Autumn of Life Is Here

When the fall color arrives here in the middle of Texas, it’s subtle, and you don’t see it coming. I love this season and take comfort in the quiet beauty of our cedar elms and oaks as they prepare to lose their leaves for the winter.

I see some orange and yellow out there.

Today dawned sunny and crisp, but not cold. It was a welcome relief to see the sun for the first time in many days, and even more welcome was the sight of the new pond finally completely full and draining to the other side of the dam. After four cloudy, drizzly days, we had a large front move through overnight that brought enough rain to fill the drought-parched tanks for the first time since last spring. I guess the drought is over, at last.

It’s full!
I keep you healthy

The way this season has crept up reminds me of how I’ve been moving into the autumn of my life and not realizing it. I’ve been lucky to be very healthy since we came out to the Hermits’ Rest and have been growing stronger and more capable thanks to working with the horses and other animals.

Realistically, I am old.

But this illness that came up last week has been a very unsubtle reminder that I’m not a young person anymore. A cold that I’d usually just power through over a few days has made me weak and tired. I didn’t expect that at all. I keep trying to go out and get things done, only to feel worse and fall asleep for a few hours. I’m not bouncing back.

I am glad that it’s been so wet and muddy out, because it the weather had been good, I know I’d have been trying to force myself out to work with Drew, who needs me on him and working with him. But our working area is a little lake right now, and I am barely able to maneuver across the muck to get the food buckets for the poor horses. (They are not suffering; in fact, I think they are enjoying the pleasant temperatures and the abundant hay.)

And the horses have puddles to stomp in.

As I’m pulling myself out of the depression episode and feeling my mortality more than usual, it’s taking effort to not go into reflective mode and dwell on goals not achieved, mistakes made, and errors unaddressed. The sun’s helping me remind myself that I’m still able to learn new things, be kind to those who’ll accept kindness, and forgive others.

I should do more looking at reflections and less reflecting. This is the creek, with water at last.

While it’s true that I notice my memory failing and don’t know how much longer I’ll be a useful member of society, I do have confidence that no matter what, I’ll be able to enjoy each new autumn when it arrives. It may just be different from now on as I go from the autumn to the winter of life.

Water Magic

You may recall that we had our front tank/pond dug out, since it had dried up and it would be easy to remove the silt. It’s now patiently waiting for rain to fall. However, it’s not empty. Apparently it’s filling itself up. Here’s the pond right after it was bulldozed.

Can you see the water?

Yes, as soon as the digging was over, a puddle appeared. Isn’t that cute, we thought! I went off to Fredericksburg for the first part of this week. When I returned, the pond looked like this:

Look at that! It’s water!

No, the guy didn’t hit the water line, even though the edges of the pond do look shiny in the morning sun. It’s just clay that was smooshed flat.

I wonder if anything will grow on that. I hope so.

Today the pond has enough water in it that anyone would notice it as they drove by. There’s a spring down there, for sure, like we’d been conjecturing. What a magical surprise.

It’s in the shape of caterpillar treads, but it’s water.

I went over to check it out in person. As barren as it looks, life was there. Pondhawk dragonflies were mating, and neon skimmers were skimming along looking for food, but finding only willow leaves.

The water is a couple of inches deep in this part.

As I was taking photos, I looked at the soil I was standing on. When I moved, it made quite the sucking sound. We picked a great place to put a pond, because this place is quite the clay pit. I think my friend Pamela could come get some of it and make me a pot or a tray or something.

Clay-ey

I’ll be interested to see how it looks tomorrow. I hope beyond hope that tomorrow will be the last day I can look at the spring water, because there is a promise of rain on Sunday. That would be most welcome. It is very crunchy here and not an easy time for plants and pollinators.

New Pond Has Apache Seal of Approval

The horse, not the indigenous people.

Anyhow, I didn’t have tons of other plans today, so there was time to work with the equines. Dusty is all groomed and pretty, and he did a little conditioning. It wasn’t much, since he was stumbling at the trot, but he got attention and a snail-like walk.

Mabel didn’t want to be harnessed, but she’s trotting around all over the place, especially if there’s a hint that food might be involved, so she must feel better.

Apache was ready to do stuff, so we did. I wanted to work on his muscles, so we did our jumps and logs. He was having none of his stopping and walking, or his kicking the jump over. Nope. He was jumping. He didn’t notice I’d lowered the jump from Drew’s setting and eliminated the second one. He was a champ. He even cantered calmly and perhaps on the correct lead! So we headed out.

Wha?‽

He really wanted to go out and check that berm from the new pond out. I was really surprised! I thought he’d be afraid, but no. He was curious! So we rode all around it, walked on the dirt and seemed happy as heck.

Hey, I recognize that barrel.

What a fun ride we had! Even Fiona came along for part of the ride. She was not as thrilled with the berm, but she had her own fun.

I’m dubious, sez Fifi.

Anyway we’re thrilled with the new pond. Dang, that guy did a great job. It’s smooth and rounded and really looks like it’s always been there. And hey, the water is gathering at the bottom. It IS a spring! There’s more every time I look. Isn’t that cool?

What a good morning it was. But after I washed Apache he played a joke. He rolled and rolled and turned out black. Then he had the nerve to laugh at me.

Ha ha!

Sky and Water

What happy news. The springs the bulldozer guy found made a tiny water patch in the refurbished pond. This makes me look forward even more to rain. This pond will hold so much water!

See that puddle?

Today he smoothed out the berm he made from the dirt he dug up. It’s very smooth and looks so natural. I’ll have to get pictures tomorrow. I think once it gets some vegetation on it, it will be great for horse muscle building.

Speaking of muscles, Tarrin is working on Drew’s. I wasn’t very good at it.

Mostly though, I want to join these birds. I was so happy today, because it was cloudy! Not rainy, but cloudy at least. Even the birds were happy.

Fly away against a sky of gray!

Maybe it will rain!

Enjoying Life

Why not? I was all tired after helping a lot of folks at work, but when I went out to see the horses, I felt so much better that I did my scheduled ride and enjoyed the nice afternoon.

I had to replace the chairs, but these match better anyway. And one works as a mounting block!

The bulldozer is still plowing away. I think that project will be done tomorrow. He’s made it wider and is building an excellent berm that will be fun for the horses and provide a bit of sound insulation for us (you know, ALL that traffic we get!). Lee says he keeps finding springs, which doesn’t surprise me. But even in this drought to see moist areas surprises me!

Sun sets on the dirt and silt pile.

And after yesterday’s rant, I’m embracing my quirky decorating style. It helps that Kathleen has made some really pretty fall and Halloween wreaths and gave me one. Doesn’t it look great?

Seasonal cheer!

To top it all off, my additional cream yarn showed up, so I can keep going on my afghan project. in the meantime I made part of a narrow border to put on at the end. This is gonna be a project, all right.

Second border in progress.

Glad to have some calm time in life every so often.

A Hardworking Heavyweight in the Pasture

Hooray! I have a ranch project I can talk about! We’re getting the front pond dug out more, so it will be bigger, deeper, and hold more water. The pond was originally made from an arroyo (ditch) that made it hard to build a driveway into our homestead area. The dam is our driveway.

Removing willows that are in the way.

While it’s all dry, the tenants have had the ponds (cattle tanks) in the area between our house and the creek dug out. They silt up and need it every so often. since the guy already had the dozer here, Lee seized the chance to dig ours out, too.

It looked familiar, but don’t they all look alike?

It turns out the bulldozer is the same one that built the pond in the first place! The current operator got it from the previous guy when he gave up the dozing. It’s pretty cool! Plus the dozer guy (see, I’m not naming names) grew up right down the road, so he knows how the drainage works from first-hand experience.

Dozing with scenic ragweed.

I’m looking forward to seeing how much our budget will buy in pond digging. He’s first digging deeper into what’s already there, then enlarging it. I’m confident all the water plants will return. After all, they showed up quickly once the pond was dug in the first place!

I took a walk and enjoyed the cool October morning air today, too. What a refreshing work break! I got to pat all the equines and see what was blooming and growing. The horses were mostly ignoring me and staring intently to the north, though.

Alert!

It turns out one of Sara’s horses was walking down its pasture. They sure keep an eye out for each other! I know they miss Drew, who is making new friends, I hear.

All right then, these are some more pictures from my day. One good thing about starting work at 6:30am is having time to take pictures after work!

As they say, getting out in nature is good for you, even if it’s just a horse pasture.

Dizzy in the Head and Feeling Blue

That’s a song lyric from The Who. But I did get a sudden dizzy spell this afternoon that’s still with me. At least I’m not nauseated anymore. It has been unpleasant, though we’ve had more nice rain. It’s not flooding like north of here.

Fiona tried to kiss me and make it better.

I can’t explain, I think it’s love? No, that’s the song again. People have so many diagnoses for me. I should know that if I mention feeling bad, there will be theories! But it means people care, so I appreciate their kindness. Here are the theories so far:

  • Vertigo
  • Dehydration
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Low blood pressure
  • Stomach virus
  • Electricity in the air
  • COVID (took test, negative)
  • A-fib (added later)
  • Inner ear infection (added later)
  • Migraine from pressure change (added later)

So if it’s still here, I’ll go to the clinic tomorrow. For now I’m drinking lemon water. Maybe I’m allergic to lemons. Ha ha.

Grass. Yum. Note poop growing mushrooms in the foreground. No I did not eat them.

The horses were entertained this afternoon as the pond got de-silted. Both our backhoe and the regular tractor got in there. Lee had lots of fun making giant piles of rich, dark dirt, which then got to the clay layer.

Dirt. Or soil.

One reason there is so much nice black dirt is that when it rains, it all washes from the field across the road. I think we have half their topsoil. No wonder they have to fertilize.

Deep in the mud.

It was lots of fun to watch the digging. Even when I got extra light headed and barfy, it was fun. I even managed to get the horses fed before the rain arrived. Then I curled up in bed. Fun times. And here I remain, missing whatever fun activity I had planned for tonight.

Ah well. I’ll just make no sudden moves and it will be ok. I have much sympathy for my friends who deal with frequent vertigo. And on that note, I’ll leave you with two things I can’t explain, wasp edition.

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.

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?
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