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. Brimlee, 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 overo 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.

Nature Heals: Five Vitamin Bs

After a long day of working through my mental paralysis, I came home to do the usual chicken and horse chores. I decided to really look hard at what I saw on the path and just live in the moment.

Beautiful crow poison blossom

It helped more than I thought it would to immerse myself in the life on the ranch. There were so many bees in the blooming clover and so many butterflies on the flowers and so many birds and so many bugs! The 5 Vitamin Bs: Blossoms, bees, butterflies, birds, and bugs.

The most common butterflies were Buckeyes, checkered whites, and sulphurs. I also saw a hairstreak.

And in the bird department, I was extra excited to hear a familiar call. The dickcissels are back! They’re one of those birds whose numbers are dwindling, so it makes me happy to know they like it here.

I also enjoyed the sounds of sparrows rushing out of the grass and the red winged blackbirds calling and flying around. They’re everywhere right now.

I enjoyed a lot of interesting bugs, but my favorite is this Texas flower scarab. It was vigorously digging away in this thistle.

Thistles have friends

Just enjoying the light on the grass, along with my friends the butterflies, bees, birds, and bugs got me in a better frame of mind. Thanks, Mother Nature!

Just grass, mostly speargrass.

Bloom Where You’re Planted

Those of you who haven’t been quarantined your whole lives have probably heard this saying before. It’s the first thing that popped into my head when I saw that today’s UU Lent word is bloom.

Let’s see how to do that. Image by @dmotif via Twenty20.

It being spring in glorious central Texas, you see blossoms everywhere. They look especially vibrant this year, since it’s been cloudy or rainy most of the time, and there is a lot of very green grass to contrast with it. I don’t think they are what I’m going to talk about today.

Bloom is a verb. When a plant blooms, it puts all its energy into reaching out to other plants, insects, birds, and animals. It sends pollen out to make seeds. Then the females put even more energy into taking what they got and making fruit.

That’s how I see the idea of blooming where you’re planted. Just like a plant, we don’t get to choose where we do our growing. Some of us get nice rich soil and lots of nurturing, others of us get placed on the sidewalks of life.

Burr clover can bloom on the driveway.

Right now a lot of us are planted in an isolated place. I’m even in a basement, for heaven’s sake. What is helping me a lot is taking the situation I’m in and learning from it. While I’m all cozy in here, I’m thinking of ways to be a better person, do my work better, and contribute to my community.

Blue-eyed grass is one of my favorite signs of spring at the ranch.
I’m planted right here, Mommy. I’ll bloom later, okay? I’m also metaphorically exhausted.

When I bloom, I’ll be able to make the best possible flower, and we can all do that, no matter where we’re starting from. You take what you’re given and make the best of it, or not, I guess.

Let’s hope that the fruit we eventually make from all the introspecting, preparation, and hard work we are doing to grow and bloom will be sweet, nutritious, and strong, so we can plant more ideas.

I’m metaphorically worn out now. Are you? What do you think about when you think of blooming?

Mellow Yellow Overload

Now, for something completely different. I did a fun (to me) project yesterday that didn’t require any human contact nor leaving the property where our office is. I decided to see how many different yellow flowers I could find in the weed/wildflower collection known as our empty lot. As you can see, I managed to fill a whole screen in iNaturalist!

Most of the field LOOKS purple, because there is so much storks-bill growing in it, but when you look closer and closer, the yellows dominate (purple is in second place, with field madder and a little patch of grape hyacinth that must be left over from when there was a house here – I plan to replant them in the “flower bed” I’m making).

What have we got? Let’s take a look. Many of these flowers look really similar, but are different sizes or have other subtle differences.

Common Dandelion. Taraxacum officinale. Delicious and nutritious. Bees love them.

False Dandelion.
Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus. Plus a tiny wasp and tinier beetle.

Prickly Sowthistle Sonchus asper. It’s everywhere. And very prickly. Note that there are aphids or something on it.

Smooth Cat’s Ear. Hypochaeris glabra. Looks like a teeny dandelion on a very long stem. Compare to the first dandelion and you’ll see how small it is.

Cutleaf Evening Primrose. Oenothera laciniata. Smaller than most evening primrose, but a beautiful buttery yellow.

Crete Weed. Hedypnois cretica. I thought it was a dandelion, but look at the leaf and the cool petal shape.

Woodsorrels. Genus Oxalis. I’m not sure which one it is, but it’s certainly oxalis. Sour tasty leaves!

Bur Clover. Medicago polymorpha. It’s about finished blooming and starting to make burs. Yellow is a hard color for my camera, and I couldn’t get a good shot of these.


Straggler Daisy
. Calyptocarpus vialis. Lots of leaves, tiny flowers. They are pretty up close, though.

I got a lot of bugs and other things, but I’m just going to leave this parade of yellow-ness alone, in all their glory. I’ll see what other themes I can come up with over the next few weeks as all the flowers bloom away.

Thanks to Everyone Who Ever Sent Me Flowers

Sad times come to everyone. It’s part of life. When you’re sad and feeling unloved, nothing beats having the people who do love and care about you remind you that you aren’t alone.

Flowers. They help.

Today, my therapist and friend listened to me, affirmed my experience, and gave me flowers. That’s about all you can do, but it means a lot!

These celosias, sunflowers, and marigolds liven up my fall display.
Continue reading “Thanks to Everyone Who Ever Sent Me Flowers”

Flowers Have Power

Peace, y’all

For some reason I was thinking about “flower power,” which those of us who were young a long dang time ago used to embroider on our jeans. If we had VW Beetles, we’d put happy flower stickers all over them, too. I was really into peace symbols, but I was always cheered up when I saw those happy little stylized flowers. I seem drawn to flowers when I’m feeling down or struggling with something going on in my life.

These guys always look like they are opening their mouths to sing.

Since I actually HAVE been struggling with some annoying personal crap, and since we are losing chickens again, I was very much drawn to all the flowers when Anita and I went shopping for some spring plants yesterday. I kept taking extreme closeups of them, probably because I know the sun on my deck would bake them to crisps and I would not get to enjoy them live. (What a Negative Nellie I am!)

I always had to say “perky and pink” when I said petunia.

I have to say that I felt a LOT better when we got home (it may also have been due to excessive smelling of lilacs and chocolate mint, too). So, well, do flowers actually affect mood; I mean, is there scientific evidence?

How do these cheer me up? They are my mother’s favorite colors.

Apparently the answer is yes. A team of “smart doctors” are cited in this recent article from the UK, appropriately subtitled “Does Flower Power Boost Your Mood?” Sure enough, they help with anxiety, even for hospital patients, so be sure to send your friends flowers.

Continue reading “Flowers Have Power”