Going Cuckoo over Gloomy Beauty

It’s time for another post with mostly photos. The rainy day brought a lot of sights, from a bird and insects I’d never seen before to animals dealing with water. That’s right, the title of this post isn’t an insensitive ableist phrase, I actually saw a cuckoo!

In the center is a yellow-billed cuckoo!

I knew we had them here, but I’d never seen a cuckoo before. It must have been recovering from the most recent downpour. I read that these birds are called storm birds, because they tend to sing after a storm. This one wasn’t singing.

Close up.

The other fun part of today was enjoying the wet animals. Poor Fiona thought she was trapped in one of the pens until Apache walked over and showed her it wasn’t a lake.

I’m outa here!

Here are some other images from around the pens.

Here are my insect finds. most are new to me, but not the fire ants. They messed up my foot night before last.

I’ll close with more moody weather photos. It was a pretty interesting day after all.

Lughnasadh Blessing

Yesterday was not only our third anniversary of Vlassic arriving at our ranch, but it was Lughnasadh or Lammas, the early harvest festival in the Celtic tradition I enjoy observing (among many traditions).

This is our fun wheel of the year calendar we hang on the wall. You rotate it to put the current season on top. From sacredsource.com

One thing people do for this celebration is thank Mother Nature for her bounty. Today we’re thanking her for a surprise rain event that’s filled up the little pond and made some good puddles.

Lee’s new and improved drainage system also works!

We had already had an inch of welcome rain by the time I went out this morning, and we’ve had more heavy showers since. Wow, we might have the creek flowing well into this month! It had started to dry up from the previous rain, but this is a nice reprieve!

View out my window.

It’s a good thing Lee got lots of dirt moved around and made the bigger drainage pipes yesterday. His new pond might have gotten messed up.

Making a better path.

When he got overheated, he could sit and listen to his fountain, which makes it worthwhile!

Making things smooth. The rain will help!

I’m glad the horses are getting a free bath, and sure hope it dries out by afternoon! The rain has killed my ability to upload or download, so my work, both paid and voluntary, is hosed. The joys of rural life!

Note to grasshopper: that’s a fake plant. Hope it starts growing soon.

Enjoy whatever you’re celebrating this time of year. I’m going to rejoice in the fact that it’s only 77 F outside!

Happy 3 years to V. He is my biggest blessing of the season. Also, his nose seems to be healing.

Too Much Thunder

So, yesterday it didn’t rain but a little. Last night, though, a huge storm came up just before dawn, and there was lightning really near the house. This made for some scared dogs!

Didn’t look much better this morning.

Poor Penney was right on top of me. Everyone else was under the bed. It was scary for us!

We did get a break this morning, so between meetings I was able to go out and feed my guys and the chickens. Sadly, Barbara didn’t make it through the night. Poor dear. I hope to get another one like her, though.

The scalped back yard and more rain (wiggly things are tomato stakes)

Last night’s storm brought over an inch of rain. The second wave, which is still going on, has already brought another inch. The creek is well over its banks, and the poor horses are in mud again. We plan to get sand soon, and the very next thing in our plan is to add a lot more cover over the stalls.

We’re scared, so we are down here by Suna’s feet.

In the meantime, I don’t have a lot of hope for Trixie making it today. There’s no place to work on horses that isn’t all muddy.

I’ll just hang around in the house, with all these huddled dogs and hope it clears up. Definitely a weird July in these parts.

Wettest July at Hermits’ Rest – How Do I Know?

Guess what? There’s still rain in the forecast for today. That means it will have rained every day so far in July. So, we’ve had no friends over, no family celebration…not much of anything. But that’s okay, I’ve had time to read and clean. Yesterday, it really rained a lot. We knew it was at least two inches, because the tanks filled up.

The overflow was overflowing!

If it just rains a little, the water rises just a bit in the front tank. It doesn’t usually overflow unless there is runoff from its main sources:

  • The small pond by the house (we built a ditch to funnel the water thee)
  • The big tank over at the Wild Hermits front pasture (that comes through the arroyo)
  • The cotton field across the road (there is a culvert, and it also just comes over the road)
  • Runoff from the tank and other areas by Sara’s house (they are higher than us), which goes down their driveway at quite a clip

One reason we built the tank where we did is we knew it would have a lot of water flowing in, so it would not dry up too often. So far, it hadn’t totally dried up yet.

Water is swiftly flowing down the driveway, taking lots of road base with it. Photo by Lee.

All of THAT water quickly fills up our little tank, which then sends water down our stream to Walker’s Creek. This is all pretty spectacular right after a hard rain. When we went to feed the horses (by car, because it was flooding), water was over the road and much of the driveway to the horse pens. It was flowing strongly. By the time we went back, it had already settled down to a brisk flow.

After the rain. Photo by Lee.

Now, in the fall and spring, this is going to happen a few times. That’s how it rains here, with dry spells followed by floods. However, it rarely rains much at all in July. In fact, today is July 5, with rain in the forecast, and it is already the wettest July we’ve had since Lee started tracking it right after the Big Drought in 2011-2012.

All the years but 2021 are for the whole month. And no, I don’t know why Lee tracks data with the current year on the left, but I’m just grateful for the data.

One of the things people are noticing about this year is that everything seems to be skewed a month late, thanks for the Winter Storm Uri event in February. Maybe we are getting June’s usual rain pattern, just a bit late. Or Global Warming. I don’t know; I’m not a meteorologist.

Here’s our rain pattern since we’ve been here. You can sure see when we have floods! From Lee’s spreadsheet.

This year started out like it was going to be one of our dryer years, but who knows at this point? All I know is that the later the tanks fill up, the more likely they are to not go dry until the rains start up again in the fall. (Don’t let August fool you; most years it barely rains in July OR August.)

Hey, fellow cattle, isn’t this the most dangerous area to be standing, right where the culvert spurts out water and there’s scary clay? Yes! Let’s all stand here. (Last week, there was just a small puddle by the culvert.)

Texas weather is quite variable, so we’ve enjoyed tracking the patterns here in the Post Oak Savannah region. My guess is that the patterns where you live are also interesting, so I encourage you to get a good rain gauge, like the one we use, the Stratus Precision Rain Gauge, and start tracking. You can learn a lot about trends, as well as exceptions! I’m grateful to Lee for his diligence in his own Citizen Science project.

Built to the National Weather Service specifications, the Stratus is exceptionally accurate. It is the rain gauge of choice for official weather observers in the United States.

https://www.weatherstationadvisor.com/best-rain-gauge/

Now to go check on chickens and move Apache to the dry pen. It’s rather sloppy over there, so all of us slip and slide. I will be very glad when we can get back to work on the pens so we can move him, though I’ll wager our pens will also get muddy and slick, because they are on the clay soil, too. On the other hand, someone said that a couple inches of good rain would really pack down the new driveway. I’d say it’s pretty packed now.

Rocking and Rolling, with Rocks

If I needed to take my mind of things today, I was in luck, because today we got lots and lots of rocks and pebbles delivered to make our driveway more driveway-like. That had needed to be done, um, a few years.

Not exactly a before picture, because it’s already been smoothed out.

There was a low area from when we put in the electrical lines, and a few dips that made icky puddles. So, first we borrowed a box blade kind of thing from the neighbors and smoothed out the existing driveway. That also at least slightly annoyed the grass trying to take over.

The smoother

Then, a guy came in a big dump truck with a bonus dump trailer. The dogs liked that.

Off to scare off that truck.

The dogs seemed to think they were a vital component to the whole operation.

Helping.

They were fascinated by the dumping process as well, especially Alfred and Gracie.

Boom!

After the first load was emptied, we realized Alfred thought the rock was a gift to him. but all the dogs were fascinated.

Thanks for the new hill!

The second load surprised them all, but then they sniffed some more.

What? There’s more?

It didn’t take long for all that stuff to be laid down and the area by the cars smoothed out.

Ready for more.

A Doggy Diversion

In an hour or two, another load was scheduled. In that time, we went to get diesel and put trash in our dumpster. Yes. That’s how we do trash here. Vlassic jumped in the truck and rode in my lap, cuddling, like he loves to do.

My baby!

All was well until he jumped out of the truck at the old church and took off. He trotted down Main Street and disappeared into someone’s yard. I called and called. He finally emerged with a big ole sandwich crust in his mouth. I think he thought he’d found a new family. Too bad. I took him home.

Hmph.

Back to Rocking

The second load arrived and got laid out just fine. Then we looked up.

Uh oh. Dark clouds.

Of COURSE the day you get loads of rock will start out sunny and cloudless, then end up raining like crazy. Thus, frantic rock smoothing ensued.

The tractors were flying like dancers as the rain came down harder and harder. I was really impressed.

Then came a welcome surprise! I got a path from the driveway to the front porch! That’s huge! There are two drains in it to drain rain, which got tested immediately in the rain storm.

Path in progress, with drain pipes.

I was able to help a little by smoothing the piles down to make a slightly more level pathway. It was fun to work in the rain! And it wasn’t hot! I’m glad I get to help out some.

Lee inspects the path, as the smoothing continues in the rain.

I hope to border the path with leftover limestone brick from the house, once we get it smooth and the right width. That will be so fun.

Now we have to wait for the new rock to dry, see where there are new low spots, and fine tune it. I’ve waited a LONG time for a safe, smooth path. I know it would have helped my sister when she lived in Cameron.

But That’s Not All

The front-end loader got a lot of work in today. Before all the road base arrived, it had its narrow trench digger attachment put on, and it dug the long trench for the water line to the cattle trough.

Trenching away.

And now the trench is full of water. At least all that goes in there is water line!

There are still some fun things coming up for the horse pens, like the structure to support the roof extensions and making custom gates. Oh, and a lot of welding. All those cross bars are only tacked up, I’m told.

Still, all is well. We’re getting close to move-in day. And the driveway is gonna be way better.

Rainy Blurry Day

I’m sorta typing this without really looking, since I suddenly have a pretty bug ocular migraine deal going on. I’m sure not fond of those things, and still don’t know what is causing them. The good news is that I can type with my eyes closed, I guess.

What’s wrong with my eyes?

What I wanted to write about is the fact that it’s been rainy the last few days, which came as a surprise to all of us, but a welcome one! It usually stops raining by this time of the year, so we will enjoy every drop we get.

It’s not bad enough to stop things from happening, though. I’ve managed to move the horse and Fiona, and I’m still impressed about how easygoing they are with being taken to the dry area. They just follow me over there and act grateful for their treats.

As you can see, it’s still very green.

Since it’s a lot cooler today, I’m hoping the rain lets up long enough to ride Apache today. I’ll just take him down the race, so he doesn’t put any dents in Ralph’s perfect grass.

Isn’t this pretty? It’s in the mallow family.

The pens at the Hermits’ Rest are getting worked on again. The area under the roof is all cleaned out, and a ditch is getting done to hopefully drain runoff from the future water troughs. Once that’s all clean and graded, the rest of the fencing can go into the stall area, gates can go up, and we will be ready for occupants.

Only stuff that’s being used is in here now, like the chair, the fan, the tunes, and the Vlassic swimming pool.

Well, that’s about all I can write with my eyes closed, so I’ll just leave you with hopes that you are having a good end of June. I feel remarkably chipper and calm (other than my eyeballs), even though I know it’s going to be a doozy of a week!

Dampness Reigns, or Rains

I knew those two relatively dry days in a row were flukes. Last night it poured and poured, right after Trixie showed up to do Apache and Ace’s feet. She was running late due to some car trouble, which gave me lots of time to love on Apache and Fiona. That is always good.

Pet me more.

And I got to love on Sara’s heelers, including the charming and smiling baby Bess. She melts your heart.

I’m a very happy puppy.

Sara had asked Trixie if she had a horse that needed miles on it, and that prompted her to bring her small fancy stallion along with her. He’s gray, and named Archie.

Here comes the man horse.

His arrival sent all equines into a tizzy (except Fiona). Much neighing and prancing commenced. Archie, on the other hand, but on a show like he was a Lipizzaner. Yow. He leapt in the air, twisted, bucked, yelled, and otherwise made his presence quite obvious. I’m hoping he settles down.

WTF?

I made it home after Apache got trimmed, barely asking if his feet looked okay, and hearing Trixie say they looked real good. Two minutes after I got home, the skies opened up. I worried about the rest of the gang, and texted Sara my huge thanks for letting me go first.

Good thing I got all these eggs earlier! One per hen.

It rained all night, hard. It’s the most rain in one day that we’ve had during this long rainy spell. Many days it just drizzled and rained for short periods, so we only got one inch one day in May; the rest were small amounts that did add up to puddles.

First time the pond has filled and spilled in many months.

Last night we got over two inches, so June already has a good rain total! Lee’s stats will be fun to see. I’m hoping to get to Austin this afternoon, once some of the creek flooding is down and before the next round starts. It’s also really wet there!

The newly expanded “little pond” filled for the first time, too, sending its runoff down to the bigger pond. That dirt will be used on another project soon.

Have a good June. I’m ready to support all my LGBTQIA+ friends during PRIDE month!

Very Brief Knitting Update

I thought it would be a good idea to briefly share how my current shawl is going. I’m really enjoying the border, because it’s simple as heck. It does amuse me that I still occasionally mess up, which just goes to show you that paying attention to your pattern by actually LOOKING at it occasionally is a good idea.

You can see that I’m a few inches into the border now.

The good thing is I’m not being graded for this, and it’s not my knitting mastery project or anything. I’m never going to be THAT good. But, I have fun! The idea here is to use almost all of the second ball of yarn for the border, leaving just enough to bind off. Kate Atherley, the woman who wrote the pattern handily tells you about how much yarn you’ll need. It’s a well written pattern, for sure.

You can see it’s getting big!

I like how hefty the shawl has become, though it’s too big to stretch out and get a photo of what the whole thing looks like. It’s going to be pretty, assuming I get more time to work on it.

I will today, anyway, since I’m going to Waco with Sara to do something. Wow. Going somewhere with a friend! To do something! I’m still not planning on any crowded indoor events any time soon, but it’s a huge relief to feel safe enough to do outdoor things.

Not much, but enough to delay the morning horse maintenance plans

And yes, it rained again. We smartly put the bags of Sakrete in the garage, so the fence project won’t get ruined. I put my car outside, but it still looks like the Dustmobile after sitting for so long while I was gone. I’m waiting for things to dry up a wee bit more before getting it washed. One of our friends is doing it for some of us now! Job creation!

Respite: Happy Flowers and Bugs

The rain has managed to fill up the tanks (ponds) at last. It really has been dribbling in, but we finally got a day with a whole inch, and that seems to have done the trick.

Black scarab beetle enjoying delicious pollen from a Texas thistle flower.

There was a bit of a respite this morning, and things dried out a little. I took advantage of the only hour I had without meetings today to go out and see what’s going on with the ranch plants and their friends. I’m glad I did it then, because it’s been raining and thundering again for the past two hours, which makes for some unhappy dogs.

Make it stop thundering!

I had set out to find invasive species, only to realize I missed the entire 2021 iNaturalist Texas invasive species survey time, because I was in South Carolina. That’s okay, though, because I enjoyed seeing what’s blooming in late spring. There’s a lot of Indian blanket, and horsemint out there, and you can tell they are native, because there are so many kinds of insects pollinating them. The fields are literally abuzz with activity. Bzzzz.

I got to see a few new-to-me insects, including two types of potter’s wasps (not exactly sure what they are), and these beautiful tachinid flies, Archytas apicifer. They are huge (for flies), have big, black hairs, and feature shiny green abdomens and bright red eyes. I often saw multiples on one black-eyed Susan flower.

And then there were butterflies! Yes, I’ve seen common buckeyes before, along with the perky little fiery skippers and the red admirals, but the pearl crescent butterfly was new to me, and wow, it’s pretty. The little white checkered skipper looks like lace from a distance, too. In addition to the ones I photographed, I also saw orange sulphurs and gray hairstreaks. That’s a lot of butterflies!

Katydid

The other thing I saw were bees, ranging from honey bees to tiny ones to bumblebees. They were zipping around, so no photos. And I found a katydid and lots of jumpy grasshoppers. This was a great way to spend some of my volunteer time at work!

I hope this provides some cheer if you’re living in a dreary place right now. I’d love to know what kinds of flowers are blooming where you live. I know the irises are in full swing in the northwestern US, and I believe I’ve spotted some peony photos from elsewhere. I love it when people share their local flowers, native or not!

Delicate horsemint.

A Damp Welcome Home

Hooray for being back at the Hermits’ Rest! by the time we got home, I was all shaky and frazzled, and probably the relatives thought I was babbling. But the dogs sure were glad to see us. It felt fantastic to have my Carlton in my lap again. It was great to get back in my bed, and even great to have Penney lined up right beside me all night!

Harvey is very glad I am back.

The trip through Louisiana was beautiful, mostly following US84, and then following roads that made up the original El Camino Real de Tejas, which goes right to Milam County and is what our Master Naturalist group is named after.

We are in the section just to the left of Bryan on this map.

Highlights included a whole area devoted to catfish farming, including a place that made al the nets and a huge catfish food plant. Talk about specificity! The catfish farms also could have passed for egret farms. There were so many birds!

The lake that used to be the Sabine River and separates Texas from Louisiana.

We also drove through many beautiful national forests, and I carefully observed all the logging activity. Mostly it was lush and beautiful. There were plenty of cute towns, town squares, and such as well. It’s nice to see thriving small towns with no television presence to make them go into tourism overdrive.

What’s this? A dike, holding back the Mighty Mississippi in Louisiana.

The farther we drove, the wetter it got. It’s apparently been drizzling all week at the ranch, which slows down the fence-building operation. Today it’s pouring, but I did manage to go see Apache, Fiona, and the other horses to help put some medicine on poor spice, who has a big wound where a growth was removed. Apache has developed thrush in his feet from all the dampness. Can that poor horse catch a break? But the highlight was seeing the newest member of our farm animal family, Haggard, who is a young Black Angus bull from the sale barn. He’s tame as a kitten, and looks like he’ll be a nice small bull, perfect for first-year heifers to get easy births from.

What a sweet little guy.

Right now, Haggard is in quarantine, but he sure loves it when people show up with food!

Our field is covered with flowers. Can’t wait to get out there in the sunshine.

I said hi to the chickens yesterday, but didn’t see Steel, who is the only chick left and keeps escaping to hide in some tall, thick grass behind the coop. At least that one didn’t wander off and get lost. I’ll try again with chicken babies!

What a sweet little wildflower in Mississippi!

Otherwise, all is well. I may have more fun news later in the day, after I go into town for a bit, but right now I’m just trying to get settled back into a routine and figure out what’s going on. I’m lucky that this week is our work’s week to go do volunteering, because that will let me catch up on the volunteer work I have to do! Ain’t that great!

And, just one more flower from my travels yesterday. There’s always something pretty growing near a gas station, I guess!

It sure is good to be back home, especially since Kathleen cleaned the dickens out of the house. They sure did a great job taking care of things while we were gone. Now maybe we can have some FUN.