Y’all Won’t Believe THIS Coincidence

Do you remember reading about how much fun I had just wandering around Breckenridge, Colorado day before yesterday? And do you remember that I got very excited when I walked through a residential area and saw that a house had a big bird feeder and I hung around there trying to get photos of the pretty birds?

The Steller’s Jay I saw

I remember thinking what a really nice bird feeder those people had, and how much I liked all the stuff they had on their deck. It looked like such a nice, comfortable home, and I wished I could watch birds on that deck. As I walked back to town, I was so grateful to those folks for letting me see a new bird.

Well, today, I was reading Facebook comments about my earlier blog post. You could have knocked me over with an intensely blue feather when I read this!

What??? (I scratched her name out because I, too, care about internet privacy)

At first, I thought she meant that was the same kind of bird feeder she had. But no, out of all the houses in this little town, I had managed to take a bird picture at the home of the ONLY person I know who actually lives here! I knew she’d moved away from Texas, but I forgot where she had gone!

This made me SO happy.

So, I may get my wish and get to look at birds from that lovely deck. Maybe I can get better photos. I’m just tickled to death! This whole “keeping up with folks on the internet” thing is really working out for me!

Speaking of Friends

My friend Kathy and I knitted and talked all morning until the shops opened, at which time we went shopping a bit more and had a wonderful brunch at a place called the Columbine Cafe. I had an omelet with a side of the first Colorado green chili that I’d ever had. If you get a chance, try it. The tequila sunrise was also delicious.

This woman can really knit by the way. That sweater has incredible subtle detailing and fits perfectly. I wove my scarf.

Our shopping was a great success, as I have holiday gifts all under control now. One shop we went into had some of the funniest dang cards, fridge magnets, and t-shirts that we couldn’t stop laughing. What we really liked about this place, and the other one we spent a lot of time in, was that much of the merchandise was unique and not the same old stuff you see everywhere. There must be a lot of creative and funny people in this state.

I think we are trying to blind ourselves. But we wanted a picture with mountains in the background. Note that I got earrings with crows on them that completely match my winter coat. I think they may be my winter go-to earrings. They are enamel on copper.

We both tried very hard to not go into the store with all the rocks, crystals, and jewelry under the one with the funny merchandise. But we went in. There, I discovered a treasure trove of turquoise jewelry, including some Sand Creek stones I had never seen before. It’s beautiful, light blue stuff. They also had a genuinely nice collection of old Navajo jewelry. I totally fell in love with a coral and turquoise piece from the 1960s, unsigned, as many old pieces are. I’m going to end up wearing this one a lot.

After we finished at the jewelry store, where I had heart palpitations from the beauty, we went for a little ride looking for a mine. We didn’t find the mine but did fine some beautiful scenery from the road that runs up into the mountains east of Breck. That was plenty great for me.

Then, Kathy was nice enough to take me to the grocery store to stock up after I ate a lot of my food last week. I’m probably good with food until I leave town.

Meanwhile, Back in Texas

I’m sure you’re craving photos of my animals back at the ranch. Lee has been really nice about sending me dog and chicken pictures. However, this took my breath away. I think Drew is the prettiest horse in the world, at least for me. Thanks to Sara for grabbing me a photo while she was at the trainer’s for her lesson. He is filling out so nicely. Ahh.

Back to knitting, relaxing, and wishing the time didn’t change tonight. I’ve got plenty to do and so much fun to look forward to in the next two weeks. I’m so grateful for kind friends who are willing to spend time with me when I just randomly show up near where they live!

A Little Trail Ride

This was a nice ending to a long day! Apache has been doing so well this week with his schooling and such that I said, “Yes,” when Kathleen asked if I wanted to go for a ride with her and Dusty. Apache hadn’t been out on a trail ride across the ranch in a long time, since before I started trying to ride him solo.

Look at me, I’m in the cow pasture.

I’d had the brilliant insight last week that a lot of his insecurities were because of both of us not being used to going out without another horse and rider. One thing my lessons have done is build confidence in us both. It’s still a work in progress, with one extra-annoying habit to break, but all that round pen work, circling, and walking the property has made a big difference.

I’m also losing weight, thanks to the dead grass and hay. See those ribs??

So, off we went. Dusty doesn’t enjoy leaving his man friend Remington, so he had to be walked a bit. But, once we got going, a good time was had by all, with Apache like his old self, confidently walking around and paying attention to my cues.

I didn’t get to go, so I brayed my ass off. Oh wait, I’m an actual ass. At least Suna refilled my water bucket.

There were a lot more grass eating episodes than I’d like, and once or twice he was reluctant to do what I asked. But mostly we had fun and got to forget about our stresses, challenges, and negativity.

I’m glad I took the chance. I see a glimpse of my enjoyable future riding with friends and family, and maybe even doing some Working Equitation with him. Hey, he can already walk in a circle, so he’d not score a zero.

Thinking of all of us today, the day so many of us got deep trauma. I’m so glad I got to see my kids again after being stuck in Schaumburg, Illinois!

I Said I Wanted Fun, Once in a Blue Moon

In today’s family meeting I said I wanted to do fun stuff. I’ll be careful what I wish for.

Well, hello equines.

The fun started yesterday when I went out and found Drew chomping away on the nice grass by the round pen. It turns out I may have left a gate open. The second time I found him out there, I began to wonder if he’d opened the gate himself. No way to know. I am a bit forgetful these days.

Ow.

Today when I went out, I discovered Drew looking like this. Something had bit the heck out of him. Maybe Apache, but then I realized I hadn’t shut another gate, the one that puts a buffer between Grandma (who is on a liquid weight gain diet) and my guys. My guess is he went after her food this morning and she made it clear that wasn’t a good idea.

Ow.

From the look of him, he didn’t listen very well. Tomorrow he gets a bath. Today was the other horses’ turn, so I’m waiting until evening tomorrow.

The round pen is a good place to dry off.

Later, I came back out to give the chickens some apple core. I was surprised to see not just Drew, but Apache and Fiona out grazing by the henhouse.

We’re the lawn mowing brigade.

I’d let Drew out on purpose, because the little pasture is all dry and perfect for Apache right now, but not for a growing boy. But how did Apache get out? It turns out it was Kathleen’s turn to forget to shut a gate. We all laughed at ourselves. She told me that was the fun I’d wanted!

I’m doing better. I gained 100 pounds.

At least they will be easy to get back in their pasture if I dangle good at them.

The other “fun” we’ve been having is rearranging furniture, putting away books, and decluttering. Now, I’ll never be minimalist enough for Carol, our old real estate partner. But my office looks better. That’s the second rearrangement in two weeks.

I also cleaned off the desk Lee stopped using in the great room, though I still don’t know what to do with his giant yellow/and-black tote. it WILL be gone soon!

The fact that you can see the surface and there aren’t piles of neon printer paper there is evidence I did something.

I brought a couple plants from Austin to help make that house more spare. It makes the corner that used to have plants and a beautiful stained-glass lamp look a little better.

Reading corner.

What happened to the lamp? Heck if we know. One day I looked over and the glass was separating from the metal top.

Wah. This was not a cheap plastic lamp either.

That was not fun. Stuff like that just happens once in a blue moon, and that’s today!

Welcoming Deaths and Treasuring Lives

It’s an interesting time for me, when it comes to life passages. While I’m fine and not going through a life change, I am privileged to know people who are heading toward the end of their time on this earth, as well as people who are honoring lives of loved ones whose spirits left before their bodies did. I’ve never been one of those people who feared death or worried about it much, but I have always been intrigued about the legacies our loved ones leave behind. So, I’m going to share some stories that have been causing me to think. Some readers who are mutual friends may be familiar with some of these, but I’m not naming names.

Coincidentally, I spent some time this afternoon with my friend Holly, who’s documenting graves at Walkers Creek Cemetery. This one was like a jigsaw puzzle.

The Strong Spirits

My colleagues at La Leche League tend to be people of great fortitude and spiritual depth. My very first role model in living a good life while facing death was my mentor, Roberta Bishop Johnson, who shared many insights and nuggets while she dealt with breast cancer in the 1990s. She made sure she was participating in the lives of her friends, offering up ideas, and sharing her love for her family right up until when she passed. That stuck with me.

Two of my other long-time LLL friends are nearing the ends of their journeys here with us, and both have been incredibly open about sharing their ups and downs, feelings about their bodies and what’s happening to them, and coming to terms with the fact that things are winding down. I really appreciate their openness and willingness to share.

Not everyone is up to doing this; I’ve known people who didn’t share what was going on with them at all, which is a completely understandable option, but takes away their friends and families’ ability to share life with them as fully as possible while they are here. But I get it; people don’t want to appear to whine, to bring others down, or to share the painful details.

For me, learning about how these two women have made sure to do things they’ve always wanted to do, while they can (one married the love of her life, and one made sure to get in travel with her children, especially to the beach), how they carefully planned for things after they are gone, and how they enjoyed their friends and family to the fullest all contributed to making me much more comfortable with dying on your own terms. I’m not saying they are lucky, but they do have the luxury of knowing what is happening and being able to plan accordingly. I know my dad would have liked that chance, so much.

One thing that comforts me greatly about knowing I won’t have these friends around much longer is that I know their spirits and legacies will remain. After Roberta passed away, I could still hear her tell me what she thought about what I was doing in my life. And I also still hear my dad (and tell him stuff; I can’t help it). We will feel these generous friends with us for years.

This tree growing around a t-post reminds me of the struggle to fight unwelcome things growing inside us. Sometimes you just have to accept them and keep growing anyway.

The Ones Whose Losses Happened before Death

Another set of friends I’ve learned a lot from in the past few weeks are two dear local friends whose mothers passed away recently, but had been gone in spirit since an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. These women felt like they’d lost their parents long before they actually passed away.

One just had the memorial get-together with her extended family, and it was more of a nice gathering to share good memories and enjoy each other. The mourning had happened years ago, when they lost her personality, or essence, or something. The other friend seems to have gone more into business mode, of taking care of details. She had been so kind to her mother, though, even with the difficulties of COVID. Who could blame her for feeling some relief and just wanting to move on to the next phase?

I feel a lot of sympathy for these people and their families. They’re sad, yet relieved that their parents aren’t dealing with confusion now (though, I know some people with dementia who are happy just as they are…it varies so much).

Takeaways

Watching all these events as a third party, not intimately involved like families are, has taught me some lessons, maybe not consciously. I think the reason I’ve gotten a second horse and plan to start lessons again is that I want to do these things while I still can. And getting a swimming pool installed and making the ranch house look better, too, were things I’d been putting off or giving up on. But, if I can’t have fun now, when am I supposed to?

To show how far I will go to make things fun, I spent quite some time trying to line up my head and my hat so it would look like I am wearing a tiny cowboy hat.

AND, as I’ve been telling myself for the last couple of years, I need to recommit to being with people who bring me joy and make my life pleasant, go places and do things that expand my mind, and take the time to find the fun in whatever I’m doing. I think that’s the key to enjoying whatever time we have here in this life–enjoying where you are and who you are with NOW.

With love in my heart for my friends heading toward big transitions or recovering from them, I invite you all to do something fun with someone you care about.

Playing with My Spring

When Lee mowed the area where water flows when the front pond fills up, it squished the place where the little spring bubbles up. It made it look like a seep, not a pretty spring.

Spring, the season, is beautiful here. So is the little spring bubbling up from the ground.

Today I got the weird or wonderful idea to mark the spring and make a little basin to hold water before it flows off to start the stream. Just for fun, you know, knowing it will disappear with the next flood.

Here’s where the spring is in relationship to the house. yes, the electric pole detracts from the image.

I brought an old shiny sprinkler over to mark the location from future mowing.

The spring flowing down to its new marsh.

Then I played in the clay mud to form a depression for the spring to gurgle into, then used some old bricks and rocks to make a teeny dam.

It’s a bit muddy here, but it cleared up.

Now the water makes a little bird bath kind of thing. I got the idea when we saw vultures drinking from the spring a week or two ago (and were relieved it wasn’t Gracie they were messing with).

Spring pool

I’m so fond of this magical water coming out of the ground. It’s definitely Suna’s Spring. And I did mention before that the spring is NOT a leak in the water line? We checked. And we will have the nephew check again, just in case, because the longer I look at the stick marking the water line, the more worried I become. That would not be magical. Or fun to fix.

As the sun goes down, let’s say goodbye to the Hermits’ Rest for the day.

Goofing off in the mud was the highlight of my day. I hope you had a highlight.

I Did a Social Event! With Airplanes

What the heck? This sure came as a surprise. I realized there was a little airshow coming up this weekend, and that Lee had volunteered to help out with the Chamber of Commerce table. I hadn’t considered helping, but I didn’t want him to go be social all alone, since he hadn’t done it in over a year. So, off we went to the Cameron airport this morning, to celebrate the recently renovated runways and such.

This was Cameron’s “soft opening” for events, too. There were vendors, including my friend, Pamela, plus Manley the king of jams, and even wine. They were all in an excellent open hangar, so we felt breezes and fine wearing our masks.

Lee and Melanie managed to sell a whole bunch of the Chamber of Commerce raffle tickets, so they felt quite successful. It was a lot of chatting for Lee, but he did well. Now he’s exhausted, though.

Melanie and Lee are telling visitors what fun you can have in Cameron. I got to choose the giveaway winners. No cheating from me!

I mostly knitted and talked to my Master Naturalist friends. We got a little giddy when we realized we were all fully vaccinated and could actually stand near each other and talk. It was a small thing, but made us so happy. Sigh, maybe we can have real meetings again soon, if people keep being careful (like we were today).

I truly love this picture. We could not stop talking, and the dog could not stop jumping long enough to get a photo. But I sure was glad to see all these fully vaccinated friends.

Most of the action was outdoors, though, and it was so much fun to look at the 20-30 little planes that showed up. It was the most planes I ever saw at this little private airport. Lots of them were old and interesting, no doubt, and I’d explain more about them if I knew anything at all about private planes. I did ask our banker friend, Richard, who happens to be a private pilot (and has been a looooong time), so I knew that the one that did the tricks was a trainer plane from after WWII, and the cool green plane that blazed in from Georgetown was a Russian trainer.

One highlight of the day was cutting the ribbon to officially re-open the airport. All the local dignitaries were there, including the whole city council and mayor, plus the airport team, the engineer, and others. But the star of the show was Marion Travis, age 92. She was a pilot in her youth, and a true aviation pioneer. She is Cameron royalty (and a real hoot). She cut the ribbon.

There wasn’t much to the actual air show, since one of the trick planes had a mechanical problem, but the one that did fly had some tricks. It sure was fun watching that plane going upside down and making loops. I’m glad I was on the ground, though. I was told the pilot is a Southwest Airlines pilot for his day job.

I feel practically human, though really tired, after walking around looking at planes then walking around with Apache trying to figure out how he’s feeling (he was a bit weird yesterday, not cooperating and tossing his head a lot). But, hey, it was almost like a normal day from the olden times, other than all the masks people were wearing!

Suna let me eat the forbidden grass, but just for a few minutes.

Ooh, one more horse note. Apache has shed most of his winter coat over the last two days. It’s been most impressive brushing him out. Some bird will be able to make many nests from his fur. By the end of today, I suddenly realized I could see his patches on his skin again. I got down to his summer hair! He’s going to feel a LOT better now that it’s slowly warming up. More goodness to look forward to over the summer, I hope.

He must feel lighter after getting rid of so much hair. He lost this much yesterday, too.

Shocking! Visitor and Leaving Town!

There’s not much going on today. But yesterday, our former business partner and old friend, Carol, was sorta nearby, so she dropped by with birthday wine and a barbecue plate from that good place in Rockdale. What a great surprise!

Good friends. Even if Lee looks scary.

We sat out on the porch, relax Ed, and caught up with each other, so we were careful, of course. It was a perfect birthday evening.

Sitting and sipping.

We got goofy, with Lee modeling his new table runner and us laughing.

Then today, I relaxed and didn’t pressure myself to write. Lee and I decided to go wild and go somewhere. Woo! We just drove to College Station and did errands there! Pandemic pandemonium!

It was nice to see different scenery. We got some wine, some groceries, horse food, and oh boy! We got cute goldfish for the horse trough. I hope some of them make it. Photos tomorrow! Can you stand the excitement?

We also saw what’s left of the train wreck from last week, which really showed how hot it got. What a mess.

And that was the highlight of the trip. It ain’t all that exciting here these days.

Okay, Let’s Spread Some Cheer

One of the things I like about the way Hearts, Homes and Hands does its business is that they do lots of nice things for the clients and staff. Every year, goodie bags and flowers show up out of thin air to give out to everyone.

Just kidding. Many hours are spent making those goodies. Last night, after a long day of work, Kathleen, Meghan, and CC showed up at the Hermits’ Rest to go into goody overdrive. I got to help, and even Lee measured some cocoa for fudge! (I picked and shelled a small bunch of pecans from the tree outside our office, but Lee ate most of them.)

Ready to make treats.

Meghan and I made many, many pretzels dipped in almond bark and sprinkled with sugar. We got better as we went along. Everyone laughed at how I wanted to be sure every treat bag had the same number of treats. Well, MAYBE I enjoy divvying them up! (Hey, I spelled divvying right the first time!)

The pretzels are hiding in here.

The other half of the crew made Kathleen’s special fudge recipe, which contains cheese product (you’d never guess). The microwave was going nonstop between melting fudge ingredients and almond bark. Good thing we have a big kitchen.

Fudge, not solidifying.

After the fudge was done, Kathleen made “trash,” which is her version of Chex Mix. It’s spicy! That’s mostly for the caregivers, since we don’t want to shock the systems of the clients.

Trash. And remnants of the pretzel operation.

We had so much fun making a mess, enjoying adult beverages (some of us), and telling stories to each other. I’d say the management team put a LOT of love into our gifts.

This morning, they discovered our fridge wasn’t quite cold enough, and the fudge hadn’t solidified. It got re-melted and put in the freezer for a while. Our poor saucepan was traumatized, but everything worked out, and after a good soak, that saucepan can cook Christmas foods.

Ready to deliver the goodies.

Eventually, everything was all packed up and ready to be delivered by Kathleen and Meghan at some point today.

Personal Note

I’m really proud of them. They work SO danged hard, taking phone calls at all hours, filling out paperwork, supervising…trying to help team members better themselves…etc.

A personal assistance service is not an easy business to be in, since you tend to be surrounded by sick people, hurting people, grumpy people (and FUN people, too, don’t get me wrong) and doing your best to make their lives easier. Luckily, the great people on our team and the truly wonderful and appreciative clients make up for it. I’ve always felt that work that helps others is the best, and I think the Hearts, Homes and Hands team will agree.

Sunset Ranch Update

There hasn’t been an update on our ranch citizens in a while, and tonight’s sunset inspired me to write one.

There’s a bonus dog in this photo!

Last night’s solstice sunset was apparently amazing, but I was busy lighting candles and missed it. Luckily a friend took great photos for me to enjoy.

The sun sets right on our road.

As the sun disappeared it looked like a tribute to the universities I attended (orange and blue!)

Shiny.

Anyway, most of the ranch residents are doing well, but we’ve discovered a new chicken killer, our resident harrier. No wonder they call them chicken hawks. Sigh. But, as always, we have a plan. Since that hawk only goes after them out in the lawn, we’re going to keep the chickens cooped up for a while.

A project!

The newly arranged coop is getting its fancy new roof. Once it’s done, the residents will get locked in. That will annoy Gertie the Guinea a lot, but we want him alive! And hopefully it will remind my buddy Bertie where she should lay her eggs.

Harvey was a great supervisor, I’m told.

And to end on a happier note, I got home early enough today to play with Apache and Fiona. Apache was thrilled, and showed it his usual way.

Oh boy! I get to play with Suna, after I pee.

We got to go for a nice walk, and then I got him to run and trot around for a while. He seems in good shape.

As we were trotting, Fiona got all excited and started galloping around us in circles, hee-hawing away. After four or five circuits, Apache and I turned around to trot back. Fiona then zoomed into the race and began bellowing at Ralph’s cows.

I was wondering if I would ever get her back in the pen, but when Apache and I went in, she barreled in with us. I guess the both had some fun! So did I.

Let’s Knit a Rainbow

I get up really early here, since meetings start at 7 in this time zone. That leaves me plenty of time to get in a workout and then knit. So, as soon as I finished the table runner, I started something else.

Can you spot the finished runner?

You may recall that I bought more yarn on Sunday.

The yarn

I looked around for something to make, and found a scarf pattern that used a simple garter stitch and slip stitch pattern. The best thing about it is that both the front and back are attractive, thanks to the magic of garter stitch stripes.

Here’s the front. a November rainbow.

The colors really look like autumn, don’t they? And the slip stitches are a cute touch.

The back is a stripey rainbow.

You’ll be relieved to know it won’t be a rainbow when I am done. It’s going to be a wrap of some kind, depending on how long it ends up. I have 6 skeins of yarn, three of each color, so it will be substantial, I hope.

Since it’s inexpensive (not cheap!) Red Heart yarn with no dye lot on the brown, I could probably get more if I need to. We’ll see!

This yarn is easy on my hands, so I can go faster than the thick linen stitch of the runner let me. What’s best? I’m letting myself knit something easy so my mind can rest. I’ve lost my drive to make complicated things!

Want to Make One?

Grab a few skeins of a solid and a self-striping worsted or Aran weight yarn that contrast or blend (mine blend). I ended up using 3 skeins of each color.

Get your favorite needles. I use size 6, because I knit loosely. You may want 8.

Cast on 150 stitches (or a multiple of 4, plus 2).** I used a knitted cast on. Knit 2 rows in the solid color (or more for a thicker border). Then use this pattern:

1. K2, *P1, K4* until last 3 stitches, P1, K2.

2. K2, * slip 2 with yarn in back, K4* to last 3 stitches, slip 1 with yarn in back, K2.

Change yarns every other row, carrying the unused yarn up the side.

End on solid color, K 2 rows (or same number as you started with), bind off.

I found the stitch pattern on “Striped Delight” by Marni Farniere. Search for it on Ravelry for two scarf ideas.

Carry on.


** If you don’t want the borders to look a little wavy, cast on 10% fewer stitches than you want and increase to the desired number on the last row of stockinette. At the end, decrease a comparative number on the first stockinette border row.

Katie Zapfel

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