There’s Still Life in the Old Guy

I had a little extra horse time today, so I decided to groom Dusty, the Buckskin Buddy that Kathleen rode the most. He’d been looking lonely. Plus they are all shedding.

Look at me go!

We groomed a long time. He is much lighter now, and his mane and tail are all shiny. He is even growing some forelock back in after it was just a nub for a while. I could tell he enjoy it.

See, I have a mane!

Just for fun, we went on a walk and into the round pen. He immediately picked up a nice trot and kept going until I asked him to stop. Then he went the other way, also just fine.

Thanks, Suna!

To my surprise, when I encouraged him, he picked up an easy canter, not the uncontrolled one I sometimes get from Drew. It was fun to watch him looking so good and enjoying himself. I think he likes his current rations.

After I put him away, Drew came out to play. His mane is so pretty. More important, so is his behavior. His jumps looked great, and he stopped when I stopped, then trotted when I jogged. Yep. He’s great at home. Even sidepassed both ways.

Mmm. Grass.

When we were done practicing things, we went for a nice, relaxing walk around the property. I let him have a grazing break near the arroyo and just enjoyed his shiny hair above his hooves. The walk back was just great. We had a great time.

I’m glad I’m not a horse. Zzzz.

Apache was thrilled not to have to go trotting in circles again today, so we were all happy!

Flower love. Did you know our florist grows flowers for other florists? No wonder these seem so fresh.

In spring news, the swallows are back, swooping around. And I’ve never seen or heard so many cardinals. So pretty.

Chirp

And to end the day, here are some pretty flowers Dusty and his friends sent yesterday, just to brighten your evening or day.

Enjoy whatever is on the side of your road.

Hail Drops Keep Falling on My Head

What a day! I’ve experienced laughter, surprise and true joy today. Where to start?

Surprise

Let’s start with surprise, shall we? I got a voicemail from the local florist saying I had flowers and I’d better hurry over before they closed. I’d been in a long meeting, so we went over just in time to get the flowers, all the while wondering what the occasion was.

This is some fine floral arrangement.

Well what a surprise to find out that these beautiful spring flowers were sent to me by the four horses I’ve been caring for since my niece has been dealing with health issues. I guess they really appreciate the magnesium supplements?

Awwwww

I’m just glad they are okay! It what a sweet surprise. I was really touched. Now let’s talk about laughter.

Moo!

The dogs were going on and on this morning while I was trying to concentrate. There was also much mooing. It turns out that the young cattle next door wanted to play and were actually mooing to get the dogs’ attention.

The sky was beautiful.

Lee and I got a good chuckle watching the dogs and calves run and play with each other.

Speaking of laughing, I’m laughing because we actually managed to get most of the skunk smell out of the house! The stuff we used worked! Even Alfred is ok. Go Angry Orange stuff!

But what about the pure joy? It has to do with the hail drops in the title of this post. It was getting stormy tonight, so I enjoyed taking some cloud photos.

Rain on the horizon.

I ran out to put the chickens in and let the horses out after dinner as raindrops began to fall.

Storm front.

After dinner I took a few photos, because it was cool how it looked clear to the south and very stormy to the north.

The pretty side.

By the time I could get out to the hot tub to try to soothe my back, drops of rain were falling. Poor Lee really needed the hot tub after falling yesterday. We both made it in as the rain started falling harder.

There was lightning and constant thunder, sounding like machinery. Now, I know you should get out of the water when lightning is happening. But I thought what the heck. I’ve achieved all my life goals. Let’s enjoy the show.

Aftermath.

While I didn’t care about me, I didn’t want to damage my phone, so there are no photos of my joy. But wow, it was beautiful to sit in the hot water with cold rain falling and making beautiful patterns on the water.

Then, ooh, little sharp pains hit my face and ears. Hail was falling! There were tiny ice cubes all over the patio. It was so much fun to sit there and experience Nature in her fury.

Horses on their way to hide. I knew all was well when they came back out of their shelter!

Soon the storm passed. I was so full of joy. I was also lucky. Apparently the storm picked up strength and is bringing bad hail to the east of us. I’m glad giant ice rocks didn’t fall on my head!

Hope Springs, um, Each Spring

One of my favorite parts of living at the Hermits’ Rest is anticipating spring’s arrival. It’s darned early here! And today I noticed my beloved bluebonnets are up and ready to grow buds.

Unfurling bluebonnet leaves.

I feel hope for the future when I’m reminded that Nature keeps plugging along. There are a few flowers out, especially the beautiful dandelions. I even snagged a bee in one photo!

See the bee? Or a fly that looks like a bee?

Not many other insects are out right now, which disappoints the chickens.

Things are actually settling down a little bit over here. I may have time to review some documents or watch presentations from last year’s Master Naturalist conference that I missed due to COVID. Or I can just enjoy nature and the animals.

Day Is Done. Not Work, Though

Yeah, the sun has set, horses are fed, and it’s my usual relaxing or educational time. But I have classes to teach every night this week. I don’t mind a bit, since this isn’t a frequent occurrence and I think Asian people ought to have a chance for training during their work day!

Sun setting over scenic Walker’s Creek

I haven’t had much to write this week because I’ve been productive at work, which is fine, right? Since I’m working in the evenings, though, I took a few hours off this afternoon to get things done.

Ooh, that feels good.

Actually, Trixie did all the work on the horses. Drew got a little body work and was medium well behaved for his hoof trim. Apache was good as gold, though, and we are happy to say his hooves are perfect.

Also, very clean, unlike the rest of him.

I had to leave Trixie to finish Apache so I could go help the resident offspring move more things from the church. We managed to get a heavy dresser and a bookcase loaded into Lee’s Tahoe ourselves. That church sure has lots of stairs.

Other cabin addition

I was busy working and trying to avoid electrical sparks (workers blew a transformer and knocked power out on us), so no photos of that. Instead, look a the cool door the resident nephew found hiding at our Ross property! It fits the cabin, and will sure be a cool entry.

All I have is some happy flower images from the arrangement I got for Kathleen (the rarely resident niece) for her birthday. It was not too bright of me to assume she would be here that day, knowing how plans change so fast!

But flowers are cheerful from afar, too. Sending love to all who are struggling. You’re never alone when I’m around!

Treats and Surprises

For darned sure, the Universe is trying its best to teach me to expect the unexpected and examine how I deal with changes. I’ll just sidestep some of the bigger changes and just talk about some of the other surprises I got between yesterday and today.

From the wildflower patch

One of my coworkers lost a family member recently, and two of us got together to send him some flowers today, to bring some cheer into his home. I thought, hey, I could use some cheer, so I made myself a little arrangement to look at while I work. There are meadow pinks, thistles, Indian blankets, black-eyed Susans and a few Indian paintbrush that are still hanging around, plus another couple random flowers.

Interesting genetic hiccup

I’d found a conjoined twin Mexican hat flower yesterday when walking back from feeding horses (yay, it was dry enough to walk). Not only does it have two seed heads, the petals are extra curvy. Nature is always there to surprise me in a good way!

The other surprise I got yesterday, was more of a shocking one. I went to pick up eggs from the coop, and discovered an uninvited guest had already helped themselves to the eggs for the day.

Oh, you chicken snake.

They sure know how to find eggs! I handled this pretty well. Said “eek” and slammed the door down, then calmly picked it up to look at the snake. It was almost as tall as me when it was removed (not by me). I hope it enjoyed the digestion.

That was enough for icky surprises. I spent some more time out looking at the flowers behind our house and had to take more photos. I found yet another type of fly I’d never seen! It has interesting stripes, and I sure wish I’d gotten a better photo. I also found something I’d never seen before, which turned out to be a wheel bug nymph. That’s interesting (to me).

My ten minutes of break are over, but maybe I’ll have time for more later. We have to deal with Apache’s feet, apparently. Sigh.

A Well-Timed Garden Visit

Since we are all rested and wanting to see the eastern part of the USA, Lee and I decided to go to Pawley’s Island and Brookgreen Gardens today. I just had a hankering to see the island, since I’d read about it a lot, and you know, they make hammocks therethey make hammocks. Sure enough, it was small and cute, and consisted mostly of vacation homes that were quaint and nice. I enjoyed looking at the estuary and the marshes surrounding the island, but there weren’t really any places to get out and explore.

We instead found a nice little hamburger stand, and enjoyed a delicious burger and fries that were not fast food at all. That got us strengthened enough to head down the road to Brookgreen Gardens, where we hadn’t had a chance to go last year. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten to charge my watch, so I missed 6,700 or so steps. Dagnabbit.

I never saw so many different types of Japanese maple in my life!

That did not deter us from having a wonderful time, though. Just driving into the place we saw a cool black-headed squirrel and a brown thrasher. A real highlight though, was a brand-new exhibit in their galleries, which was devoted to American sculptures and other art featuring wildlife and domestic animals. You don’t see many sculptures of good ole dogs, so it was a real treat.

There were also beautiful sculptures of horses (they have LOTS of horses), birds, foxes, otters, and all sorts of animals, plus some great drawings and paintings. We enjoyed the small gallery of items from the people who had owned the land when it was three rice plantations. I was impressed to see a few depictions of where the enslaved people lived, and that they were labeled as such. And I give credit to the families who deeded the land to everyone to enjoy.

That’s a powerful horse

The outdoor part of this garden is immense. It’s certainly too big to see everything on the property in one day, so it’s good your tickets can be used for a week! We will come back later to see the zoo, labyrinth, and other areas we missed as we wandered from beautiful spot to beautiful spot, finding little hidden sculptures in niches, and grand sculptures in beautiful settings with ponds and fountains.

This is the 90th year of the gardens, and you can tell, because there are lots of imported and exotic specimen trees that have grown huge. There were many evergreen trees I’d never seen before, plus a couple of deciduous ones, like a very, very large swamp chestnut oak, festooned with gray Spanish moss. You could live under that thing.

I can see why this garden has won so many awards. It’s designed to provide new vistas everywhere you turn, and must be spectacular when azaleas and camellias are blooming. I found one camellia blossom.

Artistic camellia shot

It was funny how I kept flipping back and forth from wanting to take photos of some of the pretty cultivars of decorative plants to wanting to take photos of the views and native things. Thus, there are a lot of photos in this blog post.

There was wildlife, too! We found turtles, an alligator, geese, a very friendly cardinal, a black-and-white warbler, plus brown thrashers. We heard even more birds. This place sounds fantastic, so blind people could enjoy it (by the way, it is also very accessible for people using canes, walkers, or wheelchairs).

Of course, my favorite part is what they call “beyond the wall,” which is a creek and swamp where the rice fields used to be. I’m so fond of swamps, that my heart got racing as I found sedges, rushes, wild irises, and beautiful cypress knees. The path was just perfect for a swamp lover like me, but, I realized when I ran into a fellow using an electric wheelchair, that it was totally accessible to all (if you’re careful)!

After a quick trip to the gift shop, where I got a t-shirt and commemorative mugs, we headed to shop at Publix, which is kind of like a tourist attraction for people from the South. It’s just the nicest grocery store chain. I got some flowers for our room and the vitally important coffee filters for the condo. Whew. We’re all set now!

One lonely hydrangea flower.

Tomorrow I’ll be hitting the beach early, working, then probably relaxing in the evening, but we’ll find ways to enjoy being in a new location, even when working. Since Lee brought his giant iMac, he’s able to record his receipts instantly and keep track of Hearts Homes and Hands’ finances almost as well as he can at home. And I’m all set up, just with my laptop screen. We can do it!

I hope you enjoyed the photos. They sure were fun to take!

Missing the Ranch and Keeping My Spirits Up

It’s really weird to have not been at the ranch the entire month of November, especially since that’s usually a great month to be there (good weather, frisky pets, lots of time for walking). It didn’t help at all that I spent a good bit of time wandering around the area on Google Maps trying to figure out where those two people drowned. I think I got it located a bit further away from our property than I’d feared, but still adjacent. It makes me so sad.

In happier news, my one orchid that didn’t succumb to some evil scale has rewarded us with many blossoms.

I listened to a news report that said the victims had fallen out of their boat and got caught up in pond weeds. That’s exactly what I had feared. Even if you can swim, that stuff can get you. One guy had a young family and one was just 22, so young. They’re having a football game to raise money for their families. Traion Smith was just an amazing athlete in high school, and a nice young man. The news report showed the former Cameron coach breaking into tears at the thought of losing him. Life sure has its twists and turns.

Anyway, I ended up looking at what great quality the Google Maps images of our property are. I really liked how you could see each cow and all the cattle paths in the bottom pasture next to our house.

All the cows are at upper right, and you can see where they walk. The image can even get closer in! That’s Walker’s Creek and one of the streams that meets up with it.

I was disappointed that I could not see Apache or Fiona, nor the chickens. I guess the photo was taken just before we got the chicken house. So, you’re spared those images.

Sunset looking out by neighbor Ruth’s house. I love how the oak leaves are shining.

While I do miss the ranch (and its occupants, including my poor lonely quarantined husband!), I’m enjoying some time in Austin. We got to take a walk with our neighbor, Ruth, who regaled us with tales of trying to buy groceries at the H-E-B (we went a bit later ’cause I had to fill my prescription, and it wasn’t so bad). She went to the Randall’s store full of “old people” and it wasn’t crowded. That store is always full of old people! And, if you don’t live in Texas, we realize H-E-B is a weird name, but since it’s named after Mr. Butts, you can understand the choice.

Roses in my flower arrangement. They help me feel better.

And since I’m in Austin, we can have my son’s little family unit to eat out on the deck, to minimize germs and all, like we keep being told to do. It will be very small, but good.

Giant mum about to explode. This arrangement had such great autumn colors.

We will get through these challenging times. Sometimes it’s easier than other times, but I feel like all this practice of empathy, compassion, and forgiveness that’s come out of the pandemic, the election, and the personal issues of those around me will benefit me the rest of my life.

I don’t know what this flower is, but I love the way only part of it is in focus.

I hope you enjoy the photos of the flowers I got at the store and our sunset. I saw no sunsets in Utah, because the mountains were to the west. That’s okay, mountains are pretty, too. Share what’s keeping you happy and in the moment, if you want to!

Lakota, the Circle of Life, and Being Startled

I’m guessing that today you’ll be wanting to find out how our boarder horse, Lakota the elderly fancy palomino, came out after his rough time yesterday. Last we heard, he’d been sweating and heaving, and Spice was standing over him like she was guarding his life. Sara is happy to report that after he stood up and made a big poop, he walked off, normally. She did keep checking through the night.

This morning, to our great relief, he was standing under a tree with Spice, and they both had been sleeping. It was probably a rough night for them, too. They both kept yawning and yawning, and were very loving and affectionate. Poor guys.

He just let me hug and hug, and he hugged back.

Sara had a couple of ideas about what had happened. Her current theory (and it’s just a theory) is that he ate some of the nightshade (Silverleaf Nightshade Solanum elaeagnifolium) that had been mown in the pasture (because she is allergic to it). Apparently, horses and cattle don’t eat it when it is alive, but for some reason think it’s tasty when it’s cut and dried. I hope that’s all it was.

It does have pretty flowers.

Thanks to me looking up alternative veterinarians, Sara was able to get in touch with Dr. Brinlee, who works with Milam Touch of Love, and while he couldn’t come last night, we are scheduling him to come soon (Apache’s teeth need to be looked at, too). In any case, we were both really relieved to find two horses standing under the trees this morning!

Spice was a good friend and nurse last night.

After this, my morning went downhill and my anxiety went uphill, but that’s the way the circle of life goes, I guess. As I approached our gate, I saw lots and lots of black birds in the pasture. What, a crow convention? As I got closer, I realized it was vultures. I also saw this.

Brown cow guarding two calves.

I drove over to where the feasting birds were, and found one of the three calves was no longer with us, and hadn’t been for a day or two. That certainly startled me. I don’t know what happened, and I probably won’t, but it was sad and a bit of a shock to see him laying there. Circle of life strikes again.

On the other hand, the chickens are all still here! Haven’t lost one in weeks! And Hedley seems to have given up on being broody, but hasn’t started laying again. I hope she does. She doesn’t seem sick or anything. They all got quite a treat out of a bunch of tomatoes Kathleen donated to them.

Hey, this is good! Thanks! Hedley is the one by the water trough, looking perky.

Even Buttercup and Butternut ate a tomato, which is a first. Maybe they’ll start branching out and eating more than just their feed and only their feed soon. I do enjoy them, and they cheered me up.

THEN I went to drive to the office. There was a giant wasp in the car, the black kind with red wings (sorry, no ID). I usually don’t worry about them, but two of my friends have had bad wasp reactions in the last week, and it started buzzing my head. As I tried to shew it away, I ran off the road. Luckily, I just drove through a lot of long grass, and probably made County Road 140 passersby curious. I am just not having a calm day so far! I’m still shaky. On the other hand, I did find some pretty groundcherries in the overgrown office lawn. These are clammy groundcherries (Physalis heterophylla).

The blossoms face downward, so you often don’t spot them.

So, I will go do my other Saturday writing tasks and breathe deeply. Has anything startled you today?

The Vines of Hermits’ Rest

I thought I’d take my own advice and get out in nature this morning, so I made up a project to see how many different vines I could see along the fence in front of and beside the ranch house.

Mustang grape. I know because it’s silver and hairy on the bottom.

It hadn’t gotten stifling hot yet, so Vlassic and I set off. I knew a lot of what I’d see, but figured I’d find at least seven different vines.

Vine
Looks boring, right? But if we hadn’t been aggressively mowing, it would produce cool little lanterns. It’s Cardiospermum halicacabum

I actually ended up with 12! At least I hope so. Most weren’t blooming, but I recognized them. The white morning glory had closed up and I couldn’t get to the flowers to photograph.

I was especially glad to see passion vines in more than one place, because I’d worried the poison ivy had crowded it out.

Passion vine with no beautiful flowers.

Also I was glad to confirm that we have sorrel vine here, since the Master Naturalist who lives not far from here has a lot of it.

Sorrel vine or Cissus trifoliata. It’s known as possum grape, too.

Otherwise, it’s the usual prickly, rash-inducing, invasive and/or pretty plants.

Of course I had to snap a few other pretty sights. Plus, there’s action around the hen house. There’s a new spider building a web right in front of where I get the eggs from. Luckily I have another way to get eggs.

And Chris put a live trap by the chicken run. We need to stop whatever took almost all the guineas and a hen! Hopefully, once it cools off, he will come up with more safety measures.

These are prettier than water hose, right? Lady Bird’s Centaury.

We do have a much more elaborate water system, though, since the other one was trying to make the hoses explode. Chris used new water hose/pipe and fittings to make a safer temporary setup until we make the fancy underground one. It’s also too hot to safely dig the trench for that.

At least the dogs are happy we’re inside all day. 102 is too hot for any of our outdoor projects! Happy July.

It’s weather fit for sunflowers!

Grace, Nature, and Humor to the Rescue

What do you do to get through trying times? You take it one day at a time. I am doing my best to just observe and not get all caught up in things I can’t control, like I’ve been saying this week. And I figure one way I can help myself and others is to provide brief diversions. What the heck?

Grace

I’ve been reading and reading ideas on mindfulness and they have brought me a bit of grace, I think. Here’s a quote by Joanna Macy, the Buddhist teacher and naturalist, about the times we are in and our relationship to the earth:

…It is so great a privilege to be here on Earth at this time….Being fully present to fear, to gratitude, to all that is–this is the practice of mutual belonging. As living members of the living body of Earth, we are grounded in that kind of belonging. We will find more ways to remember, celebrate, and affirm this deep knowing: we belong to each other, we belong to earth. Even when faced with cataclysmic changes, nothing can ever separate us from her. We are already home.

Lion’s Roar, May 2020, p. 50. Excerpt from A Wild Love for the World: Joanna Macy and the Work of Our Time, edited by Stephanie Kaza.

Guess what book I just ordered?

Nature

As always, nature has provided me with a way to center. The magnolia blossom that Chris picked for me this morning has filled my office with fragrance, and I found myself in a meditative state earlier, just looking at the structure of the center.

Magnolia glory.

You can see how the current beauty is all set up to become a beautiful seed pod with bright red seeds. I take it as a reminder that we are always undergoing a transformation (including Mother Earth) and that we can gain solace from how destruction and metamorphosis bring their own beauty.

What’s cool is that it continues to change. The petals are folding up now (not happy we picked it, I guess)

I’ve noticed a lot of my friends sharing their gardens, whether flowers or produce, which brings moments of pleasure. And my Master Naturalist friends keep coming up with the best stuff! Look at this puffball mushroom my friend Pamela saw on her property, just a couple of miles from our ranch.

Now, that’s one big mushroom! I love all the patterns on it. Photo by Pamela Neeley.

Humor

And then there’s humor. I was rather surprised yesterday when I made a joking comment to my husband, and he took offense. He says I never joke around. This is disturbing, since I think of myself as funny. Oops.

But I decided that it’s a good idea to have some fun with images, anyway. I posted the following photo of a tile in my bathroom on Facebook:

What do you see in the center tile?

I said I saw a Satanic goat (it has scary eyes). The responses to the post were a lot of fun. People saw a llama, a dragon, a snail, a slug, a horse, unicorn, a goddess, and a duck (among others). The tile is a natural stone called river travertine, because it looks like flowing water, so the person who saw the ocean was right on!

I decided I’d just post things that made me laugh, so I also posted a picture of poor Penney and all her excess skin.

There’s a second dog in there somewhere.

So yeah, I’m not going to deny the undercurrent of doom swirling around me, but my pet bobcat (or whatever that is) and I are going to keep looking for grace, natural beauty, and the absurd as we go through the day.

Oh, SnapChat, when you don’t have me worried about my kid’s safety, you entertain.
sara annon

seeking the middle path

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