Cute Animals for Scary Times

Really, I do understand why people are being cautious these days. The rate of coronavirus infections in Milam County has skyrocketed. I have been limiting where I go, and even wearing my mask to cross the street. I ordered a lot of new masks today, too, since I’m wearing them more and getting them dirty.

Question mark butterfly
This question mark butterfly is stunningly beautiful, and was right outside my office door.

My family and the companies I am affiliated with are all being very careful. There have been two people die who work for my Austin employer, though I do not know what caused it. Sure makes you pause and want to hug your loved ones, though you can’t.

Sleeping white dog
For the past three nights, Carlton has been lying on top of me until I get to sleep. Dogs are so loving.

What I can do is tell you some fun/mildly interesting stories about animals and share some pictures! Okay!

A house finch nest
Mama Finch says she likes it on THIS side.

First, all the birds around our Cameron offices have been continuing their festival of babies. The mockingbirds finally left their parents this week. I miss them, but Lee says now we have a carport squirrel. The swallows are down to two babies who are about ready to fledge. And the every-valiant house finches re-built their nest on the OTHER side of the garage and are sitting on eggs.

I love that nature just keeps plugging along. Some things just don’t change.

One thing that doesn’t change is Alfred and his abundance of hair. We had him pretty well cleaned out, but yesterday we noticed Harvey was getting lots of hair out of him. So, Kathleen sat and patiently removed hair for about ten minutes, before Alfred ran out of patience.

Large pile of dog hair and two dogs
I’m not sure I like this…

The rest of the night, if Kathleen even LOOKED like she was heading toward him, he ran away. Not much makes him run. We laughed a lot, and laughing is good. I hope some day we can work on his other side!

A jackrabbit in Milam County, Texas
Just chillin in the pasture.

I got a new animal sighting today, too! I saw my first jackrabbit in Milam County, right on the ranch. Someone had said they saw a really big bunny, so I think this was the one. Those are some big ears, but I felt a lot better with my ID when a couple of local friends confirmed my sighting. I am happy to see them and hope their population grows.

In horse news, Apache is walking close to normally, for which we are all very grateful. He, Fiona, and Big Red the chicken are all getting tired of living in the tiny pen not sure why Big Red is always there, but maybe she thinks shes part of the herd.

Big Red, Apache, and Fiona
Good morning. We would like to eat now.
Ginger the chicken
I did not ask for a husband.

And in bird news, the guinea fowl are growing like crazy, and the new chickens are, too. The ladies are growing in their combs. Clarence, the newest rooster, has not won over Ginger and Bertie Lee yet, but its getting better every day. Thank goodness!

We think Bruce is about to get his crow going, which will be fun. At the moment he makes some funny sounds we cannot really identify.

So, that is the non-COVID news from around here. Office update soon!

Horse Tragedy, Dog Comedy, and Fairy Eggs?

Sometimes life sends you from one extreme to another so quickly that it takes your mind a while to catch up. Today was one of those days.

I was walking to the horses so I could feed them, accompanied by Vlassic, who was jumping around eating grasshoppers, chased a cow, and had a grand time. As I came past the bales of hay, I looked toward the cattle pen, to see how Apache was doing.

My heart stopped. He was lying motionless in the dirt. Fiona said hee-haw and he didn’t move. I quickly walked up and said, “Apache?” In what I’m sure was a stricken pet-owner voice.

I’m okay, mom. See? I’m trying to be funny and stepping in my dish.

He flipped his head up an whinnied. Whew. But, had he foundered? Could he stand up? Did I have to call the vet? He answered that question by hauling himself to his feet and shaking. He’d just been napping.

He’s up and eating!

By that time, I’d called poor Sara, who said, “You do know they lie down, right?” But she understood why I’d panicked.

Actually he is walking marginally better today. He’s still not great, though.

Fiona always stays close.

Meanwhile, Fiona kept nudging me. I turned to see what her problem was just in time to see a little black butt slipping into her water tub. Vlassic was apparently hot.

The tub, the water, the dog, all black.

Fiona was not amused to see him in HER water, but I went straight from my fear for Apache and his feet to laughing maniacally at the dog. That was great.

That was NOT funny. Also, this pen is too small.

We fed the other horses, who are on their best behavior, then went back to chicken world to get today’s eggs.

We’re over here, being good, eating our own food.

All the ladies and Bruce were fine, but there were no eggs. Then, on the ground, I saw this:

That is one small egg!

What the..? I went to the Googles and found that Ginger had laid what is called a fairy egg! They are tiny eggs, usually with no yolk. They are also usually lighter or darker than a hen’s usual egg.

Lee’s thumb, usual egg from Ginger, fairy egg. Yep, it’s darker.

They happen when something disturbs a hen’s reproduction process. Well, of course! Ginger and Bertie were quite disturbed by being cut off from their pen and all those new pullets showing up.

We will have to see if Bertie pops out a fairy egg tomorrow. Little do they know, but tomorrow they get a new boyfriend. Oooh. Don’t tell them.

A Bit of Storm Damage

While I was cleaning the fireplace, a strong storm came through and it rained .7 inches in 15 minutes. And the wind got up to 40 miles per hour.

I looked up when I felt some water. Shoot. It was dripping on me. We have to go way up by the chimney and check what’s caused it. Ugh. At least I was sitting right there when it happened!

Back at the ranch, Lee and Kathleen saw trees laying down and churning water. When we got home, we found the chicken’s windbreak broke. I’m sure it turned into a balloon, since the wind was coming from the south.

The blob is the tarp. Note clouds.

Plus, a piece of the roof over our shipping container blew off. That has been there 7 years!

Damage at top.

Lee and Chris repaired that and took the tarp off the chicken house. I headed over to the horse barn and found a big length of chicken wire that had blown in from somewhere. I rolled it up and stuck it somewhere safe in the barn.

Repair in progress.

More rain is coming, and half of the dogs are not happy. Harvey is all shaky. Carlton is hiding behind us. Happy Sunday.

Keep Track of Your Small Doggies

This could have been a MUCH worse post, but it’s scary to me, nonetheless.

Last night we were sitting on the porch with the dogs, when Lee’s brother walked up and asked if we’d seen Vlassic. We hadn’t in an hour or so. We looked and looked and couldn’t find him.

Not much room for common sense in that brain. (Old picture, still true)

I got worried he had wandered over to the Laywells across the street, which he had done once or twice before, so Kathleen and I jumped into Hilda, our utility vehicle, and went searching. We saw the Dorners. Hi Dorners. We turned around. We ran into Mr. Laywell on his utility vehicle (they go up and down the road all the time), who did indeed have a small black dog in his lap!

But, it turned out to be a black terrier, the exact same size as Vlassic but way barkier. Nice to have a face to go along with the barking fits across the road (I’m sure they love knowing what the barking fits on OUR side of the road are caused by, too, so no judgment implied). Anyway, we made him talk to us again.

You can tell by the mud on his face that Vlassic likes to put his nose into things! He’s also been swimming a LOT lately.

We went by Mandi’s and yelled, we went over to Sara and Ralph’s…checked places he’d hidden before.

Finally we went back home, to find a small black dog in the grass. I hugged him a lot, then asked what had happened. Eek.

Vlassic had jumped into the pickup while Chris was getting some stuff out of it, and no one had seen him. He’d been locked inside the black truck for who knows how long.

If it weren’t for the pandemic, Vlassic wouldn’t have met his new buddy, Jim, with the RV that’s safe from mean ole Penney.

We are so grateful he is okay. I’d been thinking it was time to give up on dogs, since I seem to be pretty hard on them. Of course, we have once again reminded ourselves to check cars after we’ve been loading and unloading, because Vlassic or Harvey might have gotten in, ready for a ride. That’s so scary as summer approaches.

I love this dog SO MUCH. Here he is in a car. We made sure he got out.

So, if you have a dog that likes to go on rides, check your vehicles!

Just in Time (Aprés le déluge)

It’s a-floodin’ outside, so I’ll blog some. Yesterday, Chris and I left our respective work a little early (even though my coworkers really wanted me to keep going and I stayed on calls until long after I got back to the ranch), because Mary was bringing a portable horse pen and some jumps that Sara and I bought from her. No, I do not expect Apache will jump over anything.

[Pretend I wasn’t too hot to take a picture and that you see some green metal and wood.]

After the heavy lifting on that project was over (we had enough help that it went fast) Chris had time to work on ranch projects. He hauled out the backhoe and worked to finish the mini detention pond with ditch that we’ve been working on for a while.

Driving the big equipment.

Kathleen, the dogs, and I enjoyed watching it, very much. He made the pond bigger, tapering it toward the road. That pissed off a lot of 🐸 frogs. We enjoyed watching them.

The dogs went crazy running around in the dirt and swimming in the pond. We laughed a lot.

Penney swims.

Then came the fun part. Chris made a ditch that will take the water from this pond to the pond by our driveway. That solves a drainage issue we had. It was also great dog fun.

Carlton is trying to look innocent.

Penney decided to “help” with the digging and vigorously applied herself to widening a spot.

I’m helping.

As he went further, everyone supervised. I didn’t get any after pictures, but I’ll say it ended up smooth and nice.

Penney, Kathleen, Gracie and Carlton performing quality control.

Testing It Out

Chris has great timing. Last night a HUGE storm came through, so the new drainage got a workout. Actually, it’s still getting it, which is why my photos are through the window.

You can sorta see the ditch running along the driveway.

We are pleased to see water heading to the front pond in an orderly fashion. It’s working!!

Lots of puddles out there.

All the dirt piled along the side of the pond is slated for another project. Kathleen and I want to plant a palm tree 🌴 or put native plants around the finished pond, with a bench for watching our animals. I’ll have an interesting yard some day!

I’ll get more pictures soon.

Am I Falling Apart?

Hmm, haven’t whined about things that aren’t really earth-shattering lately. I’ll fix that. And I’ll share random photos, because I don’t have a theme.

Distraction! These darling little guys are Inca doves. They hang out near our carport at the Hermit Haus.

Generally, I’m a pretty healthy person. I have the occasional ache or pain, thanks to having been alive for so many trips around the sun, but really, I’m pretty good. Even the doctor said I was healthy “for someone your age.”

Unhappy left hand.

I’m wondering, though, if perhaps dealing with the undercurrent of stress for the past couple of months is starting to take its toll on my physically. It’s nothing major, but a lot of my former stress-related physical symptoms have been quietly manifesting themselves.

For example, I have started to get these very itchy little fluid-filled bumps all over my hands and arms. I used to get them a LOT when I was in college, especially during the summers when I spent 8 hours a day sanding pieces of fiberglass (printed circuit boards) by hand, or breathing chemicals that plated metal to said pieces of fiberglass. Guess who had no mask or gloves? Me.

Unhappy right hand. Also with dewberry scratches.

I thought it was bits of fiberglass getting under my skin, but as I got older, I realized I broke out when dealing with long-term stress (bad relationships, bad jobs, deaths in the family, divorces). Here they are today, itching like mad.

And I suddenly can’t walk right! Out of the blue, when I was walking home from feeding the horses, my left foot began to hurt with every step. It feels like I strained a tendon or something. I kept waiting for it to go away all evening, but nope, it’s still hurting. This is NOT the foot upon which the large light fixture landed earlier in the week. That bruise is not bad. But, what the heck, I didn’t trip, fall, drop something…nothing.

Perhaps it’s the non-matching shoe/sock combo? But these shoes are the kindest ones to my feet.

And then there’s the twitching. My eye has been twitching since February, so I guess it’s not a virus issue. I think it has been the underlying stress from starting a new company and worrying about the company I already work for (I was really worried my boss would lose his job, with good reason). Eye twitches are so annoying. It feels like everyone on earth can SEE them, even though as far as I can tell, they can’t.

Distraction! this cool lizard lives in the wildflower bed.

One symptom I’m not having, thanks to my friends the anti-anxiety meds, is what used to be constant for me, which was a really strong tingling going down the back of my neck. It used to be worse when dealing with certain friends and family members, but hardly went away at all during the 80s and early 90s. Yay, I’m cured. Now my neck just stays tense. I miss the chiropractor!

Look who’s fitting right into our household! Gracie Lou is not intimidated by Penney.

I guess I should be glad I don’t have the symptom so many of my family have had, which is horrible digestive issues. (I only have MILD ones, thanks to all my probiotics, I guess.) And I’m not getting bad headaches, which is good. And of course I’d rather have annoying stress symptoms than get put on a ventilator or have a stroke, like people with COVID-19 have.

Distraction! Light fixtures I sorta helped Chris put together while we wait for the electricians to show up.

What’s going on with you? Any weird symptoms out of nowhere? Do you also have dozens of mosquito bites on your feet, because you were helping someone put together light fixtures while wearing sandals? (That’s another reason why I am wearing shoes and socks: scratching prevention.)

TMI? Hey, that’s how I roll.

Carlton the Dogman-niversay

My memories on Facebook told me that it was two years ago today that I brought a little white dog home to be my buddy and go back and forth to Austin with me.

I’m skinny and squinty.

Carlton the Dogman is no longer little, and he stays at the ranch. Still, he’s my dear buddy. I love the way his little pink nose feels when he says hi, and the evenings we spend in my chair are real treasures.

I’m a genius! I come when I’m called. Usually.

He has hobbies. Mainly they are swimming in muddy water and playing with cows. The cows totally love him and pay him no heed. He just likes it when they all group together.

I’m disguised as a Dalmatian. See my spots?

He has finally stopped jumping on me, but he still has a barking issue. He barks to try to get the other dogs to play, mainly. He has way more energy than the others, which explains why he’s so skinny.

I love you, too, Mommy.

We’ve loved having Carlton as part of our pack. He seems to be able to see just fine, even with his weird eyes, so we think he’ll be around a long time.

Gracie Lou Who?

Ya know, it’s been a long time since we got Penney. We need another dog. Look, it’s Gracie Lou!

A white dog in a white garage.

Stop laughing. It’s actually Kathleen’s dog that they brought back from Yorktown. She’s getting up there in age, bit still perky and cute. She’s a dachshund mixed with maybe a Maltese.

Hey!

We are so glad she’s with people again rather than just getting fed every day. Right now she’s living with the “kids” in the garage while we wait for Penney to be nice. Of course, she’s the problem!

I just want to rest and be cute. Make Penney go away.

All the other dogs like her just fine. Vlassic really likes having a fellow small dog. They’re opposites, with his short black hair and her long white hair.

Nicole introduces the two sausage dogs.

I think we’ll have fun together until Kathleen and Chris go to the Ross house. Welcome, Gracie!

Rejoice! We Survived the Night. Today Is Glorious.

Yeah, it was a long night here. We are rejoicing to be here and making Easter dinner. And rejoice is, predictably, the final UU Lent word.

It started around 9 pm, when Chris and Kathleen were sitting on the front porch with the dogs. Carlton and Penney suddenly took off. There were barks, then a yelp, and they came back. Penney was rolling around. She’d been skunked.

We are faster than a waddling skunk.

Then everyone ran around trying to keep her off the furniture. Kathleen bathed her in ketchup, which was really nice of her. Carlton only stank a little. He’s so fast he can avoid skunk spray.

Continue reading “Rejoice! We Survived the Night. Today Is Glorious.”

There’s Always Something to Be Grateful For

Yes, today’s word is gratitude. You knew that one was coming, right. Those of us working on our attitudes are told by all our self-help books, tapes to keep gratitude journals, because it actually makes us feel better at a brain chemistry level. I know my spouse does it every day and it’s been really good for him.

I don’t write a gratitude journal, but I’ve been practicing just “noticing” where I am and what is going on, often through the day. This just leads to gratitude welling up in me. Corny as it may seem, I’m often just grateful for the privilege of being here on this earth, able to live and continue to learn every day.

Just noticing where I was. Grateful for the ever-entertaining ducks of Cameron.

Today, I awoke from the first decent sleep I’ve had in a while, looked out at my chickens, who got through a pretty bad storm last night, and was glad to see that my sadness of the past few days had moved on to a new phase. The first song I heard this morning said it well:

Let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day

Raglan Road, Irish folk song

I’m practicing being grateful even for the stumbling blocks and unexpected changes life brings, which I’ll talk about more in the next post. Right now, I just want to share how grateful I am for my support system, including these precious beings, who have really improved their behavior lately.

Two good doggies.
Lee is ready for when we are allowed to open our office and need to wear scrubs!

And I’m grateful for my family and close friends (thanks Anita and Mike) for listening to my vents yesterday. I feel very well cared for, with Chris sharing his stories of similar things in his life, and Lee jumping right into lists for planning our future. With this network of support, I’ll get by.

We all deserve a support network when things get weird, and by gosh, things are weird for everyone right now, and lots of us have other things piling on top of the isolation. If I can EVER be a listening ear for YOU, I’m here. I want to pay forward the kindnesses for which I am so grateful.

Your thoughts are always welcome, friends.