastic, and duct tape was pretty funny, at least to humans; the pony was not amused.)

Yep, it’s on, all right. Not shown is the makeshift attachment in the rear. She is able to poop, which is all that matters, I guess.

Spice and Lakota got all excited to be in a different place and ran around like crazy. I guess that will help keep them warm. Apache and Fiona were like, “Wow, this is a lot of hay,” and were chomping away when I left, which was hampered by the fact that the condensation on my glasses, which I’d had to remove, had actually frozen. Yep, it’s cold.

It’s only going to get colder! I’m really hoping we all keep power and heat! You may have to endure more snow pictures in the next few days. None of us remember it ever being so cold for so long here. I guess we will have to get used to it for the future. I know I plan to get a trough warmer when/if we get our horse barn here!

Got any cold-weather stories to share?

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.

The Tiny Calf

I can tell this story, because it’s happy, and I like happy baby stories. We’ve had a calf on the property for a week who was having trouble immediately after birth. I saw one of the lease guys pick it up and put it in the utility vehicle. I noticed it wasn’t standing.

The sun shining on mama and day-old baby

I was relieved to see the little feller in the pen the next day. He was sure cute, and his mama was very protective. I noticed he sorta scooted around.

I’m so cute.

The next couple of days I figured out there was something wrong with his front legs. He always stood with his hooves folded under. It turns out his tendons had gotten stretched at birth, and it’s not uncommon. Usually it resolves itself in a few days.

I’m trying!

The other issue was he was having trouble nursing. Not being able to stand very long couldn’t help. But, the guys who own him were not giving up. He got bottle fed twice a day, and believe me, milking a beef cow is not a romantic event where you sit on a stool with a pail. No, she had to get squeezed in the chute so she’d hold still!

You may not photograph me getting milked. By this time, he was standing more and even ran a few steps.

Monday, the cow looked way better, and sure enough, we saw the calf nursing. My resident experts were concerned that his tendons hadn’t settled back yet. Both Sara and Trixie said they’d never seen it last so long. That worried me.

My right foot is pretty good.

Today was all rainy, but I sure was glad to see the little family still in the pen. And hey, look who was standing and walking around like a calf? Our little guy! I needed that happy sight.

You be careful over there, son.

After a week, he’s almost normal and obviously gaining weight from all that delicious moo milk. I found out he hasn’t had a bottle since Monday. Looks like all that patience and extra care was worth it! Just look at that smile!

Cheese!

He’s a friendly fellow, but mama isn’t. I know she will be glad to get back in the pasture! I really admire the guys who care for these cattle for being willing to take extra care of their herd. Ranchers with good hearts! (And they’ll make money, too.)

Just Some Love

I wanted to share how pleasant it was today when Trixie came by to trim the horses’ hooves. When it was Apache’s turn, he was so relaxed that he kept leaning his big horse head on my shoulder. When I had to move, Fiona then showed up, and after a little fooling around, she let Apache rest his head on her. Such friendship.

They both have closed eyes.
Goofing off while getting hooves trimmed.

I made him happy by letting Apache graze while Spice got looked at. At least he let me get a couple of pictures of his Arabian-esque profile and his newly slim physique.

We are considering letting Fiona become a mommy to a pony mule. Wouldn’t that be cute? Another buddy for the rest of my life!

Sorry for all the horse posts. Apache’s energy really helps me feel centered and grounded. Who can’t use that today? Plus, horses smell so good and let you brush their hair.