What’s One More Blog, Right?

Because I am such a volunteering maniac, I said I would make a blog for the El Camino Real Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists. And I did it! Hooray for follow through and all that.

It just popped into my head at our last meeting that we had no way to share and archive our nature stories, reports on training, etc. It’s a lot of work to make a paper newsletter, so we haven’t had one in a while, and though we do have a Facebook page, it’s more about news, since member posts don’t show up on the main page. A blog is a great way to share.

Also, blogging is a great way to get volunteer hours. Master Naturalists like those.

How did I do it?

I always forget what goes into setting up a new WordPress blog, customizing its look and feel, and making it do what I want it to do. I like the theme I chose for this one, especially since the top menus stay at the top of the screen as you scroll down. I also think it looks pretty elegant and simple.

Here’s a blog page. It has a right column with archives, sign-up informatio,n and stats.

What I didn’t like about the theme was that there was no way to put a blog archive on the home page. The home page has no right column, and you can’t easily modify the top. I did put the archives at the bottom of the page, but, who’s going to go all the way down there?

This shows the small top menu that stays when you scroll down. Also, note that archives menu.

So, I made an archive top-level page. Problem solved, I hope.

Off we go

Feedback I got from the small group I ran it by was that it was hard to subscribe to the blog (I made sure to put both the email follow link and the WordPress follow link). And some typos got spotted, which I always appreciate.

I was happy to receive two items to post as soon as the group voted to start a blog. That way not all the articles will be by me! I plan to continue to re-blog my more naturalist-oriented posts here, but am looking forward to seeing lots more from my fellow Master Naturalists.

So, make sure YOU follow that blog, too!

Advertisements

Weekend Ranch Excitement

It’s been a fun weekend here at the Hermits’ Rest. I managed to go horseback riding twice, which is rare, and Apache and I had lots of fun.

Sara is setting up our cone obstacle course.

Sara set up cones, so we got to ride in patterns. He did way better on Day 2, like he figured it out. I also prevented him from eating thistles unless it was my idea.

Today we went into the pasture where a lot of cattle were. Spice did a great job herding them, and Apache managed not to panic when a big mama came toward him. Baby steps.

The new veggie garden at the cabin. Tyler hopes it will be chicken free.

Meanwhile, Fiona was “helping” Tyler work on his new vegetable garden. And hee-hawing. He has patiently built a fence and covered it, to keep the chickens out. That’s nice of him.

Let me out of this car.

Even more exciting was the fact that the sheep’s owner had come to pick them up to shear them. She got the male in her SUV but the ewe would NOT be caught. She thinks she’s a cow, dang it. In the end, they let Sheep Man back out. That’s one for them!

Ooh! Carrots and celery! Thanks!

As for the chickens, they were excited this weekend by food fun. I got them some dried mealworms, which they love. They’re sort of creepy, though, because they look sort of alive when you pour them. Plus, they got even more excited when I bought them veggie leftovers from the dinner I was cooking.

One of these eggs is not like the other!

The it was my turn to get excited! The chocolate brown eggs have started! It’s amazing how tiny pullet eggs are. I want to save the shell!

Homemade chicken and dumplings. Comfort food rules.

Now to eat my chicken and dumplings. Dumplings are secretly flour tortillas cut up. Chicken is not from my hens!

Little Wonders

It’s a beautiful day today, so I’ve done a bit of wandering around. I’m always surprised at the beauty I see, just walking around the ranch.

Just a beautiful day to have dog fun.

Today the dogs and I checked out the arroyo, and they had a lot of fun sniffing and stomping, as usual.

That is a BIG hole. Glad I know where it is, so I won’t step on it.

I was surprised to see just how big the armadillo’s hole has gotten. Every time I walk by there’s more dirt outside it. That is one busy dillo.

You can’t really see as much orange as I saw in person, but hey, these will be a lot of delicous berries!

The trees and bushes are all budding out, and sometimes the color really surprises me. The dewberries are all red and yellow, and look almost autumnal!

A brief pause between screeches.

There are also many, many birds out today, including a family of mockingbirds who would really like to be left alone. They yelled and yelled at me for messing around in “their” tree, trying to get a picture of some raccoon poop. I think the raccoon may hang out in the tree, too.

But the best!

The best nature sight came slightly off the ranch, on our county road. I saw something white as I was driving into town this morning, so when I came back, I parked to check things out. There, in the middle of a field, were dozens of white irises. They were so pretty.

The irises are right in the center of this picture.

I wish I could have gotten closer, but you know, snakes. My guess is that there was once a house where the overgrown trees and such are now. There is still a huge oak that may have been planted by someone. And, next door, there are a lot of the same flowers planted around a tree. Maybe they dug some of the ones in the field up.

Here you can see the flowers and the big tree. And an annoying post.

I’ll just have to ask the people who live there one day!

That Dog

Just a funny little Vlassic story.

I’m friendly, that’s all.

This morning I had to gas up the car before heading to Cameron. I pulled into the bay, got out, and Vlassic jumped out right after me.

I was worried he’d get hit by a car at the very busy station.

But no. He ran around the car at the pump next to me, which had also just pulled up, and jumped into that car. He was ready to go.

The man at the other pump laughed and laughed. He said, “He must have known I have a dog that looks just like that!”

How dare those men park here!

Right now we are waiting for Lee at the scenic Buckholts State Bank, where Vlassic is focusing his laser vision on people who have the nerve to park next to us.

Scenic Buckholts State Bank, as seen through a wet windshield.

(Weather report sidebar: yes, it’s raining again. We sure enjoyed that one sunny day this week.)

I need a knife.

When the people leave, he’s trying to break into my giant box of egg cartons.

Back to Normality

It was nice to have more of a normal evening at home last night. No drama, just friendship and fun.

Grocery store flowers that cheered us up.

As I was buying the ingredients for yet another Instant Pot dinner, I decided to liven up the Austin house with some flowers. It made Anita really happy to see that I bought some ranunculus (also known as buttercups), which are some of her favorites.

Hello little buttercup!

Anyway, our friend Chriztine came to visit, and she cooked that Instant Pot dinner, which was a really interesting version of beef stroganoff that is made with boursin cheese spread for the cheesy part. We served it over zucchini spirals, and it was delish!

After that, Anita and I just chilled. Chilling is good. I’ll try to come up with something more exciting once I get back to the Hermits’ Rest!

Robins Everywhere, Plus Hawk Action

The collection of glass jars contains collections of various items. So clever.

Last night Anita and I attended the neighborhood book club meeting. We eventually got around to discussing The Poisonwood Bible, which I actually read (yay me). The discussion ranged to many topics, and I apparently am the Nature Expert of the group. I also LOVED the house we visited, because the owner was very clever in displaying her many collections.

The little black dots in the center tree are robins, merrily singing their wake-up call.

I’d been noticing a lot of tweeting birds in the mornings when I walk the dog, and my thoughts were confirmed when the attendees began to describe large flocks of robins all over the neighborhood. This morning, I was on the lookout, and saw dozens of them in one tree (where I got this not-so-great picture), and more in other trees. The sound was amazing! Just as lovely as when all the cedar waxwings show up.

Then I got to work!

I’m watching.

Right as I walked into work, I saw one of our hawks swooping. She landed in a NEST! I’d thought it was a squirrel nest, but there she was, hanging around, while the other hawk (smaller, so I figured it was the male) hung around on the building or the parking garage.

If you can find the nest, you get bonus points. It IS in the center of the photo.

Later we saw a squirrel in the nest, so we were wondering if the hawk was just messing with baby squirrels or what. Last year, as you may remember, the hawks built their nest on the other side of the office park, on some metal structures.

Swooping.

When we saw the hawk bringing food to the nest, though, we became certain that the squirrel was just curious (and should be careful!).

As you can imagine, my coworkers are quite psyched to watch the hawks raise some babies. Binoculars will be brought out, and a lot of oohing and aahing will occure, if today is any indication.

The Sun Came Out! And Eggs!

Yes, that’s right, after nearly three days of the temperature outside not varying beyond 40-43 degrees, the blazing ball of sky fire showed up again this morning.

Hooray for blue sky. Boo for being stuck while equipment goes across the street.

I had a lot of time to see it, since I kept being stopped by flaggers at the many, many pipeline construction areas along my way from Cameron. I’ll write more about those later, but wow, they make a mess.

Lee is excellent. I knew it.

I was in Cameron last night to attend the 85th Annual Chamber of Commerce banquet, representing both our Hermits’ Rest Enterprises company and the Master Naturalists. I was proud to see so many people I admire being singled out for honors, but MOST proud that my very own spouse got a special award for his contributions to the town this past year. He was truly surprised. Aww. I guess we are fitting in!

Bob told great stories.

We enjoyed hearing the speaker, too, Bob Phillips, who has been doing the Texas Country Reporter television show since 1972. It’s the longest running independent television show in the US. He sure had some cool mentors, like Tom Landry and Charles Kurault.

Chicken Report

I got ALL worried yesterday, when Mandi reported that no eggs had been in the nest boxes for two days. That seemed weird, since I got seven on Sunday, and at least two of them were definitely from the new birds (they are laying smaller “pullet eggs” still.

Variation in egg sizes. Top left is a pullet egg. Bottom left is the big “rosy” one that I am not sure who lays, but it’s BIG. The other two are normal brown eggs from brown hens.

So, this morning I felt compelled to check on the hens before I left to go back to Austin to work. I gingerly walked in, disturbing two hens who were trying to lay. I looked in the last two boxes. There were a dozen eggs, plus evidene that the poor chicken who lays dud eggs had also laid.

Both eggs are from leghorn hens. One’s a year old and the other is 5 months old (top). Yes, they will be cleaned before anyone eats them.

My guess is that the chicken feeder/egg feeder person either didn’t look all the way in the nest area, or actually didn’t check and just told his mom there was nothing there. He also said someone else had fed the chickens, so there’s still some kind of mystery!

Hawk Report

I’m the boss of this parking garage.

I’m happy to share that the hawk couple who nested where I work in Austin have returned. We’ve been enjoying watching them fly around together. This morning I heard some weird bird sounds, and looked up to see one of the hawks was scolding me. Aww.