Alfred the Brave, and a Scary Vet Visit

Once again, I was in meetings all day, 8:30-7:30. It won’t be that way too much longer, but I have a tired brain. Meetings meant I couldn’t be there for the annual shot day for the dog pack, where Dr. Amy drives her mobile office up to the ranch and get it all done with little stress.

There were lots of surprises, according to Lee. I wish I’d been there to see the dogs’ true personalities shine through. Gracie apparently took everything like a champ. Good girl!

I’m good! I just have a little tartar.

No surprise here, but Carlton was in perfect health. He was also well behaved. That’s my boy.

I’m all inoculated.

Harvey was not our big brave boy. He cried and shook. But, he was well behaved and let them take care of him. Surprise! And he was not called out for being overweight! Double surprise!

I’m a big softy. But I’m not too big and soft.

Penney was not having anything to do with all those strange veterinary people. Then she noticed the other dogs were getting what she wants more than anything in the world: attention. Lee said she figured that out and ran over to get in between the techs and the other dogs. She is truly an Attention Hound.

I just want petting, even if I have to get shots.

And then there is Vlassic, the nicest dog in the world, right? When they drew blood, it hurt. He yelped and tried his damnedest to get away. He even snapped his teeth at a tech (a thing he does even when not afraid). So, he had to get tranquilizer. That let them also trim his nails, which will sure make Anita happy.

Butterfly break. I have no Vlassic photo, because he’s zonked out at Jim’s RV.

There’s one dog left, big Alfred. The plan was always to anesthetize him. He had to get his dewclaws trimmed again, because they were almost grown back into his leg.

That’s better!

While he was out, Lee asked them to look at a spot he’s had on his side for a while. It looked to us like he had a burr in his fur infect his skin. Imagine Lee’s surprise when they shaved the area and it revealed what actually happened.

Oh no. Poor Alfred.

He’d been bitten by a very large snake. They guess it was a couple of weeks ago. We never noticed a change in his behavior, other than a bit of lethargy a while back. And if it was swollen, we couldn’t tell for all his hair.

I’m woozy. But gonna make it.

It’s good Alfred is so big. And it’s good he had the rattlesnake vaccine. It gave him some protection. But dang, that poor dog! Out there protecting us and being brave, and never complaining.

In fact, Alfred has been acting happier, more energetic, and more fun that he ever has. His joy at seeing us and playing with us is so endearing. I’m glad he’s okay. I’m glad we are able to keep all these dogs safe and healthy. It’s a commitment.

It Rained! And Other Signs of Life!

It being July in Texas, we are always prepared for a scarcity of rain and a lot of hot days. All we can hope for is to get some remnants or edges of a hurricane. Well, that seems to be happening right now, and since last night three bands of rain have come through our little ranch. The total rainfall so far is an exciting .15″ – not much, but it is better than nothing. We usually get about an inch per month, so we’re hoping that the big rain to the south of us sends us a bit more later tonight or tomorrow.

The third wave of rain as it approached. I could hear the thunder when I took the picture. The plant in the foreground is Lindheimer’s doveweed (Croton lindheimeri).
Root growth on the avocado “tree.”

The rain lowered the temperature, so I was able to get out and look around some today. Get prepared for a lot of pictures of things that are damp!

I’m always happy when there is new life. And even before I left the house, I realized that our avocado seed is getting pretty robust in the root department. Now we just need a stem!

Speaking of trees, we now have one in the back yard. I didn’t mention it earlier, because I was sad about it. You see, we bought a Shumard oak back when Kathleen and I bought those plants for our office. The guys had set it next to the RV, and I guess forgot about it. I watered it every few days, not realizing I’d needed to water it EVERY day, so by the time we went to plant it, it was mostly dead leaves.

It’s a tree. Not much of a tree, but a tree nonetheless.

But, Chris said its stem was still alive, so he planted it in the back corner (if I could use the backhoe thing, I’d have planted it). He then proceeded to set up a fine watering system that piggybacks on the chicken system and has been able to water it every other day or so.

Yep, those are new, non-dead leaves.
New leaves, and the life-giving water hose.

When I went out to say hi to the chickens to day, I looked over at the sad tree, and lo and behold, there are lots and lots of little new leaves appearing. It’s coming back! I’m so glad the rain is here to help out. It may even someday provide shade to the chickens and to the cattle behind us. That may be a while.

I found some other encouraging things as I was walking around today. I saw a young snake next to the tiny pond, and managed to get a picture of it before it dove underwater. As I patiently waited for it to come back up (with no success), I did notice a freshly shed snake skin near my feet. I bet I know who that belonged to!

I enjoyed looking at dragonflies, turtles, and bullfrogs in the rapidly shrinking pond. The rain will at least give it a bit of fresh water. I’m hoping that the tropical rain tomorrow or the next day will refill it and the other ponds.

This guy kept dipping into the water then zipping off. It was not easy to get a picture. Note dead boopie grasshoppers on the shore. It could explain why the bullfrogs don’t appear very hungry.

Maybe the grass will turn green again, too. The chickens will like that. By the way, they’ve all settled down now that Clarence is the guard rooster. He has figured out how to get to the food inside the chicken run, so all I have to do is make sure he has water every day (though Lee thinks he’s found the pond behind the house).

I got to watch this great egret snatch a fish out of the pond behind the house. This is where Clarence could be going if he runs out of my nice water in the dish.

New life always signifies hope for me. That little stick of an oak tree is my symbol of hope after adversity for now!

Suna the Hero or the Village Idiot. You Decide.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Lots going on in our little ranch village. [WARNING PHOTO OF DEAD ANIMAL TO FOLLOW]

First, when I came home yesterday afternoon after writing my magnum opus about my mother, there were vultures sitting on our “barn” container. I asked Lee’s brother, but he hadn’t gone over to check on it, so I did. Well, one potential bird killer has been eliminated from the area.

Continue reading “Suna the Hero or the Village Idiot. You Decide.”

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…

Chickens Can NOT Catch a Break

I’m beginning to think my poor chickens are living under a black cloud, are haunted, or broke a mirror sometime in their past. They really just can’t catch a break.

Here’s a rat snake that was found in a shopping cart in Midland. So friendly.

You may recall that just last Saturday, I found an adult Texas rat snake curled up happily in the henhouse, with three eggs embedded inside him or her. That snake was removed, so I was really thinking all was well.

Nope. Wednesday night, Seth, the chicken tending volunteer, got scared witless when he saw TWO snakes in the hen house. He didn’t stop to try to identify them. For someone who lived in the boonies most of his life, he’s not real “ranchy.”

Here’s a cute spider to take your mind off snakes.

He called his mom, who told me. I said, hey, remember Tyler who lives right there? He can take care of snakes. Then I heard nothing.

I asked Mandi how it all went, and she said she wasn’t sure. He wasn’t talking about it. Wow. Nature is not kind to that boy (age 19). But I do understand that many people have big issues with snakes, even non-venomous ones.

So, I asked Tyler, who IS ranchy, what the heck had happened. He said the two snakes were the same kind and size as last week.

What, are they a family? If so, one of them ought to tell the others that the fun times at our coop don’t have happy endings.

Mostly, though, I feel bad for those poor remaining 8 chickens. We took care of one set of predators, only to be joined by another one. I think my friend Mike and I need to get working on the new and improved coop, not just talking about it.

8 Chickens + 0 Eggs = ?

Finally, a non-introspective post. Read it anyway!

Yesterday when I checked the chickens, there was just one egg, from Rosie, and it was in a weird spot, not in the nest boxes. I thought to myself that just didn’t seem right.

Today there were no eggs in the henhouse. Because I was suspicious, I entered carefully. I saw this very satisfied coil of sated slitherer:

I like this buffet!

Totally explains chickens way out in the pasture and lack of eggs! I left.

Continue reading “8 Chickens + 0 Eggs = ?”

It’s Darned Damp

It’s been raining since yesterday afternoon. Apparently a big cold front is on its way, so I should be glad it’s not snowing. Nonetheless, I’ve been wandering out in the rain looking at houses and such. 

Because I love you, my dear blog readers, I even went out to check what’s blooming and interesting in this soggy soil.

The first paperwhites struggle to hold their heads up in the rain.

I was so overjoyed to look out behind my office house to see that the paperwhite narcissus (narcissus papyraceus) were blooming that I ran through a LOT of puddles to take a photo and pick a stem. Glad I am wearing my fabulous waterproof shoes.

They look pretty droopy, but they tell me that in a week or two it will be glorious back there. I hope my friend Martha likes them, since she’ll be living in this house soon!

This little guy is only like 8 inches long, at most.

On the way back in I saw this poor, damp baby snake. This is not a great time of year for snake birthing. Maybe it’s an adult of a small species. It was identified by iNaturalist as a rough earth snake; at least that was the closest one I found. I hope it makes it to a warm den.

Continue reading “It’s Darned Damp”

A Grand Welcome Home

cranes
Sandhill cranes, just passing through. Loudly.

We returned to the ranch over the weekend, with zero seconds of downtime, but we jumped right into the swing of things and enjoyed visitors, both human and otherwise.

Flying Friends

The most glorious visitors were just passing through. Many flocks of sandhill cranes flew over. We also saw a few snow geese. I just love the sounds of the cranes!

blue_heron
One of my favorite neighbors.

While I was taking crane pictures, two blue herons squawked, so I got nice close photos of them. Of course, they are blurry iPhone pictures, but some day I’ll get a new battery and learn to use the good camera again!

There have also been a lot of visiting starlings, which we don’t usually have. One thing I’ve noticed about them is that they make lots and lots of noise when they are all lined up on the electric wires, but when they take off as a flock to rearrange themselves, they are totally silent. It’s really eerie when you are standing around in the field listening, and suddenly all you hear are the coyotes.

bluet
These are so delicate.

Most of the dragonflies are gone, but we did see a lovely bluet by the small meadow pond. These sure are pretty. They curve their bodies where you see the stripes.

turtle
Why won’t the turtle play with me? (You can sort of see it in the grass.)

More “Friends”

Because it’s rained so much (have I mentioned that? Lots of flooding while we were gone), animals seem to be wandering around. Yesterday, Carlton the dog found an extra large pond turtle in the middle of the pasture. He was most dismayed that it would not come out and play, so he stood there for 15 minutes and barked at it, poking it with his nose a lot. Treats had to be used to save that poor turtle from the torture.

water snake
This dirty part of the porch is where we harmless snakes like to hang out. I want to date this electric cord.

And later yesterday, I once again spotted a large snake on the front porch, in the icky dirty part, of course. I was pretty convinced it was a water mocassin, but the folks at iNaturalist talked me down, and asssured me it was a water snake trying to look like a poisonous one. I am pretty sure this is the same snake I’ve seen over by the pond. It hisses. We kept the dogs away, and it slowly meandered off.

Our house guest was not thrilled that we didn’t kill it. I repeated a number of times, “I don’t kill snakes.” I do understand many people aren’t good with them. My dad sure wasn’t! He’d kill them 3 or 4 times!

scorpion
It’s a scorpion, all right. Small.

In the early evening, we found our first scorpion at the ranch. It was pre-dead, so we didn’t have to do anything to it. We used to see lots more in our house in the karst area of Williamson County

Not Friends at All

We apparently have a visitor over to the chicken coop who is not our friend. It has killed at least 4 of the chickens (at least two roosters, who were probably trying to defend the flock). It gets them IN the chicken coop. Yet another reason for them not to lay eggs in there!

The Neighbor is sure it’s an owl. I think it might be a bobcat, since both hunt at night. A cat could get in there easily from the tree, then scale the fence to get out.

sheep
Leave us ALONE! We just want to eat grass. And escape from these non-sheepproof fences.

Something also went after the four new sheep the Neighbor brought in, and one of them lost a LOT of wool and some flesh, but seems OK. We are hoping the culprit is not the cabin occupant’s dog, who went after the sheep when he first saw them, so they don’t want to leave the pen to eat in the pasture.

Nice of all these creatures to wait until I got home to show up, isn’t it?

 

Those Sneaky Snakes

Why, yes, I do have more to say about snakes. Thanks for all the great comments on the previous snake post! I guess all the dry weather had them all wandering around the ranch or something. (Aside: it has been raining this week, which we truly needed, but we could use more.)

snake-1332381_960_720
This public domain photo shows the cotton mouth and thick body of a water moccasin.

Another venomous encounter

Ralph at Wild Type Ranch reported a water moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorous, also known as a cottonmouth) in his driveway last week. I’ve never seen one when it wasn’t swimming, so that was a big surprise to me. His dog tripped over it, so it wasn’t in attack mode. That’s good, because they are poisonous!

Another fact about these guys is that there is a non-poisonous water snake that just swims around, happily convincing people that it might just be a cottonmouth. That is usually what we see in our ponds. They get big, and are fun to watch while they undulate around looking for fish to eat (given the water moccasin’s Latin name, one can infer they mostly eat fish, too).

How do you tell them apart? Well, read this really good article, which I’ll summarize by saying that cottonmouths have a pit viper shaped blocky head, and thick bodies, while water snakes have thin bodies and a head that just flows into the body. Basically, leave them ALL alone. They’re really cool when viewed through binoculars.

Continue reading “Those Sneaky Snakes”