I Follow My Own Advice about the Woods

Any person who has read dozens of books about how wonderful trees are and how going out in the woods is so good for the psyche had BETTER go check out their own woods as often as possible. So, yesterday, after a day of writing and staring at screens, I went to check out the woods around here. Much has changed, but much has not.

Ah, trees and water.

As I mentioned earlier, fencing is going in to make a better experience for the dogs and us. To accomplish that, they had to make space for tractors to get in and build the fence. Many cedar elms and mesquite sacrificed their lives for that, but it was unavoidable if it’s eventually to be part of the residents’ cattle ranching empire.

It was a scorched earth policy.

I know perfectly well that a whole bunch of wildflowers and such will pop up immediately, so the earth will not be scorched for long. There has been talk of benches for viewing the woods and a treehouse being erected. We’ll see how long it takes for cattle to eat it, if it comes to pass (one thing I’ve learned about this family is they like to make plans, but only SOME of the come to fruition (probably for the best; I’m not complaining, just stating).

Currently, the chickadees think we built this pile just for them.

On my forest bathing adventure, I went past the tree cemetery and enjoyed some time listening to birds, trickling water, and leaves gently falling. While we probably do have an over-abundance of cedar elms, the wonderful thing about them is that they’re deciduous, so we get to enjoy some autumn color and a new view while the leaves are gone. They also explain why the soil is so rich and beautiful.

Where the fish and crawfish live.

I ended up just following the deer paths that wind through the wooded area between our house and the creek bottom. It was fun, but once I got home, I realized that all that ducking under branches had left me with interesting tree stuff in my hair. I washed my hair this morning, for your edification.

The path the animals use.

I checked out the pond in the bottom, which still has plenty of water in it, though it really didn’t rain much the whole time I was in Colorado.

I do love this pond. And hello, neighbors.

I also enjoyed the wide spot in the stream that leads to the creek, which I always called Deer Haven Pond, but now realize is a part of the stream and only a pond when the stream stops flowing. It is where all the animals hang out, because it’s quite hidden.

The “pond” enjoyed by deer, cattle, and apparently hogs.

The smells in the woods (other than cow poop) are so rich and earthy that I ended up just standing around and enjoying the scents and sounds. A little bunny hopped by, which alerted me to the many holes in one spot that must be their dens. Many little animals must enjoy all the fallen trees (mostly from the drought over ten years ago) as well.

The drought damaged many trees, so they keep dying off, slowly.

The coral berries are also decorating the woods. They don’t have a nice smell, but the color livens up the place and provides bird food all winter.

Cheerful coral berries.

In any case, just visiting my favorite area on the property was enough to keep my good mood flowing, even when the Bobcat Lair property failed to fund yesterday like it was supposed to, and our plans for the evening all changed. Big deal. I’m just living day by day and enjoying whatever comes up. I must have excellent blood pressure now!

Enjoy a few more images, and have a good day, whatever is going on in your part of the world. Unless it’s shopping. Ugh. I’m tired of Black Friday ads. Who had to invent that just to make yet another holiday all about shopping?

Wandering Pays Off, but No Troll

I smile a lot when I’m spending time in a new place all by myself. I’m easily charmed by little things, which makes me have fun traveling, even without any big plans.

Wandering took me here!

Today was no different. I was really tired after work (I was trying to write software training material, which is always hard on the eyeballs due to all the fidgety screenshots). But I told myself I really need to do something fun each day, especially since it was sunny and not all that cold.

Stuff like this is out there! I must go see it.

So, I set out in my normal shoes and headed toward downtown. The normal shoes were there to supposedly keep me on sidewalks and off of icy trails. You can ponder a moment about how that worked out.

When I got to Main Street, I turned right, just to see what was down there. At first the most exciting thing I ran into was a gas station (you don’t see many around her in the land of the quaint). But then I spotted something good. It was a beautiful little steam engine! It was one of the ones used in the early days of the area.

I wonder if it’s heard of Thomas the Tank Engine?

There was also a little boxcar and tiny caboose that you could look into. I was giddy with happiness, because I really like steam engines. I had run into High Line Railroad Park. It’s probably a lot more fun in the summer, but I enjoyed looking at the narrow-gauge rains and train cars anyway.

I saw a sign pointing to the troll, which is a wooden sculpture that is famous here, so I headed through the ice-skating arena parking lot to find it. I used Apple Maps, but it was not where the software said it was. I didn’t fret at all, because my wandering took me to a beautiful woodland park along a pretty creek. I wanted to explore.

Want to know what my idea of rejuvenating surroundings is? This.

Hey, remember those shoes I wore? They weren’t exactly cut out for the trails going up, which I quickly realized when I saw very serious hiking dudes putting on crampons. Still, the bottom parts of the trail were mostly free of snow and ice (and I’ve learned to walk on ice), so I allowed myself to be surrounded by the huge trees, which smelled so good. That plus the happy sounds of the creek made me not care one bit about a troll, which I figure my local friend Cathy can show me when she’s back from Texas.

After some forest bathing time, I headed back. I didn’t realize how pretty it would be when I headed toward the mountains, so I almost gasped aloud. I had a great walk back, the highlight of which is a real Suna highlight. I found a house with a big birdfeeder and stood there for ten minutes watching birds, including just about the most beautiful thing I ever saw. This bird was BLUE.

I also saw a little woodpecker (not sure what kind), and those cute little chirpy things I hadn’t gotten a good enough picture of yet to ID. I figured it was some kind of chickadee, and yep, iNat told me it’s a mountain chickadee. And, of course there were crows. The pictures were too crummy to share.

I took the back road, French St., to downtown and got to see some nice places to live or rent, and some of the old houses as well. There are a lot of purple houses. I have to like a town with purple houses.

One house I admired the paint job on the corbels when I realized it was also a cute boutique having a sale. I got some tiny earrings and a surprise holiday gift for the relatives back home. It will win the most hilarious gift of the 2021 season, I’m pretty sure.

See the pretty teal accents on the corbels?

By the time I got home, the sun was behind the mountains, and it was getting chilly again. I made myself some delicious ravioli with fancy mushrooms in it. See, I can cook if I have a jar of sauce and refrigerated pasta!

I guess people get used to this. Not me so far. This is from the ice arena.

That was one successful day of wandering and surprises. Tomorrow I get a visitor!

Evening Exploration

It was a long day of “working from beach” today, but it was fun doing my individual meetings on the balcony. I still have things to do, but I’m plowing through them, and some of the stuff is getting interesting.

I guess I’m relaxed

We had to leave for a while in the early afternoon, because they were going to turn the power off in the building for some test. We took that opportunity to visit the new and trendy Market Commons area, which is sort of like the Domain in Austin, but a bit prettier.

Dining spot.

Lee was not impressed, but I’d have a lot of fun with Kathleen or Anita there. The shopping looked excellent, and there were many nice places to eat. We had sushi, and it was fresh and interesting. My lemon roll was divine, and I also had a yellowtail ceviche in a ponzu sauce. The air was just right for outdoor dining, too.

Lemon roll.

Of course, Lee found numerous plants to be allergic to, especially the gorgeous plantings of jasmine. But hey, he’s not allergic to azaleas! He says if he lived a hundred years ago none of this would be bothering him, since he’d have died from some allergy in childhood. Cheery!

Lee wasn’t allergic to this palm flower.

When I finished working at 6, Lee wanted to go see small towns, so we drove on the inland road to Georgetown, SC. We passed many beautiful forests with hardwoods, Wild magnolias, and pines.

Speeding by woods

Much of it looked exactly like northern Florida from my childhood, including the many plantings of pines for harvest. All the big rivers and swamps we passed also made me feel at home.

Pine forest, thinned

As we approached Georgetown, Lee wondered if we were near the sewage plant. Nope, another memory from childhood blasted in and told me what I soon confirmed: there’s a large paper mill just outside of town. You can’t miss that smell.

Stinky but cool.

Other than that, though, Georgetown is beautiful, one of the oldest cities in South Carolina. It currently has a scary looking old steel mill as another industry.

Steel mill

But, as I read one of the information signs around the boardwalk, I recalled where I’d heard of this place. Not only was it a center for growing rice (as evidenced by the rice museum in town), but it was also an early indigo growing center! I’d read about it in the book on indigo I read last year.

And there are boats!

I must say, this is a gorgeous town, with a fixed-up downtown harbor area, a boardwalk, and many places to shop and eat. We had another outdoor meal, with a bonus of watching a Great Dane sit on a kid’s lap.

Both of these families own Great Danes, so the kid was fine with him. He just kept scratching the dog, and the dog kept smiling.

We are glad we will come back later for one of our boat rides (assuming I book them), so we can see more of the beautiful old homes and such.

This old house is a museum.

Lee and I both are excited about our upcoming adventures! We wish we had folks with us, but wow, there’s a lot going on!

Sunset in the rear-view mirror and reflected on our vehicle. Artsy.

Once again, I’m thinking of all my friends and family who have been undergoing treatments and surgeries and such. Healing wishes to you all.

Hermiting in the Woods

Since neither my sister nor I felt great after our vaccinations, we didn’t do dinner tonight. That, combined with the fact that it’s the first night of Daylight Savings Time led me to decide to spend some quiet time in the woods.

Hermits’ Rest woods just before the trees leaf out.

It wasn’t a quiet time, because there were so many birds, mostly white-crowned sparrows, mourning doves, mockingbirds and cardinals.

The female cardinal was chirping away when I took this.

I just wandered slowly (I left the dogs in the house) so I could see the birds, hear the creek flowing away, and enjoy the new leaves budding.

The creek makes a wide spot where lots of fish live.

It always smells good in the damp woods (even with the cow poop scattered around). It’s especially musty and lovely by the seep, the springy area in the woods that never dried up at all last year. I crouched beside it a long time, listening to birds and watching them fly around.

It’s like my own baby swamp!

While I was there, I heard a loud bird sound, then something big flew by. I was enchanted, and I confirmed my hunch when I heard a hammering sound. It then flew by again, with a flash of black, white and red. It was the biggest pileated woodpecker I ever saw.

Photo taken yesterday in Virginia by Bob Hass.

While I’ve seen them here before, never so close and so large. No, no photo. I was using my eyes!

Eventually I stopped being a hermit and joined Lee for a walk around the pond behind the house with the dogs. That’s always so relaxing. I was captivated by the perfection of dandelion seed heads and a little circle of verbena. A nice evening.

A Doggie Expedition

Requests come in for more about the dogs. Ok, fine. Today, they were all wound up, so I took the dogs out to explore the woods and creek. They love that.

Carlton, Alfred, Penney, and Harvey check out one of the ponds.

We must have looked cute, because someone stopped to take a picture of us! Alfred insisted on taking a drink out of every pond or big puddle he came across.

Mmm this one is good.
Ah, small but tasty. Carlton likes it, too.

We had a blast, even though it was a bit chilly and windy. The dogs smelled many things, rolled in poop, and found things to chew on. Penney found a possum skull. Ick. No pictures of that! She wouldn’t put it down, and spent most of the afternoon enjoying it.

Here are some more photos of their fun.

Have Yourself a Hermits’ Rest-y Christmas

Glorious. That’s the word for today. So, I went out to the woods to look for signs of Christmas and miracles. I found some of each!

The first miracle was water in the stream.

I ended up standing right where the above photo was taken for a long time, just listening to bird songs and watching them flit around. It’s lots easier to spot them in winter. I saw one I could not identify that could have been a black phoebe.

Too blurry. Wah. Not a miracle.

Once I got walking, the subtle signs of Texas Christmas began to appear. First, there was a Christmas cholla. That’s pretty obvious.

Then I found our one holly plant, a possumhaw (deciduous holly).

Cheerful berries.

So, how much more holiday greenery could I find? Of course, mistletoe!

I brought it home but no one will stand under it. Correction: Lee is willing.
Continue reading “Have Yourself a Hermits’ Rest-y Christmas”

Stinky but Fun!

In my previous post, I talked about going on a walk with Kathleen (who will be here for the next year or so, getting our Hearts Homes and Hands business going) around the ranch for a long time and getting no “exercise credit” for it on my watch. While annoying, there are darned good reasons we didn’t just trek briskly around the property. Plus the dogs got stinky.

Kathleen is ready for checking out the nature!

It finally cooled off enough to go for a nice exploration of the woods, which is just not easy to do in the summer. The dogs were pretty thrilled at the prospect, and engaged all their sniffers.

We’re ready to sniff!

I hadn’t had a chance to show Kathleen what’s in the woods (mainly a lot of cedar elm and coral berry), so she had fun discovering the little stream (or where it would be if it rained more), then as we moved on, we saw the gate to nowhere, and other bottomland landmarks.

Continue reading “Stinky but Fun!”

Glorious Autumn

I interrupt my sharing from the conference I attended to share what a lovely afternoon my spouse, dogs and I had at the Hermits’ Rest yesterday.

buttefly back
This is the back of a red admiral butterfly. I just love how this photo came out.

I came home from work, and just felt like taking a long walk. I gathered a few dogs and started my usual route around the property. As I went down toward where the arroyo stream meets the woods, something smelled wonderful. I realized it was a large bed of fall asters. The little valley had trapped the aroma.

monarch
Asters and small bees.

The aroma had attracted more than just me, too. The flowers were literally abuzz and aflutter with bees of all sizes and at least six types of butterflies. I was really happy to see Lee come down to see me, so he could enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds with me.

not_bee
The monarch was in flower heaven.

I really didn’t take all that many photos, because we were just observing. Still, I have to share that we got at least one migrating monarch in the bunch! There were also Gulf fritilaries, a red admiral, fiery skippers (lots), and some painted ladies.

Continue reading “Glorious Autumn”

Fun and Weirdness

fungus
I’ve been reading a lot about these. I could make tea from them. I won’t, though.

You haven’t heard from me for a couple of reasons. One is that I’ve had so much fun stuff to do that it’s been hard finding time to write. I had lots of guests last weekend, and my company has been busy buying houses and commercial buildings. That’s all good.

The other is that it has been “one of those weeks” in which one weird thing after another keeps happening. I’ve been losing things, had a near-miss accident, have said some really odd and atypical things to others, and more.

The good news is that I’ve managed to get all my work done and am ready for a mini-vacation in Fredericksburg, so there should be some good nature stuff come out of that.

snakeskin
This is only a part of the big snakeskin we found. It was big in the middle, then got smaller. Interesting.

In the woods

Last weekend, Justin (nephew of the ranch neighbors) was here, and he and I had a great time tromping through our woods with the dogs (it was the first real tromp for the two newest ones). He is very much like me, in that he really notices things.

Continue reading “Fun and Weirdness”

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