Apache and Suna Try Again

As I mentioned yesterday, there was a horse show for our Working Horse Central. It was the Summer Sizzler and lived up to its name. A bit humid and hot for some of us delicate flowers, but really not all that bad.

Me and Apache before things got going

It was a great show with many participants, including a good number of youngsters. They really did great, even when their horses weren’t cooperating. And one young woman was kind enough to lead and help out most of them. This really impressed me. That girl will be a good trainer in the future.

Here she is doing lead line on an extra cute pony. Way better than Drew and I ever did!

Apache and I did the best we’ve ever done, according to Sara. I was annoyed that I messed up the pattern in Functionality. I know we could have done better, but we each did our best. Apache did better on the Trail part, though I messed up the flag carry and he knocked over some blocks and really didn’t like the gate. Oh well. We did great trotting! Not great form or aids, but we improved.

I got hot and tired.

We don’t have any pictures of me and Apache yet, because no one other than Tarrin’s son took any (Sara was helping me during the last two parts). But I took some of her. And I’m glad I did, because she and Aragorn did their best performance ever.

Some fine cantering

After their first event, I had goosebumps. It was so beautiful. She and Aragorn even got blue ribbons for this performance, over our much more experienced friend. We are all thrilled for her! Of course, our friend also did well and it was great to watch her and her horse, too. And her show outfit, which is all Spanish.

Look at his bridle decoration flying around.

The whole time was impressive. All the horses and riders have made great progress. I was so happy to see this. Tarrin told everyone this, too. It helped me see that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself!

Ribbon time. That’s our dear body worker, Jackie, with me and Tarrin.

There ended up only being two entries in our class, because another friend wasn’t feeling well and the heat would not have helped a bit. So, we’re number two this time! I don’t mind at all, because Jackie and Jambo did great. It’s so fun to watch them together.

We’re all tired.

It was a fun day other than the heat making me a bit emotional for no good reason. I’m so glad we have our community of Tarrin’s students to support each other and grow together! I feel very lucky for myself and my horses.

And we have fun. A couple of folks posted photos of their sleeping passengers on their ways home. So Sara and I shared this. I should not have let the driver fall asleep. Ha ha.

Our poor horses were certainly glad to get home. They looked pretty good, since we’d wet them down nicely before we left. I had so much nice bonding time with Apache, since he got a bit bored and agitated by himself. He was doing everything I asked of him, so it was the least I could do to walk him around and let him nibble some grass. And hey, he didn’t break any more of my toes; he just stomped on his bridle. Good boy.

Back home at Sara’s, with pretty clouds.

Here are a few random photos from the day. I hope some make you smile.

Serene Equine Interlude

This afternoon my neighbor Sara and I managed to pack all our luggage as well as our horses’ luggage, and brought Apache and Aragorn up to the Watts Way arena for the summer Working Horse Central show. Yes, we know it’s technically spring. It sure is hot and humid right now, so all the hay toting and equipment wrangling made me sweat.

Look, the moon is full!

We had a very pleasant drive up to the Brennan, Texas area, and easily got our horses set up in their stalls. I’m really glad for the collapsible wagon I now have. The air was so still that we sweated here, too. I was glad when Sara’s friend, Kate, bathed her beautiful stallion, so I could enjoy the spray.

Another moon shot.

Kate left to go have dinner, so Sara is looking after Volem, the white stallion. We decided our guys needed a treat, so we took them for a walk in a pasture that was recently hayed. It was so peaceful.

We all enjoyed ourselves!

Aragorn and Apache munched on grass, and Sara and I enjoyed looking at the beautiful horses here. Three were very curious about our guys, and it was fun watching them running around.

They are grazing behind the fence.

It was so relaxing to be in a quiet, very well cared for space. I think both the horses and humans relaxed!

We are lucky to be staying at the little apartment on the grounds. It’s almost as nice as the RV, plus Lee doesn’t have to waste a day!We’ve enjoyed the view and all the amenities, which I hope will allow us to do our best tomorrow!

What a pleasant day. I’m grateful to be able to do this with all my horse friends! I feel well prepared. Let’s hope Apache does, too.

More Waterfalls and Flowers and DUNG BEETLES!

I did promise to finish writing up my trip to Pedernales Falls State Park. Gosh, I hope you like wildflowers and scenery and stinky insects. I had lots of energy for hiking/looking at plants, thanks to sleeping so well. Ahh. Total darkness and no barking or licking makes for great sleep.

Lee needed coffee, too.

So, once I woke up on Sunday morning, had my coffee, and analyzed bird songs (so many vireos), I took off for the other nearby trails. First, I took the Coyote Crossing trail, which led deep into a very humid woodland area and crossed a mostly dry creek that feeds into the river.

There were many interesting fungi, ferns, and vines in the moist environment. I also got to see a ladder back woodpecker. Mostly I enjoyed the deep green solitude.

Once past that trail the scenery was very different, with seemingly endless swaths of black-eyed Susans and their friends. There were lots of new flowers there, and I had one of those “Linda Jo moments” when I got practically giddy over plants. But I didn’t have a fellow Master Naturalist to exclaim to!

The next trail was the one that led to the swimming area of the river. I must admit I forgot there was a river to go to, because I was so mesmerized by the flowers. The trail went down steep steps. Every time I stopped I said to myself that THESE were the prettiest flowers I ever saw.

And there were so many butterflies that I felt like Snow White in the meadow. They were flitting all around me. It was magical!

I finally got to the river, and was happy to see it wasn’t crowded. There were just a few families wading around and playing, plus a woman with a big dog.

Eventually I turned to go back, stopping to photograph lizards and more flowers. I let the family with the dog pass me on their way up, then encountered the dad resting halfway up. I said something about taking it slow because I was a naturalist, and we got to talking about his interest in foraging. Talking to them made me not even notice the steep climb! Finally, someone was interested in my blathering.

They left to take a bathroom break and I headed back along the road, where I found some phlox and other plants that like sand.

The family drove by and asked if I would like a ride back, and to be honest, that sounded good. So I joined them. They said they were thinking of driving to the big falls, and invited me along. I’m glad they did. It was a ways down the road.

We had a fun walk to the falls. The best part was when I saw a dung beetle rolling a ball of poop across the path. Carl (the dad) got all excited, because he didn’t know we had them in Texas. That got the two boys and the wife excited, too. She took movies and we had a grand time watching the beetles while all sorts of people passed us, probably thinking we were weird. But it was educational!

We finally made it to the overlook, and it was gorgeous. We saw a wedding party, too. We were all too tired to go down to the river, but they were going to go Monday morning. I was fine just looking down. The photos don’t do it justice, for sure.

And that’s about it for adventures. The rest of the day we sat outside a lot and went in to watch movies. I don’t know what to think about the Legion of Superheroes movie. They did stay pretty true to the characters…but it was nowhere near as good as Ant Man and the Wasp. Marvel does make a good movie.

Listening to me talk about birds.

Back Home

I was glad to get home on Monday, but sure enjoyed my wallows in nature. I needed that rejuvenation. Of course, there’s plenty of nature here. Just look at the baby birds in a nest on our back door!

Too tired to peep. A storm kept them awake.

Speaking of storms, one showed up out of the blue yesterday and dumped a ton of rain in a short time. It was full of thunder and lightning. The dogs were NOT thrilled, and since I was the only one in the house, all five indoor dogs clustered around me. Penney and Carlton were under my desk. Harvey was beside my chair. Alfred was standing on the other side of the chair panting into my face. At least Goldie just stayed on “her” couch.

Eventually, Penney wormed her way into my lap and did that unbearable wiggling and trying to squirm up to the top of my head, or inside me. I’m not sure what her intent is, but it’s hairy, hot, and whiny. Thank goodness I discovered the guys were stranded in the garage so I “had” to take them umbrellas. That allowed the dogs to distribute themselves among three people. Whew.

Help ME!

And oh yes, I’ve had my dose of cuteness. look at Jhayati! She’s so soft! And like my dad, she’s never met a stranger. Sara is in love. I’m pretty thrilled, too.

Camping Weekend Update

Long time no blog! I could not get anything but brief Facebook updates to upload, so I just spent quality time with nature and Seneca the RV (and yes, of course with Lee).

See, I was happy.

Pedernales State Park has so many trails! I didn’t get to anywhere near all of them. Plus they have MANY miles of equestrian trails. I went to all the ones I could walk to, though. Actually, our camping spot was right next to the entrance to the Twin Falls trail, so there were no possible excuses to not go there.

The fall is behind the dead branch.

It’s a beautiful pool, surrounded by ferns. It’s off limits to people, but there’s a nice viewing area. And the trail is steep and challenging, but gorgeous, with lots of rocks, ferns, and birds. I’m so glad I have the Merlin app! I now know three different vireos but sound. And the ivory billed cuckoo. What a sound! I heard them all on this trail.

The best part of the trail was the bench where I stopped to rest on the way back up. I sat there for about five minutes, then I heard a noise. It was a doe, a large, sleek beauty. I watched as she went about her business, ignoring me completely. What a treat!

I was full of joy and peace after that walk. For some of rest of the day I sat outside a lot and enjoyed the birds. We enjoyed our neighbors, who were a family with two kids who were truly enjoying their visit. Ee kept having to find their lost baseballs.

Bird watching station.

I got the itch to go out again, so I walked to a place that’s a low-water crossing. It was very peaceful, with only a few other folks around. I had a blast hanging around the cypress trees and finding out what grew along the Pedernales River (pronounced in Texan as “purr-duh-nal-iss”). I got some really cool pictures especially the first one below.

That’s about all I packed into this long and beautiful day. Well, I did do my nails a very patriotic way, for Memorial Day.

I’ll try to write up the rest of the weekend tomorrow. I hope you enjoy some of the things I saw. I put up a LOT of photos on iNaturalist and lots were new to me. I got quite a few birds on my life list!

Earth Day Campout Highlights

Most of today has been great. The big highlights were predominantly nature oriented, but I also rekindled some old friendships and made some fun new friends.

I got to stand in the lake!

After coffee by a nice campfire I went on a brisk (for me) hike on the trail that goes around Lake Georgetown. The whole trail is 26 miles long, so no, we didn’t go the whole way. The weather was perfect, and we enjoyed going up and down the limestone escarpments. I didn’t take as many photos as usual, though I found a few new plants I had to record.

We enjoyed views of the lake and all its sights and sounds. I was sad to find zebra mussel shells on the shoreline. They’re very invasive. So is the Japanese honeysuckle we saw. But a black swallowtail cheered me up.

In our way back, I remarked to Mike that we were in the perfect habitat for golden-cheeked warblers, with Ashe junipers and native oaks. I swear only three steps later, the blaring “la cucaracha” call rang out! We never spotted the bird, but it sang for quite a while. Great Earth Day experience! Here is scenery from the trail.

I was ready for a nice rest after the hike, so I hung out with Lee for a while. Then I did some chatting with new arrivals. Of course there were some campsite emergencies that we helped take care of. The afternoon culminated with a tradition campout potluck meal. Unfortunately, the original location was lost, and I offered our shelter for the food.

Before too many people were there.

I didn’t realize everyone would sit next to our motorhome. It was too hard for Lee to be near people for that long, so I won’t make that error again! I made a couple other mistakes being too hospitable, but I’ve learned the hard way to keep folks away from the RV. I sure feel bad for that!

Young and old gathered. Loudly. Fun for non-hermits.

We did find the summer tanager again, which helped a little. I’m very grateful to the Merlin app that identifies bird calls, even though at first it said it was a Baltimore oriole, which got us overly excited. Away from the crowd, it got the ID right, plus we saw the bird and it was red, not orange. I ended up getting extra blurry photos of the male and a better one of the female. They are beautiful birds with a beautiful song.

It was fun to show birds and plants to others. I wish there were opportunities to do this at parks in Milam County for volunteer hours!

Old friends are good friends

Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here

After work and the horses getting bodywork done, Lee and I fired up Seneca and took off for another camping expedition, this time to Cedar Breaks Park, one county over near Georgetown, Texas. We’d camped on the other side of the lake from here before, but never at this site, which is a Corps of Engineers park (yay, free entry with my Senior Pass).

Pretty Lake Georgetown

I was really excited about it, because I was going to get to see some of my friends from a previous stage of my life when I did lots of stuff with a Unitarian Universalist Church in Cedar Park. One tradition I really enjoyed were the camping trips they’d do a couple of times a year. We went to some pretty places from the time my kids were little until we got our original RV and camper.

This is also a pretty place!

My friend Jennifer (who is a regular reader of our chatty little blog here) has done most of the campout planning for years, and I really appreciate the effort she makes to decide on places and get things lined up. Now that we have Seneca, we can camp again, so we decided to go to the next one she scheduled.

So, here we are! It has been raining off and on all day, which is how Apache managed to roll in muddy spots and turn himself into an Appaloosa horse.

Check out my new spots

It alternated between sun and rain all the way over here. It was sunny when we went into the grocery store to get supplies, then rained hard while we were inside, then was sunny when we came out. Fun weather.

Nice to see full lakes

It stayed fun once we arrived, where Lee impressed the folks who’d also arrived today (official start is tomorrow) by backing into our space like a pro. I reminded the folks that he IS a pro, having driven “big rigs” for a living for a few years.

What a pretty site, right on the lake

After hugging Jennifer a ridiculously long time, I caught up with other friends I’ve missed from church and toured everyone’s campsites, RVs and trailers. That was great fun. Our Cameron friends Mike and Martha also came along, as I’ve been camping with Martha as long as I have with Jennifer, since all our adult children were young.

Two happy friends

Mike inherited a very cool vintage motorhome a while back and has restored it to functioning again. It’s quite funky and very well designed, I’m so glad he got it up and running so they could join us on this long weekend get together.

My dear friends under the very nice cover each site has

Other excitement for me and Jennifer was identifying a summer tanager using the Merlin’s Bird ID or eBird app, then finding it in a tree. I got blurry photos, but you can tell they aren’t a cardinal. This was a first for us, and it was just wonderful to find it with my very first birding friend!

While I was showing Jen Seneca, we realized the temperature had gone way down, really fast. Yep, the real front was coming through. It was also going through Cameron, and we have reports of frightened dogs at home. Lee and I went inside to watch the weather coverage on TV when BLAM! A boom louder than when Sandy the Squirrel hit the transformer rang out, I texted Martha and Jen. Were they ok?

Yes, they were ok, but lightning had struck a tree right behind the cute vintage motorhome. Mike reported that there was a bit of flame, but it went right out. When it stops raining, we’ll check into the damage. They’re pretty sure the power to their campsite also went out, so they are using generator power. Yow!

I tried to take a picture of the weather. I got raindrops, but it looks interesting!

Next it started hailing. Lee is wishing Seneca was back under the cover at the ranch, but we’re here now enjoying the sounds and the light show. There will probably be more rain this weekend, but hey, I’m on a lake, there are birds and flowers, and more friends come tomorrow.

After the craziness of this week, of COURSE lightning struck!

Not Gonna Go There (in two ways)

What place in the world do you never want to visit? Why?

First, let’s answer today’s prompt from our friends at Day One. Now, there are a few places I’m not very interested in going, at least as they are now. I’m interested in the land and the everyday folks everywhere, though, and would be happy seeing how they live and interact.

I’ll just share butterflies rather than pictures of misogynistic places.

But, there’s politics and religion. And, as a female human, there are places I feel way less safe than I do in the place where I live now (which ain’t all that great for us womenfolk). So yeah, as much as I feel that everyone’s culture is worthwhile and not something I’d want to quash, I am not interested in going to places like Saudi Arabia, where even the mega-rich women who have all the “things” they want have no autonomy. That would not be good for me at all.

A dainty sulphur!

I always wondered if I’d be fine in whatever culture I was born into, thinking that’s the way things should be. But I know that visiting a place where I have no rights, even as a foreigner, is not for me.

Checkered white

All right, so the other place I’m just not going to go to today is my stressfully stressed-out week. While I did get some of the issues solved, no one showed up to replace my router, so I still have to deal with that, but I’ve just followed Kathleen’s advice and put it in my f*** it bucket. I made a conscious effort to find some good stuff, and with the help of friends, by gosh, I did it!]

The potential is always there for beauty and goodness.

I soaked in the kindness of my coworkers in meetings today (eating up all my phone’s bandwidth), and just basked in the friendly conversations at lunch. Thank goodness for friends!

And thank goodness for dewberries! Yay!

Then, this afternoon I got a message from Sara showing me what she saw right on the road in front of our ranch!

Hi, I’m Tom.

That’s a first for me here at the Hermit’s Rest, and a truly encouraging sight. Knowing we have turkeys here rounds out some of the missing pieces of native animals that I was hoping could be here. I’m guessing it got disturbed on the other side of the road in the woods by the creek, because hay was being harvested. Sara really lucked out!

Photo by Sara

The only birds I enjoyed up close and personal today were my chickens. I’m so happy that Not Dead Betty is laying again and has filled out all her feathers. She’s back to normal!

The rest of my mature group of ladies is doing just fine, thanks, regardless of whether the giant rat snake is there or not. I got six eggs today, so I have no complaints! Plus, I do adore giving them their delicious greens and watching them dive in. What pleasure they bring.

It’s such a pretty time of year. There’s always something to watch. I’m back to being balanced now. That’s a relief. All that anxiety and annoying symptoms is no fun.

It’s just so bucolic!

I Am Impressed by the Office and Now I Can See It

Today was long but fun. I left last night to go to scenic Round Rock, Texas, so I could visit the Mother Ship of Dell Technologies. I worked there before. It’s where I met Lee!

Oh look, it’s I-35!

After a night at a Hampton Inn that was not the best in its genre but was okay because it had no barking dogs, I entered the iconic Round Rock 1 building. And I was blown away.

They made good use of the pandemic off time by completely renovating the building to make it less of a cubicle farm and more of a place people would like to work. Even me!

Cute conference room.

I didn’t take many pictures, since it’s a workplace, but I really liked the way workstation groupings were interspersed with seating areas, brainstorming places, and snack stations. It is a lot quieter, too, thanks to really attractive heavy felt hanging dividers. The planners did so well!

I was there to finally meet some members of the team I work with. It was gratifying to meet my boss, Bob, and some of the folks I see in Zoom weekly. They all seemed pretty happy, too. Note: you can’t tell how tall a person is on Zoom—I was surprised by a couple folks. We had a very decent lunch in the new cafeteria, once we found the stairs.

This was great.

Next we did our weekly staff meeting in a Zoom Room where the technology appeared much better than the ones at my last place of employment. We geeked out happily when we saw that the camera both showed everyone in the room AND a head shot of each person around the table, along with the virtual attendees. That’s pretty cool.

My headphones stopped letting me hear others talk, so I got to use a little meeting room for my last meeting. How fancy! Speaking of fancy, lots of the good number of folks who were there had actual work clothes on. Glad I dressed up.

See. I dressed ok.

That takes me to seeing things. My glasses came in, so I picked them up on the way home. I’m wearing the most controversial pair above. They are a unique shape, and wireframe, not like my usual ones. They sure are good for vision! I also love the new computer glasses, which are more “Suna.”

I had a third pair (they were all 50% off) but they arrived all wonky, so the optician is sending them back to be redone. That’s the nice part about going to a real specialist. They do quality control.

So what are these?

Since I have my prescription and had credit at EyeBuy Direct, I got two pair from there, and they also arrived today. The pair above has silver foil in it. I like the size a lot. I was happy to find the prescription was good on them and they fit. They look more like my usual weird picks. But it goes with my hair. And the other ones are more subtle.

They have color! Honest!

You can’t really see that the frames have blue, purple, and pink in them, but it’s there. I was just happy to find a modern large frame that didn’t dwarf my wrinkly old face. And they are also comfortable and focus right. Maybe it’s because I got the higher quality progressive lenses.

My attempt to show the colors.

I got all these good glasses for really reasonable prices, so I’m set. I can sure SEE better now. But I’m tired. After all the meetings, taking longer than expected at the glasses place (I let someone go ahead of me, then mine had to be processed), and doing my horse chores, I’m zonked. Hey, 7 am meeting tomorrow! But at least it’s from home!

Dreaming of a State Park

If you could have something named after you, what would it be?

The blog prompt for today got me thinking about how much I enjoy Texas State Parks and how many opportunities there are for volunteers like me and my Master Naturalist friends to help out and educate the public at them.

View across the dam at Meridian State Park

Sadly, there’s no State Park in Milam County, so our El Camino Real Master Naturalist Chapter have had to make our own opportunities, like our Wildscape that Catherine Johnson spearheaded. Another group is working on a project at Sugarloaf Mountain, a cool site in the county.

We don’t have much public land, if any in Milam County. Thank goodness someone donated land for this park!

So, if I had anything named after me, I’d love it to be a State Park in Milam County. Of course, our ranch isn’t big enough to be one. And we don’t own it all ourselves. So I’d have to get really wealthy and buy up some scenic land. It’s just a dream, but I’ll help out anyone else who wants to create one!

I hope my park would have cool beehives like the one I found yesterday on the dam! Watch this video!

Until the Suna State Park is developed, I’ll just keep visiting others and documenting the biodiversity at each one.

Lee and I talked about printing some of our best photos to decorate Seneca the motor home. This is a juniper hairstreak on antelope horn milkweed.

The next trip will be to a Corps of Engineers park with people from our former church. That will be more social camping! Enjoy more photos from yesterday. Which do you think would make good wall decor?

Golden-Cheeked Warbler? Yes!

If you’re a bird watcher in central Texas, one of your goals is to see an endangered golden-cheeked warbler in its native habitat. Up to now, I’d never seen one, even though I’ve been places where they are found. No wonder I vowed to attend the golden-cheeked warbler walk sponsored by the State Park where I’m staying!

I was also hoping to see some new plants. This is Buckley’s oak, new leaves.

I almost missed the hike, because I didn’t realize it was on a trail we can’t get to in the motor home. Luckily, Mike and Kim, in the site next to us, also were going and gave me a ride.

The trail goes through the highest part of Meridian State Park, so there are different plants.

The hike was led by Aaron, a fellow Master Naturalist and expert on the flora and fauna of this park. It made the experience much better, because he had so much knowledge of what interesting plants, insects, and geological formations we’d see. Oh, and he knew what the warbler’s call sounds like.

Aaron shows us a plant.

There were around 15 people in the group, ranging from kids to elders. Most knew something about birds, and a couple were experts. Even the woman who runs the Waco Wetlands (where we went on a field trip once), was there. Everyone shared their knowledge, helped each other out, and was respectful.

Our fellow Master Naturalists.

Thanks to the expert guidance, I learned so much about new plants. There was native yellow clematis, bedstraw that isn’t sticky, and many varieties of galls on plants (with baby wasps or beetles in them). It was a truly beautiful mixed oak and juniper forest to explore.

A rare gall. I think.

All the while we walked and stopped to investigate things, in typical naturalist fashion Aaron was listening for the warblers. About halfway through the trail, we heard one. It sang and sang, so we all got quite familiar with its very interesting sound.

It was there somewhere.

We found the area where it was, thanks to its helpful tweeting. Imagine my surprise when I was the first one to spot it! It looked just like a photo of a golden-cheeked warbler! Glad I had the good binoculars.

A photo of a golden-cheeked warbler by the great Greg Lasley, from iNaturalist.

I would love to share my glorious photos, but all I got was these. I uploaded a sound file to ID it.

It was fun to watch it in person. The little fellow sang and sang for us, so everyone got a good view. We heard another one later, too. Eventually we moved on to looking at more interesting plants and insects. My new friend Mike found the shiny caterpillars, while a younger guy with a great camera found the ones on the leaves. I found the red bug and exciting moths.

Apparently I found a rare plant for this area, a Western Rick jasmine. It was one of many that I’d never seen before.

It’s tiny.

I was sad to see the hike ending. I learned so much about the ecosystem here at the place where east meets west in the US. Aaron was a great exemplar of what a Master Naturalist should do as they help interpret the land they’re sharing with others.

Happy hikers

Here are some more things I observed today. This was a most interesting place!

something poetic

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