Time for something that won’t get a zillion hits (so it’s not about changing jobs). I enjoyed this weekend’s little break at a ranch outside of Bandera, Texas. We didn’t even leave the place the whole time. Yesterday, everyone mostly sat around in the very comfortable house, read books, or watched football.
I, of course, went outside to see what I could see. You’d think 29 acres of pasture wouldn’t yield anything, but that’s not the case! There is a lot of native grass and other plants out here, so I was able to find some new things to put in iNaturalist. And since I’m always scrounging around, I found interesting poop and some dead things (a large mouse and a fairly recently deceased fawn (boo hoo)). I’ll spare you photos of that.
I also spent a lot of time with the longhorns that live here. The steer (Howdy) is really well trained, and used to work at shows and stuff. He puts his giant head down so you can pat him between the horns. That’s the safest place. When flies bother him, he flings his head, and those attached horns, pretty dang hard. Anyway, that’s the no bull part. The cow is Little Sister, and she is friendly, but just learning to accept pats.
Really, though, the woman who owns this place is great with animals. The two horses are so well behaved and happy, the longhorns are friendly, and her dogs are a total hoot. She has one Aussie shepherd that apparently is a double merle, so he is deaf and can only see in one eye, so the other one leads him around and fetches him when she calls. Aww. (Sorry no pics.)
Enjoy some of the things I saw as I wandered around looking at the neighboring very fancy quarter horses and the random plants. I’m heading back home after a work meeting (yay Zoom) to pee in a cup and prove I am a US citizen for the new job. Then it’s back to “normality” for a couple of weeks.
Here at the Hermits’ Rest, weekend mornings start early for some and slow for others. But there’s always something lovely to see or fun to do. This morning was typical. Lee has started taking a walk every morning and asked me to join him. He may not do it again, as I had him go with me to feed the chickens and move Apache into his pen for the day, but we did eventually get to walking and looking at what’s growing and changing along our arroyo, which is still springy after the recent rains. I’m rather fond of the native plants and even the bad ole invasives (the water primrose) that line the stream.
Heck, to me tie vine is as lovely as fancy morning glories, and the ruellia is as pretty as a garden petunia. Plus, they are free!
A plant I hadn’t noticed much before is blooming right now, and the blooms are so tiny and hidden among the leaves that you almost wouldn’t notice them. It’s called scarlet toothcup (Ammannia coccinea). It’s a riparian plant, which means it grows in moist areas along streams and such. I think the little flowers are lovely.
Lee and I enjoyed many sights. What a great start to the day!
Next it was time to do some work, since the rest of the household had already been up working with horses and other chores. I got to help cut mesquite down where Sara’s horses currently are, in preparation for the cows that live here to rotate there. That was a lot of fun, and I saw some beautiful iron weed growing in that field.
It was good to be able to help by loading branches and opening gates. Plus, I got to see the other horses and more native plants and insects. I’ll spare you the endless supply of grasshoppers.
Everyone was busy this morning. The tenants were haying and Kathleen was horsing with her herd. I enjoy watching her ride. They’re all progressing according to plan, from what I can tell.
The dogs are just having fun, as usual, swimming, running, and rolling. I love seeing a happy Alfred!
The rain has managed to fill up the tanks (ponds) at last. It really has been dribbling in, but we finally got a day with a whole inch, and that seems to have done the trick.
There was a bit of a respite this morning, and things dried out a little. I took advantage of the only hour I had without meetings today to go out and see what’s going on with the ranch plants and their friends. I’m glad I did it then, because it’s been raining and thundering again for the past two hours, which makes for some unhappy dogs.
I had set out to find invasive species, only to realize I missed the entire 2021 iNaturalist Texas invasive species survey time, because I was in South Carolina. That’s okay, though, because I enjoyed seeing what’s blooming in late spring. There’s a lot of Indian blanket, and horsemint out there, and you can tell they are native, because there are so many kinds of insects pollinating them. The fields are literally abuzz with activity. Bzzzz.
I got to see a few new-to-me insects, including two types of potter’s wasps (not exactly sure what they are), and these beautiful tachinid flies, Archytas apicifer. They are huge (for flies), have big, black hairs, and feature shiny green abdomens and bright red eyes. I often saw multiples on one black-eyed Susan flower.
And then there were butterflies! Yes, I’ve seen common buckeyes before, along with the perky little fiery skippers and the red admirals, but the pearl crescent butterfly was new to me, and wow, it’s pretty. The little white checkered skipper looks like lace from a distance, too. In addition to the ones I photographed, I also saw orange sulphurs and gray hairstreaks. That’s a lot of butterflies!
The other thing I saw were bees, ranging from honey bees to tiny ones to bumblebees. They were zipping around, so no photos. And I found a katydid and lots of jumpy grasshoppers. This was a great way to spend some of my volunteer time at work!
I hope this provides some cheer if you’re living in a dreary place right now. I’d love to know what kinds of flowers are blooming where you live. I know the irises are in full swing in the northwestern US, and I believe I’ve spotted some peony photos from elsewhere. I love it when people share their local flowers, native or not!
Whew, today was extra windy. During my ENDLESS meetings, I kept being distracted by something that looked like fluffy dandelion seeds very briskly zipping by, completely horizontally. There were an unusually large number of them, way more than the number of dandelions we have going to seed. What had the wind blown in?
First, a brief digression. The wind brought more than fluffy bits! It also brought our long-lost housemates. We have a bunch of happy dogs and people!
For people who have gone through, shall we say, a lot since they left for a weekend back in February, or was it January, they look good! We are all excited about all the projects we need to get moving on.
In our zeal to plan things, the nephew went out with a spray can of bright orange paint, marking where Apache’s new stable and pens will be, along with cattle pens. And you know, orange paint smells good. If you’re a dog, you’d want to roll in it, especially if it complements your long, white fur.
We went over to look at another fencing area, and there, all over the ground, were the answers to my questions about the fluffy things.
It turns out that in the two days since I’d taken my photos of the small-flowered catchfly, they’d gone to seed, most spectacularly! Everywhere there were little towers covered in fluffy seed pods.
Y’all, in person this was breathtaking. The catchfly was all interspersed with starbursts of the annual trampweed. My two new flowers went to seed together and created a Magic Kingdom of weeds, as I said in my awe.
All this beauty was after so many of the seeds blew away this morning. Wow. So many seeds. And none of us remember ever seeing the two white fluff-makers before. What a welcome home gift to our family!
To be honest, my whole day was magical. I achieved all my goals in my pushback campaign, and it’s only Wednesday! I’ll share more about that tomorrow. Right now, I’m pretty dang tired and don’t even know where I’ll sleep tonight (that’s a GOOD thing).
I am, once again, grateful for the support and encouragement of my friends, colleagues, readers and listeners. You’re all incredible in your own unique way.
One of the things I like about being a Master Naturalist is that I have learned to be a more careful observer, wherever I go. I’m happiest that I’ve been entering what I see on our ranch into iNaturalist, because I can see when flowers bloom or go to seed every year, when butterflies arrive, etc. Today’s butterflies included these:
Even though our observations on our own property no longer are approved by the state office, I still observe for my own study and analysis. I have a project where all observations here are stored, and I hope some day to be able to do some analysis.
My expedition yesterday was helped greatly by something that had originally broken my heart a little. You see, Lee’s brother likes to mow, and he decided to mow all those “weeds” on the side of the road. Thank goodness Lee saw it and asked him to stop. Apparently the conversation was sort of funny, with Jim insisting it was weeds and Lee saying, “Don’t you see the flowers?”
The good thing about it is that it made a little path that enabled me to easily see all the butterflies and bugs and get closer photos.
This year’s been pretty interesting, which shouldn’t be surprising after the weird weather. I’ve been quite surprised to see common plants, like Indian paintbrush, not as prominent, with some new plants popping up.
One plant we have in super abundance is this annual trampweed (Facelisretusa). It’s really pretty in early spring. Then, when it blossoms, you don’t really see the flowers, just white buds, followed by exuberant star-shaped seed heads.
I’d never noticed this plant before, and it’s everywhere this year. Now it’s one of my favorites.
Another plant I’d never noticed around here is small-flowered catchfly (Silene gallica). It’s another one of those tiny flowers from up high. At first I thought it was that chickweed or something.
Once you touch it, though, you know it’s different. You also know how it got its name. It’s sticky! It could certainly catch a fly. You can see all the hairs in the photos.
The little flowers range from pink to white. I had honestly never seen it before. Did I not notice it or did it come in with floods? Is it something that grows better after a hard freeze or two? I’m sure I just didn’t notice it, even though I’ve been trying so hard to identify everything here!
The third “new” plant I wasn’t even sure of its ID. None of the things that are suggested on iNaturalist really match the way it looks, but since I know plants can differ in color from place to place, labeled it dwarf blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium minus), and hooray, I was right! Linda Jo identified it for me. It’s another tiny little fellow, but it’s really pretty.
Another “new” plant really isn’t new. It’s a pink evening primrose. But I never saw one so white. I thought it was a petunia from a distance.
That’s quite a contrast to the usual ones, though they do come in many shades of pink. I always love to look at the clouds of them on the roadside or in fields, with all the shadings.
I really enjoy seeing what’s blooming every day. It was great to see the black-eyed Susans have started to bloom, and apparently the bugs that enjoy their pollen are also happy.
There are a few things I can’t get close enough to take a photo of when I’m wearing sandals (I only do that on the grass Lee and Jim have mowed), but I’ll get to them at some point this week.
I’m glad it rained, too, because that will keep the ground moist and let more plants get going before everything turns brown.
I’m glad to see that the bluebonnets are going to seed quite well, so we will have lots more next year, and my favorite patch of Engelman daisy is in full bloom. There’s always something pretty to look at here, and when you’ve just gotten yet another blow at ye olde workplace, I’m glad for all my new and old plant and animal friends at the ranch.
For you blog readers, here are more things I saw yesterday. I hope the flowers and bugs are fun to look at.
Let’s get out there and “do the needful” as they say in India. I guess I’ve had enough coffee to be strong and carry on!
It’s always good to be prepared, isn’t it? And I was once a Girl Scout after all, with all the badges except ones about cooking and house keeping. That may explain why I’m so thrilled we will soon have someone to clean my house again.
Oddly enough, though, preparing for storms is one of my favorite activities. I love it when it’s all dark and gloomy out, because I feel cozy and sleepy, which is perfect for knitting and watching storms. I’ve been busily catching up on all my work, knowing that I’ll need to shut down if a big storm hits (see, I’m prepared!). And my current knitting project is beckoning me from right next to my desk. Ahh.
I enjoyed my lunch and am now taking my lunch-hour blogging break. As soon as I finish reviewing some work and doing one more meeting, I’ll shut down and enjoy that Severe Thunderstorm Watch that just popped up. I’ll be hoping it passes in time to take care of horses and Fiona!
The knitting is going slowly (mainly thanks to how sleepy my current mental state has made me), but it’s going well. I alternate between dishcloths and my beautiful Noro wrap.
The entrelac section is finally complete. It took exactly one skein of the yarn, so I’m sure I’ll have plenty for the second part, which is a lace-patterned border. That border is simple enough I don’t have to look at the instructions every row, too, so it is perfect for a lazy afternoon of rain-watching. I’m very happy that this yarn has such a long color repeat, because it will make a nice ombre effect on the border. The yarn the pattern actually called for has shorter and more abrupt color transitions, so I actually think this one will come out better!
I will have to block the piece once the border is done, which should square it up and flatten the little rectangles. Then there’s a crochet border that will really make the piece look finished, I hope, because the top edge that doesn’t have the lace border is pretty uneven looking to me. Gosh, I think I may actually finish this thing!
Back to the weather, we’re getting reports that lime-sized hail may come with the next storm, at least to my friends around Austin. I guess that’s good, since most of them are already planning to get new roofs after the previous storm, with “just” golf-ball sized hail. The spring storm season around here sure can be a doozy! Oh, and of course that is always followed by a couple of months of no rain at all. Love that Texas weather.
Hoping you are safe from whatever weather is afflicting your part of the world, and if it’s not being afflicted, that you enjoy a wonderful spring or autumn day! And don’t forget to let me know if you have anything you’d like to see me talk about here!
It’s a good thing we don’t live in town, or we’d be getting little notices that we need to mow. Actually, I’m surprised we haven’t gotten them for our town properties. Yes, our lives are filled with little clusters of impediments that drive us all to distraction, and the spring grass situation is one of them. We don’t want long grass by the house, because it attracts our snake friends, and some snakes we’d rather not be all that close to.
Many of you know that our usual ranch-mates have been stuck at the other farm for a long time, thanks to a snake bite that went bad, very bad. Kathleen can’t drive, so her devoted spouse has had to stay there and help. That is all fine by us! However, the equipment maintenance over here at the Hermits’ Rest is in his hands. That’s been a problem, though not his fault.
Why? Because every single one of our mowing devices has developed an issue that Lee and his brother can’t fix. The brother set out to mow one day, but boom, a belt popped off and he’s in no shape to fix it. We don’t know exactly what’s up with the ZTR, but it isn’t going either. And certainly the push mower is not cut out for our acreage…but it’s not working either.
Well, Suna, any observant neighbor or in this case, Hearts Homes and Hands employee, would point out, the grass is so long and lush that we really need to shred it (in Texan, that means mow with an attachment on your tractor). We have a tractor (it runs!). We have a shredder (it works!). What we don’t have is anyone who can attach said shredder to said tractor.
Other inquiring neighbors might ask, well, why don’t you just get someone to fix your mowers? Or pay someone to mow? Well, heck yeah, those are good questions! I’m sure it’s occurred frequently to the poor people across the road, who mow many acres to a carpetlike perfection weekly. They have to look at our flower-covered mess, shudder, and shake their heads.
The thing is, every week we expect to be reunited with our family. Once we’re all back at the ranch, we’ll be a well-oiled machine of accomplishments and the doing of things. Every week, the darned wound will not heal. I can assure you we are ALL frustrated by this, but you have to deal with what life hands you.
The good news is that we are finally breaking down and seeing if our tenant will fix the mower belt and hope to see if he’ll help Lee attach the shredder. That would let us at least get started. I won’t be quite so worried about a snake in the long grass biting ME that way.
The Bright Side
Of course there’s a bright side to all this! We have beautiful wildflowers all over the fields in front of and behind the house now. Because we don’t spray herbicides on our pastures, all kinds of native grasses and flowers are showing up.
We have way more scarlet pimpernel than I ever noticed before, and the blue eyed grass has made it to the back part of the house. I have to say an entire wildflower meadow for a yard, that I didn’t even have to plant, is a fine thing.
I can’t think of anything prettier than fields of evening primrose, either. I remember when we first moved here and Sara and Ralph were still ranching on our larger pastures, they would bloom into a sea of pink. It was spectacular. But, we have our own little ponds (or tanks?) of pink in the parts we maintain!
Still, we do know we need to mow. We do wish the deities of functioning machinery weren’t so hard on us and that the germs in south Texas weren’t so tenacious in that snake wound. But, THIS week things will change, one way or another! (We will leave some flowers, though.)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Today’s a milestone that never could have happened before this year. It’s been two weeks since my second COVID vaccine, so my immunity has officially kicked in. I am free to move about the country now! I even gave myself a bouquet of wildflowers to celebrate.
Look, I know this doesn’t mean I’m immune, nor that I can’t transmit the virus if I somehow became infected (no idea how that could happen, since I haven’t been going anywhere). But it does mean I don’t need to have that fear hanging over my head if I need to go to the grocery store or want to do something fun. And I WILL wear a mask when going to crowded places, because I’d prefer to avoid getting even a mild case, seeing all the long-term effects those around me are experiencing.
I look forward to being able to hang out with vaccinated friends and have a chat, with coffee or wine. I can sit on the porch with Mandi again! I will feel okay traveling and seeing my relatives who are vaccinated. To be honest, I simply feel lighter and freer than I have in over a year. And by gosh, I’m going to go HUG SOMEONE. How rash!
There’s still plenty to do right here at the ranch, though. I’m still reading all those books on bias, knitting away at my current project while waiting for the yarn for my supporter gifts to arrive, and hanging out with the animals. It’s a full life, right here on the ranch. That’s especially true at my favorite time of the year, when every day brings new flowers (also, the swallows have returned!).
I hope you and your circle are starting to become more fully vaccinated. I know we all want to see friends and family sooner rather than later!
Just what I needed! It’s a day of solving problems and getting life back to normal! That feels really good, especially given the mood I ended up in after yesterday’s phone drama.
After a good night’s sleep, I was able to figure out all the passwords and other information needed to get all my apps working on my replacement phone. I was way too frustrated last night to think rationally enough to take care of it. But, now email is flowing, Slack is slacking, Zoom is zooming, WordPress is pressing, and Anchor is podcasting. Things are all in the right place.
After I took the scary old phone out to be returned, I went to check on the chickens again, since the first time I went in, Buttercup was laying. This time, Star was in there, so I came up empty-handed. Oh well, I knew there’d be two eggs in there later.
Now, every time I feed or check eggs, I also wander around the garage, where I have found two eggs in random spots lately. I just KNEW the other hens were laying, but I couldn’t find them. I looked high and low, or so I thought. I looked under a LOT of work benches and such. I’d also looked on the garage refrigerator, where we know they now like to roost (it’s warm there; who could blame them?).
Apparently I hadn’t looked high enough on that refrigerator, since all I had was a step-stool. Today, the first time I went in I spotted Springsteen, the Jersey Giant, sitting on the fridge while everyone else was out pecking. She sure looked to me like she was laying an egg. So, I resolved to get up a little higher next time I checked. This second time, I got on the washing machine and stood up. Aha.
Sure enough, Springsteen and Henley (the only one who lays white eggs) had NOT stopped laying after the snow event. They just found this convenient nest-shaped old Christmas wreath and started laying there, out of the wind and cold. There were 16 eggs, which nicely coincides with the weather event dates, assuming a couple days each of not laying. Mystery solved, all right!
I wondered if the eggs were still any good, so I decided to go ahead and boil any that didn’t float. They all turned out to be good!
I feel a lot better chicken-wise, but still can’t find where Bertie Lee is laying, or if she took some time off for being our oldest hen. That’s okay, because her entertainment value is VERY high. I’m also relieved that Vlassic isn’t finding all the eggs and eating them, though that may be what’s happening if Bertie Lee is laying hers at ground level. Dachshunds can smell eggs, it turns out.
Things are back to normal, for the time being. I’m vaccinated, the horse is off grass (thanks to Sara), the chickens are doing their job, and I can work, blog, and podcast without worrying something’s gonna explode.
I hope your St. Patrick’s Day is also full of good luck and positive vibes!
Getting in touch with your emotional truth, by processing feelings to improve the human condition in the 21st century. Living out loud by my motto,"Triumphing over Trauma" 🌈
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