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.]