Oh, Let’s Go Back to Fun

I felt a little better today, so I was able to get work done and enjoy my immediate surroundings. I also had some good talks with family, and that always helps. So, let’s see what’s going on with all those projects around here.

Nice water bottle, son.

The tack room (Suna Shack) is moving right along. I love the look of the wood they use for the walls and ceilings. The guys are doing a great job on it, too.

Looks like some wall got removed. Maybe more electrical stuff had to go in.

I love watching them work. The picture below warmed my heart. Those two are in the exact same pose and look the same from a distance. I think that’s sort of important. We all have a lot more in common than differences. This young white man and older black man look the same from this angle!

Holes for new windows. Also new light fixture.

The big thing that’s happened is they’ve taken a small window out and replaced it with two larger ones, which will make the Suna Shack area full of light, even with the air conditioner being in one window. That was not an easy task, either. There was much grumbling about how hard it was to get straight cuts with the Saws-All (no idea how that is spelled).

Ta da. All walls are back and window are in.

Lots of new lighting is also going in, plus a circuit breaker. It’s a class act, for sure. Motion sensors will make walking up to the tack room in the dark during the winter a lot safer and easier. The nephew thinks of everything.

Soon to bring electricity to the building.

Meanwhile, the hens are enjoying their henhouse, except when the door slams. I think they’d prefer I not check for eggs so often. So far, seven hens are happily using the nest boxes, and not all the same one, even. The exception is Bertie Lee, who lays her egg right inside the chicken entrance every day. She never ceases to make me chuckle.

At least I’m better than Bertie Lee at something, says Blondie.

Speaking of chuckling, dorky chicken signs were on sale at Tractor Supply when we stopped there on the way back from Mabel’s vet visit. I actually think the “Hen-trance” and “Egg-sit” signs are helpful to let you know which of the doors actually is the one to use. And it makes me laugh. I need to laugh.


PS: I also wrote Texas Governor Abbott a letter and reminded him he’s actually supposed to represent people, not lobbies. He spoke at the NRA Convention, along with a former US President and some other doofuses who forgot who they are supposed to be serving.

Something’s Different at the Henhouse

I hinted that things were different at the ranch when I came home. I didn’t notice it at first, because it was hiding behind cars and tractors, but the men in the family had conspired to upgrade the chickens’ living quarters. A lot. They even moved!

That hen house looks an awful lot like my tack room.

Wow! The chicken run is now attached to the tack room barn, which is no longer full of saddles and horse feed. It has a full-fledged roosting and nesting room in it.

Note the new flooring, screen door and such.

My nephew, husband, and son (along with their helper Marcus) conspired to move the tack room over and convert it to the Hen House. It also has space for all the food, my workbench, and the brown chair, for chicken watching. That’s fancy.

Just wait until I add chicken art.

Even fancier is the coop. Holy cow these are some lucky chickens. There are lovely roosts that they will probably use in the winter. They still like their branch outside. And there are a bunch of nest boxes. Sixteen! I need more chickens.

The colors!! And bless their hearts, they painted the ceiling blue.

Can you stand the cuteness? The chickens have a little door to come in that we will be able to shut if needed. Plans are to put in a heat lamp for winter. Yes! Electricity! No air conditioner, though.

See the door? And there is hay for them.

It’s all very charming. I think the chickens are wondering what they did to deserve a palace. I’m wondering what I did, too!

We fancy.

We have all the stuff needed to do babies, deal with a sick chicken, or introduce new flock members, too. I’ve got to start giving away or selling more eggs.

So, you may ask a question. If the Hen House is the old tack room, where’s your horse stuff? See next blog! I’m a truly grateful gal.

Sunset before rain. That also was good.

Trying Not to Cry Over Spoilt Milk

Last night the dinner we’d planned to have didn’t happen, so both Lee and I had cereal for dinner. I looked at the milk carton, which said it was good until that day. So I poured it on my Oaty Something and chomped away. The cereal tasted odd but I thought nothing of it. But then Lee said he’d thrown out the milk, because it was bad. Oops. The oats hid it too well.

Speaking of things that smell bad, this one horsemint blossom made my office smell like marijuana all day. In a bad way.

So last night, my stomach told me what it thought about that milk, all night. And it gave me weird dreams, like trying to wash horses in my sister’s living room. (She and my mom have both been in my dreams a lot lately — the women my grandmother messed up real bad.)

These flowers cheered me up. I have to pick them now, because they will soon be gone.

Today I dragged along, feeling pretty fuzzy. I got lots done at work, including reading dozens of surveys explaining exactly how much the users I support hate the software I support. Fun times.

In more cheery things. Look, two kinds of vultures, turkey and black. Who knows what they were eating?

Feeling so rotten meant I had no urge to saddle up and ride, so I groomed Apache and murdered botflies that were after him. Then we headed over to the dreaded new trailer. Imagine his surprise when he discovered all sorts of treats scattered on it! I think it did help settle him down, especially since I approached the trailer slowly and indirectly, like it says in my new book (and Tarrin said, too).

You do know my favorite undergrad course was neuroanatomy, right? Well, next to pragmatics.

We went on to do a lot of ground work, and then just hung around with the menfolk, chatting. It was good for us both. I also spent time with Drew after he ate, practicing standing at the mounting block. That boy is looking better.

No picture of Drew, but this is the best I’ve seen Billie Idyl and Blanca, the front two, looking in ages. Star and Buttercup always look good.

I’m home tonight because I decided I’m no longer a good fit for the Austin book club. I think they also decided that. It’s okay, since I had a special dish I was going to make for dinner. Only, dinner got delayed again! I’m laughing. You just go with the flow around here!

Tomorrow is another day. I hope the sunrise is as nice as today’s was!

And tomorrow I’m double booked. How did that happen when I’m trying to cut down on obligations? It’s because I like both Master Naturalist parties AND horse webinars! Glad the latter will be recorded.

Send me vibes for better sleep tonight!

A Rare Sighting of Wonder

Yesterday, my friend Mandi dropped by to pick up the baby blanket I finished recently, so her imminent little boy will have a nice warm blanket, perfect for Texas summers. Ha. Well, it will be perfect for cold air-conditioned rooms and draughts. Drafts. Whichever.

We spent most of our time over by the horses, because she needed some horse time and I had to feed the equines. I showed her the new and improved tack room, into which I am slowly moving my things.

Vlassic is fond of the chair, which Mandi shared she had tried to give away or throw away multiple times, but must have been waiting to serve as the tack room chair all along.

She also got to enjoy watching me work with Drew briefly. He acted like a doofus at first and was running off to eat grass with no regard to me, but once I got him into the round pen, he remembered what he was supposed to be doing and was just fine. I didn’t want to work with him too much, since he’d had so much time off and had been sick, but at least he got a few jumps and circles in to remember his job.

You starve me, human (he now is on the other pasture with more grass).

When we were done, we walked over to the hen house to gather the day’s production (they are in extra-productive mode right now, with 6-7 eggs a day, which is not bad for just eight hens).

I saw something in the corner of my eye and looked up. There, whirring and spiraling, was a flock of birds. They weren’t geese, since they were the wrong shape and there was a noticeable lack of honking. The birds were not in any particular formation, either, which also ruled out cranes or ducks. They really weren’t making much noise at all.

This is pretty much exactly what we saw, only from someone else near Dallas a few weeks ago. Image © Russ Hoverman Creative Commons.

Of course, I didn’t have any binoculars. I even had left my phone elsewhere! That’s not like me! So, I memorized what they looked like. To me they looked like seagulls, not something you see often here, due to a lack of sea. I took note of the black wing stripes.

An idea of what the formation looked like. Image © Russ Hoverman Creative Commons.

After that, we just watched them fly. They sparkled in the sun as they turned and spun. We were in awe. There must have been a hundred or so, shiny, white and swirling. We watched until they flew out of sight, heading northward.

Screenshot of Merlin Bird ID

When I got back to my phone, I immediately pulled up one of the most helpful bird-watching apps I’ve found, Merlin Bird ID from Cornell Labs (an institution I happily give my charitable donations to). This app has you input a few facts about the bird you saw, then gives you a list of possible birds it could have been. What’s really GREAT about the app is that it knows exactly where you are and has a huge database of past bird sightings for different times of year to draw from.

And that was the key to my bird identification. The app knew what tends to migrate at this time of year in the center of the United States. We were witnessing the migration of Franklin’s gulls (Leucophaeus pipixcan) from South America as they head up to the Great Lakes and marshes in the center of North America. How lucky we were to be outside and looking up in time to see that!

This is the kind of thing that makes life worth living for a naturalist. I’ll remember the sight for the rest of my life.

As it is, life goes on. The gutters are functional now and they got a little test yesterday when we got actual normal rain without any tornadic events.

They go into the ground now. Fancy.

In more Hermits’ Rest news, today the guys are building an entry deck for the pool house. That is going to make bringing things in and out much easier than trying to step on a couple of cement blocks, from which Lee almost fell yesterday, anyway.

Deck in progress. Getting it level was not easy.

It’s currently hard to work, because cattle in the next field are having some sort of moo-off. They can be impressively loud when they are in a cow-tizzy. The dogs are doggedly protecting us from these invisible monsters.

Shut up, cows.

And just for laughs, yesterday I put my new pool float in the hot tub. It was mighty comfortable. I was told it looked like I was on a tiny version of the Lazy River ride in Schlitterbahn (a water resort in Texas), where you get in an inner tube and float around and around in a circle of river water. I don’t care. It was fun (yes, this was also the image from yesterday’s little bitty blog post).

Have a great Friday Eve.

When a House Comes Down the Road: The Pool House Saga

Where to start on this tale? It’s a log one. Once upon a time, during the Pandemic Years, there was a house down the road from us. Suddenly, the house up and moved one lot down. It’s like I blinked and the house was moved. That seemed weird, but people do weird things. Over a period of months, the house got all fixed up and looked very cute.

Then, one day, where the house used to stand, there appeared a different house, one of those pre-built ones that aren’t a mobile home, but are more like a large portable building. It was pretty cute, too. A lady who raises dogs lived in the renovated old house, we found out.

Cute little house just sitting there.

We noticed that no one was living in the new house, and instead folks were living in a nice RV on the property, along with a ridiculously cute pony. At the same time, our family had been talking for a while about having a pool house on the other side of the pool, where Kathleen and her spouse could stay when they are in town, and otherwise where people can change and dry off from the pool. The talk had died off as other stuff happened in the past few months.

The cute pony did not come with the house. The lady with the dogs got it.

But, the nephew didn’t give up. He talked to the owners and found out that they’d decided they didn’t want to turn the building into a house after all. We looked at it and realized this little building is the exact right size for a pool house. It’s not big enough for full-time life, but perfect for occasional use. Talks ensued. And ensued. At one point, we gave up when the company that owned the loan didn’t want to take our money. But, yay, Lee and the nephew were patient and the move was scheduled!

Removing the supporting cement blocks

We were happy to find out they could move the building today. That required a lot of fast work, including cutting down part of our gate to make the gate at the entrance to our ranch, since we needed a 2-foot opening. It’s a good thing we know someone with a welding machine that happens to be on our property.

The pieces of wood are where the entry keypad and edge of the gate used to be. They will go back. You can see that they DID roll over it.

The other concern we had for moving the house was weather. Rain kept threatening, so we just hoped it would hold off long enough to get the house in, but then show up and rain like crazy (we need it).

Moving the house onto the trailer

Luckily, today was just cloudy. We got the call that the house movers were here, and of course your intrepid blogger grabbed her phone to record it all. Let me tell you, it was truly interesting. They have some amazing high-tech equipment that makes picking up a building and moving it a real breeze. Of course, we had our helping team there and were all prepared to do some of the work. I’m so proud of all the lifting of rocks they did (not my son’s favorite task).

Watch the little machine guide the house onto the trailer.

They had a little vehicle that was remote controlled. It could push the big house like it was just a sack of groceries. To get it off its foundation, it pushed the house straight onto a really fancy trailer that also can go up and down and even sideways, as I found out later. The house was on the trailer in no time!

It took it about 15 minutes to get down the road to our house. I enjoyed taking pictures of it as it came, plus I got some wildflower photos while I waited. Yes, people think I am a strange plant lady, but it’s okay. I had fun. And it was cool to see a house going down our road.

The scariest part of the whole trip was making the turn into our driveway. It’s a good thing that boards were put over the places where the gate had been cut off, because wheels went right over it. And at one point, everything was tilting. The trailer fixed it! It was really cool to watch.

The guys had taken down part of the fence, but there was no way the truck would make it in. No problem. The little machine pushed the house onto some wheels, and off it went.

Lowering the house off the trailer.

The guy controlling it was so good. He got the building exactly where we’d put the cones to mark the front boundaries. Wow. Suddenly, there it was!

Once it was in place, everyone got to work setting blocks down for it to sit on. The house movers had a set of lasers to help level the house, so it is accurate and straight.

We still have to put a few more supports in, but by gosh, there’s a pool house out there now! Of course, the dogs had to inspect it. They liked the free couch that came with the house the best, I think.

The general idea of a floor plan for the inside is set. Now the team will have to get onto making it usable. The plan is to make it quite rustic, like a guest cabin. We will paint it to match our house and garage, and plan to use some of the leftover stone from the exterior of our main house as accents. It will all look pretty darned coordinated.

Moment of nature. Oak blossoms.

Obviously, this will all take a while, but first the tack room needed to get taken care of. Today the ceiling got finished and the team made the larger loft smaller, so it will be more useful for what we need. All the insulation is out, so it’s looking more like a real tack room. I’m so pleased. I’m not sure when they plan to do electricity or anything, but it’s insulated and sound!

While all this excitement was going on the horses and chickens wanted attention. Drew informed me he really didn’t want any more horsey Pepto-Bismol, and since he seems fine now, I’ve decided to stop forcing it on him. He is still getting three soupy meals a day and the rest of his medicines, however.

I do not want your pink disgusting stuff. I’m outa here. Notice Drew looks sort of orange. He has been rolling in sand.

And the chickens let me know quite loudly that something was amiss in the hen house. I went over to see, and yep, it was yet another rat snake trying to take advantage of the free food. Sigh. They are such good snakes when they are eating mice and rats. But, this one had to go.

MMM, eggs. If only I knew to flee after I eat eggs.

What a day, right? And I managed to write some scintillating content on project schedule baselines in between exciting moments. I’m all tired again, that’s for sure, even after a relaxing evening last night with friends and family. It’s so nice to see both the pool and the hot tub in use and the grill fired up. Living one day at a time is working out so far.

So, who thought we’d be driving a house into our back yard today? Not me, as recently as last week.

Goodbye to a Bird Friend, Hello to Others

Well, there was apparently an actual cock fight last night, and Peeper lost. I was not surprised, but sad. Bruce was just being a rooster. I tried. Sniff. Poultry are sure hard to keep.

Starlings and dewberries across the road.

In good bird news, I’ve heard my first red-winged blackbird of the year. And in better news, the scissor-tail flycatchers are swooping and soaring again. That’s good, because the barn swallows need help with all the flying ants and other swarming creatures.

Mr Robotto, the pool cleaner, was filled with tiny wings yesterday. Yuck.

But all is not bad. Look at the giant mushroom that’s just sitting in front of the house. It looks like an ostrich egg or a softball!

Drew is holding his own. I spent a lot of time with him today. I groomed him a long time and groomed filthy Apache even longer. That horse is still shedding like crazy. Drew is too, but not so badly. And in Drew news you didn’t probably want to hear, he pooped today, which means he’s functioning normally.

No photos of Drew, but right next to him is a newly organized shipping container.

We are about to get to where the tack room will be built out, which sure makes me happy. Then we will be on to our next ranch improvement project, which involves a little building down the road.

Isn’t it cute?

And on one last note, it’s also gnat season. It’s always something here. Enjoy some flowers and an insect.

PS: a hummingbird moth just landed on my phone as I was labeling the flowers. Nature is full of surprises.

Things to Smile About

I’m thinking hard about hard things all day, so indulge me in dwelling on some good things that are going on around here.

I have a shiny rooster

The chickens are cheering me up. For one, Peeper is proving to be spectacularly gorgeous. Today he was so shiny it didn’t look real. Bruce hasn’t killed him, so I guess they are ok.

Should I attack this shadow Peeper?

The hens are doing great, too. I got 7 eggs yesterday, which is a record for my weird chicken collection. Even the older hens kicked in! And they’re happy with me for letting them out to run around the last few days.

We’re a-comin’!

For the past three evenings, I’ve walked into the coop and they’ve all waddled in to join me. I haven’t had to chase them or anything. Now that’s how chickens should be!

Hey, look!

Other goodness: I found my Navajo dragonfly ring that had been missing for a long time. It was in a jewelry drawer from the Austin house, in a bag full of La Leche League stuff. Yep, I last saw this ring before COVID when I was in New Orleans. Happy times!

Trailer on blocks

And finally, Tillie the Trailer is getting new tires tomorrow and her bearings refreshed. The tires were in good shape, but older. And we were asked to re-do the bearings so Sara can ride with me. Now Tillie will be even better. So grateful to have help for things like this.

My office coworkers help by snoring, farting, and growling. Who needs humans?

I’m doing my best to concentrate on the things I can influence, so all this good stuff makes things easier. I’m doing well at not doing the stressful parts of my volunteer work, while keeping what’s fun. That’s so hard, but I’m managing.

Now I just need some sleep. It will let me send energy to those around me and around the world who need it.

Confessions: I Hate Unpacking and Worry about Drew

I’ll get this out of the way then share today’s events in our little ranch world. Yes. I hate unpacking. I especially hate it right now when every box is a surprise that I’m not prepared for. That’s what I get for not doing the packing on my previous abode.

Yesterday’s box

Lee is very kind and has been bringing one or two boxes a day. Yesterday I found my collection of purple glass, which once lived in my periwinkle bathroom. I no longer have a periwinkle bathroom. So it’s in my terra-cotta bathroom window. I do have a purple guest bath, so maybe it can go there one day, when it isn’t actively in use.

This interlude is brought to you by melting ice.

I’ve had to figure out where many things go that I don’t have places for, since the big furniture items aren’t over here yet, most of which are storage items. Yay. I really need a linen closet, too, and maybe when the laundry room cabinets no longer hold stereo equipment, I can use that. Until then, bags and boxes sit around and bother me.

Carlton says stop whining.

In good news of our tiny world, it looks like Buttercup, Peeper’s mom, has started laying again. That made me happy, until the egg slipped out of my hand and cracked. Egg. It’s for dinner.

Yay, a dark egg again!

In bad news, Drew is a bit of a mess. He had an injury on his leg when he was at Tarrin’s. We were not concerned. I accidentally hit it when grooming a couple of weeks ago, and it spurted blood, which I mentioned, I’m pretty sure. I was glad there was so much first aid stuff in the new trailer.

Well, today when I fed him, his little leg was all red. He must have gotten kicked or something. The water is all turned off because of the cold, so I could not work on it. I think the weather is getting better, so tomorrow or Sunday he can get a bath. He does have fancy new shampoo, though, to make him shiny and whiter.

What I wish Drew and I were doing. Photo by @jesslowcher via Twenty20.

Also, though, the other horses are hard on him, and he has all these missing hunks of hair. The older four horses who are here are always going after each other, so I guess he is getting it. I’m sure it’s normal, but Apache and Spice were never that nippy, so it’s new to me.

Fighting for dominance is everywhere, I guess, even our little world. Don’t get me started with chickens and the pecking order.

Sunny Sunday

You know it was a good day when the most stressful thing was trying to fix my Facebook avatar to look less like a hatchet. I think she’s a little better.

Most of the day was spent cleaning and organizing things. There was much heavy lifting, according to my back. I had help from my son some of the time. I’m teaching him ranch stuff.

Are you sure he wants to learn?

He washed a bunch of really grungy horse brushes, which I appreciated, and helped groom Apache. He lucked out and missed grooming Drew. He was encrusted with mud. I also hit a scab, which caused blood to spurt like crazy. Luckily I’d spotted bandages in the new trailer. He’s all fixed up.

My kid got a ground lesson on horse riding while I worked with Apache. I did darned well, if I say so, myself.

Then Sara came by and we looked at all the new stuff. She also says she thinks Peeper is a rooster. Damn. I didn’t see spurs…but that means I get more hens soon!

The only other news is this guy.

I found two of these poor young channel catfish in the middle of the pasture. They must have washed out of the pond at Sara’s. Poor guy or gal!

Let’s hope next week is better for all the residents here, fish, fowl, or fauna!

Ice Can Be Nice

It’s a glorious day today, with bright sun that cuts through the cool air and makes it a real joy to be outdoors just messing around. All the remaining ice is melting. That’s fun for all.

The chicken coop’s north side had been a sheet of ice. I’m glad I got to see some of the ice sculptures and the chickens are glad the ice melted so they can eat the scratch that got buried under it. Also, Peeper is cute, so here are more photos of her.

The horses are glad for the sunshine. They feel warm to the touch now. They are also glad their water troughs are thawing.

That’s a big ice cube.

It was sweet when they went to drink out of the trough. Apache figured out that if he nosed the ice, water would come up and he could drink. That was fun, apparently.

Just missed his big ole tongue here

Poor Fiona bopped her end of the trough, but it was thicker and she’s just a wee donkey. She was sad.

Boop, boop, damn.

Apache had her covered, though. He hit the ice extra hard and nudged some water over to Fiona. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it! Those two are such good friends.

He’s nudging here.

Drew wanted to come play with me, so we did some walking exercises (too damp to go fast) and then he got to graze while I went through the stuff in the new trailer. He got a bit annoyed as I kept trying things in him, but was ok until I put a soft, thick rope halter on. He removed it!

Yes this pad is short enough. Now take it off.

Sadly, much of the tack we got was for giant horses. In the photo above, Drew is wearing a cute green rope halter that had well over a foot of extra rope, which I’ll hate to cut off, because it has a decorative end.

I even now have raincoats for saddles. And a LOT of green saddle pads and blankets. Someone must like green as much as me!

I’ll spare you endless photos of bridles, since only three or four of my friends would care and two live within walking distance. I plan to clean a bunch of stuff up this weekend and see if it can work. I sure hope this halter works. It’s so pretty.

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