The Black Dachshund Mix Goes to Austin

I’m sure Vlassic was looking forward to some fun today, but the weather didn’t cooperate. It was another big rain day. For me, it was fun looking out the window while I worked upstairs.

Wetness and reflections.

For Pickle, the day meant a great deal of panting and shaking. I refrained from photographing her in her distress. Vlassic mostly slept through the storms.

Big, pre-nap yawn.

He “helped” me a lot in Zoom meetings, or acted as dead weight in my lap. He apparently gets bored hearing only one side of conversations.

I’m a cute dead weight.

He got a lot of licking in, too, especially after walking in the rain. I was really proud of him for managing to do the needful outside.

I’m about to jump in Suna’s lap.

Pickle finally got to safely go out around 5 pm. She can really hold her bladder! We got to see our neighbor, Katie, who was in the same boat. Rain is very hard on small indoor dogs. We humans were sad that book club got rained out for the second week in a row, too. Sigh.

I’m better after my walk. See, no trembling.

Vlassic is not complaining. Time spent with Suna is good time for him. He got to destroy a dog toy, so now he can spend the rest of the evening watching HGTV with Anita and Suna.

Ahh. Life as an indoor dog has its benefits.

I know Vlassic enjoys ranch life, but he sure isn’t complaining about his time in the big city, even when it’s storming outside.

Mad as a Wet Hen?

I was a bit worried about how the chickens were going to do in all this rain, as I mentioned earlier, so I made a shelter inside the pullet house for the two who like to hide and covered the cage in there.

Star and Henley check out my sad little shelter. Henley likes to hide in enclosed areas, but her cardboard box died in the rain.
The hens can still roost on top, but they can have more shelter if they want it. Meanwhile, Sapphire is relieved to have some dry food.

I really was wondering if they’d drown or something, especially with the way the skies looked all day.

Looking to the east.

However, every time I look outside, I see them roaming all over the place, delighting in all the new bugs the rain has served up. Usually the black hens stay close to the henhouse, but today they were all way out in the field. Still, when I called, they hauled butt to see me.

This is later, after I came back with more food. They come quickly!

So, none of the wet hens seem mad at all. The roosters are happy, too! Like Chris said, they’re just chickens. But, if I want to pamper them, I can, right (if you count piling tin roof materials up as pampering)?

It’s too muddy in the back of the pen, so I gave them fresh food at the front.

It was also raining like crazy when I went to the horses, so they get grass for dinner again. At least the calves are fine. They have a nice shelter. Too bad not everyone likes their accommodations.

“I still want to be in the pullet house, dammit.” Poor Patty.

Sure, There’s Fun in There, Somewhere

The last few days have not been in the realm of “fun” for me, for the most part. Just because I CAN do things doesn’t mean they aren’t stressful and tiring. I knew I had to change my team and work in a different way than before, so I did, but between actually doing it, needing support, and spending a LOT of time supporting confused people, by the time last night rolled around I was pooped.

The back pond is full again. And the grass is greener already. Photo by Lee Bruns.

When I got home, I was not up for wading through mud to feed the horses, and besides, I knew they had food and water, due to all the rain (the grass IMMEDIATELY grew). I did check on the very wet chickens and their very wet food (I can’t open one of their feeders, so, it was all in a very wet bowl). As I was checking on the new chickens, Patty ran into the pullet area and wouldn’t come back out. She went right over to poor Henley (who still doesn’t look great, but she’s eating and drinking). I tried as long as I could do remove her, but failed.

I am NOT leaving.

I crawled into bed and had ice cream for dinner. Self care! That was fun.

Today, it’s been raining all day again. The weather around here is just plain weird. But, it’s not hot. And the chimney leaked a lot less than yesterday. See, how great is that?

After surviving (set the bar low, Lee said) the three days of planning meetings with hundreds of people on Zoom, I was happy to find a box on the porch. It contained my new autumn wreath. It’s not too fancy, but will look good on my office door. I wanted to wait until after Labor Day, but I needed some fun, darn it! That will get me through another couple of months, anyway.

Velvet Pumpkins!

My boss said to take the afternoon off, because we’ve earned it, but of course I’ve had to deal with an ornery aging computer genius, and my team all want me to to one on ones and teach them complicated document formatting techniques. I wonder if I can do that while completely empty of mental strength?

I AM taking tomorrow off. Maybe it won’t rain and I can make it up to Apache and Fiona!

End of the Micro-drought

Have you ever heard someone say, “It never rains at my house?” My grandmother would say that. She lived a couple of miles from us when I was a kid, and it would always rain for us and not for her. Well, that is exactly what happened to the Hermits’ Rest Ranch in August.

It rained a few times in Cameron, maybe not a lot, but enough to water the trees a bit. Seven miles down the road, at the ranch, we watched as storms would endlessly form and dissipate around us. I’d be able to see and smell rain, but it would miss, or we’d get a few drops. Lee was excited the day we got .02″ – which barely wet the ground. It’s like we had a micro-drought, just around the Walker’s Creek community.

The rose bushes are getting watered.

My evergreen tree had started to die off, but we only had one set of hoses, which go to the new tree and the chickens. I was going to buy a new one after work today, so I could save it. All the cedar elm trees were turning brown and losing their leaves, not in a lovely fall show, but in a “we need water” display. The oaks still look okay. (I would have a picture, but the rain started in earnest right when I was driving by the best place to show this.)

But, hey, it’s September now. As we always say in this area, “Wait until September, and it will rain again.” And it has! Of course, Cameron seems to have more than we had at the ranch when I left an hour ago, but the radar shows it’s raining at home, too.

This was a half hour ago. College St. is now completely under water. Note how nice our grass doesn’t look.

Speaking of rain in Cameron. When it starts to rain sideways, the flashing on the chimney at the Pope Residence does not block the water. I arrived to the office just as a wind came up, and I heard the festive sounds of running water, heading straight to an electrical outlet. I quickly unplugged the fireplace and found the only bucket Chris hadn’t taken home when he cleaned up.

That looks safe, doesn’t it?

I’m glad it hadn’t been doing that all night! The wind has died down, and it looks like I won’t be hearing dripping all through my half day of intensive meetings today.

Honestly, though, I always hate the summer drought period, and for our micro-climate, this year was the worst since the Big Drought in 2011-12. I will not miss the giant cracks in the earth and the extremely crunchy grass. Apache will be happy to have at least a little green grass again (hopefully not enough to make him sick).

Lee just filled me in. Five inches of rain so far. As usual, we have gone directly from drought to flood!

This means the pond is filling up!

Happy September to all! And isn’t weather interesting?

Horse Bites and Sitting Donkeys at Sunset

I’m still laughing inside after a fun evening romp with our trusty steeds, even though there was some drama in the middle. And, um, my hand hurts.

We met at 7:30 to do our evening horse chores together, which we always enjoy. Everything went fine, and we paused afterwards to watch Spice and Lakota walking together like old friends, and to look at how beautiful the sunset made sone eastern storm clouds look.

Romantic cattle chute

Suddenly, we heard coughing, rather loud coughing. Exchanging a look, we hurried toward the sound. There was Apache, continuing to cough. He was a great example of how coughs spread droplets, as we could see spray going way out.

See the moon up there?

Where was that spray landing? Why, on the hay bales on the other side of the fence, the ones encased in green netting. Uh oh. We zipped into the paddock, where Sara opened his mouth. My job was to see if there was any green stuff. Like the non-horse person I am, I stuck my hand in, to feel.

That wasn’t smart. I discovered just how powerful horse jaws are and how sharp their teeth are. Its just a little chomp, but I have a feeling it will look worse tomorrow.

I’ve put ice on it.

Sara gave Apache a treat, and he ate it just fine, so he dodged that bullet. I leaned on him to get the owie out of my hand and thank him for being okay. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement.

Whee

Fiona was done with all the drama, and decided to roll in her favorite dust patch. I was so glad I could get some pictures.

I have crazy ears.
Time to get up!

When she was done, she sat and rested for a while. We couldn’t stop laughing at her pose. She looked at us like we were crazy. Apache kept coming between us to make sure we were okay.

I’m very proud of this belly!

Then the wind came up, and we all ran around like kids. Me, Sara, Apache, Fiona. Just living for the moment. I’m still having fun!

Come back, we want more fun!

It’s been a good day. Sending love to all. Back to icing my hand.

World’s Hottest Socially Distant Photo Shoot

What? I had visitors? I was careful! My work friend, Heather, and her daughter, Emily, wanted to come see our ranch animals, especially Rip in his baby adorableness. We figured if we were mostly outdoors and wore masks, we could safely manage it.

So they drove up, and even brought me my mail from work AND a chocolate pound cake. Homemade. Yep. It’s divine.

Horses and donkeys are on the mantel at the moment.

I have them a tour of the new office, which was a lot of fun. All my animal stuff went over well with Emily, who rides hunter-jumper and volunteers at a very cute farm. And all the shiplap, metal, and brick!

After the tour.

Then it was off to the ranch! It’s good they used to have a Great Dane, because it made all the dogs palatable. Alfred LOVED them. Heather couldn’t get his picture, because he kept going back and forth between the two of them.

Since I got no dog pictures, here’s a leaf-footed bug Emily found.

We then headed to see the chickens. That was sort of sad, since we discovered Butternut had passed away. I think the others huddled on top of her and she overheated. I couldn’t figure out what to do, so I put her in the garage fridge. Sigh. the hottest day of the year is not a good day to get chickens.

Bye, little one. I’m am glad they’ll replace her, and maybe I can get another one.

Heather took a zillion pictures (actual total, 127). Many were of Fancy Pants, who let Emily carry her all over the place. It was really fun watching the chickens with Emily. Here are just a couple of my favorites of her chicken photos.

Off we went to see the cutest calf ever, Baby Rip. That was also a teen animal lover’s dream come true. Since I wasn’t holding a dead pullet, I could get a couple of pictures.

Calf love.

Of course, Heather got a real keeper with the good camera!

Beautiful baby! Photo by Heather Westmoreland.

Here are a couple more of my pictures. Rip is so curious and cute!

Rip wasn’t sure about Vlassic.
Look at my cuteness!

We saved the best for last, and headed over to the horses. Guess who they loved? Fiona! She and Apache were both on their best behavior.

It’s because I am cute and nice. Photo by Heather Westmoreland.

We had a lot of fun trying to get glamour photos of them with Emily. Neither of them was real interested in getting in the good light, of course. After all, it was 104 degrees outside! But, we persevered. Here are some highlights (the last three are by me, the rest by Heather).

My favorite picture, maybe ever, of me and Apache was taken by Heather, and I am going to try to get a print of it.

Me and my buddy. Eight years ago today I learned to put his halter on.

Everyone was having a great time, so we rewarded Apache and Fiona with some grazing time over by the cabin, and went over to see the 18 cows. Guess who was front and center, as always? 18-1. A few of the others also came up to say hi.

Before we left, I asked Heather to take some pictures of R45, since she is getting way up there for a mama cow. She hasn’t had a calf in a couple of years, and is in her decline. But she sure produced some great calves! And she’s still built like a 1970s Buick. Big and wide.

We fed the horses and Big Red, then headed back to the house as the sun was going down. I had a lot of fun talking to Emily about all the supplements the horses get, and she told me a lot about the farm where she volunteers and the place where she rides giant warmbloods. I’m glad Heather is giving her these opportunities to work with animals.

And I’m glad to have given Heather some opportunities to take photos, because she’s taken some real beauties where Emily rides. Looking forward to more! You can see more photos on Facebook, since Heather tagged me on the ones she uploaded.

This makes the ranch look fancy!

My heart is full from getting to show off my animal friends, and I am so glad it was so breezy outside. If we had germs, they all got blown away! Tomorrow, I’m looking forward to getting replacement hens (Butternut2, perhaps?).

Happiness Is New Life

As I was reading my morning news/opinion pieces, I was reminded by the Rev. Jim Rigby that it’s important to remember that there’s good stuff going on today. Go to his Facebook page to see his ten reasons to be grateful today. What struck me was this:

What a shame it would be if we forgot to celebrate the fact we are alive, that we are all connected to each other, or that underneath all our problems we are still expressions of a cosmic process. What a shame if, in the middle of this terrible storm we did not pause to appreciate the courage and nobility of those who struggle on our behalf. 

Jim Rigby, Facebook, July 27, 2020

To that I want to add that we continue to celebrate that life and death go on, regardless. While I heard of the death of an old colleague this morning, I also saw beaming baby photos from three other friends.

My morning also featured this new heifer, who doesn’t seem to understand that cars have the right of way! The old ones politely moved.

And last night, when I went out with Lee to look at the frogs, he asked me what a particular plant growing up out of the disturbed earth was. Usually what we see are the plants that typically come up in disturbed soil, but this one looked familiar.

It’s a leaf, all right. I didn’t take a picture of the whole thing.

It was not a hackberry or a cedar elm, even if the leaves have serrated edges. It looked like, hmm, what is that tree in the field on the other side of the woods? Thank goodness I have iNaturalist!

Sure enough, it’s a cottonwood, which is also a native tree, but we only have ONE on our property. We had just been talking about how we REALLY need some trees. And boom, we have one! New life to be happy about.

We may or may not move it. It might look nice next to the little pond. I know their seeds are a big messy, but I love the way the leaves shimmer in the wind and the seeds fly around like snow. We only have the one tree, because cattle eat up any saplings in the pasture. Now we have one with a chance to become a nice shade tree, eventually.

The rain that fell all over the county completely missed our ranch. There was a little peninsula of nothingness, and we were in it. But we got a nice sunset.

Now I just have to mark it so no one will weed-eat it or pull it up! I’ll just stay optimistic about this, and carry it into the rest of life today. Back to work on the ole kanban cards.

The Vines of Hermits’ Rest

I thought I’d take my own advice and get out in nature this morning, so I made up a project to see how many different vines I could see along the fence in front of and beside the ranch house.

Mustang grape. I know because it’s silver and hairy on the bottom.

It hadn’t gotten stifling hot yet, so Vlassic and I set off. I knew a lot of what I’d see, but figured I’d find at least seven different vines.

Vine
Looks boring, right? But if we hadn’t been aggressively mowing, it would produce cool little lanterns. It’s Cardiospermum halicacabum

I actually ended up with 12! At least I hope so. Most weren’t blooming, but I recognized them. The white morning glory had closed up and I couldn’t get to the flowers to photograph.

I was especially glad to see passion vines in more than one place, because I’d worried the poison ivy had crowded it out.

Passion vine with no beautiful flowers.

Also I was glad to confirm that we have sorrel vine here, since the Master Naturalist who lives not far from here has a lot of it.

Sorrel vine or Cissus trifoliata. It’s known as possum grape, too.

Otherwise, it’s the usual prickly, rash-inducing, invasive and/or pretty plants.

Of course I had to snap a few other pretty sights. Plus, there’s action around the hen house. There’s a new spider building a web right in front of where I get the eggs from. Luckily I have another way to get eggs.

And Chris put a live trap by the chicken run. We need to stop whatever took almost all the guineas and a hen! Hopefully, once it cools off, he will come up with more safety measures.

These are prettier than water hose, right? Lady Bird’s Centaury.

We do have a much more elaborate water system, though, since the other one was trying to make the hoses explode. Chris used new water hose/pipe and fittings to make a safer temporary setup until we make the fancy underground one. It’s also too hot to safely dig the trench for that.

At least the dogs are happy we’re inside all day. 102 is too hot for any of our outdoor projects! Happy July.

It’s weather fit for sunflowers!

Bullfrog Population Explosion

This weekend a lot of dirt was moved over at the Hermits’ Rest. We are making the little new pond bigger, since it will eventually be used for something good, I’m told. Now that the rains have slowed down, water is receding and it’s easier to dig. (About five minutes after I typed that, a rainstorm came through, but since it’s July, I doubt there will be much accumulation.)

As the dirt movement was going on, I thought it would be a good idea to re-check what’s in there.

I found two young turtles swimming around. And some dragonflies. Mostly, though, I saw members of the frog family.

A green pond and frogs.
The turtles are up near the top right. I think. But in this photo there are actually 14 frogs, at least. Some are in the water and some are on the shore.
Not one of the biggest ones, but you get the idea.

First I saw big ole bullfrogs sitting and floating. Then, as I looked harder, there were more and more.

At one point, I saw at least 14 of the frogs, some adults and others still young. Maybe you can see them in the photo at top, but you would really have to zoom in.

Another little one.

I guess we had a bumper crop of baby bullfrogs (I originally thought they were green frogs, but got corrected on iNaturalist).

Then, something moved. It was one of the Gulf coast toads we have lots of around the house. I know where that one came from, because Chris had just disturbed the home of a pair of them when fixing a death-trap hole near our water cutoff. They hopped on over to the pond in a huff. At least we didn’t hurt our buddies.

Hi. You messed with my house.

As I was enjoying how gigantic the toad was, my eye was drawn to what looked to be a very pretty rock, very close to the toad.

That was no rock, it was a leopard frog! So beautiful! I got all excited and tried to get some good photos, but didn’t want to scare it off. It doesn’t help that when it’s really sunny and my glasses turn dark, I can’t see the phone screen very well. Poo.

Leopard frog! Best photo I could get.

In any case, I’d never seen a leopard frog here, so that’s a new one to add to my list. That made my naturalist day!

Mr. Toad and Mr Frog.

Pretty soon, Penney dove in to take a little swim, and a great deal of splashing and “eep” noises ensued. That was the end of my fun with frogs and toads.

Trim and Tidy and Safe

The work on my future office is progressing. The bathroom just needs the sink picked up and installed, and some paint touch up. Then I can add my plants and wall stuff.

Now the edges of the tin won’t attack people. It looks so good.

The office trim is getting painted for both rooms on this side of the house. It will get installed as soon as it is dry.

Shiny.

The same is true for my beautiful mantel. We revised it a bit and really like its shape. Creative use of leftover trim makes a huge difference!

Side view of mantel shelf. I’m gonna have a baby fireplace!

Also, because the State has requested more precautions in businesses, we added places right inside the doorways of both the current and future offices so anyone who goes in can spray their shoes with sanitizer and clean their hands.

We canceled a lot of upcoming activities, too. Until the virus spike in Milam County calms down, our little ranch community will keep doing our best to entertain ourselves. So glad for our pets, livestock, and weather.

Peace to my friends, family, and the community.