As I finished throwing hay to Star, I saw this sunlight in stalls and thought it artful.
Category Archives: Flying Hat Ranch
In walking down to the stables to feed Star this morning, I paused and looked towards the east, the rising sun flared by fog, and I shot this photograph of yucca, fog, dew and a couple of blossoms of verbena (click the photograph to enlarge). Three terraces gird the ranch house and each level has families of yucca that hold the soil about the landscape and prosper in well-drained soil for their health.
The temperature briefly holds in the middle 60s as I look at this scene. I dwell on it as I write this post and think of the moisture upon green grasses and yucca. So different from this time last year as fires broke out across Texas, consuming dried grasses, brittle brush and wildlife unable to flee. Today is different, substantially so, with recent rains and low temperatures. The fire ban is off for Erath County. I see an abundance of wildflowers and I inhale the air suffused with humidity and perfumed with fresh grasses.
This ‘yucca morning’ will last in my senses for a long, long time, and I possessively want the moment to stand still as I look east towards the rising sun, flared by fog, that shall warm the day and send fresh grass shoots skyward.
URGENT – WEATHER MESSAGE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FORT WORTH TX 206 PM CST SUN JAN 22 2012 …A WIND ADVISORY IS IN EFFECT FOR MOST OF NORTH TEXAS THROUGH 7 PM… .A POTENT UPPER LEVEL SYSTEM MOVING NORTH OF THE REGION IS SPREADING VERY STRONG AND GUSTY WINDS FROM WEST TO EAST ACROSS THE REGION. WEST TO SOUTHWEST WINDS WILL BE SUSTAINED FROM 20 TO 35 MPH WITH GUSTS OF 40 TO 50 MPH. THE STRONGEST WINDS WILL OCCUR IN THE AREA GENERALLY ALONG AND WEST OF INTERSTATE 35/35E.
I read the weather forecast last night, fearing an outbreak of fire with such oxygen rushing through dry brush and grass. From the back porch, I see eight miles to the Cross Timbers hills and ridge lines toward Stephenville and Hannibal. Neither smoke nor fire can be seen, only dust and the affect of wind.
I seek to take photographs that will reflect the aridity, the drought conditions as well as today’s fierce wind. As I have written before in another post, if you wait for the wind to die down or cease in Texas to work, you will never get anything done. True. A good pair of sunglasses and sunscreen provide protection as well as a sense of humor to work and play here in central West Texas. To play hard and lose one’s self, one forgets the wind.
In the 1970s, at holidays with family in the Panhandle, near Canyon, Texas, we played football after dinner (served at noon), and we played with windy conditions. Across a large front yard providing turf for, say, forty yards of a playing field, we had to compensate for the strong prevailing winds out of the southwest or northwest — low, short passes. The teams were co-ed and young wives and female cousins ran and fought for every yard along side their husbands and relatives — one female cousin became a colonel in the Marines. Touch football rules prevailed, sometimes flag football with a bandanna hanging out of our blue jeans. The wind begone, we played anyway. Of course, we forgot about the cold and wind as we played together at Thanksgiving, Christmas and once in the summer.
Here at the ranchito, the wind blows today, but there are no contests in the front yard, only birds tucked fast in the branches of the live oaks or nestled in pasture grass. Here are some photos I took about an hour ago.
From the back terrace, I shot a thirty-second video of the landscape to the southeast. Not much excitement in the footage, but it’s the middle of Winter.
- Wait for the wind to stop? You’ll never get anything done in Texas! (swamericana.wordpress.com)
- October in Texas: dusting and sunflowers (swamericana.wordpress.com)
I have kept this late evening photograph of the feed bin with clouds for several weeks. I like the symmetry of the tree line, feed bin, hills and clouds. The feed bin I bought at Gore Bros. Feed Store in Comanche, Texas, a store my family had patronized for fifty years. When it was said at the breakfast table that we were going to Comanche to pick up some “cow cake,” it was understood that Gore Bros. was the destination. Most of my ranch equipment has been purchased from their ranch supplies area, i.e., feed bins, water troughs, hay racks. The lime green color of the feed bin, the dark grasses and the white clouds compose a very simple photograph that I think is appealing. Of course, as we all know, there is no accounting for taste.
The first summer I lived on my ranchito, the summer of 2004, I hired Cody Scott to plant native grass seeds in my far pasture, the Pecan Tree Pasture that lay between Barton Creek and Salt Creek. Last summer I reseeded the pasture with native grass seeds and wildflowers. The upshot of these two distributions has been a resurgence of bluestem, side-oats gramma, buffalo grass, coneflowers, Indian blankets and vetch. Frankly, I held no longitudinal goal other than to provide habitat food for cattle, horses and wildlife.
Frank Waters of The Man Who Killed The Deer (1942) fame wrote that the proper relationship of a person to the land was to “live with the land,” not on it, but with the land. Living with the land has been an axiom for me, a mantra for many years. A U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers’ Bulletin No. 2035, “Making Land Produce Useful Wildlife,” provides me guidelines to live with the land. By way of full disclosure, I do not make my living raising cattle or horses, but teaching at a junior college in Abilene, so my basic approach to my ranchito is sustaining the land, not cropping, leasing or planting. That being said, I integrate what I have learned with horses, cattle and the land into my lectures.
The land is my teacher and all things upon it instruct, from thistles under juniper to even — I hesitate to write this — the mesquite.
So, a few tips from “Making Land Produce Useful Wildlife,” by Wallace L. Anderson, biologist, Soil Conservation Service, I list below.
To support a high wildlife population, a farm or ranch must have a plentiful supply of good food close to cover that furnishes protection from enemies and weather. And it must be available in all seasons of the year….
Pastureland practices harmful to wildlife are uncontrolled burning, overgrazing, and complete clean mowing early in the season….
There are three essentials to good cover for wildlife — grasses, weeds, stubble, and other low-growing plants for nesting and roosting; dense or thorny shrubs for protection from predators, for loafing, and for nesting; and, in the North, clumps of evergreens or other tall dense cover for winter protection.
Mesquite thorns, poisonous plants and cacti also abound along the fence rows in the far field. I have bull nettle, a stinging plant to the touch, but it has medicinal properties. The nightshade plant that many define as a weed has been used to treat snakebite erupts along the corral. And the few cedar trees, cut and harvested year after year prior to my ownership, their posts for sale in Mingus and Palo Pinto, are defined more appropriately as “juniper” provide berries for birds, aroma for incense and luscious shade from the sun. I shan’t be cutting cedar breaks or juniper. All this in the far field allows the flourishing of wildlife close to me, close to you, close to us all.
[In my next post, I will write about the mesquite tree that is close to us all here in the bush.]
About our place, rain has fallen the last two days. For us the fire danger is gone.
Storms knocked out our internet provider.
This is a text message via wireless. Our IP does have a dialup number as backup and I will use it if necessary.
Yucca blossoms are on the way. A roadrunner darted across the Well House Corral. Queen Ann’s Lace erupts overnight. The pond is up.
Wind sounds, April 19, 2011, on Flying Hat Ranchito beneath evergreen live oaks. Turn up your volume to hear bird calls and wind through live oaks. A bit of a respite from the last few days. The wind increases in volume. Shadows of leaves on the ground.
This Sunday is another day of remaining alert for smoke in west and central Texas. Fire Weather Warnings have been issued. Red flags are flying.
Before we focus at noon until late evening on possible wildfires, errands are run and Star, our paint gelding is fed.
Star is out of isolation for rabies since Friday. Now, after two weeks of isolation, he can once again nuzzle his horse neighbors next door and set his huge neck upon my shoulder. Here is a photo of Star taken last week.
So that is some of the good news here on Flying Hat Ranch or “Ranchito” as Donald Worcester, a deceased friend of mine, used to call his 142 acres near Fort Worth.
Unfortunately, later today we have to work with the following forecast from the National Weather Service:
URGENT – FIRE WEATHER MESSAGE…UPDATED NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FORT WORTH TX 436 AM CDT SUN APR 17 2011 TXZ091-092-100gt;103-115gt;119-129gt;134-141gt;147-156gt;162-174-175-171800- /O.CON.KFWD.FW.W.0014.110417T1700Z-110418T0100Z/ MONTAGUE-COOKE-YOUNG-JACK-WISE-DENTON-STEPHENS-PALO PINTO-PARKER- TARRANT-DALLAS-EASTLAND-ERATH-HOOD-SOMERVELL-JOHNSON-ELLIS- COMANCHE-MILLS-HAMILTON-BOSQUE-HILL-NAVARRO-FREESTONE-LAMPASAS- CORYELL-BELL-MCLENNAN-FALLS-LIMESTONE-LEON-MILAM-ROBERTSON- 436 AM CDT SUN APR 17 2011 …RED FLAG WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM NOON TODAY TO 8 PM CDT THIS EVENING… A LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM IS EXPECTED TO DEEPEN ACROSS THE TEXAS AND OKLAHOMA PANHANDLES LATER TODAY RESULTING IN GUSTY SOUTHERLY WINDS. SOUTHERLY WINDS 15 TO 25 MPH WITH GUSTS TO 35 MPH CAN BE EXPECTED ALONG WITH HUMIDITY VALUES AROUND 20 PERCENT. THE COMBINATION OF GUSTY WINDS…LOW HUMIDITY…AND DRY FUELS WILL LEAD TO DANGEROUS FIRE WEATHER CONDITIONS THROUGH EARLY EVENING. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… A RED FLAG WARNING MEANS THAT EXTREME FIRE WEATHER CONDITIONS ARE EITHER OCCURRING NOW…OR WILL SHORTLY. A COMBINATION OF STRONG WINDS…LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITY…AND DRY VEGETATION WILL CREATE EXPLOSIVE FIRE GROWTH POTENTIAL. AVOID ALL OUTSIDE BURNING AND WELDING TODAY. DO NOT TOSS LIT CIGARETTE BUTTS OUTSIDE. REPORT WILD FIRES TO THE NEAREST FIRE DEPARTMENT OR LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICE.
In the city, look out for the bus. In the country, what doesn’t sting or bite you will stick you — wasps, mosquitoes, mesquite thorns or worse. Still, I had rather be out in the country and take my chances.
Rabies in horses is rare, but on the Bryant place, across the fence to the south of us, two horses were put down because one of them had a full-blown case of rabies. Its companion horse had not displayed rabies symptoms, but Erath County authorities ordered it killed as it had no rabies vaccination documentation. One was euthanized Thursday, March 24, and the other unfortunate horse this Thursday, March 31. The first horse exhibited rabies symptoms and the vet took tissue samples that confirmed the disease. The Bryants are having to take rabies shots since they were in close contact with the horse.
My paint gelding, Star, had been staying in the front pastures away from the Bryant place until last Sunday, March 27. For two days, Star had infrequent contact with the second horse over the fence that had been killed. Since rabies can be transmitted via mucous interchange, it is a very serious situation for Star.
Star had been inoculated against rabies in 2009, and last week before the contact with the Bryant horse he had been given his rabies shot for 2011. Our veterinarian, Dr. Skeet Gibson of Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery, Weatherford, says the 2011 inoculation has not gone into full effect, and the 2009 inoculation begins to diminish in effectiveness after a year-and-a-half. But since Star had no contact with the rabid horse — only the companion horse that had been killed — the chances were slim that any transmission had taken place.
Nonetheless, the vet said to isolate Star for two weeks and minimize my contact with his muzzle and mucous discharges, look for symptoms (not eating, behavior changes, etc.) and contact my personal physician for advice.
I called our personal physician immediately and neither I nor Brenda will be required to take rabies shots unless Star is rabid. Star will probably be okay, but isolation and observation is imperative.
And just how did I find out about this whole issue of rabies next door? My neighbors to the east that have horses called me Thursday, March 31, to inform me of the euthanizing, and they have no land contiguous with the Bryants! They called to alert me as a fellow horseman. Neither the Bryants nor the Erath County authorities had contacted me. Had I been informed last week, I would not have allowed Star to go to the far pasture — Pecan Tree Pasture. As it is now, we are having to take measures to determine disease contact that may, in the end, be fatal to Star, although I repeat it is doubtful.
Within an hour after the Halls called me and I had visited with the Bryants to find out the facts, I went across the county road to inform a fellow horseman of the situation. In the country, we must work together. I choose to do so.