What’s Good with You?

I hope you’re finding good things in your life. They’re in there somewhere! Today I enjoyed a sunrise. Ok. The sunrise. There was just one.

Southern sunrise

It was pretty in every direction.

Northern sunrise

I was surrounded by color!

This is the western sunrise! Huh!
The east. With the actual sun.

That was my idea of goodness. No day that starts this pretty could be all bad. Even when you realize your pond has gone dry.

Ooh a barrel. Maybe Drew can pull it out!

There’s stuff blooming, though. And I found a passion fruit.

I even have a new friend, the garden spider who guards the henhouse. She decided to build her nest right across the door. I walked through it. Yuck. And she’d started rebuilding by the time I finished feeding the chickens. She’s good, though. I got to watch her deal with a grasshopper that got in her web. In mere seconds, it was all wrapped up and probably wondering what the heck just happened.

One more bit of goodness was that I saw an unfamiliar bird land on the back pond, the one with water. Then another. It was big, but not as big as a vulture or heron. But it looked like a heron…something was different about its head. Sure enough, it IDed as a tricolored heron! Yay! Now I’ve seen five: great blue, great egret, green heron, cattle egret, and the tricolor.

That’s plenty of good. Plus I got out of the house to go look at houses this afternoon AND ate dinner out with Kathleen. So glad she’s recovering! To celebrate, enjoy dog photos!

Why I’m Thankful for the Pool

Maybe you’ve been reading this blog long enough to remember how I decided I wanted a swimming pool last year. I called it the Pool of Dreams.

Pool of Dreams today—notice the guard garden spider (a good one that eats black widows)

I think some people thought I wouldn’t use the pool. After all, I’ve never been much of a swimmer. I don’t blame anyone who thought this. But while I don’t swim much, I do love water and being outside, especially here.

Things you see from the pool include Vlassic.

I’ve really loved spending time in the pool, and am there nearly every day. The salty water is very soothing (Lee says it’s great for his eyes). I float in my floating device and practice deep breathing. The breeze cools me then the sun soothes me. Then I start observing.

Today I watched starlings flocking.

I see so many birds, especially right now when the herons and egrets are chowing down on the little catfish in the now-shallow ponds. Swallows fly over me and the English sparrow family hang out in their messy nest.

When they took off, it was a big whoosh!

I truly enjoy the time to myself. And the pool lets me be outdoors even in this historic heat. I’d be stuck inside other than when I sweat myself silly taking care of the horses, if it weren’t for the pool.

I’m very grateful to my spouse and family members who helped get this dang pool built.


Wait, I forgot my creature of the day! Here’s a beelzebub bee eater with its prey. What a scary fly!

Black Widows Are Not Our Friends

While we’ve been traveling, there’s been drama at the ranch. Our niece Kathleen, who lives on the ranch with us, has been dealing with some health challenges, so while she’s still getting lots of work done, she also needs to rest more than usual. Very soon after posting a photo of relaxing and reading on the porch, she shared this.

Yes, it’s a black widow. Those words were repeated a lot.

What a way to spend July 4! I was at my horse lesson. By the time I got home, she was at the ER. This has been a worry for me. Our pest control gets most of them (sorry nature lovers; I don’t like poison things in the house, so we try to minimize these guys, scorpions, and brown recluses), but it can’t get them all. I dreaded the day this would happen.

Interesting to me is the fact that they didn’t give her any anti-venom. They seemed to think the best thing to do was to just treat the symptoms. So, she sat in the hospital a couple of days in horrible pain watching the venom eat at her foot. Ugh.

Not a pretty sight!

Since she’d just spent days at a hospital with another family member, I’m sure this was the last thing Kathleen wanted, but she needed monitoring. She did get to go home, though, and even felt like riding Dusty one day, when it wasn’t 113° (I guess the worst heat wave in decades is a good time to be confined indoors).

It’s my turn, finally!

Black widows are powerful. I knew that from my grandmother’s huge scar on her leg. Their venom stays in a long time. Dang neurotoxins. About the time I’d stopped worrying so hard, we got notice she had to go back to the ER due to pain and more symptoms. That poor woman can’t catch a break. It’s a huge test of anyone’s ability to be positive, even someone who’s been working as hard on their mental health as she has.

This does not look much better to me.

This appears to be a long healing process. She was told it could take months for the toxin to get out of her system. I assure you I’m more committed than ever to shake out every towel and cushion on the porch before sitting down. The spiders hide in dark places, so it’s prudent to check. But, as we have learned, in Texas, stinging and biting things are everywhere. I just wish they’d leave Kathleen alone.

There’s always hope!

I’m impressed that she’s keeping her spirits up. She knows her friends and family are with her. Someone even sent her a visiting pigeon this morning. It looked like it was there just for her.

I’ll hang out with you, Kathleen.

She kept telling us to stay in California, but I’m glad to be heading back so I can take care of the animals and let her recover and let everyone else do their stuff. I was supposed to leave town again next month, but there has just been too much going on at home (most of which I’m not at liberty to discuss). Plus COVID is worse. And air travel has gotten so weird. I’ll stay home with the family and animals!

If you have spare good thoughts, send them this way. Kathleen is so good at staying cheerful and optimistic, but this is an unexpected added challenge for the ranch family. Send more doves, pigeons, butterflies and wolf spiders (they eat black widow).

Send energy, too!

I hope she’s home again by the time we get there. There’s still a lot of desert between us and the Hermits’ Rest.


All images and stories shared with permission.

Stress Relief

Between concerns about family member health and work intensity, I’ve got no blogging brilliance. The heat doesn’t help.

Things are just upside down.

It’s getting really dry around here and we’re surrounded by katydids and prairie boopies (grasshoppers). They are everywhere. But, there’s a life and death fight going on that has me fascinated. The garden spiders and one dog are trying to help. Who wins? Check it out.

Yeah. Way too little water and too many grasshoppers this year. I’m glad today’s project for the guys was more power washing. The ceilings of the porches and the exterior of the house sure look good.

Clean house.

It’s gonna be a long summer. I’m extra glad for that pool. I can even get exercise in it. By the way, since it’s a salt-water pool, it feels good to open your eyes underwater! Lee says it’s like eye drops.

I assume these cows won’t open their eyes under here!

Rainy Escapades

I know it’s October, because the rains are back. No pool guys today! But, that is just fine.

I went out this morning to feed Granny and the chickens, and heard a strange noise. What was it? Goldie. She had somehow gotten out and had joined me. I figured I’d determine what happened there later. I headed out to feed Granny, only to be met by four hungry faces.

All the other horses were out and wandering around. Huh. What in the world? I then ran the gauntlet of Apache, Remington, and Mabel, with Fiona trailing behind. I was impressed that I managed to get the food to Granny and not slip in the mud while doing so.

Gleeful escapees

Next, I walked toward the gate to Apache’s paddock. Apache and Fiona nicely followed me, so they were easy to get in. I saw that the gate had been pushed open. So, either one of them unlocked it or (more likely) I had it draped over and forgot to fasten it when I went back to the house yesterday.

Then I went to find the other two horses, which is when I took the photo above. They were just milling around, so it was easy for me to just lead them into the pens by holding their halters. They got lots of pats and love, too.

At least the baby chicks had not escaped, so I managed to keep one type of animal where it belonged! And when I took Goldie back inside, I went out and saw that she (or another dog) had managed to move the big gate that is leaning across the patio to keep the dogs away from the pool. I managed to give myself a couple of nice, sharp cuts trying to put it back (it’s heavy!), but for the rest of the day, so far, everyone’s been in their places.

Tiny cut, but was actually pretty deep. Hurt like heck.

It sure is nice to see the tanks/ponds starting to fill back up, even if it means pool delays!

I also wanted to share that I have a new friend right outside my window. She has a beautiful web, as orb weavers tend to have, but she seems drawn toward my hanging web decoration. I’ve had that thing since I lived in Champaign, Illinois! The rain isn’t bothering her, or her smaller friend who is up higher on the window, one bit.

In the Gloom: Life, Death, and Joyful Canines

Wow, it’s rainy and cloudy again today, but sometimes gloomy weather makes even a simple walk with the dogs an adventure sort of creepy. It doesn’t help that I just looked out the window and there are dozens of creepy cowbirds covering the grass. I hope they appreciate the local cardinals for hatching their babies…

Anyway, this morning the dogs and I went out for a quick walk in between my work meetings. They were chock full of energy, and were running around like there was some bunny to chase.

Come on, let’s go, Suna!

I was getting dizzy watching them run around each other. It was almost like lunging Drew. Things did get gloomier as we approached the trees and watery area.

The dark skies and moody greens of all the vines creeping around the pond and arroyo added to the feeling of impending doom. There are tie vines, bindweed vines, passion vines, dewberries, smilax, poison ivy (further downstream) and balloon vines. It’s dark and mysterious.

All dem vines

To save me going on and on, here are some of the dismal, yet lovely in their own right, sights the dogs and I saw.

Yes, whenever I see a mama spider all covered with babies, I admit to shuddering a bit. Thanks to Lee for finding that one. However, I’d say the thing that enthralled me the most, in a macabre way, was watching the garden spider encasing a grasshopper in its web. I’ve seen it a couple of times lately, but this was the first time I was close enough to film it. Keep watching the video, because you can see the silk coming out of the spider toward the end. Fascinating, but eww.

Life and death, right here at the Hermits’ Rest

But, don’t worry there will be more grasshoppers. How do I know? Oh, you know me and all my observation skills.

Can we have some privacy here?

The Gate to Adventure

Maybe it isn’t that, but it’s the gate to our livestock pens! This is so exciting to me!

The second gate support up.

The chickens weren’t the only new additions to the property. There are also lots more holes and poles than yesterday.

I love this picture of the dirt flying!

It’s so much fun to watch the progress. This area will be so darned sturdy when it’s done!

Holes ready for poles.

I lucked out and finished work in time to watch some of the process of erecting that second giant gate support. It is a delicate process using huge machines.

Unfortunately, I realized I was supposed to be feeding horses instead of being mesmerized by tractor ballet.

While I was gone, the giant H got in the holes, and the front-end loader was holding it up, ready for concrete. Lee arrived and helped out with the other tractor, and soon it was in!

Lee is helping.

We now have two big H braces. They would make great supports for an adult-size swing set. So, that won’t happen, because it would need mosquito netting. Holy cow, the recent rains have created swarms. Trying to find a sneaky calf this evening ended up being a buzzing, stinging nightmare.

Maybe this fascinating spider will eat mosquitoes. It’s a giant lichen orbweaver.

We’ve been having fun working and enjoying the animals. Carlton is out with us often. He’s gotten so well behaved that he’s a great outdoor companion.

I’m a good boy.

Who cares if work’s hard? After work is great on these long days!

We Have Fence Poles

This is happy stuff! There are now poles in our stall area! Thank you, Mother Nature for a dry day!

The area near the shipping container. The square pole is part of our roof support.

There are a lot of holes to dig and concrete to pour, but it’s coming along! The big auger makes short work of the digging, but the concrete has to be poured by hand.

Posts are leaning because they are just sitting in big ole holes.

When I’m not working and working and working, I can help with the fencing, too. Some of the fence poles just have dirt in them, so I got to fill the holes back up with a weird hoe. Quite the manual laborer I am.

In front is a sturdy concrete post, behind is one I helped with.

However, I truly wish I’d been outside to see the big gate support go up. It must have been quite a sight! And quite a feat. No wonder I’m impressed with the new horse fencing!

That’s one fine gate support. I feel like we have a real ranch.

I’m looking forward to gates, some of which will be hand made, too. Wow. Apache and the cattle will have fancy digs.

I’m a fancy dog. In a tractor.

In Bug News

And as a postscript I have two cool insect photos to share. First, I saw a spider wasp dragging a hapless wolf spider off for dinner.

The circle of life

Also, my friend Pamela saw baby preying mantises on her property and got a shot of one whose shadow looked exactly like a giraffe. Cute!

See the giraffe?

That’s a Big One

Even not feeling great, I’m finding things to be excited about. I think that’s part of my charm. Perhaps. Today’s theme is big. For example, this is a big grasshopper, especially for a male. And it’s one of my better photos, right on my driveway!

Differential grasshopper, apparently tired, because he let me get really close. Note wings.

The extent of my walking yesterday was patrolling the back yard with Lee. While I regretted not meeting my activity goal, I still managed to find something big and beautiful. It’s one of my favorites, a yellow garden spider.

I had to take this over the fence. Notice her silver head. The scientific name, Argiope aurantia, means gilded silver-face.
This is her belly and some of her web. Obviously she’s an orb weaver!

And now, I’m sure you’ve been waiting for us to see what was inside Fancy Pants’s giant egg from a while back.

Giant egg!

It was still big after peeling. and still rather lumpy.

Peeled. Normal egg in background.

I got out the sharp knife and carefully sliced the big bruiser. Would it be a double yolk? Would it look weird?

That’s a BIG yolk.

I can’t tell if it’s double or not, but it sure is big! Way more yolk than white.

Compare to normal large egg. The normal one has way more white.

I wonder if this one would have had enough food in it to grow a chick? We will never know. But it does make me want to raise chicks. Maybe the next broody hen will get lucky!

So…what’s big in your life?

Brown Recluses, Crows, and Cochineal: Stuff I Learned about This Week

I’ve enjoyed the Texas Master Naturalist Annual Meeting, for the most part. There were a couple of dud presentations (I won’t say which ones those were), but I managed to learn a lot. I really missed interacting with others before and after sessions and being able to interact.

But I did learn a bunch. I’m really glad I went to the brown recluse spider talk, because now I know how few people get bitten and that females don’t even walk around. If you see one out, it’s a male.

Hmm

They have six eyes, paired as in the photo. Easy to tell from other spiders, though I doubt I’ll get that close.

Unrelated to these guys, I found out the baby spiders that parachute across the fields are the jumping spiders. They are my favorites. They are all so pretty and friendly. Sara and I talked to one for a while yesterday. Yes, we’re weird ranch gals.

I learned about corvids, which include ravens, crows, magpies, and jays, among others. The surprise there is how similar their brains are to ours, just more densely packed. Really amazing birds.

More on recluses. I didn’t get bird images.

Another interesting talk was on fungi, but I realized I need images in my sessions. I am not an auditory learner, I guess. The speaker had very few slides, and I got lost. Luckily, she recommended a book I’ll go buy. That makes, I think, four I must have thanks to the conference!

Finally, I got a kick out of the presentation by a very sweet and very Texan Master Naturalist on cochineal. I could tell he’d learned way more about the fashion industry than he had intended to. But it was a lot of fun sharing his amazement about the ups and downs of these tiny insects, some of which happen to be right outside my door!

I’m gonna have to smoosh some up, use lemon juice as a mordant, and dye something red! I’ll read the books and report more later.

Well, I have an adventure to go to, so that’s it for now. Have fun on your Sunday, too!

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