Why I’m Thankful for the Pool

Maybe you’ve been reading this blog long enough to remember how I decided I wanted a swimming pool last year. I called it the Pool of Dreams.

Pool of Dreams today—notice the guard garden spider (a good one that eats black widows)

I think some people thought I wouldn’t use the pool. After all, I’ve never been much of a swimmer. I don’t blame anyone who thought this. But while I don’t swim much, I do love water and being outside, especially here.

Things you see from the pool include Vlassic.

I’ve really loved spending time in the pool, and am there nearly every day. The salty water is very soothing (Lee says it’s great for his eyes). I float in my floating device and practice deep breathing. The breeze cools me then the sun soothes me. Then I start observing.

Today I watched starlings flocking.

I see so many birds, especially right now when the herons and egrets are chowing down on the little catfish in the now-shallow ponds. Swallows fly over me and the English sparrow family hang out in their messy nest.

When they took off, it was a big whoosh!

I truly enjoy the time to myself. And the pool lets me be outdoors even in this historic heat. I’d be stuck inside other than when I sweat myself silly taking care of the horses, if it weren’t for the pool.

I’m very grateful to my spouse and family members who helped get this dang pool built.


Wait, I forgot my creature of the day! Here’s a beelzebub bee eater with its prey. What a scary fly!

Grassy-Ass, Sorta

That’s thank you in grass language. I’ve been laughing my ass off this afternoon for a couple of reasons. First, I spent my lunch hour resting my eyes by seeing what new blossoms we have. I also was marveling at how many varieties of grass we have in the front field and how beautiful they looked waving in the breeze.

So pretty. I think it’s Dallis grass. I’m bad at grass ID.

I carefully took pictures of all the rye, oats, barley (it’s beginning to sound like bread, isn’t it?), and other grass varieties. I was looking forward to seeing what else came up.

No sooner had I gone in to get lunch than I heard the Kubota tractor start up. I quickly realized it was going back and forth across the field. I had damn good timing! The field was getting shredded (mowed in ranch talk). There go those waving seed heads! I got a good laugh out of that. There’s still plenty of other grass and flowers out there…at least for now.

This one was hopefully too low for the shredder.

I did find lots of new flowers, though, and most were on the roadside. We finally have Indian blankets blooming, though I’d seen them lots of other places already. And bindweed is blooming its tiny mini-morning glories. I’m very happy to see the Engelmann daisies are kicking into high gear, ready to take over where the bluebonnets (going to seed now) leave off. Here’s some of what I saw:

I enjoyed my break, and I enjoyed working with Drew this afternoon. He’s back to paying attention. Kathleen’s horses had opinions of me not working with them, though. I think they flipped me off in horse language.

Well, grassy-ass, to you guys!

Bonus Birds

Hey! Some of those quiet gulls just flew over and I managed to get photos! Distant, but there they are. Zoom in!

Hope Springs, um, Each Spring

One of my favorite parts of living at the Hermits’ Rest is anticipating spring’s arrival. It’s darned early here! And today I noticed my beloved bluebonnets are up and ready to grow buds.

Unfurling bluebonnet leaves.

I feel hope for the future when I’m reminded that Nature keeps plugging along. There are a few flowers out, especially the beautiful dandelions. I even snagged a bee in one photo!

See the bee? Or a fly that looks like a bee?

Not many other insects are out right now, which disappoints the chickens.

Things are actually settling down a little bit over here. I may have time to review some documents or watch presentations from last year’s Master Naturalist conference that I missed due to COVID. Or I can just enjoy nature and the animals.

Ranchin’ Time

I had fun today getting reacquainted with the ranch and its inhabitants. I sure was glad to see that Peeper, the only chick we ever got past babyhood, is still peeping and growing. She has her comb coming in, and she looks like a darker version of her mom.

The dogs were glad to see me, ranging from black and white to copper and gold!

And of course, I was so glad to see the horses and Fiona. Apache is as furry as a teddy bear, but sound and happy.

I’m not out of condition; I’m fuzzy.

We went for a ride with Kathleen and Mabel. We had a good time until suddenly Kathleen disappeared.

Where did they go?

I looked and saw them zipping away. Mabel was dancing around. Finally Kathleen got off, and we went to check things out. She was waving and Mabel was kicking at her belly.

Kathleen yelled, “bees!” and I saw a bee around Mabel’s legs. It appeared to be a ground bee. They hadn’t bothered Apache, but Mabel must have stepped on their nest! Finally, the bee that chased them stopped on Mabel’s belly and Kathleen killed it with her shoe. Poor horsie!

After that we tried to ride again, but neither horse was remotely interested. They wanted their saddles off and some petting. As did Fiona and Remington, who were out with us.

Enough drama for one day.

Everyone was apparently starving by dinner time, because Fiona kept grunting at the dogs, and when she was done, she tried to drag poor Remington’s food away from him.

Remington is not pleased. Note strongly braced donkey legs

We guess she was tired from her own antics, which included getting into the swimming pool when I was riding. Sigh. And we were worried about the dogs! luckily, the new fencing that should keep donkeys out of the area around the house is being worked on now.

More to come tomorrow! But now it’s time to get some rest, because tomorrow starts another work week. Once again, Anita and I will share an office, except when I have to talk. I’ll show you why she can’t work in her own house in the next post.

Sunset, dog, and ranch stuff.

Baby Watch (Chick)

First, I want to thank everyone, especially blog reader Julia, for your helpful comments on yesterday’s essay on not being responsible for the happiness of another person. I hope it’s clear that I will always be available to support and help people I care about; I just don’t have a functioning magic wand to turn that frown upside down.

I’m still brooding over here. Get out of my face, says the fluffy Star.

I read that eggs take 21 days to hatch, so today may be the day Star’s three eggs hatch. I haven’t “candled” them (no tools) to see if there’s a developing baby in there, so I have no idea if any of the eggs are actually viable. If they all hatch, we will have mothers who produce white, tan, and brown eggs, all fathered by Bruce, who carries the gene for blue eggs.

My feathers are all ruffled at the thought of being a daddy, declares Bruce.

If any chicks turn out to be hens (oh please!) they should lay olive eggs. Won’t that be fun?

Yesterday I brilliantly realized I hadn’t gotten chick feed. Oops. I got the medicated kind, because I can’t give a chicken a shot, even though I got a demo once. While I was at the local farm store/boutique/dry cleaners, I got a small feeder and waterer that will fit in the nest box area.

I got all worried last night that newborn chicks would fall out of the nesting area. So, I put a rectangular, wood sign up across the entrance that should block the chicks but let Star climb over and get out to eat adult chicken food.

I have to keep up my strength for protecting these chicks, if they hatch, says Star.

I hope to get some help with a better system soon, but I did my best! Now I just have to stay patient. I drank a lot of liquid patience (that’s what my new coffee mug from the Bling Box says) this morning, to reinforce it.

Obviously, I’ve been using this mug as hard as I can!

I’m really glad there are these positive and interesting things going on at the ranch right now, because my anxiety levels are absolutely through the roof. I just keep going outside, looking at the life all around me, and breathing. I’m trying to work on the things I can affect and let the things that are out of my range of influence just drop. That’s what Lee said a Stoic would do.

The distraction today was how many different pollinators were buzzing around the false dandelions over by the chicken run. I saw at least four different kinds, ranging from tiny hoverflies to a long-horned bee about the size of a honeybee.

It’s a big bee.

We have also had very, very large ground bees or something like that flying around. They are different from bumblebees in that they hover and dart around very fast. On iNaturalist, they identified one of my photos as a bumblebee and one as a carpenter bee, but judging from the behavior, I think it’s the latter.

I do know what my last photo is, because I managed to look it up. It’s Carolina bristlemallow with seeds. They look so interesting, don’t they?

I’m sincerely hoping you have something interesting and maybe even fun to distract you from whatever challenges you’re facing today. We’re all in it together, and I’m busy trying to make my own happiness over here. Sure I am.

Don’t Worry, Bees are Happy

Oh my gosh, y’all. I think I got the best birthday present EVER when I went out to check how the bee feeder was doing. Last night I checked it, and it was totally dry, with no bees. I was worried a dog had drunk all the sugar water, so I moved the feeder to a higher spot, added more rocks, and replenished the water. This morning, I saw THIS!

Now, THAT is a lot of bees.

There is some mighty buzzing going on around the chicken coop! There are still plenty of them at the chicken feeder, too, and they don’t seem to mind me adding food, or the chickens coming over and eating it one bit. They are busy bees. I discovered they are thirsty, too, because they are all over all the water sources, as well. You just have to listen to them! Check out this tour (bonus chicken footage).

Suna’s birthday bees

That’s all for now. I just wanted to share that helping bees is making me very, very happy. I needed that!

Speaking of Pollinators – Let’s Help Bees

The situation in this area with regard to the effects of the bad weather incident is pretty dire. I don’t think I realized how bad it was until I read the documentation encouraging people to participate in a project to track the state of pollinators and pollen sources here. Dr. Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch, wrote:

The 11-day cold spell (10-20 February) in Texas was a disaster. Freezing temperatures covered the state and extended well into Northern Mexico. While many of the immediate effects of the freeze are clear, season long and multiple year effects may linger. The damage to the flora was extraordinary, and it is likely that nearly all above ground insects died over a wide area. Plants already in flower may have been so damaged as to not flower this year.

Nearly all above-ground insects died! Now, every time I see an insect, I’m thrilled, and must record it. Yesterday I spotted a young grasshopper and a jumping spider, and if I could have hugged them, I would have.

A few of my friends have been mentioning that the bees are everywhere right now, and they don’t have much to choose from for nectar sources. As I showed you yesterday, I mostly have henbit and dandelions for them, along with a very few white clover blossoms (I think I saw six blossoms between my house and the horses, which is a half mile in distance).

I’ve been seeing photos of home-made bee feeders, which seem to mostly be pans with some gravel in them, filled with honey water. My friend, Pamela, had a lot of success with using a cookie tray and a simple plate!

I wasn’t sure if I needed to do that, since dozens and dozens of bees have been sampling the chicken feed, which makes me worry about how much sugar must be in there!

But, I figured it couldn’t hurt. I already had a nice shallow dish over by the chickens, but I don’t have any gravel, so I found a few rocks that look like reasonable perches. I poured some honey water in there (same stuff I make for hummingbirds) and waited.

Yeah, well, we don’t like this.

I guess I haven’t waited long enough, because I have only seen a couple of bees check out the water, and there are still very many on the chicken feed. I think I’ll go out and put in some sticks and flowers and the things Pamela had. It’s an ongoing experiment.

Zero bees at water station. Many bees in and on the food.

As an aside, I have to laugh about my chicken yard. It now feeds not only chickens but many wild birds. I’m always startling doves and meadowlarks in there, plus many sparrows. That’s fine with me. They’re all my avian buddies!

I do hope all the feeding of the bees helps. We need them, the native bees and the honeybees.

Update!

When I went out to check the mail, I took a detour by the chickens to see how the bee feeder was doing. I was happy to see that they found it, and could tell I made the liquid too deep. So, I added some flowers and sticks they can hold onto. Immediately the bees started using them, and more arrived. My heart is full.

Birds and Bees, and a Weird Morning

It’s not even noon, but it’s already been a weird day. I got to the Hermit Haus for work, and was just making my coffee when the lights went out. Well, most of them did. For some reason, my red lamp and the light over the kitchen sink kept glowing, eerily.

It was just barely glowing when the power was out. Wonder why.

So, Kathleen and I went outside, and saw Chris talking to the neighbor (at way over 6 feet away) about the power being out. We got a text from Mandi saying Oncor (power folks) knew about it and would get the power back on in a couple of hours. Great. I had a couple of things I’d wanted to get done immediately.

Grr.

After standing around and thinking for a while, we each went back to our respective areas to do work that could be done on the phone. Kathleen made phone calls, I did weekly employee reviews, Chris painted trim.

We opened the doors in our office for more light, and Chris did the same at the Pope house. A mistake? Maybe.

That’s when the invasions occurred. Chris heard noises and saw that he had a new coworker, but one that just banged on things randomly. This poor mockingbird was not helpful at all.

Hey, you’re not paying me enough to work in here!

At the same time, all the honey bees that have been out enjoying our wildflower meadow (the one with all the yellow flowers) decided to check out our basement. At the time it was no problem.

Then at 10 am, the power came back. Yay. The bees were still in the building. They decided to visit my office, with its bright lights. At first they checked out the monitor, but then I realized at least three of them were on my light fixture. Kathleen could hear them all buzzing away.

This moon is beautiful!

Finally I couldn’t concentrate on my work, so I turned the light off. Hooray, the bees went out. And we shut the doors, so no more can come in. We’ll shoo them back out at some point today, since there’s not much nectar down here.

I’m glad the June bugs are only at the ranch. I don’t think I could take them all bouncing around down here. Back to work.

Whew! Even Taking a Break Is Work

Fair warning: the reason I wrote nothing in any of my blogs yesterday is that even when I was resting I was doing stuff! Since I’m not at the computer yet, I’ll just summarize and write more later.

Vehicles

Friday was spent driving all over the county with Lee and Mandi looking for a good used car for her, and seeing if we could find a replacement for our huge diesel truck that we could actually use around Cameron.

Traverse
I actually liked this white, because we could put a sign on it. A nice used vehicle.

We found that I like a Chevy Traverse and Lee likes Suburbans, which are still too giant for me. Unfortunately Lee couldn’t get the trade-in he wanted on the truck, so we walked away. But al least I realized that a smaller SUV was okay for me and at least some Chevy vehicles aren’t plasticky.

The drive was worth it, though, because the countryside on the back road to Rockdale was gorgeous.

Continue reading “Whew! Even Taking a Break Is Work”

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