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:

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.

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.

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

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:
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

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ranchsitting at 7MSN--Day 5

Smooch, aka Ranch Security, had been without her momma for a week at this point.
Carson was gone for 8 days the first time.
Home for 3 days and then gone for 7 days the second time.
During her absences, Smooch had to get used to 3 different Ranchsitters.
Many dogs of lesser character would have lost their minds by all the changes.
Not Smooch!
She really is a one of a kind dog.

She was always quick to be my buddy if I asked and slept with me in Carson's absence.

However, it was painfully obvious that she was always on the lookout for Mom.  
First thing in the morning she would fly into Carson's bedroom and see if she had miraculously appeared overnight.
After I'd finished morning chores, she'd spend her day in one of 3 places:
Her chair in Carson's room.
The bench in her yard that overlooks the driveway.
My bed, that also overlooks the driveway.

 On September 8th, I was able to finally let her know that Momma was on her way home.  
Uncle Don was driving her in from Albuquerque!
We just had to cross our fingers and paws that the additional rain hadn't made the road impassable.

Smooch: I hear something!  Is that momma?
Me: Yes!  It's finally her!  Let's go meet her out back!

photo credit: at

As you can see, all was finally right with the world.
Much carrying on by both girls in this picture.
Tears of joy by Carson.
Whines and barks and kisses by Smooch.

I slept alone for the rest of my stay.
Just as it should be.

“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring--it was peace.” 
― Milan Kundera

Monday, October 7, 2013

Suspending Reality

photo credit:
You know when you're a kid and you'll believe in almost anything?
You'll believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny?
Bad examples.  Those are all real.

Let's go a different direction altogether.  Stay with me.

Just last week, Eric and I were talking about our differing beliefs in God, the nature of God, where we "meet" God, etc.  Deep conversation.  We don't often talk about God, despite the fact that we are both very active in our church.  Our children are active in church. We all believe God exists, but in what 'form' is strangely never discussed.

One thing that came out of my discussion with Eric is that I seldom "meet" God in church. 
 I serve God in church.  I happily (most of the time) act in Christ's place.  I try very hard to be an example of a true Christian.  Someone that loves others despite their place in life.

So, where to I meet God?
The tiniest flower is a commune with God.
The way the bark grows differently on one side of a tree than the other is a commune with God.
Beetles, and slow moving water, and vast plains, and fluffy clouds---God is there.
Dogs sleeping upside down, chickens chasing a grasshopper, a cat purring in my lap---God is there.
The way the grass creeps into the flower beds, the way the snow will dance in the wind, the way the ocean roars to the beach during a storm---God is there.

Last night, at 2am, my dogs completely lost their minds.  
Growling, barking, scratching at a door in my bedroom that leads to the outside.  
Above all the ruckus, I could hear something that sounded like it was trying to get in!
I flipped on the light and expected to see the neighbor's cat---maybe trying to escape a nighttime predator?
Maybe a skunk, raccoon, or an opossum?

It was a young porcupine! No bigger than a soccer ball.
The fluffiest little ball of fur and quills and fear.
My guess is that it heard my dogs, ran up the stoop to my room, and was trying to get "Up" to safety; not realizing that the dogs were just on the other side of the place it was trying to get to.

This isn't really a biology lesson, but in the interest of my tale you need to know that porcupines climb trees.  The live in trees, sleep in trees, eat trees.  Impossible, I know.  Big, lumbering rodents do not climb trees.  These do.

So, what does this little porcupine have to do with God.
Here's where the post title comes in, "Suspending Reality".

I'd like to believe, for one brief moment that God made that little porcupine encounter possible.
Possible for my birthday.
Today is my birthday.

I know, I know, it's a reach.
I don't really believe that God gives birthday presents.
My own belief is that God isn't really concerned about my birthday one bit.  God is far more concerned what I do with my days than on what day I was born.

Last night at 2am, I had an encounter with nature that I've never had before.
I got to see a porcupine in the wild for the first time.  Right on my back stoop.
Birthday present or no, I had an encounter with God.
Pretty good way to start the beginning of another trip around the sun.
photo credit

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Ranchsitting for 7MSN--Days 3 and 4

When you don't have a day job/work from home gig like Carson does, the days run together at 7MSN.
I kept myself busy with self designed chores in addition to keeping the animals cared for.
I found there was a fine line between doing something I thought would be helpful, and worrying that tidying up Carson's pantry might her think I think her pantry needing tidying up in the first place.
You follow me?

To make myself feel better, when I would check in with her at the end of the day, the conversation would go something like this.

Carson: How was your day?  The animals behave for you?
Me: Everything was great.  Everyone is doing fine.
Carson: Did it rain?  On the radar, it looked like it rained at the ranch.
Me: Yup, a total of 3/4 inch since midnight.
Carson: Did you talk to Neighbor S.?  Did she or her husband try to get out on the road today?
Me: Yes, they said it was only sloppy in a few places.  I don't think you'll have any trouble getting home tomorrow.
Carson: Hooray!  I can't wait.  I'm so sick of this hospital.
Me: By the way, I don't want you to take this the wrong way, but I tidied up your pantry and vacuumed.  Not that it needed doing, but I got bored.  I also swept the front porch and the back porch.

And so, if I ever come to your house to look after things, don't take it personally if I vacuum or tidy up your pantry or fridge or spice cabinet.
It doesn't mean you have a messy house.
It just means I ran out of magazines and there's nothing on TV worth watching and I've already taken your dog on a long walk and pulled tumbleweeds in the side yard.
If you have tumbleweeds.

Wherein Clara and Peach turn into ducks.

Quack, Quack

Hank: Really, is it ever going to stop raining?

Hank: Since you're here, can you check your pockets to see if there might be a treat in one of them?

Hank: No? Well, you think you could rub some of this mud off me?  It itches.

Alan: I'm not muddy.  Do I get a treat?

Normally the equine members of Carson's family wear fly masks.
On day 3, it rained of and on, all day long.
They weren't wearing their masks because flies can't navigate the raindrops to bother the animals.

On day 4, the sun returned.  They wore masks.
While they can see quite clearly out of the masks during the daytime, the night is a different story.
Each evening, I'd get out the Gator/Rhino/Golf Carty vehicle and go in search of the herd to remove their masks for the night.

Smooch: Be careful out there.  I'm not with you to protect you.  I'll wait right here.

Alan: I know Mom doesn't want us to eat the cactus, but she's not here to fuss at us.
George: No, but Carla is and I'm going to eat grass in case she tells on us.

Hank is especially handsome at dusk.

Lucy: Don't hog it all George!  I've had that blasted grazing muzzle on all day and I deserve first choice!
George: Yea, yea, yea, whatever.

Alan: I'm going to wait my turn.  Lucy can be bossy when she's hungry.

Hank: I'd look up to tell you to 'sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite', but I'm busy.  See you at breakfast.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ranchsitting for 7MSN--Day 2

Many of you know that Carson will blog about her walks with Smooch.
She entitles them, "Down the Road with Smooch".
Even though Carson has a very sizable ranch, she can't let Smooch run all 80 acres for various reasons--chief among them, Smooch would run all the way to Colorado or Mexico if given the chance.

So, Smooch gets to go on a walk (or two) every day.
This gave me a chance to see more of the surrounding area.

Carson was quick to warn me on the telephone from the hospital to "stay on the road".
That way I could see if a rattlesnake was out sunning itself, far in advance.
Here, you can see that Smooch definitely sees something way up ahead in the road.
Ears forward, leash pulled tight.

 I walked slowly in that direction, but quickly picked up the pace when I realized what Smooch saw was crawling instead of slithering.
It was a box turtle.
It was not nearly as excited to see us, as we were to see it.

 I felt pretty luck to see it at all.
Often, when Carson has guests, a box turtle will turn up as sort of an ambassador to her place.
I was officially welcomed to 7NSN.