Robert Macfarlane: why we need nature writing

A new “culture of nature” is changing the way we live – and could change our politics, too.

Source: Robert Macfarlane: why we need nature writing


Filed under Life in Balance, Nature Quote of the Day, Nature Writers, Nature Writing Series

Rain at Flying Hat in central Texas

Within the last month, rain fell on central Texas and upon my place, Flying Hat Ranch, or ranchito.  My former professor, Donald Worcester of TCU, used to say of his 142 acres near Fort Worth was a “ranchito,” due to its size and to the calculations of John Wesley Powell, noted surveyor of the West in the nineteenth century, who opined that a ranch in the semi-arid West should be at least 2,560 acres to run cattle and attain self-sufficient for a family.  So, notwithstanding a definition of terms, my 53 acre ranchito has received rain.  And, we are forecast for more rain starting at 4:00 p.m. today.

Since the flourishing of grass and trees this spring, I have observed large eruptions of milkweed.  More milkweed has grown about the pastures and especially the roadways, such as Texas State Highways 16 and 114, than I have ever seen since moving here in 2000.  In certain places, where I would seasonally see ten blossoms of milkweed, I now see a hundred.  Monarch butterflies, however, have not passed by here.  I see one or two in my grove, but no more than that–for now.

Rain and milkweed abound.  Yet, there is a different caliber of field news.  Worms have destroyed many elm trees on the ranchito.  I saw an elm tree covered in worm strands down by the grove, encased like a cocoon.  I have not counted the loss precisely, but my elm tree loss is between fifty and a hundred trees.  Some elms survived the worm infestation and remain hardy; others have partially damaged limbs.  I shall bring out the axe and chainsaw to harvest the dead trees.

I am closing with a video of my petting a wild, juvenile cottontail rabbit.  I have seen its parents in the tall grass, not far from where I rescued the roadrunner from the water trough.  Yes, I know as you do, cycles of life and death on ranches, farms, cities, and this good earth.  And, lately, rain has fallen.


Filed under Flying Hat Ranch, Salt Creek, Texas

Milkweed for Monarchs at My Place


Milkweed Clusters

I have located three milkweed clusters since 2003 on my place–central Texas, Erath County. Today I sought the three clusters again, one directly in front of the house, one alongside the road to the barn, and the cluster in the far field, one-quarter of a mile away. I found only the cluster photographed above–the cluster beside the road to the barn.  I found no milkweed in the far field nor in the front yard.  I believe that this spring has been mild so far and some heat is needed to bring out other patches of milkweed. Today, as I walked the fields, I discovered a large Monarch in the grove that soared out of the grass and into the sky above the trees.  A huge Monarch, one the largest I have ever seen.  Then as I finished my field trip, in the front yard, a Monarch flitted above the cut-leaf daisy and lawn grass. Two Monarchs, one patch of milkweed that has ten clusters of blossoms (you can only see seven in the above photograph)–definitely an event to be recorded for 2015. I will continue to monitor the milkweed and Monarchs, posting the field trips I take to far and near fields on my place.



Filed under Life in Balance, Monarch Butterfly

Spring at Flying Hat: The Constant and the Transient

   It is spring at my place, Flying Hat Ranch or Ranchito, and I am not sad, even though it is said, “April is the cruelest month.”  I understand the sadness and lament, but yesterday I took several photographs of the constant and the transient forms on Flying Hat.

The constants are the live oaks and yucca.  You see them, they seem always present, but the blossoms of plants erupt, then fade out.  They are the “transients.”

Yet, as the blossoms drop off, transient as they are, I know their roots and stems remain.  That is constant, and given another year about this earth, I will see them again.

Transient, though I may be.



Filed under Flying Hat Ranch, Life in Balance

Rosemary and Star

IMG_3308Here in central Texas, Erath County, we remain in a drought.  Since Christmas, however, rain has fallen and we do not have to boil our water before drinking.  The date for near-complete water extinction has been extended into the future.  No specific date for extinction has been given, but the February 15th date for extinction is no longer in effect.

In the photograph above, I hold a rosemary blossom, indicative of moisture in the air and soil about the large rosemary bush on the west side of the ranch house.  The scent of rosemary lingers on my fingers as I type.  I use the rosemary for several recipes, but I favor its use when I prepare a sauce for steaks or lamb chops.

* * *

Before Christmas, my good horse Star died of colic.  The old boy was fourteen years old and in his becoming ill, the first veterinary I called to the ranch said he was a strong, stoical horse in that he did not lash out at us, his handlers.  Star was diagnosed at six in the evening and had to be put down at two o’clock the next morning at the Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery compound in Weatherford, Texas, where he was surrounded by three female veterinarians who took control and managed his passing.  Without being sentimental, I still look out my porch windows, even today, to see where Star is in the pasture.  Is he loafing under the mesquites?  I know he is not there, but I still look.


Star Bars Moore will be just fine.

Star Bars Moore APHA 808164, loafing in arena pasture under mesquites.

Star Bars Moore APHA 808164, loafing in arena pasture under mesquites.



Filed under Life in Balance, Plants and Shrubs, Star

Merry Christmas from Sage to Meadow!

I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Rain fell and our reservoir will last (current analysis) until February 15. Enough water fills the cow tank so ducks feed and socialize.

The longhorn painting hangs above my daughter’s fireplace in Lubbock, Texas.


Filed under Birds, Canvasback, Christmas, Ducks, Redhead Duck

December clouds at Flying Hat


I am sitting on my back porch, looking south, into high cirrus clouds.


Filed under Uncategorized

‘Hanna Ranch’ Wrangles With Environmental Issues

Currently, I am wrestling with water restrictions imposed by Barton Water Cooperative. My area is in a drought. Yet, so, I have green grass in all my fields for I have not allowed over-grazing by neither horses nor cattle.

Kirk Hanna sought to employ a holistic environmental approach to cattle ranching. His struggles are detailed in this documentary, “Hanna Ranch.” See also the link within the article to the Holistic Resource Management site, originating on the savannas of Africa.

“This Colorado cattle rancher — a featured personality in Eric Schlosser’s 2001 best seller “Fast Food Nation” — was a forward-thinking cowboy who embraced Holistic Resource Management, a fruitful approach that, among other things, encourages herding methods less stressful to cattle and a more frequent rotation of livestock through pastures. Mr. Hanna used earth-friendly natural fertilizer; to attack weeds, he employed hungry goats.”

See more on the New York Times link.

‘Hanna Ranch’ Wrangles With Environmental Issues –

A scene from

Kirk Hanna


Filed under Life in Balance

Merry Christmas to you from Sage to Meadow!

A December day two years ago.

A December day two years ago.

Merry Christmas everyone from Sage to Meadow!  I wish you a happy holiday season and a prosperous New Year!


Filed under Life in Balance

Sage blossom and sky noir


A mid-morning rain fell on the place. The air is cool, almost cold, and the sky has not cleared and probably will not this day. This photograph shows a break in the clouds towards the south, the town of Stephenville, lying about nineteen miles away. My mother came to Stephenville–I tagged along–and bought plants at Wolfe Nursery. The nursery had a large sign of a wolf that signaled the entry to the nursery that encompassed acres and acres of tended trees and several hothouses.


The rain caused an eruption of this blossom upon the sage near the house.

Fall has come to the place, the farm, the ranchito, the people of Sims Valley, and all the wildlife abounding.


Filed under Life in Balance, Plants and Shrubs, Recollections 1942-1966, Uncategorized