Ups, Ups, Downs

Things have been good here lately. I spend a lot of time watching cute animals.

That’s a relaxed dog.

I even rescued a trapped English sparrow today who couldn’t figure out how to get out of the henhouse. I caught her and took her out. She was so exhausted that she just sat on my hand. Poor dear. No photos, since I had five hen eggs in my other hand!

So, here’s another friend, the gate spider. Apparently a Western spotted orb weaver.

There’s just so much joy in our animals. The dogs love evenings when we’re in the pool, because they can run and play with an audience. I take them out in the mornings for a little play, too, which makes for a nice work break.

Things continue to be good with the horses, too. We had good lessons today. Drew showed Tarrin how hard we’ve been working and then learned new backups. And poor Apache struggled a lot with moving his butt when asked. My left leg is tired! But, those two bring me such joy. I’m so lucky to be able to learn and grow with them.

But there are so many animals to enjoy here. My son found this really cool snake in his cabin. He just caught it and took it outside and caulked up the hole it came in. That’s my boy.

And today, I went to water the plants and was startled when I reached to turn on the spigot. Along the house was a complete snakeskin, I’m pretty sure it was one of our rat snakes. I love it when you get the whole skin.

I guess that’s enough animal fun for a Saturday evening. Hoping all is well with you. We’re having more family illness stuff. That’s the down part of the post title.

Oh, Fifi!

That little donkey of ours is always up to something. This morning I stayed in my room drinking coffee for a while, then realized I needed to go feed the chickens. I looked out the front window and had a start!

Why yes, that’s the fence behind me.

Fiona was being herded back onto our property and the gate was being shut behind her. That little escape artist! I threw on my clothes as fast as I could but everything was under control before I got down.

Yep. I’m on the short grass.

The horses were in a kerfluffle but Fiona was just standing there, looking like she was thinking, in donkey thought.

Oh, we’re fine.

I went down to her and said hi. I asked if she wanted to go back in with the horses. She answered by trotting right behind me as I headed to the gate.

I’m coming!

I realized why she was following me: she was thirsty! I guess she hadn’t found the wet area.

Mmmm

It was easy to see how she got out. The fence wire is pretty high near the gate. She left “evidence” of where she got out, so that confirmed it. I’m told that’s the only way she could have gotten out.

We don’t want to see a poop picture.

She’s staying in with her buddies now, so maybe she’s gonna stay with the water. Drew and Dusty didn’t care. They’ve been happy hanging out today.

Meanwhile, I went to feed the chickens and found our creature of the day, a very lumpy rat snake. I hope the bumps in it are mice. It was awful early for the chickens to have laid many eggs. Go eat rats, snake!

Visitors and Visiting

Our house has a lot of comings and goings for a hermitage, but we’re glad that caregivers can come help out Lee’s brother while Kathleen’s still confined to her hospital bed. I get my dose of visiting by hanging out with the horses and getting them to do some exercises before it’s too hot. Luckily I usually have a little break between meetings.

I’d rather stand here and look pretty.

It’s really great just to be with the little herd and check in on them. Mabel was especially friendly today and kept hinting that she wanted different places scratched. That warms my heart.

Feeling pretty. I can hardly believe those legs hold her up.

Later in the day, I went to give the chickens more water. I noticed they were all inside the henhouse, because it’s so hot. I filled the water trough, and when I looked at it, it was splashing, though no hens were near. The water was almost alive.

Actually, the living part was a rat snake who had been cooling off in the water. It was no doubt quite surprised by the sudden bath. It slid out and headed to the edge of the chicken yard, then climbed the chain-link fence by going in and out of the links.

I’m outa here!

It ended up behind the tin that used to make shade for the chickens before the hen house went up. It seems as if the snake was visiting for the water, not eggs, as I got six, including one just plopped on the ground! This heat must be hard on snakes and other cold-blooded creatures.

I left my visitor, since it was time to go check on Kathleen. Her recovery process is neither quick nor easy! I brought her some little gifts that had come in the mail, plus a pair of new glasses she had ordered. And magazines! All invalids need reading material. Let’s hope she hits all her goals and gets to come home soon.

We miss Kathleen.

Spider spray is going to be generously applied around the outside of the house!

I need more visitors to run my soft little head.

Patience Pays Off, with Help

Today Apache and I had our first lesson in a while, since Tarrin is recovering from some surgery that will improve her quality of life, if she survives her convalescent period. That’s hard for an active person! I just brought Apache, since Drew is doing well.

Fine. We will just bond.

This was one educational lesson! Tarrin did great scooting around on a 4-wheeler and Apache did amazing for the first half of the lesson. He jumped the right way at least twice. We were proud of him! This is going to build good muscles! He and I both did well doing some circle things that we can easily practice at home. I’m getting more balanced, and that feels great.

Hey, Dusty, did you get enough food? No, Apache, we’re not special.

However, as soon as he got tired, Apache started to act up. We got some great practice with not putting up with that…stuff. I’m improving. We practiced me getting off, having him run in circles on the ground, then me getting back on. That way he doesn’t get to think he can get me off him so easily.

We get special food. Ha ha.

It was much better than last time, and I was more assertive. Plus, once he calmed down he went right up to the trailer, ate one treat, walked around, went back, and got another treat three times! No drama! And like Tarrin said, I had to do it myself, because she couldn’t jump on Apache and discipline him. Go team.

I love you all, silly animals.

I’m getting the hang of it, slowly but surely, and Apache is really getting to be more of a partner. We’re enjoying each other and not just thinking any time we get together is only for work.

Not sure I love YOU, yet another water snake.

Back on the upswing, at least horse-wise.

Reptile Season

I’ve mentioned the snake that was in the henhouse last week and the snapping turtle that visited. The reptiles and their ilk have not stopped coming, though.

This morning my son was mowing the back yard when I went out to feed the horses. He said to go get my camera, because he’d just seen a different kind of snake.

A different kind of snake

He was right. That wasn’t another rat snake, it was a thick ole water snake. Like everything else, it seemed to be moving from one body of water to another.

The bad thing was that it went over to the swimming pool equipment, where there is already a garden hose that looks just like a water snake. Now we are very careful over there.

I’m not a snake

Only an hour or later I went to put something in the tack room and spotted a movement that looked familiar. Nope, not a snapping turtle, but one of the native cooters. It didn’t stick its head out enough to ID it, and it’s shell was covered in algae. A fine little specimen.

The algae is a good disguise

These guys are breeding right now. I know for sure, because my friend Jeremy, who does all his ranching at night, saw one laying eggs and burying them last night! I’ve never seen that, since I do NOT ride a tractor at night.

I’d like to be going now.

We are still getting rat snake visitors, too. There was one in the henhouse last evening, another full-grown one, who had already gotten an egg. I got the other ones out, and just left the snake, since I was on my way to a Master Naturalist party for our graduating class. I did post it on Facebook.

Apparently my photo startled the aforementioned Jeremy when he saw it. Then only a little while later, he nearly stumbled across one doing his yard work! It looked exactly the same, which gave him another start! Like me, he’s a snake fan, but they still can startle you! I love having interesting friends who share stories.

Speaking of startling, the colors in this selfie startled me! It even made my hair look good.

By the way, I had a blast at the party last night, which was held in one of Milam County’s numerous Mexican restaurants. This was in Rockdale. The folks I sat with were so much fun and told great stories about the area and it’s history. I’m sure everyone noticed how much we were laughing.

Of course, we talked about reptiles, too. I heard that last year, Gene Rek, the guy who sells us our chickens, had over twenty rat snakes in his turkey pens. Yow. That’s more reptile visitors than even I would want.

My friends Gene and Carolyn goofing off.

We all realized it had been a long time since we’d had the chance to just relax over a meal and get to know interesting people better. It felt good to laugh and share.

Weirdest Day Ever

Sure, it’s been a weird couple of weeks for me. I’ve not shared most of it. Lots isn’t mine to share. But today. Wow. I literally was left with my mouth hanging open a couple of times.

I spent some time on the porch sorta glazed over, watching hummingbirds. They are monotone, because that’s how I feel.

I got a new laptop of my own, so I won’t be relying on work machines, but I’m so un confident in myself that I’ll wait until tomorrow to get it going. I am just zonked.

It’s silver.

So, here are some plants.

And look, a baby water snake and fish I need to rescue, once my brain engages again.

But wait. I did get to laugh last night. Mandi and I were talking to Lee on the porch, and Goldie got thirsty. She did her usual drinking method, where she buries her head and blows bubbles. We were so humor starved that we just laughed and laughed. Here’s Goldie today, though I couldn’t get a shot with bubbles.

See, even the weirdest day ever isn’t all bad. That’s worth remembering.

The Latest Case of Missing Eggs: Solved

I may have mentioned that the family reported no eggs the entire time I was in Austin last week. I found a few over the weekend, but not the usual amount.

Don’t blame me; I’m not laying yet.

In case the fact that Star had gone broody was making laying hard on the other hens, I set up two cardboard boxes with bedding in them, to make more compartments in the old roosting area. No one used them, far as I could tell.

High-quality nesting boxes

Then on Saturday, when I went to check for additional eggs under Star, I realized that the eggs I’d marked with a star were no longer there. Three different eggs were there. THAT is when I decided eggs were being laid, but consumed. Grr.

I can’t make the grass around the coop die and the big mower can’t reach it. I thought putting the food container in that space would be useful, but…ants came.

I knew it had to be a snake, because nothing else, other than a human, can get in. Then I was worried for Star, since she is setting so dedicatedly on her nest! I must have checked for a snake a dozen times this weekend, and other people were checking, too.

These blurry but happy chickens are eating all the food I had to throw out due to ants. They also eat ants.

So, today, when I FINALLY had a chance to move my butt off my office chair, I went to check the chickens. There were two eggs under Star. Good. Then, I went back, because I was thinking that perhaps if I set the new nesting boxes I put in sideways, the hens might like them better. I moved the one on the left, and heard the weirdest sound. I carefully peeked in the other box, and there, under the chicken bedding, was a very content rat snake. I KNEW it had to be lying around somewhere nearby, and it was just hiding! I’d probably missed it earlier.

The culprit

I asked the nephew to please eliminate the snake, which he did quite efficiently. As always, I hate doing this, but I know it would come right back if I just moved it off to the woods (previous experience). Besides, I am pretty confident we have a LOT of rat snakes here, so I’m not leading to their extinction. Ranch life is hard. To cheer you up, though, here’s one of our herons in the tank behind the house.

If you put goldfish in the troughs, expect a visit from me, the fish killer.

And…it’s raining again. I’d hoped to go visit Aragorn the beautiful dream horse at Sara’s later today, so I hope there’s a break!

He’s Got a Ticket to Ride

He, being Apache. Tonight it was finally not too hot or too busy, so Sara and I checked on how Apache’s feet were doing since his abscess.

He’s shiny but chubby again

Sara says he’s as fat as he ever was. Sigh. I really need to get him in his pen half the day, but I blew it by going to the auction today. Tomorrow will be another day.

He does clean up well

Anyway, I took him out in the round pen, where he walked and trotted just fine. He did buck on the way to start circling, which was not so great. But otherwise, he was a gentleman.

Sara put the bareback saddle and bridle on him and rode him around. He was pretty darned good and did nice turns and back ups. Sara diagnosed him as fine for walking, so I’ll try riding 15 minutes or so tomorrow morning.

Look at my summer coat!

The other good thing is that Fiona has finally gotten rid of her winter coat. She’s one fine looking long-eared gal.

Snakes

To make a long day even longer, as I walked home from the horses, the hay bailer was hard at work. It scared up two rat snakes who didn’t even notice me as they slid across the driveway.

Then, after dark, when I finally came in, this fat and sassy fellow greeted me in the porch.

It’s a snake.

Not to worry, it’s a diamondback water snake. Check the head and lack of rattles.

Best I can do in the dark, but you can see the pattern.

Okay. Enough scary stuff for one day. Oh no, there was a dead scorpion next to where I keep my boots. Hint: always check inside boots for spiders, scorpions, or even toads (happened to Sara once).

Dead.

Ranch life is not for wimps.

Enjoying a Pleasant Morning with a “Friend”

This morning was really pleasant. I went out to take a few pictures and check on the new pullets, then sat on the porch for a ten-minute coffee break. It was breezy, so the mosquitoes that tried to suck all my blood yesterday weren’t out. I took this picture to post on Instagram, planning to caption it “What I’d like to be doing the rest of the day.”

Just enjoying my morning.

I thought I was alone on my break, but no, the rocking chair across from me had someone else enjoying a pleasant break.

I’m enjoying my morning, too.

Well, hey there rat snake. I thought, wow, what a cute little snake, but when I got up to get a better photo, I saw it’s not a little snake, not at all. It’s probably close to my height.

The tail just keeps going.

Since it was not actively in the process of eating eggs from my hens, I left it to enjoy its morning. And it is why we are keeping the grass near the house mown nice and short (as long as we can keep lawn mowers going).

Speaking of which, in addition to getting new blades that cut evenly, our good old riding mower also has a new feature designed to keep my brother-in-law more cool and less heat stroked: an umbrella! Most of the area we mow has no obstructions, but he can lower it to get close to fences and the house. I hear it feels twenty degrees cooler under there! With summer coming up, that is a fine thing.

Fancy lawn mower.

Other “home improvements” that I took pictures of on my morning walk include this chicken ramp. I had put a board up to help them get high in their roost area, but it was too slippery, so they now have a custom ramp made from scrap wood. I know they used it last night, because there’s poop in the roost area in the cage! Yay!

Stairs to the penthouse

Now the chickens have more area to spread out in, which is good, because they spend most of their time chasing each other, when they aren’t eating. At least they are all still with us!

Just being chickens
Peeeeep

I also figured out why we hear so much bird noise in the evenings. The barn swallows are nesting AT LAST, right outside the back door. Since that’s where the dog door is, we can hear them well. I’m quite relieved to see this, because they are running late this year (no doubt thanks to that bad ole Uri storm in February). This is good news.

I’m not the only one who got to see a pretty snake yesterday. This garter snake was over at Sara’s. It got run over, though. They’re so lovely.

That’s it for the morning ranch report!

Treats and Surprises

For darned sure, the Universe is trying its best to teach me to expect the unexpected and examine how I deal with changes. I’ll just sidestep some of the bigger changes and just talk about some of the other surprises I got between yesterday and today.

From the wildflower patch

One of my coworkers lost a family member recently, and two of us got together to send him some flowers today, to bring some cheer into his home. I thought, hey, I could use some cheer, so I made myself a little arrangement to look at while I work. There are meadow pinks, thistles, Indian blankets, black-eyed Susans and a few Indian paintbrush that are still hanging around, plus another couple random flowers.

Interesting genetic hiccup

I’d found a conjoined twin Mexican hat flower yesterday when walking back from feeding horses (yay, it was dry enough to walk). Not only does it have two seed heads, the petals are extra curvy. Nature is always there to surprise me in a good way!

The other surprise I got yesterday, was more of a shocking one. I went to pick up eggs from the coop, and discovered an uninvited guest had already helped themselves to the eggs for the day.

Oh, you chicken snake.

They sure know how to find eggs! I handled this pretty well. Said “eek” and slammed the door down, then calmly picked it up to look at the snake. It was almost as tall as me when it was removed (not by me). I hope it enjoyed the digestion.

That was enough for icky surprises. I spent some more time out looking at the flowers behind our house and had to take more photos. I found yet another type of fly I’d never seen! It has interesting stripes, and I sure wish I’d gotten a better photo. I also found something I’d never seen before, which turned out to be a wheel bug nymph. That’s interesting (to me).

My ten minutes of break are over, but maybe I’ll have time for more later. We have to deal with Apache’s feet, apparently. Sigh.

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