Thank Goodness for Family, the Equine Kind

Let’s think about what makes for a nice day. For me, it’s being out in nature with friends of the human and animal kind. That’s just what Sara and I got yesterday afternoon, only marred by how hot the humidity made us feel.

When we got to the horse area, Apache was drenched in sweat, which got us worried, but, he acted happy enough, so we decided to take our walk in a shadier area at the back of the cattle pasture, to get out of the sun. First, we successfully moved her cattle from that pasture to the one Spice and Lakota had been in, moved Lakota to the cattle pasture, and got Fiona in to walk with us. It took no time at all. Sure is nice when everyone already wants to go where you’re trying to send them!

Lakota and Fiona noshed their way through the walk, right along with us.

Then we just walked and walked. And that meant ALL of us. Lakota followed us around like he was being led, like Apache was. Sure was good to see him acting peppy again. Sara says she worries about letting loose horses walk with horses being ridden, since she got kicked by a horse and broke a bone that way once. But, Lakota was a real gentleman.

Yep, they were having fun.

It was a little spooky where we were, since it’s behind a ridge and you feel hidden from the rest of the ranch. Fiona liked it, though, and ran around exploring.

It’s very green and spooky down here!

Even Apache seemed to have fun. He plodded right along with us, only occasionally distracted by yummy grass. Going up and down the little rises was probably good exercise for all of us!

I love how the color came out on this picture! You can see the rise behind Sara.

We saw osage-orange trees, which makes sense, because the area we walked in is an arroyo/wash that stays wet a lot. Those trees like dampness.

The fruit is easy to spot.

We were happy to also see a lot of milkweed. These were green antelope horns, and they had seed pods, some of which had opened. The opened pods had lots and lots of these extra-cool milkweed bugs. Aren’t they pretty?

We went out again this morning, minus Lakota. The weather was better, but Apache was not in a great mood to walk, which makes me think yesterday’s walk made his poor feet hurt. Let’s say it was good practice encouraging him to do what I wanted him to.

This is what he wanted to do. And yes, Spice photobombed many photos yesterday. We laughed.

We also saw this incredible jumping spider. I believe it’s an Apache jumping spider. They look like “velvet ants” (which are really wasps), and are quite good mimics! They fooled us.

It hardly looks real!

And when I went to pick up my tack box, I almost set my hand down on this lovely mantid. I was able to get her back outside to go eat bugs and stuff.

Please get me out of here. There are no delicious bugs on this plastic thing.

That made me feel good, and contributed to another nice day. I really enjoyed taking my mind off complicated issues and just enjoying my walking companions, my ranch family.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Weeds (la la la)

The need to focus on things that aren’t related to pandemics and other stress-causing circumstances has continued to this morning, so I took a break and checked out what’s going on around the Hermit Haus offices. My main focus was my “wildflower garden,” but I branched out. That got me lots more entries in iNaturalist, too!

The “wildflower garden” next to the stairs. It is about to get pretty.
The seeds are shiny in the sun.

I have to say that I find it fascinating how varied the plants are in what looks from a distance like a lawn. Actually, there’s very little turfgrass, just a few sprigs of our nemesis the coastal Bermuda. The one other grass is what they call nutgrass around here, but is actually purple nutsedge, a nonnative plant that sure likes to grow here. I have pulled up many, many sprouts of it in the “wildflower garden,” and there are still more. However, I think the seed heads are quite beautiful.

The lantana bud is pretty in its own right. Nutsedge is coming up behind it.

The area I am using as a showcase for the “weeds” that grow up around our building has lots and lots of lantana in it. I noticed those trying to bloom last year before the weedeater got them, so I decided to ask that this one area be left alone. The lantana are now getting nice and big, and are just about ready to start their late spring blooming festival.

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Milkweed and More

Time for another look around our dry ranch.

A view of my riparian garden. This is the first time we ever let things grow to their full size here.

You never know what you’ll find during a walk around the Hermits’ Rest. Even in this awful weather, there are fun things to discover. I found that out today, when I went over to get a photo of the little grouping of Zizotes milkweed I’d found recently. Lo and behold, the milkweed was doing its job!

Zizotes milkweed.

Each plant had its own beautiful Queen butterfly caterpillar on it. They were merrily chomping away and waving their festive red antennae and spikes. I’ve seen a lot of Queens around this year, and I am happy to see that there will be quite a few more, if things work out well.

I took some pretty good photos, I think. (Aside: Lee just got one of the new iPhones with three cameras. I am looking forward to heading out into nature with it to see if I can get better close-ups and distance photos with it. However, I think I’m going to get myself a regular camera, too.)

I also saw more subtle beauty last night. After the Vrazels mowed our field, not much sticks up, since the grass is not growing while we are in drought. One plant is growing, and it’s the horsenettle. It’s a prickly thing, but it’s strong and tenacious, and I happen to think the flowers are beautiful.

Pretty purple nettle flower, and extreme finger close-up.

In any case, the sight of all those little purple flowers sticking up above the dead grass pleased me very much. Sometimes you have to be prickly and strong to deal with what life throws at you. Physical beauty is just a happy bonus.

I hope you can see the little spots of color from the horsenettle.

While I was admiring tenacity, I had to admit to myself that one of my least favorite garden weeds, the spotted surge, can be beautiful when allowed to flourish and grow. I’m just glad I don’t have to weed it and get all that milky stuff on me.

It looks like some kind of sea urchin or something.

Grass Is a Pain in the Rear

rescue
Rescue brome! Cool name, Never would ahve guessed this.

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.

Continue reading “Grass Is a Pain in the Rear”