Headache Time

I probably have more to say, but I have a sore head. There was an accidental collision between me and the head of Dusty. I think.

Oops

I’d fed the horses and was attaching the two gates that won’t stay open to each other, like every day. Suddenly I’m waking up on the ground. My guess is two horses were in the pen and one kicked the other, who then ran into my head. Apache. I blame him.

Oops

So, I’m resting, with a headache. I did make a nice spaghetti dinner, because, hooray, Kathleen came home! She “just” has pneumonia and can’t go out in the sun for a few weeks due to medication. At least she’s home!

Back tomorrow. Head has a lump! I guess Kathleen and I both need to wrap ourselves in bubble wrap.

Visitors and Visiting

Our house has a lot of comings and goings for a hermitage, but we’re glad that caregivers can come help out Lee’s brother while Kathleen’s still confined to her hospital bed. I get my dose of visiting by hanging out with the horses and getting them to do some exercises before it’s too hot. Luckily I usually have a little break between meetings.

I’d rather stand here and look pretty.

It’s really great just to be with the little herd and check in on them. Mabel was especially friendly today and kept hinting that she wanted different places scratched. That warms my heart.

Feeling pretty. I can hardly believe those legs hold her up.

Later in the day, I went to give the chickens more water. I noticed they were all inside the henhouse, because it’s so hot. I filled the water trough, and when I looked at it, it was splashing, though no hens were near. The water was almost alive.

Actually, the living part was a rat snake who had been cooling off in the water. It was no doubt quite surprised by the sudden bath. It slid out and headed to the edge of the chicken yard, then climbed the chain-link fence by going in and out of the links.

I’m outa here!

It ended up behind the tin that used to make shade for the chickens before the hen house went up. It seems as if the snake was visiting for the water, not eggs, as I got six, including one just plopped on the ground! This heat must be hard on snakes and other cold-blooded creatures.

I left my visitor, since it was time to go check on Kathleen. Her recovery process is neither quick nor easy! I brought her some little gifts that had come in the mail, plus a pair of new glasses she had ordered. And magazines! All invalids need reading material. Let’s hope she hits all her goals and gets to come home soon.

We miss Kathleen.

Spider spray is going to be generously applied around the outside of the house!

I need more visitors to run my soft little head.

Black Widows Are Not Our Friends

While we’ve been traveling, there’s been drama at the ranch. Our niece Kathleen, who lives on the ranch with us, has been dealing with some health challenges, so while she’s still getting lots of work done, she also needs to rest more than usual. Very soon after posting a photo of relaxing and reading on the porch, she shared this.

Yes, it’s a black widow. Those words were repeated a lot.

What a way to spend July 4! I was at my horse lesson. By the time I got home, she was at the ER. This has been a worry for me. Our pest control gets most of them (sorry nature lovers; I don’t like poison things in the house, so we try to minimize these guys, scorpions, and brown recluses), but it can’t get them all. I dreaded the day this would happen.

Interesting to me is the fact that they didn’t give her any anti-venom. They seemed to think the best thing to do was to just treat the symptoms. So, she sat in the hospital a couple of days in horrible pain watching the venom eat at her foot. Ugh.

Not a pretty sight!

Since she’d just spent days at a hospital with another family member, I’m sure this was the last thing Kathleen wanted, but she needed monitoring. She did get to go home, though, and even felt like riding Dusty one day, when it wasn’t 113° (I guess the worst heat wave in decades is a good time to be confined indoors).

It’s my turn, finally!

Black widows are powerful. I knew that from my grandmother’s huge scar on her leg. Their venom stays in a long time. Dang neurotoxins. About the time I’d stopped worrying so hard, we got notice she had to go back to the ER due to pain and more symptoms. That poor woman can’t catch a break. It’s a huge test of anyone’s ability to be positive, even someone who’s been working as hard on their mental health as she has.

This does not look much better to me.

This appears to be a long healing process. She was told it could take months for the toxin to get out of her system. I assure you I’m more committed than ever to shake out every towel and cushion on the porch before sitting down. The spiders hide in dark places, so it’s prudent to check. But, as we have learned, in Texas, stinging and biting things are everywhere. I just wish they’d leave Kathleen alone.

There’s always hope!

I’m impressed that she’s keeping her spirits up. She knows her friends and family are with her. Someone even sent her a visiting pigeon this morning. It looked like it was there just for her.

I’ll hang out with you, Kathleen.

She kept telling us to stay in California, but I’m glad to be heading back so I can take care of the animals and let her recover and let everyone else do their stuff. I was supposed to leave town again next month, but there has just been too much going on at home (most of which I’m not at liberty to discuss). Plus COVID is worse. And air travel has gotten so weird. I’ll stay home with the family and animals!

If you have spare good thoughts, send them this way. Kathleen is so good at staying cheerful and optimistic, but this is an unexpected added challenge for the ranch family. Send more doves, pigeons, butterflies and wolf spiders (they eat black widow).

Send energy, too!

I hope she’s home again by the time we get there. There’s still a lot of desert between us and the Hermits’ Rest.


All images and stories shared with permission.

Ladies Day Out. At Last.

Wow. It’s been a really long time since I did anything with the family. Between COVID and family stresses, I’ve been on my own. So it was a pleasant surprise to have Kathleen coming back. More pleasant was a visit from her daughter-in-law, Moriah, and her baby Oaklynn (recipient of one of my baby blanket series).

She seems to like me.

I’d intended to go do a Master Naturalist thing today, but a ladies’ trip sounded more fun. Besides, I’d missed doing stuff around Cameron with anyone. (But I’m grateful for Anita and the Austin book group for some feminine company.)

Howdy from Calvert

So we got in Moriah’s car and headed to exotic Calvert, Texas, home of many cute shops and houses. Less than half an hour from Cameron, this little town has done what I wish we could. Dang, it’s been renovated well.

Humor to me. A donkey restaurant next to a building named Oscar, the name of my original donkey.

We had a great meal at the beautiful Calvert Hotel. It’s so well done and you get free wine with your meal. I had a great burger with bread and butter pickles on it. Mmm. Other than a lady insisting on touching the baby, it was a great time. Here are some pictures.

Then Kathleen and I shopped some in the stores. One with lots of colored glass really had nice stuff. I got some purple glass for my bathroom.

Ready for wine

A visit to Calvert is not complete without checking out the En Geddes winery store. We enjoyed a wine flight and snacks, along with good conversation with the owners. I got my favorite sparkling wine, which they’ve almost sold out of it and the freeze killed a lot of the grapes.

Nice dining area.

I enjoyed all the wildflowers on the roadside. At home we have a couple new ones things to look at, like monarchs, carpenter bees, and false dandelion. The giant earth ball mushroom keeps growing, too.

When we got home we decided to ride horses. Kathleen groomed Mabel, but decided not to ride her due to a hoof issue.

She is looking lots better.

I rode Apache and practiced all our stuff. He started eating grass and yanked the reins out of my hands. Then he stepped in them. Luckily his jumping wasn’t too bad. I got off and had a firm word with him. Very firm. He did fine after that. Yay me.

Back in the saddle again

It was nice to see Kathleen back on Dusty. It had been six months. It will take a while to get her muscles back. Moriah hadn’t ridden in years, but she got on. Good for her.

Moriah being excited about horse riding.

She rode, and that’s what counts.

On her own!

All in all, we had fun. a good ladies day. We even went to the CAB (Central Avenue Bistro) for the first time in ages. Lee won’t eat there. Ha. He missed Tom Petty songs.

Spousal Pride

Yesterday I hinted that my spouse, Lee, was going to be surprised last night. We were hanging out watching television, when we got a phone call from the folks at our company who were attending the annual Cameron Chamber of Commerce Banquet. We put on speaker, and enjoyed our friend Melanie announce some nice awards. Then, she started in on the Chamber Member of the Year biography. I said, “Wow, that’s well written” and at that point, Lee realized it was him.

Who, me?

It was nice to see him recognized for all the stuff he’s been doing. I know it’s really helped understaffed Melanie! Both Lee and Kathleen have stepped up to serve on committees and do work to improve little old Cameron. I’m glad Melanie has such great other volunteers, too. And somehow, this helps us feel part of a larger community.

A fine award, too.

It must have been a fun night, because Kathleen won a lot of wine at the raffle. We can use that, if I ever stop pivoting and make it home.

Woo hoo!

I’m proud of Lee for lots of reasons other than his civic pride. For one thing, we’ve been together practically 24/7 for two weeks and we’re really getting along fine! Now, that’s a sign of a stable marriage!

Beach umbrellas sure look cheerful.

We’ve each been compromising, dealing with what comes up, and enjoying whatever we do. It’s taken us a while to get vacations down, because neither of us has really done many, but I’m no longer rushing him to get out in the morning, and he’s not been forced to go shopping, so he’s happier.

Sunny pelicans.

I get to go on boat rides and nature walks. So I’m happy! Plus the beach view really helps. I’ve had a nice week off.

And more pelicans

Time to read and knit and look at waves. I’m lucky in so many ways to be stranded at a lovely place with a fine human.

Exciting New Uses for Tongs and Other Items

This morning, I was emptying the dishwasher of items used in last night’s holiday meal. I kept picking up tongs. Tongs and more tongs.

Hmm. Tongs.

I’m a person who never uses tongs. I’m not sure why. I just use other kitchen tools. I don’t think I’ve ever intentionally bought tongs. So, how did we get EIGHT pairs of tongs?

Tongs for every possible tonging need.

Anita and I were baffled. With such an extensive collection, we could do so much! We could open a store called “Just Tongs.” When my cousin, Jan, called she suggested a Tong Monster Halloween costume. Hmm.

You could play a game where you try to grab people’s heads with tongs.

My best idea, though, was to form a tong band. With so many sizes and materials, you can get a lot of sound out of the tongs, I think. And they are easy to use as a rhythm instrument.

You could poke an eye out!

The pictures here are me trying out the bass tong and the baritone. They made a cheerful sound! I need to get a couple of other people to help me out and create a composition for tong orchestra.

Another Creative Use

So, at Christmas I gave Lee a lovely silver box with turquoise stones on it, which I found in Utah. He seemed to like it. I had thought he could store some of his nice pens in there, but naturally, he has a set pen storage system that no gift can interfere with.

That’s Lee looking pleased.

Meanwhile, Kathleen gave him a series of joke gifts to help him deal with the woman in the next office (her). There was aspirin, a funny calendar, etc. Lee realized that one of her gifts could be beautifully stored in the silver box.

Yep. That’s hemorrhoid cream.

So, whenever Kathleen is a pain in his butt, he can reach into the silver box on his desk and find relief.

We are quite a creative family, huh?

Did you experience any gift creativity at your COVID Christmas celebrations?

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.

Escape from Park City

Anita and I were trying to decide what to do today when there was a knock at the door. I wondered if the housekeepers came back, but no, it was someone else. She was all bundled up, but then I realized it was Kathleen! They’d surprised me!

Not Park City!

Much happiness ensued. Eventually we went on a ride in the car they rented. Whee! We went to Heber City and to Midway, both cute towns. Midway was extremely cute in an Alpine way. We had lunch and shopped at a very quaint shop.

Scenery

Then we drove around and looked at mountains and valleys and much beauty.

We sorta like snow.

There are lots of horses in this area of Utah. It was almost like being in Kentucky, only snowier. There were so many small ranches and pretty horses.

Hello, we’re horses.

The drive was beautiful. We saw so many hills, valleys, rivers, dams, and lakes. Anita, Kathleen and I ran around and squealed a lot when we made our stops.

It’s a lake! I’m huge!

Just gotta say surprise visits are good, and we are so grateful to our family got joining us for a few days. Now, enjoy some pictures!

Family Kudos

I just wanted to say how happy I am with the amazing job our little family team has been doing as we work together to build our Hearts, Homes and Hands (HHH) business over the past year plus. We each have contributed time, effort, and sweat to the endeavor. And it’s been quite a learning process! No doubt it will continue to be.

I rarely get to share decorative plants, so here are some I saw walking around our Austin neighborhood.

I encourage all the readers of this blog to also follow the HHH blog, which features lots of writing on elder care and health issues, along with business updates. That’s where you hear more from our chief hermit, Lee, too.

My contribution is helpful, but minimal, since I have another full-time job at the moment. I do the blog, maintain the Facebook page and LinkedIn, and write some newspaper articles. And I help with renovating our buildings by selecting materials and such.

On the other hand, Kathleen, Lee, and Chris have been working so, so hard that it’s been hard on their mental and physical health. Still they’ve kept going, and it shows by how much the business has grown!

Lee has become quite the financial analyst for a writer, or for anyone. He helps us see where we’ve been and where we’re going. His attention to detail awes me.

I’ve mentioned Chris and his work many times here, since I enjoy sharing rehab updates. His ability to design structures and then build them has been amazing to watch. The stairs! The crown molding! My bathroom! The ceilings! I can’t wait until he can have a team helping him, which will be a lot easier when the office is done. I’m really grateful for his patience and willingness to do this work.

And wow, Kathleen has done a yeoman’s job of getting us set up, keeping state-required records, training the initial staff, and recruiting customers. It’s really a job for more than one person, and it’s been hard on her! Many days she just comes home and goes to bed, unable to deal with anything else! I don’t blame her one bit.

I’m glad she’s got enough staff trained to help with the day-to-day operations of our business, because I know she will really be an amazing marketer when her time is less booked. Well, and when the pandemic makes doing things in person a challenge.

That’s the thing, we’ve done darned well to be still going after the past few months. I’m so grateful for all our talented family members, and for the great staff that is providing the much-needed personal assistance service to this county. Kudos to all.

Happiness Is a Brown Calf

I was sitting in my office when I got a text from Chris. It had a photo. I was confused.

Why is Kathleen feeding a tiny calf? Where is she? Why is there a yellow sticker on it?

I asked questions. Like what kind of cow is it? A bull. Where does it live? The back yard. Does it like dogs? We’ll see. Thanks, Chris, I thought. What the heck?

Vlassic was also confused.

Well. Chris went to the sale barn and bought a bottle calf, to cheer Kathleen up. She likes to hand-raise calves. How about that?

Yes, he made Kathleen happy.

So, he borrowed Ralph’s trailer and brought baby Rip home. Well, first they got a halter, a food dish, calf formula (isn’t that just cow milk?), and such. And Chris used our horse panels for a temporary fence. Okay.

Gracie and I were also happy to meet Rip.

I came home and enjoyed all the bonding and stuff. Kathleen is an expert. She held him and cuddled him, and he took a nice nap.

Nap time.

To get him to drink more, she had to make him stand up. He’s a little drowsy. Tomorrow we will get him electrolytes.

He really needed to stand up to eat. They get pneumonia otherwise.

I enjoyed feeding him. I’d never fed a calf before. I fed a little kitten a bottle once, and that’s it. Happy World Breastfeeding Month to me!

Mmm. Milk.

I sure hope baby Rip makes it. Kathleen and Chris say they’ve nursed calves in worse shape before. The guess is that he was a twin or lost his mom. Poor fellow. He will have fun with our crew, I hope. The dogs love his poop, which was not a thing I expected.

In any case, that livened up the day. Oh, so did this. It was still soft when they found it, near where Rip’s crib is.

That’s a healthy snake.

He should do fine, according to the professional family bottle calf raisers. The dogs like him, and Alfred and Clarence the guard rooster will take care of him.

I’m a scrawny baby.
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