Birthdays and Fundraising

At some point next week, I will be an even older Baby Boomer! But I still don’t have to register for Medicare, so I declare I’m still middle aged. Why does this matter? Well, for the last few years, I’ve raised funds for a good cause rather than ask for gifts, so I thought I’d share it here, too.

WOO HOO MY FACEBOOK FUNDRAISER!

We got Carlton and Penney from the Cameron Touch of Love dog pound. Your donation will help pets throughout our rural county through the nonprofit Milam Touch of Love (MTOL) organization.

Some Fundraiser Considerations

I get questions ever year, so here’s why I do what I do. Maybe you can support an organization or group, too!

  1. Why a Facebook fundraiser? I know some folks don’t like them, because FB no doubt makes interest on donations before they pay them out. But, they do pay every cent donated, and it’s easy to donate. Any reader who’d like to donate another way can go to the MTOL website and use their form or mails check. Please say it’s for my fundraiser, so they will know how to allocate the funds.
  2. Why only once a year? I think people can feel bombarded by requests for money. I know I do sometimes. So, I tend to do my own donations privately, but I do give to birthday fundraisers for good causes and to honor people I care about. And once a year I choose a nonprofit to support. You’ll see that not all the donations are big, which comes as no surprise during these challenging times. It feels good to give to others sometimes, though.
  3. Why Milam Touch of Love? The main reason is that I honor my commitments. When I was at my last MTOL Board meeting, I said I’d do another birthday fundraiser, so I am! The organization has done an incredible job rescuing puppies and sending them to places with plenty of adoption opportunities, spaying and neutering pets to help drive down unwanted births, and microchipping pets to make finding their owners easier. And the president of MTOL writes educational articles in the local paper each week. She’s amazing, and I want to support her hard work. She even got certified as an animal control officer, to better help the animals in our county.

I hope that all helps a bit. Since I’m not able to be an active member of MTOL anymore, it’s even more meaningful to me that I help this way. I always hoped that our mutual love for animals would keep the MTOL team diverse and mutually respectful, but that’s hard these days. Still, I encourage my friends and readers to put aside our differences and help those who can’t help themselves.

I couldn’t help myself. Suna helped me!

Things are hard right now. Believe me, trying to get a small business started during COVID has not been easy on my family’s finances. But, we still do our charitable giving, at a scale we can manage. I hope you do, too, and give to organizations like MTOL, who use you money to directly help others.

Carlton is giving his mommy a touch of his love. He also made it hard to write this, since he wanted to play.

We all need to spread a touch of love in this world.

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 Sun Is So Bright

That yeah, we need shades. Wow is ole Sol making fast work of the ice. Even though it’s well below freezing outside, the ice is crashing and booming off the roof, and clear patches are starting to show up.

The image doesn’t do justice to the shininess.

The trees had rainbow diamonds in them this morning, and just look at the Chihuly sculpture our rain chain made!

Ice ice baby

I couldn’t write or work much yesterday, because the cell towers weren’t working. So Lee and I watched movies on DVD most of the day.

Cloudy yesterday.

I did make it out to check animals and see if we got any mail (no). Penney loved running and sliding on the ice. She went full tilt.

This is fun.

The layer of ice was over water in lots of spots. It was hard to find the right places to step. Neither Carlton nor I moved very fast.

This is NOT fun.

Ice is now falling off the roof again and booming, so the dogs are close by me. Penney and Carlton are even getting along!

All the toting and fetching of water has been hard on Ralph, so Sara and I are taking over for him now. I’m pretty sure the driveway has melted enough to get out! Freedom! Of course, the water supply is spotty.

From yesterday.

But, all in all, we see the light at the end of the tunnel, so I have my sunglasses ready. Maybe it will thaw out the water heater and heat pump and we can be clean and warm again inside!

Such a dreamer.

Diamond trees

I’m hearing my friends and coworkers in Austin are getting heat and power back, too. I sure hope some of the infrastructure issues can be fixed.

Coping with Chaos!

In my bullet journal this morning is an entry saying:

Blog without whining

Suna

All right then. Today Lee and I are camping in the bedroom, where it is warm. Penney has discovered the space heater and has freed up Lee’s lap.

Happy dog, and coffee station.

Meanwhile, Carlton is under my layers of blankets and knitting. Oddly enough, I haven’t knitted much, due to checking in on people who have things much worse than I do. We certainly can’t go anywhere, as we now have a pretty layer of ice!

Carlton and shawl project, with Harvey butt.

I’m grateful to helpers today! Kathleen’s cows got more hay, and I have no idea how they got it there, unless they did it last night. And Ralph is heroically caring for the horses. He deserves a medal. I will eventually creep over to the chickens with warm water and food. I’m hoping they are still there.

Still, we cope.

Anita and Kathleen are both still without power. I’m grateful for Anita’s gas fireplace and Kathleen’s endless supply of candles.

Meanwhile, one of my coworkers has come down with gall bladder symptoms. For gosh sake! They already have no power and certainly can’t drive to a doctor. Another colleague had water coming through her entryway light fixture, and we ALL know water and electricity don’t mix! And, word just came in that an Austin neighbor has water pouring into their garage. No whining! At least it’s the garage and not inside!

Cameron residents don’t have to worry about water pipes bursting at the moment, since the water is off. Too many water lines burst. I’m just hoping my poor sister muddles through, since we can’t get to her! I appreciate all the news my friend Lynn sends, since she gets all the alerts.

And newsflash! Pamela reports no mail because no mail trucks have arrived in days. Lee says they also have computer trouble. At least the weather has downplayed that potential conspiracy theory generator.

Once again, though, I’m impressed with how people are supporting each other and staying in touch. My friends and family are being so kind and caring about sending me news! Now I gotta go check in on more folks.

Take care! We’re coping!

No Longer Fun or Funny, Now Boomy

Snow and bitter cold are okay if you have a warm and cozy house to stay warm in. Ours is not cozy, but can be made semi-cozy, because we have electricity and space heaters. Most of my friends in the Austin area are without power at all or for long stretches, and there are also water outages (not to mention burst pipes). It turns out that yes, your water supply can be affected by power outages. It doesn’t just flow without help. That is NOT cozy.

Horses in the snow, photo by Ralph.

Okay, here’s a funny story, though. Apparently someone yelled at a water company employee in our area when they said the water wasn’t working due to electrical outages. They said they KNEW you can’t mix water with electricity, so they have nothing to do with each other! At least they know ONE fact.

Another fact: ice expands. It has broken the gutters in a couple of places.

I’m happy to say the chickens are still with us, and are sharing their scratch with the wild birds, who are not faring all that great. One thing that’s helping them a lot is that water is dripping off the house, so they can drink. And the sun is so bright that it has melted some bare spots. At least one little brown bird is actually finding stuff to eat!

I found the food, says Mrs. Sparrow.

The birds here do have a lot of shelter and plenty of food in the woods, but we are still getting casualties. On my front porch just now I found poor dear yellow-rumped warblers (male and female), as well as a white-winged dove. I am so sad for these creatures.

On a happier note, someone was out exploring this morning!

Bunny evidence.

The cows are running low on hay, so I’ll have to ask the neighbors for more, and they are certainly not helping their water supply. One of them pooped into the trough, and of course the poop froze to the ice. I did not enjoy trying to get all that out. Cows.

Here, look at this cool ice formation instead of cow poop. You’re welcome.

This would be all well and good if it weren’t for the fact that yet another huge wave of awfulness is coming tonight, and there might be one after that. People have no water and no heat already! I am very worried about elderly and very young people. And I no longer think my mohair shawls are “too hot.”

This shawl is JUST RIGHT.

Boom

I said there were booms, didn’t I? Yes. We have a metal roof. The sun is very, very bright right now, which means it’s warming the roof. As a consequence, very large sheets of ice are falling from the second-storey roof onto the first-storey roof. It sounds like a dump truck is in the ceiling.

Smaller ice that fell

As you may have already guessed, dogs are not happy with those booms. Harvey is as far under my desk as he can get, all scrunched into my blanket I’m under and the towel I put under there for him.

Make the booms stop.

Carlton squeezed himself into a ball in my chair. They are not thrilled one bit. Plus it is still a balmy 55 degrees in the house (not complaining; my sister and Anita both have it much worse).

I’m trying to dig a hole.

The sounds really are loud, like cannons. It turns out they are just icicles falling. Here, watch!

Wait for it…

All of you in the grips of this weather system have my sympathy, even if you live in a place that can cope with the cold and with an electrical grid that has actual PLANS for bad weather.

Shiny Wonders

What a weird day it’s been. I couldn’t work, because everyone in Austin is having power outages. I felt so cold. I felt sick. Then I felt better! The weather was horrible, but by afternoon, with the sun shining, it felt okay out! The dogs had cabin fever, so we went and played. So you get another post of snow photos.

Penney loves snow. It’s yummy.

We went out and checked the chickens and cows. Everyone was fine, even Springsteen, who was trying to disguise herself as a statue, was sitting with the others.

I just had to take pictures of the shiny trees and happy dogs. It’s beautiful, as long as you have power and the wind settles down.

All the dogs really enjoyed themselves after begging me to go out. Penney bounced and flopped and dug her nose in. She and Carlton ran and jumped in the woods. And Alfred was in his element.

I had fun, too, once the wind went down. The sun was so bright I needed sunglasses, though. I found bunny tracks and could see that the armadillo had peeked out of his hole. And the spring is still flowing in the woods.

Tonight will perhaps be the coldest night ever here. And more freezing precipitation is on its way.

But this is Texas. Warm front next week!

My Least-Favorite Weather Is…

…the weather going on right now at the ranch. Freezing rain is just the worst weather Mother Nature can come up with. It just wants to kill things.

Ice and water on the rain chain.

We were all under the impression that bad weather was coming in a few days, but surprise! Here it is! I am glad that all my animals have nice warm shelter (chickens in the garage and horses under their shelter, which is also where mama and baby calf are, to answer Catherine).

Some animals find the crunch ice fun, however, once the thunder stopped.

I’m also glad to be working from home.

Looks so pleasant, doesn’t it?

I spent 20 years in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. That particular area is often on the border between rain and snow, so I endured a lot of ice storms when I lived there. I have stories, including the time a colleague and I were stuck at the bottom of a dirt driveway on a hill and had to push my Gremlin (that was a type of car) up the hill, after my friends had slowly driven to us to help. We drove twenty miles at 15 miles per hour to get home, all covered in mud. We all had a good laugh, once it was over, but that was a truly scary drive!

Black willows by the pond, by Meghan, from her car.

Here, it’s just freezing raining really hard and has been for a few hours. That makes a nice coating of ice on…everything. It’s worse where I used to live just northwest of Austin, from accident reports and photos I’ve seen. The only thing stirring out here are the intrepid meadowlarks and Meghan, who had to have a meeting with Lee. The dogs would not leave while it was thunder-sleeting.

The gate entry keypad looks chilly. Photo by Meghan.

Well, I take it back. The birds are like, what the heck, we’re hungry, so we might as well eat. The bluebirds, phoebes, and mockingbird are all on the very cold fence looking for food. Mrs. Bluebird really looks sad. I wish my window didn’t have a screen!

That first bird is poor Mrs. Bluebird (the male bluebird and mockingbird are also there, but too blurry, thanks to my screen).
For about a half hour, the mockingbird chased the bluebirds off the fence. That rocket-like thing is a bluebird.

I’m glad we have plenty of hot cocoa and the ability to make chili, because we will need it! I’m feeling mighty bad for friends I know whose heating has gone out, and of course those of you north of us who are laughing about our complaints down here. My coworker in Minnesota got a good laugh about our whining this morning!

Well, it IS pretty.

I hope we don’t lose too many limbs or trees in this. If heavy snow starts, things will start falling. Oh well, that’s how it goes these days.

Our cold pond, photo by Meghan.

I went out and checked the rain gauge for Lee, and we had .71″ so far. I got a few more pretty photos, so please enjoy. The flowers look especially cool. You can click a photo to see it larger and not cropped.

What’s in the Creek!

Today’s Bioblitz adventure took me and the faithful canine companions over by the creek again. I was trying to see if there are any different plants in the woods and creek side. Also, I wanted to let the dogs have fun. That they did!

Happy Carlton in the creek.

Mostly Penney and Carlton enjoyed the windy, sunny day by running, smelling and splashing. It was a good distraction from staring at plants.

I crossed the creek! (Also, check out that soil layer with all the big rocks.)

The dogs running in the stream inspired me to check it out, and I found some slimy algae.

Doesn’t that look shiny and fun?

It reminded me to check the water for plants. I found two cool things I never saw before today!

I’m not sure if it’s one kind or two kinds, but crowfoot is a cool name, and cursed crowfoot is a GREAT name!

All afternoon I looked for birds. I got a vulture photo, but all the other ones hid…until I was just about to walk through the gate back to the house. Suddenly, a bird was right in front of me. By the time I got the camera up, a little ruby crowned kinglet was right in front of me! It’s the first one I’ve seen here! A good day.

Hello!!!

It was a good day all around. I also had a great ride on Apache. I think he’s having fun, too.

A Doggie Expedition

Requests come in for more about the dogs. Ok, fine. Today, they were all wound up, so I took the dogs out to explore the woods and creek. They love that.

Carlton, Alfred, Penney, and Harvey check out one of the ponds.

We must have looked cute, because someone stopped to take a picture of us! Alfred insisted on taking a drink out of every pond or big puddle he came across.

Mmm this one is good.
Ah, small but tasty. Carlton likes it, too.

We had a blast, even though it was a bit chilly and windy. The dogs smelled many things, rolled in poop, and found things to chew on. Penney found a possum skull. Ick. No pictures of that! She wouldn’t put it down, and spent most of the afternoon enjoying it.

Here are some more photos of their fun.

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!