Texas, Where Almost Everything Bites

Today I have a hodgepodge of stuff to share, but first I want to talk about what’s lurking around the ranch these days. That would be things that bite, and things that jump. Yesterday, I went to sit down on one of the front-porch rocking chairs, when I saw something on the seat.

A member of the widow spider family.

I am very glad she was pre-dead, and that I saw her before I sat. Certainly it confirms my habit of checking for creatures before plopping down anywhere around the Hermits’ Rest! I’m not sure what kind of widow spider she was, but I don’t want any of them biting me. These are the main reason I continue to support having pest control come around the house.

The second reason is scorpions, which I haven’t seen any of, but Lee and Kathleen have killed a few. I love them out in the woods, but not in the house. And I love the spiders, but not ones that could really mess with my health.

I’ve apparently become allergic to mosquito bites, and they make huge welts, so I could do without those right now, too. And biting flies! Argh. There are black flies around here, and horse flies (thankfully not around ME), and deer flies. Whatever. One of them bit me on my FACE this morning. That could have to do with how much poop we have at the ranch

Nonetheless, I am heartily enjoying discussing different kinds of flies and grasshoppers and stuff with Eric in our Master Naturalist class. He not only has good eye for finding them, but he has a good camera, and the patience to work hard to identify them.

Eric wrote me an email today about the coolest thing he saw (a “mystical experience,” in his words), which was he was trying to photograph a large grasshopper:

It jumped off the path into the high grass and when it landed it appeared to turn into at least a dozen tiny projectiles which flew off in all directions like a firework. A closer look uncovered a great concentration of grasshopper nymphs in the area.

Eric N., email 6/6/2020

Of course, he didn’t get a picture, but WOW, what an image!

My grasshopper experience this morning was also something you couldn’t photograph. I was walking back from horse riding (it went well), noticing that it’s definitely grasshopper season. Then I noticed the sound. As I walked, I was disturbing dozens and dozens of them (small ones, since they aren’t adult yet), and my walk seemed to have a rhythm section accompanying it. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap-tap-tap.

I k now a lot of people don’t like grasshoppers (like my sister), and I admit they are annoying in the summers when there are hundreds pelting me as I drive the utility vehicle. At least they don’t bite often or hard. But they are so varied and interesting. I have an AWFUL time photographing them, so I think I’m going to get a good butterfly net soon, so I can get some to hold still.

What Doesn’t Bite?

Roaches. Secretly, I have never been fond of roaches, due to childhood trauma, but I am doing better since I started doing iNaturalist. I recently even found one I thought was interesting to look at. It also lived outdoors, where it should.

Fairly attractive pale-bordered field cockroach

And non-venomous snakes don’t bite humans, often anyway. So, I was sad to see this one in the road this morning. Rat snakes are my buddies as long as they aren’t eating my hens’ eggs.

Poor snakey got hit by a car.

Okay, time to go see what’s outside that will hurt in some other way…

Doggie Doo, Oh Poo

Oh, look. Here’s my dog, Vlassic, sound asleep in his doggy bed. Isn’t that sweet? Look at how he is not wriggling, squirming, or digging his nails into anything. What a great dog.

As an added bonus, there isn’t dried up cow dung all over his collar, either. Mmm, that was fun to clean off. I can see why it becomes a building material. It dries to a rock hardness. A stinky rock hardness.

What Did He Doo?

Well, back at the ranch bedroom, there used to be an odd square of foam rubber that once dwelt inside a pillow. Lee was using it to make his inordinately complex nest that he sleeps on in his automatic recliner/man cocoon.

Monday evening, I came into the room, exhausted from my day of hospital hijinks, to discover many, many pieces of foam rubber strewn quite gaily around the place. A dog or dogs had gotten into the bedroom and run amock. You see, we leave the door open when Vlassic’s home, so he can hide in the bed from Penney (even though they get along now, he still won’t go downstairs and sit in our laps).

I don’t feel so good, Mom.

We cleaned the mess up. Lee will learn to put covers on pillows. The end?

Nope. Yesterday, when I drove back to Austin, I noticed Vlassic was turning around a lot in his seat, rather than sleeping. When I sat to relax from all my errands and phone calls, he wiggled a lot, then asked to go out. He usually doesn’t do that.

He ran to his usual “spot,” and then (you guessed it), began expelling not only poop, but good-sized pieces of foam rubber. That was different. At least I could see that it easily passed through him and didn’t cause a blockage. Whew.

Then we went to sleep. No, then we went to BED. The entire night, Vlassic tossed, turned, poked his feet into various parts of me, licked things, made little noises, etc. Finally, just before 6 am he went to the door and asked to go out. Off I went in my pajamas. Good thing no one (not even the deer and armadillos) was around to enjoy the spectacle of more foam-filled dog products.

When we got back, he squirmed until ten minutes before my alarm went off. GRR.

Just let me sleep it off, please.

As you might imagine, I did not have a good sleep report when I woke up.

But, that’s what we do for our loved ones we care for, right? We sacrifice because we love them, and when they make a mistake, we help them get through it. It was a good lesson for me to remember when I awoke to realize it’s been exactly a year since my son ghosted me. I love my children unconditionally, too.

Here’s Why You Dispose of Plastics Properly

Today’s bonus post is about how recycling and properly disposing of waste really, really matters. This is not more of my New Age jargon. It’s real, man.

Here’s a picture from this date in 2015 of Sara and me out riding. She is on Apache, who is now my horse, and I am on her previous horse, Aladdin. This was the first time I rode a horse other than the ancient plodding sweetheart, Pardner.

Yesterday, as often happens on weekends, Sara and I were out riding our horses. It was a really beautiful day, and the horses (Spice and Apache) were informing us that they’d rather do things other than what we were asking, so we needed to keep them out there to remind them we are the leaders and they are the followers.

So we wandered all over the property where it wasn’t too wet to wander. There were still a lot of good-sized puddles that are turning into small ponds, so I practiced convincing Apache it would be fun to walk through them, while Sara convinced Spice she really DID want to trot in giant circles.

Speaking of not being bored, Apache is learning the new skill of riding with a bit and bridle! We usually just use his halter and reins. Next, I have to learn to use the new tools.

That got boring, so we went into a pasture we’d not ridden in much before, over where our precious cattle are. There are some cool low spots I want to investigate on foot over there.

What was cute, though, was “checking on” the cattle. Basically that meant we walked up to each of them and calmly said “hey, cow/calf.” The littlest calf, who’s chocolate brown and very dainty (her mom was the youngest mother of the group) hid behind the larger bull calf at first, but then she peeked out and came right up to us.

All the mother cows have known these horses for years, so they were fine.

And what about plastic?

I’m getting there. We took two different routes to return the horses to their pasture, do to gate rearrangement needs (a common ranch thing, moving gates around). I was walking toward Sara as she was bringing Spice to where I was, and I noticed she was carrying something funny looking.

What in the world is she carrying?

I asked her if she’d found a plastic bag on the ground (we have recently found mylar balloons, which I think I’ve mentioned).

She said yes, but look at the decorations. Oh, ick, the bag was covered in nuggets of horse poop. One of our equine friends had eaten it and excreted it (and we all looked at Apache).

This image, seared into your brain, should convince you to not randomly throw away plastic bags.

Friends, that could have messed up his innards big time. Obstructions kill horses. They aren’t great for cattle either.

Fiona says she’s grossed out, too.

So please, please don’t let loose of mylar balloons and don’t let your plastic grocery bags fly off. Not only do most of them end up way up in trees, which looks awful, but if they end up on the ground, very valuable livestock could ingest them. That would be sad.

PS: Sara reminded me that they lost a calf (valued at thousands of dollars) once because it ate a mylar balloon. Expensive balloons!