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.

Let’s Wander through the Deep South

Today, Lee and I took the road less traveled through the great forests of Mississippi and Alabama. I managed all my meetings so far and have been able to get work done, even with occasional sketchy internet.

A wild scabious plant.

I started out taking pictures of flowers near our hotel. I found an empty lot with excellent weeds. This hotel didn’t have roses, but there were a couple of cute cultivated flowers.

I have to say, though, that it was just so darned fun to drive on a practically empty road through state forests bordered by riotous wildflower displays. Lee was nice enough to stop a few times so I could get photos of plants I’d been interested in from looking out the car window.

From a distance this gorgeous cogon grass was very stinking. And it’s striking up close.
This very bright verbena covered the roadside with splashes of fun.

Those two were the ones I was most curious about. But the coreopsis and others below made the DeSoto National Forest and surrounding area fascinating and a balm for my soul. Enjoy some samples.

Lee took a more distant view at our longer stop. I look like I was having fun!

I saw lots of trees and other plants but they made rather snooze-worthy images. Now Lee wants photos of small towns. I’ll see if I can look up.

What’s Blooming and Growing, May Day edition

Around May, the dominant wildflowers change from bluebonnets and paintbrushes to Indian blankets and Black-eyed Susans.

Our front field

What else is blooming now? Here are a few familiar friends I was glad to see back again.

But the best new thing over in our world is an animal. Look who Sara saw shortly after I left her place this afternoon? And she had kits! exciting new life!

Beautiful gray fox!

The chickens say this is why I need to lock them in each night, however. No foxes allowed in the henhouse.

This way we don’t have to sleep with the snakes.

Good night from the Hermits’ Rest, where we spent a lovely evening watching ducks and tiny birds flying in formation. I hope they were eating all the swarming termites…that’s another story. Still. A good life.

Murmurating. Or whatever.

Trying Not to Cry Over Spoilt Milk

Last night the dinner we’d planned to have didn’t happen, so both Lee and I had cereal for dinner. I looked at the milk carton, which said it was good until that day. So I poured it on my Oaty Something and chomped away. The cereal tasted odd but I thought nothing of it. But then Lee said he’d thrown out the milk, because it was bad. Oops. The oats hid it too well.

Speaking of things that smell bad, this one horsemint blossom made my office smell like marijuana all day. In a bad way.

So last night, my stomach told me what it thought about that milk, all night. And it gave me weird dreams, like trying to wash horses in my sister’s living room. (She and my mom have both been in my dreams a lot lately — the women my grandmother messed up real bad.)

These flowers cheered me up. I have to pick them now, because they will soon be gone.

Today I dragged along, feeling pretty fuzzy. I got lots done at work, including reading dozens of surveys explaining exactly how much the users I support hate the software I support. Fun times.

In more cheery things. Look, two kinds of vultures, turkey and black. Who knows what they were eating?

Feeling so rotten meant I had no urge to saddle up and ride, so I groomed Apache and murdered botflies that were after him. Then we headed over to the dreaded new trailer. Imagine his surprise when he discovered all sorts of treats scattered on it! I think it did help settle him down, especially since I approached the trailer slowly and indirectly, like it says in my new book (and Tarrin said, too).

You do know my favorite undergrad course was neuroanatomy, right? Well, next to pragmatics.

We went on to do a lot of ground work, and then just hung around with the menfolk, chatting. It was good for us both. I also spent time with Drew after he ate, practicing standing at the mounting block. That boy is looking better.

No picture of Drew, but this is the best I’ve seen Billie Idyl and Blanca, the front two, looking in ages. Star and Buttercup always look good.

I’m home tonight because I decided I’m no longer a good fit for the Austin book club. I think they also decided that. It’s okay, since I had a special dish I was going to make for dinner. Only, dinner got delayed again! I’m laughing. You just go with the flow around here!

Tomorrow is another day. I hope the sunrise is as nice as today’s was!

And tomorrow I’m double booked. How did that happen when I’m trying to cut down on obligations? It’s because I like both Master Naturalist parties AND horse webinars! Glad the latter will be recorded.

Send me vibes for better sleep tonight!

The New Tree

I’d been noticing a young tree by the tank/pond behind our house, so I went out to check it out this morning. That displeased the basking turtles, who spent the rest of my visit floating around peeking at me, waiting for me to leave.

The little tree.

Cattle appear to have pruned it nicely so it must taste better than cedar elms. It wasn’t the same as any of the other trees, though I knew I’d seen one before. So, I took photos of the leaves and looked it up.

I remember seeing these out somewhere, and they are really cool to look at. The leaves are so shiny! Of course, they are prickly! I can’t wait to watch this little guy grow from the swimming pool porch.

Milkweed! Hooray!

Of course, I had to see what else was happening out in that pasture. The lack of rain for the past few weeks has sure made things crispy. But the pink ladies are still blooming up a storm. They make even the chicken coop look nice(ish).

Scenic?

The pond always looks nice, at least to me. It’s why I put the house where I did.

The wine cups do make it prettier.

Go out and see what’s new where you are! It try not to scare the turtles!

One turtle hadn’t dived off yet.

Go Outside, They Said. So I Did.

Out here in my field
         I fight for what's real
                  I put my back into my livin'
I don't need to fight
       To prove I'm right
                 I don't need to be forgiven...
...Suna's Wasteland

I’m still dealing with some anxiety, so when my noon meeting ended, I went out and just stood by the entry into the property. Ostensibly, I was waiting for the letter carrier, but they drove past the other way and never actually delivered anything. That was fine.

My field

It certainly wasn’t a quiet time out in my field. The incessant “peep peep PEEP” call alerted me to the arrival of the dickcissels for the summer. Those little birds are so extra cheerful that it’s almost painful. The background was punctuated by the sounds of red-winged blackbirds, scissor-tail flycatchers and one male cardinal.

Only bird that sat still.

I heard a sound behind me. Hey, look at that! It was Mrs Hummingbird dropping by to say hi. Honest, that’s what it felt like. Thanks, little buddy.

Hi!

I leaned on the fence and just breathed, like you’re supposed to when you have the stress going on. That’s when I said to myself, “Damn, it smells good here!” I looked down and figured out what was going on. The native grapes are in bloom. I believe I was today years old when I realized the mustang grape flowers were incredibly fragrant. It looks like we will get a lot of them this year, in addition to dewberries, if only it will rain just a bit.

Well, droplets of water did fall from the sky briefly, but I wouldn’t say it rained. Nonetheless, it took the horses from quietly grazing in the scenic field to racing to shelter, as if they were going to get inundated. They did not. But it was fun to watch. I also enjoyed watching Apache being friends with Mabel, which was sweet. She is doing SO much better with some magnesium supplements in her.

It never did rain, so I sort of plopped myself into a relatively insect-free part of the only field that hasn’t been mowed to a nub and enjoyed the variety of flowers and grasses I saw.

Plop

Once again, there are new bloomers coming up, including some big ones and some tiny ones. I just love the variety. Being among all this diversity brings me so much peace and joy. I am so lucky to have all these plants and animals nearby.

Speaking of animals, first, the chickens are happy as heck, because they can now go back out and roam, thanks to a screen door being added to the garage. They express their thanks by taking care of any horse poop they run into and eating all the June bugs Lee fishes out of the pool. They are hardly eating their chicken food now! And they are just so happy to be able to get all fluffy and take dust baths, which is a chicken’s favorite activity after chasing bugs.

New Resident

I don’t know if I’m happy or sad to report this, but apparently we have a new ranch resident. It’s a large, fluffy, apricot-colored cat. It was first spotted Saturday morning when Sara and I were leaving for Sandhaven. It’s still here, and was in the middle of the chicken pen this morning. Luckily, we have no missing poultry. I shall be more diligent about shutting the door to the henhouse from now on.

It looks like this. Obviously, this is not the cat, as it is indoors. If you are in Calgary, you can adopt it.

I guess it’s okay for the cat to hang around, since we have a lot of things for it to eat around the barn area. Barn cats are good. Now that the dogs are reliably fenced in, cats seem to be able to hang out here. I am unable to tell if it’s male or female, and I haven’t even gotten close enough to see if it has an ear notch that would indicate it’s been spayed or neutered. I’ll work on that, of course.

I’m not expecting to last here long. If it is here after a week, I’ll bestow a name.

Hope all is well in your world. It’s not bad here; I have no clue what’s up with the chest pains.

Grassy-Ass, Sorta

That’s thank you in grass language. I’ve been laughing my ass off this afternoon for a couple of reasons. First, I spent my lunch hour resting my eyes by seeing what new blossoms we have. I also was marveling at how many varieties of grass we have in the front field and how beautiful they looked waving in the breeze.

So pretty. I think it’s Dallis grass. I’m bad at grass ID.

I carefully took pictures of all the rye, oats, barley (it’s beginning to sound like bread, isn’t it?), and other grass varieties. I was looking forward to seeing what else came up.

No sooner had I gone in to get lunch than I heard the Kubota tractor start up. I quickly realized it was going back and forth across the field. I had damn good timing! The field was getting shredded (mowed in ranch talk). There go those waving seed heads! I got a good laugh out of that. There’s still plenty of other grass and flowers out there…at least for now.

This one was hopefully too low for the shredder.

I did find lots of new flowers, though, and most were on the roadside. We finally have Indian blankets blooming, though I’d seen them lots of other places already. And bindweed is blooming its tiny mini-morning glories. I’m very happy to see the Engelmann daisies are kicking into high gear, ready to take over where the bluebonnets (going to seed now) leave off. Here’s some of what I saw:

I enjoyed my break, and I enjoyed working with Drew this afternoon. He’s back to paying attention. Kathleen’s horses had opinions of me not working with them, though. I think they flipped me off in horse language.

Well, grassy-ass, to you guys!

Bonus Birds

Hey! Some of those quiet gulls just flew over and I managed to get photos! Distant, but there they are. Zoom in!

Flowers from the Sand

I spent the day at a place called Sandhaven. It was sandy. I enjoyed lots of different plants and other life (I was actually at a horse show). It was cool to see what was blooming and growing.

A prairie lizard

I must say this beautiful lizard hiding in a tree was my favorite sight. But the caterpillar of my beloved common buckeye butterfly came in a close second!

Festive!

There were a number of other interesting insects, too, some shiny and some I’d never seen before, like the scoliid wasps that were everywhere. Here are some examples.

Gee. That’s a lot of insect viewing when I was waiting for dressage to start. I was pleased. Now, here are just a few flowers I found. Some were pretty spectacular. Hope you enjoy them!

I hope you enjoyed this tour of spring blossoms near McDade, Texas! I have enjoyed adding my observations to iNaturalist.

Wildflower Color Changers and Friendly Lions

I originally posted much of this content on my Master Naturalist chapter’s blog, but also wanted to share it with you all. I’m amazed at what I see around the Hermits’ Rest and want to share it with my friends around the world. If you have trouble seeing anything let me know.

It’s beautiful this time of year, and these potential rain clouds are an added bonus.

Sporty Sports

As I continue to monitor the new flowers that are blooming in northern Milam County, I’ve found a few interesting ones. Occasionally a plant will produce a flower that’s different from its usual form or color. These sports are how new cultivars can come about, especially if humans show up and start breeding them intentionally. Out here, though, they just show up and we enjoy them.

This is a Texas paintbrush Castilleja indivisa found on County Road 140 near Walker’s Creek.

Here’s my mandatory Wikipedia quote about sports in botany, in which I left the links in case you want to learn more:

In botany, a sport or bud sport, traditionally called lusus, is a part of a plant that shows morphological differences from the rest of the plant. Sports may differ by foliage shape or color, flowers, fruit, or branch structure. The cause is generally thought to be a chance genetic mutation.

Wikipedia

The beautiful flower you see above was a pleasant surprise on my morning walk down the road in front of our property, where I was looking for new things and admiring the bluebonnets. What the heck is that yellow plant, I wondered? It looks like popcorn. When I got close, I was taken aback by how beautiful this sport of the normally orange-red flower was. I guess if I was a nursery owner, I’d have collected some seeds in a few weeks. Instead, I looked up more information and found that pale orange and yellow variations do occasionally occur.

Here’s now 99% of the native annual Texas paintbrushes, which are a parasitic plant, by the way, look where I live:

That looks more familiar!

The more I have been looking closely at my roadside wildflower friends, the more variations I’ve seen. Have you seen any of these? I know that the pink ladies/evening primroses Oenothera speciosa vary widely in their pinkness. We always have a patch of the whiter ones here. I’ve also run across a light purple bluebonnet Lupinus texensis that I found quite charming (more so than the burgundy ones), as well as a white Texas vervain Verbena halei, which I had never seen before.

You might call me paranoid, but I wonder if the reason there are so many variations in the colors of the flowers on that stretch of road is because of the chemicals sprayed every year on the field across the road (which is the only field in miles in any direction that’s managed using fertilizers and herbicides sprayed by an inaccurate plane). I’ll never know, but I have my suspicions, especially since tomatoes and peppers always die after the spraying. I’m pleased that this year they have winter rye or some silage thing that they don’t spray.

This is the field to which I refer. Apparently the chemicals do not bother the verbena.

Speaking of herbicides that I don’t use…

Dandy Lions

Someone on Facebook recently was complaining about how chemical companies always use the common dandelion as their generic image of an ugly weed that must be eradicated. We all know that you can eat the young leaves, make wine from the flowers, and dye using the roots, of course. They have many health benefits, from what I read.

They are also vitally important to our pollinators in the early spring. Last month, they were among the few blooming plants out there for the bees, tiny wasps, and butterflies to feed on. Until the rest of the flowers showed up, later than usual, they kept the beneficial insect population going. I was very glad to see so many healthy common dandelions out in my pastures.

This gal was also happy to see a dandelion.

But, have you noticed how many members of the dandelion family are actually out there in our fields, pastures, and yards? I have been greatly enjoying some of them, including the tiny weedy dwarf dandelion Krigia cespitosa, the shy smooth cat’s ear Hypochaeris glabra that spends most of its time tightly closed up, and the extra prickly one, prickly sowthistle Sonchus asper.

One more interesting thing about dandelions. I just discovered today, when I was researching which flowers I’ve been seeing were in the dandelion family, that what I called dandelions my whole life, and the only ones I saw as a child, were in fact false dandelions Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus, which is a member of the aster family. Now I know.

They are beautiful, anyway.

Miscellaneous

And while I’m here, I may as well share what else is popping up around here. I saw my first winecup and fleabane this week, and my first Englemann daisy, sikly evolvulus, and tie vines today (forgot to take a picture of the latter). My heart leapt for joy when I discovered I DO still have baby blue eyes on my property (someone “cleared brush”). For added pleasure to those with allergies, the black willows are blooming, too.

All I can say is keep looking down. You’ll see plenty to keep you entertained for hours. We live in a beautiful place and have so much we can learn if we are observant!

There’s always something to see on a Texas country road in spring.

Other Than the Wind, It’s All Good

Yet another windy day. My friend Martha says it seems like it’s windier every year. I got tired of chasing chairs and objects around.

Those chairs spent much of the day in the dirt.

Lots happened but nothing earth shattering other than Apache finally jumping obey his obstacle, which had collapsed in the wind.

Okay, I won’t say “other than” again in this post. I’ll write more coherently tomorrow, when I’m not in a food coma from Family Dinner. Martha made a good homemade hamburger helper.

We ate it all up, and she made a lot!

Let’s hope for a reasonable, uneventful week. That’s all I want right now! I’m the meantime, enjoy some nature sightings.

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