The rain has managed to fill up the tanks (ponds) at last. It really has been dribbling in, but we finally got a day with a whole inch, and that seems to have done the trick.
There was a bit of a respite this morning, and things dried out a little. I took advantage of the only hour I had without meetings today to go out and see what’s going on with the ranch plants and their friends. I’m glad I did it then, because it’s been raining and thundering again for the past two hours, which makes for some unhappy dogs.
I had set out to find invasive species, only to realize I missed the entire 2021 iNaturalist Texas invasive species survey time, because I was in South Carolina. That’s okay, though, because I enjoyed seeing what’s blooming in late spring. There’s a lot of Indian blanket, and horsemint out there, and you can tell they are native, because there are so many kinds of insects pollinating them. The fields are literally abuzz with activity. Bzzzz.
I got to see a few new-to-me insects, including two types of potter’s wasps (not exactly sure what they are), and these beautiful tachinid flies, Archytas apicifer. They are huge (for flies), have big, black hairs, and feature shiny green abdomens and bright red eyes. I often saw multiples on one black-eyed Susan flower.
And then there were butterflies! Yes, I’ve seen common buckeyes before, along with the perky little fiery skippers and the red admirals, but the pearl crescent butterfly was new to me, and wow, it’s pretty. The little white checkered skipper looks like lace from a distance, too. In addition to the ones I photographed, I also saw orange sulphurs and gray hairstreaks. That’s a lot of butterflies!
The other thing I saw were bees, ranging from honey bees to tiny ones to bumblebees. They were zipping around, so no photos. And I found a katydid and lots of jumpy grasshoppers. This was a great way to spend some of my volunteer time at work!
I hope this provides some cheer if you’re living in a dreary place right now. I’d love to know what kinds of flowers are blooming where you live. I know the irises are in full swing in the northwestern US, and I believe I’ve spotted some peony photos from elsewhere. I love it when people share their local flowers, native or not!
Today, I’m being more explicit about what I’m grateful for than my usual gratitude practice, which is more like, “Thank goodness X is in my life, or I can do Y, or Z happened.” I want to say how grateful I am to Lee for deciding to get our retirement property early, build a house on it, and start with the rural fun and learning experiment we call the Hermits’ Rest Ranch. It’s saving my butt, that’s for sure.
Every Sunday morning, I wake up, make coffee, and hang around with Lee and the dogs up in our bedroom. It’s a huge room, so it has a loveseat, chairs, a little dining table (now Lee’s desk), and coffee fixings. Usually the dogs take turns wanting to sit by me and get petted. It’s such a gentle way to ease into the day. Weekends are the best.
This morning I had Carlton for a long time, and he was not about to let me do anything with my left hand except pet his long neck while he stretched his head straight up. Then big ole Harvey wanted some time with me. I’ve mentioned before that he thinks he’s a lapdog now, and sure enough, he managed to drape himself over my entire lap. We had a nice snuggle (I originally wrote “struggle,” which may, in fact, be accurate), though that bulky dog sure is heavy.
It is nice to review your previous day up in the bedroom, so I thought back on how happy I was to find out that all the guinea eggs from yesterday were still good, and wondered what to do with them, since I’m not heading into Austin for a few weeks, I can’t get them to my coworker who’s allergic to chicken eggs, but not guinea eggs. I guess we eat them.
I also reminded myself how good I am at being patient in difficult situations, which yesterday’s time with Apache once again proved. Both he and Ace were antsy, like there was something going on around them that put them on alert. I never did figure out what it was, but it led to more dancing around and trying to do what HE wanted to from Apache. He just wasn’t thinking. But, we stopped, had a little chat, and eventually went on to have a nice ride. He really likes it when I talk to him calmly.
And for those of you suggesting lessons, I’m actually signed up for some with a local trainer. That’s why I got a Coggins test for Apache when the vet was here. Sara will take Ace and I will take Apache. That means we get to practice trailer loading, because it’s been a long time since we’ve gone anywhere out of town. He used to love going to Kerri April’s to learn Parelli stuff.
I roused myself from all my musings and went out to see what’s going on with the chickens and such. Every single step I took, Bertie Lee was right with me. She’s the Big Red of my main flock. That hen just likes me. When I checked the chicks, they’d knocked their little feeder over and messed up the water, so I fixed all that and gave Star more adult chicken food (the kind they don’t like, but my shipment of Grubbly feed has not arrived yet, due to high order volumes).
They are not starving, anyway, since every time I look in they are eating away at the plant growth in and around their little coop. I’m sure no bug stands a chance in there, either!
Then I just sat around, watched the chicks preen their feathers (it appears that they are trying to get the fluff off, so their fine new feathers can grow out), and enjoying the pond, trees, and butterflies. I got to watch the little ones go up and down the ramp, and it’s clear they are way faster at it than their mom, who carefully steps down the ramp. They also jump up and down off the small tree branch I put in their area and flap their little wings when they go to land. They will be strong! I wonder how old they will be before they can fly?
Naturally, I looked up the answer on the Googles and found they start testing their wings at around a week (check), but they don’t get their flight feathers until around 5 weeks, so we have something to look forward to!
Just looking around the ranch keeps me focused and gives me perspective. My challenges are just small bumps in the road compared to all that goes on around me every day in nature. And, like my friend Vicki has been reminding me lately:
I’ve survived all those previous hard times, so I will probably survive this one, too.
I don’t want to just survive, I want to thrive! So I’m going to keep focused on the fact that life is good, I’m surrounded by supportive friends and family, and the new events we’ll go through will make us stronger and wiser. This is what I hope for all you out there, too.
And don’t forget to visit the podcast if you need something to listen to that’s fairly uplifting and pleasant. For me, it’s a nice break between some of my more intense podcasts! And if you want to help out with my blogging fees, consider visiting the support link at the top of the page.
It’s the time of year when my Christian friends are thinking about resurrection. To me, Easter comes at the perfect time of year, since flora and fauna are coming back to life all over the place. The Hermits’ Rest Ranch is no exception, but this year, after the unusually cold winter, we haven’t been sure if everything was going to come back or not. Every time I look out the window and see a monarch butterfly feeding, I feel grateful that some of them made it here and have food.
I’ve been periodically patrolling the land around our house, checking to see if plants are coming up at their usual times and numbers, and what kinds of insects are showing up. The good news is that most of the old friends are returning, but the bad news is that some are not as numerous and are later than usual.
One plant I’ve been anxiously looking for are the Texas baby blue eyes (Nemophila phacelioides), which only grow in one spot on the edge of the woods near the house. Usually by this time of year, we have a nice stand of them. Today I finally found one blossom, along the fence. I hope there are more of them among the green things in the woods!
The Indian paintbrush that usually covers our front field and the one down the road are nowhere near as numerous as usual, but the fact that there are some gives me hope for future years. The bluebonnets are okay in numbers, but I haven’t seen a winecup yet. The delicate roadside gaura (Oenothera suffulta), however, has managed to come up, in such a pretty stand that I thought they were some other flower.
I was comforted today to see that the little spring is still flowing, and that plenty of prickly sow thistle (Apache’s favorite snack), yellow evening primrose, pink evening primrose, ragwort, and dewberries are blanketing the ground.
And the big, purple thistles, which are a pain in the butt, but good for the soil, are getting ready to bloom.
I finally found a blooming example of one of the plants I’ve been watching, velvetweed (Oenothera curtiflora). It’s another gaura, but grows much bigger and has lovely soft leaves. Every year I forget what that plant is until it finally blossoms.
One plant I’d hoped the freezing weather would wipe out is the poison ivy, but I should have known, given how thick the vines are that climb the trees in a certain area, that they’d be back. Sigh. It looks so healthy and shiny, too. The mesquite tree, another one that’s sort of a pain (but also has its good points, unlike poison ivy), is coming back, as is the prickly ash, another Texas thorny tree. Well, at least they break up the monotony of our little wooded area, which has mostly cedar elm trees in it.
Now, I’ve saved the best news for last. As of yesterday, I was sure that the Shumard red oak that we’d planted last year behind out house, to someday shade the chickens, was a victim of the weather. I was not surprised, since it hadn’t had much chance to expand its roots. But, lo and behold, I spotted something red while I was out checking on the roosting hen. Little leaves! It looks like the tree will be with us another year after all. And that is good, which you will learn more about soon, when I report on the book about oak trees I just got!
No fooling, April 1 has been an encouraging day, at least for the plants around here! Our wildlife is returning to life and bringing us joy, in Nature’s yearly resurrection.
I ran into some residents of the ranch I don’t normally see today, all of whom I thought were darned cute. It made for a great lunch break!
First, I headed over to feed the chickens this morning. When I opened the supposedly tightly locked storage container, I heard a rustling. I looked into the scratch, and four little black eyes calmly looked up at me.
There were two tiny deermice enjoying the seeds. They are just about the cutest little vermin imaginable. I told them hello, then took them over to where I knew there were other mice and let them go. One trotted out and disappeared into the grass, but the other one took a little encouragement. It was a nice visit, but I need to make sure to shut the chicken food container completely from now on!
As I was waiting with Lee for the vet to come and give us our heartworm medicine and trim the dogs’ nails (no, that did NOT happen, and there will be sedation in the future), I wandered around looking for interesting plants and insects. More and more Indian paintbrush plants are blooming, and I just can’t get enough of how pretty they are.
But, mostly I chased this one butterfly. It was all white, at least from a distance. I’m sure I looked ridiculous trying to befriend it, but eventually I got it close enough to get a reasonable photo.
So, it was not all white. At first all I saw was the spot, but when I looked up the white family of butterflies, I saw that there was a border of black and white along the edges of the wings. Aha, it wasn’t a regular white butterfly, but was Anthocharis midea, the Falcate Orangetip, which apparently doesn’t always have an orange tip. No wonder I was confused. I now know they were discovered in 1809 and are mostly found in Texas and Oklahoma. What a cool visitor to meet!
The next encounter I had was with a whole family, or more accurately, 3 of the four lifecycle stages of one insect. First I found this cool looking fellow, scrounging around with a few of its buddies.
I was pretty excited when it came up as a seven-spotted lady beetle (ladybug). Sure enough, that’s what the larval stage looks like. Pretty soon I found this happy specimen who’s an adult.
Then, a few feet away, I noticed this guy, who I’d never seen before. The bug was very easy to photograph.
When I looked that one up on iNaturalist, I got all kinds of beetles, but none of them looked right. Then I got to thinking that it sort of looked like that adult and larva ladybug. I googled the life stages of a ladybug, and there was my finding, a ladybug in its larval stage! That means that in 15 minutes I found every part of the lifecycle except eggs!
I’m going to declare this lunch hour a successful social event, where I met some fascinating neighbors!
After that unusual series of cold fronts, snow, and ice, I (and others) have been pretty worried about whether out friends out there in nature are going to make it through to spring and keep going. In the past day or two I’ve seen some happy signs. So, as long as I’m out in nature and not dealing with technology, I’ve been pretty happy.
My heart skipped a beat when I finally saw some Indian paintbrush plants in the field. Now that there are two or three of them, I know we’ll have at least a bit of our usual field of orange in front of the house (as long as we can convince Jim the brother-in-law not to mow until they are going to seed).
The field is already lovely to me, with a whole lot of mock verbena mingling with crow poison and field madder, once you look close enough to see them. And I know more’s coming! That’s why I like this time of year. Every day something new starts blooming, and I record them on iNaturalist so that some day I can analyze the data and see if the weather changes when the wildflowers start up (that will be when I retire).
A new “blossom” coming up yesterday was this dwarf plantain (at least that’s what iNaturalist identified it as). I thought it was the annual trampweed (which is also in the picture, along with chicory, burr clover of some kind, and a grass, but I was wrong).
Another new bloomer is one I’d been worried about, on behalf of my stomach, and that’s the dewberries. They really got knocked back by the cold, but by gosh, they have recovered and started blooming. Even though there are only a few blossoms right now, it already smells good over by the stream.
How about the non-plants?
I’ve been anxiously looking for butterflies and grasshoppers and such. Judging from the sounds I’ve been hearing, the green-striped grasshoppers I’ve been watching grow up have matured. I see them flying around the back yard and making their grasshopper noises. Here’s one that happens to be brown.
I’ve been seeing a lot of these hairstreak butterflies, along with some sulphurs and one red admiral that was too far away to photograph.
But, I had heard people were already seeing monarchs, but that there was nothing for them to eat. Sure enough, as I sat in the back yard yesterday waiting to go to the phone store, a steady stream of them passed by, but never landed on anything. I sure hope they find some nectar!
I know pear trees are blooming (native ones, not just Bradford pears), so the bees are doing well.
I’m never alone when I’m out looking at all these plants and insects and such. Carlton and Penney are especially close to me wherever I go, while Alfred and Vlassic explore more. It always makes me happy to see that the pets have as much fun as I do. We are all really lucky to have acres and acres to explore and nobody to tell us what we can and can’t do out here. Ranch living may have poor cell reception, but it makes up for it in the kind of freedom that matters to me, which is freedom to observe nature and be a part of it, not try to dominate it.
I hope you are enjoying the signs of spring where you are (and if you’re in Colorado, I hope the snow is melting).
Okay, I have a little something to say. After all that iNaturalist work last weekend, it was this weekend where I met some goals, or desires, or whatever.
While walking around, I remembered to open up a balloon flower to find the seed. My friend Linda Jo was right! They look like little yin-yang symbols!
While we were walking the horses, Sara very patiently let me try to get photos of all the butterflies and moths swarming in the pasture, even when her horse stepped in fire ants.
Everyone’s patience was rewarded, though. I saw a butterfly on the fence. It sat still. I got its picture! It was an American snout, the ones we saw so many of last week! Finally one stood still.
After achieving that goal, I felt fine. Then, on my way home, one of the dragonflies I’d been seeing all summer finally stood still. I was really curious what they were called, but they are very dart-y ones.
These always look like two mating to me. I was happy to see what they actually look like. Cool insects, and another goal met.
I looked at my iNaturalist totals and was happy to see I hit 1800 observations today. I’d been disappointed not to get there last week. Luckily, there are lots of interesting things to see on the Wild Type Ranch, where we walked!
I think that’s good for someone who has jobs and stuff. Still, I look forward to lots more in the future. We hope to visit neighboring counties with few observations and see what’s there!
Glad I found my voice. Sometimes I just need to shut up. Hee hee.
It was nice to get home from work and think about what’s eternal.
One thing is learning. I’m loving the book I’m reading, perhaps too much. The person who wrote How to Be an Antiracist has managed to clarify all sorts of muddy questions and gut feelings I have about race, class, and political systems. Perhaps this is not the most relaxing book ever, but it makes so much sense that my brain feels tidier or something. More on this when I’m done!
The other eternal thing is life going on about its cycles. I’m surrounded by birth, death, old age, and metamorphosis every day. The new calf, Nicole’s son who will arrive in a month, the lady in Cameron who died in the fire and had cooked all those burgers, Lee and me, a butterfly. I treasure all of it!
Now to stop writing so much and share photos of what relaxes me.
Really, I do understand why people are being cautious these days. The rate of coronavirus infections in Milam County has skyrocketed. I have been limiting where I go, and even wearing my mask to cross the street. I ordered a lot of new masks today, too, since I’m wearing them more and getting them dirty.
My family and the companies I am affiliated with are all being very careful. There have been two people die who work for my Austin employer, though I do not know what caused it. Sure makes you pause and want to hug your loved ones, though you can’t.
What I can do is tell you some fun/mildly interesting stories about animals and share some pictures! Okay!
First, all the birds around our Cameron offices have been continuing their festival of babies. The mockingbirds finally left their parents this week. I miss them, but Lee says now we have a carport squirrel. The swallows are down to two babies who are about ready to fledge. And the every-valiant house finches re-built their nest on the OTHER side of the garage and are sitting on eggs.
I love that nature just keeps plugging along. Some things just don’t change.
One thing that doesn’t change is Alfred and his abundance of hair. We had him pretty well cleaned out, but yesterday we noticed Harvey was getting lots of hair out of him. So, Kathleen sat and patiently removed hair for about ten minutes, before Alfred ran out of patience.
The rest of the night, if Kathleen even LOOKED like she was heading toward him, he ran away. Not much makes him run. We laughed a lot, and laughing is good. I hope some day we can work on his other side!
I got a new animal sighting today, too! I saw my first jackrabbit in Milam County, right on the ranch. Someone had said they saw a really big bunny, so I think this was the one. Those are some big ears, but I felt a lot better with my ID when a couple of local friends confirmed my sighting. I am happy to see them and hope their population grows.
In horse news, Apache is walking close to normally, for which we are all very grateful. He, Fiona, and Big Red the chicken are all getting tired of living in the tiny pen not sure why Big Red is always there, but maybe she thinks shes part of the herd.
And in bird news, the guinea fowl are growing like crazy, and the new chickens are, too. The ladies are growing in their combs. Clarence, the newest rooster, has not won over Ginger and Bertie Lee yet, but its getting better every day. Thank goodness!
We think Bruce is about to get his crow going, which will be fun. At the moment he makes some funny sounds we cannot really identify.
So, that is the non-COVID news from around here. Office update soon!
To be honest, a lot of things puzzle me these days, and I assume you’re probably puzzled a lot lately as well. Some of these things are fun or funny, and some are testing my ability to not be judgmental of others (and ya know, sometimes people seem to be begging to be judged; still I try not to do it). And some of it brings me way down. Sigh.
The first thing is this. It’s a fun one. What is going on with these mud daubers? Is this love or death?
There’s been a lot of mud dauber drama around the house, anyway. I see lots of hornets attacking the blue-black mud daubers, but there are usually just two of them. What a way to go!
On to the Rant
Next, I see so many people with huge logical inconsistencies in the things they say and post on social media. How is this not an issue for them? I was going to write some specific instances, but I decided that I don’t want to get involved, because of the next thing that puzzles me…
Why does everything have to be politicized? Health and safety precautions to protect ourselves and others now signify which political “side” we’re on? Why? I’m sorely disappointed at how people are labeling each other as fearful and irresponsible. Let’s look at a butterfly now and breathe.
And facts. What the hell has happened to those little gems? This whole business of not trusting science and verified facts confuses me a lot. Of course there is always more to be learned, but this doesn’t mean that historical event X never happened or gravity doesn’t exist (we don’t exactly know what gravity is, by the way.
And black men! My word! My heart is breaking and I would start hugging every black man I see, but that would not be good at this time, and at any time that would be sort of weird. Nobody deserves to live life judged guilty just for being born. Shame on us.
Honest, I respect people’s right to view the world from different perspectives from mine. I am not telling anyone how to think, as much as it’s tempting sometimes. I guess I’m just disappointed. And puzzled. And confused.
I’ll tell you exactly how bad I feel about other human beings right now. Last night, I dreamed that some kind of bomb went off and I watched a man fleeing a nuclear blast. I thought, “Well, he can’t escape that, but at least he won’t have to deal with the mess the survivors are left with.” I think my subconscious was reflecting what I consciously don’t want to admit, which is that there are times when I’d just rather not be here than to watch society disintegrate before my eyes. It’s so painful.
Debbie Downer, signing off. Going to look at nature so I can feel better. How are YOU coping?
Getting in touch with your emotional truth, by processing feelings to improve the human condition in the 21st century. Living out loud by my motto,"Triumphing over Trauma" 🌈
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