Category Archives: Field Log

Quail and deer lease my field

Deer skull with prairie grass (2011).

Temperatures reached 102 degrees yesterday.  Work slows or stops at 11:00 a.m.  Winds blew fierce, reaching 40 m.p.h. in gusts.  Yet, the pastures are green, the grass not browning for the moment.

* * *

Two days ago I shredded several narrow paths about the pastures.  I do not shred fields or pastures.  As I shredded a narrow path around the edges of Pecan Tree Pasture, I flushed a bobwhite quail.  Just one quail, but it is significant for quail habitually cluster in coveys.  Quail have disappeared in large portions of the area from hunting, shredding pastures, cropping and the spread of fire ants that kill young chicks.  I have reseeded the Pecan Tree Pasture with native grass and allowed the field to remain fallow for several years.  If I see more quail — the late sighting proving to not be an isolated occurrence — I will conclude I have done well in partial restoration of a native habitat.

* * *

Yesterday I sighted three mature deer and a fawn between the grove and the stock pond.  It is odd that their color is so pale brown, almost yellow, against the greenery of Spring.  Deer return, quail flush.  The fawn pranced.

* * *

As I sat on the back porch yesterday afternoon, a cattleman from Gordon knocked on the door.  He wanted to lease the pasture that I had flushed the quail and seen the deer — a monthly lease depending upon the number of cattle he would place.  I refused.  I told him that I would probably run a few head myself.  He stated that he had seen no cattle on the pasture and that’s why he had inquired.  I took his card and he said he was looking for pasture within ten miles of Gordon, so that if I heard of any land available for rent, please let him know.  I politely said I would.

Other inquires will follow this Spring.  They always do from cattlemen or harvesters of grass.  And, I always refuse and politely explain that I have the pasture for horses or a few head of cattle.  I have not run any cattle for four years.  I may put a few on the land this Spring, but not many and they will not disturb either deer or quail.  In the field, the Big Bluestem grass will be higher than the withers of horse and rump of cattle.

* * *

I had to kill a copperhead in the barn two days ago.  I knelt down to air up a tire and moved a salt block receptacle to position myself and a copperhead lay under the receptacle.  I will be cleaning out the barn early next week.  I had planned to do so — in fact I had moved six boxes of books to my office in Abilene a week ago –, but the danger of snake bite spurs me sooner to glean the barn.  My air conditioner repairman and contractor lost part of a finger last year from a copperhead bite.  For some reason, we have more copperheads in this portion of north Erath County, Texas, than most areas.

* * *

The photograph at the beginning of the post was taken over at Pecan Tree Pasture about where the solitary bobwhite was sighted.  I was observing the growth of native grasses a month ago and happened across the deer skull with horns.  I consider myself keenly observant of objects in my field of sight, but the grass has grown so high, secrets are undisclosed unless one tramps the land.  The skull remains in situ.  I like the simplicity, the complexity intertwined: deer, native grasses, treeline.

The field wholly remains in situ, lightly touched, deeply felt.



Filed under Birds, Deer, Field Log, Life in Balance

Field notes 3/22/2011 — diamondback and monarch

Winds sustained at 22 m.p.h.  Highway travel to Abilene slowed.

Yeller, our Aussie-Lab mix dog, sat in the hallway in front of the glass door leading to the outside porch.  He growls deeply, the deepest and most sustained growl I have ever heard from him.  I go to the front door, thinking Yeller has alerted us to a strange dog or our resident lizard that comes across the front porch.  Yeller growls deeper.  On the porch, I see a four-foot rattlesnake slithering next to the closed glass door, six inches from his nose.

The glass door separates Yeller and us from the rattlesnake.  Brenda gets Yeller and Lottie, our Schnauzer, away from the door and takes them into another room, away from what must happen.  I grab the Remington 12 gauge and run around to the front door and dispatch the snake quickly, angling the shot to prevent blowback.  We are unnerved since no rattlesnakes — other snakes have been left alone — have been seen around our house since we moved here in 2003.

I must make sure the grass is cut about the house and piles of brush are placed at a distance away from the yard.  We have become complacent and need to sharpen our senses.

Later this afternoon, I see a lone monarch butterfly sitting on our wild verbena in the front field, a hundred-feet away from the front porch event a hour before, feasting on nectar, gently folding and unfolding the wings.

I am not sure what to make of monarchs, diamondbacks, dogs and all of this that comes across my field.  I am saddened and must do what needs to be done to be safe and live.  This day, March 22, 2011, has been filled with many things I do not understand.

* * *


[From Backpacker, June 2000.]  Sure, carrying a hiking stick makes me look like a rugged mountain man, but it also helps me in more pedestrian ways. By easing the load on my knees and shoulders, it helps me chew up big miles, plus I can tiptoe across loose rocks, slippery logs, and rushing streams without a wobble. Here’s how to create your own personalized staff.

1. Search your local forest for a downed branch that’s stout, straight, and preferably, blemish-free (no obvious cracks or big knotholes). The stick should reach your armpit and measure 1 to 2 inches in diameter.

2. Remove twigs with a pocketknife and strip the bark if you want. Round off sharp points or level knobs with a plane or file. Hold the stick as though you’re hiking (your elbow should form a right angle) to figure out where your grip will be– 2 to 3 inches below the top. Customize the grip by cutting shallow grooves for your fingers like those on a steering wheel. Just above the grip area, drill a 1/4-inch hole for a wrist loop. Smooth the surface of the stick first with coarse, then fine, sandpaper.To remove residual sawdust, wipe the stick with a rag dipped in paint thinner.

3. Decorate the stick with carvings, wood burnings, paintings, emblems or bear bells. If the wood is still green, place it in a warm, dry location to cure for at least 2 weeks, and rotate it often to prevent bowing.

4. Apply two coats of wood stain, allowing each coat to dry overnight, to give the stick a darker, richer hue. Then apply three coats of clear urethane varnish to seal the wood and prevent rot. Allow each coat of varnish to dry overnight. Sand the stick lightly with very fine sandpaper or steel wool after each coat.

5. Thread a 2-foot piece of rawhide lace or heavy cord through the hole. Adjust the length of the loop to fit your wrist, tie the ends in a big knot to secure the loop, then trim the ends as necessary.

Wood is a fickle creature, so remember that hiking sticks are born as much as they are made. –Jonathan Dorn



“Making Your Own Walking Stick,” Backpacker magazine, June 2000.


Filed under Adventure, Diamondback Rattlesnake, Field Log

Long shadows soaring

Long shadows in the grove

This afternoon I decide to walk into field, grove and far pasture of native grass.  The walk.  What propels me, anyone, to walk into the raw material of nature?  Flying up in my face are three urges: what is changing out there?  Who is out there?  And, what is the surprise, the non-contingent event, large or small, that will stop me, stop us, and reveal the universal in the particular?

Before I walk into the field, from the house on top of Poprock Hill, with the aid of binoculars, I count approximately ten ducks, mallards mostly, feeding at the south end of the stock pond, the same pond that Star, my paint gelding, and his mother, Lilly, drink and cool their feet in mud.  The pond is low this December, the water line two feet below the cockle-burr plants I must root out next Spring.

I walk through the alleyway of the barn and through the two corrals, striding slowly next to the fence line of the Dooleys, our neighbors to the west.  Their stock pond is also low.  Yesterday morning, I heard a lone coyote call and yip near the pond.  (After dark tonight I heard the same coyote near the Dooley pond.)  I walk past the pond, counting vultures and crows in the air.  I see the gray, cocked-tufted, long-tailed bird that builds nests on barn light reflectors, pulling horse hair around the nests, dabbing the nest with feathers and mud.   I must pull down my Peterson and type it when I can.  I walk beside the west fence line, away from the mallards on the pond so as to keep them feeding, turning as they do upside down, their rumps fully exposed, their heads plunging and bills nibbling below the surface for tadpoles and moss.

I see that deer have been licking the salt block I put out last summer in the grove.  I do not see deer in the late evening so they must come after dark.  I see deer hoof prints abounding, more than I have seen in months.  The soil is hard packed from the lack of rain, but hardly any dust is stirred up for the wind is slight and cool from the east.  I believe when the deer walk down the pasture road, their small hooves stir up dust.  The horses and deer as well ducks browse and feed in close vicinity.  I have seen Star and Lilly wade up to their ankles in pond water while five feet away mallards dunk each other and dive for food.  The deer browse for grass alongside the horses.

In the tree grove alongside the creek, I notice shadows of trees are long, but it is only two o’clock in the afternoon.  This makes me fully aware, these long shadows, that it is nearly Winter and that the sun sinks lower towards the south until December solstice, a few days away.  In the low underbrush, two wrens feed, each starting at the top of the bush and making their way down towards the ground, spiraling downward, gravity’s pull upon their browsing.  I was aware of the calendar, December it is, but the natural effect of being outdoors and seeing the long, long shadows of elm, ash and oak force my day into the truth of the season changing to Winter.

As I walk with short breaths up the road and into the edge of the far field of native grass, I hear the surprise.  I hear the call of the Sandhill Crane above me — a gentle warble of sorts — and I look intently, but cannot see the flock flying south.  I hear them, once, twice, three times.  I take a photograph of side-oats grama grass, turn around, retrace my path, avoiding the mallards on the stock pond still quacking, and come home.

I come home because I have seen what is out there and what is changing.  And, I have been surprised at life soaring in the wild.



The date of hearing the coyote at night is December 8, 2010.  This post was composed the next day.

The bird in the barn alleyway is most likely a flycatcher.  I looked it up in the Petersen, but could not find a precise description or photo.

Correction: “Sandhill” Crane, not Sandhills.  Also, “grama” grass, not gramma grass.


Filed under Field Log, Life in Balance

Listening to the Fredericksburg Cypress

Mexican Cypress tree on Thanksgiving Day (2010)

Earlier today, I wrote the post below about identifying the tree pictured in this post.  I have since identified it as a Mexican Cypress tree.  Brenda and I drove back to the tree before we had our Thanksgiving dinner at August E’s in Fredericksburg, and as soon as we rounded the corner, she said, “That’s a cypress.”  I snapped more photographs and have factored attributes so that I am reasonably confident that this is a Mexican Cypress.  Other exotic nomenclature includes Montezuma Bald Cypress, Sabino, Ahuehuete and Cipres.

* * *

On one plane, I identify the tree because it is scientific to do so, giving a living thing a name that can be recognized across the community of naturalists so as to place it, give it provenance.  It is curiosity that prompts me to go back to this living, breathing organism and know its name, history and classic place in the scientific literature.  I might, in researching, find that this Mexican Cypress has healing qualities from its sap, its perfume.  It may even be a thing I would lace about my neck so that its scent alleviates anguish, propelling kinship with an organism that does not march across Texas, but sits still, in the yard of an old German land grant, most patient, most alive and most still.

On another plane, different and perhaps redemptive, is the search for connection in nature, in a world that seems so repelled by these things — trees, wild animals, un-managed waters — that all things wild are seen as a cropping, a harvesting opportunity.  I find that the cypress tree tells me something 1000 fathoms deep in the sea.  It says, I am the shade for your cattle, for your family reunions and my timber will eventually be your table, even your fire to warm you.  But, I will do those things only if you choose me to do so.  I will remain complacent and here until that day you choose to use me or ignore me in your work.

The cypress tree is named Mexican Cypress and is forty-feet tall, but it tells us something beyond the graph paper of science.  Are we listening?

The following photographs were snapped on Thanksgiving Day, my second effort at identification, giving rise to the above post.


The post that follows below was written earlier today.

Before identification, one of two photographs that started the identification process (photographed the day before Thanksgiving, 2010).

In 1846, German immigrants settled Fredericksburg, Texas.  They brought seed and domesticated animals, planting corn most quickly.  I am in the town — population about 4,000 — and have been walking through older sections of town and I came upon this tree, pictured above.  It’s a most unusual tree, but I live 180 miles north of here in another life zone, so I am unaccustomed to the botany here.  I will continue this post later today or early in the morning with more photographs, but for now I am stumped on the identification of the tree.  I only have two photographs and the above shot is the best and it’s not all that good artistically or for the field record.  It’s all I have at the moment.  I did not get stimulated to type this until I couldn’t find botanical attributes quickly.

At this moment, I have one possibility:

Montezuma Bald Cypress, Mexican Cypress, Sabino, Ahuehuete, Cipres
Taxodium mucronatum Description: Montezuma Bald Cypress is found from the Rio Grande River south to Guatemala, although it is uncommon to rare in Texas. The main difference between Montezuma Bald Cypress and Baldcypress is that Montezuma Baldcypress is evergreen and the male flowers are borne in long racemes, whereas common Baldcypress is deciduous and the male flowers are in short clusters. Since the extreme southern part of the state is the northernmost of its range, it has difficulty surviving winters farther north than San Antonio.

Fredericksburg is within the life zone for this tree.  What has me thrown off is the trunk of the tree that appears oak.  It may be a graft?

More later today.



Information from Native Trees of Texas, Texas A&M University, see link on my pages.

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Filed under Field Log

Field Log 9/21/2010 (Quail)

North Erath County, Texas, Lat 32.43 N, Long -98.36 W, elev. 1,086 ft. Turkey Creek Quad.

One week ago, 9:00 a.m., I flushed a large covey of quail to the west of the ranch house.  They were feeding under the live oak tree.  A single quail sighted a week before the flushed covey.  Relinquishing pastures to native grass may have induced quail browsing.

Two mornings ago at 5:00 a.m. while walking the Yeller and Lottie, I heard a deer snort over the fence on the Dooley place.

Solitary white cow bird sighted two days ago.  Cow birds feed with horses in early spring.

The four inches of rain two weeks ago has caused greening of all pastures.  Pasture grasses, especially buffalo grass, are re-erupting.

Yesterday morning at 5:00 a.m., some type of birds quietly chattering in mesquite trees.  Quiet chatter.  Never heard such a thing before.

Harris hawks continue to prey in the pastures.  Their flight patterns are low to the ground.

Some slight turning of tree leaves in grove to yellow and brown.

Overturned soil in arena to soften ground for Lilly and Star.

Dove hunters are not so plentiful this year about the county.  Few shots heard.

Bull nettle growth about stock tank needs cutting.

Photograph featured is a cottonwood tree above Casa Sena in Santa Fe.


Filed under Birds, Deer, Dogs, Field Log

Let the Scallop Be (Field Log 8/1/2010)

North Erath County, Texas, Lat 32.43 N, Long -98.36 W, elev. 1,086 ft. Turkey Creek Quad.

[I incorrectly identified the shell (see photograph above) as a mussel shell and had written in the notes section of this post that I would change the title and identification if someone knew their shells better than me.  It is a scallop shell, well-bleached.  My good friend, Caralee Woods of Kanab, Utah, sent a comment about my incorrect typing and I have made the necessary changes for accuracy in the post.]

Jack, I hate to be the one to tell you, and I’m not a biologist, but I did have an extensive shell collection as a child (I still have it somewhere)! I learned a lot about shells in those days, and I can tell you this ain’t a mussel! It appears to be one half of a very bleached-out scallop shell. I know you’ve eaten mussels, so you know that the mussel shell is tear-shaped and smooth inside and out. The scallop is ridged as you see this one is, and rounder in shape.

Caralee Woods of Kanab, Utah

A high pressure sits above Texas.  Temperatures predicted here in north Erath County are in the range between 100 and 105 deg. F.

10:00 a.m.  I drive in the F-150 towards the grove.

Barn swallows are flying two to five feet above the pasture grasses, eating mosquitoes.  In my shredding of broomweed over the past week, I focus on shredding it alone — broomweed — leaving native grasses and coastal bermuda for insects, loafing areas for the jack rabbits and cottontails and browsing for the horses.

At the pond, a Red-tailed hawk flies from its perch in the willow tree or live oak tree that borders the north side of the pond.  The hawk flies low to the ground, ten feet or so, in the direction of Blue’s pond over the fence line.  I shall be careful next time and try to photograph the Red-tail.

In the grove, above the creek bed, the temperature falls slightly.  Birds are silent.  One bird, a finch encircles me and then flies into the brush.  Cicadas chatter, sawing a melody, then silent.

Along the creek bed next to the native grass pasture (Pecan Tree Pasture), pools of clear water stand under oak, pecan, elm, ash and hickory.  Willow and a few cottonwoods grow close to the water.  The temperature falls significantly under the canopy of trees.  The trees are vibrant.  Mustang grapevines erupt leaves, some vines for the first time in years.  This riparian swatch regrows.

The Riparian Swatch, Salt Creek, Flying Hat Ranch, Texas

Star and Lilly have been turned out around the barn and have browsed their way to the front of the house pasture.  Star, however, sees me in the grove and he gallops away from Lilly and neighs to me in the creek bed.  (When I return, he will kick and gallop back to Lilly at the front of the pasture.)

I walk in the creek bed towards the Hall place and east water gap.

I photograph tadpoles and small frogs.  Standing on the edge of a pool of water, the tadpoles turn as a group towards me, peering through the water’s filmy surface.  I am reminded that when I used to swim in the Colorado River and Rough Creek near San Saba, Texas, the tadpoles would come and nibble my flesh.  I wonder if these tadpoles would do the same?

I amble down the creek.  Deer trails appear unused and leaves and debris cover the trail where four-years ago, ten to fifteen deer browsed and migrated about the ranch.  Allen Gaddis, my previous farrier for the remuda, saw fifteen deer in the pasture and grove during a cool and foggy morn when he trimmed horses.  He stopped trimming, looked at the herd and motioned for me to see them.  From east to west, the deer glided in the fog.  Most deer are gone now and Allen Gaddis has relocated to Benjamin, Texas, near the 6666 Ranch and his daughter.  He used to work in Wyoming and once rode a King Ranch stallion that was the fastest and smartest cow horse he had ever ridden.  Though Gaddis is gone, I have his story about that ride he took as a teenager.  I find no deer track.

Turning around, I retrace my steps to the F-150.  Star sees me driving and he gallops back to the front of the pasture and his mother.  I going to my place and he must get back to his.

I had photographed a scallop shell and when I enlarge the photo back at the house I see many things I did not see when I took the shot.  Stones small and colorful.  A poprock.  Seed hulls.  Twig.  Bone.  Leaves.  The outline of the white shell reminds me of Neanderthal decorations I once saw in a textbook.  Earthly things held together in a creek bed matrix.  I notice that the white scallop shell has sand on it.  Should I have brushed it off to improve the photogenic quality of the shell?  I briefly think, yes, but then, no.  I take nature as I have discovered her — earthy, water-coursed, bursting with color and containing the past in bone and hull.  A receptacle.

Let the scallop be.

Scallop Shell in Salt Creek Bed, Flying Hat Ranch, Texas



My presumption is that the shell is a mussel shell.  I’ll be mightily embarrassed if I am wrong, but I will correct my post and title if a biologist sets me straight.  I have Peterson guides for a lot of categories, but nothing on shells.

All photographs are taken with a Nikon D300 with AF-5 Nikkor 18-200 mm lens.  Each shot is taken with full digital exposure.  You can always reduce the detail, but you can never add to it.

Updated, August 3, 2010.  Please see the comment quoted at the first of this post about shell identification.  My apologies to both the mussel and scallop worlds.


Filed under Field Log

Field Log 7/21/2010 (Yucca Pod Resurge)

North Erath County, Texas, Lat 32.43 N, Long -98.36 W, elev. 1,086 ft. Turkey Creek Quad.

Grass remains high and relatively green in north Erath County, Texas.

Broomweed shredding seems in order today.

Must plan for a quick construction of stock pen in Pecan Tree Pasture to manage horses so that they do not overeat the grass.  Horses have not been feeding in the far pasture anytime this summer.

The Persian barn cat, Bubbles, has disappeared.  I have not seen him for two weeks.  My small animal vet says that owls are significant predators on cats and small dogs.  Bubbles was quite close to the barn.  Perhaps he will reappear.

Some yucca pods appear to be re-greening.

Pale-Leaf Yucca Pods Resurge

Nowack, to the north of us, across County Road 114, hired a farmer to bale the prairie grass in his south field.

Nowack South Field with Round Bales

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Filed under Field Log

Field Log 7/11/2010 (Use of Twine for Safety)

North Erath County, Texas, Lat 32.43 N, Long -98.36 W, elev. 1,086 ft. Turkey Creek Quad.

The Use of Twine for Safety in Horse Trailers

Rained off and on most of the day.

Took Sweet Hija to Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery (ESM&S) on the Brazos for a pregnancy check.  Loaded Hija into the two-horse, side-by-side trailer.  Some balking at loading.

C & C Stock Trailer at Flying Hat Ranch

On our place, the horses are accustomed to a C & C stock trailer that is twenty-six feet long, not the two-horse, side-by-side.  The C & C stock trailer, for both horses and cattle, allows a larger space, plenty of views between the side rails, a good comfort zone.  I don’t tie them up during the trip, only during the loading and unloading process.  In the stock trailer, I put up baling twine to tie the lead rope, in case there is an accident or a panic incident, they can snap the twine much easier.

I used the two-horse, side-by-side trailer today rather than the C & C.

Bailing Twine Attached to Lead Rope for Safety

In the two-horse, I had failed to use the baling twine to tie the lead rope, but instead put the lead rope through the conventional steel rung.  It did not register on me that I was side-stepping safety behavior for the horse and me.  I failed to perform a checklist because I was in a hurry.

Equine Spirit Two-Horse Trailer, Side-by-Side, Flying Hat Ranch

Trip to Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery on the Brazos was slowed by several hundred bicyclists on a race via the Brock Road.  Had to drive slowly and be careful passing.  Rain tapered off at Brock.

Sweet Hija Will Birth a Filly in May 2011

Dr. Semira S. Mancill gave Hija her sixty-day physical and also sexed the newly-developing foal.  Two weeks ago, the sonogram signaled a colt, but the definitive conclusion with ultra-sound yesterday was that the foal was a filly.  The sire is Shiners Lena Doc out of Carol Rose’s stables north of Denton, Texas.  Dr. Mancill said that the ultra-sound indicated a healthy filly will be developing for birthing next April 15, 2011.

Bad sign in trying to reload Sweet Hija in the trailer.  She balked and it took us ten minutes to convince her to join-up with the two-horse trailer.  Dr. Mancill, Zack (our helper at ESM&S) and I completed the task.  I was embarrassed.

Load completed, I drove to Stephenville to pick up supplies and hay.  Twelve bales of coastal and alfalfa, three Strategies, one Horseman’s Edge.  Rain eased up so I transported the hay in the bed of the pickup, the grain in the horse trailer.

Accident Due to Several Factors

Back at the ranch, I proceeded to unload Hija.  Instead of being fully safety-conscious, I proceeded to undo the butt bar on Hija, intending to walk around to side door, climb in the trailer and back her up.  Hija panicked and pulled back on the lead rope, breaking the snap on the rope that was under her chin.  In rearing backwards, she got a laceration above her left eye from the brass on the halter.  I had seen her start to back up and thought she would stop once she got to the end of the lead rope, but she did not.  I grabbed her halter without a lead rope and she quickly calmed down, but the laceration was three-inches long and deep, bleeding, though not to the bone.

Entangled Lead Rope on D-ring As Result of Aggressive Pullback of Horse (No Baling Twine)

I asked Brenda to come down to the stables and help me assess what to do.  Brenda says it’s bad enough to go to the vet.  She calls ESM&S in Weatherford, Texas (not the reproduction center on the Brazos) to tell the emergency staff we are coming with Hija.  It was a Saturday afternoon, about 1:30 p.m.

ESM&S Staff Stitches Hija

I hitch up the C & C stock trailer to the white F-250 we have.  I’m not going to use the two-horse again today — bad medicine.  I proceed to tie Hija to the twine loop, then unfasten her for the trip to ESM&S once she is loaded in.  We speed to Weatherford, unload Hija.  She is bleeding a bit more, but not effusively.  The staff stitches the laceration and we return home by 5:00 p.m.  We must take her back in two weeks to get the stitches out.

Sweet Hija With Stitches, Flying Hat Ranch

In the response to Hija’s accident, we were negligent in applying known safety standards. Fortunately, the snap broke before further injury occurred.

Open stock trailers like the C & C trailer have their drawbacks.  Probably the most serious is that the separation of horses must be well-planned because there are no panels as in the side-by-side or slant transport.  In most situations, however, the trailer has two compartments, large stall areas, and that seems adequate for separation.

C & C Stock Trailer Interior, Flying Hat Ranch


Filed under Field Log, Horses, Sweet Hija

Field Log 6/18/2010 (Fawn)

North Erath County, Texas, Lat 32.43 N, Long -98.36 W, elev. 1,086 ft. Turkey Creek Quad.

Salt Creek Field Hike

Yesterday, Wendy, my daughter, and Olivia, my granddaughter, and I hiked through the grove on a short field trip.  I gave Olivia her first lesson in using the field compass: the arrow points north, where is north?  Show me.  She had been given a military field compass, basic structure.

Field discoveries and observations: mussel shell, dead wild turkey with feathers scattered, several Swallowtail butterflies and skeletal remains of small animals.  Rocks of various colors collected for Olivia’s “rock bag.”  Identification of poison ivy and sumac — to be avoided, of course.

The horses, Hija, Star and Fanny followed us closely until we got deep in the grove and then they galloped through the grove’s tall grasses.  They were curious of the little one, Olivia.  I gave instructions to walk deliberately and straight while the horses lingered with us, so as to let them clearly know where we were.  (Lilly was in the Broke Tree corral with her hay.)

Down in the grove we identified recently-imprinted deer tracks, but saw no deer.  I pointed out the sharper edge of the deer track indicated the direction the deer was walking.

Taking the F-150 to the Far Field

After the hike into Salt Creek bed and grove, the temperature climbed to the upper 80s F. and we came back to the barn and drove the F-150 to the far field, beyond the creek where I have nurtured native grasses for several years, including a recent spring planting of native grass and flower seeds.  The grasses were high and from a recent rain of 2.00 inches quite plush with green and erectness.  It was much too hot to amble across the grove into the pasture and return by foot.

Last week I had shredded a six-foot path in the grove and in the Pecan Tree Pasture for safety’s sake and mobility.  The Dooleys had told me that several copperheads and rattlesnakes had been found on their place.  The copperheads, Kelly Dooley said, had been attracted by the recent addition of a small pond with koi fish about their house.  They may deconstruct the small pond.  I have only seen grayish coachwhips on our place.

As we turned the F-150 onto the southern, shredded pathway, running east-west on the far southern side of the Pecan Tree Pasture, we looked down the path and at the far end and there was a fawn, about two-tenths of a mile away.  The fawn browsed leisurely along the path while, I presume, its mother lay in the tall native grasses.  It was quite small with large ears.

It was my first sighting of deer for several months.  We corroborated, as best we could, that it was deer and we turned the F-150 on the path I had shredded under the pecan tree.  Wendy wants to have a picnic lunch  under the pecan tree on Saturday.  I was still raving about the deer as we turned onto the highway to come back to the house.



Since settling here in 2003, the deer count has diminished drastically from a weekly count of 15 to zero.  Deer used to migrate from the Blue and Hall places to the east of us through our house pastures and into the grove and southern Pecan Tree Pasture.  The Halls cleared brush from their small acreage and eliminated cover for deer.

The distance for the sighting of the deer was two-tenths of a mile.  Wendy sighted the deer.  We had no binoculars so I could not bring the image closer.  My only reservations on a fully-positive identification were that I did not see the mother deer and there seemed to be a white stripe on the muzzle of the fawn, but that could have been an illusion from the angle of the sun (we were looking eastward).

I intend to let the grasses grow high near the edge of the highway to give a privacy hedge to shredded pathways.  As of now, the deer along the pathway can be observed from the highway.  Given the present disposition of blood sportsmen in our state, a sighting of one deer will result in leasing several deer blinds on contiguous land.  I have observed hunters placing apples on fence posts to attract deer onto land they have leased — not the ethic of most hunters I know.

I have some photos pertinent to field activity, but they were not taken yesterday on the field trip.

Yucca Blossoms in June (Photo by B. Matthews, 2010)

Olivia Needham with Star, Hija and Fanny (Photo by B. Matthews, June 2010)

Texas Groundsel (Photo by B. Matthews, May 2010)


Filed under Field Log

Field Log 5/30/2010 (Coneflowers)

North Erath County, Texas, Lat 32.43 N, Long -98.36 W, elev. 1,086 ft. Turkey Creek Quad.

General Log

Weather has been hot, 90 deg. F. plus, last few days.  Air is almost completely calm.  Some slight breeze from the south.

Grass is drying up, browning.  Seeds are become ripe and falling off.

This week, Shiney goes for sale at Shawnee, Oklahoma.  We leave on Thursday, come back on Sunday.  The most important objective is guarantee that Shiney will have a good home, regardless of the auction price.

F-250 in shop for air conditioner repair.  Have been looking at new and used F-250s to purchase.  The trucks have been repaired frequently in the last week, ranging from oil pumps to the F-150 bearings and now the air conditioner.

Barn Swallows and Feeding Wild Birds by Hand (A Method Observed)

In the evening, Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) encircle our ranch house on Poprock Hill and feed on mosquitoes and flies.  A nest of barn swallows have hatched fledglings on our back porch.  Notice the characteristic sharply-notched tail.  This photograph was taken in the morning.  If I sit quietly on the porch, the swallows will angle under the eve of the porch and fly within three or four feet of where I am sitting.  Last year, a resident wren that fed about the porch landed on my hat and pecked around on my hat for about a minute until it flew off.   I will set the camera up for remote operation and see if I can photograph the wren on my hat.  When I lived in Paris, I was always intrigued by the young man at Notre Dame that would sit in a chair about the sidewalk and hedge and have the sparrows feed out of his hand.  The method he used was to look away from the birds and extend his arm back from his body (like in handing off a baton) so that the birds did not see his eyes or mouth (specific threat areas for birds).  The young man was neither monk nor priest, but a lad that loved birds.

Barn Swallow in Flight, Photo by J. Matthews

Wildflower Photography and Hoe Downing with Bull Nettle (Not a Dance)

On May 23, 2010, Brenda and I drove the F-150 to Pecan Tree Pasture for her to photograph wild flowers and for me to hoe down Bull Nettle.

Wild Flowers alongside SH 108 at Gate 3 Entrance, Photo by B. Matthews

Lemon Horsemint, Photo by B. Matthews

This blossoming plant is the Lemon horsemint (Monarda citriodora Cerv. ex Lag.)  It is also known as the Lemon beebalm, Horsemint, Purple horsemint or Plains horsemint.  Several stands of this plant are about the place.  Over near the pecan tree, a few blossoms are present.  The biggest stand of Lemon horsemint is back up by the barn, about an old hearth location that goes back for several decades, perhaps prehistoric.  The Lemon horsemint is attractive to butterflies and bees.

Clasping Coneflower, Photo by B. Matthews

This yellow-leafed blossom is the Clasping Coneflower (Dracopis amplexicaulis).  It is also know as Clasping-leaf Coneflower.  It differs from the Black-eyed Susan and Mexican Hat.  This particular species has medicinal qualities: the Cherokee used the  juice of root for earache and a tea, made from the leaves, was used as a tonic and diuretic.

Unidentified Plant and Blossom (Now Identified)

Bush Vetchling or Manystem Pea, Photo by B. Matthews

Here we have an unidentified plant and blossom.  (See update for identification in next paragraph.)  I first thought it a Skull-cap (Scutellaria drummondii), but I am not sure.  Like my previous analysis regarding the Mariposa and Wine-cup, I must go back over to the pecan tree area and re-photograph and take a sample of the full plant, not merely the blossom.  One of the interesting aspects of posting this photograph and determining genus and species is that I look more closely at the photograph to make sure I get it right, and upon looking closer at the photograph, I see bean pods that I did not notice while I was in the field — see if you can spot the pods.

Update:  The unidentified plant and blossom is the Bush Vetchling or Manystem Pea from the Lathyrus genus, more than likely the species montanus or nissolia.  The Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center lists several species including polymorphus and brachycalyx ssp. zionis. Thank you, Grethe Bachmann of Thrya Blog and Flora and Fauna Blog for the identification.  I never would have found it since it does not appear the two general sources of plants I use for identification.  You can go to Grethe’s blogs by linkage from my blogroll on my Homepage.

Texas Prickly Pear, Photo by B. Matthews

This is the blossom of the Texas Prickly Pear (Opuntia engelmannii var. lindheimeri).  The blossoms are especially brilliant.

Indian Blankets with Shelton Rock Hills, Photo by B. Matthews

This is a stand of Indian Blankets with the Shelton Rock Hills (north and south) in the background.  The direction of the camera is west.  To the right (north) is The Grove and Salt Creek.

With this hot weather, the horses go back to the stables for shade and water.  I attend to them at about 6:00 p.m. everyday.

Jack Matthews with Hoe and Clasping Coneflower (2010), Photo by B. Matthews

I am actually in a much, much better mood than what this photograph belies.  In the pasture, I’ve been hoeing a few Bull Nettle down and it is rather hot, late in the morning.  Note the large stand of Big Bluestem grass to my left.  I’ve been careful to keep the Big Bluestem from getting shredded for several years and now it grows higher than me in the field.  Please also note the tool on my left side.  That is a hoe.  Not machinery, a manual tool.  Kinda Luddite-ish, don’t you think?


Filed under Field Log, Plants and Shrubs