Monday, June 30, 2014

A Puzzlement

This post will only interest the very nerdiest of my friends and family.
Those that are interested in all things out of doors.
And I do mean "all".
This post is about tree bark.

Yes, tree bark.

More precisely, the thickness of tree bark on a single tree.
I was certain I had bored you with a similar subject in a past post, but I can't find it.
It was about trees and tree growth and how they can lllleeeeeeaaaaannnnnnn, but not fall over.
It was about the fact that the bark was visibly thicker on one side of the tree than the other.

While we lost a couple very large trees in the storms a couple weeks ago, it gave me the opportunity to tune up my tree knowledge aka: nerdiness.

The question of "Is the bark really thicker on one side than the other or does it just look like it?" will finally be answered.

The answer is "Yes.  Yes, it is thicker on one side than the other".

I wanted to be really nerdy and share the "WHY is it thicker on one side or the other?", but my research on the subject would bore you to tears.

In a nutshell, it's structural.
It helps hold the tree up if it is leaning.  The tree tries really hard to grow straight up.  The bark is nature's way of pushing back against the direction the tree is leaning.
Heck, it keeps the tree from falling down.
Unless there's a giant wind, (which the weatherguessers say was "not tornadic in nature") that blows really hard and just snaps it in half.

 I know you've been waiting on the edge of your seat to see if the bark really is thicker on one side than the other.

Here's the proof.

One side.  
The thicker side.
Even thicker than the length of Eric's thumb.

The other side.
The not-thick side. 
(It's a biology term, I just know it is!)
Only about as thick as one joint in Eric's thumb. 
It's a scientifically accepted measurement, look it up!
Maybe it's biblical?
I don't think there was an Eric in the Old Testament.

Anyhoo, now you know.
If you are ever in a trivia game that asks, 

"Can the bark be thicker on one side of the tree than the other?"

You can say without hesitation,

"Yes. Yes it is!"

Friday, June 27, 2014

Baby Pictures

Baby donkeys, that is.

My friend new friend Barbara, unbeknownst to me, had a hand in raising the two donkeys that will be mine when I get a darned barn put up (or a lean-to or a pup tent or an umbrella!).

The boys and their mommas spent quite a bit of time at Barbara's farm as babies.
She took all these pictures.

I'm on a couple "I love donkeys" sort of groups on Facebook.
What I've learned about baby donkeys is that they play hard and they sleep harder.

 Barbara said she more than once went racing out to take a closer look at what appeared to be a dead donkey.

Digger would sleep so hard that he wouldn't even know she'd come out.
"Just snoring away"

I now understand more about why these two boys are such snuggle bugs.
From day one, they were handled with love and gentleness.
Even the farrier is gentle and patient with the babies.

I'm ready for them to come live at my house.
I wonder if Wishbone would crawl in my lap, even though he's a big boy now?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Grumpy Neighbor

Meet my neighbor---Wilber, the Potbellied Pig.
Wilber belongs to Laureen.

Laureen and her family are not living in their house right now.
They had a leaky roof.
The fixing of the leaky roof and the interior damage done by the leak is taking longer than they thought it would.
They moved out until the work is done.
Because (yes, I started a sentence with a preposition) they live several miles away, I insisted that I care for their animals in the mornings.
I am up anyway.  I am outside with my animals anyway.
Makes no sense for them to come out first thing in the morning, when I'm living just a half acre away.
I let their dogs out and then I let Wilber out and feed him breakfast.

Wilber and I have not always been friends.
He's rather a grumpy old man.
I think he's at least 12 or 13 years old.
He's also a momma's boy.
However, since he sees me on a daily basis and I serve breakfast, he's warmed up to me.
He doesn't try to scare me by charging at me anymore.

We have an agreement of sorts.

I feed him and he now lets me pat him on the back as I'm leaving.
It's a big deal really.
For years, I longed to touch him.
For years, he made it clear that he was not in favor of it.

I have never had an animal not like me.
I guess the old adage of "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach" hold true for Wilber.
Breakfast made all the difference.

I still keep my wits about me when I'm with him.
He could change his mind about our agreement at any moment.
He does have teeth and considerable weight to throw at me, should he choose to do so.

For now, we are cordial to one another.
That's good enough for me. :)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Lazy Days of Summer

This photo is from exactly one year ago.

I'm feeling lazy.
I am busy with many things, none of which are very interesting.
I thought I would just share a picture from this time last year.

Hobbes, napping under the ceiling fan in my office.  
His chosen 'hiding place' for that day was a plastic bag.
Cats are weird, but I think most of us know that already.

I hope you are enjoying your summer.
Take time to take a nap every now and then like Hobbes.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History

That title quote is by author,  Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.
In this case, it fits ever so perfectly!
 These "women" are Amelia Earhart and Marie Curie.
I kid you not.  
I named them as tiny chicks, not knowing what breed they were or what behavior I could expect from them.
These girls are no more well behaved than the real Amelia and Marie were in their time.
They do things considered too bold and brash for polite, rule-following society.

 These girls have their morning breakfast when I let them out of the coop and then they make plans that do not include being 'good girls' by staying within the safety of the chicken run with the other hens.
They "fly the coop", as it were.

They are Sicilian Buttercup chickens and are well able to fly to just about any perch they wish.
Amelia finds my shoulder a fine landing spot to check me for ticks and fleas.

Unfortunately, I am drawn to them and they to me.
They are so friendly and curious.
They are my favorites.

I fear for their safety, just as those that loved Amelia Earhart and Marie Curie did.
Being out of the confines of the chicken run leaves them more open to predation by hawks and marauding dogs.

But, just like Amelia and Marie, they must be free to do as their heart and will demands.
These young hens cannot be held down; nor do I desire to keep them confined when it is clear they want otherwise.
They stay close by the chicken run and the other hens, but wish to do greater things than peck around with those that follow the rules too closely.

My only hope is that they do not "make history" by getting killed.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Time to Bite the Bullet

First off, any time I use a cliche', I have to find out it's origin.
'Bite the Bullet' was first recorded in literature in 1891--The Light That Failed by Rudyard Kipling.
We all understand that it means that you are doing something you don't really want to be doing.

My 'bullet' is deciding on a barn.  Or rather, paying for a barn.
I want what I want, but want it to be WAY less money.
Ha!  Good luck with that! Right?

I have decided on the barn you see above.  The lower half will be stone and the upper half will be stucco.
I would also like an overhang on both sides of the barn and not just one.
I'll have to figure out a way to have sliding doors AND stone walls.  
I'm pretty sure it can't be done.

I keep trying to convince Eric that we don't really need to build a dream barn.  Let the next owners build a dream barn.  I just need someplace for my donkeys to get in out of the weather and a place to store hay.

To top it all off, neither one of us love big projects like this one.
In fact, we both hate them.
We run the other direction.
Well, not really.  
We just talk about them and then never do them.
How we ever built our house, I'll never know.

In fact, I'm getting bouncy leg (nervous habit of bouncing my leg while sitting).
My brain keeps saying, "you just need a run-in shed with a place to store hay and feed".


So, I need a dream barn AND I need a project manager that will ask me no questions AND have me make no decisions AND come in well under budget.

Pigs will fly first.
Maybe I can get the pig to bite the bullet for me?

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Second Storm

This is Smokie.
She is terrified of storms.
Actually, I don't think 'terrified' accurately describes what she feels.
She's out of her mind.  She goes someplace in her head that can't be understood.
I have tried everything known to veterinarian  and man to help her.
Nothing works.
Even massive sedatives don't work---they do the exact opposite of what they are supposed to do.

What works best for her is to find a tiny spot to cram herself into and wait out the storm.
Her chosen spot during our pseudo-tornado was the pantry floor.
After the worst of the storm had passed, I coaxed her out of the panty to see if she'd go outside to potty.
She'd been in the pantry for hours and hours.

My mistake.  
Big mistake.
She had no intention of going outdoors and instead, retreated to the guest bathroom to hide between the toilet and the wall.

I was busy putting the things back that we had taken into the guest bathroom to hide from the storm ourselves and failed to realize that Mandy had followed Smokie into the bathroom.

To say that all hell broke loose would be an understatement.
Smokie, still very much in "fight or flight" mode was not sharing her hiding spot with Mandy.
When she gets this way, all bets are off as far as fair fights go.
She latches on and Will. Not. Let. Up.!!
Mandy never knows what hit her or why.
She just does her best to defend herself.

Jenna and I were the only ones home.
It was up to us to try to drag the dogs apart without getting badly bitten ourselves.
One problem, Smokie was not wearing her collar.
She had gotten in the swimming pool earlier in the day and I had taken her collar off because it was wet.
How to get the aggressor (Smokie) off her poor unwitting victim (Mandy) when she's not wearing a collar was problem number one.  
After what seemed like forever, I saw a split second where I could grab Mandy's collar to try to drag them apart.  Jenna then dove in with a very large couch cushion and tackled Smokie.  It gave me enough time to get Mandy out of the room and Jenna enough time to slam the bathroom door shut.

If Jenna had not been here, there would have been no way to get the fight to stop.
Smokie was out of her mind and would not have stopped.
Mandy never had a chance to defend herself because Smokie had latched onto her face.

I took Mandy to the vet the next day because it was clear that more damage had been done than I could see.  She just wasn't herself and her face was badly swollen.
Sedation, shaving and stitches were on her plate for the day.
The vet said after she had finished her work "It looks like her face has been through a meat grinder".

My poor, sweet Mandy.

In the future, I think our best defense will be a good offense. 
This has happened far too many times after storms.
Smokie just becomes rabid with fear.
To protect her and Mandy, I put will Smokie in a crate during storms and just leave her there until all signs of terror have worn off. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

NOT a Good Day In My Neighborhood

Eric texted me on Thursday from San Francisco asking me if I thought the storms would clear by the time he would touch down at our airport.
My reply was, "What weather?"
Our weather is so very fickle, especially when it come to rain.
Heat and sun, not so much.
I took a look at the radar and noticed a tornado watch.
I smugly texted him again (and I quote)--7:37pm "Been ignoring the weather.  One day a tornado will swoop down and scoop me up because I don't believe we'll ever get any real weather."
I should know better than to challenge Mother Nature.
Exactly 2 hours later (to the minute), my phone sent me an alarm--9:37,
Tornado warning, take cover!
The weather radar and weatherguesser made it very clear.  We were directly in the path of a possible tornado.  We had 10 minutes tops to gather up our pets and take cover.

Jenna put her rats in crate, I put Hobbes in a crate, I hooked Mandy up on a leash, and then tried to drag Smokie out of the pantry (where she was hiding because of the storm) but decided she was in one of the safest rooms in the house.  I left her there and closed the door.

We took our pets, a bunch of pillows, purses, phones, iPads and a flashlight into our guest bathroom.
It is our "interior room, no outside walls, no windows" tornado room.
We do not have a basement.  
I rarely miss my hometown in Missouri, but I miss my basement during storms!

A half hour later we were peeking out of the bathroom and searching our phones for the all clear.
Cable and internet was down.
I called Preston and Katie.  He said it looked like we were good to come out of our tiny hiding place.
We never lost power.  We didn't get hail.  
Couldn't have been a tornado, but it was loud.
Torrential rains, blowing hard---sideways.

I figured we might have a couple dead branches down and a pool full of leaves.
It was never confirmed that we had a tornado, but many things point to at least straight line winds or.........well, I don't know.  Sure seems tornado-like.

200+ year old tree.
Blown completely over. 

My brand new gate.  Literally ripped off its base.  Pulled free from 18 screws that held it onto the frame.

New fence. Blown down.

Half of a large oak tree.

Half of another large oak tree.

I wish this picture captured the fact that the right half of one of my favorite trees is gone.
I can't remember what kind of oak this is, but it was beautifully shaped and is the only tree we have that changes color in the Fall.

Here lies the other half.

Same tree, different angle.
This tree makes me think we had at least a circular wind.
It is a very healthy tree, but three branches as big around as telephone poles were twisted off.  It is obvious that they didn't just break off.  One of the branches not only came off, but flipped completely over.

More large branches.

The Houdini Sisters

The great news about all this destruction--not one broken window, not one branch on a structure, roof in place and the chicken coop stayed put.  Which frankly, is amazing.  It was right in the obvious path of the big wind.  Not one branch down out of the tree that the coop is under.  The tree right next to it will have to be taken down, as it is leaning from the root ball.

We spent ALL DAY yesterday cleaning up the back yard and pool area.  Tiny tips of branches, thousands of them, all over.  

Today we will start on the downed trees and branches.
We can't get the chainsaw to start.
Maybe we should advertise "You Cut free wood" on Craigslist?
Heck, folks will pay money to "You Pick" peaches and blackberries and apples.
I'm offering my wood for free. 
Seems like a win-win.
What do you think?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Office Assistant and the X-Games

I'm sure some of you may be asking what the X-Games are.
It boils down to this---men, and now women, are doing eXtreme things on bicycles, skateboards, and motorcycles. (read: CRAZY things)!

A young man named Colton Satterfield won "Big Air" Gold.

Don't worry, this photo is of him being amazed that he landed his jump on his bike; and not of him holding his head because he smashed it against something.
The video  (see above) shows the actual jump.
It's no big deal really.

I mean, I wonder how he'd stack up against Hobbes in the Extreme Napping category?
Anybody can jump a bicycle.
Not everyone can nap like a cat.

 As his trainer, I help him learn the more eXtreme moves necessary to be a champion.
We train every night.
Sometimes I don't feel up to it, but Hobbes makes sure we train every.single.night.
If I'm not around, he finds someone else to help him train.

If I happen to forget, he comes and finds me.
He protests, loudly, at my mental lapse.
Which is cat speak for, "Stop what you're doing and come sit on the couch!  I must lay on your
 1) lap
2) hips
3) belly
4) long legs
Often, we practice all four moves in one evening.

He's very committed to his his sport.
I've got to respect that. 
When my body begins to become achy from the different positions needed for his training, I remember the sacrifices he has given to be a champion.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

When Is It Too Late to Take a Nap?

Hobbes has no troubles regarding naps.
He takes many.
He takes them often.
I assume he has no internal discussion regarding what time of day it is when he takes his naps.
"If I nap now, will I be able to sleep tonight?
It is 6:34 pm, and I am SO tired.
Probably has something to do with the simple carbs I ate---all day long.

So, is it too late take the nap I've been craving since 1pm?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Toxic Plants--How Many Species Do I Have In My Pasture?

Before last week, when getting donkeys was something I wasn't certain would ever happen, I pretty much ignored plants that I knew were poisonous to livestock.  
While doing a walk through of the pasture, I discovered I have more than I thought.
Chief among them is the Silverleaf Nightshade.
They just LOVE my septic field; which by my estimation is 200' x 100'.
I'll be hand mowing with a bagging mower.  

Silverleaf Nightshade

This plant is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to plants that are toxic to horses/donkeys.

Texas A&M University lists 57 plants as toxic to horses and donkeys alone.


Thankfully, they have a website where you can add and subtract things like animal, geographic location, flower colors, fruit colors, etc.
I weeded out (no pun intended) some things that don't apply to me and my list was narrowed to 48 plants.
Wow, I feel much better!

One plant ID'd, only 47 more to go.

On a brighter note, I'm very happy to do the work of getting rid of toxic plants.
The sooner I do it, the sooner I'll write a check and have the boys home!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

I Have Been Chosen

I have long held that my pets choose me.
I do my best to go into a situation where I am acquiring a new pet, to let nature take its course and let the animal come to me.
Today was no exception.

I went back to SiSu's ranch.
I took my two BFFs, Laureen and Deb with me.
I wanted their opinions on the two sets of donkeys that I was considering.

Clearly, the donkeys didn't care what Laureen or Deb or even I thought about the matter.
These boys, that don't know me from a hole in the wall, decided that snuggling was in order.
Later, I got a chair and we had a proper love fest---one where I wouldn't tip over backwards should they get too close.

Unless a new name becomes apparent for either donkey, I'll keep the names that SiSu gave them.
Digger (red/gray) is on my left and Wishbone (chocolate/black) is on my right.

I think I have been chosen.  
Which works out great, because I happen to think they hung the moon.

Now, I must get about the business of getting my place donkey ready and officially buy them.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

There Are Good People In the World

The woman on the left is Barbara.
These are not her donkeys.

These are her donkeys.
Five miniatures donkeys and one old Mammoth donkey named Willow.
Before last week, I didn't know Barbara.
She's a friend of a friend.
The story went something like this:

Friend: Hey, I know someone right here in Dripping Springs that has miniature donkeys.  Let me get in touch with her for you.  I'll tell her about you and your donkey search

Me: Okay (skeptically) 

Friend: No really, she'll help you find miniature donkeys.  She's like that.  She'll do anything for a stranger.

Me: Okay (skeptically still)

A couple weeks went by and my search for donkeys by myself was hitting dead end after dead end.
I finally bit the bullet and contacted Barbara to see if she had any leads.

Why would she help me?
She doesn't know me.

Good golly, I could not have been more wrong.
There really ARE nice people in the world.
People that will do things for you, even if they have nothing to gain from the interaction.
She stepped out in faith that I wasn't an ax murderer and now I'm very close to getting donkeys.

Barbara invited me to come to her house so she could drive us to a ranch, right here in Dripping Springs, that has miniature donkeys.

Many conversations later, we were on our way.
On our way to meet Sisu and her donkeys.
She raises them for show and for the mere pleasure of it.

I could immediately see why she and Barbara were friends. 

They are both beyond friendly.  So knowledgable and willing to share any insight they had regarding all things donkey.  
Both as genuine as folks get.
Eric would call them "salt of the earth".

My Mother-In -Love would call them "Good eggs".

Whatever saying fits best, I'm certain I have made new friends.
I'm also certain that I've found the ranch from which my donkeys will come.

Every single donkey I encountered could be approached and loved on.

Sisu brought up 2 pairs of male donkeys and several little Jennies.

The two you see in these pictures above are tiny little geldings.
The largest of the two is only 29 inches at the withers (shoulder).
She had already given them their summer haircuts.  

This is one of the jennies. 

These two boys were impossible to get proper pictures of.
They are both still jacks and still young at 2 years old.

They've been together since birth and are just like brothers.
Pushing and shoving for attention. Playful and full of life.
Even being jacks and young, I could still get them to quiet down, brush them and pick up all four of their feet.
The one that I have my hand on is large enough to one day pull a cart.
Hmmm, that's something to consider.

This tells you something about the nature of the relationship between Sisu and her donkeys.
The two donkeys you see in this picture and the one below are mother and daughter.
The foal was just born a few month ago.
Normally, a momma wouldn't let us anywhere near her baby.
Not so with Sisu's donkeys.

Here's another testament to the good-hearted and trusting nature of both Barbara and Sisu.
Barbara said, "Hey, you're welcome to bring a friend if you like."
I brought one of my two BFFs, Laureen.
Again, a total stranger being welcomed.

Barbara and Sisu spent several hours with us.
Sisu showed us all around her ranch and was a wealth of knowledge and good old southern hospitality.
She even gave me her gate code, "In case you come by and I'm not home.  Feel free to come visit the donkeys!"
She called me yesterday to reiterate that sentiment.

Barbara drove us back to her place, showed us all around, introduced us to her own donkeys and her sweet hubby.
She also shared her little secret garden where she keeps rescue turtles.
What's not to love about a woman who rescues turtles!?
Barbara called me this morning because her computer is down.
She called to give me the name of her vet, her farrier, and her two barn builders.

I look forward to a long friendship with both these women.
I only hope I can repay and reciprocate the the blessings they have bestowed on me.

They both give me a full heart, knowing there really are good people in the world.