An Early September Walk

I had this idea in my head that since the highs are no longer over 100° I could start taking longer walks. I set out to follow the ranch paths for a while. I was wrong. The humidity more than made up for the lower temperatures. But I enjoyed looking around.

Hermits’ Rest compound from my son’s cabin residence.

I enjoyed looking at our place from the back, which doesn’t happen often, since I’m usually wrangling a horse these days. You can see how tall the ridge past the creek is. The pool house will fit in better when it gets re-painted. It’s still moving along.

I stopped by Sara’s barn to enjoy the little twin calves before heading back. Calves are always cute. I also enjoyed watching the other cattle and bull getting their morning cud chewing in.

Other than that I had fun looking at insects and flowers. I have been seeing these tiny bee-like insects hovering and farting around the flowers, especially the tiny purple vervain flowers. I got what I though was a better picture, but I’m not sure iNaturalist knows what they are. It says bee flies, which I’ll go along with. See if you can find them in the more distant photos!

As usual these days I kept looking at mushrooms. There were some big ones in the pasture. And some smaller ones that made me pretty sure mushrooms inspired the invention of the umbrella.

In addition to bee flies there were other things buzzing around. What I thought were more beelzebub bee killers turned out to be these green June bugs, common green June beetles or Cotinis nitida. I thought they were something else, but they got IDed as such. Hmmm. They are scarab beetles. I got this cool photo of one flying.

It tried to fly out of my view.

Many flowers are coming back after the rain, but the snow on the prairie usually blooms in late summer. It’s a weed, but so pretty.

The other flowers are probably blooming because there aren’t so many grasshoppers now. Now I can enjoy the different colors of the females when they fly. They can be red, orange, or yellow. No photos; it’s too fast!

I hardly talk about trees, but today I enjoyed two. The hackberry by Sara’s barn has always been a welcome source of shade for us. It was full of bees yesterday.

It’s pretty to look at and is often full of birds

And this old cedar elm has been hollow ever since I’ve known it. I wonder how much longer it will shelter random creatures? I’ve seen many bird nests in it, too.

Just a shell of a tree.

I’m glad I was able to spend some time poolside this afternoon. It had gotten all messed up when the pool builder replaced equipment they’d burned out. The dude had set the chlorine to 0. Yay for our pool guy Kathleen found. It’s fixed, and Lee and I took good advantage of it.

Rain is coming again. The white egrets sure look pretty against the dark sky.

Welcome to the Hermits’ Rest Aviary

This week, I’ve truly felt like I live in some kind of private bird sanctuary or something. There are so many beautiful birds to enjoy. This morning I went out to feed the hens, and the ground was heavy with dew, which must have made all the birds in the world happy. Once again, we were heavy on the heron family, with the usual great blue heron and green heron (the tricolored heron did not make an appearance) joined by an entire flock of great egrets (usually we just have one or two). There were also a couple of cattle egrets (distinguished by their yellow legs as opposed to the black legs on the larger birds).

Fun times at the pond.

Plus, there were ten or twelve black vultures, hopping and bopping along the edge of the pond or tank. They were drawn by the dead armadillo, who’s contributing to the Circle of Life by feeding both these guys and turkey vultures, who were out in force yesterday. Turkey vultures have red heads, while black vultures’ heads are black. That makes for easy identification.

Vultures taking flight

There were also the twittering English sparrows flitting around, along with all the grackles that sit on the electrical wires then fly around in a huge murmuration, descending on the fields, then departing again. Cardinals are constantly coming and going, as well. Plus there was something that makes a big screech sound, which I haven’t managed to catch on the Picture Bird software to see what it is.

That’s a lot of birds. Plus the storks are still around, which warms my heart.

When I tire of the pond, I go over to the black willow trees beside the front tank, which now has a little water in it, thanks to a bit more rain (hooray for the rainy season).

A little more water this morning!

There I’ve been seeing one, and just one, scissortail flycatcher. I wonder if it somehow didn’t migrate. By the way, did you know they’re related to the Western kingbird? We have those here, too!

I like it here

The trees are just chock full of tiny birds, including chickadees, orchard orioles, and warblers I can only hear but not see. Oh yeah, and the mockingbird whose territory is the telephone pole across the street, who mimics the woodpecker who also hangs out there. Since I don’t have photos of those guys, here are some sparkly dew-encrusted tiny mushrooms.

What a symphony! That’s what I’ve been enjoying lately. I’ll spare you the cuckoo, owls, and many sparrows in the woods. It’s too muddy to try to get photos of them, so I just listen.

I can’t wait to watch the geese and cranes migrating.

I Try to Cheer Up

I feel sorta silly for being sad about a rooster. But it’s sort of on top of three people I know losing beloved horses recently, too. Livestock? Friends? Fellow beings who enrich our lives? Sure.

Portraits of Carlton make me feel better.

I went out to remind myself of how we are all part of something bigger. Tiny mushrooms said, “Look at us!” I spent about ten minutes just looking at the first one there. So detailed.

I went in and tried to work. I’m glad I’m doing something that requires concentrating. It makes time pass quickly. But it’s not terribly cheerful. So, I decided to do something that would please Lee and make the house look better, too. I put actual china in the old china cabinet that one day I’m gonna spiff up. It looks better with Lee’s family china and my green and purple stuff in it. Some day I’ll find the rest of the china.

That made me feel a little better. It still needs some color. I sure was fond of tan and wood when I built this house.

There’s new life, though. A baby snake said hi.

And now it’s raining again so that feels better. I just needed to remind myself of what is good. Life is good, even when it’s hard and we lose our companions. That’s just how it goes.

Yay.

Hi There

Not much is going on other than the dizzy thing and working hard. Work is good, of course. I could do without queasy and dizzy.

This will make it all better.

The liquor is a prop, as is the hat. We were celebrating a coworker’s birthday today, so we wore party hats, made signs, and brought celebratory beverages to our 8:30 am meeting. Party on Zoom! It made Lenna cry. That’s a good way to start sprint planning (if you don’t know what that is, consider yourself lucky).

Why didn’t you invite ME? Well, Apache, you don’t like hats.

Declan put a set of blinds that didn’t fit on another project in the tack room. This is the only one that worked, but it’s okay, because that’s the one that gets lots of morning sun and heats things up.

Ok. Later I will hang up the little art I’ve had since I lived in my first house in Illinois.

And since I was too woozy to exercise, I did a fun thing at lunch. Kathleen gave me one of those kid sun-catcher crafts to cheer me up. It was a paint horse, and I made it look like Apache. It’s got his mane and tail plus a white nose. I had fun, and it’s cheerful in a window.

And one more thing, I found yet another mushroom variety today. The puffballs are back! And yesterday’s ink caps are already fading. Maybe my mold issue will, too.

The look like golf balls grow!

Slime Mold, Mystery Mold, Shimmering Fungi

Well, shoot, no wonder my head is full of mush, there is so much mold, fungus, and who knows what other damp-loving organisms right now after the rain. I was feeling better after taking the Mucinex, but then I went outside and did stuff with the horses and BOOM I’m a dizzy, queasy mess again. I think I need to stay in, but when you have these precious beings wandering around, you want to go out!

Someone let us out! Extra green grass!

As for things that might attack my head, I’ve seen some old and some new. The first thing I saw I have no clue what it is. It looks like strands of fungus growing on the ground. There were a bunch of large masses of them in the grass yesterday.

It could be the web of a spider, but I don’t think that’s it. Any ideas?

The weirdest thing I’ve seen, and one that has probably helped make me sick, is the aptly named dog vomit slime mold. At least I think that’s what it is. It weirdly covers all the plants. Yesterday I thought it was bird poop. Today, ewww. That is one fascinating thing.

Well, that’s an interesting thing.

There’s more “normal” stuff out there that I’ve enjoyed. I posted photos of some mushrooms yesterday that I call poop shrooms. I do not think they are “magic mushrooms,” but just normal Panaeolus antellarum. This is a mushroom that’s actually edible, but since it grows on dung, not a lot of us would really want to eat them. Certainly, there are enough to feed many people right now! Every pile of horse poop has its own little colony.

There are other mushrooms that have popped up, and I’ve always enjoyed them. The inkcaps are so delicate that they wave in the wind. Watch the video; it’s so pretty.

Prettiest poop ever.

I wrote about this because I know it won’t last. The mold and fungi will be gone in a few days once it dries out (though I hope it rains some more).

The horses like damp hay so they dig little holes to get to where it’s still wet.

It was dry enough today to get more work done on the front pond. These silt up quickly, so it’s always good to get in there and clean them out when a dry spell comes up. We now have a mountain of beautiful dirt to spread across the pasture, and maybe make the horses a little hill to run up and down. It’s a great opportunity to make the slopes on the side a little less steep, especially where we need to mow.

I’m not complaining about all these weather changes! You see so many interesting natural phenomena if you just look carefully.

Goodbye to a Bird Friend, Hello to Others

Well, there was apparently an actual cock fight last night, and Peeper lost. I was not surprised, but sad. Bruce was just being a rooster. I tried. Sniff. Poultry are sure hard to keep.

Starlings and dewberries across the road.

In good bird news, I’ve heard my first red-winged blackbird of the year. And in better news, the scissor-tail flycatchers are swooping and soaring again. That’s good, because the barn swallows need help with all the flying ants and other swarming creatures.

Mr Robotto, the pool cleaner, was filled with tiny wings yesterday. Yuck.

But all is not bad. Look at the giant mushroom that’s just sitting in front of the house. It looks like an ostrich egg or a softball!

Drew is holding his own. I spent a lot of time with him today. I groomed him a long time and groomed filthy Apache even longer. That horse is still shedding like crazy. Drew is too, but not so badly. And in Drew news you didn’t probably want to hear, he pooped today, which means he’s functioning normally.

No photos of Drew, but right next to him is a newly organized shipping container.

We are about to get to where the tack room will be built out, which sure makes me happy. Then we will be on to our next ranch improvement project, which involves a little building down the road.

Isn’t it cute?

And on one last note, it’s also gnat season. It’s always something here. Enjoy some flowers and an insect.

PS: a hummingbird moth just landed on my phone as I was labeling the flowers. Nature is full of surprises.

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.

Soggy and Soggier

It’s still raining today. There were brief respites, but we’ve had at least an inch. Whew. The good news is we have a lot of mushrooms to enjoy.

Happy puffballs.

I tried to go check out what was going on at the fence project. But it started raining real hard, so we went off to see a horse that we may board over here to keep Apache company. It’s all alone, and belongs to some folks who live near our office.

Howdy. I’m Prince.

He needs a Coggins test and stuff, but if he came here, his owner says we can ride him. That would be fun. At least he’s small, and he’s named after my dad. This isn’t a done deal, but a possibility. In any case, I got to meet a friendly horse.

It then rained more. But, not before I went out to take some pictures of the Black-eyed Susans. I lucked out and Penney joined me. I got some lovely photos of her looking romantic.

I’m so romantic.

She sure blends in well with scenery.

This is just so beautiful. I love the storm clouds.

Being with the dogs makes you notice so many things! I didn’t even get mad at Vlassic when he jumped up and got my entire outfit muddy.

Who, me?

But even muddy weather has its good points. There’s always beautiful nature to enjoy. Like, why were there so many mud daubers on sunflower leaves? And why is Mr. Toad living in this trough?

All in all, it’s good to be back in the swing of things. I got work done and caught up with my Master Naturalist blogging. It’s volunteer week at work, so it was authorized. What fun! I’ll try to get more fascinating tomorrow. I’m still wiped out.

Penney is tired too. All that glamour wore her out.

Book Report: Fantastic Fungi

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Yes, another book report. That’s what happens when you take time off from your usual busy-ness-hood. Today’s book is another really special one that I bought after the Master Naturalist meeting. Fantastic Fungi is a companion to a film I need to see. The book is edited by Paul Stamets, an expert on mushrooms, who also contributes essays.

Cool book cover, plus Penney.

Before I go on and on about the writing, though, let me gush about the illustrations, which are mostly gorgeous photographs by Taylor Lockwood and others. I could look at them all day. The variety of shapes, textures, colors, and forms that mushrooms and other fungi can take surprised me. There are things in this book that I’m awed by.

The inside back cover. Look at those things!

And now for the content of the book. There are lots of short essays, interrupted by annoying large subheadings (my only complaint). The greats of mushroom science contributed, and it’s weird to read “and I discovered x in my research,” rather than “this famous person discovered x.”

Since mushrooms are an area where I lacked knowledge, I learned a lot about how mycelium and fungal networks are organized. I knew they could be very large and very old, but the contribution they make to life on this planet are way more significant than I’d realized.

My favorite page, because of all those shapes.

And that’s where this book switched from being a pretty book about a part of nature I only knew a little about to something much more significant. Over and over, the contributors to Fantastic Fungi, stressed that fungi have much to teach us and may even be able to save us, if we learn how. The subtitle is: How Mushrooms Can Heal, Shift Consciousness and Save the Planet, after all.

Reading about how we seem to be designed to use the nutrients, chemicals, and other aspects of mushrooms makes me realize we are related. And that’s the point the contributors are trying to make. Without mushrooms, plants and animals would suffer greatly. Paul Stamets, especially, speaks eloquently.

A core concept of evolution is that, through natural selection, the strongest and fittest survive. In truth, (and scientifically proven), communities survive better than individuals, especially communities that rely on cooperation. Acting on such a principe, people want to give in order to receive, which I think reflects the power of an essential goodness.

Paul Stamets, p. 66

It becomes clear from Stamets and others that all of the organisms here in Earth depend on each other. Humans have been woefully ignorant of this.

Then, they bring in the heavy hitters, Michael Pollan and people he’s worked with to talk about how mushrooms (psilocybin) can help humans realize this (which I did read about in How to Change Your Mind). And they bring in more research on the experiences people have with these mushrooms. Good stuff.

What they mainly say is that people overwhelmingly have experiences of oneness and connection with other people and the earth. Maybe this is what mushrooms are trying to tell us? If so, I’m all for it. A bit more acknowledgment of our commonality and less artificial differentiation would be fine with me.

I’m inspired. And it strikes me that focusing on this kind of mutual connection is yet another way we can help get past racism, bullying, and needless antagonism. Thank you, fungi.

Hmm. I seem to be on a journey, don’t I? Are those mushrooms growing on the cow patties what I need?

(No, I’m not gonna do it. Too law abiding. And don’t want to poison myself.)

Grace, Nature, and Humor to the Rescue

What do you do to get through trying times? You take it one day at a time. I am doing my best to just observe and not get all caught up in things I can’t control, like I’ve been saying this week. And I figure one way I can help myself and others is to provide brief diversions. What the heck?

Grace

I’ve been reading and reading ideas on mindfulness and they have brought me a bit of grace, I think. Here’s a quote by Joanna Macy, the Buddhist teacher and naturalist, about the times we are in and our relationship to the earth:

…It is so great a privilege to be here on Earth at this time….Being fully present to fear, to gratitude, to all that is–this is the practice of mutual belonging. As living members of the living body of Earth, we are grounded in that kind of belonging. We will find more ways to remember, celebrate, and affirm this deep knowing: we belong to each other, we belong to earth. Even when faced with cataclysmic changes, nothing can ever separate us from her. We are already home.

Lion’s Roar, May 2020, p. 50. Excerpt from A Wild Love for the World: Joanna Macy and the Work of Our Time, edited by Stephanie Kaza.

Guess what book I just ordered?

Nature

As always, nature has provided me with a way to center. The magnolia blossom that Chris picked for me this morning has filled my office with fragrance, and I found myself in a meditative state earlier, just looking at the structure of the center.

Magnolia glory.

You can see how the current beauty is all set up to become a beautiful seed pod with bright red seeds. I take it as a reminder that we are always undergoing a transformation (including Mother Earth) and that we can gain solace from how destruction and metamorphosis bring their own beauty.

What’s cool is that it continues to change. The petals are folding up now (not happy we picked it, I guess)

I’ve noticed a lot of my friends sharing their gardens, whether flowers or produce, which brings moments of pleasure. And my Master Naturalist friends keep coming up with the best stuff! Look at this puffball mushroom my friend Pamela saw on her property, just a couple of miles from our ranch.

Now, that’s one big mushroom! I love all the patterns on it. Photo by Pamela Neeley.

Humor

And then there’s humor. I was rather surprised yesterday when I made a joking comment to my husband, and he took offense. He says I never joke around. This is disturbing, since I think of myself as funny. Oops.

But I decided that it’s a good idea to have some fun with images, anyway. I posted the following photo of a tile in my bathroom on Facebook:

What do you see in the center tile?

I said I saw a Satanic goat (it has scary eyes). The responses to the post were a lot of fun. People saw a llama, a dragon, a snail, a slug, a horse, unicorn, a goddess, and a duck (among others). The tile is a natural stone called river travertine, because it looks like flowing water, so the person who saw the ocean was right on!

I decided I’d just post things that made me laugh, so I also posted a picture of poor Penney and all her excess skin.

There’s a second dog in there somewhere.

So yeah, I’m not going to deny the undercurrent of doom swirling around me, but my pet bobcat (or whatever that is) and I are going to keep looking for grace, natural beauty, and the absurd as we go through the day.

Oh, SnapChat, when you don’t have me worried about my kid’s safety, you entertain.
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