Just Enjoy the Season

This row of cypress trees has only been at my office in Austin for a couple of years, but they already make a striking autumn display.

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.

The sky last night was very moody. It rained later. Too bad we hadn’t set up the weather station yet.

Last night I got home after a late meeting, just after sunset. The landscape looked so stark and beautiful in that light.

Brody the cattle dog sniffs the excellent smells of the mown hayfield.

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.

I love leafless trees. The structure fascinates me.

Enjoy what I saw last night!

Carlton and Vlassic roll in…something.

The Joy of Horses

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.

Yep, it’s pretty out here.

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. 

Spice points out that the sun did come out, once we finished the ride. Here, she is asking to be brushed.

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). 

Apache and I smile for the camera. I have riding helmet hair.

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. 

Not the tree we saw, but another majestic ranch tree.

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!

Harvey is on the alert for cats on the prowl.

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!

Let the Fossils Shine

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).

The round ones are cross sections, the long ones are lengthwise views of the fossils.

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.)

This is one of the more narrow blocks of limestone.

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.

It’s just amazing to know this is under the dirt in Cedar Park!

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. 

Sweet Sounds: Guitar Delivery

The guitar’s green-stained tiger maple and white inlay look even better in good light.

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).

Lots of pegs for lots of strings.

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.

I think he looks very happy here. Also, both my sons have their dad’s eyes. Really obvious here.

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!

How Are the New Dogs?

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.

As people keep saying, he’s SO white!

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.

They bought this massage chair just for me!

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. 

He is as soft as he is lovely.

Classic Vlassic

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!

Where is my human to sleep on?

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. 

I’m trying to get my smell all over the new couch, says Harvey.

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.

I finally don’t hate the way the living area at the ranch looks. Come see us!

PS

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.

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.