Things We Like

My spouse and I do have a few things in common. Today I was reminded of some of them. That made me feel all warm and fuzzy, which I needed, since the dogs killed another animal friend and that made me sad.

Sorry, buddy. I wish I could pick up and rescue a snapping turtle that somehow got into the yard, but I need my limbs.

I’m happier thoughts, I got something fun in the mail that my friend Deana told me about. It’s the Yarn Tarot. It’s so cute. The illustrations cover knitting, crochet, spinning, and weaving.

Also note my avocado nails.

The main reason to get the deck would be the art, some of which is clever. The deck was designed by Katie ponder, who does seem to know about the crafts. The Fool cracked me up, setting out over the precipice to buy yarn.

And the dog has a sweater on.

The suits are: pentacles a woven star, cups drop spindles, swords knitting needles (duh), and wands crochet hooks. I have a feeling getting weaving to fit in with the pentacle symbolism was the hardest.

See, it’s on a loom.

The twee book is a standard tarot book and doesn’t refer to the art or archetypes, but it’s not a bad book. Just not exciting.

That’s the World card.

So, that’s one thing Lee the Hermit and I both like. Another is pens. We both own so many pens and each have strong preferences. I love to write in my journals, and he did, too, until he started making them on the computer.

Lots of pens.

I got more pens than I intended to today. I thought I’d canceled one set. On well, I will use them all in my horse journal! They are all subdued, muted colors, which will fit with the horses. One impressive surprise was the at one set of pens came with an entire set of refills! That’s a good idea. Some inexpensive sets don’t put much ink in the pens, so yay for that manufacturer. They make theme sets, so I might get more (ocean theme, etc.)

One more commonality.

The final thing we have in common is a love for cute li’l animals. I was really excited to see the storks replaced with two sets of twin calves and their mamas. I’m pretty sure one set are the ones I saw at Sara’s a couple of days ago. Double the cute.

Sweet.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I’m going to see where I work!

Destination Accomplished

Yay. We made it to the condominium in Myrtle Beach. We are way up high in a small unit. If we have guests we will get another room. We will see if anyone comes. This weekend it’s just me and Lee.

Today’s drive wasn’t too fancy. But I did get to see Charleston, SC for the first time. Somehow I’d always missed going there when I had a chance.

I do want to come back and actually stay there. It’s beautiful.

Big trees

All my photos of plants from today came from the ditch at the South Carolina welcome center. There were some good ones, but mostly rushes and water plants.

Just before we got to Myrtle Beach, we stopped in Georgetown, our favorite nearby town. We got some ice cream and saw a gator and it’s turtle friends.

Finally we’re at the Ocean Enclave, in our room in the sky. I was happy to see my favorite bartender is still here! We all got caught up. She did teach kindergarten this year and has survived. Good for her.

Lights and sea.

I’ll be more chatty tomorrow. Things are happening back home! Right now I just want to snooze. Not feeling too good, but I like where I am. It’s actually quiet.

I can see for miles.

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.

Unexpected Snappy Visitor and Others

I always look forward to the snapping turtle mating season, when they wander around looking for friends or places to lay eggs or something. This morning I had my camera out in case the cat showed up. A movement caught my eye, and at first I thought it was an armadillo. But nope, it was this traveler.

Howdy! Do you like my outfit?

We see these often, as readers are aware, but this was a good chance to get nice pictures, since I’d caused my buddy to stop ambling.

I’m ready to leave.

I’d wanted a good rear view of a common snapping turtle, so this gave me a great opportunity. Thanks for holding still, pal.

Bye bye buddy

We have other visitors. I did finally get a blurry picture of the cat who’s hanging around here.

Yep. It’s a cat and one of the endless vehicles the cattle tenants drove up and down by the cabin yesterday.

Barn swallows are the loudest visitors. We love them and their nests on our patios anyway. They do eat bugs!

And here’s a couple I found while looking for new flowers.

Flower scarab beetles

More later. I have a bunch of horse pictures.

Nature Endures and Brings Surprises

Happy Friday to all! I’m especially happy, because I slept like a rock last night and am taking the day off to just do whatever I want to do, as long as it isn’t in a crowd of people!

What I wanted to do this morning was go check out the flooding. It rained a good deal again last night, and the creek spilled its banks, the fields are all full of puddles, and happy egrets and herons are everywhere. I’m happy to report that since the little pond filled back up, there is at least one bullfrog remaining (heard it last night, saw it splashing into the pond this morning).

Still not finished, but it’s full again. Note willow tree already trying to grow on the banks.

It was good to see the front pond all full. The dogs will be able to swim in there now, since Chris mowed all the plants from around it. And the water is happily flowing through the arroyo and down to the stream. That always makes me happy.

Our gate had stopped working this morning, probably just ran out of juice from not getting much sun for a couple of days. I got it to open and made it stay open so our caregiver can get to Jim in the RV. Then I decided to take a walk, since there were no dogs outside and it was safe to go down the road. I was interested to see what was still alive and thriving after over a month with just a trace of rain. Here are some!

I continued walking, and enjoyed seeing all sorts of rain-laden clouds, and wet vultures drying their wings, chatting, or whatever they do on the fence.

The most exciting thing I saw was this:

Eggs!

Since they had obviously come out of a mound in the dirt, I figure these are turtle eggs that had recently hatched, perhaps prompted by the rain and lower temperatures. They are rubbery and soft, not like chicken or other bird eggs. I actually saw two nests with eggshells, and once I realized they are there, a few more nests that are still “cooking” (which I did not disturb).

Turtles like to lay nests on the sides of roads, because they tend to have loose and sandy soil for easy digging. I hope these little guys made it and are off swimming away to wherever the floods take them!

Speaking of the flooding, I got a couple of photos of the creek. The new fence technique the Vrazels used across the creek seems to have held up, and it appears no new giant logs came through. This is a fairly normal amount of flooding for our little creek bottom, so it mostly made me happy to know the weather cycle is normal this year.

I came back to check on the chickens, who all appear to have made it. They made four eggs yesterday, so the rain didn’t bother them too much. But, wow, the wet chicken area is stinky. I’ve got to get to work figuring out better ways to keep their food dry, too, especially the ones who aren’t free range (they all ran out yesterday while I was trying to cover the cage in the run where the new ones are, but in the end, they all ended up in the right place (though a couple of pullets lost their virginity, thanks to Bruce).

A symphony in gray, or hello from Gertie.

All in all, I think today is a good reward after working hard all week (and succeeding!). I’m glad I wasn’t too tired to go feed horses and check on them, too, because last night I had a good chat with the Ralph and the Vrazels, who were getting ready to harvest a couple of steers. It’s good to catch up on what’s going on, and being outdoors makes it a lot easier.

An Evening with a Black Dachshund Mix

Hi, readers of Mama Suna’s blog! I’m Vlassic, and I’ve been hanging around the Hermits’ Rest Ranch for the past two years. I like it here a lot. Wanna know why?

I’m long, but I have longer legs so I can jump high.

I have so many friends! At night I sleep in Jim’s RV. He is so nice to me, and feeds me (I don’t go in the big house because Penney acts weird in there). When I go outside, I spend half my time with my bird buddies, Bertie Lee, Gertie, Fancy Pants, and Clarence. We like how cool it is.

Stay out of our coop, dog! The black chickens don’t like me so much.

The rest of the time I spend with my new friends, the Bull calves. It’s SO much fun there! Calf poop is so delicious, and they have a wonderful water bucket just the size for me to cool off my black coat.

Wait, Rip, it’s my turn! Photo by Meghan Land.

On good days, Mama Suna takes me with her to visit my other friends. Sometimes we ride the little bumpy car. Tonight, though, we walked. It was a beautiful night.

Rays!

I chased two of the 18 series cows, but just a little, to remind them of how we used to play when they were babies. Mostly I was good, though, because I wanted to see my friends.

Here are two friends, Big Red and Apache. The horse is jealous, because the hen gets fed first.

I love this place! There are so many smells of cattle dogs! I have many places where I simply must pee. They need to know Vlassic rules…when they aren’t here.

Take that, other dogs.

There are other fun smells here, too. I especially like donkey poop. Mmm. Thanks, Fiona. Sigh, I was disappointed she didn’t get to come out and play. I love making her put her head down and shake it.

I sure love poop. Why does Mama sweep it up?

The other great thing about where my friends live is that they have an even bigger water tub! I like to swim in it, but not when it’s full.

Big Red and I like to drink from it when it’s full!

After all the friends were fed, we went back. I had to investigate this new hay. It looks funny and smells different. Mama said it’s sorghum, whatever that is. I made sure to pee on it, so it won’t smell so new next time I come.

Funny hay. Needs pee.

As we passed the cabin, Copper the dog came outside, so I ran like the wind.

I’m outa here.

I ran and ran. Meanwhile, Mama saw a new cow patty on the road, that had appeared since we came by before.

That cow patty has a head.

As she got closer, she realized it was a turtle crossing the driveway. She told it hello, but for some reason, she did NOT call me over to introduce me! Geez! I’m nice to all the other animals!

Pleased to meet you. You can leave now.

After rolling a bit in some silage (it’s an acquired smell, but I’ve acquired it!), I ran back to Rip, Poop Nugget, and Buster, to see if they’d pooped any more.

We were just digesting over here.

Then, to end the evening right, Lee and the other dogs showed up! We played! Then it rained a little. Not enough, but it made Lee and Suna smile. We need rain, because my pond is gone!

Time to go inside.

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!

Bullfrog Population Explosion

This weekend a lot of dirt was moved over at the Hermits’ Rest. We are making the little new pond bigger, since it will eventually be used for something good, I’m told. Now that the rains have slowed down, water is receding and it’s easier to dig. (About five minutes after I typed that, a rainstorm came through, but since it’s July, I doubt there will be much accumulation.)

As the dirt movement was going on, I thought it would be a good idea to re-check what’s in there.

I found two young turtles swimming around. And some dragonflies. Mostly, though, I saw members of the frog family.

A green pond and frogs.
The turtles are up near the top right. I think. But in this photo there are actually 14 frogs, at least. Some are in the water and some are on the shore.
Not one of the biggest ones, but you get the idea.

First I saw big ole bullfrogs sitting and floating. Then, as I looked harder, there were more and more.

At one point, I saw at least 14 of the frogs, some adults and others still young. Maybe you can see them in the photo at top, but you would really have to zoom in.

Another little one.

I guess we had a bumper crop of baby bullfrogs (I originally thought they were green frogs, but got corrected on iNaturalist).

Then, something moved. It was one of the Gulf coast toads we have lots of around the house. I know where that one came from, because Chris had just disturbed the home of a pair of them when fixing a death-trap hole near our water cutoff. They hopped on over to the pond in a huff. At least we didn’t hurt our buddies.

Hi. You messed with my house.

As I was enjoying how gigantic the toad was, my eye was drawn to what looked to be a very pretty rock, very close to the toad.

That was no rock, it was a leopard frog! So beautiful! I got all excited and tried to get some good photos, but didn’t want to scare it off. It doesn’t help that when it’s really sunny and my glasses turn dark, I can’t see the phone screen very well. Poo.

Leopard frog! Best photo I could get.

In any case, I’d never seen a leopard frog here, so that’s a new one to add to my list. That made my naturalist day!

Mr. Toad and Mr Frog.

Pretty soon, Penney dove in to take a little swim, and a great deal of splashing and “eep” noises ensued. That was the end of my fun with frogs and toads.

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?

 

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