Chia Pets and Chiro

I have a lot more genealogy stuff, but let’s take a break for some ranch slice of life fun.

Spice stands patiently while getting her hooves trimmed.

Fiona and the horses were glad to see their farrier friend Trixie back after dealing with an injury. She is so good with them, and they love being adjusted by her, too.

Quite a frizzy mane you have there, horse.

While we waited for her to arrive, Mandi and I groomed them all for the first time since all the rain started. Apache had a huge knot in his mane that took quite some time to remove and left him with a frizzy hairdo. Spice had something similar on her forelock. Fiona was just filthy.

We took a little walk to where the grass was very much greener. As they chomped at delicious blades, I looked down the row of hay bales.

That green tinge is not a trick of light. The hay has grass growing out of it.

I realized it had rained so much that the hay was sprouting. It looked like a very big chia pet! This weather is so weird lately.

Apache is zoned out.

When Trixie arrived, she got to work. I’m happy Apache’s feet are better. He also really enjoyed getting chiropracted. His lip trembled, his eyes shut, and he sighed with happiness.

Spice has more pain, so some stuff bothered her, but she obviously felt better.

Mischief? I’m just checking that everything is okay in here.

Fiona’s feet looked great, so she just wandered around and got into mischief when she wasn’t leaning on me.

Big Red has big red eyes.

We were joined by one of our two remaining roosters, Big Red. He’s really friendly and loves sunflower seeds (and Mandi, who feeds them to him).

Entertainment on a Misty Day

Cattle want to come in and hang out with us.

Still wet here. It feels like walking on a sponge when I go outside. At least the mist cleaned off the horses. Fiona the donkey is still preset grubby. Maybe next week we can groom!

So, since we couldn’t do much outside today, we looked out the windows. The Vrazels’ cattle decided to hang out near the fence. The calves are so cute.

Of course, right after I took the picture, the dogs noticed they were there. Brody really doesn’t like them near the fence. He lets them know.

Just Another Chilly Day…

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Suna was keeping Carlton warm, or vice versa, this morning.

Autumn arrived with a bang yesterday (that high school football game was CHILLY!), and it got me to thinking I ought to write more little “slice of life” posts in among the more serious ones. So, here’s what’s going on today.

Brr

I was so cold night before last that I bundled up extra last night by sleeping in my bathrobe. I guess the dogs were cold, too, because at one point I had two heads on me, plus one at my feet. I just did my best to roll over. When Lee woke up, he saw me sleeping with Carlton under my arm. The little weenie dog was totally under the covers!

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That door will now go up and down, as a door should. Lee is telling the garage door guy all about our real estate business model in this picture. Always looking for houses to buy.

A Much Needed Repair

And today the chill didn’t stop a garage door repair guy from cheerfully showing up and getting the right side door of our big garage working again. It had shaken itself totally out of alignment. Those are BIG doors.

Now I can park my car under there again. I think the mouse population has decreased and it will be safe again. Plus, I never put food in my car!

So, that’s today’s excitement. Later the horses may get groomed (they sure need it) and we’ll see if there are any more dead chickens. The sheep are still with us, thankfully.

If It’s Not Drought, It’s Flooding

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You can see more water behind the main pond.  Before everything grew up while that part of the pond was dry, it was all one view of water. The driveway you see is the dam that made the pond.

The weather patterns here in Milam County have been a topic of my blog posts and Facebook rants for as long as we’ve been coming out here (and our first visit was in 2010 or 2011). This year has been a great example.

This year, we had a very wet spring, followed by over a month of no rain in summer, with large cracks developing in the ground and very brown foliage. We were worrying that the ponds would evaporate again like they did in the Big Drought of 2011.

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Most of the time, this is just grass. Once the pond is full, runoff usually makes a little stream that goes to the deep area where there was an old spring that used to be the beginning of the real stream. I’m wondering if our springs will come back at some point.

Quickly, this condition was followed by what has seemed to be never-ending dampness and mild weather all through the autumn. We’ll have a few nice days, and then the sky opens up again.

I was happy that the Master Naturalist Conference coincided with a break in the weather so we could do all our field trips, but right after that, it’s been dark and wet again. My Geometry post has images of the fog in Austin from this week; in fact, three days in a row there was enough fog to make driving a bit scary.

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This culvert is intended to keep the pond from overfilling and washing away the dam. Since it overfilled a couple of times, we now also have a back-up culvert. It’s engaged once this year.

Here at the Hermits’ Rest it was just as foggy, and there was a lot more rain than in Austin. When I arrived to the ranch yesterday, it had just rained a lot, and Walker’s Creek was at the top of its banks. The arroyo was flowing away, and the dogs had a blast running through the output of the dam culvert.

Last night, just as we went to bed, another downpour began. There was .8″ over night, which made almost two inches in 24 hours.

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That sliver of water to the left of the driveway just before the gate usually can’t be seen from the house (by short people like me, anyway).

Usually you can’t see the front pond from the house, because the water level is too low. This view through the second-floor window (and screen) shows you it was visible this morning!

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Don’t the screens and the blinds add an air of mystery to the very full back pond? I usually doesn’t go all the way to that black thing at right (which is an old well or something).

The back pond had even spread farther to the east than usual.

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View from the car. The creek is usually about ten feet wide. It’s been lots worse, though.

And the creek was flowing into the flood plain meadow. I tell you what, I am glad to be enjoying some sunshine this afternoon as I take a break from work to type this! Maybe the ground will be a little less soggy when I head out to feed animals.

Glorious Autumn

I interrupt my sharing from the conference I attended to share what a lovely afternoon my spouse, dogs and I had at the Hermits’ Rest yesterday.

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This is the back of a red admiral butterfly. I just love how this photo came out.

I came home from work, and just felt like taking a long walk. I gathered a few dogs and started my usual route around the property. As I went down toward where the arroyo stream meets the woods, something smelled wonderful. I realized it was a large bed of fall asters. The little valley had trapped the aroma.

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Asters and small bees.

The aroma had attracted more than just me, too. The flowers were literally abuzz and aflutter with bees of all sizes and at least six types of butterflies. I was really happy to see Lee come down to see me, so he could enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds with me.

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The monarch was in flower heaven.

I really didn’t take all that many photos, because we were just observing. Still, I have to share that we got at least one migrating monarch in the bunch! There were also Gulf fritilaries, a red admiral, fiery skippers (lots), and some painted ladies.

Continue reading “Glorious Autumn”

A Grand Welcome Home

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Sandhill cranes, just passing through. Loudly.

We returned to the ranch over the weekend, with zero seconds of downtime, but we jumped right into the swing of things and enjoyed visitors, both human and otherwise.

Flying Friends

The most glorious visitors were just passing through. Many flocks of sandhill cranes flew over. We also saw a few snow geese. I just love the sounds of the cranes!

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One of my favorite neighbors.

While I was taking crane pictures, two blue herons squawked, so I got nice close photos of them. Of course, they are blurry iPhone pictures, but some day I’ll get a new battery and learn to use the good camera again!

There have also been a lot of visiting starlings, which we don’t usually have. One thing I’ve noticed about them is that they make lots and lots of noise when they are all lined up on the electric wires, but when they take off as a flock to rearrange themselves, they are totally silent. It’s really eerie when you are standing around in the field listening, and suddenly all you hear are the coyotes.

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These are so delicate.

Most of the dragonflies are gone, but we did see a lovely bluet by the small meadow pond. These sure are pretty. They curve their bodies where you see the stripes.

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Why won’t the turtle play with me? (You can sort of see it in the grass.)

More “Friends”

Because it’s rained so much (have I mentioned that? Lots of flooding while we were gone), animals seem to be wandering around. Yesterday, Carlton the dog found an extra large pond turtle in the middle of the pasture. He was most dismayed that it would not come out and play, so he stood there for 15 minutes and barked at it, poking it with his nose a lot. Treats had to be used to save that poor turtle from the torture.

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This dirty part of the porch is where we harmless snakes like to hang out. I want to date this electric cord.

And later yesterday, I once again spotted a large snake on the front porch, in the icky dirty part, of course. I was pretty convinced it was a water mocassin, but the folks at iNaturalist talked me down, and asssured me it was a water snake trying to look like a poisonous one. I am pretty sure this is the same snake I’ve seen over by the pond. It hisses. We kept the dogs away, and it slowly meandered off.

Our house guest was not thrilled that we didn’t kill it. I repeated a number of times, “I don’t kill snakes.” I do understand many people aren’t good with them. My dad sure wasn’t! He’d kill them 3 or 4 times!

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It’s a scorpion, all right. Small.

In the early evening, we found our first scorpion at the ranch. It was pre-dead, so we didn’t have to do anything to it. We used to see lots more in our house in the karst area of Williamson County

Not Friends at All

We apparently have a visitor over to the chicken coop who is not our friend. It has killed at least 4 of the chickens (at least two roosters, who were probably trying to defend the flock). It gets them IN the chicken coop. Yet another reason for them not to lay eggs in there!

The Neighbor is sure it’s an owl. I think it might be a bobcat, since both hunt at night. A cat could get in there easily from the tree, then scale the fence to get out.

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Leave us ALONE! We just want to eat grass. And escape from these non-sheepproof fences.

Something also went after the four new sheep the Neighbor brought in, and one of them lost a LOT of wool and some flesh, but seems OK. We are hoping the culprit is not the cabin occupant’s dog, who went after the sheep when he first saw them, so they don’t want to leave the pen to eat in the pasture.

Nice of all these creatures to wait until I got home to show up, isn’t it?

 

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

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The dogs are very impressed with the size of this yello cucumber. It’s um, mature.

It’s a nice October weekend, and I’ve been taking advantage of it by really enjoying the Hermits’ Rest. We’ve had a couple of neat discoveries today.

The first came when my friend Mandi and I were checking the bed with the okra, basil, and peppers in it. Out of habit, I looked in to see if there was any action on the cucumber vine that had really not done a dang thing all season, other than grow and make pretty flowers.

Whoa. What did I see, but a HUGE and very overripe cucumber, just sitting there taunting me. You’d think I’d have spotted that one long ago. It appears that the plant decided it was more of a pumpkin, and put all its energy into this one immense cuke. You’ll be grateful to know I’ve spared you the raunchy photos.

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The hungry swallowtail caterpillar.

While laughing at the cucumber, I turned to look at the bronze fennel that is in its second year and going to seed. There I saw at least a dozen lovely caterpillars! They were munching away at an impressive rate.

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I wonder what the little one is?

There were two types, and one was easy to identify as a black swallowtail, but the smaller ones I didn’t get. Someone has suggested that they are eastern black swallowtails, but I’m hoping someone can help me get a definitive ID. They are way smaller than the other ones.

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Double rainbow, all the way! Mostly.

It was an extremely humid day, and there have been a few brief showers. We truly enjoyed the last one, which came from the shower that got me while feeding the chickens. It lasted at least an hour. You can’t complain when your surroundings are this beautiful.

PS: The chickens are finally making more eggs again. And Mandi and I found a dozen on the horses’ square bales. All were still good!