Whew, I was tired by the time I got home from Fredericksburg. I went home a new way, though, so I got to see some different scenery and avoid Austin traffic. To keep myself awake I tromped around the ranch on my breaks, taking pictures for the pollinator BioBlitz.
I just wandered and wandered, bearing in mind what I learned at the conference this week. I noted there were more fish where there was no cow poop, but there were fish even in what’s left of the creek, where I found one of the old mama cows having a quiet bath.
As I checked out the riparian areas, I also looked at the pastures. Yeah, they are rather over-grazed. The only plants left are what cattle don’t eat: broomweed, milkweed, and silverleaf nightshade. This made finding things to add to the BioBlitz a challenge.
I did find lots of insects and documented every tree variety, so I feel good. My goal is to ID 100 species as my contribution, and I think if I get some at Tarrin’s, where there are different plants, I’ll pass that goal. I did hit another goal today, and that’s 600 different species here on the ranch. Hard to believe!
Even if all I see is cedar elms and greenbrier, I can’t complain. Being able to get outside is such a privilege. The variety of life that’s still thriving in this drought gives me hope for us tenacious humans, too.
I didn’t see many birds other than this coy mockingbird and a cardinal that hid completely. I did hear hawks and crows a lot.
I’m hoping the weather will turn. It actually rained a few tiny drops when I fed the horses, and there was lightning in clouds at sunset. More hope!
More photos, mainly because Barbara looks at them all.
That’s thank you in grass language. I’ve been laughing my ass off this afternoon for a couple of reasons. First, I spent my lunch hour resting my eyes by seeing what new blossoms we have. I also was marveling at how many varieties of grass we have in the front field and how beautiful they looked waving in the breeze.
I carefully took pictures of all the rye, oats, barley (it’s beginning to sound like bread, isn’t it?), and other grass varieties. I was looking forward to seeing what else came up.
No sooner had I gone in to get lunch than I heard the Kubota tractor start up. I quickly realized it was going back and forth across the field. I had damn good timing! The field was getting shredded (mowed in ranch talk). There go those waving seed heads! I got a good laugh out of that. There’s still plenty of other grass and flowers out there…at least for now.
I did find lots of new flowers, though, and most were on the roadside. We finally have Indian blankets blooming, though I’d seen them lots of other places already. And bindweed is blooming its tiny mini-morning glories. I’m very happy to see the Engelmann daisies are kicking into high gear, ready to take over where the bluebonnets (going to seed now) leave off. Here’s some of what I saw:
I enjoyed my break, and I enjoyed working with Drew this afternoon. He’s back to paying attention. Kathleen’s horses had opinions of me not working with them, though. I think they flipped me off in horse language.
Well, grassy-ass, to you guys!
Hey! Some of those quiet gulls just flew over and I managed to get photos! Distant, but there they are. Zoom in!
I’m very grateful for all the opportunities I get here at the Hermits’ Rest to observe weather patterns and natural cycles. Today was a good example.
I’d gone to open the gate for Trixie and was intrigued by how many butterflies I saw, so I hung around the front pond, the one we made so we could build our driveway. I noticed that the pond is losing water rapidly, though it has more in it than usual this time of year.
The wet parts of the arroyo are all dried up, but you can see how much life they support. There are crawfish mounds and bird footprints in the former mud. And all around are wetland or riparian plants, like sedges and rushes.
This part of our property has more than just coastal Bermuda grass, which brings so many interesting creatures, like those butterflies I saw.
I saw a common buckeye, a tiger swallowtail, and a larger sulphur butterfly, but not where I could get pictures. And there are still a few flowers in among the drying grassy.
The star of the pasture right now, though, are the ballon vines. They are everywhere, ready to float away in the next flood and populate another area downstream. The little yellow butterfly above is feeding on their tiny white flowers, which are quite a contrast to the seed pods!
It even rained a little today, which won’t fill the pond back up, but it sure felt good on me and the horses. Drew my horse baby and I had a rainy hug fest. By the way, Trixie said his procedure worked, so he doesn’t need more work, just strengthening.
This is the weirdest August ever, but I’ve got horses, dogs, chickens, ponds, and native plants to enjoy. How could I be lonely?
It’s a good thing we don’t live in town, or we’d be getting little notices that we need to mow. Actually, I’m surprised we haven’t gotten them for our town properties. Yes, our lives are filled with little clusters of impediments that drive us all to distraction, and the spring grass situation is one of them. We don’t want long grass by the house, because it attracts our snake friends, and some snakes we’d rather not be all that close to.
Many of you know that our usual ranch-mates have been stuck at the other farm for a long time, thanks to a snake bite that went bad, very bad. Kathleen can’t drive, so her devoted spouse has had to stay there and help. That is all fine by us! However, the equipment maintenance over here at the Hermits’ Rest is in his hands. That’s been a problem, though not his fault.
Why? Because every single one of our mowing devices has developed an issue that Lee and his brother can’t fix. The brother set out to mow one day, but boom, a belt popped off and he’s in no shape to fix it. We don’t know exactly what’s up with the ZTR, but it isn’t going either. And certainly the push mower is not cut out for our acreage…but it’s not working either.
Well, Suna, any observant neighbor or in this case, Hearts Homes and Hands employee, would point out, the grass is so long and lush that we really need to shred it (in Texan, that means mow with an attachment on your tractor). We have a tractor (it runs!). We have a shredder (it works!). What we don’t have is anyone who can attach said shredder to said tractor.
Other inquiring neighbors might ask, well, why don’t you just get someone to fix your mowers? Or pay someone to mow? Well, heck yeah, those are good questions! I’m sure it’s occurred frequently to the poor people across the road, who mow many acres to a carpetlike perfection weekly. They have to look at our flower-covered mess, shudder, and shake their heads.
The thing is, every week we expect to be reunited with our family. Once we’re all back at the ranch, we’ll be a well-oiled machine of accomplishments and the doing of things. Every week, the darned wound will not heal. I can assure you we are ALL frustrated by this, but you have to deal with what life hands you.
The good news is that we are finally breaking down and seeing if our tenant will fix the mower belt and hope to see if he’ll help Lee attach the shredder. That would let us at least get started. I won’t be quite so worried about a snake in the long grass biting ME that way.
The Bright Side
Of course there’s a bright side to all this! We have beautiful wildflowers all over the fields in front of and behind the house now. Because we don’t spray herbicides on our pastures, all kinds of native grasses and flowers are showing up.
We have way more scarlet pimpernel than I ever noticed before, and the blue eyed grass has made it to the back part of the house. I have to say an entire wildflower meadow for a yard, that I didn’t even have to plant, is a fine thing.
I can’t think of anything prettier than fields of evening primrose, either. I remember when we first moved here and Sara and Ralph were still ranching on our larger pastures, they would bloom into a sea of pink. It was spectacular. But, we have our own little ponds (or tanks?) of pink in the parts we maintain!
Still, we do know we need to mow. We do wish the deities of functioning machinery weren’t so hard on us and that the germs in south Texas weren’t so tenacious in that snake wound. But, THIS week things will change, one way or another! (We will leave some flowers, though.)
Just when you think everything has calmed down, of course it has actually has NOT. These are not calm times at the Hermits’ Rest!
Last Night’s Stinky Drama
Last night I took a lovely, calming bath to help with sore horse-riding muscles. Right as I got my pajamas on, I heard Lee yelling at the dogs sort of frantically. I figured he was dealing with whatever it was and went in the bedroom. At that point, Carlton ran in and dived under the bed. Immediately I knew why.
The dogs had upset a skunk. We have lots of them out here, and usually all is well, but apparently when Lee went to let Gracie (the little white dog of Kathleen’s) in, she had just discovered a skunk and ran toward it. The other dogs followed, naturally. Lee says he heard Penney make a yelp, then she acted like she was convulsing. That seems to have scared Carlton enough that he turned around, so didn’t get skunked in the face.
No one else got close enough, and Gracie dodged the pew-pew. That was the end of the calm evening, as I ran to find something resembling tomato juice (it was plain tomato sauce) and trap the dogs in my office bathroom. Lee and I made a good team and got both Penney and Carlton smelling less awful, but the house is still a bit odiferous.
Carlton was pretty irritated with us for a while, but eventually settled down, and we all got some sleep.
Today’s Dangerous Drama
Today, meetings started at 8:30, as usual, with no scheduled let-up until noon. I was in the middle of doing some Agile ceremony or another when I got a call from Sara. This does NOT happen during working hours, so I knew something bad was up. She said, “YOUR horse has gotten out again. I can’t catch him. YOU need to deal with this.” It took me a few seconds for this to sink in, since I wasn’t expecting that, at all. I didn’t mean to upset Sara, but I had to figure out what to do AND do my part in the meeting. I did not multi-task well.
As soon as I possibly could, I left the meeting and zipped over to the horse area. There were Apache and Fiona, in the middle of the greenest and longest grass for miles around. EEK! Didn’t I JUST get finished treating him for last year’s founder episode from eating too much green grass? That’s exactly the wrong thing for his delicate constitution!
I quickly got the halter and some horse treats and cheerfully approached the naughty ones. Fiona was all like, “Hey, good to see you, Suna!” but Apache moved to an even longer patch of grass. I got worried he was going to leave, but no, as soon as I called him and offered the treat, he picked up his head, walked over, and let me halter him. Thank goodness for all that training.
I got them back in the pen with some hay. I could not figure out how they had gotten out, because I recall putting the safety chain on the gate, in addition to shutting it. We know Apache can move the latch, because he’s done it before. My guess is I didn’t wedge the chain in hard enough and he figured out how to lift it.
So I went out and found an old lead rope. I proceeded to wrap it all over the gate latch in various ways, just daring him to untie all those knots AND the fastener I put in the safety chain.
I went back to finish my meetings, along with googling grass colic and laminitis from too much green grass. I also called the vet. Around noon I headed back over there, to check on things. Apache was happy to see me (both he and Fiona peed in greeting), and I got him to walk up and down the pen a couple of times. So far, no signs of intestinal distress or lameness.
I canceled my trip to Austin for this week, so I can continue to check on him every few hours. He now has access to his dry-ish paddock again, so maybe he won’t be so starved that he’s driven to escape again.
I’m hoping that the drama for the week has all happened and I can get stuff done now! I hope you had a good weekend!
In my zeal to record all the things blooming around the Hermits’ Rest, I’ve been wanting to record all the lovely grasses that are producing their seed heads this time of year. They’re actually just glorious to look at right at sunset, when the silver bluestem practically glows as it waves in the wind. Heck, even Johnson grass (the bane of Texans’ existence) looks pretty that time of day.
I enjoy the grasses, especially since one of our field trips was to the herbarium, where we learned to use the keys to identify grasses by their seeds. Unfortunately, that is not a skill I have. Nor do I have a microscope, or even a really good camera. This means, sadly, that I sort of stink at grass identification.
Still, I throw my photos up on iNaturalist in hopes that someone will know what I am looking at. Sometimes it works, as in that rescue brome up there, but often it doesn’t.
Thank goodness for the helpful naturalists on the site, though. One of the Texas Parks and Wildlife urban wildlife biologists, Sam Kieschnick, has often consirmed my observations. His profile on iNaturalist proclaims his love of the project. The number of contributions he makes confirms his passion. I admire how he helps educate so many peopleand helps them contribute to scientific research along the way.