Tag Archives: Erath County Texas

Xeriscaping

Your Guide to Planning Drought Friendly Landscaping

By Mary Sauer

[I now have a house in the city and may apply these techniques to the landscape.  I still have 29 acres of farmland and pasture near Mingus, Texas.  Check out the links to this company.  Full disclosure:  I am not getting any monetary compensation from re-publishing Mary Sauer’s article.  I find it helpful in saving water and, as Frank Waters wrote, “living with the land” respectfully.]

When you live in an area prone to droughts, the decisions you make regarding your landscaping can either promote water conservation and sustainable living or they can promote water waste. Specific areas of the country experience months of dry weather, with very little rain providing natural hydration for lawns and landscaping elements. The good news is, there are plenty of attractive and ecologically responsible landscaping options that are perfect for areas prone to droughts.

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Alternatives to Lawns of Green

One of the biggest challenges faced in areas that experience droughts is finding an alternative to lawns comprised largely of grass. Green lawns require a large amount of water on a daily basis. In some areas of the country, city governments are placing strict regulations on the amount of space that can be occupied by grass in hopes of lessening water waste and promoting more sustainable landscaping.

Xeriscaping is a popular landscaping practice that completely eliminates landscaping elements that require water beyond what their environment naturally provides. These options include the use of stones, ornamental grass, native flowers, succulents, and plants with a reputation for surviving with very little maintenance.

When it comes to landscaping, stones are as drought friendly as it gets. Obviously, stones require no water. With the countless shape, color, and size options occurring in nature, it is easy to create a beautiful and visually interesting space. Additionally, with a little research, you should be able to find stones that have been harvested with minimal negative impact on their environment.

Certain flowers and plants need very little water to thrive in areas prone to drought. The simplest place to start is with flowers that occur naturally in your region. Native flowers will thrive, even during a drought, and won’t require you to indulge in wasteful water use habits to keep them alive. One of our favorites is the Lewisia Cotyledon, or Sunset Strain, a dainty, pink flower with evergreen foliage that is native to California and Oregon. Certain ornamental grasses also do very well during droughts, and many are larger enough to take the place of thirsty shrubs. Lastly, succulents actually do best with just a small amount of water, and are ideal for use in areas that regularly deal with droughts.

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Use Grey Water to Hydrate Your Landscaping

If you do have certain elements in your landscaping that require regular hydrating, there are alternative methods for watering that are less wasteful. Grey water is any water that you are already using during your day-to-day life that you are reusing a second time. Consider catching the water used while showering, washing dishes, or doing laundry and reusing it to water your lawn.

 At Modernize, we are passionate about empowering homeowners like you to find beautiful yet sustainable ways to create a home that truly captures your personality and meets your needs. Just because you live in a region that receives very little rain doesn’t mean you have to give up on having a beautiful lawn—by using these tips, your new landscaping will be more unique and exotic than ever before!

 

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Filed under Flying Hat Ranch, Life in Balance, Plants and Shrubs

‘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 – NYTimes.com.

A scene from

Kirk Hanna

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Yucca morning

Pale-leaf Yucca on Terraces with Fog, Flying Hat Ranchito, March 30, 2012

In walking down to the stables to feed Star this morning, I paused and looked towards the east, the rising sun flared by fog, and I shot this photograph of yucca, fog, dew and a couple of blossoms of verbena (click the photograph to enlarge). Three terraces gird the ranch house and each level has families of yucca that hold the soil about the landscape and prosper in well-drained soil for their health.

The temperature briefly holds in the middle 60s as I look at this scene. I dwell on it as I write this post and think of the moisture upon green grasses and yucca.  So different from this time last year as fires broke out across Texas, consuming dried grasses, brittle brush and wildlife unable to flee.  Today is different, substantially so, with recent rains and low temperatures. The fire ban is off for Erath County. I see an abundance of wildflowers and I inhale the air suffused with humidity and perfumed with fresh grasses.

This ‘yucca morning’ will last in my senses for a long, long time, and I possessively want the moment to stand still as I look east towards the rising sun, flared by fog, that shall warm the day and send fresh grass shoots skyward.

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Filed under Flying Hat Ranch, Life in Balance, Plants and Shrubs, Succulents

Flowers of Flying Hat (6-8): Sow thistle is not a weed.

Far field clouds, March 2012.

6. False Garlic, Crow Poison (Nothoscordum bivalve), March 2012.

This False Garlic flowers early and there are several colonies clustered together throughout the ranchito.  This False Garlic is closed and due to the rains and cold yesterday and today, I do not have an open flower to illustrate — but, I shall.  This is found in the lane to County Road 114, and other colonies are about the gate between the arena and the grove pasture.

7. Sow Thistle (Sonchus asper), March 2012.

Sow Thistle appears to be a weed, but it is not.  Authorities claim the milk of this plant relieves eye ailments.  I wonder if I could apply this to my left eye?  I think not.  I’ll rely upon Dr. Callanan, but then again…. This appeared one afternoon and then its flowers have closed.  This Sow Thistle inhabits the disturbed soil underneath the live oak tree to the southeast of the house.  I have read much about the categorization of ‘weed’ versus ‘plant.’  The term ‘weed’ seems culture-specific, a term of dislike, marginal.  Goats, sheep and cattle eat this with relish.  To them, it seems, this is a plant, not an obnoxious weed.  One person’s plant is another person’s weed?

8. Unknown.

These little-bitty guys erupt on the top terrace and emerge as small, almost unnoticeable flowers. As of today, I have failed to find their name, and I also need a closeup to gain greater resolution of their attributes. Today it is raining and the blossoms are closed.

More Violet ruellia, violet wild petunia (Ruellia nudiflora).

This is a another photograph of violet wild petunia, previously identified.  It has erupted in large numbers along Interstate 20 from Mingus to Abilene.

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Fur, crane and juniper berries: field log

The Scientist does not study nature because it is useful to do so.  He studies it because it takes pleasure in it; and he takes pleasure in it because it is beautiful.  — Jules Henri Poincare

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[These are primary field notes taken today.  Time entered in UTC or Zulu time, i.e. 1759.  Post-field note commentary bracketed and italicized.]

12/27/2011

Flying Hat Ranch, North Erath County, Texas, Lat 32.43 N, Long -98.36 W, elev. 1,086 ft. Turkey Creek Quadrangle map.

1759.  51 deg. F.  [Cold enough to start into the field with line jacket, but by the time I got to grove, I shed the jacket, putting it on the fence post.]

1805.  Three or more ducks on pond.  No identification.  Woodpile near pond has been reduced by rain and natural deterioration.  Tree limbs and logs have settled in earth.  [Erath County has taken the burn ban off.  I’ll not burn the pile because it houses several critters.  The ducks are three and they make little noise.  They paddle to the far side of the pond as I stride by.]

1817.  Barbed wire between grove and arena pasture broken, 5 T-posts from the gate, towards the west.  Apparent deer tracks on the ground, no sign of struggle, crawling under, deer popped the strand.  Fur on ground.  Photos taken.  [I have seen juvenile deer scoot under the fence; hence, I think they broke it.  I looked carefully for signs of an entanglement in the wire, but found none and also went over to the creek embankment to make sure no deer had fallen.  I’ll repair the fence later this winter.  I wonder if it is deer “fur” or “hair?”  According to Scientific American, mammalogist, Nancy Simmons, there is no difference between fur and hair.]

1828.  Juniper berries on tree to the east of brick pile.  Tree is 20 feet high, 20 feet across  at lower crown.  Five juniper trees in immediate vicinity.  One large juniper 30 feet to east-southeast of the little grove.  This juniper is 30 feet tall, trunk is 2-3 feet in diameter.  [I had never stopped to count the number of junipers in the small grove, nor estimated the height of the tallest tree.  My recent post on junipers has prompted my focus.  I thought about picking the berries and consuming them, reenacting my Zuni experience.]

1843.  Red oak leaf falls.  I think it a floating butterfly.  Then I see the red oak.  No butterfly.  [What tricks our mind plays.  I thought for a moment that a Monarch might have roosted and emerged in the sun.  The leaf floated like a butterfly, not a swaying back-and-forth manner like a leaf.]

1849.  Two burrows near east water gap, one looks inhabited.  [Skunk, armadillo?  Other?]

1853.  Remnants of deer-stand ladder.  [I have dismantled all deer stands in the trees that I can find.  This ladder will be dismantled soon.  I hate it when nails are driven into trees.]

1855.  Bull bellows on Dooley Place.  [The Red Angus bull bellows.  ‘Twould be interesting to take field notes at a certain point for just sound, not images, just sound.]

1858.  Harris hawk ascends into tree at about 10 foot level, watches me approach, then flies low out of tree towards north.  [I have typed the Harris before.  There are two of them that soar and predate in the grove and surrounds.  They’ve been here on Flying Hat for two years.]

1908.  Scare 4-7 turkey vultures from dead mesquite tree at southwest part of grove.  [I hope Ethan Connell has checked the turkey vulture on his Life List in his Peterson’s.]

1917.  Flock of Sandhill Cranes overhead, flying north to south, catching wind currents.  [When I first heard the Sandhills,  I looked too high, gave up and then found them at a lower altitude.]

1930. Turn around at northwest corner of far field and return to house. Star whinnies at me.

1938.  White-crowned sparrows fly low in brush about arena at southeast end.

1942.  Scare up the resident jack rabbit while searching for stone tool in situ.  [I cannot find the stone tool.  I do have it located, however, on the GPS and I can locate it later.  I had placed a yellow surveyor’s flag at its place, but the elements have blown it down — or possibly, Star.]

1946.  At pasture-house gate.  [Log entries conclude.]

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Filed under Cedar, Deer, Ducks, Field Log, Sandhill Crane

Poaching or just curious? Deer on Flying Hat Ranchito

Southeast gate of Pecan Tree Pasture, deer season opening day, November 5, 2011, 7:35 a.m.

(The following datum comes from Field Notebook No. 1, October 29, 2011 –.  These are the original notes I took this morning on the first day of the regular deer season in north Erath County, Texas, November 5, 2011.)

7:50 a.m. In the far field at Pecan Tree Pasture.  One rifle shot to the south, a loud report.  41 deg. F.  One photo taken at southeast far gate.  No deer yet sighted.  Traffic light on State Highway 108.  Owl call, hooting, in the grove.  [I am parked between the grove and pecan tree, having entered from the far southeast gate to contain deer? within the field.]

No deer stands sighted on Old Bryant place, the Dooley place, that I can see.  This is different from past three years.  Two years ago, I sighted nine deer stands from my place.

Crows cawing — very few.

7:59 a.m., flock of crows flying east to west.

8:00 a.m.  Solitary deer sighted between me and water trough on my pasture road.  I am at the grove-pasture gate.

8:01 a.m.  Rifle report to the far south.

Deer may have come out of the grove gate by the water trough.  Deer leisurely walking up the pasture road.

(Bring binoculars next time.)

(Clear brush around fence in places so the F-250 is not scratched.)

A gray, short-bed pickup cruises by my open southeast gate, turns off road by gate, pauses, then goes north on SH 108.  No identification of the gray pickup.  Not a neighbor.

8:10 a.m.  Chickadees or wrens fussing in the mesquite brush, grove.  Will the solitary deer I saw cross SH 108?

8:14 a.m.  Rifle report to the east at some distance, estimated three miles distant.

8:21 a.m.  Rifle report to my southwest, very loud, very loud either on Dooley or Woods place.  I can almost smell the gunpowder.  [I carefully listen for bullet coming through air, but hear no sound.]

Far away to the south, another rifle shot.

A white-flatbed pickup passes on SH 108, slows down by field, turns around and comes back by deer at water trough, slows down, goes up road, turns around and then heads south on SH 108.  He probably saw the deer on my place.  Not a neighbor.

Big bluestem grass abounds in this field.

8:50 a.m.  Leave field.

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Notes, corrections, additions:

This year the rifle sounds are greatly reduced in number for the opening day of the general season.  The pickups that turn around and gaze into the far field where I have deer may be curious or may be looking for an opportunity to poach.  I can’t monitor and don’t want to monitor my field constantly.  I am glad that the deer stands have been significantly reduced in number from several years ago.  I have Tony Navarro to thank for that.  Game Warden Tony Navarro’s great-grandfather signed the Texas Declaration of Independence.  I rode with him in his outfitted pickup a couple of years ago when we scanned Flying Hat Ranchito for game. 

Game Warden Tony Navarro's card

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Filed under Deer, Field Log

Bucks and bourbon: Texas deer season

 

This post is supported by Texas Hunter Safety Course online for Texas.  The Texas Hunter Safety Course online is endorsed and recommended by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

By all means hunters, speed to your lease with these essential items before sunrise!  Please don’t, you shouldn’t speed.  Remember that in Erath County, Texas, the general hunting seasons is November 5, 2011 — January 1, 2012: bag limit 4 deer, not more than 2 bucks, and no more than 2 antlerless, all seasons combined (citations from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department).

The Flying Hat Ranchito is closed to hunting because of the deer population decline.  In 2003, the White-tailed deer count was daily at 15-16, but this year the count has declined to three (3) deer, two doe and one fawn.

In truth, I recommend that you eliminate all of the following items below except a non-scope deer rifle and the deer from your hunt.  (And, yes, I have and still hunt without scope.)  Dress appropriately, maybe even a bit of camouflage, but considering the number of unschooled hunters out in the veld, you probably should wear red or orange.  Those of you that need to hunt for food or as an essential supply to your winter larder, I have no quarrel — in fact, I don’t like to quarrel or wrangle, in most cases — but the accumulation of the following “essential” items should be pared down whether venison is imperative or not.  I don’t like all the gadgetry and waste of resources.  To wit, I recommend these changes:

Build a natural blind of brush, hide behind a tree, sit on a log, get lost in the shinnery in order to scan and conceal. (Wear red or orange somewhere on your body, preferably above your waist.)

Do you really need an all-terrain vehicle to run up and down pasture roads or across fields?  Of course not.  Walk, glide through the forest, the grove, the bush.  Forget the telescope, use a less powerful rifle and stalk quietly the deer you seek to slay.  I think I would keep the flask and contents purely for exorcising the chill — two sip limit after the hunt, of course.

These changes, if adopted, will exercise your body, get you close to your kill and the extra money saved can pay part of your kid’s college tuition.

Of the following, what items can you eliminate and still achieve your goal?

Essential item no. 1: camouflage clothing

Essential item no. 2: all-terrain vehicle (ATV)

Essential item no. 3: the deer stand

Essential item no. 4: 30.06 rifles, some with scope

Essential item no. 5: bourbon whiskey flask

Essential item no. 6: White-tailed deer (bag limit is four).

Have a good hunt and feel liberated from the technologies of the present day!

(Please catch the field report of November 5, 2011, later on this morning in a separate post!)

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Notes, corrections and additions:

This post was originally entitled, “White-tailed deer season opens in Erath County: essential recommendations.”

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Ducks returning to pond

These ducks swim away, making no noise at all (North Erath County, Texas, October 21, 2011).

This morning I was surprised.  I drove the F-150 to the grove gate to close it, so as to keep my gelding, Star, from going into the far pasture and gorging himself on new-growth grass.  As I passed by the pond, I saw these ducks.  Many of you see ducks all the time, but here in North Erath County, Texas, ducks are uncommon until November or December.  These ducks made no quacking whatsoever.  They plunged into the pond for feeding.  I returned about two hours later and took some photographs.

In one of my earlier posts about the American Widgeon, I and my blogging friends spent time identifying the ducks.  These guys in the photographs are unidentified.  My Peterson’s guide was chewed up by my dog, Yeller, and I have yet to replace it.  My Audubon field guide does not have flying profiles or additional attributes for me to say for certain what these ducks are.  So, the ducks will be unidentified until I get my Peterson’s guide book re-ordered.

In any case, the ducks have returned to the pond.  Can cooler weather and winter days be far behind?  The ducks say, No, it’s not far behind!

Ducks in flight (North Erath County, Texas, October 21, 2011).

 

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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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