Dystopian Ranch Report

Dystopian? That sounds cheerful, doesn’t it? Well, it’s just a weird day. It’s still all hazy, which makes it feel like I’m walking in a science fiction story.

It really never cleared up all day.

And it’s so windy that chairs, empty troughs, and the chickens’ shelter blew all over the place. I had trouble walking to see the horses! Vlassic even spooked a couple of times (but was good with cows).

My ears may blow off. Or I may take off.

It’s not all bad, though. I checked on the new goldfish, and I was happy to see the water in the trough already more clear and with fewer mosquito larvae. I swear they have grown!

Vlassic likes fish food.

We’ve lost only one fish, which surprised me, considering how green the water was. At first I couldn’t see the fish if they weren’t at the top!

We’re working hard!

Other things are actually doing okay, even in adverse circumstances. My poor fennel plant that got replanted near the “folly” had been weed-eated and mown by Jim (he likes a smooth lawn) is coming back! I thought it was a goner. I put a bunny next to it, to remind him it’s there. Fingers are crossed!

Grow, fennel!

Even more amazing is that my asparagus patch, which had been treated with RoundUp, has come back! The weeds are in way worse shape, so maybe we can get that bed in shape.

I’m alive!

Even in the wind and haze, I keep finding cool living things around the ranch. Look at this beautiful insect! It’s a nuptial scorpionfly. Huh.

So pretty! I wonder if it stings?

And this caught my eye as I was going to check the mail. I wondered if it was aphids or some kind of goldenrod beetle. I guess I thought that since I recently found milkweed bugs and aphids.

White things…

I looked it up on iNaturalist and discovered it WAS something associated with goldenrod, but each white thing is a gall created by some tiny insects, Carbonifera goldenrod gall midge. That’s a new one for me.

Midge photo by David, CC BY-SC-NA

Always something new, even with the weirdness of 2020 continuing. The sun will come up tomorrow, dimly.

Hey, Hay!

I think the long saga of me needing hay for Apache is over for a while, at least. It’s nice to have kind Master Naturalist friends to come to my rescue.

I thought I was getting square bales from Pamela, who lives nearby, but it turned out her baling guy would make no fewer than 200 bales (understandably). I just don’t have the funds for that.

Pre-moved hay and great sign.

So then my other Master Naturalist friend, Cindy, said she had some old hay for my preferred price (her new hay was too expensive, and besides, the older the better for Apache). That’s probably the best for us, anyway.

That is one neat tack room.

So, after work, Chris and I took a trailer down to Cindy’s place, which is even more beautiful than I imagined. It’s a Suna Dream Property. While I enjoyed her Tennessee Walking Horses, Chris loaded the hay with the help of another Master Naturalist, Sam, and another nice helper.

They’d already taken the hay out of the hayloft, so it went quickly.

We got to look around and chat, too, which was so nice. I miss my friends! It was worth sweating away in masks! It’s a fine bonus to getting the hay. Also, I was so busy looking around and chatting that I didn’t get many pictures.

I also didn’t get any pictures of unloading the hay. At least here’s a picture or two of the loaded hay.

I went to get Lee’s brother a burger, and the onion rings took so long that I totally missed unloading the hay! But the food was good, so yay. And I did get photos of the beautiful stacks Chris made.

Speaking of beautiful, I tried to get a gorgeous picture of Fiona and yet another fine sunset, but every time I stepped back to take a picture, she followed me. This is my best try!

Here I come, Mommy.

By the way, my friends’ beautiful horse property is for sale. Want to bring your horses and come live near me?

Too Much Right Now

There’s just so much in my head that I’ve no time nor ability to write. I was analyzing work stuff in my dreams last night. I couldn’t stop dreaming about data.

Hey, grasshopper, you’re supposed to distract me.

I’ve pushed through everything today, which is great, but there’s still more coming up! Being occupied with work challenges isn’t all bad, of course. It keeps your mind off the state of the world, sick friends, and natural disasters.

That’s really a cool color!

I did enjoy a lovely sunset last night after the wee bit of rain. And I reconnected with a friend from grad school whom I greatly admired and had thought about often.

Plus, I can disguise myself with even more masks, since I got some pretty ones in the mail. Guess I’m not a plain black mask person.

I’m blinding and blingy.

Hope you’re handling your surprises and learning curves today. We’re all in it together.

Spooky pretty.

Light, of Many Kinds

Today was all about light. I am staying at the ranch this week, for the first time in ages, so I got to wake up after sunrise, though it was so foggy. Nice, gentle light.

As the only bush at the Pope Residence, the nandina, shows, it was damp this morning.

When I got to the office, my first task was to check out the progress with the Pope Residence. Behold! There’s a new window where the laundry room door was, which will light up that room!

They recycled a lot of old siding to rebuild the wall.

Back at the office, the UPS dude showed up and brought a giant box. Was it my chandelier? Nope. It was a beautiful lamp I’d ordered for my desk. It’s called a turtle lamp, for the glass shape. The bottom lights up to be a night light, too. It will look so cool!

Quite red, isn’t it? But it casts white light for reading.

So, where is my chandelier? I finally called up Lamps Plus, and they looked into it. The customer service lady kept saying how gorgeous it is. It turns out the label had fallen off and it never shipped. They were appropriately apologetic and promised to ship the new one immediately! We will see.

However, more lights appeared this afternoon! Kathleen picked up some old hanging lamps she bought from some friends of ours. They are all dusty now, but we’re really looking forward to cleaning them up.

I plan to hang one by the Grape Throne. By the way, here are the grapes.

The throne’s grapes

And finally, the day ended with a light show. I just can’t feel sad when Nature keeps reminding me of her glory.

Okay, jet contrails helped with the beauty.

Good evening from the Hermits’ Rest.

Fall Beauty Is Subtle but Sweet

I’ve really been enjoying the weather and the fall foliage the past week or two. It got all windy in Austin and leaves were swirling like they did back in Illinois when I lived there.

One oak and many cedar elms

Here at the ranch the cedar elms are the ones that provide color. It’s not bright, but the trees have many shades going from orange to russet brown.

Yellow leaves!

There’s one tree with yellow foliage. I’m thinking it’s a mesquite. I didn’t look too hard. It must be something else.

Continue reading “Fall Beauty Is Subtle but Sweet”

What’s Prettier Than a Beach Sunset?

Nothing. At least that’s what we think. But, since Anita and I walked and walked in a beautiful area all day yesterday, I think I’ll share some photos of other things we saw. But, first…

The Horror!

I set off on a long walk through a lovely area and didn’t bring my phone! What a horrible discovery. My panic was averted when Anita pointed out that she happened to have a phone with her, and that it also took photos with GPS coordinates on them. So, she became the official walk photographer.

These are ringless honey mushrooms, Armillaria tabescens.

While our walk along Pope Avenue was mostly populated by non-native plantings, the sides of the path had all the native stuff I was interested in. The mushrooms were really interesting, especially the one I’m glad to have turned over, because then I could see the yellow bumps it has instead of spores. That was a winner. It’s a Red-cracking bolete (Xerocomellus chrysenteron).

The way out didn’t win me any exercise points on The Watch, because we stopped constantly. We spent a long time trying to decide if an animal we saw in the duckweed was a turtle or a frog. Whatever it was, it was really fun to watch it bobbing around.

Continue reading “What’s Prettier Than a Beach Sunset?”

Sunday of Amazement

Wow, yesterday was just one amazing discovery after another around the ranch! The wind finally died down, which made it much easier to be outside, so I engaged in a lot of running around with dogs and exploring things, once the cattle moved off and the cattle torture ended.

This is the “springy” area of the woods. It’s on a slope, and the water drains down to the Hermits Stream.

Our neighbor Mike came over earlier than usual in the afternoon, so that we could go check out a few things in the woods. Of course, the dogs went, too, which gave them more opportunities to irritate the cattle. Sigh. But the good news is that we found an old food storage container that had slipped out of Lee’s hands and disappeared into the woods during the summer, when you can’t see a thing in there.

There is a lot of moss, algae, and other moisture-loving foliage here. I wonder what the area would look like if cattle weren’t stomping all over it.

But, WAY more important was that I confirmed my suspicions that the last remnant of the big drought that was going on when we first came to this area is going away. It’s quite clear that our springs are back!

I’d been seeing a wet area from our side of the fence, but we wanted to see it up close. Sure enough, water is seeping out of the ground and heading toward the stream. I’d heard that there were springs in there before, but other than getting a little muddier than the rest of the area, it hadn’t showed any signs of flowing.

Carlton investigates the babbling brook. The tree bridge is getting less and less sturdy as time goes by.

We also noted that the little brook/stream that flows into Walker’s Creek is flowing pretty briskly. Two things could cause that. Either the pond is still getting water from runoff and flowing through the arroyo, OR the other spring is working. Mike and I confirmed that the culvert is barely dripping, so that brisk flow of water must mean that the big, deep spring is flowing on its own again. Hooray! There’s water under the ground again!

Heron or egret footprints in the mud.

Now that the flooding has died down, we can see lots of tracks in the mud that the flooding deposited. One thing is for sure, those herons are BIG birds.

And the chickens?

I am very happy to report that the longer days, increased food, and/or less owl stress have combined to ramp up egg production. We were afraid that the one who was still laying had been the last owl victim, but, hooray, we had three eggs today, and since two of them were white, there are at least two laying now! Of course, we are down to a dozen chickens, so we won’t have what we did before, but it’s an improvement.

THREE eggs! And the beautiful cutting board the neighbors gave us for Christmas.

And, by the way, Mandi is ordering some netting to help foil the predators.

And more mooning

A picture-perfect end to the day.

We got back home and sat on the porch (it was cool, but not too cold) to enjoy blackberry wine and yet another lovely sunset, which I managed to frame in the porch, like a painting on a wall.

Here comes the moon!

Then we turned around to see the super moon rising in the east. Wow, that thing was big. My phone doesn’t do very good eclipse photos, but the red moon was very cool. I wish that happened more often. You know that sight must have been confusing to ancient people who didn’t know how the sun. moon, and earth coordiate!

Chicken Update?

Feed us!

Just wanted to share that the owl seems to have literally flown the coop, and we haven’t lost a chicken in a couple of weeks.

As you can see, they are looking happy. Buckbeak is glowing! We have at least ten left.

  • And we are now getting ONE egg per day! 100% improvement over zero! Let’s hope things keep picking up from here. I’m still looking into coops, but it’s sorta complicated.
  • Other bird news

    I saw a cool bird sight on my way back from feeding the chickens yesterday. I stopped to punch in the gate code and heard a lot of commotion. Much screeching and cawing. I saw half a dozen of our large crows yelling at a hawk, who was yelling back.

    It looked like the hawk had robbed the crows of something. The crows took turns pecking until one of them got the hawk away from crow territory. That crow kept circling back and making it very clear that Crows Rule!

    Late-breaking news

    Look at this Austin sunset! We’re having a bumper crop this year!