Who Says I Don’t Have Friends?

I have some, but most are online friends. I have some local ones, but the only one I’ve seen for the past month is Tarrin, and she got paid to show up. Just kidding. It’s my fault as much as anyone else’s!

I had a nice chat with this friend today. She said it was hot outside. (Obscure bird grasshopper)

My car has had a flat tire since before we left for California. At least it got me home. There’s been just too much going on to get the tire off and take it in to get fixed or replaced. So I have gone nowhere except to the hospital to see Kathleen.

This friend and I chatted while I fed the horses. He said he appreciated the shade. (Differential grasshopper)

Yeah. I’m also working my butt off. No time to galavant around Cameron. Work is good though. I feel appreciated!

You know who is no longer my friend? The UPS driver. She’s stopped dropping off by the garage and now dumps heavy boxes buy the road. Today I had to wrangle a 45-pound bag of coconut stuff for the horses. I was glad I had a wagon!

My wagon is a great friend! These are the boxes huge feed containers came in. The wagon also helps with all my hay moving.

I have no idea what’s up with UPS but I’ll just deal with it. No time to fume and fuss. I’ll just be grateful for good things, like Kathleen being back again and looking better.

Wine, yarn, and a white dog friend will keep me positive, too.

Stress Relief

Between concerns about family member health and work intensity, I’ve got no blogging brilliance. The heat doesn’t help.

Things are just upside down.

It’s getting really dry around here and we’re surrounded by katydids and prairie boopies (grasshoppers). They are everywhere. But, there’s a life and death fight going on that has me fascinated. The garden spiders and one dog are trying to help. Who wins? Check it out.

Yeah. Way too little water and too many grasshoppers this year. I’m glad today’s project for the guys was more power washing. The ceilings of the porches and the exterior of the house sure look good.

Clean house.

It’s gonna be a long summer. I’m extra glad for that pool. I can even get exercise in it. By the way, since it’s a salt-water pool, it feels good to open your eyes underwater! Lee says it’s like eye drops.

I assume these cows won’t open their eyes under here!

A Different Winter Wonderland

I’d planned a fun nature walk with my little group yesterday, but thanks to COVID, I ended up on a solo walk. I explored a part of the woods that’s near the house, but not often visited. It was warm and sunny, but still a winter wonderland to me.

A dream in green

The green you see is a mix of rye grass and chickweed.

And mushrooms!

I went over to the tank/pond on the other side of the woods from the one behind our house. It’s the most attractive one and is always full of life.

Cows love it, but they haven’t pooped all the life out of it.

It’s often hard to get to from our place, because there’s a fence marking a property line that ends in a place that stays damp for a long time after it floods. But, the recent tree-killing knocked it down in a spot, so I could explore the pond while it’s full.

We only have a couple of months when the trees have no leaves. You can see more!

This pond has lots of aquatic plants in it. Some are blooming. I forget what they are, but it’s pretty.

The water looks brown, but there are lots of fish.

It always smells nice and earthy around the pond when it’s wet. Admittedly, some parts smell more cattle-y. It smelled fresh today.

Looking towards the dam.

The highlight of my little walk was checking out where the water comes into the pond, which I’d never seen from this side while the stream was flowing.

Coral berry lines the little stream.

The stream had dozens of minnows in it. It was fun to watch them dart around. In the photo you see their shadows better than them! I also figured out that the stream comes out of a spring at the base of our pond. It doesn’t seem to drain our pond, or if it does, it’s slow.

I felt like an explorer in my own back yard. I found a freshly dug hole where some animal lives.

And I encountered an ant swarm on a log. Probably fire ants but still cool to watch. I didn’t stick my fingers in there to check.

Can you see the ones with wings?

It is always refreshing to hang out in nature, no matter what time of year. It’s healing and reminds you of the big picture. None of us is alone. Please enjoy more images of our small, green wonderland.

Shameless Insects and Encouraging Horse Time

I took yesterday off. After some errands, I just sat and read all day. I’ll tell you what makes it hard to concentrate, though, and that’s the thought of MORE grasshoppers in my future.

Hey. We’re pretty comfortable here.

I was trying to read and talk to my family when I realized my chair had become the grasshoppers’ special place. Uh. Nice. As if we hadn’t had a plague of these already this year.

Rocking and rolling on my rocker.

Well I guess it was good, because I could get a really good picture of how the male twists around to manage his role.

He snakes his abdomen around. Huh.

I’m fine with no more lengthy experiences with grasshopper propagation. They kept going a long time. obviously I didn’t blog yesterday because it was not exciting here.

On Another Note

Let’s move on. Apache has been doing better with his schooling. He still sometimes wanders way off the circle when trotting. But today he did a whole circle without hitting a cone. I felt like he was feeling well, so we went into his grazing area and walked and turned and stuff. He was mostly good, and even his disagreements with me were smaller than usual.

We were heading back to dismount when we had a surprise. A skunk walked across our path and ducked into the red shipping container. Oops. Apache stopped very nicely and waited until the coast was clear. We calmly walked over to share the skunk news, and Apache was so good, we kept going.

After the ride. Super clean and sound horse.

He did his stopping and grabbing grass thing twice, but otherwise was just great, like old times. He went up to say hi to Goldie, walked all over the front pasture, up to the gate, and across the pasture where he often goes nutty, but he didn’t! We made it back, all sweaty but happy.

I feel pretty.

To thank Apache, I gave him a good bath. Ooh he finally got really clean and dander free. I even got him to hold his head still and let me wash it. I was amazed to go back later and find he hadn’t rolled yet!

Glad he didn’t roll on one of these velvet ants, since they are actually wingless wasps.

It’s so hot today that I can’t help do outdoor stuff like I’d hoped to. I’ll cram everything in from 6:30 to sunset, I guess.

In the Gloom: Life, Death, and Joyful Canines

Wow, it’s rainy and cloudy again today, but sometimes gloomy weather makes even a simple walk with the dogs an adventure sort of creepy. It doesn’t help that I just looked out the window and there are dozens of creepy cowbirds covering the grass. I hope they appreciate the local cardinals for hatching their babies…

Anyway, this morning the dogs and I went out for a quick walk in between my work meetings. They were chock full of energy, and were running around like there was some bunny to chase.

Come on, let’s go, Suna!

I was getting dizzy watching them run around each other. It was almost like lunging Drew. Things did get gloomier as we approached the trees and watery area.

The dark skies and moody greens of all the vines creeping around the pond and arroyo added to the feeling of impending doom. There are tie vines, bindweed vines, passion vines, dewberries, smilax, poison ivy (further downstream) and balloon vines. It’s dark and mysterious.

All dem vines

To save me going on and on, here are some of the dismal, yet lovely in their own right, sights the dogs and I saw.

Yes, whenever I see a mama spider all covered with babies, I admit to shuddering a bit. Thanks to Lee for finding that one. However, I’d say the thing that enthralled me the most, in a macabre way, was watching the garden spider encasing a grasshopper in its web. I’ve seen it a couple of times lately, but this was the first time I was close enough to film it. Keep watching the video, because you can see the silk coming out of the spider toward the end. Fascinating, but eww.

Life and death, right here at the Hermits’ Rest

But, don’t worry there will be more grasshoppers. How do I know? Oh, you know me and all my observation skills.

Can we have some privacy here?

It’s Grasshopper Season (and Cicadas and Katydids)

A Break with a Katydid

The dogs wanted to go out this morning, so I went out on the porch to drink some coffee and watch them play. I quickly realized that in fact, I was being watched, as well. There was a curious katydid sitting on my chair, waving her antennae at me. Mike Yager, you can stop reading now. Thank you for clicking. (He’s not a fan of these things)

You know I’m a katydid, because I have such long antenae.

Soon, she jumped up on my pants leg. I figured I could get a few good pictures of her for iNaturalist (which identified her as a slender meadow katydid Conocephalus fasciatus).

Let’s chat.

Next, she just hopped on up to my hand, where I was able to watch her up close, doing things with her legs, swishing those antennae, and chilling.

Checking what’s on her leg.

Finally, I got a video of her doing things and walking down my hand. I stopped when she began chewing on me and drew blood. Cheeky insect!

An innocent insect, until…

Grasshopper World

What I’d intended to write about today was grasshoppers, though. Every few years, we get a bumper crop. While I know both my children are creeped out by them, I am glad for the chickens’ sake, since they do love to chow down on grasshoppers. The vast majority this year are differential grasshoppers (Melanoplus differentialis), which are the kind known for messing with crops. (I saw one other type today, an obscure bird grasshopper, but I didn’t get a stellar photo.)

Look at those eyes!

The ones here are pretty varied in color, with the adults being yellow, orange, green, or brown (brown ones are older). The earlier instars tend to be very bright green, but they are mostly adults now.

Those brown twigs WERE asparagus leaves.

I can see why some folks get bothered by these guys when it’s one of their super-abundant years. They are everywhere and eating everything. Here is my asparagus. Yep, all you can see are sunflowers and other things that grasshoppers don’t eat down to the nubs.

The way the grasshoppers jump every time you move is annoying to me and apparently terrifying to some people. The good news is that I have never been bitten by a grasshopper, even when they got under my shirt or in my boots. The bad news is that those suckers hurt like heck when you run into them in your utility vehicle that no longer has a windshield.

Now, when I say they are everywhere, I’m not kidding. Here, watch this video. Also, if you aren’t on mute, listen to it. What do you hear?

Let’s see what we can stir up!

I think that’s enough on grasshoppers for today.

Indirectly Observing Wildlife

At least one cicada is out there.

One of the things I noticed today as I walked through the grasshopper-filled field, was that I knew there were a lot more living things out there than I could see. For example, the video above just rings with the sounds of cicadas. It’s been a big year for them in many parts of the US, but just average here. Still, they are loud when you get out near the trees. I don’t need to see them to know they are here!

I also know for sure that there was a barred owl somewhere in the trees, because it was making its characteristic “who cooks for you?” call a lot. And the pileated woodpecker I see occasionally was also out there calling and pecking. All morning there have been crow squabbles, as well, along with white-winged doves, who are omnipresent. Although I also saw it earlier, I heard the great blue heron squawk a couple times as it moved from tank to tank looking for crawfish or something.

Penney is looking at a lot of crawfish holes that were recently much wetter.

Speaking of crawfish or crayfish or crawdads, I also know they are all over the place, even if I don’t see them. Their find mud castles are everywhere right now, since it’s drying out and a lot of the areas that were damp all winter and spring are not covered in water anymore.

What’s left after a crawfish digs its hole

Yep, they are there, even if you can’t see them. I also saw lots of deer tracks in the muddy areas, which makes sense. There are a few does and fawns in the area.

Summer Blooms

Though we are very obviously heading into the dry season here at the Hermits’ Rest Ranch (the water table is back to a more normal level, so the new spring has stopped flowing, though the old one in the woods is still dripping away), we still have some hardy flowers that are still blooming. I always enjoy them and their tenacity.

Whether your experiencing a rainy day, dealing with the west coast heat wave, or enjoying a restful Saturday, I hope you can go outside and see what is thriving where you live. And if you can’t see anything, listen!

Feeling a Little Better about Nature’s Survival

After that unusual series of cold fronts, snow, and ice, I (and others) have been pretty worried about whether out friends out there in nature are going to make it through to spring and keep going. In the past day or two I’ve seen some happy signs. So, as long as I’m out in nature and not dealing with technology, I’ve been pretty happy.

Vlassic is happy, because I’ve been sitting on the porch with him and running around a lot.

My heart skipped a beat when I finally saw some Indian paintbrush plants in the field. Now that there are two or three of them, I know we’ll have at least a bit of our usual field of orange in front of the house (as long as we can convince Jim the brother-in-law not to mow until they are going to seed).

A brave pioneer in the big wildflower meadow (until someone turns it into a pasture).

The field is already lovely to me, with a whole lot of mock verbena mingling with crow poison and field madder, once you look close enough to see them. And I know more’s coming! That’s why I like this time of year. Every day something new starts blooming, and I record them on iNaturalist so that some day I can analyze the data and see if the weather changes when the wildflowers start up (that will be when I retire).

I don’t remember having so much of this charming plant in the field before!

A new “blossom” coming up yesterday was this dwarf plantain (at least that’s what iNaturalist identified it as). I thought it was the annual trampweed (which is also in the picture, along with chicory, burr clover of some kind, and a grass, but I was wrong).

But it IS something new blooming, whatever it is!

Another new bloomer is one I’d been worried about, on behalf of my stomach, and that’s the dewberries. They really got knocked back by the cold, but by gosh, they have recovered and started blooming. Even though there are only a few blossoms right now, it already smells good over by the stream.

Future fruit! Yay!

How about the non-plants?

Adult green-striped grasshopper that is brown.

I’ve been anxiously looking for butterflies and grasshoppers and such. Judging from the sounds I’ve been hearing, the green-striped grasshoppers I’ve been watching grow up have matured. I see them flying around the back yard and making their grasshopper noises. Here’s one that happens to be brown.

I’ve been seeing a lot of these hairstreak butterflies, along with some sulphurs and one red admiral that was too far away to photograph.

Hairstreak with chicory and tiny bluet.
This blurry shot is the best one I could get, as the butterfly never landed.

But, I had heard people were already seeing monarchs, but that there was nothing for them to eat. Sure enough, as I sat in the back yard yesterday waiting to go to the phone store, a steady stream of them passed by, but never landed on anything. I sure hope they find some nectar!

I know pear trees are blooming (native ones, not just Bradford pears), so the bees are doing well.

Maybe Carlton has some hunting dog in him. I caught him pointing (he turned his head when he saw me).

I’m never alone when I’m out looking at all these plants and insects and such. Carlton and Penney are especially close to me wherever I go, while Alfred and Vlassic explore more. It always makes me happy to see that the pets have as much fun as I do. We are all really lucky to have acres and acres to explore and nobody to tell us what we can and can’t do out here. Ranch living may have poor cell reception, but it makes up for it in the kind of freedom that matters to me, which is freedom to observe nature and be a part of it, not try to dominate it.

As usual, Penney was by the water.

I hope you are enjoying the signs of spring where you are (and if you’re in Colorado, I hope the snow is melting).

That’s a Big One

Even not feeling great, I’m finding things to be excited about. I think that’s part of my charm. Perhaps. Today’s theme is big. For example, this is a big grasshopper, especially for a male. And it’s one of my better photos, right on my driveway!

Differential grasshopper, apparently tired, because he let me get really close. Note wings.

The extent of my walking yesterday was patrolling the back yard with Lee. While I regretted not meeting my activity goal, I still managed to find something big and beautiful. It’s one of my favorites, a yellow garden spider.

I had to take this over the fence. Notice her silver head. The scientific name, Argiope aurantia, means gilded silver-face.
This is her belly and some of her web. Obviously she’s an orb weaver!

And now, I’m sure you’ve been waiting for us to see what was inside Fancy Pants’s giant egg from a while back.

Giant egg!

It was still big after peeling. and still rather lumpy.

Peeled. Normal egg in background.

I got out the sharp knife and carefully sliced the big bruiser. Would it be a double yolk? Would it look weird?

That’s a BIG yolk.

I can’t tell if it’s double or not, but it sure is big! Way more yolk than white.

Compare to normal large egg. The normal one has way more white.

I wonder if this one would have had enough food in it to grow a chick? We will never know. But it does make me want to raise chicks. Maybe the next broody hen will get lucky!

So…what’s big in your life?

Grasshoppers at the Hermits’ Rest

Last week’s Master Naturalist chapter meeting was fascinating. I’d asked Eric Neubauer, the new class member I’ve been working with on improving my iNaturalist observations, to do an advanced training on grasshoppers, since he’s been getting some great insights into them over on his property (PLEASE visit the link to his presentation if you have any interest at all in grasshoppers; it’s completely fascinating). He lives in a different part of the county than I do, and I realized he sees lots of different kinds of grasshoppers than I do.

This is Schistocerca americana, the American Bird Grasshopper. I wondered if we had any of these. Look at the striped eyes! Photo by E. Neubauer.

I did a blog post on grasshoppers at the ranch a couple of months ago, but now that I have learned more, I got some better photos and noticed some things about our grasshoppers. I was also wondering if there were any grasshoppers other than Boopedon gracile, the Prairie Boopie, which we’ve had in plague-worthy numbers all summer (hey, it’s 2020; everything’s a plague).

A female, we think, with some interesting coloration, according to Eric.

Yes, there are Prairie Boopies all over the ranch. The easiest place to find them is on the hay bales. They hold still there.

Another boopie view. Look at all the stripes and spots.

But, there are others. I kept seeing lots and lots of tiny grasshoppers (an inch long or less) hopping away as I walked along the fields. I wondered what they were. Could they be pygmy grasshoppers?

This one is very, very small. Less than half the size of the one above. But it’s an adult, judging by the fact that its wings are the same size as the one above. I know males are smaller, but this is really small.

I finally managed to get a couple of non-blurry photos. Well, what do you know? They are small adult Prairie Boopies (confirmed by Eric). Maybe they get smaller at the end of the season? The ones over by the hay are over three inches long, for sure. I also have noticed that the coloration is different now, after a month of drought. They are much lighter in color.

Who’s this fellow? Not a boopie. Look at the legs and the longer wings.

Moving along, I was delighted to find at least a little variety in the neighborhood. We also have a good number of Differential Grasshoppers (Melanoplus differentialis), which are the ones with the very distinct herringbone pattern on their legs. I was glad to get some good photos of those, too.

Differentials doing it on the hay.

I didn’t get a photo of this, but I did see a mating pair fly off yesterday evening. That was new to me. I guess those males are pretty strong, since the females are larger and do not fly!

Then, when staring at the hay bales, I saw something more green. Hooray! Not one of the more common two! I was admiring an Admirable Grasshopper! As Eric pointed out, I would know this one by its tear-shaped eye.

You really can’t miss that eye!

And finally, when I’d given up on finding anything more interesting, a very different shape appeared in the grave.

Yay! The bird grasshopper!

My photo isn’t as good as Eric’s, but I can see the stripe going through its eye, and knew I had a Schistocerca americana. The very long wings also tell you it’s a strong flyer, as the bird grasshoppers are.

I have one more of the smaller ones, but I don’t have its ID confirmed yet.

That’s the only good photo I got, but I know it was bright green on the sides.

I’m guessing it’s a small Admirable Grasshopper. We’ll see.

I know a lot of people are grossed out by grasshoppers, but once you start looking at them, they are really beautiful and interesting. Well, they are interesting IF you can see them. Check out this Nebulatettix subgracilis – if you can! I can’t believe Eric managed to find it!

That’s one fine camouflage

Too Much Right Now

There’s just so much in my head that I’ve no time nor ability to write. I was analyzing work stuff in my dreams last night. I couldn’t stop dreaming about data.

Hey, grasshopper, you’re supposed to distract me.

I’ve pushed through everything today, which is great, but there’s still more coming up! Being occupied with work challenges isn’t all bad, of course. It keeps your mind off the state of the world, sick friends, and natural disasters.

That’s really a cool color!

I did enjoy a lovely sunset last night after the wee bit of rain. And I reconnected with a friend from grad school whom I greatly admired and had thought about often.

Plus, I can disguise myself with even more masks, since I got some pretty ones in the mail. Guess I’m not a plain black mask person.

I’m blinding and blingy.

Hope you’re handling your surprises and learning curves today. We’re all in it together.

Spooky pretty.
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