Goldie the Great Dane Goes Mudding

You don’t have to go out of town to have adventures, as the Hermits’ Rest’s biggest canine, Goldie, discovered today. We made it home from Bandera and getting new job paperwork done in plenty of time for daily chores and a bit of fun.

Explorer Goldie.

The deer stand on the property had gotten blown over by the wind, so I went along to watch the tractor right it. Goldie ran alongside us.

It’s pretty here.

Once the stand was righted, we just had to enjoy the beauty of the back part of the ranch. I love it there, where all you see is grass and trees. It’s really fun on a horse, but pretty darned good on foot.

Up it goes.

We wandered around a bit finding big rocks for Lee’s pond. Then we went to check one of the small tanks/ponds that hides back there. I got all distracted by this walking stick on a Christmas cholla cactus.

The brown thing is an insect.

Goldie decided she was thirsty. After all, it got over 100 degrees today, and she ran all this way. She did her best to get to the water in the muddle of the pond, but nope. The mud was up past her knees.

I can’t get to the water.

The sound of Goldie pulling her feet out of the mud was the definition of “suck.” It was pretty funny, but I was glad she didn’t get stuck. She was too.

She was sooo dirty.

It’s hard to say what’s more

This evening, though, we looked down and saw Carlton patiently cleaning Goldie’s legs. They made a lot of progress before all the dogs erupted in play. Yeah, we miss our dogs when we leave.

It’s August. It’s Drying Up.

I’m very grateful for all the opportunities I get here at the Hermits’ Rest to observe weather patterns and natural cycles. Today was a good example.

There’s plenty of water, but it’s down at least a foot.

I’d gone to open the gate for Trixie and was intrigued by how many butterflies I saw, so I hung around the front pond, the one we made so we could build our driveway. I noticed that the pond is losing water rapidly, though it has more in it than usual this time of year.

All gone

The wet parts of the arroyo are all dried up, but you can see how much life they support. There are crawfish mounds and bird footprints in the former mud. And all around are wetland or riparian plants, like sedges and rushes.

My favorite grass, silver bluestem, foreground.

This part of our property has more than just coastal Bermuda grass, which brings so many interesting creatures, like those butterflies I saw.

I saw a common buckeye, a tiger swallowtail, and a larger sulphur butterfly, but not where I could get pictures. And there are still a few flowers in among the drying grassy.

Look at those pink evening primroses!

The star of the pasture right now, though, are the ballon vines. They are everywhere, ready to float away in the next flood and populate another area downstream. The little yellow butterfly above is feeding on their tiny white flowers, which are quite a contrast to the seed pods!

Little balloons everywhere.

It even rained a little today, which won’t fill the pond back up, but it sure felt good on me and the horses. Drew my horse baby and I had a rainy hug fest. By the way, Trixie said his procedure worked, so he doesn’t need more work, just strengthening.

Hard to believe this was once a barren ditch.

This is the weirdest August ever, but I’ve got horses, dogs, chickens, ponds, and native plants to enjoy. How could I be lonely?

See the dragonfly?

The Little Pond Miracle

I mentioned a while back that Lee was building a pond for in front of the house. He has worked very hard on it, hand-placing every decorative rock, and constantly rearranging it. We were mighty disappointed when the water started disappearing out of the lower part every night. We’d come in, and there would be just a small amount of water in the bottom.

Pond, in good shape, with grass that needs to be dealt with.

Lee worked hard to fix it. First he put some foam stuff in to seal the leaky area (or as far as we could tell where the leaky area was. The next day the foam was floating like a black iceberg, and the water was down again.

Next, he tried some paint-on stuff. Nope. Third, he tried different stuff, and it appeared not to work. We left it for a few days with just that little bit of water in it. However, Sunday night he filled it up again, just so we could enjoy the sound as we sat around enjoying the sunset with our friends.

The fountain has rocks with shell fossils in them, from the driveway. Maybe not great for fish health.

The next day, a miracle occurred. The pool held. It’s still holding. I think the last stuff just needed to cure longer than we were letting it cure. Happy dance! Of course, thanks for sitting still for those few days, the pond was now a mosquito hazard. Something had to be done.

Yuck.
I’m full.

I went and fetched two goldfish out of the horse troughs and put them in there. I am not sure how much good that’s doing, since the fish can only eat so much. Plus, the pond gets a bit hot for them. I’m going to look for some of those mosquito fish. Or, I’ll put the goldfish back where they were and put in mosquito dunks. Sigh. I don’t like using chemicals.

There also appears to be a dog growing in the upper pond.

Anyway, there is still a bigger plan for all this pond stuff, so I’m going to sit back and wait to see how Lee does it. I’m proud that he fixed it after all his persistence!

Alfred has not managed to get rid of many larvae, but he does explain why we have a hose right there. He and Goldie are heavy drinkers.

The dogs are very happy with their new outdoor water bowl and are convinced we made it just for them, so they don’t have to walk ALL the way to the pond on the other side of the driveway. Besides, the bullfrogs scare Goldie. And the grasshoppers think I put the pond plants in there just for their snacking, at least the ones who live. I got a net to fish out the dead grasshoppers.

I look forward to sitting on the porch and listening to the water gurgle, which should make things harder for the mosquitoes. Another reason not to wear shorts!

Lee Has a New Project

This is exciting! Lee has been thinking of doing something for a long time, and decided that now’s the time to get going on it. He’s working on a series of decorative ponds for the front of the house (these will not be cattle tanks, but nice ponds, with water plants and such).

A project begins. That orange paint got all over Lee, by the way.

He got started over the weekend, and spent much of yesterday digging the holes to hold a waterfall and a main pond, next to our new walkway. Since it was a very hot day, this all went in stages! Kathleen and I served as consultants and beverage fetchers. That’s very important!

Water will flow out of the top one, which will be covered by a big rock.

The idea with the pond is to eventually have the current one flow down a little creek lined with river rocks into a much larger pond, then recirculate back up. Rain overflow will go into another planned diversion.

The general idea of the pond. The pipes are for going under the path, I think. I need to get rid of that grass.

We will have to see whether we can put anything in there other than native mosquito fish, because we don’t want goldfish washing into Walker’s Creek, which is bad news! And we realize birds will want to snack on fish, dogs will want to mess with the pond, etc. So, this is all to be determined. At this point, Lee is going to get the small pond and waterfall going.

The stream will go down that low area, over to the new pond at the corner of the house. We like ponds.

And Dogs

I can’t resist sharing dog stories. Yesterday, before our biweekly Board meeting, Goldie decided I was a chair. I guess anything’s a chair to her.

I’m gonna nap right here.

We’ve also been enjoying watching all the dogs play. Goldie and Carlton have ended their embarrassing love affair, now that Goldie’s heat is over at last, and are now just buddies again. They have a lot of fun together.

Playtime is all the time!

Let’s see what further adventures this new week brings!

Tanks? Ponds?

I live in Texas, on a cattle ranch, though none of the cattle here are mine. The cattle here mostly drink out of artificial ponds, because as any Texas naturalist knows, there’s only one natural lake in Texas (Caddo Lake, on the Louisiana border). Thus, any pond you see is made by a human or beaver.

There’s a tank in the middle of those flowers down the road.

However, any native Texan will tell you those cattle aren’t drinking out of (and cooling off in, and pooping in) ponds. Oh no. Those are tanks. Stock tanks or cattle tanks. You sound like a city person if you call them ponds.

Our lovely small pond that sometimes merges with the creek.
I don’t know how long they stay so pristine.

I’m telling you all this because I’ve recently had a couple questions about what the heck a cattle tank is. First, stock tanks in most places are like big water troughs made of metal or plastic. People like to make them into swimming pools. But that’s a normal tank.

These are attached to water supplies and have valves to keep water at the right level. We have some here, as well. The goldfish in there have really grown, to my happiness.

There ARE fish in here.

But most properties have one or more of these in-ground tanks, made usually by damming an arroyo or other place where water naturally goes, then digging out a big hole. This is how we made our front “pond.” Our driveway is the dam.

The tank we made. Those trees grew up since we built the dam/driveway.

All the other tanks on the property are much older. Our neighbor’s son remembers swimming in them. Um, I see too many snakes to consider that. The big tanks have very tall dams around them, created by digging the holes. The dam around the front tank next door is really tall, and Fiona freaks out at it. I still don’t know why.

Looking down the ditch that drains into the big tank. Look carefully on each side to see the dam.

Because I wanted to know more about the history of tanks in Texas, I looked it up and found a fine article from Texas Monthly that fascinated me. For example, I learned that 80% of the tanks in Texas have fish in them, even ones that haven’t been stocked. I’ve seen catfish in ours!

The tank behind our house has plenty of fish for the herons, and is popular with cattle and dogs for cooling off. There’s only a dam on one side, but it’s tall!

I also learned that there are subsidies for building tanks that prevent erosion. That may explain why Texas has more of these man-made bodies of water than any other US state. I actually think that’s what my neighbor does, advise people about building tanks. I should ask, huh. My friend Phyllis confirms this; I’d call them tanks, too, if I got paid!:

My Dad always said that the government would pay farmers to put in stock tanks in the early 1900’s. So if you built a pond for your livestock you paid for it, but if you built a “tank” for your livestock the government paid for most and sometimes all of it…

Of course, as my friend Lynn also pointed out, when you build a tank, the State owns the surface water. That’s one of those weird Texas technicalities.

One thing I do know is that it’s easier to build a tank when you have some clay in your soil. In sandy places, you have to add a layer of clay so it will hold water. We have a couple of dry tanks here, too. Animals like to hide in them. See, I paid attention in my Master Naturalist classes. I obviously think tanks are cool.

Some old tanks look pretty darned natural, like the one next to Walker’s Creek cemetery.

And finally I was happy to read my favorite thing about tanks is not just mine and my naturalist friends. Tanks now attract all kinds of plants and animals that might not be there if we hadn’t put the water there for them. Long after the cattle ranches are gone, the tanks will remain, drying up in drought and refilling when there’s lots of rain.

The little front pond in a drought. Not much water (2013)

Yes, pond, tank, or whatever, these artificial watering holes will provide us with ample nature watching opportunities and provide habitat for so much life. Hooray for tanks!

Just in Time (Aprés le déluge)

It’s a-floodin’ outside, so I’ll blog some. Yesterday, Chris and I left our respective work a little early (even though my coworkers really wanted me to keep going and I stayed on calls until long after I got back to the ranch), because Mary was bringing a portable horse pen and some jumps that Sara and I bought from her. No, I do not expect Apache will jump over anything.

[Pretend I wasn’t too hot to take a picture and that you see some green metal and wood.]

After the heavy lifting on that project was over (we had enough help that it went fast) Chris had time to work on ranch projects. He hauled out the backhoe and worked to finish the mini detention pond with ditch that we’ve been working on for a while.

Driving the big equipment.

Kathleen, the dogs, and I enjoyed watching it, very much. He made the pond bigger, tapering it toward the road. That pissed off a lot of 🐸 frogs. We enjoyed watching them.

The dogs went crazy running around in the dirt and swimming in the pond. We laughed a lot.

Penney swims.

Then came the fun part. Chris made a ditch that will take the water from this pond to the pond by our driveway. That solves a drainage issue we had. It was also great dog fun.

Carlton is trying to look innocent.

Penney decided to “help” with the digging and vigorously applied herself to widening a spot.

I’m helping.

As he went further, everyone supervised. I didn’t get any after pictures, but I’ll say it ended up smooth and nice.

Penney, Kathleen, Gracie and Carlton performing quality control.

Testing It Out

Chris has great timing. Last night a HUGE storm came through, so the new drainage got a workout. Actually, it’s still getting it, which is why my photos are through the window.

You can sorta see the ditch running along the driveway.

We are pleased to see water heading to the front pond in an orderly fashion. It’s working!!

Lots of puddles out there.

All the dirt piled along the side of the pond is slated for another project. Kathleen and I want to plant a palm tree 🌴 or put native plants around the finished pond, with a bench for watching our animals. I’ll have an interesting yard some day!

I’ll get more pictures soon.