Monthly Archives: February 2011

Little bluestem with iPhone

On February 26, Saturday last, when in the field, I applied the iPhone to take photographs and upload for a field test: short bursts of field notes and photographs as I surveyed 53 acres of Cross Timbers prairie, creek and woodland. I attempted to snap a photograph and upload it with commentary as I went about my survey. While in the field, miles from cell towers, I was unable to coordinate photos and commentary. In addition, the “thumbing” of data on the iPhone was too slow. I was absorbing data much, much faster than I could thumb the phone. I did send a few in-the-field updates onto my blog, but later trashed them. I composed a long post with photographs taken with the Nikon when I got back to the ranch office.  In the field I did not think the photographs had been uploaded.

Today, however, as I was going through the media library on Sage to Meadow blog, I discovered that the photographs with the iPhone had been uploaded! I uploaded one photograph twice, thinking it had not been uploaded the first time. And, here it is, Little bluestem grass that is coming back on the prairie.

Little bluestem grass, Pecan Tree Pasture, Flying Hat Ranch, Texas, February 2011.

I think the utility of the iPhone in field work is evolving.  It is portable and lighter than a camera.  Composing commentary can exceed 140 characters.  It’s not going to replace the steno pad and camera, but it may have some further use.  I like the idea of field work live, or with a minimum of time lapse, as a light and useful activity.

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Filed under Bluestem Field Log, Plants and Shrubs

High grass in the pasture 1:46 pm

Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), Flying Hat Ranch, Texas, February 2011.

[February 27, 2011, added comment.  In my field work, the constant tools (carried in pockets or small rucksack) are stenographer’s pad, pens, tape measure, compass, topographical map and watch.  Close by in the pickup are engineering graph tablets, colored flags, binoculars and camera.  The camera is ofttimes carried around the neck.  I have also been using a GPS lately.  I’ve not used a laptop in the field, but I can see its utility with uploaded topo maps and data entry.  The iPhone may have some applications in field work, but the fundamental tools are steno pad, topo map, compass and tape measure.]

The experiment with in-the-field short note taking has come to an end.  I am back up at the ranch office and am writing on the desktop, not the iPhone.

The use of the iPhone in the field for short bursts of updates works, but the photographic uploads into my blog via iPhone did not work.  Part of the problem is that our ranch is way out in the brush and our cell towers are at Bluff Dale and Morgan Mill, Texas, miles and miles away.  For any extended commentary, a laptop with a wireless connection is much preferable to the iPhone although I will try the iPhone mode again.

While in the field today I kept a written journal and took photographs with another camera.  I am posting the photographs of high grass in the pasture.  The Big bluestem is “big,” reaching six-feet tall.  The Little bluestem is about three-feet tall.  For now, enjoy the field photographs.

 

Unidentified duck taking flight from the stock pond.

Still waters on the stock pond, ducks have taken flight to Blue's pond to the north.

A typical Cross Timbers life zone that has been harvested and cut for several generations. The tree grove is rebuilding itself.

Big bluestem, Flying Hat Ranch, Texas, February 2011.

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Filed under Bluestem Field Log (Live)

Kiowa wind, grass, colors

Map of the Kiowa Territory in Western Oklahoma, 1833-1843, from Alice Marriott, The Ten Grandmothers, p. 15.

In 1944, Alice Marriott in her book, The Ten Grandmothers, recorded Kiowa Spear Woman’s narrative of the motion and color changes of prairie grasses.  The “Ten Grandmothers” are ten Kiowa medicine bundles.  The bundles still exist, but they have not been opened since the 1890s when the last person who had the right to see the contents died.

For Leah the south porch of the big house was the best part of home.  Here you could sit and watch sunrise or sunset; watch the shapes of the earth change and move as the sun moved.  Then you knew, when you sat out there, that the earth was alive itself.

Spear Woman sat beside her granddaughter and thought that the earth had gone dead.  Lights played and moved, and cloud shadows came and went, but the earth itself had somehow died.  It was all one color now; not like the old days when its shades really changed and flickered like flames under the wind.  She stirred and sighed and spoke.

When the buffalo moved across it, there were other colors and other lights.

The thought was near enough Leah’s own to startle her.  There are lots of colors there now.

Her father spoke behind them.  Not like there used to be.  In the days that even I remember, there was one color when the wind was from the north and another when it was from the south, one from the east and another from the west.  Now the grass is all one color on every side, and it doesn’t change with the wind.

Sometimes the colors change.  Down near Lawton there is a prairie where the grass takes different colors.

* * *

[Spear Woman insists they travel to Lawton (Fort Sill, Oklahoma), fifty miles away.]

She brought her best Pendleton blanket from the trunk and spread it over the seat.  She put on her very best clothes and painted her face….

Two lines of high, tight fence spread across the prairie from a gate, and Spear Woman sat stiff, suddenly.  What is that!  That is grass like the old days.  Real grass.  All different colors.

It was, too.  It was like changeable silk, the kind the Delawares used to trim their blankets.  Yellow as the wind struck it; rose-color as it died away; then a sort of in-between color, with patterns that moved like patterns in silk when you folded it….

Shade was not even in sight, and when they had driven through the gates, with the lines of the fence on either hand, it was still not easy to find.  Spear Woman didn’t care.  She sat and watched the grass turn over in the sun, flickering and bending and straightening like little campfire flames, and was happy.  It was the old kind of grass, the old, rippling, running prairies, even if there were fences.  She was glad her eyes were dim, because she didn’t always see the fences, and could forget about them.  It was all peaceful and alive again.

From Alice Marriott, The Ten Grandmothers, pp. 285-288.

* * *

When I was a boy, my grandmother drove between Brownwood and Bend, Texas, near San Saba to visit relatives.  I watched fields of grass sway in the wind on either side of the road, a narrow two-lane highway.  She would point out to me where she and her family had camped and where she had seen buckboard wagons ascend a hill along the creek, the hubs carving their initials along the cliffs.  I saw them and put my hands in wagon-hub grooves when we stopped to rest.  The prairie wind flowed over the grass, moving stems and leaves in a rhythm, a wave of motion like water I saw in Corpus Christi Bay.

* * *

Last year I planted six acres of native grasses in the Pecan Tree Pasture.  The grasses are native to the Cross Timbers of Oklahoma where Spear Woman found peace again, and the grasses are native to our ranch that is also designated as Cross Timbers.  The grasses in our pastures grow waist-high, chest-high in some areas, and when the prevailing wind, a southwest flow from Mexico, crosses the pastures, grasses move and bend and change color.  As I go up the road towards Huckabay, Texas, about six miles away, I always notice a very old stand of Bluestem that turns reddish-brown in the Fall and Winter, but becomes blue and green in the Spring.  The stand of Bluestem is only an acre in size and machines have not touched it in many years for it is on the side of a hill.  It is old, that family, and I care for it.  If I could move that acre of old Bluestem to my ranch, I would.  I can’t.  But I have planted its relatives in the Pecan Tree Pasture and there I shall attend to their health and growth.

______________________________

Notes:

The citation is: Alice Marriott, The Ten Grandmothers, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1945.  I have the fourth printing, October, 1951.  In the excerpt, I have omitted quotation marks and substituted italics for the spoken words.

Lawton, Oklahoma, is also the home of Fort Sill, Oklahoma, that is seen in the map above.  If you click on the map, then enlarge it with your computer, you can see more clearly the locations of encampments and the Sun Dance locations.  The Cross Timbers designation flows all the way down into Texas and includes our ranch, Flying Hat Ranch, Mingus, Texas.

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Filed under Flying Hat Ranch, Life in Balance, Life Out of Balance, Nature Quote of the Day

Lilly’s Mound: early Winter morning

 

Lilly's Mound in an early Winter morning at Flying Hat Ranch, Texas, 2011 (click to enlarge)

In the far background are the Twin Mountains of north Erath County, Texas, 1,400 feet. Ducks swim and feed upon and beneath the pond in the middle of the photograph even in this cold weather.  The gate opens into the arena pasture.  The small mound with cedar posts upon it, to the far, far left in the photograph (you may have to enlarge), is Lilly’s Mound, 1,065 feet.  The mound is small and does not stand out in the photograph — in fact, hardly noticeable — , but it is a meaningful part of this good earth to me and Brenda and Star.

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Filed under Cedar, Flying Hat Ranch, Horses, Juniper, Lilly, Star

New Mexico natural gas emergency

Here is a link with news about the natural gas emergency in Taos and Espanola, New Mexico.  The blog also has a list of the most recent articles and news concerning the Arctic blast in New Mexico.  If you use Twitter, @streamtaos is tweeting up-to-date items.

What’s The Word ?: Martinez dispatches more guardsmen to assist gas company.

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Filed under Life Out of Balance

Winter day of my content

Duck flight, Flying Hat Ranch, Texas, 2011

The temperatures rose to 35 degrees and the sun came out, melting the snow about the place.  Corrals turned to mud.  Meadow Lark, White-crowned Sparrow, and Chickadee scattered away from their emergency ration station in the barn alleyway and I turned Star out so that he could run about the pastures and go to the county road to visit his friends at the Nowack place.  I saw deer track along the grove lane and vowed to throw corn near the salt block tomorrow.

Star galloped through snow and mud to the pond and as we both made our way towards the barn, ducks flew upward from their browsing, but circled back to the pond, dousing their beaks, grasping algae and minnow.  A west wind blew across the snow and I wore sunglasses to reduce the glare of the sun.  After I fed Star, I walked up the hill to the house, strongly striding because cold air filled my lungs and I was content with Winter.

Star galloping, Flying Hat Ranch, Texas, 2011

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Filed under Ducks, Horses, Star

Cedar post traction

The weather remains cold, down to 12 degrees last night and up to 21 degrees at 3:00 p.m.  I do like Winter.

Since Tuesday, we have stayed put in the ranch house, burning pinion in the fireplace during the day, lowering the thermostat to 65 degrees in cooperation with emergency power issues in Texas.  The temperature is not expected to go above freezing until Saturday and another snowfall descends this evening.

Schools closed.  Our mail carrier, Jeannie Chisolm, told us this morning that the roads are treacherous on her route that encompasses county roads in Erath and Palo Pinto Counties.

I needed to make a mercy run to Interstate 20, five miles away, for supplies.  First, I had to put weight in back of the F-250.  The old “two-bales-of-hay-watered-down-and-frozen” ploy was not feasible.  Too cold and I didn’t want the hassle of clean up next week.  As a second option, I decided to load the F-250 with cedar posts in order to weigh the rear end down.  Actually, the wood used for fence posts is not cedar, but juniper.  The colloquial is “cedar,” however, and I’m not about to go to the “cedar” yard and ask for “juniper” posts — might result in fisticuffs about definition of terms. But, back to loading cedar.

It’s not as easy as it sounds.  First, I broke the ice around the barn doors with a flat shovel in order to drive the DX-55 Case-Farmall into the pasture where I stored the posts.  After the tractor warmed up, I loaded two big stacks of cedars into the front-end loader, sweeping some snow off the posts and observed Meadow Larks nearby, scratching for seed where the posts had rested.  I drove up the hill to the house.  I used a rubber hammer to dislodge the goose-neck ball from the bed of the pickup, as it had become frozen after the rain Monday evening.  I use the rubber hammer and vise-grips frequently in these times.

I dumped — very carefully — two loads of 6 to 9 inch cedar posts into the bed of the F-250, raising the front-end loader above the bed of the pickup and away from the back window.  I estimated the load to be about 800 pounds, sufficient to give traction on ice for the pickup.  I test drove the 250 up and down the lane.  Two loads seemed sufficient — it was.

Between our place and the interstate, a pickup had overturned and at least ten off-road events in the bar ditch had occurred.  Trucks on the interstate traveled in one lane at 15-20 m.p.h.  We bought our few supplies and came back to the house on the road with two inches of ice beneath several inches of snow.  The clerk at the Exxon station stated that the local propane dealer had run out of propane and his trucks could not resupply until the roads cleared.  There was no milk for sale — all sold out.

Back at the house, we settle in.  I give Star a loaf of hay to tide him over till supper.  Lottie our Schnauzer jumps up on the fireplace bench to warm herself after we relight the fire.  I look out and see cedar posts in the F-250 and I know in an emergency we can make the Palo Pinto Rural Health Clinic (PPRHC) in Gordon with cedar posts as weight in the back for traction.

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Filed under Adventure, Cedar, Flying Hat Ranch, Juniper

Snow and ice at Flying Hat

White-crowned Sparrows, Flying Hat, Texas, February 2011

Two nights ago, early Tuesday morning at 12:30 a.m., a rain storm followed by sleet and snow descended on our ranch. The wind blew, gusts to 50 m.p.h., and the temperature reached 10 degrees this morning.  Yesterday, I used the Case Farmall DX-55 tractor to pull our F-250 out of the lane that intersects County Road 114.  Beneath a snow of four inches, two inches of ice held fast to the ground and the F-250, being a two-wheeled drive, could not gain traction in the lane.  Brenda backed up the F-250 while I pulled with the Farmall.  We parked the pickup close enough to the electrical circuit at the house so that if necessary we could warm the engine with its electrical plug.

Yesterday, our rural mail carrier, Jeannie Chisolm, posted mail throughout her route using a four-wheeled drive Jeep.  I called her this morning for road conditions and she told me she became stuck one time yesterday as she delivered the last three mailboxes on her route.  She made it back to her home at 8:00 p.m. last night.  The road between Flying Hat and Interstate 20 is only passable with four-wheel vehicles or those with chains.

Star munches on hay and grain in the stable and I crunched some horse feed and threw it on the ground so White-crowned Sparrows could peck and fill themselves.

The State of Texas has declared a power emergency and seven-million people will begin to experience rolling blackouts to prevent an overload of the grid.  We have experienced no blackouts, but our Internet Provider, centered in Fort Worth, Texas, goes down infrequently.

Weather forecasts indicate below freezing temperatures through Friday at noon.  We have lowered our thermostat to 65 degrees and switched unnecessary electrical appliances to the OFF position.  We have a week’s supply of firewood stacked in the shed and oakwood windfall in the grove.

* * *

Additional comment:  We had a blackout at 11:25 a.m. for about forty minutes.

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Filed under Adventure, Flying Hat Ranch