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.

Close to Perfect Welcome to Spring

Sure, everything is delayed and there’s lots of brown grass here, but the first day of spring dawned to remind me what a good life I have.

Blue water and blue skies as far as a dog can see.

We spent most of the day outside messing around with our projects. Lee worked on his pond project, while I decided to put some plants up around the pool and try again for some vegetables.

New plants and knitting project progress

The kids came and sat with us on the patio for a while this morning to soak up the rare total quiet out here (no barking, mooing, or crowing). That’s so special. I doubt they have any clue how much I appreciate family time. It was just so wonderful.

Spring did appear. Whew.

I got some nice plants and planters for two reasons. One, I need something to keep our killer winds from repeatedly messing up my outdoor rug. Two, we finally will be able to enjoy our back patio all summer. So flowers and plants will be able to be cared for better. I can jump in that dang pool any time I get hot.

I think it’s pretty.

I got marigolds to perk up my tomatoes and peppers, but they also add color to my red plants, whatever they are. I’m better with wildflowers.

Trying again. This year I’ll move them before the farmer sprays herbicides.

It was just a good day. I have the kids a bunch of pepper plants for their garden, too. Nice to see them growing stuff! That will be fun for them. As for me, while I did run around a lot and plant things, I also got to relax with Lee, spend quality time with the horses and chickens, and watch the dogs run and play.

Vlassic stopped running to sniff the spring air. Hi

Wishing you a pleasant Ostara, full of peace and hope.

Ways We Cope with Stress: Featuring Plants

Because I’m so darned introspective, I’ve been examining how I cope with stress these days. I find that I can only handle a subset of the priorities I could before, and I avoid duties that appear like they’ll bring on more stress. That’s how I’m coping now, to the detriment of a couple of projects. But, as I look around I realize mine is only one way to cope. I also notice it’s not just us people who cope in different ways, so rather than call out people today, I’ll illustrate my points with how local plants are coping with the stress from Winter Storm Uri.

A perfect example is how some trees have died, some are struggling to come back, and some look fantastic, and this difference can happen in the same types of trees.

Some of us seem to deal with stress as if it’s not there at all. These people are often deeply grounded, have been through a lot, or have lots of support (roots!). These people, just like the Ashe juniper trees, often support others.

Others retreat and focus on one thing at a time, and try their best to do it well, like a rose bush with just one perfect flower.

Only one blossom, but it’s a good one.

There are people, and I know quite a few of them, who not only handle stress well, they thrive on it and so some of their best work when there’s a lot going on. Sometimes doing something is a way of coping and staying busy (I’m guilty of this), while others find challenges energizing. They enthusiastically bloom where they’re planted!

There are those, and who can blame them, who go into hiding, and only begin to peek out when the danger is over. Even then, they go slowly. It takes a lot out of people and plants to get their bearings when a stressful situation begins to ease up.

Stress tends to scatter some folks, too. They try this method of coping, and that method of coping, trying to find one that will actually work and get them through the hard times. I see this a lot in stressed oaks, which start putting out new growth all over, and not just at the ends of their branches. Some pop up along old limbs, and other pop up from the roots (very common).

This motte of oaks is sending out new sprouts all over the limbs and trunks.

When stress is really causing problems in living your usual life, though, sometimes starting again in a new place might help, like the redbud trees I’ve seem who look pretty sad up top, but have vibrant new growth farther down their trunks.

How many of us know people who have no choice to start over, even when that, too, is a struggle. I saw this poor tree with no leaves or other signs of life on its branches, but that hadn’t given up completely, and was starting again, hesitantly, and perhaps slowly. But, it’s still THERE! I count those of us who are in this situation as stronger than they realize.

I’m coming back!

Many of us fail to thrive during stressful periods. And it’s hard to say who’s going to cope well and who’s going to fall apart. One thing I noticed was that often there are two or more trees of the same variety near each other, and one looks great, while another struggles or succumbed to the weather? What’s the difference? You can’t tell on the surface what internal resources a tree or person has. That’s why we need to be patient and not blame people for their problems.

Same tree (an oak), different success rate.

I think flexibility, along with resilience, makes a difference in how we weather the inevitable Winter Storm Uri events in our lives. People who lived very rigid, inflexible lives really have had trouble with pandemic changes, just like a plant that’s been groomed into a stiff hedge with no choice in how it grows may have more trouble in a winter storm.

There are hundreds of these around the office, all very sad looking.

Those of us who aren’t well situated in the first place or already have anxiety issues may cope by throwing things every which way. A lot of the plants I seem seem to be reproducing like crazy, trying to grow, and growing in weird ways, like they’re trying ALL the options to make sure they’re making a good, healthy, happy impression. This has to take a lot of energy, and I wonder how well they’re going to do if they keep all that extra-perky energy up. I’ve noticed some crashing and burning of late…maybe a bit by me, to be honest.

This inland sea oats has come back strong, and has generated dozens of little buddies, just in case things don’t work out.

Now, some of the trees, and some of the people don’t make it at all through intense stress. I know more than one person who seems to be hanging by a thread right now. Some of us are just out of our element, like tropical trees (palms and such) that look pretty awful right now. I can’t fault them, and can only offer support and virtual hugs. And I will honor those we have lost.

We salute you, fallen non-native and non-cold hardy tree.

Looking at all the ways we humans and plants deal with unexpected stress is a good exercise for me. I can easily see the parallels among us, and what’s most clear is that there’s no right or wrong way to cope, nor are we all going to cope equally well. So, I’ll try to be patient with those who are struggling, including those who cope differently from me. I hope you can, too.

Feeling a Little Better about Nature’s Survival

After that unusual series of cold fronts, snow, and ice, I (and others) have been pretty worried about whether out friends out there in nature are going to make it through to spring and keep going. In the past day or two I’ve seen some happy signs. So, as long as I’m out in nature and not dealing with technology, I’ve been pretty happy.

Vlassic is happy, because I’ve been sitting on the porch with him and running around a lot.

My heart skipped a beat when I finally saw some Indian paintbrush plants in the field. Now that there are two or three of them, I know we’ll have at least a bit of our usual field of orange in front of the house (as long as we can convince Jim the brother-in-law not to mow until they are going to seed).

A brave pioneer in the big wildflower meadow (until someone turns it into a pasture).

The field is already lovely to me, with a whole lot of mock verbena mingling with crow poison and field madder, once you look close enough to see them. And I know more’s coming! That’s why I like this time of year. Every day something new starts blooming, and I record them on iNaturalist so that some day I can analyze the data and see if the weather changes when the wildflowers start up (that will be when I retire).

I don’t remember having so much of this charming plant in the field before!

A new “blossom” coming up yesterday was this dwarf plantain (at least that’s what iNaturalist identified it as). I thought it was the annual trampweed (which is also in the picture, along with chicory, burr clover of some kind, and a grass, but I was wrong).

But it IS something new blooming, whatever it is!

Another new bloomer is one I’d been worried about, on behalf of my stomach, and that’s the dewberries. They really got knocked back by the cold, but by gosh, they have recovered and started blooming. Even though there are only a few blossoms right now, it already smells good over by the stream.

Future fruit! Yay!

How about the non-plants?

Adult green-striped grasshopper that is brown.

I’ve been anxiously looking for butterflies and grasshoppers and such. Judging from the sounds I’ve been hearing, the green-striped grasshoppers I’ve been watching grow up have matured. I see them flying around the back yard and making their grasshopper noises. Here’s one that happens to be brown.

I’ve been seeing a lot of these hairstreak butterflies, along with some sulphurs and one red admiral that was too far away to photograph.

Hairstreak with chicory and tiny bluet.
This blurry shot is the best one I could get, as the butterfly never landed.

But, I had heard people were already seeing monarchs, but that there was nothing for them to eat. Sure enough, as I sat in the back yard yesterday waiting to go to the phone store, a steady stream of them passed by, but never landed on anything. I sure hope they find some nectar!

I know pear trees are blooming (native ones, not just Bradford pears), so the bees are doing well.

Maybe Carlton has some hunting dog in him. I caught him pointing (he turned his head when he saw me).

I’m never alone when I’m out looking at all these plants and insects and such. Carlton and Penney are especially close to me wherever I go, while Alfred and Vlassic explore more. It always makes me happy to see that the pets have as much fun as I do. We are all really lucky to have acres and acres to explore and nobody to tell us what we can and can’t do out here. Ranch living may have poor cell reception, but it makes up for it in the kind of freedom that matters to me, which is freedom to observe nature and be a part of it, not try to dominate it.

As usual, Penney was by the water.

I hope you are enjoying the signs of spring where you are (and if you’re in Colorado, I hope the snow is melting).

Thelma and Louise Buy Plants

Because my employer gave us the day off in honor of Juneteenth (good for them), Kathleen and I decided to do something fun. We went to the little local nursery in Cameron to get some plants for the new office, since it’s pretty smelly in there from floor finishing (another post).

New plants!

It was hard to decide what to get, because they had so many lovely things. I got myself a spider plant for my office, because the ones in Austin got aphids or something. Boo. She got a pothos for hers, but I’m going to make one out of the plant in my bedroom (and Mandi May have made me one, too).

We found our company on a poster! Kathleen is wearing her Thelma hat. I happen to have Louise.

I also got a peace plant, and because I messed up Mandi’s, I’ve made it the Mandi’s Mom Memorial Peace Plant. That pleased her. That’s it for indoors.

The peace plant, before watering.
Before planting.

Kathleen got three roses for in front of her office and a hibiscus for the patio on the other side. She also got a fern and a corn plant. For now, they are on the front porch, but one is really for the reception office.

The hibiscus. It will be red.

She picked three pretty plants for the area around the mailbox. One the young man at the shop said was a Mexican honeysuckle. The others are purple. I had to look it up. PlantSnap said it was a golden dewdrop. Okay. Duranta erecta is its name and it will be big and thorny. Oh my. But it’s native to Mexico, so it may not make it through the winter.

Golden dewdrop, purple type.

Well, the nursery mostly has Mexican plants, so that makes sense! The people who run the place are very nice and take such good care of the plants. I’m very glad they’re here in our little town.

The Mexican plant collection.

After I went to the farrier visit, we planted the ones that go in the ground. I admit Kathleen did the hard work. I weeded. Then Chris also helped. It was fun, and the weather wasn’t too bad in the shade.

Thelma plants a foundation plant.

It all looks quite cheerful. Tomorrow Kathleen is going to work on the grass, and we are going to get some cheerful Mexican pottery for the indoor plants. Fun times. It’s feeling like a real, cared-for, old house!

The first three of many future rose bushes.

Let’s Garden! The Heat Index Is Only 105!

Hey, I’m only in Austin three evenings a week, so I don’t have a lot of chances to do outdoor activities. Monday it rained. Yesterday I had a phone meeting, so we had time to go buy some plants afterwards but not to do anything with them.

Beautiful blooming oregano plant, new cushions, and my smelly gardenia.

So today, even though it’s 95 degrees out, we repotted and rearranged everything. I was really happy to find huge oregano plant that I can put in the frighteningly sunny part of the deck.

Cheer for the blazing sun area.

I also put a couple plants that are less perky back there, and added happy sun-loving healthy plants to make it look better.

Continue reading “Let’s Garden! The Heat Index Is Only 105!”

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