Now that the prescribed burn has done its work, there are even more projects for John and me and for my brother Allan and his wife Jefflyn. John, Allan and Jef got started last weekend with pushing and piling the cedar “bones” that did not burn completely in the initial fire. We will burn these piles as time and weather conditions permit.
Allan also signed an agreement with the Texas Soil and Water Conservation Board for us to plant a mix of 40% grasses and 60% wildflowers and forbs to provide a habitat favorable to the monarch butterfly. The newly-burned areas, particularly some 15 acres across from Allan and Jef’s house and below ours that are level and have deeper, more fertile soils, will provide an ideal environment for these plants. We hope they will flourish and give migrating monarchs much-needed nourishment on their journeys north and south. We hope this will change the cedar-covered hills to pastures filled with native grasses and wildflowers.
Years ago, when our parents were actively managing the farm, each spring and fall brought flocks of migrating butterflies to this location. They seemed to follow the middle fork of Neils Creek, which runs through our property. I can remember seeing them clustered in the trees along the creek and skimming over the surface of the stock ponds. Sadly, we now see very few, but hope that our efforts will help their numbers to increase.
On Friday, Allan drove into Hamilton to pick up our 500 pounds of seed — nine fifty-pound bags! To give our seeds a good chance to germinate, we borrowed a culti-packer. This curious piece of equipment is fashioned with old tires, and can be pulled behind a pickup or tractor to roll over and press the seeds into the soil.
Jef and I rode in the pickup and scattered the seeds by hand as Allan drove across the pastures. (I didn’t show you pictures of our initial efforts. Instead of sitting in the bed of the truck, we were perched on the tailgate, hanging on for dear life to be sure we didn’t wind up being squished like the seeds by the culti-packer.) We laughed as we remembered stories our parents told of Mother perched on the back of the tractor hand-planting coastal Bermuda sprigs in our twenty-five acre coastal field.
We finished our planting project just in time. At noon on Saturday, a soft rain began to fall. We hope in a couple of weeks to see tiny green shoots emerging where today there is ash and soot.