Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Pictures are Missing

GIF credit: http://mrwgifs.com/
I spoke with my Cousin-In-Love to get her chili recipe the other day.
She told me she missed seeing updates on my blog and wondered what was up.

I've been busy with a multitude of things, many of which I meant to blog about today.
However, when I logged in to blog, I discovered that I have no pictures in iPhoto.

One of my Christmas presents is a wonderful, brand spanking new computer.
Getting 7 years of stuff from one computer to the other is challenging at best.
I know less than zero about such things.
Eric has been kind enough to attend to it over the course of several days.
One thing that isn't abundantly clear to me is why there are no pictures in my photo library.

I am certain that they will be recovered.
Twenty-Five Thousand (yes, 25,000!) photos do not disappear in the cyber world.
They just go on long vacations.  
I'm certain that Eric will be able to coax them back from the sunny beach, soft snowy powder, crowded town square, old Irish pub, ancient cathedral, art gallery, or where ever they've decided to go for Christmas.  
I just hope my Photos takes some Pictures. 
It would be a shame to not have some pictures to document the occasion. 

Until then, I will take my lesson from Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory--breathe into a paper bag until I calm down.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sometimes I'm a Sandwich Short of a Picnic

Sometimes I'm not the brightest crayon in the box.
Sometimes I'm a gangplank short of a cruise.

There are many, many sometimes funny ways to point out that a person isn't quite thinking properly.
Today would be my turn.

It is 33*, windy and raining.
Normally, that sort of weather zips through my part of Texas in a 24 hour period and then it's 65* and sunny again the next day.
Not so with this particular weather system.
It has been here for 3 days and will continue for another 2.

Big whoop, right?
Just bundle up and drink hot chocolate, this too shall pass.



Normally I would, but I will be leaving town for a couple days (burglars beware---housesitters, 2 large dogs and an alarm system are all in place).

The Beverly Hillbilly (raise your hand if you know what a Beverly Hillbilly is) chicken coop you see above needs modification if my chickens are to survive this weather while I'm gone.
I cannot ask aforementioned housesitters to pick up my chickens and put them in the garage every night so they don't freeze.  
If you can imagine the photo above without what looks like a smaller cage in the foreground, you'll see what my chicken coop looks like.  I have repurposed a 6 x10 dog run.  Two sides have wood attached, but the other two sides do not.  We have far more terribly hot days than terribly cold days, so the two sided coop works to keep my chickens cool in the summer.  Not so much to keep them warm in the cold days (DUH!).

So, today, when it is windy and raining and 33*, I will be headed to Home Depot for plywood and bolts.
I will be out in this weather taking care of something that I should have taken care of months (years) ago.
I might need a shot of whiskey to keep me warm----if I drank whiskey.  Which a I don't.

And so today, I am a sandwich short of a picnic.
Who picnics in this sort of weather anyway?
Just goes to show you how bright I am.

If I don't come back, I froze to death or my boots got stuck in the deep, deep mud of the chicken run---or both.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Now This, This is a Cold Front

This chart pretty much speaks for itself.
Cold + Rainy + Windy = BBBbbbbbrrrrrrr.
It also equals chili, cornbread, hot chocolate (with tiny marshmallows), bundled up pets, people, pipes and plants.
It also equals a good day to turn on the oven.
I think homemade bread is order.
Or cookies.



What do you do on the first real cold front of the season?
Cook?
Enjoy that 'first sweater of the season'?
Go out and thumb your nose at the wind?
Light a fire?




Monday, November 18, 2013

Different Toys, Please

"In ancient times, cats were worshipped as gods.  
They have not forgotten this."
~Terry Pratchett
 This is
Mr. Do-As-I-Please.
Mr. Like-It-Or-Lump-It.
Mr. I-Will-Have-What-I-Want, Now!
Mr. Dog-Bed-Schmog-Bed.
Mr. Sometimes-I-Eats-Them-Sometimes-I-Plays-With-Them.

 It's that last one that really gets me.

Whiskers!
 Our recent rains have brought a proliferation of growth in my pasture.

Tiny tail!
 What that means is, more food for small pasture dwelling creatures.

Look at those ears, aaawwww!
 That, in turn, means more babies.

Sweet face!
 I don't mind one bit when Hobbes makes a meal or two out of the mice and rats.
There will always be more.  They are vermin, after all.

Jenna, double click on this picture to see tiny toes!

 I do mind when he brings them up to the house and plays with them.



Awwww!
 And by plays with them, I mean terrorize the poor teeny things.

His wee head is no bigger than my thumbnail.
 This tiny one was seen by me whilst he was airborne.

More tiny toeses!
 I was looking out the back door while talking to my friend, Deb (Hi Deb!!).
We had just been talking about her cat and mine and their penchant for capturing small animals.


 Mandy, our dog was suddenly on high alert and I looked to see what was up.
This wee one was 'Up'.  Hobbes was actually tossing him in the air.

Those ears!
I can't really tolerate torture.
My cat is only doing the job I have given him---to keep the rats and mice down around the house.
So, when he gets lazy and just wants to play (torture), I intervene.

My daughter, Jenna, and I have a huge soft spot for the "ratties", as she had pets rats as a little girl.

Jenna, these babies were beyond cute, but even this teeny, tiny tried to bite me.
Scary lady with big hands. 
 I'm sure he thought he's gone out of the frying pan and into the fire when I rescued him.
The commentary captions below some of the pictures are just for Jenna.
Only she will understand.
Unless you are a rat lover, too.
Then you'll get it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Wicked Queen is Dead

Check out her stinger!

Well, one of the Queens is dead.
The last time we visited the Yellow Jackets, they were in mad prep for the coming of winter.
I was trying to decide what to do (hire an exterminator or let them be).
I decided, knowing the residents of the hive were going to die, to leave them alone.

Late in summer, by the magic of biology, the one Queen in the hive lays several eggs that are either male or new queens.  
Prior to that, all the worker wasps (see the smaller one in the picture) are infertile females.  
These new hive members are treated like royalty.  The worker wasps feed and fatten them up.

In late Fall, the male wasps and the new Queen wasps leave the hive in search of mates. They do not mate with wasps from their own hive.
The males find Queens from other hives, mate and then die.

The newly fertilized Queens find a nice warm place to overwinter (holes in trees, animal burrows, weep holes in my house, etc) and in the spring the whole thing starts all over again.

The dead queen in my picture was just emerging from one of the weep holes in my house where the whole hive is stationed.  She wasn't sure about coming out, so I took the opportunity to run to the house for wasp spray.  I am certain she was not the only new Queen that was being fed this fall.

A cold front blew in this morning and by tomorrow morning we will have had our first freeze.
I will plug up all our weep holes with steel wool to keep any errant Queens from building in my house again next spring.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Preston and Katie Sitting in a Tree...

Well, they aren't sitting in a tree, but I'm betting most everyone finished the little ditty that we all sang as children when it became obvious that a boy and a girl liked each other.
photo credit: http://newroadproductions.smugmug.com/
This boy and this girl like each other.
Just a little bit.
Well, maybe more than a little bit.


Last Saturday, Katie's aunt Kelly, Grammy Marian and cousin, Lauren threw her a bridal shower.
It was beautiful!


Grammy Marian is 'crafty' as the kids like to say.
I think she taught Martha Stewart everything she knows.


Attention to detail was not spared--the food, the decorations, and most of all--the warm welcome.


Everyone was so friendly! 
Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the friendly people.
My photography skills misunderstood the lighting and every picture with people in them turned out badly. 
Everyone was blurry, as though they were all running in place or something.


Trust me, there were people there. 
I think about 30 of us!

cupcake cake by Cori Kelly
Grammy Marian has a protege'.  One of her granddaughters who is in middle school, made this amazing cupcake cake of a bridal dress.  Someone finally started to take it apart and eat.  We all wanted to leave it just like it was.  


Tiny pies and cupcakes for dessert, in addition to the cupcake cake.
Apple, Pumpkin, Chocolate and Pecan.
So hard to choose!


Beautiful, beautiful centerpieces!

Photo Credit: Sheri Michinok
photo credit: Sheri Michinok



Grandma Cox, Me and future Daughter-In-Love, Katie



And here it is, the wedding announcement.
It came in the mail yesterday.
It's just beautiful!
It seems like just yesterday I was crying about them getting engaged.
"You're too young!"
"You haven't finished college!"

I quickly let that go.  
No more sense fighting against young love than trying to hold back the waves from the shore.
They've been together for 5 years.
They've had their ups and downs, but haven't we all?

Preston is graduating in December.
He has a job in his field of study if he wants it.
He's been on many other interviews.
Katie has a great job.

They've grown up so much since they got engaged.
I'm so proud of both of them.

Preston has picked a young woman who brings out the best in him.
She is thoughtful and caring and loving.
What's not to love?

January 3rd, 2014
I will, as they say, "not be losing a son, but gaining a daughter"




Monday, November 4, 2013

Even The Plants Want Her to Come Home

I've had this weird, childish notion that if I put up the Christmas tree, Jenna will come home.
My brain says, "Jenna is coming home for Christmas.  If you put up the Christmas tree, then it must be Christmas time.  She will come home."

Of course, I know better.
Of course, I'd never put up the Christmas tree before Thanksgiving.
Still, it pops into my head about once a day.


I was out watering plants on my porch last week and noticed this.
It is a Christmas cactus.
The red things at the end of each leaf are flower buds.

If it were indoors, it wouldn't begin blooming until nearly Christmas.
Some years, it doesn't bloom at all.

I know from a horticultural standpoint, that the plant on the porch is getting just what it needs to bloom.
"12 hours of uninterrupted darkness, 50*-55* degree nights".

The plant I have indoors is exposed to light from 6am to 11pm.  
It doesn't get uninterrupted darkness, nor do we keep the house at 50*.

I get it.
I really do.
There is still a part of my brain that thinks the cactus on the porch wants Jenna to come home, too.
"If I bloom, she will come."


Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Pretty New Girl in the Neighborhood

Deer hunting season began yesterday.
The rut (mating) season began about a month ago.
What that means is, deer are completely out of their minds this time of year.
Wandering into traffic in the middle of the day.
Straying far from their normal range.
Being more OR less fearful of humans, depending on their hormone levels.


This pretty girl caught my eye this morning.
I've never seen her before.
She was followed closely by a smallish buck, who was limping.
Seems he has tried to move mountains (and fences and ditches) to catch this pretty doe's eye.


What makes this girl different?
The pictures below show it most clearly.
She's nearly black! 
I would (because I'm a chocolate lover) say that she is in the color range of Dark chocolate.


After a little research, I now know that she is "melanistic".  Her pigmentation is a genetic marker that caused her coloring to go into overdrive.
Believe it or not, she is far more rare than even an albino whitetail deer.


According to the North American Whitetail webpage, there is a larger concentration of melanistic deer in Central Texas than in any other place on the planet, combined.
Cool! 
If you'd like to read more about it, click HERE.

I would love for her to hang around.  She was unconcerned by my presence, but more curious about my cat.  
That's why I was able to get such close-up pictures of her.
If Mr. Buck was successful in his attempts to woo her, I wonder what her fawn would look like in the spring?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

And 10,000 of Their Closest Buddies

About a month ago, I noticed some activity at one of our weep holes in the foundation of the house.
Don't know what a weep hole is, read about it here.

Moving on.

Yellow Jackets.
Many Yellow Jackets.

In case you don't know, they're just as fun as Africanized Bees, but they can sting you over and over again without dying.

For some reason, this group is fairly docile for Yellow Jackets.
We mow the grass, unmolested by wasps.
The dogs graze on grass in the flowerbed right under the entrance (yes, there are weeds in my flower beds) and are equally unmolested by wasps.
I think that's why we've left them (for the most part) for the last month without really, really trying to get rid of them.
We've hit the weep holes with wasp spray and 'bug bombed' the attic.
I suppose we decided that once winter comes, they'll die off and that will be that.

Luckily (unluckily??) for me, I can't leave well enough alone and decided to read up on my house guests.
Turns out that they won't all be dying off for the winter.
My wall provides a perfect place for overwintering Queens to celebrate Christmas.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about it:
Yellow jackets are social hunters living in colonies containing workers, queens, and males (drones). Colonies are annual with only inseminated queens overwintering. Fertilized queens are found in protected places such as hollow logs, in stumps, under bark, in leaf litter, in soil cavities, and man-made structures. Queens emerge during the warm days of late spring or early summer, select a nest site, and build a small paper nest in which they lay eggs. After eggs hatch from the 30 to 50 brood cells, the queen feeds the young larvae for about 18 to 20 days. After that, the workers in the colony will take over caring for the larvae, feeding them with chewed up food, meat or fruit. Larvae pupate, then emerge later as small, infertile females called workers. By midsummer, the first adult workers emerge and assume the tasks of nest expansion, foraging for food, care of the queen and larvae, and colony defense.
From this time until her death in the autumn, the queen remains inside the nest, laying eggs. The colony then expands rapidly, reaching a maximum size of 4,000 to 5,000[2] workers and a nest of 10,000 to 15,000 cells in late summer. At peak size, reproductive cells are built with new males and queens produced. Adult reproductives remain in the nest fed by the workers. New queens build up fat reserves to overwinter. Adult reproductives leave the parent colony to mate. After mating, males quickly die, while fertilized queens seek protected places to overwinter. 


photo credit: http://www.gabeeremoval.com/


This is what I imagine it looks like, just on the other side of that weep hole.
I keep thinking that if my reading is correct, this number will dwindle once we get our first hard freeze.
That there'll be a few Queens left in the wall and that's it.
That we'll plug up all the weep holes with steel wool and the Queens won't be able to escape come Spring.
Trouble is, we know they have access to the attic because of another place in the wall that we've seen them coming and going.



I have no idea why we are being so complacent about them.
Maybe because no one has been stung?

It appears that we're out of our minds.
Funny how that becomes crystal clear, not that I've written it down.







Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Not What the Doctor Ordered


photo credit: wikipedia

"Hives form when, in response to histamine, blood plasma leaks out of small blood vessels in the skin.  Histamine is a chemical released from specialized cells along the skin's blood vessels."~WebMD

This was me, last week, head to toe. 
I was on my last dose of an antibiotic in the sulfa family.
Luckily for me, it didn't itch.  
Not much anyway.

While the rash was strange and weirdly fascinating, I wondered about a more peculiar fact.

Jenna is allergic to all drugs in the Penicillin family.  She gets hives.
Quinn was recently diagnosed with an allergy to drugs in Tetracycline family.  He gets hives.
And now me in the Sulfa family.
All antibiotics, all in different drug families/catagories.

Normally allergies to anything tend to run along hereditary lines.
If I'm allergic to peanuts, strawberries, ragweed, and monsters, then my children are more likely to be allergic to peanuts, strawberries, ragweed and monsters.

I'm not allergic to any of those things.
Maybe the monsters, I'm not sure.

My rash is gone.
Mostly.

Now my biggest challenge will be remembering which one of us is allergic to which drug.




Sunday, October 20, 2013

When Whacking Your Thumb with a Hammer, Once is Never Enough

Silly title, huh?

Who would want to whack their thumb with a hammer more than once?
Evidently, me.
Well, not literally, but figuratively.

I have done the very thing that I long ago said I would never do again.

Plant vegetables.

In addition to these, I already have tomatoes and jalapenos in the ground.
 It is akin to whacking my thumb with a hammer more than once, because gardening is painful for me every time.
I have tried and tried and tried to grow things in this land that is barren of nutrients, fickle of rain and quick and deadly with heat or cold.

I have amended the soil until my back aches and my fingernails are a wreck.
I have captured rainwater in ugly, makeshift rain barrels.
I have handwatered.
I have mulched.
I have handpicked (and killed) caterpillars and cucumber beetles.
I have drowned pillbugs and slugs and snails in beer traps.
I have introduced "the good bugs" to the "bad bugs".
I have provided shade for plants in the hottest part of the summer.
I have provided warmth and cover for plants on the coldest winter nights.
I have 'raised' beds.  
I have composted.
I have sprayed and coddled and pruned and fed.
I have completely ignored.
Nothing works.
Nothing!

Cool, imported seeds!  Maybe this will make me successful!
What I haven't done is get more than a meal or twos worth of vegetables out of any garden I have ever planted since moving to Texas, 25 years ago.
I'm not stupid.  
I understand more than the average urbanite about what it takes to make things grow.
I once worked a farm that has hundreds of acres of the very plants that I want to grow and they're terribly, terribly successful. 
So I know it CAN be done.
Why can't I get it?  
Why can't I grow food?
Broccoli.  I don't even like broccoli!
More to the point, why do I keep trying?
Is there something hardwired into my DNA, heck hardwired into my human existence that says, 
"Dig, Plant, Grow, Eat"?

And so, here I am again, hammer raised to whack my thumb.  
Maybe this time it won't hurt.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Confession about Beauty


I have long heard that Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder.  
I know it means that beauty is subjective.  
What is beautiful to one person may not be beautiful to another.
What we humans pretty much agree on is what is not beautiful.  
The focus generally lies with the lens focused on women.
Whole industries are built around what a beautiful woman is and is not.

I know I have never thought I was beautiful or even pretty.
My thighs are too big.  My face is too round.  My eyelashes are thin. I'm fat.
On and on. 

I have only been consistently told I am beautiful by one person and it's no one any of you reading would know.  I believe him because he seems sincere.
What does he see that others don't? 
That even I don't see?

I am as guilty as anyone regarding looking at someone and critiquing their hair, body, clothes, etc.
What this does is tear me down as well.

I end up thinking, "Wow, that girl is wearing her pants waay too tight for her middle.  Muffin tops/spare tires are something to hide."  

What quickly follows is a discussion with myself, "Are my pants so tight that my muffin top is showing?  I need to wear a looser shirt so it doesn't show.  Arrgghh, I'm so fat!"


photo credit: Carson at 7MSN

I learned a lesson when I was at 7MSN with Carson's animals.
I went in knowing which donkey was my favorite, even though I'd never met any of them.
Lucy was my least favorite donkey.
She didn't fit my vision of the perfect donkey conformation.
Her ears are little too long, her neck is skinny, her jawline is.........
Therefore, she's was not in the running for favorite donkey.
How could she be favorite donkey if I didn't think she was pretty?

Rude awakening for me!

I honestly, without reservation, now think Lucy is the most perfect donkey I have ever seen.
I see her differently now.

Why the transformation in thought?

I got to know Lucy.

She is the most tenderhearted, patient, sweet, equine I have ever met.
Her interaction with me, a complete stranger, was nothing short of miraculous.
She understood the situation and never once took advantage of the fact that a "substitute teacher" was running the classroom on the ranch.
The others were distrustful, and that was okay.
I was just astounded by Lucy's ability to see me for who I was---someone who didn't really know exactly what I was doing, but someone who really cared and was trying.

I really wish I could see myself as Lucy saw me.


Do you have someone in your life who you have judged by their looks alone?
Do you judge yourself by looks alone?

Cut it out!

Think of all the wonderful people you might be missing out on having as a friend or lover,  just because they don't fit the mold of what society dictates as beautiful.

"There are too many interesting women in this life that I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed"~ Dustin Hoffman


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPAat-T1uhE





Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Office Assistant Takes a 15 Minute Power Nap

Studies have shown that a 15 minute nap in the middle of a work day will reenergize you and enable you to finish the day strong and alert.

Hobbes took that study to heart and decided to give it a try.

However, he discovered that taking several 15 minute a day naps ups his productivity after midnight, exponentially.



It becomes problematic for those of us in the office who do not work after midnight, but choose to get a full 8 hours of sleep at that time.



We'll discuss it at our next office meeting.  
If he's awake.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Ranchsitting 7MSN--Final Chapter

Carson came home mid-day on Sunday.
We finally got to meet.
I thought it would feel strange, but it didn't.

Sunday was spent enjoying the sunshine and her soaking up all the love her animals had to offer.
We finished the evening by watching the next-to-last episode of Breaking Bad and then discussing our theories of the final episode.
Carson turned in early.  
She finally got to sleep in her own bed, with her own dog.

photo credit: http://www.the7msnranch.com/2013/09/four-wheeling-to-town
On Monday, Carson needed to go to the doctor for a follow up appointment.
That meant 11 miles over questionable roads.
I was so grateful to have her as co-pilot.  She took this picture. This was a place where we got lucky and could drive on the 'shoulder'.  We encountered several other places like this, but no way to drive around them.  
Luckily, she knows her truck and she knows muddy conditions.
It took over an hour to go the distance.
She later told me that she started thinking it was a bad idea, not long after we left.

By the time we returned several hours later, the roads had dried up considerably.
Carson drove and it only about 20 minutes.
As I said before, She knows her truck, and she knows muddy conditions. 



I see Whitetail deer every single day at home.  No big deal anymore.
However, I was thrilled to see Pronghorn antelope in the wild for the first time.  They spent a good part of one morning grazing in Carson's closest pasture.

I might have accidentally slipped a few seeds from the purple flower (desert four o'clock??) in my luggage to bring home.

Wynonna spent much of her day sleeping while I was there.
She's an old girl and napping is her greatest desire.

 Last baby out of the nest.
When I got there, there were two swallows in the nest.  On Wednesday when I left, there was just one.
It really was time for he and his siblings to follow their parents south for the winter.

 Carson has a view of spectacular mesas, hills and mountains in all four directions from her house.
This one is my favorite, and I don't really know why.
On my way to the airport, I pulled over and took a few pictures.



There was road construction on one part of my trip to the airport.
It required a 10 minute wait.
I turned off the truck and took a few pictures of of a hillside I had seen on my way in with Don.
Geology is fascinating to me.  I always wonder what was happening on the earth when a certain formation appears.
On this one, it looks like giants built a rock wall about 2/3 of the way up the mesa.



I finally got the airport. 
Parked the truck and dropped the keys off at the appointed place for Danni to pick up.
She was flying in to resume Ranchsitting duties.

What a fabulous surprise when I got to my gate to find that the plane had come in from Portland.
She got off the plane that I was waiting to get on.
We got to exchange hugs and high-fives, just like we'd done a week earlier at the start of my little adventure.

photo credit: some nice lady at the airport--on Danni's phone.

The End