Thursday, March 9, 2017

Spring in East Texas

     Spring is here in East Texas!  Pretty caterpillars are hatching and eating leaves, to be butterflies or moths in a few weeks. This beautiful little one is a tent caterpillar and if a bird doesn't snatch it for a quick meal it will turn into an obscure brown moth.

After it eats a lot of leaves and spins a cocoon in bark crevices, this pretty caterpillar (with toxic hairs) will be a White-Marked Tussock Moth.

     Birds and lizards are busy breeding, too. This male skink's head turns red during breeding season, but she's more interested in the fly to her right. He followed her for a long time, waiting for her consent.

     Hunting season has (finally!) ended, so I've begun weekly rides with Topaz in a 3,000 plus acre private forest. We've seen lots of migrating robins and purple martins; saw a couple of red-tailed hawks and a Bald Eagle, too. A special thrill was the discovery of a Great Blue Heron rookery. It's a magical spot where the normally solitary bird gathers with about 30 other herons, and a few neighborly Great White Egrets, to mate and build nests. Fuzzy photo below will be replaced soon with better photo; need patience and good weather/sunlight to get a worthy photo . . . . also need a horse that will stand quietly amongst the scents of feral pigs in the forest. More about feral pigs later.

     Lots of beautiful dogwood blooms, redbud blooms, along with not-so-beautiful green and yellow powdery pollen, and that wonderful baby green color of tiny tree leaves bursting out  . . .

 . . . and zillions of wildflowers popping up.

Topy loves the lush clover.

Have to tussel with her alittle to pull her head up.

     Farrier Mark gave Topy a pedicure recently. He puts each hoof between his knees to hold it still and trims her hoof walls first . .

      Then he puts each hoof on a stand and files the hoof wall edge with a metal file, making it smooth. The dogs LOVE to chew on discarded hoof walls!

     Lately on our rides, I've seen lots of feral pig activity in the forest; they root-up soil like a plow, in search of underground food sources, damaging trails and pastures and a local golf course. A local rancher flagged me down and showed me a photo on his phone of a very large feral pig (about 350 to 400 lbs?) that hunters had killed the night before using dogs to flush it out. I've been seeing many pig foot prints in the mud, but one pig foot print in the mud was pretty intimidating; twas about 4" width and deep enough to suggest at least more than a couple hundred pounds. The rancher told me there were 3 sightings of cougar, too.

We usually ride about 4 hours at an easy trot depending on trail conditions (below is video of our pace).

     In the video, I'm holding a bow up in the air. I happened upon a YouTube clip of horseback archery last fall (click here for amazing sport of horseback archery). On a dare from my sister, I decided to dip my toes into the sport.

     Good friend Archer John taught me how to shoot a kiddy bow and arrow (it pulls only 15 lbs since I lack upper body strength, his bow pulls 60 lbs). See how perfectly parallel our arrows are?

     But I discovered horseback archery is extremely difficult on a moving horse! Native Americans who galloped bareback using just leg pressure to guide the horse along side bison that are bigger and meaner than horses, with ready bow and arrows inches away from a stampeding herd, were extremely athletic, brave and strong! I suspect there were many deaths during those hunts. The famous painter of western scenes, Charles M. Russell, didn't glamorize Native Americans' buffalo hunts.

     Early this morning when I loaded Topaz at Sally and Boyce's ranch, Sally showed me a little lamb in her bath tub.

Sally was nursing it back to health for a granddaughter. The little guy was wearing a diaper.

Sally rescued another dog, too.

     Lady, a miniature Cocker Spaniel, is 10 years old, but it's a puppy-mill dog who's afraid of people due to its hardships in life. Eventually, Lady came out from behind the sofa but she doesn't like eye contact so I pretended I didn't see her.

     Speaking of rescued animals, neighbor Chef Jim disavows ownership but he's been feeding a feral kitty who remains an outdoor cat. He recently had Meow spayed (left ear tip was clipped, procedure done by Texas Litter Control). She can purr like Karen Carpenter (click image below to hear her).

     Always enjoy Winter and Spring in Texas. But come next month I look forward to mothballing my cottage and saddle, and packing La Lair for another summer of traveling adventures north of Texas.  Anxious to hit the road and explore!

     PS: One of those caterpillars decided to spin a cocoon in the crevice of my cottage's trim/siding. I almost removed it but felt sorry for it because it was working so hard . . . it spinned an outer web as an anchor, and then it started its cocoon inside the anchored web.

     And about three hours later, it was finished. What's amazing to me, it camouflaged its cocoon by making it the same color as my painted wood frame cottage!