Monday, March 12, 2018

Easing into Spring

Finally!  We appear to be easing into spring.  We have at last had several days of warmer weather that coincided with our schedules and allowed us to spend almost a week at the farm catching up on our chores.  We have cleaned up a bit from the construction of our flagstone patio and walkways.  Now, our front walk extends around both sides of the house, allowing us and our four-legged companions to stay out of the mud.  (well, mostly)

John’s BBQ pits have their own walkways and pads.

Colin from Dig This nursery and garden shop in Hamilton came out and trimmed up the big live oak tree east of the house.  I should have taken a “before” photo; the limbs almost touched the ground, and we were terrified that a strong wind or ice storm would do significant damage to our tree.  Now it looks magnificent, and provides a great place for our swing.

The dogs have their favorite spots on the patio, and we have arranged furniture to take advantage of the views across the pasture to the creek and stock pond. 

It has been a big project, but well worth the effort.  Now we move on to adding grass to cover some of the bare spots and reworking the flower beds.  

The last month has seen 4+ inches of rain, which was badly needed.  Here is a photo of our lower stock pond taken in mid-February.  You can see a couple of feet of bare dirt above the water level.

And here is a shot taken this weekend.  The pond is now full and running around the spillway.  Look out, bass, here we come!

Strangely, the upper tank did not catch much water from the recent rains.  Its primary water source is a tributary of Neils Creek instead of runoff.  It is still very low and a concern if we do not get good rains this spring.

We can only speculate that the lower pond is receiving more water than usual because of the clearing we have done over the last couple of years.  There are now many fewer cedar trees to take up the rain that falls on the mountain to our west and on the flats adjacent to the pond. 

The recent rains filled up more than just the lower stock pond.  When we arrived, the area under the corn feeder had been turned into a feral hog spa.  They had even tried hard to dig up the T-post on the right side of the photo which holds our game camera.  I just wish I had turned it on prior to their arrival so I could see them taking mud baths.

There are other signs of spring, as well.  John found a new red-tailed hawk’s nest in the top of a big elm tree east of the creek.  We’ll be watching over the next couple of months to see if we can spot the hawklets when they hatch.

The tree plums are blooming, and promise a good crop if we don’t get a late freeze.  These plums are hard and very tart…not good for snacking, but they make killer jellies and jams.

Our new calf is thriving, and we expect he will have a brother or sister by our next visit.

The pasture grass, while still showing its winter colors, has a flush of green at its base and beside the road.

And, then there was the unmistakable sign of spring that we could hear as well as see...a flock of sandhill craned sailing over, calling as they went.

On Saturday, it was warm and dry enough for the dogs to have bones outside.  Kota always takes her bone away and buries it, then returns to see if she can snatch one from Colt or Rue.  

Her strategy is to stand beside whoever's bone she covets and bark until it is abandoned.   Rue was having none of it, and continued chewing happily in spite of all the noise.

Kota's behavior brings back fond memories.  Feathers, Kota's immediate predecessor, employed a similar strategy.  Her ploy consisted of running to the edge of the yard, barking furiously as if to scare off an intruder.  When the other dogs ran to help her, she quickly circled back to claim one of the bones they had left.  It was a better strategy than Kota's and almost always resulted in Feathers getting the bone she wanted. (And they say dogs can't think!)

Sunday, March 4, 2018


This winter, the weather has been colder (but unfortunately not wetter).  Even the doves in the Spanish oak puffed up and looked for a bit of sun to warm up.

In spite of the cold temperatures, there has been a lot going on at the farm.  Several weeks ago the fence builders finished the new hay pen, replacing the one that was torn down when the neighbor’s angus bull jumped the fence to do battle with Dude.  This enclosure is made of barbed wire and should better protect the hay bales.

Our neighbor to the south (the one with the unruly bull) is putting in a high fence around his 300-acre property so he can raise trophy whitetail deer for people to shoot.  I can’t imagine how you can raise captive animals on a small property (which will require feeding them), shoot them and call it sport, but then we only take deer for meat, not to hang their heads on the wall.  

But the big project we just finished is the installation of a flagstone patio off the back porch of the farm house.  A couple of years ago we had a flagstone walk laid from the parking area to our front door.

The new stone work covers a section of the yard which to date has only seen hardwood mulch (wonderful until the dogs carry it inside on their coats) and grass burrs (terrible in all instances), and of course, mud.  There are also flagstone walks around both sides of the house from front to back.  Here is what the yard looked like at the beginning of the project.

Ricky French and his crew did an outstanding job, and now that the stone work is complete and we’ll be finishing up, rearranging furniture, replanting flower beds, etc.

There will be more photos to come when we’re done…stay tuned.

Other recent events include the capture of this handsome buck's image on the game camera,

Visits to our stock ponds by a variety of duck species,

and the birth of B1's new bull calf born on or about Valentine's Day.

We look forward to welcoming his brothers and sisters in the next several weeks.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

2018...Can you believe it?

After celebrating a quiet New Year’s at the farm, our January flew by.  It started on New Year’s Day with the thermometer at the farm reading a frigid 14 degrees and a light dusting of snow.  

And just as the full moon began to rise, 

we received the sad news that Mary Jo Dodson, mother of my sister-in-law, Jefflyn Jones, had lost her battle with diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.  Mary Jo was a loving mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother.  She was also my own mother’s dear friend and a cherished member of our extended family.  We will miss her.

Rue and I have continued working on our sheep herding skills with Michele McGuire at Paws 4 Ewe Farm.  In spite of the frosty temperatures, the ewes and their new lambs enjoyed basking in the sun.

Resident equines Marley and Buddy enjoyed the day as well.

And then it was the end of January.  Just before dawn on January 31 at moonset, we witnessed the appearance of the first Super Blue Blood Moon since 1866.  It’s a blue moon because it is the second full moon of the month, and a blood moon because when it enters the earth’s shadow in a lunar eclipse, it appears to turn a reddish color.

John and I were up early, and with plenty of coffee set out for a spot a couple of miles from the farm house that has a good view of the western horizon.  We had clear skies, and a good view of the eclipse as the earth’s shadow obscured the moon.

The only thing we missed was the ability to photograph the reddish color.  To the naked eye, as the shadow swept across the moon, there was a faint reddish cast to the dark area.  It was very faint, though, and I wasn’t able to capture it on film.  We waited for a bit after the moon went totally dark, but never saw it emerge from the shadows because it passed behind a cloud bank.  As we finished our coffee, we had to be content with a beautiful sunrise.

And that evening, with the rising of the blue moon in the east.

I hardly had time to catch my breath when it was time to travel to San Antonio for the Western Heritage Parade.  On Saturday, February 3, a group representing the Texas Hill Country Stock Dog Association again participated in the San Antonio Stock Show and Western Heritage Parade. Our goal was to honor the memory of our friend, the late JoAnne Noble, who started the tradition of using our herding dogs to take a group of sheep through downtown San Antonio as part of this event. It was a special day; the parade committee honored JoAnne's memory with a riderless horse in the parade.  We could recognize which horse it was because we recognized those boots.

Ken Theus, who has stepped up to organize our participation, brought some 65 head of sheep (and 3 agreeable goats) for us to use.  They were a magnet for kids and dogs while we waited for the parade to start.  

One of the clowns even stopped by.

And then it was time for the parade to begin.

First came the longhorns…I was told 300 of them.

And then the “riding longhorns,” massive things, but gentle as ponies...just be sure to stay away from those horns.

Then it was our turn.  Ken had the able assistance of his border collie, Mac, and several other handlers and their dogs. The rest of us, with our border collies on leash, gave moral support and held the rear flank. 

The sheep proceeded down the 1.5 mile parade route with the border collies cooperating to keep them in an orderly bunch, moving forward or stopping as needed. The crowd loved their performance, and I'll bet we were the most photographed group in the parade.  

Once the sheep were loaded into their trailer, we watched the rest of the parade.

Followed by armies of "scoopers" who kept the street (mostly) clean.  

It was great fun.  Thanks Ken, for your hard work. JoAnne would be proud.