A Tribute to Portulaca

It’s been a good weekend. Yesterday was spent driving to Houston and back for a family errand. It reminded me that I’m glad to live outside of a small town. But it was a change of pace that still let me get all my animal stuff done.

Houston always reminds me of getting closer to bayous, so here’s a crawfish that somehow ended up in the swimming pool.

The men in my house and I spent a lot of time this morning sitting by the pool. It was a nice, cool morning, the kind there won’t be many more of this year, so we took advantage of the opportunity.

Goldie and Penney also enjoyed the morning.

I weeded the pool planting bed, which of course has many volunteer plants coming through the landscape cloth. It’s mostly morning glories, nut grass, and the dreaded spurge. Yuck. That’s one native plant that’s totally a weed for me.

The only manicured area we have.

Weeding was made much more pleasant by the presence of the portulaca (or moss rose) plants that we put in just two weeks ago. I just love these cheerful succulents! They’ve already more than doubled in size.

Admit it: that’s beautiful.

This is the only plant that I’ve found that thrives here in the dry, hot summers. Last year, I had three plants, and they grew huge, but died in the big freeze. If only I’d known you can take cuttings and root them over the winter for next year!

Two pieces fell off. I stuck them in the pot with my sad bougainvillea that barely made it over winter. Both are growing.

Next year, I’ll be all set for more beauty! And wow, they are so lovely. Lee is very happy that they aren’t plain pink and yellow, as he feared. But I think the yellow ones are fascinating.

Note a morning glory is trying to sneak in.

It turns out that the portulaca grandiflora that we grow as an ornamental is related to the edible plant purslane, which chickens love and is full of vitamin A.

I don’t see any in your poop pile, Suna.

All in all, this plant is a winner and I don’t even feel too bad planting a non native. At least it’s food for someone. And it’s not showing signs of becoming invasive.

I’m not feeling bad about planting them, since they’re surrounded by red yucca, which seems to please all sorts of pollinators. We enjoyed hummingbirds this morning, plus many types of wasp visiting the yucca, which aren’t native here, but grow not too far away.

Yep, I’m looking forward to using portulaca all over the place, but I’m still going to encourage our native flowers. They take my breath away.

Yep. As long as I focus on beautiful flowers, insects, and random animal buddies, I’m okay. I hope you have something lovely to think about.

Love, Herons, and Horses

Sorry folks, I’m running out of stuff that’s not navel gazing and depressing. I’ve got to stop dwelling on the end of democracy and the worship of guns over people. When did the second amendment become so much more important than the first? What a world. Ok. Last incriminating expression of opinion and back to cute animals.

Another cute picture of Vlassic as edited by Lee.

So, I’m concentrating on love outside of the hate-filled realm of humans. Yesterday afternoon, Sara came over to do her farrier thing and trim Apache and Drew. While she was working on Apache, Droodles did everything he could to get attention. His head kept coming through the hole in the pens and poking us. Luckily, Mabel was in the pen with him, so she distracted him some. They just did calm friendship things together. Lots of rubbing and nuzzling. It was sweet.

Everyone got lots of fly spray, since Haggard the bill was also hanging out, and like most cattle, he was covered in flies. Droodles immediately rolled his spray off. At least he rolled in a dry spot.

That’s better! You should roll too, Mabel. No thanks, I would rather swish my tail.

When Drew tired of Mabel, he bonded with his other friend, the bull. They played for quite a while. The horses have enjoyed him while he’s been over here.

Apache was just sighing and getting his feet done through all this. Both horses look much better now. I’m glad it dried up enough to get this done. It rained overnight of course.

After the trimmings I was hot as heck. It’s so humid. So I jumped into the pool. Suddenly, I heard an unfamiliar squawk. I looked over at the pond behind the house, and sure enough, there was a large bird at the very top.

A large bird

I thought to myself, ah, that must be one of the green herons who are building a nest in there. I’ve been seeing them flying around together, and just recently saw them bringing large sticks over to what I figure must be a nest deep in the trees. I’m pretty excited about it. So, I took pictures.

Hold on, that bird has a neck and is not brown and green.

So, I dripped my way into the house and grabbed the binoculars. HA! That’s a male yellow crowned night heron in breeding plumage! Dang! How beautiful. I wish I had a real camera and good lens, because this guy was gorgeous. As I watched him, there was movement slightly lower on the tree. I saw a bill and realized his mate was also there.

She’s to the right. Hard to see.

That means there were two pairs of herons together. I confirmed it when the Merlin app identified them both during a squawking episode. I never saw the green ones, though.

Just wow!

The best part of my poolside bird watching was when the pair took off. They flew right over me, and with my binoculars I could see the beautiful female really well. Ah, love.

Speaking of love. We have at least ten nest boxes, but these ladies wanted to lay their eggs together. One blue egg, one white egg, one pinkish brown egg.

Things Just Build Up

It’s funny how it goes. You cope, cope, cope. You grant folks grace, repeatedly. You deal with illness and death around you without falling apart.

Rain rain rain rain

Then you don’t. I’m sure that’s normal. I’m trying to keep letting some unkind things I’ve noticed slide by me. All the mental challenges make it hard right now.

Dampness makes very large mushrooms

In addition to being sad about the young police officer and his family, I’m very sad that an old friend passed away on Saturday. Johanna Horton was helpful to me when my children were young, and supportive when my mentor died from breast cancer. She’s been in my life ever since. She and her husband both were kind, gentle, and very talented. They shared all they learned at Elder Hostels and when they bought and sold antique books. She seemed all right just a week ago on our weekly Zoom call (spin-off of an ancient email list and Facebook group). I had a real hard time joining the call today, knowing Johanna’s face wouldn’t be there. We all said we’d even miss the rug on the wall behind her chair. Sigh.

Johanna (from a public Facebook post)

And it still hasn’t stopped raining. Yes, we love rain here in the land of drought. But there’s standing water everywhere. Even if it had stopped, I don’t think we’d have been able to get the trailer to pull out of its parking area to go to Drew and Apache’s lessons. And I almost hurt myself trying to put food out for the chickens. The run is solid slop. At least I’m not worried about the horses getting enough to eat. The grass is growing in front of my eyes.

The dogs did NOT like today’s big thunderstorm. I had five panting dogs surrounding my desk at one point.

Mother’s Day is always hard for me. Mom was so…out of it. And I wasn’t a great mom, either. Maybe I should have listened to myself when I didn’t think I was cut out for it. I think I was trying to please others and probably too focused on their happiness. Well you can’t change what you did as well as you could.

Speaking of mothers, I guess the birds ran out of space in the sides of the house. Yep. A nest on a door.

And it’s funny. I’m finally feeling part of a community here in Cameron, but I’m still feeling isolated and alone. I hear and read so many people saying scary things about my views. Same goes for people in my family who are just trying to live their lives. This undercurrent of feeling unsafe can make one jittery.

Uh, subject change. I’m real good with fingernails. They get cut next week. The middle one is secretly broken.

These things just come and go. I do have friends and family who love me just as I am. I’m just musing.

Darn rain, dampness, sickness, and death!

Sunshine Follows Rain

At least so far that’s been true. And it’s true today. It rained starting last night and kept going until right about when I stopped working. We got at least two inches, which means we now are in a series of shallow ponds and the creek is extra full.

Once the clouds parted and there was a little sun, everything perked up fast. Suddenly the pollinators were in action!

I really enjoyed how green it is this year and how many flowers there are. I’m treasuring every day this spring.

Of course, other residents came out after the rain. I saw one of our large rabbits, then found this guy enjoying the poor drainage at the horse pens. I bet the water felt good. It’s just a rat snake/chicken snake, so there was no reason to panic.

Not only the natural world came out. There are lots of new airplanes here, thanks to an air museum moving in and a flight school, too. I enjoyed these two planes going over. I don’t enjoy helicopters shooting at hogs, though (or whoever is shooting at them with a semi-automatic rifle and not letting us know).

Today was just fine. I’m glad for the peace here, because it lets me send good thoughts to friends who need them. Love to all.

The Good, the Bad, and the Panic Attacks

Sometimes my days seem schizophrenic. There are so many highs and lows that it makes my head spin. More accurately, I end up with a full-blown anxiety attack, complete with shaking limbs (that make me trip over a dog then drop and break a pretty bowl) and chest pains. Nota bene: I know it’s not my heart, no need to tell me to go to the ER.

See, I’m also prickly and can get annoyed for no good reason, like imaginary unsolicited advice. Let’s back up.

I went to work at the Red House, since I had a training to do and didn’t want to drop the meeting suddenly. That was fine, though I left my mouse at home. Does anyone actually LIKE trackpads? I’m all ready for the training. Suddenly I hear chainsaws.

There’s my kid and his coworker. They inform me they’re going to cut down the dead and dying trees in the yard. These are HUGE trees. I was dubious. But they did get a lot done, plus got limbs away from the roof.

All was well, though, since no one could hear the cutting and thudding but me. I made the mistake of looking outside and seeing the two young men on top of the house. I was scared for them and got sorta nervous. It looked pretty dangerous. I mean, they aren’t arborists, just guys willing to do what they’re asked to do. They also admitted to being scared. That’s a healthy admission, I think. As far as I know, they survived. They have good sense!

I also unpacked a box of glassware from the Austin house. I do dislike doing that, but it was nice to see my Starbucks mugs and favorite green glasses. Lucky renters will get to use them.

Day lily bloomed today!

Things continued to go downhill as I raced home to get ready for my horse lessons. It was extra hot and humid, which didn’t help. The horses were hiding, because they don’t like welding, which was going on in their pens. (Too bad, I’m very happy the pens are getting worked on and think they look great.)

I was too busy to take pictures, so enjoy dogs playing with cattle.

I sorta got Drew cleaned up, then trudged back for Apache, who was sweaty as me. I was deeply involved in trying to de-sweat and de-mud him when our welding friend called out to me. I nearly jumped out of my skin, which is weird, because I knew he was there! It turns out Mabel had braved the welding area and walked out. I had exactly zero minutes for chasing after her, so I probably looked like a nasty old woman running around cursing.

Mabel responded to food, of course, but Apache never did get groomed. All this prelude leads to this: I had a great lesson on each horse, learned a few things, and really felt calm and together, like I’m getting a clue. Well, when Drew started to toss me around because mares were running up, I yelled at Tarrin that I was going to die. But I didn’t. She got me and Drew back on track. He actually settled down after being frisky because the weather changed.

Sunset over chicken house.

Im so grateful for Tarrin’s help, and I think the horses are, too. Apache hates to leave her training area! And we get to laugh at cantering cows and thank the weather for cooling down the moment my lesson started. It’s good stuff, the horse training.

By the time we got home, Drew had managed to kick everything around in the trailer and break his trailer tie. That allowed him to mostly exit ungracefully without me unlatching him. That got me all worried he was hurt. That guy! But he’s no longer the ranch baby, because Sully had her baby today, a little filly! I can’t wait to see her.

Sara shared this cuteness. Sully gave birth at her owner’s place.

By the time I finally got the horses fed, I was starving, which probably led to some of the shaking. I just feel like I was not my best self much of the day, but at work and with the horses I was great. Eh, that’s probably normal.

Now to settle that chest pain down. I’ll pet Carlton. That will help.

Back Online and Succeeding in the Saddle

I wasn’t able to blog last night, because a storm came through and knocked out cell reception for most of the area. My phone kept saying SOS and I told it to calm down, the towers would return. I sure am having the Internet issues! But indeed, I got to enjoy the cool clouds.

This photo by Lee makes it look like the pool house is about to be swept up and deposited in Oz.

It looked like tornado weather, and indeed, it was. Friends had a brand-new shed hit by a small one. It missed their house, though, so it could have been much worse. It’s hard to get used to so many scary weather events so close together, though.

Eek. Another photo from Lee.

We managed to get through the storm just fine. It was a very fast one! When I woke up this morning, there was more weather news. Tarrin contacted all of us who were signed up for a clinic at her ranch to let us know there were going to be very strong winds today. She let us know we could put it off.

If you try to put me on a trailer, I’ll bop you on the head.

We all said we’d just show up and hope for the best, much to Apache’s disappointment. He was not at all interested in going anywhere or doing anything this morning and kept bopping me with his head until I had to get firmer than usual with him. I managed to get most of the mud off him, including huge globs nested in the base of his mane. Not the most fun start to a day, but I’m happy to report that the rest of the day was a lot better!

I saw so many flowers that I had to be cheerful! This meadow pink certainly is pink.

He is always happy to go to Tarrin’s, and he got to head over with his buddy Aragorn. Sara drove today, and we always have a good time together. I ended up in a great mood all day, myself, and enjoyed meeting some new folks and their horses. There are some real success stories in the latest bunch of training horses!

I’ll just stay here.

After relaxing for a while in his luxurious (in his mind) stall, Apache came out to do our part of the clinic with me, and he was an absolute dream. We started out learning the newest dressage pattern that we’ll use in the next shows. We did it really slowly, stopping between each section, to help the horses pay attention to our cues. I enjoyed doing it as well as watching the other two riders in my group, one of whom was just starting out on her horse after training.

It was a great feeling to know that we’ve come far enough along to be role models of calmness as things blew around and spooked other horses. Tarrin made sure to share that it wasn’t all that long ago that Apache was nerved out at lots of random things. Meanwhile, he nearly fell asleep when it wasn’t his turn, even when something blew by and hit his leg. What a guy? Yeah!

I’m so calm.

The second part of our session was learning to do small circles precisely and teach the horses to pay attention to us rather than memorizing a pattern and blasting through it. That was a lot of fun for us, especially when we got to trot it. Apache and I have really made some improvement, and I was so happy to try these new things and refine how we do them. So much learning!

After our turn, we had an educational session where Tarrin showed us what a horse with severe hoof issues looked like on the inside. Camina the dog really wanted to eat that demo horse leg. It’s really cool that a horse can contribute to education after it has to be put down. It’s like they live on.

Yum.

Another thing we did was each of us stood on two scales and had to practice balancing so that each scale read the same. This was not at all easy. We also found that slight shifts of our hips made the scales move many pounds. What this demonstrated was that our shifts can really affect our horses, and also that their shifts can also affect their performance.

The folks in the last, most advanced, group in the clinic focused on this balance and helping their horses get not only straight but balanced before doing activities like beginning a canter from a stop.

Now, this annoyed each of the horses as far as I could tell, but it was fascinating to watching both horses and riders learning to refine their balance.

Concentrating

Then they all cantered around those barrels we trotted around. Wow, some of those horses are beautifully trained. Aragorn did a great job as well, even though he’s just learning. Sara loves this photo I took of them together.

Sara’s favorite photo

Of course, since it’s City Nature Challenge weekend, I snuck off to take photos of the plants and insects at Tarrin’s. I saw so many butterflies, and a gorgeous scarab beetle that visited my jacket. The ladies I was sitting with were fascinated with me looking at it, photographing it, and figuring out what it was.

The only negative was that I keep touching plants and really should check to see if they are nettles BEFORE touching them. Ow. There were also some very spiky trees that are either Hercules Club or Spiny Ash.

It was a really fun day for all of us, even the horses. We didn’t let that awful chilly wind slow us down!

I got to hold this giant draft horse’s lead rope and pet him. He’s shy.

Sara and I spent much time when we got home telling our horses how proud we are of them. These are the times to remember when things get challenging again!

Sara is telling Aragorn how pleased she is with him.

Just Goofy

Long day. Got a lot done and even received my new internet thingie. Can’t make it go, so more tech support tomorrow. Think of me.

I’m as stubborn as these persistent tie vines, though. I’ll get there.

By the time I got to an event I’d been looking forward to, a party for our recent Master Naturalist class graduates, I had a raging headache. Turns out the weather was changing. But the food was good and I enjoyed talking to friends.

Good job, Barbara D. It was delicious.

After all the serious photos I took, we got goofy with the paper flower decorations.

When I got home, Lee proved he was just as goofy as us. We all needed a good laugh!

Well, we dodged the worst hail from tonight’s storm and haven’t lost power. That’s probably because Martha isn’t across the street. Lightning DID hit the transformer across the road from her, though. Is Martha and lightning equal to Kathleen and snakes? let’s hope it’s coincidence.

I guess headaches make me goofy.

I’d Do It for Free

What job would you do for free?

…a job, that is. This blog prompt is probably too easy, since I’ve done a LOT of volunteer work, some of it hard and thankless. My favorite one, though, has always been reaching people to knit and crochet.

I have no photo to go with this, so here’s banana pecan bread I made.

I loved it so much that I taught at a yarn shop way longer than I should have. I did get paid some, but mostly I did it because it’s so cool to take someone who’s never held a needle or hook and a couple of hours later end up with someone who has a new lifetime hobby. You’re never bored if you have a project.

You’re also never bored if you like weeds…err…wildflowers

Now, at the same time, I want to assure you that I believe teaching these skills is worth paying for and that professional knitting and crochet teachers deserve to be compensated. I happily spend money learning new skills from amazing and creative folks.

Grape flowers.

I’m not sure if blogging is a “job,” but I do know folks who make lots of money doing it. For me it’s a practice, not a job, so I’m happy to blog for free. Writing is so important in my life that I just have to do it, and I enjoy sharing what I write with a few folks to exchange thoughts with.


Enough of jobs I’d do for free. I guess if I retire my job will be to keep learning and growing. It’ll probably cost me, not earn money, but that’s ok. I just hope I can afford to keep the horses!

And us dogs!

It finally stopped raining, but wow is it muddy. So, no horse riding happened. I was able to set up for the stuff I’d hoped to do all week, though. And I played with the chickens, down to seven, sniff. They got to go out and forage a bit.

Billie Idyll was laying an egg. I’ll miss Betty.

They were all out at the horse pens, but when I called them, they ran with those little children legs and followed me into the chicken run for a treat. That’s more responsive than certain horses.

Here we come!

I’m glad for a day where I could be out with the plants and bugs, knit on my blanket, and hang out with the family. Plus, we have a guest, so I got to leave the house and eat at a restaurant! Woo.

Here are random photos from the last two days. It’s been wet, but relaxing!

Mostly Square and Mostly Wet Photos

It’s rained for many hours. That usually doesn’t happen here. Today’s rain was what Lee calls “a good soaking rain,” which I hope means soil moisture is being replenished.

Wet red yucca, one of the few plants actually planted here.

I endeavored to find inspiration today, since it’s so cold and wet. The temperature has changed so little today that I wonder if my temperature blanket will have a solid square when I get to today.

I finished February last night. You can see it getting warmer.

My sick chicken got upset being confined so I let her out. This morning, there she was, all wet on the ground. So I took her into the warmer and dryer hen house. I thought at least she could feel less damp. But no, I went to check late this afternoon and she had dragged herself all the way to the other end of the chicken run. At least she’s under the covered part. I’m not good at veterinary tasks.

Poetically wet thistle.

Taking pictures of wet things, and cropping them square, has slightly cheered me up. All the plants and insects are hanging in there, at least.

Rain bounces off me!

I can’t get to the horse pens to feed them. The drainage situation there is hard to solve. But they seem fine with all the nice grass and don’t mind wading through puddles to get in their shelter. Apache is probably enjoying the lack of sun on his pink skin.

The rain returned as soon as I came back inside. I guess the ponds will keep flowing into Walkers Creek.

It’s time to snuggle with dogs and stay dry. I hope you enjoyed the wet or square things.

Do I Need Another Pet?

Things are back to normal for spring in Texas. There was another tornado warning here, but just some hail happened, not like what others in the US have been going through. Today’s fun was record heat. Then the power went out all over town! That’s spring here.

Nope. No four-leaf ones here, either.

But this post is about a new pet. Spring brings the return of many old friends here. In fact, I was just thinking I was surprised I hadn’t seen any snakes yet this year. I didn’t see any over the weekend, either. But, the chickens let me know my search was over when I went to feed this morning.

Hello!

Well, it sure seemed at home in the nest boxes. And there were no eggs. I didn’t see any lumps in our new pet, though.

It’s cozy here.

I just watched it for a few minutes, and I was surprised to see it slide…somewhere. I went around the corner and saw these very convenient (to a snake) slots made by the supports for the boxes. Someone asked why I didn’t stick my hand in there, and my reply was that the slots also looked like excellent habitat for black widows and brown recluses.

Blurry, but you can see the holes.

I’m feeling more happy with the snake right now, because I came back later and found five eggs. At least the snake is sharing! Later, though, after horse riding, feeding, and medicating, I went to shut the door to the henhouse and there it was, outside the chicken area.

So, as lovely as this rat snake is, and even though there are lots of mice in the hen area, we will have to discuss its meal choices before I’d let it stay.

But I have room for another pet, because we did an oopsie yesterday. Kathleen and I teamed up to do the spring worming for the horses, which went well except for Mabel, who was not at all interested. She and Kathleen both ended up with wormer all over themselves and I had some on my hands. Everyone rinsed off in the water trough. Oops.

Wah. My fishies!

That was NOT very smart of us humans, but Mabel had more on her, and she wasn’t about to let us wipe her mouth. Luckily feeder goldfish are quite inexpensive. And I do still have one trough with big fish in it.

Spring in Texas. It’s harsh.

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