Category Archives: Rain

Cloud portal to the coast

Thundershowers on either side of Interstate 20 west of Cisco, Texas, May 2012

Last Friday, May 11, 2012, I drove to Abilene for commencement at Cisco College where I instruct.  West of Cisco, on Interstate 20, I saw this cloud portal — at least that is what I call it.  I sped between the two thundershowers.  A few drops fell on my car.  The first couple of weeks in May is a time of showers and cool temperatures in west Texas.  That is not always true, for this time last year, I was busy writing about wildfires in my area.

I have a friend at Cisco College that teaches English and he traveled to the Oregon coast last year, staying near Seal Rock and Newport, soaking in cool temperatures and consuming seafood and local white wines.  He talks about moving to Oregon, selling his ranch and settling in the cooler climes.  I think about the higher altitudes of northern New Mexico around Truchas and Taos that have sharp winters and cool nights during the summer.

We both will probably stay put: he in Santa Anna, me in Mingus, for there are mild winters and days in May where thundershowers bring out the Cut-leaf Daisy, Fire Whorls, Queen Anne’s Lace, Purple Dandelions in brilliant colors while horses and cattle graze in lush Spring fields of gramma and bluestem.  I should like, however, to go to the Newport and Depoe Bay area of Oregon where my friend says, ‘There is a resident pod of whales for ten months out of the year about the coast.  You can see them surface and dive, surface and dive.’

I want to see that scene some day.  The cloud portal in the photograph above opens to the west, towards the Pacific, towards the whale.  And away from home.

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Notes, corrections and additions:

Depoe Bay was added as an additional site my friend visited.  It is a central location for beautiful scenery and whales.  The boating outing in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ was filmed in the area.

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Filed under Adventure, Rain, Taos, Weather, Wildfire

Rain comes, chores follow

For the last two days, rain has fallen, perhaps as much as three inches.  My rain gauge cracked and I estimate the amount cautiously.  Replacing the rain gauge is a task ahead of me.  Weather forecasters — I listen to the Dallas-Fort Worth NBC television station — say the rain will stop by tomorrow.  My water tank appears up by several inches, although it is too muddy to trudge down to verify.

The plow follows the rain.  That’s an old adage.  Here’s another one: Chores follow the rain.  Right at the top of the list of my chores is to perform foundation dirt work on the alleyway and barn area.  Water runs off the barn roof and into the alleyway and horse stall.  In addition, I have to transport my Case DX-55 tractor to the repair shop to fix the linkage to the PTO (power train operation) so that I can do another chore.  I have to shred some sprouting mesquites in the fields with the tractor and shredder.  Until the rain subsides and sun dries the soil a bit, I am at ease in the ranch house.

Here is a photograph of rain puddles in front of the barn.

Here is the rain runoff in front of barn. Notice Star on the right side of the tack room.

The runoff from the barn roof floods the alleyway. This is a chore to follow the rain.  Notice the green trees and grass in the background.

The alleyway and stalls will need more foundation after the area dries.

This next week is Spring Break.  I’ll be marking a few tasks off my list.  My list of chores is not long, so maybe I will put one chore on a page rather than list the whole congregation of tasks on one page.  That way I can see one task at a time, or one task on one page at a time.  Pace myself, as my step-father used to say.  He did not say much, but that was an ‘adage’ I remember he said.

The list:

1. Construct dirt foundation for alleyway and stalls.

2. Change tire on flatbed trailer so I can haul tractor to repair shop.

3. Take tractor to repair shop and return.

4. Shred mesquite sprouts.

5. Replace rain gauge.

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Filed under Rain, Weather

Well springs Frio loam

Southeast corner of Pecan Tree Pasture, Johnsongrass and big bluestem (September 4, 2011).

Drought has come to the Southwest, particularly Texas. Wildfires erupt and I view every cloud in the sky as either friend or foe, rain-cumulus or pyrocumulus. Man lives in oscillating cycles: birth, maturity, degeneration and death; spring, summer, winter and fall; day and night. Nature’s theater, the grandest show — in fact the only show on the road — brings hot, dry days to us, an uneasy audience that sits without a program in hand.

Raising my hands and putting on a broad-brimmed hat to shield myself from the sun, I think, Is there is no way out of this parched country of west Texas, this incessant drought?  As a matter of habit, I drove to the far field two days ago, then again yesterday, and what I saw brought me out of the funk and into the reality of primary, nascent things that fosters renewal, not despair.  What I saw was the green field of my far pasture, Pecan Tree Pasture, a 35 acre field of buffalo grass, side-oats gramma, little bluestem, big bluestem and Johnsongrass that stood higher than my head!  The rain of about 2.5 inches two weeks ago provided enough moisture for a re-eruption of growth.

Trying to understand the dissonance of yellow-brown drought in Texas and this field of green grass, I gazed deeper and deeper into the field, trying to resolve these issues of color.  Then, it penetrated:  I was not looking deep enough, for beneath the grass lay soil, the wellspring for grass, the fountain of energy that we all thrive upon.  Well springs the soil.

Land, then, is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals.  Food chains are living channels which conduct energy upward; death and decay return it to the soil.

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, p. 216, New York: Oxford Press, 1949.

In primary school, we all saw the pyramid chart of soil, plants, animals, man, sun and the flowing of energy back and forth.  The tooth and claw of the pyramid remained omnipresent, but never voiced.  We knew one thing lived by absorbing another living thing, whether cougar on deer, fox on rabbit or kids on hamburgers, but our teachers for reasons of refinement side-stepped the tooth, the claw.  The revealing of one thing eating another lay with fathers and uncles in the field on cloudy, windy and cold days.  Perhaps that is how it should be.

To know my soil, early this morning I unfolded the Soil Survey Map of Erath County, Texas, in order to type the soil of the far field I saw yesterday.  The map is ninety-one years old (1920); it is still accurate, still a good map.  My land, temporary occupant that I am, encompasses three soil types.  First, I have rough stony land (R) upon which sits the house, barn, stables and arena.  Second, the tree grove of American elm, willow, live oak, red oak, juniper and pecan rests upon Frio silty clay loam, Colluvial phase (F).  Through the tree grove runs Salt Creek, an intermittent flowing stream.

In the far field, where big bluestem is stretching upwards of seven-feet in height, a pasture that has not been grazed by Angus cattle in four years, is Frio loam (Fm), deposits of earth that have rushed down from High Salt Cove and between two creeks, Barton Creek and Salt Creek.  From Frio loam springs the grass in the far field.  The doe and fawn I disturbed yesterday lie between the high stands of big bluestem, and I lapse back to Oklahoma’s plains and the waving blue-red waves of autumnal bluestem that rustle with wind, the stems making sounds as they brush against one another.  The pasture holds the moisture of the last rain and though I am not a person of edgy competition, I would put my far field of green grass up against any non-fertilized field in Erath County for height, vigor, nutrients and wildlife.

After tending the far field for eight years and seeing the soil’s fountain of energy this late summer, How is it that man fouls such richness, such gifts?  The answer is complex, but knowable.  The resolution to stop the pollution begins with a respect for knowledge, deep knowledge that is revealed early and, unfortunately, forgotten early on with so many other things in our youth, a bulletin board that displayed the food chain in first grade.  The ethic of conservation and sustainability rests upon simple principles that need the status of a Commandment, an article of the Constitution, a catechism of the church.  Better yet, we should recover that which was lost when we began to make pottery, metal and textiles thousands of years ago, or left on that bulletin board at Coggin Elementary School in Brownwood, Texas.

Land is a fountain of energy.  In my far field, Frio loam is a wellspring.

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Click to enlarge. Soil survey map, Salt Creek and Barton Creek merger, from Soil Survey of Erath County, Texas (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1922). The far field is located at about center-left along Salt Fork and is associated with the symbol, Fm, for Frio loam.

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Notes, corrections and additions:

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac And Sketches Here and There, New York: Oxford Press, 1949.  I am quoting from the paperback, special commemorative edition that has an introduction by Robert Finch.

Soil Survey of Erath County, Texas, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1922.  The map was drawn in 1920, hence, it is ninety-one years old.  I found it in the workshop of the house I once owned in Mingus, Texas.  The house was know as the Old Bertino Place, named for the Italian family that had come to the area to work in the coal mines of Thurber in the nineteenth century.

I have been reading a considerable amount of literature this summer:  Aldo Leopold, Thoreau, Tolkien, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Edward Hoagland, Black Elk, Frank Waters, Wordsworth, Catulus.  I have something to write.  Whether it sells or not is a by-product.  I have to write, I really do.

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Filed under Life in Balance, Rain, Sounds, Weather

Rain in Broke Tree Corral

Rain in Broke Tree Corral, north Erath County, Texas, August 12, 2011.

Yesterday afternoon, after months of drought, rain came down sporadically in drops, then sheets of rain.

The first raindrops bounced on the aluminum roof of the barn and stables. Lightning flashed, thunder clapped, and Star the paint gelding and I flinched.  He bolted for about three gallops, then returned quickly to the shelter of the stable.  Within thirty minutes, five-tenths of an inch had fallen and a lightning strike on the oil piping fence about fifty-yards away knocked out electrical power.

I fed Star his grain and Horseshoer’s Secret — a potion for rebuilding hoof walls — and he munched haply through the noise of the thunderstorm, occasionally bringing his head out of the feed bin to see if I still sat in the alleyway waiting out the rain.  I talked to him, Good boy, fine fellow.

Broke Tree Corral is the first of two successive corrals about the barn and arena.  So named for an American Elm tree that broke in two, the tree has continued to thrive with bark and one-half of its internal veins intact for at least eight years now.  The grass in the corrals has become brittle and sparse.  The rain quickly formed small channels that flowed into the second corral, the Well House Corral, where bare ground could not stop the erosion-flow into the near fields of buffalo grass and mesquite sprouts.

Rain flows down the road towards the barn, north Erath County, Texas, August 12, 2011

Rain has fallen, the temperature has dropped and the Jack Rabbit has come out of his burrow to chomp on fresh sprouts and new, tender, blades of grass in the small dell between me and the Dooley place.  The drought has not been broken decisively, but this rainfall is a far away sound of better days and nights headed to Texas, a hunter’s footfall tracking a devil of fiery brutalities to slay and scatter to cool winds and shady juniper groves for those that live with the land.

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Notes, corrections and additions:

Try as I might, misspelled words sometimes slip through.  I do not rely on “check spelling” frequently, but will look again at a word if it is underlined in red.  In this post this morning, I misspelled, “lightning,” twice!  I spelled it “lightening” and missed the correction.  In writing posts, I do not have a proofreader.  It is an imperfect world filled with imperfect compositions.

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Filed under Rain, Star, Weather

Clouds with Mourning Dove

Pre-dawn clouds in Texas, north Erath County, August 2011.

Yesterday in mid-afternoon, August 10, 2011, a weak squall line walked through my ranchito in central-west Texas.  Blue-gray rain clouds edged and staggered to a halt south of my place.  A few drops of rain fell.  The power of the squall line churned up dust clouds, obscuring the Nowack barn across the county road in a microburst downdraft.  East of me, seventy-five miles away, Fort Worth had rain falling on Sundance Square, the heart of downtown commerce and entertainment that coarsely promotes the city as, “Where the West Begins.”  I disagree, but that argument will have to wait for another day.

The squall line with thunderclouds failed to bring rain on my land yesterday, but one weather change in the future will bring drops and sheets of rain.  I looked at the weather charts yesterday afternoon and saw thundershowers, sixty-miles north, let loose rain, then dissipate into nothingness but a void of mirages, quavering silver lakes far away.  No mirage here, the juniper trees in the ranchito grove threw off a luscious scent with the rise in humidity, dispelling summer for a time and bringing a promise of better days.

This morning, clouds remain to my east and as the sun rises, I see remnants of yesterday’s storm over Sundance Square.   I count three, perhaps five, sun rays through the cirrus and cumulus debris.  In all of this — the dust clouds, wind, scarce drops of rain and the sun’s rays — I look at yesterday’s date, August 10th, and know that Fall is forty days away, and that the sun rises later and sets earlier each day upon the earth’s northern hemisphere, Sundance Square and my hacienda. 

As if I needed any more natural substantiation that the season is turning — I do — Mourning Doves (Zenaidura macroura) sustained their ooah, cooo, cooo, coo this morning for over an hour, sitting on power lines and in the mesquite brush of the Dooley place to my west.  The Mourning Dove with hot mornings and brutal afternoons of heat on the ranchito does not coo earnestly, but quiets in sorrow for the lack of rain.

The Mourning Dove is in the lower-left photograph, a White-fronted Dove is pictured in lower-right (Audubon Society Field Guide, 1977).

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Notes, corrections and additions:

The call of the Mourning Dove comes from Roger Tory Peterson’s A Field Guide to Western Birds (1969), my constant reference and field guide that is tattered and torn.  But I would not have it any other way.

Photographs of the dove are from The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds (1977).  This reference guide from Audubon was in the small library of my parents who grew up in the country of central Texas and were always cognizant of wildlife, thunderstorms, cattle and horses.  I inherited the library and treasure each volume of field manuals that they thumbed through.

Several species of dove reside and pass through the ranchito. 

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Filed under Birds, Rain, Weather

Sound: 54 seconds of Sunday afternoon rain

Sage to Meadow Blog. A narrative of people living with the land in the American Southwest. That’s the short description of what this blog is about. I want to expand it a bit today with a video and especially the sound portion of rain, the weather change we’ve been waiting for here in central-west Texas. The fires are all out at Possum Kingdom. I saw U.S. Forest Service trucks on Thursday rushing towards west Texas and Arizona, accompanied by Highway Patrolmen with red lights turning. There must be problems farther west for them to rush. I hope my friends in west Texas, New Mexico and Arizona will see an end to the dry spell and conditions.

Here in central-west Texas, we have the rain. The view is towards the south, looking at the arena field and round pen. Star is in his stable. He whinnied a few minutes ago because I was tardy in feeding him. The rains have come in rhythmic bands throughout the day. In the video, you can discern St. Augustine grass, planted by the previous owners. I like the buffalo grass. You can see tufts of it and Queen Ann’s Lace on the first terrace.

I am running a test on a new format for my blog. The format is called Basic Maths. I’m not so sure I will stay with it. I have thirty days to test its application.

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Filed under Rain, Sounds, Star, Weather