Complaints? Nope.

Well, it’s been a nice couple of days, that’s for sure. The worse thing that happened to me was driving through the confusing world of Dallas, Texas traffic. But, I lived! So, what’s up?

Here’s the progress on the little baby blanket I’m working on. So far it’s very blue and purple, but you can see that will change soon.

House News

The first good thing is that the Bobcat Lair house finally sold! We were surprised it was on the market for so long, but we guessed it’s because the house has zero curb appeal. You literally can’t see anything but its miniature driveway! But the best part is it sold for what we asked for, minus an allowance to replace the deck, though apparently the new buyers are normal people and not afraid of a house with imperfections. Anita says the folks are nice and will fit in well, which makes me happy for our wonderful neighbors.

Pool News

We have good pool news, too. Yet another surface is going in (probably done by now, since I’ve been gone for a couple of days), this is some lovely flagstone that is covering the “beach area” where we can sit in little chairs and the dogs can safely enter. It was another one of the works of art that the tile guys do. Laying the flagstones was like filling in a jigsaw puzzle where you’re allowed to tear up the pieces to make it fit! In the end, it turned out really pretty. I can’t wait to get home to see it all grouted in and smoothed out.

They also did a pretty cover for the fire pit. By the time I get home, it will have a circular opening.

Horse News

Before I left yesterday, I checked on Apache’s eye. It looked way better. However, it sure was hard to keep his head down to put the drops in. I ended up with a sore arm! Glad I had help, for sure.

I look better. I don’t like drops.

Fun Times

I’m in Plano this morning, because I drove up to attend my bonus daughter, Ellie’s baby shower. I’m so happy she and her cute husband are going to have a baby! They announced the name by showing us a cute sign they’d had made on Etsy. I was thrilled to see her name will be Ruby. And they were all dressed in ruby clothing. So cute.

The baby’s middle name came from her grandmother.

I was so happy to see Ellie. There were multiple extremely long hugs exchanged. She is just a dear person and has done so well with her life. I met her when she was in college with my older son, and our families became good friends after we let her stay with us while she was doing summer internships and stuff.

This young woman is a therapist in her own practice now. Go, Ellie.

I am so happy to have also gotten to see her mom, Pouri, who has been a great friend to me for the past decade and more. She is one of the kindest and most generous people I ever met. And the best cook. If you’ve never had a home-cooked Persian meal, well, I’m sorry for you, because they combine some of the most interesting and delicious ingredients. I still dream about a beef dish with some kind of fruit in it that Pouri made once, no exaggeration.

My dear friend, Pouri.

Anyway, it was a sweet party, and then I got to spend an evening all alone. There were no dogs, no noises, and no distractions. I enjoyed knitting, reading, and watching mindless HGTV. Pouri and I agreed that that’s the best part of any trip or vacation!

I hope, so dearly, that all of you get a chance to enjoy your friends, rest, or recharge this weekend or soon in the future. All of this good stuff has really helped me, and I wish it for all of you.

It Was a Good Break, No Bull

Time for something that won’t get a zillion hits (so it’s not about changing jobs). I enjoyed this weekend’s little break at a ranch outside of Bandera, Texas. We didn’t even leave the place the whole time. Yesterday, everyone mostly sat around in the very comfortable house, read books, or watched football.

Howdy from me and howdy.

I, of course, went outside to see what I could see. You’d think 29 acres of pasture wouldn’t yield anything, but that’s not the case! There is a lot of native grass and other plants out here, so I was able to find some new things to put in iNaturalist. And since I’m always scrounging around, I found interesting poop and some dead things (a large mouse and a fairly recently deceased fawn (boo hoo)). I’ll spare you photos of that.

I had to get Kathleen’s picture with the big guy, too!

I also spent a lot of time with the longhorns that live here. The steer (Howdy) is really well trained, and used to work at shows and stuff. He puts his giant head down so you can pat him between the horns. That’s the safest place. When flies bother him, he flings his head, and those attached horns, pretty dang hard. Anyway, that’s the no bull part. The cow is Little Sister, and she is friendly, but just learning to accept pats.

Really, though, the woman who owns this place is great with animals. The two horses are so well behaved and happy, the longhorns are friendly, and her dogs are a total hoot. She has one Aussie shepherd that apparently is a double merle, so he is deaf and can only see in one eye, so the other one leads him around and fetches him when she calls. Aww. (Sorry no pics.)

These are the broodmares next door. They have very fancy hay feeders.

Enjoy some of the things I saw as I wandered around looking at the neighboring very fancy quarter horses and the random plants. I’m heading back home after a work meeting (yay Zoom) to pee in a cup and prove I am a US citizen for the new job. Then it’s back to “normality” for a couple of weeks.

Escaped to Another Ranch

To celebrate my job change and help me wind down, the family surprised me with a getaway to Bandera.

It’s a different place than we went last year, though nearby. We are the first guests in the guesthouse at Farmer’s Daughter, so everything is fresh and new. Even the trees are new. But it’s also really familiar, with horses, cattle, a bunch of dogs, and rustic stuff.

Looking through the gate

It turns out you can bring dogs and horses here, so we might return! I’ve walked around and identified some plants, you know, because I do that.

This is virgin’s bower.

I also am thrilled to have a horse to pet. This fellow will show you how Drew will look in a few years. He even has a snip on his nose like Drew.

The cattle are two longhorns, one friendly, one not. The bull is so beautiful!

I’m doing my best to relax, though I’m annoyed I didn’t know there would be a hot tub. Mine is all wire, so no good yet! Because I’m just wiped out, I’m going to just going to share some scenery and sign off.

I’ll be more coherent tomorrow. Now I shall eat my celebration cake and drink wine.

A Bit of Digital Culture

What a treat today was! Anita bought us tickets to Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience months ago, because we’d read about the exhibit when it was in other cities. Today was the day of our appointment, so I drove in to Austin and worked until time to go over to the Circuit of the Americas place where they do car races, concerts, and such.

The exhibit is under a big tent

At first, all I could think about was how easy the exhibit must be to transport, since almost all parts of it fold flat, other than the projectors. Eventually I got more immersed in the immersive experience.

There were lots of fun mirrors.

The exhibit is well designed, like a grownup Disney World, where you’re in a queue but don’t realize it. I enjoyed all the quotes over extreme close-ups of paintings, as well as the fun empty picture frames.

The second part of the exhibit was a room with bits of paintings projected on the walls and floor. You could lie down in it, watch it, or stand in the light. There was theorizing that drugs might enhance the experience. Anita didn’t need drugs.

This needs to be made into a large print

The patterns were so much fun!

The final part of the exhibit was a big immersive room with paintings and words and beautiful music. I really liked the patterns on the floor.

Whee!

The paintings weren’t static. They transitioned in cool ways and there were very well implemented digital effects that made birds fly, water ripple, and clouds scut through the sky.

Most fun were the self portraits of Van Gogh. Every so often, they’d blink! And we slowly realized that his pipe’s embers were burning and very subtle smoke came out. It was not cheesy; it was cool. But, we were too busy watching to get photos, so here’s a beautiful illusion of cherry petals flowing.

The big room’s program lasted 35 minutes, so we ended up being there an hour. We both declared it unusual, but well worth going. Plus, there was a little humor.

Ha ha. Clever.

I had to drive back to the ranch in bad rain and did one of my meetings from the car, but that was a small price to pay for getting to see ART in a pleasant, uncrowded environment.

Don’t Let the Chickens Out

It was a fun, relaxing day, except that I did a thing I probably shouldn’t have. The chickens were trying so hard to get grasshoppers from within their pen. I was throwing them in, but felt sorry for them, so I let them out.

Whoa! We’re free!

I watched them for at least ten minutes as they flapped and ran around after grasshoppers and crickets. They’d fight each other for them and squawk away.

Bugs everywhere!

I went off to take care of the horses, and when I came back they were scattered all over. So, I went in for a while. I went back out with half a watermelon shell. The minute I walked by, four of them came running, led by Bertie Lee, of course.

But the other two? Nope. I couldn’t find them. So I came back a few minutes later, and Star and Henley, the skittish one, were behind the coop. I couldn’t get them in. Well, I got Star in, but Buttercup went out. So, I had to get Lee to help. There are no photos, because we were too busy!

That dang Henley ran out in the field, ran around us, and got stuck trying to get in the wrong way. But, we did it! More teamwork! However, they stay in for a while longer, I think!

What’s this?

Earlier today, we rewarded ourselves for hauling all the hay by taking a spontaneous trip to Temple for lunch. We ended up downtown and Kathleen looked for a restaurant. We headed to a place with pizza, and ended up in a really pretty area that appears recently renovated.

Area near the restaurant

We had a great time at Treno’s, even with the weird trendy ordering system. The outdoor eating area was so pretty, and the oven-fired pizza was fantastic.

Pretty eating area. There were also really cute play areas.

We were delighted with our meals, and we want to go back and try their beer bar. I’m impressed with the work they’ve done there, and it was good to see families having fun.

More downtown Temple.

One funny thing is that I wore an old t-shirt today that says, “I apologize to anyone I’ve not offended yet. I will get to you eventually.” I had three different people come up and say how much they liked it. One guy took my picture. That was weird!

In all, it was a good Sunday. I worked, had fun, and ate good food. We’re going to try another Temple restaurant soon!

An Equitation Educational Event

Today Sara and I went and did something together! What? Yes! We ranch ladies went off and did a horse thing somewhere near Waco. We hadn’t done anything together since last year!

One of the horses and riders we met.

We went to a beautiful facility and audited a working equitation class. The clinician was really nice and let us stand close enough to hear her. It was tons of fun learning all the things horses and riders do in this relatively new sport in the US.

The hay thing simulates a cattle chute. the barrels and sticks you do a turning pattern through.

The idea is that working equitation includes aspects of cattle working from European, US, Mexican, and South American traditions. There are dressage elements (fancy horse steps), cattle working elements, finesse, and speed.

There were lots of different horse types and riders.

Another cool thing about it is that riders wear apparel from their own tradition. So you see all kinds of saddles, tack, and riding outfits. Some horses are big Andalusians, others are gaited horses with fancy walks and runs, while you also see quarter horses, too. Sara and I sure enjoyed all the beautiful animals and skilled riders!

This rider on a deep brown gaited horse is working the barrels.

My favorite of the things the students learned was picking up a pole in a barrel, snagging a ring on it and depositing it in another barrel. the gate opening task was fun, too.

That’s the pretend gate you have to open and close without “letting the cows out.”

I can see why Sara is interested in this sport! We learned all the patterns and figured out some of the skills we’d need to learn (me way more than Sara). Now we just need horses that are healthy and can learn with us. I still have faith in Apache.

Tomorrow we’re going to watch a show, which also will have dressage. This is all new to us cowgirls, but everyone was so nice to us, supportive of each other, and eager to learn. The horses all seemed to be having fun, and most of them were sweet animals, too.

I had to take this, because the flowers will get mowed soon.

In other news, there were more floods and rain today, but some fence work did get done. And I got to play with Vlassic much of the morning.

Vlassic enjoys his newly enlarged pond.

Another fun thing this morning was watching how curious the cows are about all the fence work. They are compelled to explore each new piece.

We’re fascinated.

And the little steer has been so cute and friendly. He kept coming up and licking my hand with his rough, black tongue. I can’t wait until Haggard joins the friendly cattle (hoping that will be tomorrow, since he is officially cleared).

I want to kiss you.

Anyway, despite the rain and more rain, it was a fun and educational day. Hope yours was, too.

I want to kiss you, too.

A Damp Welcome Home

Hooray for being back at the Hermits’ Rest! by the time we got home, I was all shaky and frazzled, and probably the relatives thought I was babbling. But the dogs sure were glad to see us. It felt fantastic to have my Carlton in my lap again. It was great to get back in my bed, and even great to have Penney lined up right beside me all night!

Harvey is very glad I am back.

The trip through Louisiana was beautiful, mostly following US84, and then following roads that made up the original El Camino Real de Tejas, which goes right to Milam County and is what our Master Naturalist group is named after.

We are in the section just to the left of Bryan on this map.

Highlights included a whole area devoted to catfish farming, including a place that made al the nets and a huge catfish food plant. Talk about specificity! The catfish farms also could have passed for egret farms. There were so many birds!

The lake that used to be the Sabine River and separates Texas from Louisiana.

We also drove through many beautiful national forests, and I carefully observed all the logging activity. Mostly it was lush and beautiful. There were plenty of cute towns, town squares, and such as well. It’s nice to see thriving small towns with no television presence to make them go into tourism overdrive.

What’s this? A dike, holding back the Mighty Mississippi in Louisiana.

The farther we drove, the wetter it got. It’s apparently been drizzling all week at the ranch, which slows down the fence-building operation. Today it’s pouring, but I did manage to go see Apache, Fiona, and the other horses to help put some medicine on poor spice, who has a big wound where a growth was removed. Apache has developed thrush in his feet from all the dampness. Can that poor horse catch a break? But the highlight was seeing the newest member of our farm animal family, Haggard, who is a young Black Angus bull from the sale barn. He’s tame as a kitten, and looks like he’ll be a nice small bull, perfect for first-year heifers to get easy births from.

What a sweet little guy.

Right now, Haggard is in quarantine, but he sure loves it when people show up with food!

Our field is covered with flowers. Can’t wait to get out there in the sunshine.

I said hi to the chickens yesterday, but didn’t see Steel, who is the only chick left and keeps escaping to hide in some tall, thick grass behind the coop. At least that one didn’t wander off and get lost. I’ll try again with chicken babies!

What a sweet little wildflower in Mississippi!

Otherwise, all is well. I may have more fun news later in the day, after I go into town for a bit, but right now I’m just trying to get settled back into a routine and figure out what’s going on. I’m lucky that this week is our work’s week to go do volunteering, because that will let me catch up on the volunteer work I have to do! Ain’t that great!

And, just one more flower from my travels yesterday. There’s always something pretty growing near a gas station, I guess!

It sure is good to be back home, especially since Kathleen cleaned the dickens out of the house. They sure did a great job taking care of things while we were gone. Now maybe we can have some FUN.

HGTV Tourism

Since we started the day in Montgomery and we’re taking back roads anyway, we decided it might be fun to see what the towns were the Napier family on HGTV do their renovations are actually like. Why not? So, we set out after the memorial visit for Wetumpka, Alabama, where Home Town Takeover is set. It’s only a few miles from Montgomery.

The bridge over the river.

Other people had the same idea as us, it seems. There was no parking and dozens of people roaming the streets. Their downtown is most assuredly revitalized.

Here’s a bunch of people milling around the store that was desperate for customers in the first episode of the show.

It looks like lots of other places have opened since Ben and Erin swooped in, and it no longer matters that the locals all shop at the big box stores right outside of town. There are PLENTY of tourists.

I didn’t get great pictures, because Lee wasn’t about to stop in all the crowds, and he was hungry. So, I got car window photos.

At least they have a sense of humor.

This place disappointed us, because it was made out to be a struggling place, but there are all sorts of stores, banks, nice restaurants and stuff you don’t see. Oh well. They lucked out!

We finally ate in the next town. Lee wanted to relive his youth and eat at a Waffle House on this trip, anyway.
Yep, there it is.

Next, we continued our tour of places touched by the Napier family, and headed to Laurel, Mississippi, where the Home Town show is filmed. There were lots of little towns on the way, though we cheated and took interstate highways for part of the trip.

I can see why Erin likes it there. Laurel is a beautiful town with many interesting homes, large and small. Lee and I enjoyed driving down the tree-lined residential streets and seeing the variety of houses, churches and schools.

The town is also nice, and wasn’t as crowded as Wetumpka. But there was LOTS of parking, so they are ready when throngs arrive.

And we even got to stop the car in Laurel! It was cool to see the shop where Ben does his woodworking on the show. And they park the blue truck outside the building. It’s not like they really drive it around, right?

Awwww

The store was not overdone in a Magnolia way (Chip and Joanna Gaines). It was nice, had things that actually resemble stuff on the show, and was nicely done. Plus, there’s a window into the wood shop!

Cool.

We had time to make it to the edge of Mississippi and stopped in Natchez. We lucked out, and our hotel room looks out on a memorial and the Mississippi River. It was lovely at sunset.

The shiny stuff is the river.

No more HGTV tourism for us. It was fun to see the small towns and what television can do to them! If I wasn’t so tired, this might have been more well written. Let me know if I totally botched a sentence like I did this morning! (Thanks to Barbara for letting me know.) Headed home in the morning.

Go west, hermits!

A Sobering Memorial

We started our day by going to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery. After all the reading I’ve done in the past year about the history of black people in the US after the Civil War, I thought this would be an appropriate place to go.

The gardens. So cheerful, which helps.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened to the public on April 26, 2018, is the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved Black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence.

https://museumandmemorial.eji.org/memorial

As you can imagine, this is a place that inspires contemplation and deep sadness. It’s quite beautiful, and wow do you have to go through a lot of security. That also made me sad.

The grounds are spacious and peaceful.

There is room for a lot more statues, since the memorial is fairly new, but the ones they do have are very moving.

This one appears to have real old shackles on the people. Horrifying.

The main memorial consists of a dark, cool space with these metal rectangles hanging from it, one for each county in the Deep South. On it were listed the victims and the dates of known lynchings.

You feel compelled to read all the victims’ names as you walk through. If you’ve lived in the South much of your life, like me, you feel compared to find the obelisk for counties where you or your ancestors lived.

Here’s Milam County, Texas.

Lee and I wandered an pondered. When we left we found an area in bright sunlight that reminded me of the conditions so many black people were forced to work under, even after slavery ended. This had copies of the obelisks grouped by state. I’m glad we saw this second, because I think the process of moving through the darkened and more random area made you stop and contemplate more.

So many cruel acts and innocent lives lost to remember.

After this, we enjoyed some plantings and more thought provoking statues. Here is one where you can stand in the footprints of some of the women who fought to sit at the front of city buses.

It felt so weird doing this.

The final sculpture really took our breath away. It’s all these black men trying to keep their heads above water (or that’s what it looked like to me).

From a distance.

Up close, you realize the back of the men in the “front” of the sculpture.

I’m glad we got to enjoy the peace garden at the end. It helped transition back to today. I truly feel it was important for me, in particular, to honor these lives lost to the ignorance, fear, and hatred. The people who committed the horrific acts could have been my ancestors and surely were their friends.

We enjoyed the trip out from Montgomery. It’s a prey city

We enjoyed the trip out of Montgomery. It is a pretty city. Here are some things I managed to get pictures of from the car

More later as we visit other places in Alabama and Mississippi.