We Made Them Fix Stuff

The day is over, and it was long but good.

Sunset over freshly mown grass.

More work got done on the poolside patios, but it got slowed down a bit because the Men spotted exposed rebar that happened when the workers chipped off the pool edges.

The beach are looks good, though.

So, they made some concrete and fixed it. They even dug up some areas to check. I’m sure that didn’t go over well, but it will make the Pool of Dreams last longer.

Fixed now.

I was impressed at how much work it took to build steps from one level to another. These are going to be STURDY. No corners are cut. And wow, they measured a lot.

Checking the stair measurements.

There was more pounding, including a manual pounder for smaller spaces. This patio ain’t going nowhere.

It does the job.

We were happy to see drainage pipes in the retaining walls they’re building. Lee approved big time.

You can sorta see the little pipes.

So, that was today. I worked a lot and then hugged all the horses. Ahh.

Even I got petted. A lot. I love Suna.

Enjoy more work in progress!

We had a beautiful sunset and moonrise to enjoy while feeding horses and planning future improvements. Ranch life is pretty good.

Drew Heads off to Colt College

Oh, sniff. It’s so hard when you have to send your teens off for further education. They look like such wide-eyed babies, even when they are dapple gray quarter horse colts. And moving them into their dorms can be a real struggle. That was true for Drew today as well.

My baby heads off to training land. Look at those eyes.

Now, of course we are really glad it’s been raining a bit for the past few days. But, this morning was the Big Day that we were scheduled to take Drew off for training, and Apache also had a lesson scheduled. I knew the trainer doesn’t cancel lessons unless it’s raining at the time, so I went ahead and got Apache and Drew loaded into the trailer, while a steady drizzle fell. Apache was rather annoyed, and let me know. But, in he went, and I even figured out how to lock the door that separates the horses in the trailer, too.

Drew went in, too, though he entered as if he was jumping a hurdle. What a good boy. Right as we were getting leaving, we found out it was raining at the trainer’s house, so we parked again and sat on the porch, watching the rain. Apache was not a happy boy. Stomp, stomp. Sara gave us her appointment time, so we were able to head out later.

I don’t want to get out, sorry. But I appreciate the gentle pressure.

Now Drew was the star of the show. First, he had to get out of the trailer. You may recall that he is not really great at the exiting part of trailering. I was hoping he could have a good experience exiting today, with professional help.

I’m thinking of getting out, so I can hang out with the cute dog, and that sorta nice lady.

My dream came true, as the trainer patiently encouraged him to get off, without yelling or punishing him. He got closer and closer, becoming quite curious about what was outside, not scared! After about 15 minutes, he jumped out, and immediately started sniffing the poop of new horses. MMM.

Ooh, so many new smells. I think there are many friends here.

But, he was NOT there for fun. He was already at school! He got a great lesson on keeping out of the space of the human he’s with. He only took a few big corrections until he was getting the idea and needing much less correction. He went from tense to relaxed, too. It was great to watch, and I learned a lot.

I’m not getting it yet.

He went to his new paddock happily and tried to make friends with a mare. He did better than we thought he would. I think he liked it just fine. The trainer remarked that he was smart, learned quickly, and not a spooky boy. I was proud, even though I didn’t give birth to him; I just brought him home after the family found him for me!

What happened to Apache, you ask? He finally got to get out of the trailer, and we had a short lesson in the same kind of thing Drew was learning, only he was a bit better at it. He should be, since I’ve been working on it, right? He got to eat a bit of grass and got some attention, so he got to feeling better. He loaded much better that time, so I’m glad he had a positive experience in the end.

I really miss Drew already. It felt weird not to feed him this evening. I keep looking for him in the field, too. I guess I got used to him pretty fast! But I have great hopes for him and for what he will learn when he’s in training. I want to spend many years together, so having a good start is important.

Is It a Rebar Sculpture?

That’s what I asked myself when I went out to check on the Pool of Dreams after work. It’s looking very sculptural.

The flat area is our “beach” section, where you can bask in shallow water, or if you’re a dog, slurp.

They’ve been working on the rebar framework for the pool for a couple of days now. The idea is they make a ten-inch grid on all the surfaces. That’s for the gunnite to stick to when they build the shell of the pool.

The hot tub looks really cool. The part you can see through will be the waterfall. Ahh.

I learned from the men in the family why the rebar sits on bricks. It can’t touch the dirt, or it will rust and degrade and cause problems. They thought it was gonna do that and got all worried. But, the pool boss guy assured them anything touching dirt would go away when the frame was done. Yep.

You can see the bricks from this angle. You can also see where they are making a seating ledge in the deep end, for sitting and drinking wine.

It’s been fun watching the shape of the pool come to life. I’m figuring out where the skimmers will be, where all the fancy lights will be, and stuff like that.

What it looked like yesterday.

I also found out that because our fire feature will be propane, not natural gas, we can’t put those fancy glass rocks in it. We have to use lava rock. Why? Because propane is heavier than LP gas, and it would get trapped under the small pieces of glass. It would go boom. Not good.

And there’s always the sky.

We enjoy sitting and watching the clouds and animals now that the evenings are cooling down. It sure helps with the anxiety, which is better today.

Carlton really wanted to get into the disabled machine (its track thing burst).

Tomorrow is a big day for me, so send me lots of positive energy if you have any to spare. As a reward, I’ll share some pictures of my animal buddies. It is so pleasant outside with clouds, a cool breeze, and normal September temperatures!

More Rocks: Pool Update

Been a busy work day, so here’s a quick update. Today a big pile of gravel showed up. They also covered all those water lines coming from the future pool controls.

Gravel in rear. Lee keeping an eye out.

Lee was nice enough to bring me samples of the material in the gravel. They look like they, too, could have once been ocean, especially the one on the right.

Yes, my guest towel is cute.

What they did with the gravel was fill in where the water lines are, I’m guessing to protect them.

Yay, woman workers today.

They used sandbags to hold the gravel. That’s good, since I think we will be getting some rain from Hurricane Nicholas.

The area at right is the “beach” entry.

The other main thing they did was get all the holes covered, so that’s why the machine is going. If I said that already, we’ll, it’s been a long day! I even crammed in a writing workshop at lunch!

Going Cuckoo over Gloomy Beauty

It’s time for another post with mostly photos. The rainy day brought a lot of sights, from a bird and insects I’d never seen before to animals dealing with water. That’s right, the title of this post isn’t an insensitive ableist phrase, I actually saw a cuckoo!

In the center is a yellow-billed cuckoo!

I knew we had them here, but I’d never seen a cuckoo before. It must have been recovering from the most recent downpour. I read that these birds are called storm birds, because they tend to sing after a storm. This one wasn’t singing.

Close up.

The other fun part of today was enjoying the wet animals. Poor Fiona thought she was trapped in one of the pens until Apache walked over and showed her it wasn’t a lake.

I’m outa here!

Here are some other images from around the pens.

Here are my insect finds. most are new to me, but not the fire ants. They messed up my foot night before last.

I’ll close with more moody weather photos. It was a pretty interesting day after all.

Lughnasadh Blessing

Yesterday was not only our third anniversary of Vlassic arriving at our ranch, but it was Lughnasadh or Lammas, the early harvest festival in the Celtic tradition I enjoy observing (among many traditions).

This is our fun wheel of the year calendar we hang on the wall. You rotate it to put the current season on top. From sacredsource.com

One thing people do for this celebration is thank Mother Nature for her bounty. Today we’re thanking her for a surprise rain event that’s filled up the little pond and made some good puddles.

Lee’s new and improved drainage system also works!

We had already had an inch of welcome rain by the time I went out this morning, and we’ve had more heavy showers since. Wow, we might have the creek flowing well into this month! It had started to dry up from the previous rain, but this is a nice reprieve!

View out my window.

It’s a good thing Lee got lots of dirt moved around and made the bigger drainage pipes yesterday. His new pond might have gotten messed up.

Making a better path.

When he got overheated, he could sit and listen to his fountain, which makes it worthwhile!

Making things smooth. The rain will help!

I’m glad the horses are getting a free bath, and sure hope it dries out by afternoon! The rain has killed my ability to upload or download, so my work, both paid and voluntary, is hosed. The joys of rural life!

Note to grasshopper: that’s a fake plant. Hope it starts growing soon.

Enjoy whatever you’re celebrating this time of year. I’m going to rejoice in the fact that it’s only 77 F outside!

Happy 3 years to V. He is my biggest blessing of the season. Also, his nose seems to be healing.

Too Much Thunder

So, yesterday it didn’t rain but a little. Last night, though, a huge storm came up just before dawn, and there was lightning really near the house. This made for some scared dogs!

Didn’t look much better this morning.

Poor Penney was right on top of me. Everyone else was under the bed. It was scary for us!

We did get a break this morning, so between meetings I was able to go out and feed my guys and the chickens. Sadly, Barbara didn’t make it through the night. Poor dear. I hope to get another one like her, though.

The scalped back yard and more rain (wiggly things are tomato stakes)

Last night’s storm brought over an inch of rain. The second wave, which is still going on, has already brought another inch. The creek is well over its banks, and the poor horses are in mud again. We plan to get sand soon, and the very next thing in our plan is to add a lot more cover over the stalls.

We’re scared, so we are down here by Suna’s feet.

In the meantime, I don’t have a lot of hope for Trixie making it today. There’s no place to work on horses that isn’t all muddy.

I’ll just hang around in the house, with all these huddled dogs and hope it clears up. Definitely a weird July in these parts.

Family Fun, More Floods

At least today was a little different. It didn’t rain until around 5 pm, so I got to get some work done and do some fun things. The most fun was a visit from my son and his partner, who wanted to do some ranch stuff. My son wants to learn to ride horses, so we headed off to the horse pen to rescue Apache from his solitary confinement.

Horse wranglin’

So, I gave the two of them a lesson in what you do before you can ride a horse. I taught them about putting in the halter, the grooming steps, and hoof cleaning. Apache was so good!

Cowpoke from Austin.

I didn’t get pictures of it (I didn’t even take these pictures), but Fiona also got groomed. By the time R. got finished, she looked like a show donkey.

We appreciated the attention.

After that, my son got to walk Apache, stop him, and walk him in a circle. Apache really wanted to eat grass, but he begrudgingly complied. We were too hot to force things (oh, the humidity!).

Back at the house, I got some help with chickens. Barbara has a hurt foot, and she was getting badly pecked, so we decided to let the other pullets in with the big chickens and leave her to recover in the small enclosure. I didn’t get photos. Too busy distracting chickens.

Boring, but clean.

Earlier today, I’d cleaned the front porch and started repotting my Norfolk Island pine. I’m glad my son came, because he helped me with the potting soil. I hope the plant perks up.

I had to do something while it wasn’t raining! So I sweated, shined, and perked up the porch.

But, all good weather must come to an end. By the time we got back in the house, rain was back. We sat and talked while some really strong rain fell. Really strong.

But at least rain brings the bonus of golden rain lilies.

We managed to get out and have a nice Mexican dinner and some great conversation about music and comedy, then our guests went home, as did we. The rainwater had been busy while we were gone.

Oh no! The backup culvert is activated!

It was way more flooded than yesterday. The secondary drainage culvert hasn’t come into operation but one other time since Lee added it (prevents the driveway from overflow). The water was really rushing and high.

The water was even flowing across the road. Eek.

At least you can drive through it.

Of course we had to let the dogs play. Alfred, in particular, had a blast, pawing and biting at the rapids.

On his way to the next splash area.

Funny though, in the 20 minutes Lee and I walked around looking, the pond/tank crested and all these culverts did their job. By the time we left, it was already down a foot or so. Check out the pictures.

We will be fine, but we do wish we could send some rain to our friends and family in California.

Those trees in the tank are usually on the shore.

Wettest July at Hermits’ Rest – How Do I Know?

Guess what? There’s still rain in the forecast for today. That means it will have rained every day so far in July. So, we’ve had no friends over, no family celebration…not much of anything. But that’s okay, I’ve had time to read and clean. Yesterday, it really rained a lot. We knew it was at least two inches, because the tanks filled up.

The overflow was overflowing!

If it just rains a little, the water rises just a bit in the front tank. It doesn’t usually overflow unless there is runoff from its main sources:

  • The small pond by the house (we built a ditch to funnel the water thee)
  • The big tank over at the Wild Hermits front pasture (that comes through the arroyo)
  • The cotton field across the road (there is a culvert, and it also just comes over the road)
  • Runoff from the tank and other areas by Sara’s house (they are higher than us), which goes down their driveway at quite a clip

One reason we built the tank where we did is we knew it would have a lot of water flowing in, so it would not dry up too often. So far, it hadn’t totally dried up yet.

Water is swiftly flowing down the driveway, taking lots of road base with it. Photo by Lee.

All of THAT water quickly fills up our little tank, which then sends water down our stream to Walker’s Creek. This is all pretty spectacular right after a hard rain. When we went to feed the horses (by car, because it was flooding), water was over the road and much of the driveway to the horse pens. It was flowing strongly. By the time we went back, it had already settled down to a brisk flow.

After the rain. Photo by Lee.

Now, in the fall and spring, this is going to happen a few times. That’s how it rains here, with dry spells followed by floods. However, it rarely rains much at all in July. In fact, today is July 5, with rain in the forecast, and it is already the wettest July we’ve had since Lee started tracking it right after the Big Drought in 2011-2012.

All the years but 2021 are for the whole month. And no, I don’t know why Lee tracks data with the current year on the left, but I’m just grateful for the data.

One of the things people are noticing about this year is that everything seems to be skewed a month late, thanks for the Winter Storm Uri event in February. Maybe we are getting June’s usual rain pattern, just a bit late. Or Global Warming. I don’t know; I’m not a meteorologist.

Here’s our rain pattern since we’ve been here. You can sure see when we have floods! From Lee’s spreadsheet.

This year started out like it was going to be one of our dryer years, but who knows at this point? All I know is that the later the tanks fill up, the more likely they are to not go dry until the rains start up again in the fall. (Don’t let August fool you; most years it barely rains in July OR August.)

Hey, fellow cattle, isn’t this the most dangerous area to be standing, right where the culvert spurts out water and there’s scary clay? Yes! Let’s all stand here. (Last week, there was just a small puddle by the culvert.)

Texas weather is quite variable, so we’ve enjoyed tracking the patterns here in the Post Oak Savannah region. My guess is that the patterns where you live are also interesting, so I encourage you to get a good rain gauge, like the one we use, the Stratus Precision Rain Gauge, and start tracking. You can learn a lot about trends, as well as exceptions! I’m grateful to Lee for his diligence in his own Citizen Science project.

Built to the National Weather Service specifications, the Stratus is exceptionally accurate. It is the rain gauge of choice for official weather observers in the United States.

https://www.weatherstationadvisor.com/best-rain-gauge/

Now to go check on chickens and move Apache to the dry pen. It’s rather sloppy over there, so all of us slip and slide. I will be very glad when we can get back to work on the pens so we can move him, though I’ll wager our pens will also get muddy and slick, because they are on the clay soil, too. On the other hand, someone said that a couple inches of good rain would really pack down the new driveway. I’d say it’s pretty packed now.

Rocking and Rolling, with Rocks

If I needed to take my mind of things today, I was in luck, because today we got lots and lots of rocks and pebbles delivered to make our driveway more driveway-like. That had needed to be done, um, a few years.

Not exactly a before picture, because it’s already been smoothed out.

There was a low area from when we put in the electrical lines, and a few dips that made icky puddles. So, first we borrowed a box blade kind of thing from the neighbors and smoothed out the existing driveway. That also at least slightly annoyed the grass trying to take over.

The smoother

Then, a guy came in a big dump truck with a bonus dump trailer. The dogs liked that.

Off to scare off that truck.

The dogs seemed to think they were a vital component to the whole operation.

Helping.

They were fascinated by the dumping process as well, especially Alfred and Gracie.

Boom!

After the first load was emptied, we realized Alfred thought the rock was a gift to him. but all the dogs were fascinated.

Thanks for the new hill!

The second load surprised them all, but then they sniffed some more.

What? There’s more?

It didn’t take long for all that stuff to be laid down and the area by the cars smoothed out.

Ready for more.

A Doggy Diversion

In an hour or two, another load was scheduled. In that time, we went to get diesel and put trash in our dumpster. Yes. That’s how we do trash here. Vlassic jumped in the truck and rode in my lap, cuddling, like he loves to do.

My baby!

All was well until he jumped out of the truck at the old church and took off. He trotted down Main Street and disappeared into someone’s yard. I called and called. He finally emerged with a big ole sandwich crust in his mouth. I think he thought he’d found a new family. Too bad. I took him home.

Hmph.

Back to Rocking

The second load arrived and got laid out just fine. Then we looked up.

Uh oh. Dark clouds.

Of COURSE the day you get loads of rock will start out sunny and cloudless, then end up raining like crazy. Thus, frantic rock smoothing ensued.

The tractors were flying like dancers as the rain came down harder and harder. I was really impressed.

Then came a welcome surprise! I got a path from the driveway to the front porch! That’s huge! There are two drains in it to drain rain, which got tested immediately in the rain storm.

Path in progress, with drain pipes.

I was able to help a little by smoothing the piles down to make a slightly more level pathway. It was fun to work in the rain! And it wasn’t hot! I’m glad I get to help out some.

Lee inspects the path, as the smoothing continues in the rain.

I hope to border the path with leftover limestone brick from the house, once we get it smooth and the right width. That will be so fun.

Now we have to wait for the new rock to dry, see where there are new low spots, and fine tune it. I’ve waited a LONG time for a safe, smooth path. I know it would have helped my sister when she lived in Cameron.

But That’s Not All

The front-end loader got a lot of work in today. Before all the road base arrived, it had its narrow trench digger attachment put on, and it dug the long trench for the water line to the cattle trough.

Trenching away.

And now the trench is full of water. At least all that goes in there is water line!

There are still some fun things coming up for the horse pens, like the structure to support the roof extensions and making custom gates. Oh, and a lot of welding. All those cross bars are only tacked up, I’m told.

Still, all is well. We’re getting close to move-in day. And the driveway is gonna be way better.