Mowing, Controversy, and More Horse Stuff

I was trying to create a funny essay yesterday when I wrote about our property not being mowed yet, but it sparked some Facebook controversy. Some people were thrilled and others were appalled that we were doing it. I don’t know why I was surprised, since mowing is always controversial! Like so many things out here in the country, you have to sometimes decide who is a priority and who needs to sacrifice for the greater good. In this case, the safety of our elderly residents and visitors has to come before some flowers, mice, and such.

Shredder, attached to tractor! We can ranch now!

We need to have the area by the house mowed short enough that we can see snakes and holes that pop up randomly. I don’t want my sister or brother-in-law falling or getting bitten. We let things go a lot longer farther out, and luckily they can’t get to ALL my dewberries, ha ha.

In any case, we are really grateful to our young neighbor, Tyler, who is quite mechanically inclined and strong for getting the riding mower belt back on so the brother-in-law can mow. Jim’s happy about that, and is all decked out in his hat, mask, and other protection.

Goodbye sunflower jungle

Meanwhile, Lee’s in the tractor shredding. He’s shredding high, just to knock the tops off the thistles and their kin (don’t worry, there is PLENTY on the roadside for many, many birds). Speaking of birds, the hawks and eagles are quite happy he’s shredding. He had a caracara (Mexican eagle) watching quite intently yesterday. I see a couple of hawks have joined in, too. Buffet time!

Shredding away. Don’t worry the flowers will not die. Next week they’ll be blooming like the dickens.

But honestly, we don’t have too many mammals that don’t live underground in the area we’re mowing, because the rabbits have learned to go elsewhere to avoid the dogs, and we have mouse predators up the wazoo, both flying and barking. Plus, they will come back, believe me.

The area will look nice for the dinner we’re having tonight, where I hope my son and partner will join us!

The Horse Part of the Story

Have you noticed it’s always something with the horses, especially Apache? I have. Sigh. Yesterday afternoon, I headed out to try riding again, took him out of his paddock, and started grooming him. I got to his back, and he startled. I thought maybe he saw something or was surprised by Ace arriving. I started again, and he moved away. That was odd. He was acting like the curry comb was hurting his back. Just the day before yesterday I could groom him just fine there.

I’m always having trouble, but I’m a great friend!

I called Sara over and demonstrated on the other side. This time he curved his back downward to avoid the brush. So, Sara, who knows a lot more horse stuff than I do, did a test with her hands going down his spine, and whoa, did he react right at his withers (shoulder area). Obviously, I was NOT going to ride him. Poor guy!

Instead, I took him into the round pen where he patently ignored me, not at all like his usual self. He sort of moped around and tried to eat. We walked around together, and he was fine. Next, I took him out and put a long rope on him, something I don’t do often because, clumsy as I am, I always trip on the rope and get tangled. But, I wanted to try him in big circles, to see if he’d walk better that way.

As soon as I asked him to walk, he started out really close, so I waved my carrot stick thingie at him to encourage him to walk further out. Yow! Instead he took off like some kind of green colt. He launched into a canter, bucked and farted numerous times, bucked, started to gallop, and generally acted most unlike his usual self. He stopped when I asked him to, though, but when I signaled to walk in the other direction, he reared and went off like a race horse.

Both Sara and I were thinking it was a bit dangerous, but I just waited until he settled down into a trot and stopped him. He was quite wound up, and blowing through his nose. I honestly had never seen him like this since I met him, unless he was out playing!

Sara suggested I give him something to do to make him think and not wallow in his emotions, so I had him walk over telephone poles on the long lead, walk up and down the poles with me on the other side of them, go over our little jumps, and eventually walk calmly down the driveway. He seemed to be having a lot of fun with all those activities, so I considered that a win and we went back.

I do this because someone trained me to. I think it makes me look cool.

I’m going to have to ask Trixie, our farrier and horse body work expert, what could be wrong with him. Maybe he twisted his back rolling (they are all rolling a lot right now, due to flies)? Maybe he has worms, again (can’t wait to move him out of that paddock and all the old poop)? Maybe he’s a diva? Sigh.

On to the next horse, how about it? Sara has been working with Ace, who has a very interesting personality. When he knows what he’s doing, he’s amazingly cooperative and follows instructions like a dream. But, when he gets confused and doesn’t know what to do, his go-to response is to buck and run. That doesn’t sound like riding would be fun, to me.

But, yesterday he made great progress, and Sara decided to get him used to someone on his back. I was the photographer, and got good pictures of her putting weight on his back, stepping up, and finally getting on. He was quite fine with the whole person sitting on his back concept. Way to go, Ace!

I like standing here and not moving.

He’s not as fine with reins and bits, and whenever Sara asked him to move forward, he’d back up. My uneducated theory was that he was trying to get away from the pressure by moving backwards, not realizing the pressure would stop if he just went forward. Horse brains are very interesting. I think she got him to take one step forward. But, on the other hand, there was no bucking, spinning, leaping or running off! I declare it to be quite successful for a first try! I’m sure she’ll make a lot more progress today!

See, I did move. In circles, backward! It’s a start!

Chicken News

Believe it or not, someone asked me what I was going to do with the baby chicks when they arrive on Wednesday. I had a couple of ideas, which I want to run by the nephew, but my current one is to make them a little area that includes the white nest boxes. That would provide shelter and a roosting space, plus room for chick food that the older chickens can’t get to. Star would be able to eat grown-up hen food, too, and I can easily give them water.

The idea is to use the door as a chick guard, but Star could get out and wander if she wanted to.

Soon enough, I’ll be able to let them all out. I do have another idea involving the cage we used for the guineas, but it needs some rain shelter. We’ll see, as Lee’s dad always said.

And, the moving egg laying saga continues. Springsteen has decided she likes the corner where Bertie Lee is laying. I found two eggs there yesterday, definitely not from the same hen. Oh, chickens.

Bertie at left, Springsteen at right (her eggs have a pink tinge)

I’m looking forward to another nice day at the Hermits’ Rest, plus the Zoom wedding. How pleasant it is to have positive plans! Hope your plans are positive as well.

Inquiring Neighbors Want to Know: Why Isn’t Your Lawn Mowed?

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.

This is not particularly attractive, or safe to wander in. Plus, it’s mostly burr clover.

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.

This is all sunflowers. Also not something we want to cultivate in such huge numbers (we usually leave a few, hence, more show up).

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.

Yep, this looks like snake heaven, too.

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.

Lee re-enacting a photo I once took with lots of evening primrose. Directly behind him is the SHREDDER.

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.

If we’d mowed, we’d have missed these backyard beauties.

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.

Heck, even the mock dandelions are enjoyable, especially when they have a cool long-horned bee in them.

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.

Every one of these flowers came off our “lawn.”

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.

The little scarlet pimpernel.

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!

This “tank” of pink evening primrose is waving in the wind like an actual body of water.

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.)

It turns out that the trampweed doesn’t really flower. It goes straight to these happy little puffballs.