Reptile Season

I’ve mentioned the snake that was in the henhouse last week and the snapping turtle that visited. The reptiles and their ilk have not stopped coming, though.

This morning my son was mowing the back yard when I went out to feed the horses. He said to go get my camera, because he’d just seen a different kind of snake.

A different kind of snake

He was right. That wasn’t another rat snake, it was a thick ole water snake. Like everything else, it seemed to be moving from one body of water to another.

The bad thing was that it went over to the swimming pool equipment, where there is already a garden hose that looks just like a water snake. Now we are very careful over there.

I’m not a snake

Only an hour or later I went to put something in the tack room and spotted a movement that looked familiar. Nope, not a snapping turtle, but one of the native cooters. It didn’t stick its head out enough to ID it, and it’s shell was covered in algae. A fine little specimen.

The algae is a good disguise

These guys are breeding right now. I know for sure, because my friend Jeremy, who does all his ranching at night, saw one laying eggs and burying them last night! I’ve never seen that, since I do NOT ride a tractor at night.

I’d like to be going now.

We are still getting rat snake visitors, too. There was one in the henhouse last evening, another full-grown one, who had already gotten an egg. I got the other ones out, and just left the snake, since I was on my way to a Master Naturalist party for our graduating class. I did post it on Facebook.

Apparently my photo startled the aforementioned Jeremy when he saw it. Then only a little while later, he nearly stumbled across one doing his yard work! It looked exactly the same, which gave him another start! Like me, he’s a snake fan, but they still can startle you! I love having interesting friends who share stories.

Speaking of startling, the colors in this selfie startled me! It even made my hair look good.

By the way, I had a blast at the party last night, which was held in one of Milam County’s numerous Mexican restaurants. This was in Rockdale. The folks I sat with were so much fun and told great stories about the area and it’s history. I’m sure everyone noticed how much we were laughing.

Of course, we talked about reptiles, too. I heard that last year, Gene Rek, the guy who sells us our chickens, had over twenty rat snakes in his turkey pens. Yow. That’s more reptile visitors than even I would want.

My friends Gene and Carolyn goofing off.

We all realized it had been a long time since we’d had the chance to just relax over a meal and get to know interesting people better. It felt good to laugh and share.

Unexpected Snappy Visitor and Others

I always look forward to the snapping turtle mating season, when they wander around looking for friends or places to lay eggs or something. This morning I had my camera out in case the cat showed up. A movement caught my eye, and at first I thought it was an armadillo. But nope, it was this traveler.

Howdy! Do you like my outfit?

We see these often, as readers are aware, but this was a good chance to get nice pictures, since I’d caused my buddy to stop ambling.

I’m ready to leave.

I’d wanted a good rear view of a common snapping turtle, so this gave me a great opportunity. Thanks for holding still, pal.

Bye bye buddy

We have other visitors. I did finally get a blurry picture of the cat who’s hanging around here.

Yep. It’s a cat and one of the endless vehicles the cattle tenants drove up and down by the cabin yesterday.

Barn swallows are the loudest visitors. We love them and their nests on our patios anyway. They do eat bugs!

And here’s a couple I found while looking for new flowers.

Flower scarab beetles

More later. I have a bunch of horse pictures.

Go Outside, They Said. So I Did.

Out here in my field
         I fight for what's real
                  I put my back into my livin'
I don't need to fight
       To prove I'm right
                 I don't need to be forgiven...
...Suna's Wasteland

I’m still dealing with some anxiety, so when my noon meeting ended, I went out and just stood by the entry into the property. Ostensibly, I was waiting for the letter carrier, but they drove past the other way and never actually delivered anything. That was fine.

My field

It certainly wasn’t a quiet time out in my field. The incessant “peep peep PEEP” call alerted me to the arrival of the dickcissels for the summer. Those little birds are so extra cheerful that it’s almost painful. The background was punctuated by the sounds of red-winged blackbirds, scissor-tail flycatchers and one male cardinal.

Only bird that sat still.

I heard a sound behind me. Hey, look at that! It was Mrs Hummingbird dropping by to say hi. Honest, that’s what it felt like. Thanks, little buddy.

Hi!

I leaned on the fence and just breathed, like you’re supposed to when you have the stress going on. That’s when I said to myself, “Damn, it smells good here!” I looked down and figured out what was going on. The native grapes are in bloom. I believe I was today years old when I realized the mustang grape flowers were incredibly fragrant. It looks like we will get a lot of them this year, in addition to dewberries, if only it will rain just a bit.

Well, droplets of water did fall from the sky briefly, but I wouldn’t say it rained. Nonetheless, it took the horses from quietly grazing in the scenic field to racing to shelter, as if they were going to get inundated. They did not. But it was fun to watch. I also enjoyed watching Apache being friends with Mabel, which was sweet. She is doing SO much better with some magnesium supplements in her.

It never did rain, so I sort of plopped myself into a relatively insect-free part of the only field that hasn’t been mowed to a nub and enjoyed the variety of flowers and grasses I saw.

Plop

Once again, there are new bloomers coming up, including some big ones and some tiny ones. I just love the variety. Being among all this diversity brings me so much peace and joy. I am so lucky to have all these plants and animals nearby.

Speaking of animals, first, the chickens are happy as heck, because they can now go back out and roam, thanks to a screen door being added to the garage. They express their thanks by taking care of any horse poop they run into and eating all the June bugs Lee fishes out of the pool. They are hardly eating their chicken food now! And they are just so happy to be able to get all fluffy and take dust baths, which is a chicken’s favorite activity after chasing bugs.

New Resident

I don’t know if I’m happy or sad to report this, but apparently we have a new ranch resident. It’s a large, fluffy, apricot-colored cat. It was first spotted Saturday morning when Sara and I were leaving for Sandhaven. It’s still here, and was in the middle of the chicken pen this morning. Luckily, we have no missing poultry. I shall be more diligent about shutting the door to the henhouse from now on.

It looks like this. Obviously, this is not the cat, as it is indoors. If you are in Calgary, you can adopt it.

I guess it’s okay for the cat to hang around, since we have a lot of things for it to eat around the barn area. Barn cats are good. Now that the dogs are reliably fenced in, cats seem to be able to hang out here. I am unable to tell if it’s male or female, and I haven’t even gotten close enough to see if it has an ear notch that would indicate it’s been spayed or neutered. I’ll work on that, of course.

I’m not expecting to last here long. If it is here after a week, I’ll bestow a name.

Hope all is well in your world. It’s not bad here; I have no clue what’s up with the chest pains.

Easter Walk

Much nature has been seen today, which makes for a perfect celebration of rebirth. Kathleen took me out to the woods and pasture to see some trapdoor spider nests (which I didn’t get a picture of). Penney joined us, and she had a lot of fun.

I’m exploring.

We found some really fun things, including lots of rocks. This one looked like a skull to us.

We love our rocks.

There were tiny mushrooms, dead crawfish (thanks to the crop duster), three types of sedge, a beautiful snakeskin in the tree that no longer is covered with grapevines, milkweed, water butter cups, wild garlic, and so many evening primroses.

The best sighting of the day came from my friend in Milano, Tarrin. Look at all these icky tent caterpillars! Wow!

Ready to make a tent, I guess?

I have a lot of horse stuff, which I’ll share later. Now I’ll enjoy my family.

When a House Comes Down the Road: The Pool House Saga

Where to start on this tale? It’s a log one. Once upon a time, during the Pandemic Years, there was a house down the road from us. Suddenly, the house up and moved one lot down. It’s like I blinked and the house was moved. That seemed weird, but people do weird things. Over a period of months, the house got all fixed up and looked very cute.

Then, one day, where the house used to stand, there appeared a different house, one of those pre-built ones that aren’t a mobile home, but are more like a large portable building. It was pretty cute, too. A lady who raises dogs lived in the renovated old house, we found out.

Cute little house just sitting there.

We noticed that no one was living in the new house, and instead folks were living in a nice RV on the property, along with a ridiculously cute pony. At the same time, our family had been talking for a while about having a pool house on the other side of the pool, where Kathleen and her spouse could stay when they are in town, and otherwise where people can change and dry off from the pool. The talk had died off as other stuff happened in the past few months.

The cute pony did not come with the house. The lady with the dogs got it.

But, the nephew didn’t give up. He talked to the owners and found out that they’d decided they didn’t want to turn the building into a house after all. We looked at it and realized this little building is the exact right size for a pool house. It’s not big enough for full-time life, but perfect for occasional use. Talks ensued. And ensued. At one point, we gave up when the company that owned the loan didn’t want to take our money. But, yay, Lee and the nephew were patient and the move was scheduled!

Removing the supporting cement blocks

We were happy to find out they could move the building today. That required a lot of fast work, including cutting down part of our gate to make the gate at the entrance to our ranch, since we needed a 2-foot opening. It’s a good thing we know someone with a welding machine that happens to be on our property.

The pieces of wood are where the entry keypad and edge of the gate used to be. They will go back. You can see that they DID roll over it.

The other concern we had for moving the house was weather. Rain kept threatening, so we just hoped it would hold off long enough to get the house in, but then show up and rain like crazy (we need it).

Moving the house onto the trailer

Luckily, today was just cloudy. We got the call that the house movers were here, and of course your intrepid blogger grabbed her phone to record it all. Let me tell you, it was truly interesting. They have some amazing high-tech equipment that makes picking up a building and moving it a real breeze. Of course, we had our helping team there and were all prepared to do some of the work. I’m so proud of all the lifting of rocks they did (not my son’s favorite task).

Watch the little machine guide the house onto the trailer.

They had a little vehicle that was remote controlled. It could push the big house like it was just a sack of groceries. To get it off its foundation, it pushed the house straight onto a really fancy trailer that also can go up and down and even sideways, as I found out later. The house was on the trailer in no time!

It took it about 15 minutes to get down the road to our house. I enjoyed taking pictures of it as it came, plus I got some wildflower photos while I waited. Yes, people think I am a strange plant lady, but it’s okay. I had fun. And it was cool to see a house going down our road.

The scariest part of the whole trip was making the turn into our driveway. It’s a good thing that boards were put over the places where the gate had been cut off, because wheels went right over it. And at one point, everything was tilting. The trailer fixed it! It was really cool to watch.

The guys had taken down part of the fence, but there was no way the truck would make it in. No problem. The little machine pushed the house onto some wheels, and off it went.

Lowering the house off the trailer.

The guy controlling it was so good. He got the building exactly where we’d put the cones to mark the front boundaries. Wow. Suddenly, there it was!

Once it was in place, everyone got to work setting blocks down for it to sit on. The house movers had a set of lasers to help level the house, so it is accurate and straight.

We still have to put a few more supports in, but by gosh, there’s a pool house out there now! Of course, the dogs had to inspect it. They liked the free couch that came with the house the best, I think.

The general idea of a floor plan for the inside is set. Now the team will have to get onto making it usable. The plan is to make it quite rustic, like a guest cabin. We will paint it to match our house and garage, and plan to use some of the leftover stone from the exterior of our main house as accents. It will all look pretty darned coordinated.

Moment of nature. Oak blossoms.

Obviously, this will all take a while, but first the tack room needed to get taken care of. Today the ceiling got finished and the team made the larger loft smaller, so it will be more useful for what we need. All the insulation is out, so it’s looking more like a real tack room. I’m so pleased. I’m not sure when they plan to do electricity or anything, but it’s insulated and sound!

While all this excitement was going on the horses and chickens wanted attention. Drew informed me he really didn’t want any more horsey Pepto-Bismol, and since he seems fine now, I’ve decided to stop forcing it on him. He is still getting three soupy meals a day and the rest of his medicines, however.

I do not want your pink disgusting stuff. I’m outa here. Notice Drew looks sort of orange. He has been rolling in sand.

And the chickens let me know quite loudly that something was amiss in the hen house. I went over to see, and yep, it was yet another rat snake trying to take advantage of the free food. Sigh. They are such good snakes when they are eating mice and rats. But, this one had to go.

MMM, eggs. If only I knew to flee after I eat eggs.

What a day, right? And I managed to write some scintillating content on project schedule baselines in between exciting moments. I’m all tired again, that’s for sure, even after a relaxing evening last night with friends and family. It’s so nice to see both the pool and the hot tub in use and the grill fired up. Living one day at a time is working out so far.

So, who thought we’d be driving a house into our back yard today? Not me, as recently as last week.

It’s Not Sunday, It’s Sunaday

Have you ever wondered what Suna would do with a day entirely to herself with no one else’s agenda (other than a deadline)? Truthfully, neither did Suna.

Samhain greetings, by the way.

But, today was indeed Sunaday, and I got to do whatever the heck I wanted to, all day long. I did have a newsletter to make, so I did it MY way, and gave myself little incentives like if I worked for an hour I could knit four rows, go for a walk, or have a mini Hershey’s bar (you know, in case anyone knocked on the door looking for candy, which did NOT happen in this building full of old people).

I looked at nature, duh.

Other than that, quirkiness ruled. I did many things I can’t do at home, like set food on the coffee table with NO consequences, burn a smelly candle all day long, sit around in bed watching CBS This Morning (what a comforting show), and watch things on the computer (gasp, not eating up all Lee’s bandwidth!).

Right outside the resort.

One thing that I did that wasn’t atypical was watch football all day. But, I did do other things, so there was no lolling on the couch without being productive. I still can’t manage that.

Tree hugging another tree.

The highlight of the day was going around the neighborhood. It wasn’t too cold yet, so I got to look at all the trees and listen to all the fun birds around here. The most fun birds, for sure, were the magpies, who were very vocal and active. They and the crows seem to be the biggest birds here.

My other favorite site was perhaps the cutest squirrel I ever saw. It was an Abert’s squirrel. They are small and have fun tassels on their ears. Of course, I did not see any moose or other large animals, since I was in a neighborhood of condos and resorts.

You could hear it chewing

Still, there were a lot of remnants of flowers and beautiful evergreens to enjoy. It smells quite nice here up in the sky.

In other news, I got a few photos of the pool, and I was surprised to find out that the little tiles they put on the steps glow in the dark! I guess we hadn’t gone outside after dark since they put them in.

That will look cool under water.

According to Lee, there is still a lot of tile work to go, since we chose that difficult but visually stunning Versailles pattern. Good for us.

Tomorrow starts my week of 6 am meetings. I have a great attitude and am sure I’ll do fine. Today put me in a great mood. A Sunaday is a good day, whatever day of the week it is.

Talk about Comfortable

Today, Trixie was supposed to come and look at Apache’s feet, but Drew stole the show. I had gotten both of the horses, in preparation for her arrival, and Apache was quietly waiting for us in his pen. As we walked up, we couldn’t see Drew. Where was he?

having his spa day

Yep, he’d decided to just take a nice nap on the warm sand. That’s a sign that a horse is comfortable with the people he’s around. The best part is that he didn’t jump to his feet when we approached, like most horses would. As prey animals, they are always alert.

Zzzz

The fisr thing Trixie did was check out the big paint’s head, because it seemed sore. Drew got up and watched that intently, standing close so I could rub him. Trixie remarked that Drew really seems to be a people horse.

Apache’s feet are looking great, by the way, and he’s looking more and more normal. He even shrunk a horseshoe size. As he was being a model farrier client, I realize that I had lost Drew.

It’s more cozy over here.

He shifted again and really fell asleep, with fluttering eyelids, and deep, deep breathing. That was one comfortable animal.

I feel safe here. It’s where my food lives.

We could not stop laughing as he kept snoozing away even when Apache was finished and left. His little lips were quivering like he was having a nice dream. Damn, it was cute.

Melts our hearts.

Once we finally got him up, he got some spa treatment, as Trixie massaged his gums like she had done for Apache. We think he liked it.

It tickled!

He then let his front hooves get trimmed, but still was no good on the back, so Trixie is gonna come tomorrow and work on his issues again. He still walks a little. Funny, and we want him all ready and happy for training.

I guess I’m in love with both these equine wonders. My heart swells with love when I see how much progress we are making together.

Chickens and Snakes

I heard a loud noise last night from the chicken coop, and this morning I discovered something had gone after Babette. Her head is a mess, but she seems okay. In case Bruce did it, I separated her from the others, except Star, who is still setting on her eggs.

Good news

But it is not all bad! Blanca, the True Blue hen, finally started laying yesterday! What beautiful eggs she lays. Sky blue! Now we’re just waiting on Betty the Easter Egger to give us some green eggs, and Billie Idyl.

When I was out fetching the horses, I spotted this snakeskin, most likely a rat snake. It has these cool ribbon-like segments, I guess from its belly. I’m glad Trixie liked it as much as I did.

Well, this was fun. My new laptop is also a giant tablet. I typed this from my chair, with the computer flat. I am fancy now.

Weirdest Day Ever

Sure, it’s been a weird couple of weeks for me. I’ve not shared most of it. Lots isn’t mine to share. But today. Wow. I literally was left with my mouth hanging open a couple of times.

I spent some time on the porch sorta glazed over, watching hummingbirds. They are monotone, because that’s how I feel.

I got a new laptop of my own, so I won’t be relying on work machines, but I’m so un confident in myself that I’ll wait until tomorrow to get it going. I am just zonked.

It’s silver.

So, here are some plants.

And look, a baby water snake and fish I need to rescue, once my brain engages again.

But wait. I did get to laugh last night. Mandi and I were talking to Lee on the porch, and Goldie got thirsty. She did her usual drinking method, where she buries her head and blows bubbles. We were so humor starved that we just laughed and laughed. Here’s Goldie today, though I couldn’t get a shot with bubbles.

See, even the weirdest day ever isn’t all bad. That’s worth remembering.

The Latest Case of Missing Eggs: Solved

I may have mentioned that the family reported no eggs the entire time I was in Austin last week. I found a few over the weekend, but not the usual amount.

Don’t blame me; I’m not laying yet.

In case the fact that Star had gone broody was making laying hard on the other hens, I set up two cardboard boxes with bedding in them, to make more compartments in the old roosting area. No one used them, far as I could tell.

High-quality nesting boxes

Then on Saturday, when I went to check for additional eggs under Star, I realized that the eggs I’d marked with a star were no longer there. Three different eggs were there. THAT is when I decided eggs were being laid, but consumed. Grr.

I can’t make the grass around the coop die and the big mower can’t reach it. I thought putting the food container in that space would be useful, but…ants came.

I knew it had to be a snake, because nothing else, other than a human, can get in. Then I was worried for Star, since she is setting so dedicatedly on her nest! I must have checked for a snake a dozen times this weekend, and other people were checking, too.

These blurry but happy chickens are eating all the food I had to throw out due to ants. They also eat ants.

So, today, when I FINALLY had a chance to move my butt off my office chair, I went to check the chickens. There were two eggs under Star. Good. Then, I went back, because I was thinking that perhaps if I set the new nesting boxes I put in sideways, the hens might like them better. I moved the one on the left, and heard the weirdest sound. I carefully peeked in the other box, and there, under the chicken bedding, was a very content rat snake. I KNEW it had to be lying around somewhere nearby, and it was just hiding! I’d probably missed it earlier.

The culprit

I asked the nephew to please eliminate the snake, which he did quite efficiently. As always, I hate doing this, but I know it would come right back if I just moved it off to the woods (previous experience). Besides, I am pretty confident we have a LOT of rat snakes here, so I’m not leading to their extinction. Ranch life is hard. To cheer you up, though, here’s one of our herons in the tank behind the house.

If you put goldfish in the troughs, expect a visit from me, the fish killer.

And…it’s raining again. I’d hoped to go visit Aragorn the beautiful dream horse at Sara’s later today, so I hope there’s a break!

He’s Got a Ticket to Ride

He, being Apache. Tonight it was finally not too hot or too busy, so Sara and I checked on how Apache’s feet were doing since his abscess.

He’s shiny but chubby again

Sara says he’s as fat as he ever was. Sigh. I really need to get him in his pen half the day, but I blew it by going to the auction today. Tomorrow will be another day.

He does clean up well

Anyway, I took him out in the round pen, where he walked and trotted just fine. He did buck on the way to start circling, which was not so great. But otherwise, he was a gentleman.

Sara put the bareback saddle and bridle on him and rode him around. He was pretty darned good and did nice turns and back ups. Sara diagnosed him as fine for walking, so I’ll try riding 15 minutes or so tomorrow morning.

Look at my summer coat!

The other good thing is that Fiona has finally gotten rid of her winter coat. She’s one fine looking long-eared gal.

Snakes

To make a long day even longer, as I walked home from the horses, the hay bailer was hard at work. It scared up two rat snakes who didn’t even notice me as they slid across the driveway.

Then, after dark, when I finally came in, this fat and sassy fellow greeted me in the porch.

It’s a snake.

Not to worry, it’s a diamondback water snake. Check the head and lack of rattles.

Best I can do in the dark, but you can see the pattern.

Okay. Enough scary stuff for one day. Oh no, there was a dead scorpion next to where I keep my boots. Hint: always check inside boots for spiders, scorpions, or even toads (happened to Sara once).

Dead.

Ranch life is not for wimps.

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