Cute Li’l Animal Tails/Tales

Now that the weather is more normal, I’ve been enjoying the antics of all the local animals. I haven’t seen them all—for example, Lee saw a large, striped bobcat cross the road yesterday. I missed that!

Obviously not a Bobcat

I did get to see this charming kitten with a crazy tail today. She’s been hanging around the cabin and barn for a month or so, and the neighbors feed her. We haven’t had a cat stay on the ranch since Cathy and her menagerie moved.

Anyway, I said I’d feed her this weekend, so I had my eye out for her when I walked by the cabin on the way to feed horses. I didn’t see her, but I saw a black dog, though I knew Copper was out of town with his owners. Wait…that was Tess the cattle dog, great-great granny of these sweet pups.

Gratuitous photo of Jess and her pups. Cattle dog pups start out white with black spots.

So, I was pretty sure ole Tess had found the kitten’s food. She isn’t too old to sniff out any morsel of food! And sure enough, the bowls were licked clean and the kitten was looking disappointed when I came back down the driveway. I refilled the bowl, and she chowed down fast.

I better eat fast. That dog might come back!

I love how the kitten holds her tail angled back like that. And she is sweet. It makes me happy to have a cat to pet again. Lee’s allergic, so we can’t have one in the house, but maybe we can get barn cats if our horse barn happens.

More Cuteness, Cattle Style

I’ve also been enjoying the cattle on our property. They get friendlier and funnier all the time.

Yesterday, I took some more food for Big Red, the chicken who lives with the horses. It was in a plastic feed bag. It was misting rain, so I was concentrating on not stepping on cow patties. I opened the gate to leave our pasture, and when I turned around, I saw that the brown cow was like three feet behind me. I didn’t hear her at all! The others were lumbering behind her.

I guess they really miss getting cattle cubes from Kathleen, and were sure my bag had cow treats, not chicken ones. She sure looked sad when I took the bag with me.

Today, the cows were insisting on standing in my path as I walked to the gate. Maybe they were thinking of shaking me down for treats. I got to the gate, then heard thundering footsteps. Jim had let Vlassic out, and he wanted to join me, like he did yesterday. But, Sara’s dogs would be there today, so Vlassic had to go back for his safety. That made me have to intrude on the cows again.

When I came by the third time, after taking Vlassic back, I had to stop and watch them. They were playing like little calves, butting their heads and jumping in circles. It was a pleasure to see them enjoying the more pleasant weather, and it was a shame to stop them, just because I was now late. I wish I’d gotten a video! The cows aren’t too far past calf-hood, so I guess they still have urges for fun.

Heck, so do I. My fun for the day was listening to this red-winged blackbird, way at the top of a willow tree.

TWEET!!!

He was alternating between the familiar chiming song they make and repeated tweet calls. I think he thought someone was answering him, because he was so loud that he had a robust echo. I wonder how long he kept that going?

There. Not every post has to be a rant or controversy. I needed some cuteness in my day today!

The Tiny Calf

I can tell this story, because it’s happy, and I like happy baby stories. We’ve had a calf on the property for a week who was having trouble immediately after birth. I saw one of the lease guys pick it up and put it in the utility vehicle. I noticed it wasn’t standing.

The sun shining on mama and day-old baby

I was relieved to see the little feller in the pen the next day. He was sure cute, and his mama was very protective. I noticed he sorta scooted around.

I’m so cute.

The next couple of days I figured out there was something wrong with his front legs. He always stood with his hooves folded under. It turns out his tendons had gotten stretched at birth, and it’s not uncommon. Usually it resolves itself in a few days.

I’m trying!

The other issue was he was having trouble nursing. Not being able to stand very long couldn’t help. But, the guys who own him were not giving up. He got bottle fed twice a day, and believe me, milking a beef cow is not a romantic event where you sit on a stool with a pail. No, she had to get squeezed in the chute so she’d hold still!

You may not photograph me getting milked. By this time, he was standing more and even ran a few steps.

Monday, the cow looked way better, and sure enough, we saw the calf nursing. My resident experts were concerned that his tendons hadn’t settled back yet. Both Sara and Trixie said they’d never seen it last so long. That worried me.

My right foot is pretty good.

Today was all rainy, but I sure was glad to see the little family still in the pen. And hey, look who was standing and walking around like a calf? Our little guy! I needed that happy sight.

You be careful over there, son.

After a week, he’s almost normal and obviously gaining weight from all that delicious moo milk. I found out he hasn’t had a bottle since Monday. Looks like all that patience and extra care was worth it! Just look at that smile!

Cheese!

He’s a friendly fellow, but mama isn’t. I know she will be glad to get back in the pasture! I really admire the guys who care for these cattle for being willing to take extra care of their herd. Ranchers with good hearts! (And they’ll make money, too.)

What’s Digging Up Dirt around Your Place (or a load of bull and dillo dirt)

Perhaps my title is better than this post will come out to be, but this points out to me that I need to stop trying to write about two things in one post, just to not appear to be blogging crazed.

Bull, Big Load

Yesterday, Vlassic and I went to feed the horses after work. He was happy, because I gave him his yummy heartworm pill, so we had a nice time on our walk. I looked up and said hi to Apache, then turned to say hi to Spice and Lakota, when something moved in the holding pen. WHOA. It was big.

Who the heck are YOU?

Yep, there was a bull I’d never seen before. He was, to say the least, beefy, quite a load of bull. I was like, uh oh, he probably won’t like me going around messing near him. I could see that he’d been upset and dug the dirt and mud up in the pen. So I said hi.

Hey. I’m a bull. Nice to meet you.

I went ahead and fed the horses. Every time I walked by the pen, the bull followed me. It occurred to me he might be a NICE bull. When Vlassic went up to him and they just sniffed each other, I was pretty confident.

I like hay. It builds muscles.

I got him a bit of fresh hay, and he walked right up and took some out of my hand! Then he poked the water tub. It was empty. Ah, someone is thirsty. As I filled the water tub, I checked out his ear tags. It appeared he was an All American bull.

Here you can see he has TWO labeled ear tags. And a nose ring. Obviously he is used to being handled.

We chatted for a while as he ate and drank, and he seemed happy to hang out with me. That’s obviously someone’s former show bull or something. And wow, he sure has big feet. I wondered why he suddenly was in the pen, all by himself. As we know, I am NOT a part of the cattle operations, but I still wondered.

As we walked by, the people who would have the answers happened to drive up. I said I gave that All American bull some hay. They laughed and said that is actually his name! He had just been brought over, and probably just shoved in the pen and left alone. No wonder he was lonely and craving company, poor guy!

When we got back, Vlassic had to tell Gracie Lou ALL about his adventures with the gargantuan being. Or at least I prefer to think so.

I’m hoping All American has been led to his harem by the time I get to feed horses today. I look forward to some very pretty golden calves in the fall!

Dillo in the Dirt

And now for another mess. When I looked outside this morning, a part of the field in front of the house looked suspiciously blackened. What could that have been? I hoped it wasn’t hogs. I was at an angle to where I couldn’t see exactly what was going on.

We went out on the porch later, and could see that there wasn’t massive upheaval, like hogs would create. But there was definitely a disturbance in the dirt.

Who’s been digging?

After my morning meetings, I headed out to inspect in person. DANG. It looked like a wild pack of armadillos had come through and feasted on something.

That’s way more concentrated than the usual armadillo holes.

I have my suspicions that the delicacy is whatever is making tell-tale piles of castings all over the property. Earthworms or grubs are my guesses. In any case, the feeding frenzy has done a great job of aerating the soil.

Whatever’s in there is pretty deep.

Thanks, dillos!

What Chickens and Cattle Have in Common

Ah, memories. Back when Lee’s dad was still around, he liked to tell us all he knew about cattle. He knew a lot, since he spent most of his time with cattle, not people.

I found this 2011 photo of one of Lee’s dad’s mama cows who nursed two bull calves, well past the usual nursing time.

One of his favorite things to tell us was that cows were very smart, and that they had definite habits. He’d tell us he always knew where his cows would be at any time of day, and what they’d be doing. He knew when to go outside and take a nap with them, when they went to get water, and when they went to the back part of the farm to graze. He was a very find observer of bovine behavior!

Well, for the past few days, since I have been sitting at my home office window, I’ve been watching the chickens. I now know that they start out hanging around under the RV in the mornings. Around midday, most of them (Springsteen the Jersey Giant hangs around the coop) head over to where our cattle troughs are and peck at the hay. They also drink out of the fish tank…I mean water trough.

At mid afternoon, they hike over to our house and visit the porch, then at least four or five of them head ALL the way out to the edge of the woods.

They spotted me, so they’re running back toward the house.

And of course, as it begins to get dark, they head back to the coop area, before turning in for the night. Just like cows, chickens have habits. I don’t know if that makes them “smart.” I don’t think it’s at all smart of them to go way over there, knowing the chicken hawk lives here, too.

An Anniversary Year

When I was looking for a photo of Lee’s dad’s cattle on an old blog, I found a picture of the first time we ever stayed overnight here at the Hermits’ Rest, which was in November, 2011.

There’s Ursula, our first RV, sitting pretty much where I could be seeing her outside my office window.

Wow, ten years of this property. No wonder we’re getting to know it so well. Guess who else I’ve known for ten years? My precious horse! Here he is as a strapping 5 year old!

Apache is pissed off that Sara is riding her previous horse, Aladdin. She traded him for Spice.

Literally Back in the Saddle Again

Apache and I are proud to report that we got to be a horse and rider pair again today. I think we were both happy about it.

Ignore bad form and look at happiness.

Just before he was declared un rideable, I’d gotten this side pull bridle and fixed it up for him. He never got to use it. So, I figured I’d try it today. It annoyed him at first.

This thing’s dumb.

But, he got used to it in the round pen pretty quickly. We then headed out to one of the pastures and rode around. Apache did pretty well other than wanting to eat grass a lot at first. I got him to stop, though.

The main problem we had was that I didn’t cinch the saddle tightly enough. I remembered he’d lost weight and checked, but not well enough. I’ll fix it next time. All in all, we had a good riding reunion. My legs hurt though, so I need to get back into saddle shape.

A Little Cow Cuteness

On my way home, the new group of cows that are behind us were investigating the chickens. When they spotted me walking toward the coop and all came to see me.

These are the 19 series, from different places, apparently.

As I chatted with them, I heard mooing from behind me. A couple of the cows who live on our property came up to meet the neighbors. I got this cute shot of a calf and cow saying hi to the new gals.

Hi. Hey. Hello.

That’s a cheerful end to my weekend.

At Least the Dogs Love Me

One of the big highlights of coming back to the Hermits’ Rest has been enjoying the dogs. I had the best reunion with my precious Vlassic yesterday. We ran, we frolicked, we hugged, we took funny pictures. I miss that little guy so much, though I know he is doing a lot of good emotionally supporting Lee’s brother, Jim.

He still loves me!

I feel bad every time I take him with me to Austin, because Jim gets so sad. Vlassic is happy as long as he is warm, so I know he is okay. I just don’t have a snuggle buddy.

Alfred shows his love and devotion constantly, and he seems to be feeling better, because he’s been hauling himself up on the couch to sleep at night after his barking period is over. I wish that would end, but I sleep right through it now.

Yesterday he was stretched the entire length of the couch. I am glad it’s not shedding season at the moment.

Penney is still a strange little dog, but she will sleep on anyone with a lap or in a bed.

I’m aloof.

As for the rest of the animals, it’s pretty good. Apache was glad to see his food, and Fiona seemed glad to see me. They just like to eat. As for the chickens, it appears that Fancy Pants wandered off while I was gone. Jim, who was chicken caretaker, didn’t notice, so…not much I can do, but I sure do miss her hilarious running. Now the only one left of the first bunch I got last year is Bertie Lee. She is laying eggs in the garage. Sigh. But, today is the day the chicken coop gets fixed up, so we hope to change the egg-laying habits.

There are still four cows in the pasture, but from the looks of one of the big ones, there will be another one soon. And little Rip is growing just fine! The other calf is very fuzzy and round, quite cute. They are all very friendly now.

And that’s the animal report from the ranch. Hoping there’s more to come!

Missing the Ranch and Keeping My Spirits Up

It’s really weird to have not been at the ranch the entire month of November, especially since that’s usually a great month to be there (good weather, frisky pets, lots of time for walking). It didn’t help at all that I spent a good bit of time wandering around the area on Google Maps trying to figure out where those two people drowned. I think I got it located a bit further away from our property than I’d feared, but still adjacent. It makes me so sad.

In happier news, my one orchid that didn’t succumb to some evil scale has rewarded us with many blossoms.

I listened to a news report that said the victims had fallen out of their boat and got caught up in pond weeds. That’s exactly what I had feared. Even if you can swim, that stuff can get you. One guy had a young family and one was just 22, so young. They’re having a football game to raise money for their families. Traion Smith was just an amazing athlete in high school, and a nice young man. The news report showed the former Cameron coach breaking into tears at the thought of losing him. Life sure has its twists and turns.

Anyway, I ended up looking at what great quality the Google Maps images of our property are. I really liked how you could see each cow and all the cattle paths in the bottom pasture next to our house.

All the cows are at upper right, and you can see where they walk. The image can even get closer in! That’s Walker’s Creek and one of the streams that meets up with it.

I was disappointed that I could not see Apache or Fiona, nor the chickens. I guess the photo was taken just before we got the chicken house. So, you’re spared those images.

Sunset looking out by neighbor Ruth’s house. I love how the oak leaves are shining.

While I do miss the ranch (and its occupants, including my poor lonely quarantined husband!), I’m enjoying some time in Austin. We got to take a walk with our neighbor, Ruth, who regaled us with tales of trying to buy groceries at the H-E-B (we went a bit later ’cause I had to fill my prescription, and it wasn’t so bad). She went to the Randall’s store full of “old people” and it wasn’t crowded. That store is always full of old people! And, if you don’t live in Texas, we realize H-E-B is a weird name, but since it’s named after Mr. Butts, you can understand the choice.

Roses in my flower arrangement. They help me feel better.

And since I’m in Austin, we can have my son’s little family unit to eat out on the deck, to minimize germs and all, like we keep being told to do. It will be very small, but good.

Giant mum about to explode. This arrangement had such great autumn colors.

We will get through these challenging times. Sometimes it’s easier than other times, but I feel like all this practice of empathy, compassion, and forgiveness that’s come out of the pandemic, the election, and the personal issues of those around me will benefit me the rest of my life.

I don’t know what this flower is, but I love the way only part of it is in focus.

I hope you enjoy the photos of the flowers I got at the store and our sunset. I saw no sunsets in Utah, because the mountains were to the west. That’s okay, mountains are pretty, too. Share what’s keeping you happy and in the moment, if you want to!

Lakota, the Circle of Life, and Being Startled

I’m guessing that today you’ll be wanting to find out how our boarder horse, Lakota the elderly fancy palomino, came out after his rough time yesterday. Last we heard, he’d been sweating and heaving, and Spice was standing over him like she was guarding his life. Sara is happy to report that after he stood up and made a big poop, he walked off, normally. She did keep checking through the night.

This morning, to our great relief, he was standing under a tree with Spice, and they both had been sleeping. It was probably a rough night for them, too. They both kept yawning and yawning, and were very loving and affectionate. Poor guys.

He just let me hug and hug, and he hugged back.

Sara had a couple of ideas about what had happened. Her current theory (and it’s just a theory) is that he ate some of the nightshade (Silverleaf Nightshade Solanum elaeagnifolium) that had been mown in the pasture (because she is allergic to it). Apparently, horses and cattle don’t eat it when it is alive, but for some reason think it’s tasty when it’s cut and dried. I hope that’s all it was.

It does have pretty flowers.

Thanks to me looking up alternative veterinarians, Sara was able to get in touch with Dr. Brimlee, who works with Milam Touch of Love, and while he couldn’t come last night, we are scheduling him to come soon (Apache’s teeth need to be looked at, too). In any case, we were both really relieved to find two horses standing under the trees this morning!

Spice was a good friend and nurse last night.

After this, my morning went downhill and my anxiety went uphill, but that’s the way the circle of life goes, I guess. As I approached our gate, I saw lots and lots of black birds in the pasture. What, a crow convention? As I got closer, I realized it was vultures. I also saw this.

Brown cow guarding two calves.

I drove overo where the feasting birds were, and found one of the three calves was no longer with us, and hadn’t been for a day or two. That certainly startled me. I don’t know what happened, and I probably won’t, but it was sad and a bit of a shock to see him laying there. Circle of life strikes again.

On the other hand, the chickens are all still here! Haven’t lost one in weeks! And Hedley seems to have given up on being broody, but hasn’t started laying again. I hope she does. She doesn’t seem sick or anything. They all got quite a treat out of a bunch of tomatoes Kathleen donated to them.

Hey, this is good! Thanks! Hedley is the one by the water trough, looking perky.

Even Buttercup and Butternut ate a tomato, which is a first. Maybe they’ll start branching out and eating more than just their feed and only their feed soon. I do enjoy them, and they cheered me up.

THEN I went to drive to the office. There was a giant wasp in the car, the black kind with red wings (sorry, no ID). I usually don’t worry about them, but two of my friends have had bad wasp reactions in the last week, and it started buzzing my head. As I tried to shew it away, I ran off the road. Luckily, I just drove through a lot of long grass, and probably made County Road 140 passersby curious. I am just not having a calm day so far! I’m still shaky. On the other hand, I did find some pretty groundcherries in the overgrown office lawn. These are clammy groundcherries (Physalis heterophylla).

The blossoms face downward, so you often don’t spot them.

So, I will go do my other Saturday writing tasks and breathe deeply. Has anything startled you today?

Enter Here for Surprises and Adventures

Hmm, the adventures thing may be exaggerated a bit, but I did get a new gate to go from our part of the property to the rest of the ranch. In addition, Chris smoothed all the dirt that had been disturbed when running the water line, and did a bit of grading, too. The chicken house area looks marvelous.

It’s all smooth now. At the rate the Bermuda grass grows, it will be covered in a week to ten days. Notice the feathers on the ground, which I mentioned in my previous post. It’s your fault, Bruce.

The highlight of the day was seeing this big gate that swings open mightily and allows me to easily head to see the horses. We had the gate already, so it didn’t cost anything. It’s very sturdy on the hinge side, since Chris drilled a big ole bolt through the roof support pillar. The other side is only temporary. The fencing project is not done, but at lease those of us who have to go into that pasture can do it easily (thus, Jim could drive the riding mower over the the horses to mow this morning).

I can now go from here to there without crawling under a fence or climbing over a fence and nearly knocking it over.

The entire family was pretty giddy about getting the new fence, as Lee shows here.

That man cracks me up. And there’s Alfred before I pulled those clumps of hair out.

Surprises and Adventures

I’ve used the new gate to go visit the horses twice already. Last night, I went to join Sara to feed them, and I got quite a surprise. In the field where the 18 cows should be, there were just three cows, each with a little white baby.

Who the heck are they?

These are not the 18s. First, they were afraid of me. Second, their ear tags were in the left ear, not the right. Um, where were my friendly cow buddies? Where was 18-1, bravest calf ever?

As I walked up to the barn, the Vrazels were driving by. They warned me of another surprise, a large cow and her newborn calf were in the pens. I said, hey, um, where are the 18s? Tyler laughed and laughed. “They’re in Oklahoma!”

Oklahoma? Yep, they sold them all and trucked them off when I was at work one day. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. Cattle ranching. Not for the sentimental. I am sure they got a HUGE payday out of those young cows, all of whom were due to calve in November. But still. Sniff.

On I went, and sure enough, there was a very large red Angus cow with a very small and shiny black Angus calf. I blurted out, “Hi, Sprinkles,” and Sara asked if I had to name everything. I guess I do. In any case, Sprinkles is cute as can be, and seems to have recovered from being sick and needing to be penned up. Mama, on the other hand, was mostly pissed off.

Sprinkles and I would like to leave, now.

She mooed and snorted and ran around until we left.

This morning, I came back to do some horse fun, around 9 am. It was NOT hot outside! But, dew drenched my shoes, since I wore the wrong ones. Sprinkles and Mama were still there. Between Sara’s dogs and Lakota having the utter gall to stand quietly tied to the gate, she was in a huff.

Lakota just stood there and ignored her. A real quarter horse! We proceeded head off down the race, to see how Apache would do. Sara rode Lakota, who plodded along like a livery stable horse and was generally uninterested in anything. I led Apache (hope to get riding permission soon). Here’s where it became and adventure, the good kind.

We walked all the way down the race, the place where he was refusing to ride earlier, and the place where he has been all nervous and pushy when we walked for the past month or two. Today, Apache walked beside me, not in front of me and not behind me. He stayed about two feet away from me. He did stop to get a mouthful of grass, but started right back up, every time. He did not crowd into me. He did not try to turn around. He did not rush ahead, or refuse to move forward.

He completely ignored all the “scary” parts of the path where there are big ruts. The scary tree got a nod. When all of the 19 heifers came thundering over to check us out and walk along with us, he and Lakota both looked at them, then kept going. The giant bull didn’t phase them. DAMN!

Sara and Lakota, with Fiona-bomb.

We then went on out to the big pasture where it floods (the bottom). We all walked and looked at stuff. Sara’s dogs came along, and no horse paid the least bit of attention. Even Fiona didn’t dawdle and pitch a fit. She followed right behind us cheerfully. Every time we went through a gate, everyone was fine. Even when Jim drove by on the lawn mower, they just stopped and looked for a minute.

WHO WERE THESE ANIMALS AND WHERE DID MY JUMPY HORSE GO?

I have no clue. Sara and I tried to figure out what was different. Well, we had Lakota instead of Spice…but Apache likes Spice. It was morning, not afternoon. He wasn’t starving. That’s all we could come up with. My attitude is the same (I am pretty calm even when he’s jumpy, to try to keep him calm).

We’re just in a good mood. What can we say?

I’m just going to have to accept that we had a wonderful morning, got lots of exercise, and ALL enjoyed ourselves (even Lakota, I think). I look forward to more of this kind of adventure and these kinds of surprises (but I do hope Sprinkles and his Mama go back to the pasture soon; she didn’t enjoy Sara and me pulling up some grass burs right next to the pen, either).

I hope you have some bright spots in your weekend!

A Fitting Tribute for a Fine Cow

You may remember that I wrote about how the Queen of the Wild Type Ranch herd, R45, had started going downhill, so she had to be harvested. She had led a long life for a cow, giving birth to fine calves and leading her herdmates for a decade and a half.

I was a great cow. I enjoyed my long and pleasant life.

I mentioned at the end of the article that her beef was not going to be sold, but rather donated. Yesterday, the Cameron Herald had a front page article about where the beef was going, to the local food pantry, all 400 pounds of it. Half will be handed out now, and the other half at Thanksgiving time.

If I were a cow, I’d be honored to know that I contributed nutritious meals for hungry people. She lived a good life and and had an honorable passing. Her memory will live on, which is quite something, for a cow.

Thanks to Sara and Ralph for coming up with this idea, and for inviting other local ranchers to consider doing the same.