Playing with My Spring

When Lee mowed the area where water flows when the front pond fills up, it squished the place where the little spring bubbles up. It made it look like a seep, not a pretty spring.

Spring, the season, is beautiful here. So is the little spring bubbling up from the ground.

Today I got the weird or wonderful idea to mark the spring and make a little basin to hold water before it flows off to start the stream. Just for fun, you know, knowing it will disappear with the next flood.

Here’s where the spring is in relationship to the house. yes, the electric pole detracts from the image.

I brought an old shiny sprinkler over to mark the location from future mowing.

The spring flowing down to its new marsh.

Then I played in the clay mud to form a depression for the spring to gurgle into, then used some old bricks and rocks to make a teeny dam.

It’s a bit muddy here, but it cleared up.

Now the water makes a little bird bath kind of thing. I got the idea when we saw vultures drinking from the spring a week or two ago (and were relieved it wasn’t Gracie they were messing with).

Spring pool

I’m so fond of this magical water coming out of the ground. It’s definitely Suna’s Spring. And I did mention before that the spring is NOT a leak in the water line? We checked. And we will have the nephew check again, just in case, because the longer I look at the stick marking the water line, the more worried I become. That would not be magical. Or fun to fix.

As the sun goes down, let’s say goodbye to the Hermits’ Rest for the day.

Goofing off in the mud was the highlight of my day. I hope you had a highlight.

The Ranch Resurrection

It’s the time of year when my Christian friends are thinking about resurrection. To me, Easter comes at the perfect time of year, since flora and fauna are coming back to life all over the place. The Hermits’ Rest Ranch is no exception, but this year, after the unusually cold winter, we haven’t been sure if everything was going to come back or not. Every time I look out the window and see a monarch butterfly feeding, I feel grateful that some of them made it here and have food.

Everywhere I look there are monarchs, and I know I have milkweeds out there for them!

I’ve been periodically patrolling the land around our house, checking to see if plants are coming up at their usual times and numbers, and what kinds of insects are showing up. The good news is that most of the old friends are returning, but the bad news is that some are not as numerous and are later than usual.

One plant I’ve been anxiously looking for are the Texas baby blue eyes (Nemophila phacelioides), which only grow in one spot on the edge of the woods near the house. Usually by this time of year, we have a nice stand of them. Today I finally found one blossom, along the fence. I hope there are more of them among the green things in the woods!

Well, that’s one, at least.

The Indian paintbrush that usually covers our front field and the one down the road are nowhere near as numerous as usual, but the fact that there are some gives me hope for future years. The bluebonnets are okay in numbers, but I haven’t seen a winecup yet. The delicate roadside gaura (Oenothera suffulta), however, has managed to come up, in such a pretty stand that I thought they were some other flower.

Usually you don’t see so many together. They turn pink when finished blooming.

I was comforted today to see that the little spring is still flowing, and that plenty of prickly sow thistle (Apache’s favorite snack), yellow evening primrose, pink evening primrose, ragwort, and dewberries are blanketing the ground.

Future food for lots of birds!

And the big, purple thistles, which are a pain in the butt, but good for the soil, are getting ready to bloom.

I finally found a blooming example of one of the plants I’ve been watching, velvetweed (Oenothera curtiflora). It’s another gaura, but grows much bigger and has lovely soft leaves. Every year I forget what that plant is until it finally blossoms.

It will be much bigger and more showy soon.

One plant I’d hoped the freezing weather would wipe out is the poison ivy, but I should have known, given how thick the vines are that climb the trees in a certain area, that they’d be back. Sigh. It looks so healthy and shiny, too. The mesquite tree, another one that’s sort of a pain (but also has its good points, unlike poison ivy), is coming back, as is the prickly ash, another Texas thorny tree. Well, at least they break up the monotony of our little wooded area, which has mostly cedar elm trees in it.

Now, I’ve saved the best news for last. As of yesterday, I was sure that the Shumard red oak that we’d planted last year behind out house, to someday shade the chickens, was a victim of the weather. I was not surprised, since it hadn’t had much chance to expand its roots. But, lo and behold, I spotted something red while I was out checking on the roosting hen. Little leaves! It looks like the tree will be with us another year after all. And that is good, which you will learn more about soon, when I report on the book about oak trees I just got!

Brand-new oak leaves!

No fooling, April 1 has been an encouraging day, at least for the plants around here! Our wildlife is returning to life and bringing us joy, in Nature’s yearly resurrection.

Feeling a Little Better about Nature’s Survival

After that unusual series of cold fronts, snow, and ice, I (and others) have been pretty worried about whether out friends out there in nature are going to make it through to spring and keep going. In the past day or two I’ve seen some happy signs. So, as long as I’m out in nature and not dealing with technology, I’ve been pretty happy.

Vlassic is happy, because I’ve been sitting on the porch with him and running around a lot.

My heart skipped a beat when I finally saw some Indian paintbrush plants in the field. Now that there are two or three of them, I know we’ll have at least a bit of our usual field of orange in front of the house (as long as we can convince Jim the brother-in-law not to mow until they are going to seed).

A brave pioneer in the big wildflower meadow (until someone turns it into a pasture).

The field is already lovely to me, with a whole lot of mock verbena mingling with crow poison and field madder, once you look close enough to see them. And I know more’s coming! That’s why I like this time of year. Every day something new starts blooming, and I record them on iNaturalist so that some day I can analyze the data and see if the weather changes when the wildflowers start up (that will be when I retire).

I don’t remember having so much of this charming plant in the field before!

A new “blossom” coming up yesterday was this dwarf plantain (at least that’s what iNaturalist identified it as). I thought it was the annual trampweed (which is also in the picture, along with chicory, burr clover of some kind, and a grass, but I was wrong).

But it IS something new blooming, whatever it is!

Another new bloomer is one I’d been worried about, on behalf of my stomach, and that’s the dewberries. They really got knocked back by the cold, but by gosh, they have recovered and started blooming. Even though there are only a few blossoms right now, it already smells good over by the stream.

Future fruit! Yay!

How about the non-plants?

Adult green-striped grasshopper that is brown.

I’ve been anxiously looking for butterflies and grasshoppers and such. Judging from the sounds I’ve been hearing, the green-striped grasshoppers I’ve been watching grow up have matured. I see them flying around the back yard and making their grasshopper noises. Here’s one that happens to be brown.

I’ve been seeing a lot of these hairstreak butterflies, along with some sulphurs and one red admiral that was too far away to photograph.

Hairstreak with chicory and tiny bluet.
This blurry shot is the best one I could get, as the butterfly never landed.

But, I had heard people were already seeing monarchs, but that there was nothing for them to eat. Sure enough, as I sat in the back yard yesterday waiting to go to the phone store, a steady stream of them passed by, but never landed on anything. I sure hope they find some nectar!

I know pear trees are blooming (native ones, not just Bradford pears), so the bees are doing well.

Maybe Carlton has some hunting dog in him. I caught him pointing (he turned his head when he saw me).

I’m never alone when I’m out looking at all these plants and insects and such. Carlton and Penney are especially close to me wherever I go, while Alfred and Vlassic explore more. It always makes me happy to see that the pets have as much fun as I do. We are all really lucky to have acres and acres to explore and nobody to tell us what we can and can’t do out here. Ranch living may have poor cell reception, but it makes up for it in the kind of freedom that matters to me, which is freedom to observe nature and be a part of it, not try to dominate it.

As usual, Penney was by the water.

I hope you are enjoying the signs of spring where you are (and if you’re in Colorado, I hope the snow is melting).

Hermiting in the Woods

Since neither my sister nor I felt great after our vaccinations, we didn’t do dinner tonight. That, combined with the fact that it’s the first night of Daylight Savings Time led me to decide to spend some quiet time in the woods.

Hermits’ Rest woods just before the trees leaf out.

It wasn’t a quiet time, because there were so many birds, mostly white-crowned sparrows, mourning doves, mockingbirds and cardinals.

The female cardinal was chirping away when I took this.

I just wandered slowly (I left the dogs in the house) so I could see the birds, hear the creek flowing away, and enjoy the new leaves budding.

The creek makes a wide spot where lots of fish live.

It always smells good in the damp woods (even with the cow poop scattered around). It’s especially musty and lovely by the seep, the springy area in the woods that never dried up at all last year. I crouched beside it a long time, listening to birds and watching them fly around.

It’s like my own baby swamp!

While I was there, I heard a loud bird sound, then something big flew by. I was enchanted, and I confirmed my hunch when I heard a hammering sound. It then flew by again, with a flash of black, white and red. It was the biggest pileated woodpecker I ever saw.

Photo taken yesterday in Virginia by Bob Hass.

While I’ve seen them here before, never so close and so large. No, no photo. I was using my eyes!

Eventually I stopped being a hermit and joined Lee for a walk around the pond behind the house with the dogs. That’s always so relaxing. I was captivated by the perfection of dandelion seed heads and a little circle of verbena. A nice evening.

Dogs Love Springtime

As weak as I was feeling today, I had to get outside some. After all, it’s getting to be spring! So, I dragged myself around the property while the dogs played.

Time to play!

They love it when it’s warm and windy, especially when they have water to splash in. Alfred and Carlton, the two white dogs, both enjoyed the front pond.

Let’s splash

Heck, even big ole Harvey got some wading in, and he’s the one who usually gives up after five minutes of frolic and goes to sit by the front door. He was as frisky as the rest of the gang!

See, I can have fun.

Vlassic could not resist bothering the cows, but he was easily distracted by going to the other side of the driveway, where I had to check to be sure our new spring was still flowing.

Tiny black spot is Vlassic

For some reason, this little hole in the ground with water gushing out of it makes me really happy. It’s such a positive change, and it’s providing water for the birds and wildlife.

Still spewing water!

Now that water has been flowing for a few months, water plants are growing in the spring, and I’m excited to see what shows up between now and when everything dries up (as I’m sure it will, given our climate).

Happy water plants

I ended my trudge around our field by watching Penney, who’s our current water dog, as she checked out all the water sources. She loves the stream, and I loved seeing willow leaves sprouting.

Fun for Penney

The walk made me tired, so I napped the rest of the afternoon. The side effects are weird, such as burning ears. I guess it’s flu-like symptoms. My immune system is kicking in! And damp Penney kept me cool until cows showed up and got the dogs into bark mode.

Alert! Cows!

Since my sister got the one-shot vaccination yesterday, we will be fully protected at the same time. I can’t wait to go to the Bistro for dinner again!

How are you?

Spring Support and Hopefulness

Hey! Thanks to all of you who sympathized with my being so hopeless and sad right now. You all rightly pointed out that many things have led to our collective urge to just sit and stare ahead. There’s even astrological reasoning! This afternoon, Sara postulated that because we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel, all the stuff we’ve been holding in has started to leak out. Yeah.

Carlton is tired of being confined to his backyard. We understand.

Today I was getting a bit concerned about myself. I kept having trouble concentrating, and somehow managed to leave Austin late. Partly I was distracted by welcome signs of life coming back.

Ferns are popping up!

I enjoyed lots of redbud trees and pear trees. I’m so glad they made it. And the first thing I spotted when I got to the ranch was an Indian paintbrush!

I looked and looked for these last weekend!

I’d heard bluebonnets are blooming at last, but didn’t spot them until I got to the hill leading down to Walker’s Creek, where they are beautiful every year.

I sure hope to get prettier bluebonnet pictures soon!

I was still pretty squirrelly when I got to the ranch. I was nervous about getting my second COVID vaccine, so I forgot my vaccination card and panicked because I couldn’t find my paperwork. Uh, it was in the car. Then I drove off, leaving a can of drink on the trunk. That’s gonna make a mess when I open it, I’m sure.

I took off like a startled heron.

But! I got to the vaccine place! Turns out I was supposed to be there yesterday. But, they let me in. The shot didn’t hurt, and so far I have little pain. Maybe I got all my reactions over with last month.

Fully vaccinated, I’m now exhausted.

The other part of the day that made me feel supported and hopeful was that I went to the drugstore in Cameron to pick up my precious drugs, and got to see Mandi at her new job as a pharmacy assistant. Yes! After we had to let her go, she made good use of the time and got her certificate back. See, some people DO use their unemployment to get training and get a job. I’m so proud of her and will hug her in two weeks.

Signs of spring. Can you see the birds?

Once I got home, I took a nap and felt fine feeding horses. We had to give them the nastiest wormer of the series we are giving this spring. Both Apache and Lakota made some sad faces and rubbed their faces on the ground. Tomorrow if I’m not having reactions we will reward them with grooming and riding. They are shedding big time. I need it, so I hope I feel less scattered and more centered.

One last photo. Crow poison is beautiful, despite its name.

Little things like signs of spring and the promise of future hugs help. But knowing I’m not alone and have wonderful, supportive friends everywhere to feel a sense of community with is the best. Sincere thanks to all. We’re in this together. That’s helping me know I can crawl out of this hole!


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Who Is NOT Experiencing Anticipation?

Sure, the UU Lent word for today is anticipation, because it’s the traditional day when Christians anticipate the culmination of the passion/story/tradition of Easter. But really, who isn’t anticipating a lessening of the very necessary restrictions we are dealing with right now? More on that later.

First, it’s still spring. Resurrection is all around us. Here in Cameron, lilies are blooming everywhere, butterflies are making their appearance, and the birds and bees are everywhere (especially when I’m trying to drink a beverage on the new patio break area we made).

Mrs. Finch is annoyed that Chris and I are watching her work on the nest. She’s also anticipating those little chirpers.

I keep coming back to it, but anticipation of the familiar, regular, slow and sure changing of the seasons has been really helpful to me the past month or two. Be sure to look out and see what’s changing outside your window – it can help.

What ARE We Anticipating?

I’ve been idly wondering (okay, maybe not so idly wondering) what’s coming up in the next few months. This morning I read two articles that hit me like a big ole brick wall from across the street at the Pope Residence.

First, Kathleen shared this article from the Houston Chronicle about the phases of coping with the pandemic. Gerald Parker says we’re in Phase 2, mitigation, but there are two more phases to come that are just different kinds of mitigation. Next will be containment, where we start things back up a bit, but remain cautious, since we will not yet have a vaccine, but hopefully will have better treatment. We will be much more careful about sanitation and isolating sick people

This is how I feel right now. That all these invisible things are swarming around me. I also was splattered with paint yesterday when I made this.

Once there is a vaccine for people who believe in such things, the virus will be much less prevalent, but never go away, just like the flu that comes every year and kills people. That will be the new normal, according to Parker, anyway.

I thought it was a little discouraging, but my friend Jean, who has a background in such things, has another perspective:

Actually, it is kind of encouraging. We’ve been executing a plan for this and it’s on schedule. I may not like it, but this contingency has been planned for, some of the problems we are seeing were recognized as such but not acted on (not surprising by the way — I was responsible for our organization’s shelter in place plan before I retired, and there were things I knew we weren’t ready for because it was fiscally not feasible to do), but our national strategy is working. Had we not had a workable plan for this, we would be in a far worse place now.

Jean Schara of Philosophical Meanderings, Too

I’m glad to read this other perspective. It makes me feel like we’re all helping.

Next, let’s talk about spin. Here’s an article that has been shared all over my Facebook today, which pessimistically predicts that as soon as we are all out of our homes and those extremely creepy commercials about how companies love us in our confinement are over, the advertising/marketing engine will gear up to try to get us to forget all this ever happened. Talk about Orwellian dystopia coming to life. Argh.

Let’s take a break and watch some streaky clouds. They look like they’re in a hurry to get out of Cameron. I don’t blame them.

The author, Julio Vincent Gambuto, calls it the ultimate gaslighting (and let me tell you, as someone who experiences it often, I do NOT like gaslighting). He predicts we’ll be hearing how all the things we are directly experiencing right now will be minimized. This gives me the shivers. I am not sure this will actually happen to the extent Gambuto claims it will (after all, the article is on Medium.com, which does not fact check), but now that I know about the possibility, I’ll be anticipating it and keep my eyes and ears open for marketing gaslighting.

Well, let’s change the subject. I anticipate the end of UU Lent tomorrow. I’ll have to think of my own topics! Don’t worry. I can do it.

The result of yesterday’s painting and scraping is ALL the matching doors are now a matching color.

By the way, I said I’d write about something today, but I decided not to, since it had to do with corporate practices, and I currently work for a corporation. I’ll follow their social media guidelines like a good corporate citizen and go paint, scrape, and clean some more.

The Darkness Fades: Spring Is Coming, I Think

It’s such a sunny, clear morning that the fog and gloom of the last week or so seems a distant memory. It’s got me thinking.

Bobcat Run at sunset.
Tenpetal anemone, which is named after another Greek myth, but is a welcome early sign of spring at the ranch.

I’m thinking and hoping the glorious sunset that I got to enjoy with the Austin neighbors seems to signal that maybe I and all my associates can start to crawl out of their holes, and rise, like Persephone, from the darkness. It’s a little late, but I have hope today. If kale can grow in the middle of the messy garden at the ranch, I can deal with the mess in my life.

Free food! Carlton inspects the volunteer kale I found. You just never know what’s going to come up, from the ground, or in these weird-ass times we live in.

I’m thinking of the sad person on my friends’s blog yesterday. We’ll probably never know how much help we were, but I was touched by the kind words fellow blog readers sent their way. At least a whole lot of positive energy came that person’s way…and I think energy like that can’t hurt.

I think a lot of the energy around me that is so sad has to do with being tired: me, my family, my friends, my cuber-community. I’m a lot better after my day off on Sunday. My poor friend at work was so exhausted from traveling to the other side of the world and getting flu that she turned blue and started shaking. ARGH. “Just exhaustion” is still exhaustion!

In a total aside, guess who was really thrilled to get to Austin? This dapper guy, along with his photo-bombing buddy in the corner. He later got to destroy the squeaker in his tuxedo.

Think!

I think I can!

Keep thinking and wondering. New life and new adventures always await. Look at the very early Indian Paintbrush blossom I found on my walk last Sunday. It’s a little bedraggled, since its brethren are still sprouting up, but the little bursts of orange on the side of the road were just what I needed to see.

Maybe the colors will keep getting brighter as the sun and rain wake up all the wildflowers and bring the middle of Texas back to its yearly celebration of pollination and abundance. I think so.

May the pansy fairy remind you of cheerful faces, even in the darkness.

My old friend Kathy D. reminded me that the pansies of winter always keep me going (even though I didn’t have any real ones this year). I just have to look to see that magic is everywhere and it’s not all bad. That’s just me, though, after all my years of positive thinking training.

Yep, I get it that it’s sometimes harder than others, and for people dealing with depression it’s worse. I do NOT want to be one of those people spewing forth platitudes like “just smile” or whatever. If it’s not in you, don’t. But DO keep putting one foot in front of the other and at least nod to the beauty you pass by, so you can enjoy it later.

Let’s stick together and see what we think about this spring. Change is in the air. We may NEED to stick together!

Green and Greener: A Photo Essay

Look! A fairy!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, the day when those of us with Irish ancestors (or Irish children or both) celebrate their heritage. This day always coincides with the part of the Texas spring when it’s so green that it almost hurts your eyes.

Dewberry on a fence

Each year I try to burn the spring green into my brain, to carry me through parched brown summers.

New growth

So, yesterday, when the late afternoon light was especially suited to enhancing the green of spring, I took many photos. Some were interesting. Others breathtaking. I hope you enjoy the Hermits’ Rest at its greenest.

The Hermits Creeklet with budding willows and dewberries.

Very green

Wow. That’s green. Alfred is king of the woods.

Cedar elm

My favorite

Baby blue eyes say thanks for looking.

Imbolc: Spring Is Coming

In many parts of the US, Easter-time is when spring is celebrated. Here in Texas, the spring new growth starts around the beginning of February, at a time traditionally called Imbolc or Candlemas (or in US folk culture, Groundhog Day).

This is one of my favorite images of Brighid. It’s on sale right now, too. I had to borrow this photo, since I’m not at home to take my own picture.

It’s also the day sacred to St. Bridget or the goddess Brighid, depending on your tradition. She’s always been my favorite, since not only is she the Mother Goddess of Ireland, but she protects the hearth, the home, spinning and weaving, and fire! That’s why there is an “eternal flame” in Kildare, Ireland in her honor.

I was pretty thrilled to find a goddess who cares for all the things I care so deeply about, so I’ve always loved her. Back when I got to go to Ireland often, I visited her sacred well and cathedral many times. If you’re ever in Kildare town, check it out.

Here, though, I celebrate Imbolc by giving thanks to all the little plants and flowers that have kept me going through the winter (the very damp winter this year!). The little bluets are a real favorite, as is the chickweed I shared earlier in the week.

I’m glad I met Monique Reed, my botanist friend, because when she came to inventory plants on the ranch last year, she showed me how many wonderful tiny plants there are here at the Hermits’ Rest; you just have to look for them.

Looking at the tiny blossoms, the tiny berries, and all the plants that keep on going through the winter reminds me that we, too, have to keep on going through the dark periods, and just keep looking toward the light. That’s what the Imbolc season tells us, too. Spring is coming. Keep looking at the light and stay warm (yes, even those of you in the Polar Vortex right now!).

Hey!

If you want your own statue of Brigit or Brigid or however you want to spel it, I recommend you visit my friend Liana’s business, Sacred Source, and see some great options/