Things You Learn from a Big Hole in the Ground

I guess the whole swimming pool thing will happen after all. I’ll spare you the drama of the past couple of days, and instead share progress and learnings as the excavation phase took place.

The work so far.

It’s pretty cool that this morning there was just a painted outline on the ground and now you can see where our little pool is going to be! And yes, it’s not Olympic sized. I just want to bop around.

This morning it looked like this.

It was lots of fun watching them building the very complex setup that will recirculate the water. Geez, there are a lot of pipes in there.

They had to bend some of the pipes, and had a big propane flame that softened the plastic.

Sorta looked dangerous, but I guess it wasn’t.

I was really interested in the hole they dug. You could see that the top layer was a lot of sand and fill that Lee and the builders put around the house. Next came very dark soil from when it was a pasture here. Some was very clayey.

Hot tub area, where you can see the top two layers.

The guy running the mini-excavator was really good. He was expert at digging circles and curves. As the actual pool part got deeper, I had another surprise. There’s a layer of very light soil about 4 feet down. I wonder what that is? Was the area a lake for a while?

Se the light dirt? And look at that machine in the air.

No, I didn’t crawl down there and get some. But I’ll get some from the dirt pile later.

The mystery stuff.

I can’t wait to find out what’s up with the soil! But, watching how quickly and efficiently the guys worked on the project. They also used these flexible boards to form the edges of the pool and hot tub. And they had an interesting measuring poke that beeped, I guess to get the dimensions perfect. Hmm.

Looking from the deep end.

I must say we all enjoyed watching the process. Vlassic just kept jumping from lap to lap all morning. It’s great that they started on a Saturday so we could all watch for a while.

Wonder what I’ll see tomorrow?

Lughnasadh Blessing

Yesterday was not only our third anniversary of Vlassic arriving at our ranch, but it was Lughnasadh or Lammas, the early harvest festival in the Celtic tradition I enjoy observing (among many traditions).

This is our fun wheel of the year calendar we hang on the wall. You rotate it to put the current season on top. From sacredsource.com

One thing people do for this celebration is thank Mother Nature for her bounty. Today we’re thanking her for a surprise rain event that’s filled up the little pond and made some good puddles.

Lee’s new and improved drainage system also works!

We had already had an inch of welcome rain by the time I went out this morning, and we’ve had more heavy showers since. Wow, we might have the creek flowing well into this month! It had started to dry up from the previous rain, but this is a nice reprieve!

View out my window.

It’s a good thing Lee got lots of dirt moved around and made the bigger drainage pipes yesterday. His new pond might have gotten messed up.

Making a better path.

When he got overheated, he could sit and listen to his fountain, which makes it worthwhile!

Making things smooth. The rain will help!

I’m glad the horses are getting a free bath, and sure hope it dries out by afternoon! The rain has killed my ability to upload or download, so my work, both paid and voluntary, is hosed. The joys of rural life!

Note to grasshopper: that’s a fake plant. Hope it starts growing soon.

Enjoy whatever you’re celebrating this time of year. I’m going to rejoice in the fact that it’s only 77 F outside!

Happy 3 years to V. He is my biggest blessing of the season. Also, his nose seems to be healing.

Reluctantly, the Dogs Have Their Vet Visit

Every year there are more dogs to look at here at the Hermits’ Rest. It makes the fee for the vet to come to us rather than us going to her quite the bargain. Yesterday, while I was in Austin away from the heat, Dr. Amy came out to see all seven dogs (Alfred, Goldie, Harvey, Carlton, Penney, Gracie Lou, and Vlassic). I always feel like I’m forgetting one, but it’s probably because Fiona is the size of Alfred.

They didn’t get rid of all my grass burs.

The big deal was that Alfred got his big problem dealt with, his dew claws. Both of the ones on his back legs have been problematic since he showed up. They grow in a circular shape, and eventually start growing into his leg, leading to pain and infections. Every time we cut them, he has to be sedated, and too much sedation isn’t good for dogs like him. So, we came to the decision that he’d need to have them removed, even though we’d wanted to avoid it.

So, when he finally got zonked out, they put sterile cloths under him where he fell (the floor in the entry to the house), and did it there. Lee has instructions for caring for the wounds and keeping him out of pain. He already walks better. Let’s hope this makes a big difference in Alfred’s quality of life.

Surprise! I’m overweight.

The other dogs got ALL their many shots (including rattlesnake vaccine), got de-wormed, and checked for heartworms (all negative). Lee says they all are getting a bit skittish. Maybe the horses warned them about vaccines?

We knew there’s have to be another sedation, because Vlassic was awful last time they went to trim his toenails, but his sharp toenails are a problem for poor Jim (and the rest of us, to be honest). When they went to get him, he showed up with a big…thing…on his nose!

What the heck?

Both Lee and the nephew had been playing with him earlier in the day, and he was fine then. Whatever it was happened during the afternoon yesterday. Dr. Amy said it looked like an encounter with something sharp, like a cactus or barbed wire (things we have in abundance).

Yuck.

It’s just horrible looking, though he doesn’t act upset. We have stuff to put on it twice a day, so it doesn’t get infected or worse. If he isn’t better in two weeks, she will try to remove it. It’s very weird that it came up so fast! Keep him in your thoughts. At least his toenails look way better!

But, he’s still happy

In other ranch news, chickens laid eggs in one of their new laying box choices, so I took the two that didn’t work out away. Now let’s see if the young hens ramp up and start producing.

And Drew was so happy to see me when I got home that it made up for the fact that I had a tire blow up about a quarter mile from the ranch entrance. I knew those potholes would be my downfall! But, I was driving slowly, so I didn’t lose control, and it’s entirely possible to get it fixed, eventually. I’m not going to stress about that!

I Could Have Worked Harder Yesterday, But…

Now, I’m not referring to my paid employment, which did get it’s time in, but to my after-work job, helping with the pens and other jobs. It was an uncharacteristically pleasant day, so I can’t blame the heat. No, it’s my little buddy Vlassic who kept me sidelined for at least 45 minutes.

I deserve attention.

I went outside around 5 to water the chickens and check on progress, and I sat down to watch the hole-digging process in the stall area. Vlassic jumped in my lap.

We are fascinated.

He obviously needed some Mama love, because he only got down once for a minute until 6 pm, when I had to get out of the hard chair and help out. He snuggled, he licked, he cuddled, and he sighed from happiness. I love when the weather lets me hang out with my doggie dude.

Before digging holes. You can see one of the water troughs set up and markers for posts to divide the stalls.

Now that the dirt is all moved, the stalls can be completed. There will be four of them (thus limiting the number of horses that Kathleen and I can acquire). Each trough will be shared by two stalls. It will be cool.

Goldie likes to be involved.

The holes in the pens were easy to drill, but there were also three holes farther out, to support a water trough area for the cows.

The new posts are past the big gate. The water line has to go way out there.

The last hole was a doozy! The auger just wouldn’t go down. It just bounced and bounced about a foot down. It took at least half an hour to get that hole dug, and the soil had to be loosened, and the auger had to go sideways for a bit. But, once it got past the hard stuff, it happened. It turns out there are a few areas of really compacted soil right there. That’s interesting, because just a few feet away, there was no problem.

Looks like a normal hole, but it is not.

The good news is that all the poles are in their holes, to make a rhyme. And I DID get some work in. I filled in some of the holes, including a large and very wet hole where the water line got cut and had to be repaired. Let me tell you what, damp clay soil is heavy. My back reminded me of that!

It may look like an area with dirt and some random fencing stuff, but that used to be a big hole.

Of course, that was all a drop in the bucket, compared to all the work that has to be done on this project, but it’s nice to get some sweat equity into my project. By the way, Lee also filled in two holes. Nice, dry holes, I want to point out.

Look at those fine poles.

It looks like, at least for now, we have all the posts needed for the horse area. Now, to just fill everything in, finish burying the water line (ugh, a great deal of hand trenching is involved), set the troughs up with their floats and stuff, and add gates.

While the “getting the horse over here” part of the effort is coming close to an end, the project will go on and on, so I’ll keep chronicling it. Why? Mainly for me, I guess. It’s fun to look back on things once they are done. I sure enjoy the photos of building our house!

The container gets to be turned into a tack room and hay storage, while the second container, once it get here, gets to be other storage. Or something. Plans are fluid. Then, the great cattle fencing stage of the operation will begin. Our ranch will look very different, and there will be lots more space for rotating cattle and adding to the herd (which, to be clear, is NOT my area, but it’s fun to watch). Speaking of cattle, the new young heifers behind us want to not only be friends with Goldie, but also the chickens!

These birds are fascinating.

An Equitation Educational Event

Today Sara and I went and did something together! What? Yes! We ranch ladies went off and did a horse thing somewhere near Waco. We hadn’t done anything together since last year!

One of the horses and riders we met.

We went to a beautiful facility and audited a working equitation class. The clinician was really nice and let us stand close enough to hear her. It was tons of fun learning all the things horses and riders do in this relatively new sport in the US.

The hay thing simulates a cattle chute. the barrels and sticks you do a turning pattern through.

The idea is that working equitation includes aspects of cattle working from European, US, Mexican, and South American traditions. There are dressage elements (fancy horse steps), cattle working elements, finesse, and speed.

There were lots of different horse types and riders.

Another cool thing about it is that riders wear apparel from their own tradition. So you see all kinds of saddles, tack, and riding outfits. Some horses are big Andalusians, others are gaited horses with fancy walks and runs, while you also see quarter horses, too. Sara and I sure enjoyed all the beautiful animals and skilled riders!

This rider on a deep brown gaited horse is working the barrels.

My favorite of the things the students learned was picking up a pole in a barrel, snagging a ring on it and depositing it in another barrel. the gate opening task was fun, too.

That’s the pretend gate you have to open and close without “letting the cows out.”

I can see why Sara is interested in this sport! We learned all the patterns and figured out some of the skills we’d need to learn (me way more than Sara). Now we just need horses that are healthy and can learn with us. I still have faith in Apache.

Tomorrow we’re going to watch a show, which also will have dressage. This is all new to us cowgirls, but everyone was so nice to us, supportive of each other, and eager to learn. The horses all seemed to be having fun, and most of them were sweet animals, too.

I had to take this, because the flowers will get mowed soon.

In other news, there were more floods and rain today, but some fence work did get done. And I got to play with Vlassic much of the morning.

Vlassic enjoys his newly enlarged pond.

Another fun thing this morning was watching how curious the cows are about all the fence work. They are compelled to explore each new piece.

We’re fascinated.

And the little steer has been so cute and friendly. He kept coming up and licking my hand with his rough, black tongue. I can’t wait until Haggard joins the friendly cattle (hoping that will be tomorrow, since he is officially cleared).

I want to kiss you.

Anyway, despite the rain and more rain, it was a fun and educational day. Hope yours was, too.

I want to kiss you, too.

Hey, How about a Different Disaster?

I woke up this morning and walked to the front window, as I do every day, to check out the sunrise. Whoa, those are dark clouds, I thought.

Weird sunrise.

I then looked to the right and saw fire! What the heck?

I was too shocked to get a photo with the fireball.

I told Lee something bad had happened. Sure enough, it had. By the time Lynn H and I talked we found out it was a horrible train/semi truck accident on the other side of Cameron in the Marlow community. You could see it all over the county. The photos were so scary.

Our Sheriff took this one.

The train cars had some petroleum products and coal in them. Luckily the hazardous material got quickly moved. The good news is no one died and not many structures were damaged.

This is the picture that scared me!

I do have friends who will have a hard time getting to work until this is cleared up. it will be a while, apparently. The fire is still burning, too.

6 pm this evening

It was even on the BBC News! And the ABC news on TV!

Unfortunately they showed the wrong footage…

I was so shocked that I said to a coworker, “This is probably the worst disaster in Milam County since…uh…last week.”

Local TV News.

I’d be fine if we actually did NOT have a disaster every week from now on. I was really out of it trying to do a presentation at work, because I wasn’t yet sure my friends who live near there were okay.

Dang.

I tried to take a cheerful walk to see Apache and Fiona. When I got home, there was Vlassic running around with a dead baby bunny. GEEZ!

It’s a present for Jim. I hope he likes it.

I’m ready to chill out with no icky things. I’m gonna spend the evening coloring. My book is too scary and I’m too worn out to knit.

Yay. Coloring.

The Big Blue Shawl Update

I started this shawl when I ran out of yarn for my other project, yarn which is still not here yet, thanks to a combination of me messing up the order and the weather. Who knows if I will EVER get it? The last tracking update was February 13…

So, I kept going on this mostly stockinette pattern, but adding little bits of lattice patterns in it. I added a swath near the edge of the shawl, as well as at the bottom of the triangle. I’m not sure what it will look at when I’m finished, but it was fun to do, at least!

Lumpy main body of the shawl. I can’t stretch it out, because it’s much longer than my knitting needles.

When I realized that the shawl edge was longer than my arm-span, I figured it was about as long as it ought to be, so last night I looked around for a border to put on the edge, as a bind-off. All my books are in Austin, but I found a pattern online on a fun site for free vintage patterns. It’s not too easy and not too hard!

End of shawl without a border.

I got through two repeats yesterday, so it will go pretty quickly. The instructions are a bit old-fashioned, but I figured them out.

Here’s what I’m trying to make as a knitted-on border

Confused about knitted-on borders? Well, they are lace patterns knitted back and forth over a fairly short repeat, like you see above. You can use them to bind off a project by knitting to the end of a wrong-side row of your project then casting on the right number of stitches for the border and following the pattern. The straight edge (top above) connects to the main project (my shawl, for example) by knitting the last stitch of the border together with the next stitch in the main piece of the project, then, turn and go back out. So for every two pattern rows, you have one fewer stitch on the main needle.

There is a little gap between the border stitches and the main shawl stitches. At the end of this row, I’ll knit the two stitches on either side of the gap together, turn, slip that stitch without knitting, and knit back out to the edge.

It is a fun way to end a shawl, scarf, sweater, or any project you want a nice, flowing edge to. Speaking of fun, guess who had fun romping with me, Lee and all the other dogs yesterday? Vlassic! He was so happy it got warmer and he could escape the RV for a while!

He had just licked me on my face.

Sneaky Vlassic!

Vlassic, my black dachshund mix, is always a good source of funny stories. Since Penney showed up, we don’t get to hang around constantly, since he’s been quite happily keeping Lee’s brother company over at the RV, but still, we have our good times.

BUDDIES!!

Yesterday I was pretty happy to have time to walk to feed the horses. Since Vlassic was out running around, leaping and jumping, he got to come with me, which he usually does when Sara and her dogs aren’t there. We had a good time heading up to the barn, greeting Copper, the other dog on our property, with no problems.

Then I got a text. Sara was home and heading over. Oops. I asked her if she could leave her dogs, but she didn’t get the message. Vlassic knew just what to do, though, and ran in the tack room, waiting for me to shut the door. He learns FAST.

I’m always up to something. Fish food is tasty!

Naturally, the cattle dogs lost interest, and we were able to leave, though he yelled at me before I picked him up…he has some delicate spot that bothers him. So, back we went, enjoying the weather, etc.

When I got back to our ranch, I stopped to talk to CC, and we were just chatting away, while Bertie Lee pecked at my shoes, as usual. At one point, Lee’s brother opened the RV door and called for Vlassic to come back in. Hmm, where did he go?

We called a bit more vigorously, and he came absolutely flying out of the garage. I noticed, through the blur, that he had something in his mouth. It was round. After he disappeared in the RV, I figured it out. He had found an EGG!

No wonder he ran so fast, that sneaky boy! CC went in to look for the contraband. Vlassic was innocently installed in his bed, looking very nonchalant. But, sure enough, sitting on the dinette seat was a Bertie egg. Obviosly, she didn’t get locked in the coop long enough to teach her to lay eggs in the henhouse.

The front egg is the one we found in the garage. The other two were in the henhouse, courtesy of Star and Springsteen.

The egg had bite marks on it, so we left it for Lee’s brother to cook ASAP. Then we searched the garage for the new egg hiding spot. I was very proud to live up to my “finder” reputation, because I spotted a little brown egg under the utility sink. Oh, Bertie.

CC put stuff in the new spot, to block it off. I looked today, and she hadn’t laid an egg there yet. I’ll have to search around later today.

At Least the Dogs Love Me

One of the big highlights of coming back to the Hermits’ Rest has been enjoying the dogs. I had the best reunion with my precious Vlassic yesterday. We ran, we frolicked, we hugged, we took funny pictures. I miss that little guy so much, though I know he is doing a lot of good emotionally supporting Lee’s brother, Jim.

He still loves me!

I feel bad every time I take him with me to Austin, because Jim gets so sad. Vlassic is happy as long as he is warm, so I know he is okay. I just don’t have a snuggle buddy.

Alfred shows his love and devotion constantly, and he seems to be feeling better, because he’s been hauling himself up on the couch to sleep at night after his barking period is over. I wish that would end, but I sleep right through it now.

Yesterday he was stretched the entire length of the couch. I am glad it’s not shedding season at the moment.

Penney is still a strange little dog, but she will sleep on anyone with a lap or in a bed.

I’m aloof.

As for the rest of the animals, it’s pretty good. Apache was glad to see his food, and Fiona seemed glad to see me. They just like to eat. As for the chickens, it appears that Fancy Pants wandered off while I was gone. Jim, who was chicken caretaker, didn’t notice, so…not much I can do, but I sure do miss her hilarious running. Now the only one left of the first bunch I got last year is Bertie Lee. She is laying eggs in the garage. Sigh. But, today is the day the chicken coop gets fixed up, so we hope to change the egg-laying habits.

There are still four cows in the pasture, but from the looks of one of the big ones, there will be another one soon. And little Rip is growing just fine! The other calf is very fuzzy and round, quite cute. They are all very friendly now.

And that’s the animal report from the ranch. Hoping there’s more to come!

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.