I often just walk around and enjoy whatever season we’re experiencing. It’s the last part of autumn here, and in central Texas that’s when the leaves change, and for a week or so, it’s really lovely. It’s been that way in Austin and Cameron this week.
Last night I got home after a late meeting, just after sunset. The landscape looked so stark and beautiful in that light.
The guys who lease the Wild Hermits land have just made hay out of our pasture, and the dogs love the smells. And the dead mice, no doubt.
Enjoy what I saw last night!
One of the most satisfying activities we engage in here at the Hermits’ Rest is to go look at the shared Wild Hermits property on horseback. Sara, who co-owns the property with us, knows it backwards and forwards, and always has something to show me. Plus, we see things from the perspective of our horses, Apache and Spice, who always have a surprise for us.
Yesterday was the perfect day for a ride. It was neither cold nor hot, the sun was behind clouds but it wasn’t dismal, and it wasn’t too windy. The ground had finally dried out enough that we felt okay venturing forth; it’s taken a long time to get over the big rain event, and we still hesitate to go out to the “bottom,” where it’s still spongey. And all the trees are changing color.
Since it’s still a bit damp, Sara, the horses, and I just walked to one of the pastures, I believe it’s the one she calls the trap (they have names for all the pastures that I can’t keep track of very well, not being a cattle rancher, I guess).
The horses kept stopping and sniffing the air. Even Spice, who usually is the pacemaker, kept stopping. We kept looking to see if there was anything weird going on, but the only thing we smelled was the unusual but sort of pleasant smell of the fermented hay the cattle owners had given the cows in the next pasture. Sara said it reminded her of her childhood on the dairy farm in Illinois.
When we got to the end of the race (the skinny passageway to the distant fields), we had to stop and take a breath. At the end of the passage is a very large post oak tree. This time of year, all its leaves are a golden brown, but have not fallen yet. When you look at the tree, you see nothing around it but fences and other trees. What a great feeling.
We couldn’t get a photo, because we don’t take the good phones out on our rides (it sure would hurt to fall off a horse and land on your phone, plus that can’t be good for a phone). That’s why you have a substitute photo of a cedar elm.
Trees are great fun for horse exercise, too, as we can do circles and figure eights around them. I even trotted in a circle. I am not big on trotting, since I came rather late to my equestrian career. Apache enjoyed it, though, and so did I. We are in no hurry and have no show plans. Just fun. I’ll keep moving toward more adventurous stuff.
When we returned from the ride, having let the horses sniff every downed branch and check out every bunny that hopped by, Sara got a text from the friend who leases the pastures on the other side of the road. She’d seen a juvenile wild cat headed to the next ranch. Well, that may explain why the horses were hesitant to just head on out. The cat probably came from our area, or at least its scent did!
We are watching our little pets carefully. I don’t want to lose Vlassic the dachshund, and Sara doesn’t want to lose her cattle dog puppy!
It’s Thanksgiving Day in the US. There is so much to be thankful for out here in the middle of Texas, where all you hear is the cry of the hawk and the blam blam of someone trying to bag a deer (hope they missed).
I don’t think I’ve ever shown you one of the things I am most thankful for, and that’s our beautiful limestone that clads the ranch house.
The limestone is full of fossils of a sea creature from long ago, when the area around Cedar Park, Texas was an ocean. (Cedar Park and Round Rock both have very large limestone quarries.)
When we were selecting the stone for the house at Espinosa Stone, the man at the quarry showed us this pile that looked very different. He said it came from the Rattlesnake layer. Why was it called that? Because the sideways fossils do look very much like the rattle on a rattlesnake. Well, what could be more perfect for out here than that?
Each block is a different height, because they quarry it as thick as that layer is. That made for a lot of fun for the amazingly skilled craftsman who spent a couple of weeks making the outside of the Hermits’ Rest ranch house so beautiful.
Every time we sit on the porch and drink coffee, I enjoy the sun shining on the little fossils, all of whom are now quartz bits shining in the limestone base. Yep. Lots to be thankful for here.
I hope where you live there are pieces of natural beauty to astound you and inspire gratitude for the world we live in.
I shared how much fun Lee and I had driving through North Carolina on a quest to get my son a pedal steel guitar.
This weekend, Declan and his girlfriend, Rylie, made a quick trip to the Hermits’ Rest to pick the instrument up. This was an exciting day. I sure had hoped he’d like it (and be able to play it).
Declan plays with a few Austin-area bands that tour around the country every few months. Check out Mountebank and Sherry if you want to hear more. These bands are young, energetic, and full of actual talent!
He also has his own project, Big Destiny. Once we realized he was going to be good, we helped by getting him a few guitars and some lessons, but mostly he’s learned by virtue of hard work and practice. (He plays lead guitar, bass, keyboards, and various percussion instruments.)
We are aware that you can get more work if you play an instrument that isn’t played by a lot of people, so we were all for getting him a pedal steel when he expressed an interest two years ago. Folks around Austin are always looking for someone who’s good with a pedal steel. Now he just has to learn how to bend those notes and use all the extra strings.
So, the young people arrived, and Declan and Lee got to unpacking the instrument, while Ryle recorded it on the phone (she’s doing music too, and is a very gifted artist).
Everyone oohed and aahed over the colors and workmanship of the Hudson guitar. Even more fun was that it was still in tune, and Declan could coax some sounds out of it, even using a glass as a slide.
This is a little tune Declan played after he first got his pedal steel home. The start of many good things to come?
Once Declan and Rylie got home and the instrument was properly set up, Declan sent us a little clip of some lovely music. I can’t wait to see what else he does with it, and hop some of it is paying work!
A couple of people have asked me how Carlton and Vlassic, the two dogs we most recently brought into our ranch community, are doing. As I work on my next family history post, I’ll take a break to talk about these two sweethearts.
Carlton the Dog Man
Carlton was the little, sad dog I got from the Cameron dog pound, A Touch of Love. He had been chained up outside since separating from his mother at just 6 weeks. I thought he’d make a great small dog to take back and forth to Austin with me. I wrote a long post on his genetics a few months ago.
Carlton is now a great, cheerful, medium-to-large dog who stays at the ranch with his three other ranch dog buddies. He is still one of the most beautiful dogs I’ve ever seen, and he is full of love and happiness. He will be a year old the first of the year, so we hope he has mostly stopped growing. It’s nice that he is about the same height as Brody the cattle dog and Harvey the chunky Rottweiler-ish mutt.
He does not look much like we thought he would. He is slim and muscular, with very long legs. He runs like the wind, as long as he knows where he is going. We’ve had his eyes looked at again, and he seems to have a cataract in one eye that’s slowly growing, but he sees much better than we’d feared he would.
Vlassic just showed up out of nowhere in August, right as we were realizing Carlton did not have the personality of an indoor Austin dog. We took him home from the neighbors’ house, intending to find him a home. Well, we found him our home!
This little dachshund-mix charmer melts hearts everywhere he goes. and has turned into a great little commuter. He goes back and forth with me to Austin, where he’s brought out the “real dog” in his friend Pickle. They run and play, and it makes us so happy to see Pickle not acting like a grumpy old lady all the time.
The vet said he was about a year old when we got him, so we have assigned him a birthday of when he showed up.
Sleeping at our house
With all these dogs, sleeping might be a challenge. We do not have crates for them all! So what do we do?
- Alfred the Anatolian Shepherd sleeps outside. He guards the ranch.
- Brody the cattle dog mostly sleeps on the couch in the bedroom, but joins us some of the time.
- Carlton has a dog bed he likes in the bedroom, unless it is really cold. He usually gets in bed at sunrise for snuggle time.
- Harvey sleeps in the bed and growls grumpily if anyone moves and disturbs his beauty rest. He is quite an immovable object.
- Vlassic sleeps directly glued to a human being all night, preferably completely under the covers. It’s a good thing he doesn’t stink.
Amazingly, Lee and I sleep fine.
We replaced our stinky dog couch with one less likely to get ruined by the dogs. We also got a new rug, table, and lamp. Don’t worry, the dogs have already messed up the rug. But, that’s life with five dogs on a ranch.
I have a lot more genealogy stuff, but let’s take a break for some ranch slice of life fun.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fiona’s feet looked great, so she just wandered around and got into mischief when she wasn’t leaning on me.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
The back pond had even spread farther to the east than usual.
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.