A Pleasant Walk around the Ranch

There was frost last night! It’s amazing how quickly it goes from boiling hot to frost around here. Luckily none of my plants were damaged, since I thought they’d still be ok outside. I look forward to putting them in the greenhouse, though!

I decided to take one more sweep of the ranch for the pollinator BioBlitz, just to see if I would find anything different, and I’m glad I did, because I did stumble upon a few things. I’d say the most interesting one is the buffalo gourd.

Cucurbita foetidissima (means stinky)

Here’s some info on these plants, which Lee’s dad called “smell apples.” I’m always amused by giant squash in the middle of the pasture.

Cucurbita foetidissima is a tuberous xerophytic plant found in the central and southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It has numerous common names, including: buffalo gourd, calabazilla, chilicote, coyote gourd, fetid gourd, fetid wild pumpkin, Missouri gourd, prairie gourd, stinking gourd, wild gourd, and wild pumpkin. The type specimen was collected from Mexico by Alexander von Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland sometime before 1817. In Latin, foetidissima means ill smelling.

The feral perennial buffalo gourd has evolved in the semiarid regions and is well-adapted to desert environments. It contains high amounts of protein and carbohydrates and yields abundant oil. The carbohydrates that are formed in the tap root have led to the idea of growing the plant for biofuel.

The fruit is consumed by both humans and animals. When mature, a stage marked by increasing desiccation of vine, leaves, fruit-stem, and fruit, the fruit begins its final gourd stage. (from iNaturalist/Wikipedia)

I enjoyed seeing things other than the plants, too. There was a kettle of black vultures circling around. And I identified what they were all gathered around recently on my son’s driveway/access road. It was a skunk. What a cool skeleton! And I got greeted by the current “bull in residence” in the pasture next to ours. He is really friendly and beautiful. I look forward to his babies.

It’s pretty this time of year, and the grass has greened up a little. Finding plants is hard, so I’ve resorted to looking for spring plants that are coming up already and some pretty sad drought-damaged dock. But they all count, and I’m still ranked in the 30s in the BioBlitz. Wait until tomorrow. My camera will be snapping like crazy on the field trip I’m attending in Houston.

I was happy to see all the twin calves having a good time in the pasture behind us. The cow who was hugely pregnant did indeed have twins. I’m sure she’s really glad to get them OUT of her. The little one’s a hoot. He got hungry and started bellowing for her. She came through!

It’s simply restorative to just take in all that you see around here. Then I feel good heading in for more technical writing and helping lovely people with their software dilemmas. I even enjoyed the sparrows that eat all my chicken food. And of course, my horsies!

I Find Ranch Citizens Fascinating

Another day of horse lessons has come and gone. And while my lesson with this innocent student was enlightening, I would have come away happy just having watched Sara.

I should have known friskiness was ahead when he galloped up to me this morning, mane and tail flying.

Apache was very frisky this morning, probably because a front came through.

I’m feeling kinda frisky here.

We started out sweaty at 9 am and ended up shivering by 1! I did round pen with him before we left, and ooh he was jumpy. And once we got to the training ranch, he was not interested in human agendas.

Ready for cheekiness.

He did ok until the trainer got on, at which point he decided he didn’t want to do anything. It was so fascinating to watch her work through his stubbornness. There was lots of backing and angry horse faces. I didn’t take pictures, because I was watching so hard. She did stuff I am not capable of yet. And eventually he did fine. I even rode him better than last time and dealt with his issues.

The dogs here would prefer you pay attention to them, please.

He’s not easy. He hurts and has been ridden poorly. By me. But we are progressing. I ended my essay with a smile on my face, happy with all my progress and the support I got.

This foal wants it to be their turn.

We were all glad for the lesson to end. But Apache was still antsy. I was glad to leave him to eat some hay and deal with calmer animals. That included Christmas the bull. Sure, he looks intimidating.

Yes, I AM immense.

I had no idea he was tame, but he came up to me and licked my hand clean, then requested that he get some pets on his forehead and between his horns. Then, his cow companion came up and wanted a turn. This love fest was just what I needed.

As always, I enjoyed Sara’s lesson as much as mine. She learned some really complicated bending stuff and I was proud of how well she did. And Aragorn, too.

I’ll ignore all the dogs.

Aragorn didn’t even notice the fake bull that had startled Apache earlier. He was concentrating and throwing in fancy dressage moves so he wouldn’t have to bend the opposite way from how he was turning.

Paying attention.

I was distracted by two things: a biting wind and cute animals. Between the dogs, the baby horses, and the donkey, I had a lot of entertainment! Who cares about the cold when you have ranch entertainment?

Computers, Cows, and Companionship

Today seemed to last way longer than your average day. It is always that way when I think I have something all planned out, only it actually isn’t. I thought the pool people were coming this morning, but nope, that got postponed again due to rain…somewhere.

While waiting, I perked up my office/den with some lights. Ho ho ho.

Then I thought a technician was coming to repair my dead laptop. They said it was scheduled (they being some disembodied text bot). But next, I got the message that the part was delayed, so I would have to wait until Monday. I got annoyed, to say the least. Then, boom, the technician drove up.

In a desperate attempt to cheer myself up, I put nail things on my stubby little nails.

Erica, the technician, was a fun woman, and we had a reasonably good time working on my system. She had about a five minute task to do (replacing the brains of the thing), but she could not get the cover off. Three of the screws would not completely unscrew. Now, Erica didn’t want to break my new computer, so she called tech support. That went about as well as when I called them earlier this week.

When will this end?

The woman she talked to seemed to have no clue what Erica was asking. I realize she was talking through a mask, but she kept saying that the screw would not unscrew. The call went through several levels of support until they finally said I’d have to send the laptop in for a replacement, which would take even more time than I’d already taken.

Nope, I said, let’s figure this out. So, Erica called a guy from where she worked. Sure enough, this random guy, knew what the Dell Technical Support team did not, which is that those three screws do not come undone. You have to pop the case open with them still partially in. ARGH.

Erica is relieved the computer booted.

Once we had that down, it did indeed take five minutes to fix the computer. Naturally, one of the teeny screws fell off the desk. We spend another twenty minutes looking for that. Even the magnet couldn’t find it. All I found were dead bugs and places where Carlton had peed. He is having an issue this week, probably due to the Harvey episode.

But the afternoon got so much better. As Erica was getting ready to go, she looked into the main room of the house. She asked if she could please look at it. She ran into the room, just beaming, twirling around and exclaiming that is was Christmas! She said my decorations were just so cheerful. I can hardly express how happy that made me. No one here cares at all about decorations, so I felt very happy to know I cheered someone else up. My smiling muscles were hurting.

The dogs were having “fun” today. I’m really glad Vlassic is neutered.

By the way, the laptop works and is almost set back up.

Cows

The other thing that got me all cheerful today was watching the dogs play with the mama cows and babies behind the house. The cattle are so curious and keep coming up as close as they can, until a dog moves and scares them into backing off.

These dogs are fascinating.

I must have spent a half hour this morning just watching the calves and their antics and how hard Goldie tried to get them to play with her. Unfortunately, Carlton and Vlassic can’t help but bark at them.

Hello new friends.

I hope you enjoy these sweet bovine faces as much as I did!

Companionship

The companionship I’ve been experiencing over the past couple of days has been with two horses. One is not a surprise, and it’s Apache. Wow, has that boy settled down since his lesson last weekend. I’ve been trying to do at least something with him every day, and that has helped. He has paid so much attention to me in the round pen that it’s not like the same horse. And we have been doing the thing where he needs to walk straight along the edge of the round pen, and by golly, that head has not curved ONCE in two days. Today we even sped up a little! As well, he has been walking with me practically glued in the correct position. I can feel him breathing at my elbow almost all the time.

Last night the trainer said what she wants more than anything is for us to be able to enjoy our time with our horses. Success!

The other horse that’s been a wonderful companion is Kathleen’s horse, Miss T. After Trixie looked at her and said she was in pretty good shape, I thought, well, why not pay her some attention? She sure seems to want it. Yesterday I gave her a nice grooming, and she was pretty patient while I worked on the issue she has with her tail (a big scab is growing out). We went for a nice walk, and Mandi checked her soundness. She stumbles a bit, on occasion, but it may be because she needs her feet trimmed (which will happen next week).

Miss T is so happy to hang out with people

I put her in the round pen, just to see if she would trot for me. Did she ever. Everything I asked of her, she did, including turning, stopping, and showing a lovely balanced trot. I told Mandi it was sort of like driving a Jaguar car, so responsive and elegant.

Today I did that again, after going on a walk. She had never been in the front field before, but she followed me nicely, and the couple of times she got concerned, I just told her it was okay and we walked on. Hey, this is what I’ve been reading about horses doing. I guess it can actually happen! And when I put her in the round pen, she was so attentive that I decided to see what would happen if I took the lead rope off.

T demonstrating her confirmation. Those are some high haunches! She is all muscle.

Wow. She did everything I asked, walking and trotting, turning and stopping. I tell you what, if you tell T, “Whoa,” you’d better be prepared for that horse to stop. She stops on a dime, and looks ready for her next instruction. She’s like the horses in videos of fancy quarter horses.

I hope we can do more with her as time goes on. T is a darned good horse. Maybe I will ride her this weekend, if there is any time at all. I wonder if the things planned for the weekend will go as scheduled or be absolutely unpredictable like today’s events?

And one more thing. I had two flies die in my beverages today. Gee! This had been such a good cup of coffee! And my wine was so good that I just fished that one out. What a day.

I’m just glad we can sit on the porch and watch the happy lights on the fence turn on as the moon rises each evening. That brings a little bit of predictability.

It’s probably more cheerful in person.

Making Friends for the World to See: Goldie

(Am I the only one who remembers that song?)

Well, I had a blast today watching Goldie and the cattle. Goldie is absolutely convinced that the cows want to play with her, especially one of them.

Hi, friend!

She spent a LOT of time today asking cattle to play. One of them really doesn’t like her, but Goldie interprets her butting as play.

Goldie play bows to the cow.
Cow charges and Goldie runs

I have to respect Goldie’s persistence and optimism. She kept coming back and trying different cows. And many of the times one butted at her, she joyfully backed up, turned and came back.

Ooh, that was fun!

Obviously, Goldie doesn’t understand cow language. But I think her real name must be Goldie Goodheart. She is such a kind and gentle spirit. And she’s a friend to all!

Note that Alfred is bigger than his friend, Goldie.

I hope you enjoy checking out some of Goldie’s many attempts at making friends. They sure make me smile.

Oh What a Beautiful Evening

Wow. It’s been the most pleasant evening I can remember. Once the sun went behind clouds, a breeze came up, and the stifling heat dissipated.

Awesome.

I took lots of pictures today, and when I went back to look at them, I realized it’s been a beautiful day!

The horizontal pipes are going up!

And yes, a lot of work got done on the horse pens. It’s really moving along! After work and my Friends of LLL meeting, I got to watch the process for making the tools to set the vertical bars that are next. These hooks were made from straight pieces of metal.

Hooks, tape measure, torch.

The hooks were shaped on this piece of pipe, which made cool smoke when the metal got hot.

This will ensure the hooks hang from the vertical pipe.

It’s fascinating to watch the tools being made. Such craftsmanship!

Meanwhile, I watered the chickens (Buttercup loves the hose spray), watched the dogs playing happily, and then saw what I thought was Vlassic chasing the cows. When I got up to yell at him, I realized it was a little too big of a fast, black animal to be him. It was our cute little calf, Baby Blue, who is just about the most playful calf I ever saw.

Racing back to the herd.

She ran around her mom and two others, then tore off like a racing cow, if there was such a thing, then ran all the way to the edge of the pasture. She then zoomed back up to her mama for a refreshing drink. I could NOT stop grinning.

I‘m tired now.

Really, who needs television? It’s darned entertaining around here. And I couldn’t even drag myself back into the house, because clouds beckoned.

It’s just beautiful.

I hadn’t seen a nice sunset in a long time. It was too rainy for a long time, then it’s been so blazingly hot I didn’t go out to look, though Lee reported at least one good one. Tonight? Glorious.

Dog, clouds, rain shower

You just don’t get many days this pleasant, that’s for sure. And even though I got a lot of work done, Goldie “made” me take a nap.

A nap for two.

Treasure your good days. Let them fill your heart with joy.

Make hay while the sun shines! Tyler V. did!

The Dogs and Cattle Are So Happy

Today I spent much of the morning watching new fencing going up. Since I was there to keep an eye on them, I was able to take the dogs with me.

I’m protecting you, Suna.

There was all sorts of fun stuff to explore, like puddles that were revealed when the future Apache pasture was mown very short.

Mud! Perfect for white dogs.

All the dogs frolicked in it, but one in particular was in ecstasy. Harvey was absolutely hilarious. He’d plop himself in a puddle, then jump up and stick his head in the water, shaking vigorously.

Splash!
Pounce!

He must have done this ten minutes, running from puddle to puddle. That’s a lot of play for our most sedentary fellow. Carlton and Gracie joined in and got almost as muddy as Harvey, but he looked like a chocolate covered dog at one point.

All having fun.
I’ll help!

I laughed so hard my cheeks hurt.

I’m just a little dirty!

Meanwhile, the cattle were having their own fun. Haggard the young bull has joined the happy mini-herd, and he’s fit right in. He and the black cow have been “having fun” but not really figuring it out. They’ve certainly been trying. I’ll spare you images of cattle sex, however.

Perhaps the issue is that the cow is bigger than the bull?

To be honest, they were as interested in the fencing operation as the dogs were. They had to go up and sniff all the new material.

Moo! This fencing material is fascinating! Let’s lick it!

The fancy white heifers currently behind us were quite jealous and wanted to join in the fun. They played with the dogs and the black cows as much as they could, and mooed at Haggard.

We wanna play.

All in all, everyone had a good time. I did, too! I sure missed dog and cattle fun when I was gone!

Yes, they now play together.

I even got to have some quiet time with Vlassic today, and it was hreat, except he deposited mud on all my clothes.

It was fun, Mom!

Next, I’ll share fascinating fence facts.

An Equitation Educational Event

Today Sara and I went and did something together! What? Yes! We ranch ladies went off and did a horse thing somewhere near Waco. We hadn’t done anything together since last year!

One of the horses and riders we met.

We went to a beautiful facility and audited a working equitation class. The clinician was really nice and let us stand close enough to hear her. It was tons of fun learning all the things horses and riders do in this relatively new sport in the US.

The hay thing simulates a cattle chute. the barrels and sticks you do a turning pattern through.

The idea is that working equitation includes aspects of cattle working from European, US, Mexican, and South American traditions. There are dressage elements (fancy horse steps), cattle working elements, finesse, and speed.

There were lots of different horse types and riders.

Another cool thing about it is that riders wear apparel from their own tradition. So you see all kinds of saddles, tack, and riding outfits. Some horses are big Andalusians, others are gaited horses with fancy walks and runs, while you also see quarter horses, too. Sara and I sure enjoyed all the beautiful animals and skilled riders!

This rider on a deep brown gaited horse is working the barrels.

My favorite of the things the students learned was picking up a pole in a barrel, snagging a ring on it and depositing it in another barrel. the gate opening task was fun, too.

That’s the pretend gate you have to open and close without “letting the cows out.”

I can see why Sara is interested in this sport! We learned all the patterns and figured out some of the skills we’d need to learn (me way more than Sara). Now we just need horses that are healthy and can learn with us. I still have faith in Apache.

Tomorrow we’re going to watch a show, which also will have dressage. This is all new to us cowgirls, but everyone was so nice to us, supportive of each other, and eager to learn. The horses all seemed to be having fun, and most of them were sweet animals, too.

I had to take this, because the flowers will get mowed soon.

In other news, there were more floods and rain today, but some fence work did get done. And I got to play with Vlassic much of the morning.

Vlassic enjoys his newly enlarged pond.

Another fun thing this morning was watching how curious the cows are about all the fence work. They are compelled to explore each new piece.

We’re fascinated.

And the little steer has been so cute and friendly. He kept coming up and licking my hand with his rough, black tongue. I can’t wait until Haggard joins the friendly cattle (hoping that will be tomorrow, since he is officially cleared).

I want to kiss you.

Anyway, despite the rain and more rain, it was a fun and educational day. Hope yours was, too.

I want to kiss you, too.

A Damp Welcome Home

Hooray for being back at the Hermits’ Rest! by the time we got home, I was all shaky and frazzled, and probably the relatives thought I was babbling. But the dogs sure were glad to see us. It felt fantastic to have my Carlton in my lap again. It was great to get back in my bed, and even great to have Penney lined up right beside me all night!

Harvey is very glad I am back.

The trip through Louisiana was beautiful, mostly following US84, and then following roads that made up the original El Camino Real de Tejas, which goes right to Milam County and is what our Master Naturalist group is named after.

We are in the section just to the left of Bryan on this map.

Highlights included a whole area devoted to catfish farming, including a place that made al the nets and a huge catfish food plant. Talk about specificity! The catfish farms also could have passed for egret farms. There were so many birds!

The lake that used to be the Sabine River and separates Texas from Louisiana.

We also drove through many beautiful national forests, and I carefully observed all the logging activity. Mostly it was lush and beautiful. There were plenty of cute towns, town squares, and such as well. It’s nice to see thriving small towns with no television presence to make them go into tourism overdrive.

What’s this? A dike, holding back the Mighty Mississippi in Louisiana.

The farther we drove, the wetter it got. It’s apparently been drizzling all week at the ranch, which slows down the fence-building operation. Today it’s pouring, but I did manage to go see Apache, Fiona, and the other horses to help put some medicine on poor spice, who has a big wound where a growth was removed. Apache has developed thrush in his feet from all the dampness. Can that poor horse catch a break? But the highlight was seeing the newest member of our farm animal family, Haggard, who is a young Black Angus bull from the sale barn. He’s tame as a kitten, and looks like he’ll be a nice small bull, perfect for first-year heifers to get easy births from.

What a sweet little guy.

Right now, Haggard is in quarantine, but he sure loves it when people show up with food!

Our field is covered with flowers. Can’t wait to get out there in the sunshine.

I said hi to the chickens yesterday, but didn’t see Steel, who is the only chick left and keeps escaping to hide in some tall, thick grass behind the coop. At least that one didn’t wander off and get lost. I’ll try again with chicken babies!

What a sweet little wildflower in Mississippi!

Otherwise, all is well. I may have more fun news later in the day, after I go into town for a bit, but right now I’m just trying to get settled back into a routine and figure out what’s going on. I’m lucky that this week is our work’s week to go do volunteering, because that will let me catch up on the volunteer work I have to do! Ain’t that great!

And, just one more flower from my travels yesterday. There’s always something pretty growing near a gas station, I guess!

It sure is good to be back home, especially since Kathleen cleaned the dickens out of the house. They sure did a great job taking care of things while we were gone. Now maybe we can have some FUN.

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.)

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