Birdhouses, Butterflies, Break-time Fun

That Chris, he needs a break from constant caulking, which is the never-ending phase of the Pope renovation he’s on now. Every bit of trim needs some caulk. Ugh. I’m sure glad he does takes some breaks, because that means we get birdhouses!

The bird house will get a perch and a lovely fake bird. I ordered a bunch of potential residents to try out.

Today’s house is at an extremely awkward corner where I guess we could have put some kind of decorative finial or something. But a birdhouse is way more fun and adds quite a bit of whimsy to the project. Chris knows I like birds and Kathleen likes that kind of thing, so we are not complaining a bit.

I like how today’s house has molding on the bottom, to make it look like it just grew there. Hmm, where will the next house be? (I know, but I’m not telling). I got a vision of little kids visiting and being sent off to find all the birdhouses in the building. That would be fun.

Another project has gotten started, too. The water heater is getting its cabinet in the main bathroom. It’s going to fit quite nicely in the corner, and there will be some storage added, which will be good in a downstairs with no, zero, zilch closets.

I believe the plan is that the compartment can be easily unscrewed for access, since it won’t happen too often once it’s hooked up. Ooh, what an exciting day that will be for all of us who wash dishes at Hearts Homes and Hands!

Breaking with Butterflies

I needed a break after finishing yet another slog of a project, so I walked around the block by the Hermit Haus. I turned by the Baptist Church, because I was wondering if the fancy New Gold hybrid lantana that’s planted all around its borders attract as much wildlife as the native ones in my tiny garden.

The answer was a resounding yes. There were skipper butterflies skipping all over the plants, as well as quite a few duskywings. I saw another variegated frittilary, but didn’t get its picture.

Big wasp enjoying a lantana flower

I also saw a very large wasp, which reminded me of an even bigger one, the cicada killer (they are so cool, but I haven’t seen any this year). This one appeared to be a Guinea paper wasp, judging from its stripe pattern and large antennae. But, I could be wrong and it could be a regular ole yellowjacket, which we have plenty of around here. I’ll find out on iNaturalist, I’m hoping.

It really does me a lot of good to take little walks and outdoor breaks, which are just fine to do in an uncrowded place like here. Since we are getting more and more coronavirus cases here, I’m not going anywhere crowded right now!

Where Did I Go?

True, the blogging machine known as Suna didn’t write anything for a few days. Just the effort I was taking to keep on an even keel over the weekend was all I could manage. I was already feeling pretty useless and unhelpful to the people in my life, and it all came to a head, and I felt crappy. I realized I hadn’t been doing a good job supporting my family, their business, my friends, and blah blah blah. I slipped back into my old habit of telling my own self I suck.

Scarab beetles and thistles made for Mother’s Day cheer.
A phaon crescent butterfly visits an Indian blanket flower.

I know I am not Suzy Sunshine. It’s just not my nature. Maybe it’s being a Pisces. We tend to have melancholy in us, and to always see both sides of things, happy and sad. I like it that I enjoy feeling all my feelings and honestly think that’s healthy, for me. But, I know it comes across poorly to others sometimes, and I’m sorry.

Because I certainly didn’t want to burden others with my own self-inflicted issues, I put a lot of energy into trying to have fun this weekend. Then, boom, Lee told me this morning that I’d seemed all mopey yesterday. That was with me TRYING not to be! Lordy!

I love watching roses blossom. Thanks, Lee.

All you can do is try to do better, right? But, once I get into one of my rare really down periods, I am not able to immediately crawl back out. I will, though! I know I actually don’t suck. And usually my brain, subconscious, or whatever it is that sends me into a downward spiral, agrees with me. I don’t appreciate how poorly it deals with negative feedback one bit! But hey, I’ll work on it!

The wildflower bouquet I made, after the beetle flew off.

Not much could have made my Mother’s Day any better. Everyone was so kind. Chris made perfect omelets for breakfast for me and Kathleen, Lee sent me roses on Friday, I got a little box of cheer from Chris and Kathleen, I got calls from all sorts of friends and family, and I heard from many of my sweet children and bonus children. A friend even dropped off a little trinket for me in my mailbox. What a sweet surprise!

Pure white beauty.

We spent the day relaxing, while Chris fired up his extra cool barbecue machine and made his professional quality ribs and chicken for dinner, which my sister was able to come and enjoy. It really was a lovely day, and I truly appreciate everyone’s efforts and kindness.

A yellow rose, in Texas.

Shoot, if I can manage to be a mess through all that great stuff…I’ll just blame the virus, the stress it puts on all of us, and just being a human. I have a book report and some beautiful horse photos coming for you, when I get breaks from work, and I hope they bring YOU some cheer.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Weeds (la la la)

The need to focus on things that aren’t related to pandemics and other stress-causing circumstances has continued to this morning, so I took a break and checked out what’s going on around the Hermit Haus offices. My main focus was my “wildflower garden,” but I branched out. That got me lots more entries in iNaturalist, too!

The “wildflower garden” next to the stairs. It is about to get pretty.
The seeds are shiny in the sun.

I have to say that I find it fascinating how varied the plants are in what looks from a distance like a lawn. Actually, there’s very little turfgrass, just a few sprigs of our nemesis the coastal Bermuda. The one other grass is what they call nutgrass around here, but is actually purple nutsedge, a nonnative plant that sure likes to grow here. I have pulled up many, many sprouts of it in the “wildflower garden,” and there are still more. However, I think the seed heads are quite beautiful.

The lantana bud is pretty in its own right. Nutsedge is coming up behind it.

The area I am using as a showcase for the “weeds” that grow up around our building has lots and lots of lantana in it. I noticed those trying to bloom last year before the weedeater got them, so I decided to ask that this one area be left alone. The lantana are now getting nice and big, and are just about ready to start their late spring blooming festival.

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Nature Heals: Five Vitamin Bs

After a long day of working through my mental paralysis, I came home to do the usual chicken and horse chores. I decided to really look hard at what I saw on the path and just live in the moment.

Beautiful crow poison blossom

It helped more than I thought it would to immerse myself in the life on the ranch. There were so many bees in the blooming clover and so many butterflies on the flowers and so many birds and so many bugs! The 5 Vitamin Bs: Blossoms, bees, butterflies, birds, and bugs.

The most common butterflies were Buckeyes, checkered whites, and sulphurs. I also saw a hairstreak.

And in the bird department, I was extra excited to hear a familiar call. The dickcissels are back! They’re one of those birds whose numbers are dwindling, so it makes me happy to know they like it here.

I also enjoyed the sounds of sparrows rushing out of the grass and the red winged blackbirds calling and flying around. They’re everywhere right now.

I enjoyed a lot of interesting bugs, but my favorite is this Texas flower scarab. It was vigorously digging away in this thistle.

Thistles have friends

Just enjoying the light on the grass, along with my friends the butterflies, bees, birds, and bugs got me in a better frame of mind. Thanks, Mother Nature!

Just grass, mostly speargrass.

Book Report: Nature’s Best Hope

Do you care about our planet and the life it supports? Then, stop reading this blog post and go order this book: Nature at Its Best: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard, by Douglas W. Tallamy. Consider it an early Earth Day present to yourself and the Earth. Get ready for some gushing now.

Why encourage caterpillars? Birds need them to make more birds!

Wow, this is a great book, which you might guess, given that I devoured it in a weekend. It’s got proper footnotes and references and such, but is written more for a lay audience than Behave! was. (Since I really don’t want to take pictures of the pictures in the book, I’ll share my own happy nature pictures from the weekend to encourage readers to make environments where they can see these for themselves, like the book describes!)

This is the book you want to give people who are not naturalists or environmental activists to explain to them that a) all those horrid weeds and bugs are what’s keeping the world alive and b) you can make a beautiful planting area on your property that encourages birds and other wildlife without going to a lot of trouble and effort.

While not part of creating a landscape of natives, donkeys and horses have a place, at least in my heart. (Spice and Fiona)

Tallamy makes so much sense in this book! Wow! He calls using native plants in naturalistic, yet attractive, settings creating Homegrown National Park. The main point of the book is that if people did this instead of planting endless swaths of turfgrass and non-native plants, we would be well on our way to saving the beauty all around us, benefiting us (we get to watch birds, butterflies, and animals) and the planet (diversity will be maintained, etc.). And Tallamy points out that turfgrass does have its place, for making nice paths.

Urban wildlife! Duck party at the Pope Residence.

I especially enjoyed all the beautiful photos he includes in Nature at Its Best, to show the kinds of sights you can see if you just make an appropriate setting. And that’s important, because exposing kids (and adults) to the natural world right where they live will make such a huge impact (as opposed to visiting nature in very carefully structured short trips). I say yes to all this, as do my fellow Master Naturalists.

You just can’t help but get all fired up and ready to drag in some native trees and shrubs and stick a rotting log or two around the place for moths to pupate in. And, conveniently, Tallamy provides links to two excellent websites to help you select what you should plant where YOU live:

  • Native Plant Finder: uses your postal code to help you find trees and herbaceous plants for hosting caterpillars. This is EXTREMELY cool.
  • Plants for Birds: same deal, but for hosting birds. I’ve already looked up both my houses.
Don’t worry, we are just using up the last of the red hummingbird food. We’ll make more of the correct kind!

I’m impressed that the work of one person, Kimberly Shropshire, created the original database for these, working with Tallamy. She must be an amazing person!

Honest, this book encourages citizen science at its BEST. I’d really like to spread the word about this resource. If you know people who enjoy nature and gardening, please share this post or the name of the book. And order it, even if just for the pretty pictures!

Those of you who prefer novels to nonfiction, rest easy. My next book is a fun historical novel.

Pond-ering

Since it’s rained like crazy and the rivers are still rising, I thought it would be a good time to check out our pond, the arroyo, and the riparian areas at the front of our property.

A meadow pink for my newfound love of the color.

Also, since it’s time for the second wave of wildflowers, I’d check them out, too. I’m always happy when these pink beauties are shining forth, so that was a good start!

I’m so glad they didn’t get all of these in the hay!

The dogs came along and enjoyed their own “pond” made by Lee’s unfinished drainage area.

Thanks for the pond, Dad!

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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”