What’s Wrong with Normal?

Today was a normal day. Nothing stressful other than software glitches, and repeatedly sending out the wrong minutes for a meeting, today was low key and calm. I love calm. I got all my to-do items done. I’m cooking dinner. Ahh.

This hairy monster got groomed, too.

I got to spend quality time with all the horses in the calmest possible way as they got their feet trimmed. So much time spent petting soft noses. Ahh. I love farrier day.

Contraption

I’m not sure what I think about it, but Drew’s new fancy bit arrived today. I believe we don’t use the chain part. It’s just like the one he already uses at Tarrin’s. Who knows if I’ll master it or not, since Apache is bitless and likes it.

My friends!

I got to enjoy the cranes flying by. These must be stragglers. Never a bad day if you see them! And I’m hearing all the winter birds in the woods. That’s the best part of winter!

And finally, my day was made by the arrival of a nail polish strip box. It was all gold and black, with art deco accents. I gave no idea why I’ve always loved nail polish, unless it’s just that it reminds me of my mom. My one ultra-feminine affectation, I guess. (Shut up, people who know me, don’t tell the readers about all my shoes and turquoise jewelry; guess I’m more femme than I think.)

Nail stuff

Happy Tuesday. There’s nothing wrong about normal at all!

Always Something, Right?

It hasn’t been a good day for me, mentally. I’ve been meaning all day to look up why anxiety attacks cause intense chest pain.

I need to chill like a mini donkey on a brisk, sunny morning.

Okay, I finally did. That answers one of my burning questions, ha ha.

Anxiety attacks or panic attacks can cause chest pain that mimics a heart attack. It is caused by the release of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline during moments of acute anxiety or panic. The pain may come from contractions in the chest wall, muscle strain due to hyperventilation, or the sudden spike in blood pressure and heart rate.

Richard M Fogoros, MD

It definitely feels like hormones. So, if you’ve ever had those weird symptoms, now you know.

Must chill, like Mabel.

Of course it will pass. It’s just how I’m wired, unfortunately. And I was doing my best to focus on the good stuff.

Clouds. They are good.

Poor Apache seemed to be having an anxiety attack this morning before our lesson. I was pleased that he eventually settled down and I stayed patient with him. That’s hard when you’re keyed up for non-horse related reasons!

I’m edgy.

Drew and I didn’t do all that well in our long-awaited lesson, but it’s not surprising, since we’re both learning each other. I didn’t help by being shaky, but you deal with the horse and person you get every time you ride.

Today you got a horse who wanted to stay home and chill.

Like I read in a sweeping novel of the fictionalized Old South, “Tomorrow is another day.”

No matter what, sandhill cranes make me feel better.

Master Naturalist Meeting Notes 2: Saturday, October 22

Although I’m quite excited about migrating snout butterflies (hundreds) and sandhill cranes (dozens), I’ll share more that I learned last Saturday for now.

Insect Photography, by Mary Ann Melton

Insects are what I take photos of most, after plants. I enjoyed getting ideas from Mary Ann, who happened to be the speaker at our last Chapter Meeting. I was very happy that she gave tips for phone photos as well as camera ones.

Handy hints

I took photos of some of the ideas she shared, especially for digital cameras, in case I can ever get one. There was also a cool attachment that lets you take better close ups on the phone. Attaching that to the 3x camera on my phone should be fun to try.

I also just enjoyed her beautiful photos with nice blurry backgrounds so the subjects look better. This was fun.

Here Be Dragons! Odonata 101, by Brent Franklin

This was probably Brent’s first presentation, since he apologized a lot for its length and content. But it was just fine, and I learned a lot about dragonflies and damselflies, even though I thought I knew a lot. This guy has really seen a LOT of the Texas Odonata and has lots of insights on finding them and observing them.

He had some fantastic photos of various dragonflies, too. I learned more about their mating behavior (the male clamps on to the female behind her head and flies her around until they find a good egg-laying place) and life when young. I don’t think I’d realized how long they can live in the water before emerging into the air. It can be years!

There’s just so much going on with these guys. Did you know dragonfly eyes take up almost their whole head, while damselfly eyes are on stalks on the sides of their heads? Yep.

Sticking their back ends straight up is called obelisking. That’s a new word for me.

iNaturalist 301: Advanced Applications and Exploring Data in iNaturalist, by Tania Homayoun

I always feel like it’s not a good conference if I don’t go to a session by Tania. I think I’ve gone on a field trip with her or heard her speak at every conference I attended. I’m such a rogue iNat user that I don’t think she’s too impressed by me, but I’m impressed by her! This session didn’t disappoint, as I learned some new features in iNaturalist and that some features have gone away. I’m glad I was able to draw an area for our ranch before that was removed as an option because people were misusing it or something.

My latest iNat entry taken in glary sunlight. I think it’s a camelback cricket.

Since I’d spent all week uploading things for that Pollinator BioBlitz, it was good to just talk about it and to learn more about the computer application, which really lets you do useful things. I plan to download my ranch observation data soon and do some analysis in Excel.

I was sad to find out that Tania is leaving her position with Texas Nature Trackers, but very happy to discover it’s because she is going to be the State Ornithologist! WOW!

Wrens: Little Birds with Lots of Energy, by Scott Kiester

It turns out that the speaker for this session, the last one I attended, is the guy who drove us to the field trip on Thursday. He had lots and lots and lots of information on wrens, including fun recordings of the songs and “scolding calls” of each type.

This was all news to me. Cool.

Wren fact that blew my mind: there is only ONE kind of wren in the Old World, and they are pretty sure it crossed the Bering Strait and populated that part of the world from North America. There are many kinds of wrens here, though. We went through most of them in two hours, it seemed.

We also learned folk tales. The wren won kingship by hitchhiking on an eagle and jumping off it to become the highest flyer. Tricky bird.

I have a much better clue about wren identification now, and can easily tell you which one is a Bewick’s. By the way, their numbers are diminishing as some other wren takes over, and it’s pronounced like the Buick car. Huh.

The rest of the sessions on Saturday were about who won awards and honoring people with lots of volunteer hours. I sure wish Donna Lewis had been able to come so she could have received her 10,000 hour pin. That is a huge milestone. To compare, I have about 800 hours.

I’m sticking my crane photos and video from yesterday in here, in case you’re interested. Seeing them flying over is always a highlight of the autumn for me. I love the sounds they make.

Sandhill cranes on the move

What Do You Hear?

The past couple of days we’ve seen waves and waves of sandhill cranes fly over. I got some pretty photos.

What’s really been fun in that they keep flying by after dark. We’ve been working on projects in the garage for the past two evenings, and it’s been a true joy to listen to their clacking sounds.

When the cranes stop, the owls take over. On a crisp evening like tonight, with all the stars out, it’s great to be in Central Texas.

Planning to Be Interesting

While I have little exciting to report today, I sure planned to be interesting later! I think that counts as good news.

I did a lot of work for my volunteer jobs. The best part was planning for next year’s Master Naturalist activities with our Vice President, Donna. She hates computers and I love them, so we are complementary.

The back of Donna as she talked about bluebirds

We even made a survey to ask the members what they want to learn about next year. The one person who has filled it out so far is me, but then it hasn’t gone out in email yet.

Carlton wants his fellow pound puppies to get to run around like he does.

Lee and I then went to Tractor Supply in scenic Hearne, where I not only got horse and chicken supplies, but also scoped out supplies for the dog run our family and business are going to build for the Cameron dog pound.

We even got an invitation to do a dog adoption day at the Tractor Supply store! Thus, I did work for ALL my volunteer jobs! Interesting!

The evening has started well, too. As I walked back from horse feeding at dusk, I heard the sandhill cranes above me. I guess they were heading to the big lake by the old Alcoa plant.

Imagine cranes here. They are too high to photograph.

Then I walked through the field as flocks of Savannah sparrows took off at my approach. Their wings were beautiful to hear.

Ahh, autumn.

A Grand Welcome Home

cranes
Sandhill cranes, just passing through. Loudly.

We returned to the ranch over the weekend, with zero seconds of downtime, but we jumped right into the swing of things and enjoyed visitors, both human and otherwise.

Flying Friends

The most glorious visitors were just passing through. Many flocks of sandhill cranes flew over. We also saw a few snow geese. I just love the sounds of the cranes!

blue_heron
One of my favorite neighbors.

While I was taking crane pictures, two blue herons squawked, so I got nice close photos of them. Of course, they are blurry iPhone pictures, but some day I’ll get a new battery and learn to use the good camera again!

There have also been a lot of visiting starlings, which we don’t usually have. One thing I’ve noticed about them is that they make lots and lots of noise when they are all lined up on the electric wires, but when they take off as a flock to rearrange themselves, they are totally silent. It’s really eerie when you are standing around in the field listening, and suddenly all you hear are the coyotes.

bluet
These are so delicate.

Most of the dragonflies are gone, but we did see a lovely bluet by the small meadow pond. These sure are pretty. They curve their bodies where you see the stripes.

turtle
Why won’t the turtle play with me? (You can sort of see it in the grass.)

More “Friends”

Because it’s rained so much (have I mentioned that? Lots of flooding while we were gone), animals seem to be wandering around. Yesterday, Carlton the dog found an extra large pond turtle in the middle of the pasture. He was most dismayed that it would not come out and play, so he stood there for 15 minutes and barked at it, poking it with his nose a lot. Treats had to be used to save that poor turtle from the torture.

water snake
This dirty part of the porch is where we harmless snakes like to hang out. I want to date this electric cord.

And later yesterday, I once again spotted a large snake on the front porch, in the icky dirty part, of course. I was pretty convinced it was a water mocassin, but the folks at iNaturalist talked me down, and asssured me it was a water snake trying to look like a poisonous one. I am pretty sure this is the same snake I’ve seen over by the pond. It hisses. We kept the dogs away, and it slowly meandered off.

Our house guest was not thrilled that we didn’t kill it. I repeated a number of times, “I don’t kill snakes.” I do understand many people aren’t good with them. My dad sure wasn’t! He’d kill them 3 or 4 times!

scorpion
It’s a scorpion, all right. Small.

In the early evening, we found our first scorpion at the ranch. It was pre-dead, so we didn’t have to do anything to it. We used to see lots more in our house in the karst area of Williamson County

Not Friends at All

We apparently have a visitor over to the chicken coop who is not our friend. It has killed at least 4 of the chickens (at least two roosters, who were probably trying to defend the flock). It gets them IN the chicken coop. Yet another reason for them not to lay eggs in there!

The Neighbor is sure it’s an owl. I think it might be a bobcat, since both hunt at night. A cat could get in there easily from the tree, then scale the fence to get out.

sheep
Leave us ALONE! We just want to eat grass. And escape from these non-sheepproof fences.

Something also went after the four new sheep the Neighbor brought in, and one of them lost a LOT of wool and some flesh, but seems OK. We are hoping the culprit is not the cabin occupant’s dog, who went after the sheep when he first saw them, so they don’t want to leave the pen to eat in the pasture.

Nice of all these creatures to wait until I got home to show up, isn’t it?

 

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