Sometimes Ranch Life Is a Bit too Much

Like today. I was awakened in the night by a familiar odor. Someone had been skunked. That someone was Penney.

I was just helping Goldie

And more stink arrived in the form of Goldie. I tried to sleep but Penney kept pushing, which she does when she is scared. I ended up with my legs off the bed, which gave me sore knees when I woke up.

I’ll spare you the carcass

After only a little coffee I was told to remove the skunk from the side yard, where most of it lay. Other parts were scattered around, as if a large animal had gotten to Goldie is a large animal.

Suspicious hole

As I went to get a shovel, I noted a large hole under the pool equipment base. Oh goodness. The skunk was trying to build a burrow in the yard where the dogs live. Skunks aren’t bright, cute as they are. It was doomed.

This was all over the yard.

Anyway, the skunk is now turtle food in the pond, and I got over my nausea from looking at its innards. The hole is gone, too, since this morning, Lee and the nephew created a new walkway from the back of our under-construction garage apartment, the garage side door, and our main path. It also made the pool equipment area look better.

After the skunk thing, I cleaned my giant closet and the kitchen, which had turned into a housefly buffet. I’ve now kept up with the dirty dishes stacked near the dishwasher for 6 hours and emptied the dishwasher twice. Lee has washed the stinky sheets. Yay.

This young lass had her own skunk adventure over at Sara’s but has bathed herself. Good dog.

I was tired of ranching and chores so I helped Sara film Aragorn on this dressage work, now that he is all shod. He did great. While I was there, I found a new (to me) plant, a swan flower. It is beautiful, and nothing like any other flower around here!

Swan flower

I wrote an article for the Master Naturalist blog with more details. I was surprised to see this one is the northernmost sighting of this plant, which is only found in Texas. How about that! This has been the highlight of the day and was a nice break.

When I got home, we got a hay delivery of square bales for the horses this winter. I did my best to help, but I really suck at lifting hay bales. The young man who brought it, though, was damned good at throwing it, and the nephew was good at stacking it. I counted.

The young woman who also lifted many bales.

Half the hay went to our house and half to Sara’s. Sara was much more helpful than me. But I wish I had a video of the tossing. They were amazing at it. Nice hay kids! Whew.

I was hot and the day wasn’t half over. This ranching can be hard and keeping your cool can be hard. I tried to cool off by the pool, but no. Neighbors dropped by to ask if we’d seen the obscene stuff painted on the bridge over Walker’s Creek next to our property. They had all sorts of theories that some teens who’ve been riding up and down the road in a “gator” (motorized golf cart utility vehicle).

That proves it wasn’t ME.

I had no idea there was stuff down the road, but I remembered seeing red stuff when we came back yesterday afternoon. That day teens did indeed go up and down the road endlessly. And I’d seen them earlier messing with cane on the bridge. I thought it was just kids having fun on summer break.

But no.

Nope. There was obscenity, anti trans stuff, cruel stuff about people with mental illness, and the coup de gras (whatever) the flourish of Let’s Go Brandon. Hardly necessary.

So welcoming to their trans neighbor.

And you know what, in today’s society, you hesitate to report vandalism in the community, because you worry some asshole will come shoot you. Nice. Rural living can be beautiful. It can be scary. Here’s a flower.

And yes, I called the sheriff. I just hope my beloved county commissioner will paint over the offensive stuff. I’m not wanting anything it peace and quiet.

Let’s Just Get a Little Hay…gone awry

So…this afternoon, Lee said he’d help me get some hay with the new trailer (I keep calling her Tillie). That gave him a chance to try out pulling it with his Tahoe. He got all the towing settings engaged, and I got to bond with Vlassic. I miss rides with him.

Friends. I know it’s kind to let him stay with Lee’s brother, who needs a companion, but I miss Vlassic.

The getting of hay went just fine. It was just in time, as my horses had just finished the last two bales. I wish I’d gotten pictures of Drew when the trailer showed up. He came right up, greeted Lee, then got all interested in Tillie. There’s a horse who isn’t afraid of a trailer, especially one with hay in it.

We went to leave the pasture and that’s when things went awry. Lee could not get between the shipping container and the stuff next to the fence.

Not shown: obstacles

Lee was not about to give up. He went and fetched the tractor and started moving stuff. It still wasn’t enough.

The obstacles.

He kept inching forward in the car, then moving more stuff. It was pretty funny watching him try to move some heavy poles and awkward lengths of fencing. Here are the stages.

I did help by moving some stuff I could carry. And still, poor Lee had to manually move some fencing. But he did it! Tillie and the Tahoe made it out. We were able to load all the trash from the container so it can go away! That’s a big step towards the tack room getting set up and the container holding hay.

Ta da! Space!

The shipping container behind the horse pens is now at work holding renovation leftover, so everything is in its place.

Thanks for the hay

And finally, there was still time to get in my first ride on Apache since he got home. It went pretty well, and the few times he tested me, I coped fine. We went all over the field and did some trotting around. Whew.

We made it.

We even got to sit outside this evening and just chat. Sure, there are challenges and concerns, but by gosh we can move those obstacles, too. At least in our little world. Let’s hope those of us facing much larger challenges in the world can move their obstacles, too.

Hay Lifting Means I’m a Rancher

Yeah, I’m a rancher. It’s a good thing I own ibuprofen, though, because after riding with a slightly crooked saddle yesterday and lifting some portion of 130 square bales of hay, my back says ouch.

Miles and miles of hay bales

Actually it feels better after the hay lifting. And we had fun, I think. There were 5 of us, each of varying degrees of strength and stamina, but teamwork ruled. We got the hay from Pamela, my neighbor and Master Naturalist buddy.

Pamela and Ruby driving the truck.

We small people lifted bales on the trailer as the truck went by, while the men did more of the loading and stacking. It really didn’t take too long!

Kathleen and Meghan, proud of their work.

Some of the hay we dropped off for Pamela, and the rest is hiding over by the cattle pens until we get our shipping container moved to hold the hay.

Ruby takes a break.

Now we’ve got enough hay for both my tubby horse and the cattle, for quite a while. We love this hay, anyway. It’s not overly nutritious. That’s what Apache needs!

Here’s the hay, trying to keep dry.

Ranching, Hay, Art, Friends

Well, what more can you want besides all those things (figuratively)? What this all means is that the late afternoon and early evening were a fun and fulfilling time. I’m so glad to be back in familiar surroundings!

No wonder we’re having fun, we got to see a bottle tree!

What’s going on is that, since Apache has to stay in the small paddock while he heals up, we need to give him and Fiona hay every day. We’ve gone through most of the hay we got over at Cindy and Don’s ranch, so my friend Pamela had some square bales made for me last time her fields got hayed.

There’s the hay field beyond the fence.

Of course, all that happened while none of our family were at the ranch, so it took a while to actually go get our stuff. Yesterday, though, was the day! We knew a rare rain was scheduled for today, so we made time to head over to her house and pick it up.

Where old equipment goes to rest until a creative re-use is found.

We spent a lot of the time just enjoying the beauty of Pamela’s property, which isn’t far from ours, basically there’s our hill, and hers is the next one over, on the other side of the highway, with a river bottom in between. The views are just beautiful, so there was a lot of enjoyment and discussion of hayfield maintenance techniques.

Lots and lots of hay.

It turned out they hadn’t made that many actual square bales, but it was fun picking them up. Lee’s brother drove the truck from bale to bale, while the rest of us picked them up and loaded them. I actually got pretty good at the loading and had a lot of fun marching along the fields. It was a great way to get exercise and enjoy the outdoors.

The hay we got from the field

We also got a bit of hay from a previous harvest, which we will use first, since we don’t want to give Apache any delicious fresh hay, due to his delicate constitution.

Ruby the hound enjoys all the space to run around (artsy photo, huh)

After we were finished, we had a great conversation about hay, art installations, and cattle grazing principles. It was great to be able to talk to Pamela in person, since we were outdoors and distanced.

Discussing cattle rotation principles

On the way home, I followed the guys back to the ranch. Naturally, a bale fell off. And, of course it fell smack dab in the middle of the bridge over Walker’s Creek, where a vehicle coming in either direction would hit it, in the dark. I was able to drag it off the bridge (it’s much harder to lift baling wire with no gloves) until the truck and trailer could come back to get it.

Just before we left, the sun in the trees was particularly beautiful.

As we were putting the hay away (especially one bale that had burst), we made a bit of noise with the pickup, which concerned Ralph. That way, we also got a chance to chat with him about wild hogs and the humane way of disposing of them. A fun evening was had by all, and we were darned tired when we got home!

It was this dark when we were finally done.

Baby’s First Hay

Rip the bull calf has had a lot of adventures in his short bovine career. He was born! Something happened! He rumbled around! He was in a scary place with many frightened animals! He rode in another rumbly thing! A human fed him milk! He was in a grassy place. He slept. Many humans and dogs appeared. He ate and slept.

Sleep and eat.

Then, one day the human who fed him and the large human picked him up (he’s a small calf still) and put him in another rumbly thing, only one that smelled better and wasn’t so rumbly. They called the SUV.

Rumble rumble.

They rumbled along for a while. When Rip had to poop, they stopped and took the poop away. Weird. After some time, they let him out, and he was in a new place! It had other cows and calves. And different friendly humans, one who appeared to be ready to calve soon, herself.

She has a calf in there! See!

Rip liked the place. He still got his milk, but also had a herd to hang with, when they’d let him. There was some tasty grass, too.

A few days later, though, they put him back in the fancy rumbly thing. He had to poop in the same place, and also peed. The female human said she sure was glad they put a tarp in the back seat. So, that’s what the strange slippery brown dirt he was standing on was called.

Next time the rumbling stopped, he was back at the first place with all the dogs. He liked to try to play with the little white one, but the male human didn’t like it.

I’ve put on a little weight!

The other female made him feel better by giving him a delicious kind of feed she called a peppermint horse treat. That was fun to chew.

More horse treats, please! (He won’t get any!)

There was a rectangular prickly thing in the wheelbarrow next to Rip’s pen. It smelled really good. The big male human broke some of it off and tried to get Rip to nibble on it. Nope.

No, thanks. Sniff, sniff.

Then he set some of it on the ground. Rip changed his mind about it, after a lot of sniffing. He put a bit of it in his mouth and chewed. Not bad!

Mmmm.

The humans called it hay, and they kept telling him it was just like grass, just dry. Rip, having so far only lived in the height of summer drought, thought all grass was pretty dry.

Hay is good.

It was time for a nap. His plan is to eat and nap enough to get big and strong, so no human can pick him up and rumble him off again.

Shh, don’t tell him about trailers, and how he’s being trained to walk on a lead for easy loading. Dream on, Rip.

Hey, Hay!

I think the long saga of me needing hay for Apache is over for a while, at least. It’s nice to have kind Master Naturalist friends to come to my rescue.

I thought I was getting square bales from Pamela, who lives nearby, but it turned out her baling guy would make no fewer than 200 bales (understandably). I just don’t have the funds for that.

Pre-moved hay and great sign.

So then my other Master Naturalist friend, Cindy, said she had some old hay for my preferred price (her new hay was too expensive, and besides, the older the better for Apache). That’s probably the best for us, anyway.

That is one neat tack room.

So, after work, Chris and I took a trailer down to Cindy’s place, which is even more beautiful than I imagined. It’s a Suna Dream Property. While I enjoyed her Tennessee Walking Horses, Chris loaded the hay with the help of another Master Naturalist, Sam, and another nice helper.

They’d already taken the hay out of the hayloft, so it went quickly.

We got to look around and chat, too, which was so nice. I miss my friends! It was worth sweating away in masks! It’s a fine bonus to getting the hay. Also, I was so busy looking around and chatting that I didn’t get many pictures.

I also didn’t get any pictures of unloading the hay. At least here’s a picture or two of the loaded hay.

I went to get Lee’s brother a burger, and the onion rings took so long that I totally missed unloading the hay! But the food was good, so yay. And I did get photos of the beautiful stacks Chris made.

Speaking of beautiful, I tried to get a gorgeous picture of Fiona and yet another fine sunset, but every time I stepped back to take a picture, she followed me. This is my best try!

Here I come, Mommy.

By the way, my friends’ beautiful horse property is for sale. Want to bring your horses and come live near me?

Just Enjoy the Season

This row of cypress trees has only been at my office in Austin for a couple of years, but they already make a striking autumn display.

I often just walk around and enjoy whatever season we’re experiencing. It’s the last part of autumn here, and in central Texas that’s when the leaves change, and for a week or so, it’s really lovely. It’s been that way in Austin and Cameron this week.

The sky last night was very moody. It rained later. Too bad we hadn’t set up the weather station yet.

Last night I got home after a late meeting, just after sunset. The landscape looked so stark and beautiful in that light.

Brody the cattle dog sniffs the excellent smells of the mown hayfield.

The guys who lease the Wild Hermits land have just made hay out of our pasture, and the dogs love the smells. And the dead mice, no doubt.

I love leafless trees. The structure fascinates me.

Enjoy what I saw last night!

Carlton and Vlassic roll in…something.

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