The Gate to Adventure

Maybe it isn’t that, but it’s the gate to our livestock pens! This is so exciting to me!

The second gate support up.

The chickens weren’t the only new additions to the property. There are also lots more holes and poles than yesterday.

I love this picture of the dirt flying!

It’s so much fun to watch the progress. This area will be so darned sturdy when it’s done!

Holes ready for poles.

I lucked out and finished work in time to watch some of the process of erecting that second giant gate support. It is a delicate process using huge machines.

Unfortunately, I realized I was supposed to be feeding horses instead of being mesmerized by tractor ballet.

While I was gone, the giant H got in the holes, and the front-end loader was holding it up, ready for concrete. Lee arrived and helped out with the other tractor, and soon it was in!

Lee is helping.

We now have two big H braces. They would make great supports for an adult-size swing set. So, that won’t happen, because it would need mosquito netting. Holy cow, the recent rains have created swarms. Trying to find a sneaky calf this evening ended up being a buzzing, stinging nightmare.

Maybe this fascinating spider will eat mosquitoes. It’s a giant lichen orbweaver.

We’ve been having fun working and enjoying the animals. Carlton is out with us often. He’s gotten so well behaved that he’s a great outdoor companion.

I’m a good boy.

Who cares if work’s hard? After work is great on these long days!

Sure, We Will Take More Chickens

Since the current bunch of five hens plus Bruce have remained stable since last year, I feel safe to bring in some company for them in our big ole run. So, we headed down to Bird and Bee Farm and got 6 pullets about ten weeks old.

Bruce lays his eyes on his new little ladies.

They are pretty young, close to the age the chicks we hatched would be if they hadn’t mysteriously disappeared. I enjoy watching them grow, and I feel more confident in their housing now.

We have chicken wire on the feeder, because we saw

So, what did I get this time? Ones that lay different colored eggs and one that’s plain cute. I haven’t named them all. Shocked? I know!

This is a regular laying hen, a Buff Orpington.
She has such white feet!

Next is Babette. She’s a rare fancy French Faverolle chicken. She has five, rather than four, toes under those feathery feet.

Fluffy Babette.

Now for the colorful ones. This one is a real Auracana, not a hybrid Americauna. I took a picture of the wrong label, sigh. We hope she lays blue eggs. Also she is lovely.

So pretty and sleek.

Now this one is cute as heck. One of my coworkers called it the Billy Idol chicken. So that one already has a name. That head! That face! she sort of looks like a roadrunner to me.

Where am I?

Billie is a Brabanter, a breed I never heard of. She’s the smallest and has already tried to escape through the holes in the fencing. Luckily she is chunky.

I’ll eat the apple later.

Th

Next is this beauty. She’s a new breed, the Whiting True Blue. They are supposed to lay blue eggs, too. I had a choice of dark or light ones. I chose this, because she’s lovely.

I feel pretty.
True Blue dancing!

This last pullet may look like a boring black Australorp or something. But, no. She’s an exotic hybrid called the Midnight Majesty Maran. She will lay extra dark brown eggs and will have deep brown undertones from her Copper Maran heritage.

She doesn’t have foot feathers, which I like, because they stay wet and muddy a lot.

The other chickens are very curious about the new teenagers. They will be separated quite a while, so the young ones can eat their chick feed.

Exploring

I have a few more things to add to their pen, but they seem happy now. I’m happy, too.

We Have Fence Poles

This is happy stuff! There are now poles in our stall area! Thank you, Mother Nature for a dry day!

The area near the shipping container. The square pole is part of our roof support.

There are a lot of holes to dig and concrete to pour, but it’s coming along! The big auger makes short work of the digging, but the concrete has to be poured by hand.

Posts are leaning because they are just sitting in big ole holes.

When I’m not working and working and working, I can help with the fencing, too. Some of the fence poles just have dirt in them, so I got to fill the holes back up with a weird hoe. Quite the manual laborer I am.

In front is a sturdy concrete post, behind is one I helped with.

However, I truly wish I’d been outside to see the big gate support go up. It must have been quite a sight! And quite a feat. No wonder I’m impressed with the new horse fencing!

That’s one fine gate support. I feel like we have a real ranch.

I’m looking forward to gates, some of which will be hand made, too. Wow. Apache and the cattle will have fancy digs.

I’m a fancy dog. In a tractor.

In Bug News

And as a postscript I have two cool insect photos to share. First, I saw a spider wasp dragging a hapless wolf spider off for dinner.

The circle of life

Also, my friend Pamela saw baby preying mantises on her property and got a shot of one whose shadow looked exactly like a giraffe. Cute!

See the giraffe?

Sad Sombreros and Beautiful Beetles

I spent a nice time today just looking at the plants and insects around the Hermits’ Rest. As I was walking down the path I enjoyed the Mexican Hat flowers (Ratibida columnifera or upright prairie coneflower).

They come in lots of colors.

I’ve always loved these plants, because they look cheerful, have cool leaves, smell interesting, and attract lots of insects.

They are just plain cute.

I’m glad they are all along the drive between the two main houses, because I get to be distracted by the butterflies, bees, and bugs.

Hungry beetle.

What’s weird is that I’ve been noticing weird flowers in the Mexican Hats. Really weird flowers.

They range from double flowers to extra flowers growing out of the cones to multiple cones. It’s quite odd.

This looks like Mickey Mouse’s hand.

Of course these aren’t “normal.” I see no flowers like that along the roadside. These flowers are next to the field where the oats were grown that became this year’s silage for the cows on the land we’ve leased out. They applied herbicide to get rid of non-oats, and it landed on the edges of the oats.

Engelmann daisies and Mexican Hats in front of the oat area.

I feel bad for the flowers, but we gave permission for the spraying. That’s modern farming. As a Naturalist I may have a different viewpoint, but these folks need to make a living and feed their cattle efficiently. And they ARE cute when they are young.

Feed us.

There’s plenty of wild space here at the ranch, so I’m happy. Look at this gorgeous milkweed beetle!

I’m cool. More than just monarchs eat milkweed.

It’s grasshopper season, too. There are just “a few” in the pasture where Sara’s horses are.

A popular hangout.

And I just have to say some of the bugs make me smile. This flower scarab beetle with its pollen butt is just cute.

Stop looking at my butt.
Another scarab and thistle.

I’m very grateful to have so many things to discover and observe here. I really enjoy sharing it with all of you. It’s a great journey.

Good evening!

Ranching, at the Ranch

Yesterday was quite a good day! I don’t think I have ranched so hard in a long time. So many things to do, and so many involving dirt and more dirt. It was great to have a non-rainy day.

To start the day, Sara and I played on the ground with Apache and the cute mare, Bonnie. Everyone got very clean, even Fiona, and we all had a nice time walking around. Apache still looks good (other than that abscess, his feet look like a textbook illustration of a fine horse foot), and Bonnie’s a nice girl. Since I don’t have more photos of that, enjoy Alfred drying off after a quick bath in the Little Pond. Gracie says, hmm.

What is he doing?

After that, I “helped” with the horse fencing project by holding tape measures and other vitally helpful things. I even got to move something in the tractor to help the auger thing work right. So ranchy.

Ready to drill.

Next up will be putting poles in at all the marked spots, if it doesn’t rain.

It’s all lined up.

But wait, there’s more! I hope to get some new pullets from Bird and Bee this week, so we worked to get a separate setup for them in the chicken run. As long as I keep giving the chickens tomatoes, they don’t care who moves in next door.

Just give us more tomatoes.

It came out pretty spiffy for something made out of stuff we had on hand! All my chicks escaped while I was out of town, but don’t worry, we will try hatching again, with a new, more secure area.

It looks welcoming.

Later, it was time to move some cattle that recently arrived at the Hermits’ Rest, and I got to “help” wrangle an escapee, which turned into a fun time with lots of help from others and good conversation. I enjoyed watching the new cattle settle in and establish their “pecking order.”

All ready to put in posts.

I’ve been ordering some supplies for my tack room over here and for taking care of Apache and Fiona in our paddocks. I needed a few more chicken and horse things, so off we went to Tractor Supply, with me all covered in really disgusting mud (okay, not all covered, but you couldn’t miss it). I was told to wear my work cowboy hat, so I looked pretty legit. The best thing we got was a cool utility cart for hauling horse poop. It will be fun to use and looks to be quite sturdy.

I got a chicken feeder and horse bandages.

Actually the most fun part of the trip was getting lost wandering around the area where the ranch is. There are some pretty homesteads and lots of nice land out here. But, I’m still a hermit, so don’t move here (or Austin, if you can afford the skyrocketing home prices).

Since I have no photo of getting lost, enjoy Spice and Lakota eating each other’s food, because they knew Sara was paying attention to Bonnie the new gal on the block.

The other horse’s food is so good.

On the other hand, the ranch seems to have opened up post COVID. Lee’s friend from high school, Matt (who reads the blog), was here for a couple of days, so that was our first overnight visitor. You can tell Matt was here, because the brother-in-law mowed around his car. And my son and partner are coming today!

I’d say the coolest visitor, though, was the guy who delivered all the bags of concrete for the poles.

He had a fun little forklift kind of vehicle that made the process seem easy! I really enjoyed watching him drive the concrete around, plus he seemed like a nice guy. You can’t beat that in a delivery, right?

And, it’s raining. Oh, weather, you annoy me. How’s it going with you?

Fun with Dickcissels and Horses

It’s looking

In years past I’ve mentioned my fondness for the migratory dickcissel birds that come through here at the Hermits’ Rest each year. They’re small sparrow-sized birds with big sound and friendly personalities.

I usually see them on barbed wire or electric wire. This is a female.

They have a charming gurgling song and often chirp away after sunset. I don’t know why this is.

This is a male.

They hang around here late spring through mid summer. I wasn’t sure if they bred here or not until today when I was walking over to see Apache and Fiona.

Friendly female

Females followed me along the road, moving down the fence as I passed.

Look at her mouth!

Eventually I made it to the old, hollow, cedar elm just before the cattle guard. There I saw much dickcissel activity, and both a male and a female. They were working on a nest!

Looking for building supplies.

I was so pleased to see this! I hope to soon see or hear babies when I walk by. Here’s a bit more on these birds from iNaturalist.

Horse update

I’m other news, we have Bonnie the quarter horse visiting for a while. She’s 19, and wanting to do stuff.

Looking forward to more horse fun.

Apache went for a walk with her (and us humans) and they got along fine as long as Apache didn’t get too close, because her flank must look delicious.

Practicing being a perfect gentleman.

It’s looking like Apache is healing well. We walk and walk, and he is fine. I’m hoping riding can resume by the weekend.

Fun Times in Downtown Cameron

Times are getting more exciting here in little Cameron, Texas, and it’s not just because Anita will move here soon. Lots of new businesses and jobs have been coming in, and the upcoming relocation of some of the County offices to the old hospital will be freeing up some cool places for investors to come in and start new businesses. We all have our favorite “dream shops” we want to see, but which buildings are right for what?

That question is what led to my fun day yesterday. A few people who are members of the Cameron Chamber of Commerce got together, and let by the fearless Melanie, trekked all over the downtown area to look through the buildings that would soon be available and “re-imagine” them. Looking through historic buildings and offices is my idea of fun, which is why I volunteered to tag along and was so grateful for the opportunity to help out in a small way.

We looked at buildings that are still being used, buildings that were full of mold, buildings in great shape, and ones that required some imagination. We all had clipboards to write down our ideas.

I was enthralled by how many county records are in the old buildings.

I liked that some old buildings have cool windows up high with views, which makes me envision loft living. Other places would make great bars, bookstores, restaurants, gaming places (one even used to be a roller rink…could it be again?).

My favorite things, I guess, were seeing how many dang old jails there are in this town. The one we looked at yesterday was really big, and I had NO idea it was there. Ooh, scary.

Old jails make excellent, secure storage.

This jail adds to the ancient hoosegow, old jail museum, jail in the old police station (where someone lives now), PLUS the actual County Jail that is in use. My big idea was to have a “Jails of Cameron” tour, with little jails painted on the sidewalk to lead you from one to another, each with something interesting to see or do. That didn’t go over terribly well.

The jail could be turned into a restaurant, where you eat in cells and people serve you through the little door…right? Sounds romantic to me.

Other people had real ideas, so it will be fun to see what comes of all this! At least I know they aren’t building a subdivision next to my house or anything, because I made Lee buy all that land. I was a visionary, I guess.

PS: It sure was fun to do something with people like this. We couldn’t have a few months ago!

Just a Few Cute Animals

Oh goodness, I skipped a day of blogging for the first time since I resolved to post every day quite a while ago. I had good reason, though, it was a busy day with lots of fun meetings, animals to care for, chores, and conversations. By the end of the day, when I could have blogged, I chose to sit on the porch and talk to my family. Who could blame me for choosing in-person interaction? (Okay, someone could, but I probably don’t like them.)

A grasshopper.

There are lots and lots of bugs (including mosquitoes) out right now, and I especially liked this fuzzy caterpillar.

I got the chickens a big brick of treats at Tractor Supply today, since they completely finished their last treat, which was watermelon rind. They can certainly clean out a watermelon.

Let’s see. I also met a large fish, who’s apparently a local celebrity in Bea’s Kitchen (more on why I was there, later). It’s a fine and friendly fish.

I seem to be unable to add captions, but the fish says hello. Sigh, WordPress seems to give new features, then take away old ones.

And in case you were thinking I forgot the dogs, here’s Carlton making himself WAY too much at home in my bed this morning.

That’s some stink-eye! I’m off to do horse things and then finish my indoor writing tasks. I wish all of you a reasonable weekend, with weather that fits your desires (mine is no rain).

Feeling Pretty…Social

Blinding whiteness

It’s been an interesting few days of social activities since I came to the Austin house Tuesday evening. I got my hair turned back into my preferred whiteness yesterday, and that always makes me feel better…prettier…fancier. It makes that last month or so with the extensive roots worth it. I think adding the silver worked well to make the roots less obvious, so I may do that again, especially seeing that the bleach made it go away.

Working on hair seems like such a privileged thing to do, but I save up for it. Yesterday I even got a nap while sitting under the hair dryer. And it’s always fun to listen to the stories my hair stylist tells about his life and adventures. Well worth the time and sort of worth the money.

Getting pretty isn’t very pretty, however. My hair looked like worms when I came out of this dryer. I felt like a butterfly undergoing metamorphosis.

As soon as I was released from my cocoon in the salon, this social butterfly ran next door to participate in our first vaccinated people’s book club meeting indoors. All of us were so happy to be able to both see and hear each other! We did have to keep steering the conversation away from topics that might lead to strong words (Did you know none of the homeless people in Austin are willing to work? Neither did I.). One of the women there lives in the alternate world, and said she’d not worn a mask except the few times she went to Austin last year. Wow. I kept waiting for Anita to jump on her, but we were all good and decided not to cause a book club scene.

I took myself, my PRIDE! shirt, and my giant rainbow earrings (I wonder why that one lady wouldn’t talk to me?) home just before yet another bad storm rolled through. Those are so hard on poor little Pickle the dog. Anita and I tried to distract her by watching weird shows about people with weight and skin issues, and she did eventually calm down.

Today I am back to feeling pretty and social. I was feeling so femme that I suddenly painted my fingernails and toenails this morning, and put on ALL the makeup I haven’t worn in a year. It worked out, because the office had more people than I’ve seen since February 2020 today. It has been so much fun seeing old coworkers, meeting some in person for the first time, and eliminating misconceptions (one coworker is much smaller than her large Zoom personality would indicate).

I may not be gender fluid, but I sure go from tomboy to lady-like in a flash. Hey, you just take fun wherever you can get it, right? I like wearing my “costumes” and looking different every day as much as my hair stylist likes to wear a white t-shirt and khaki shorts every day!

By the way, today I tried out the new “columns” functionality in WordPress. It looks pretty good on the computer, but let me know if it looks weird however you view the blog.

And yes, I will podcast again. I’m just really low on time these days (or bone tired) and can’t get to a lot of my volunteer and optional activities.

Proud of Pride: Remembering the Other Gay 90s

Since I am the hyper-volunteer that I am, I’ve been helping out with the PRIDE employee resource group where I work, as part of our diversity and inclusion initiative. Not surprisingly, you meet gay people in such groups. I’ve made a new friend there, who lives in Seattle and works at a company we recently acquired. C is a bit younger than me, but we share a lot of memories of the past.

Way too rainbow for many people. But, it’s not just for fun.

When no one else is at our meetings, we chat about stuff, and yesterday we got to talking about the differences between being young and gay when we were young and how it is now. Looking that far back, it becomes very clear how much things have changed for the better in North America. It also confirms how much I admire my gay and lesbian friends from the 1970s through 1990s, who really lived on the cusp of a more accepting world. This led me to some thoughts as Pride Month in the US starts.

Both of us remembered that when we were in high school NO ONE admitted being gay, and there were just whispers about certain theater types and flashy dressers. Whew, I feel bad for some of the guys, especially, who were pressured into dating women and must have felt really uncomfortable. Not to say that it was easier for women…and none of us even really grasped the possibility of being trans back then. I know lots of people who have children from the inevitable marriages that happened back then who treasure those kids and are grateful to understanding former partners.

I’m lucky to be able to fly my flag at work.

When I went to college, so many young men were coming out. My friend had similar memories of college being the first place where people felt safe to be themselves. Today, young people are so much freer (as a whole, not saying there still aren’t issues) to be open about figuring out their sexuality, loving whoever they want to, and not feeling forced to make a permanent choice. The fluidity nowadays is something I wish we had when I was young.

And while there is still a lot to fear for minorities today, fewer people feel like they must hide to stay alive. There are still workplaces and other spots where people my age are careful, though. Why, even ten years ago a friend of mine called his husband “Joan” at work to deflect an intolerant supervisor. And I hesitate to wear my Pride outfits in Cameron, even.

One reason that I have chosen to be an LGBTQIA+ ally for all these years is that I saw how dangerous it could be in the Gay 1990s for people to speak up for themselves when faced with homophobic behavior. My gay buddies used to stand up for me when people said sexist things in my presence, so it was only fair for me to point out homophobic speech and action when I saw it. That’s the job of the ally, to show that we do notice these things and won’t accept them.

I’m grateful for the men who have been my allies.

I’m here, noting when I feel uncomfortable, use an improper pronoun, or say something inappropriate, and I make sure to acknowledge it, then move on without making it into a “woe is me, poor cisgender ally person.” Being an ally may sometimes be hard, but it’s merely a choice for me. Being gay is NOT a choice and not something you can take a break from if it’s hard.

What makes me, my friend in Seattle, and so many others of us who are getting older right now very happy is seeing progress, seeing happy and productive people out there living authentically, and watching as society inches toward equality and inclusion, at least here. We are not forgetting those who live in parts of the world where people who are not cisgender males by birth are not at all safe. I guess our work just has to keep going!

Love to all of you.