Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

No further obvious signs of a big cat although there was fresh coyote or fox scat. I need to become a better scat expert. I do recall the State Game Trapper saying if it's very dark, as this was, they are getting fresh kill. The goats are all fine and I'm keeping the dogs close to the house.

We were hoping for rain, but we only got a trace. It stayed north of us as usual. I may put the goats on the 'house' pasture this week. They still have grass, but there's a lot of growth over here that could be cleaned by the goats.

I saw a big buck this morning. Again it was between 9-9:30 and this was the same one I saw last week. There are a lot of deer hunters out over the Thanksgiving weekend. I haven't heard many shots from the deer stands near TOR though.

We drove to Alvarado for Thanksgiving as we have done the past several years. We are thankful for family, friends, and life in the country.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mountain Lion is back....

...Maybe. If you read this blog you know I have suspected something big around for a while. In just the previous few months we have gone from rabbits rabbits everywhere to rarely seeing one . This morning we found these tracks on the front sidewalk. The print is from a mountain lion book and the photos was taken this morning. Looks the same to me. I was up late last night and didn't notice anything and Tessie was up with me. It was so late, 3:00 a.m., that I didn't take her out before going to bed. Good thing, I'd say. The prints were all over the side walk as if it had been looking in the front windows of the house. Also I believe there is more than one cat as there were two sizes with one set smaller. It could be a very big bobcats, but looks like a lion print to me. NOTE: This program distorts the photos somewhat, on comparison on the computer they are identical with the print.

A few years back, it was the huge lion tracks actually 6 feet up on the windows that finally convinced the county trapper to set a mountain lion trap a few years back. We had good confirmed tracks then with the front paws on the window and back paws in the flower bed. I lost six goats before that lion left the area.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Great Week on the Ranch

The weather has continued to be fantastic. Since we had friends coming for the weekend and staying in the cabin, our project this week was to clear cedars from an area behind the cabin between the new trail just opened and the trail next to cabin. This will open a view along the ridge from the house looking east and from the new trail looking west. It also cleared two live oak trees one of which looks very good. It was only a two/three day job and we burned right where two trails crossed so we didn't have to load or haul cedar tops. I was also able to push a lot of the cut cedar with the tractor so it went fairly easy. I really think it looks good. With each little project we complete the overall beauty of the place becomes more clear. It's amazing how much it has changed yet so much more to do. I seem to take photos after the projects but forget to get a 'before' photo. I need to remember to do that because after you get used to the improvements/changes you forget what it used to look like.

As mentioned we had friends in over the weekend and we cooked steaks out over coals in the back. It was cool so we ate inside. Friends brought other goodies and it was one great meal on Saturday night.

Our friends brought 25lbs of carrots and we took some down to Annie and who showed up but the three Amigas. They all look very good. All fat and very healthy looking. They are very happy at their new home and I wonder how they knew we had the carrots? I saw another nice buck this week and again it was between 9:00-9:30 am. This one didn't have the huge rack as the others, but was a very big deer.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wednesday Routine

It's nice to get back to my regular set Wednesday routine. I've been kind of off the routine as I've been traveling and I like to cruise in hurricane season as the fares are very reasonable at that time so I've been off schedule. BTW-I've decided that I'm not leaving the ranch in October or November in the future as the weather is usually great that time of year here, so why go away?

My routine has been set for several years on a Wednesday, so much so that if neighbors see me on the road they will know it's probably Wednesday AND Kenzie (our dog) would be waiting at the back door for me on Wednesdays. I swear she could tell when it was Wednesday as she got to ride to town and get a treat at the Bank and BBQ so she anticipated the day. I always bragged that she knew the days of the week and I'm not sure she knew how it was Wednesday, I assume because she could hear me open the drawer with my keys in it or as mentioned just the routine. Anyway she knows when it's Wednesday.

So here's the typical Wednesday Routine for me as this is what I did today: Before leaving gather any mail, bank deposits, laundry, or anything that needs to go to town. First stop is usually the Bank as it's the first thing I come to when arriving in town. After that it varies depending on the time of day, but probably the Bunkhouse BBQ as Wednesday is the day they have ribs on the buffet. Very good stop, they were extra good today. Next the Feed Store to pick up feed for the goats and some deer corn. I also bought tickets for the 'Sausage Supper' later in the month. Next stop is the Gas Station and today I had all the extra 5 gallon cans to fill with gasoline and diesel fuel for the ranch (gas $1.84 diesel $2.74). Next stop is the Post Office to pick up and mail the mail. Following that it's any special projects that need to be taken care of which usually means a stop at the Hardware Store. Today it was have a flat on the truck fixed at the tire shop ($11.00 for two plugs). Some days there is the 'happy hour' drink from Sonic, but today I got a big drink at the station to enjoy while they repaired the flat. The last thing to do in town is to stop at the Brookshires Grocery for shopping.

It can be a boring routine for some, but I really enjoy it. Living in a rural area is very nice and the trip to small town Clifton is very enjoyable. The bank tellers call you (and your dog) by name as do people at the grocery, bbq, post office, etc. You recognize faces on the sidewalk or see the minister planting flowers in front of the church and it all brings a smile to your face. I am very appreciative.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Beautiful November Weather

Continuing beautiful fall weather through November. Many of the trees are turning colors and look very nice. We had a very light rain, but I didn't have the gauge out, probably .25 inches. The tank is completely dry, but we still have grass.

We did some clearing below the house along the clearing towards the twisted oak tree. Really cut cedars away from an existing stand of live oaks and a very large Spanish Oak (see photo). You can now see the twisted oak through the cedars if you know where to look. It's a very pretty little area, we need to continue clearing there. We had a good fire in the 'gravel pit' from the cedar cuttings, but shared some with the goats. I swept the ranch roads with a good pile of cedar I was hauling with the tractor. Also filled in some wash out on the cutoff trail with material from the gravel pit on the returns to get more cedar debris. Looks good.

I have mentioned fewer rabbits and small animals in recent posts and last night under the full moon I discovered one reason why. I took the 'girls' out as usual before retiring for the evening and it was after midnight. Since the mountain lion scare I always accompany them if it's that late and glad I did. A huge Barn Owl came swooping down and made a pass over one of the dogs. I guess the owl was expecting/hoping for something a bit smaller but did come back and made a second pass. Kenzie hates Turkey Buzzards and always barks at them even if the are far overhead, but she never saw the owl. I was standing only 25 feet away and either that or the size of the dogs kept the owl from latching onto them. This was a big owl and wouldn't have a problem with an average rabbit, but a 18 lb dog would probably be a reach. I've seen the owl before, but not that close. I'm sure it hangs around waiting for critters to check the seed that has fallen from the bird feeders. Easy pickin's for the owl.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Hackberry Tree

I took this photo Tuesday of the hackberry tree and thought I should tell its story. This entire area was covered in cedar when we bought the place, but located in a draw between two ridges so it had potential. This area was in front of the cabin we were working on and after cleaning up in the immediate area of the cabin was the first place we wanted to clear cedar. A friend, F.M. Daniels, from Fort Worth came down and we had two chain saws working for two days cutting cedar. Most were the bushy type, 10-15' tall (some taller) and big around with numerous limbs, that had grown in the past 30-35 years. In the photo you will now see a beautiful stand of live oaks. These were completely covered by the cedars and could not be seen at all at the time. We had two big fires burning the cedar tops as we cut and a for few days following. After the cedar was cut there was an old dead oak tree about 25-30' tall and a scraggily hackberry beside it about 12' tall. You can see the stump of the oak that I now use as a base for feeding deer. Although the hackberry was scrawny having grown among the cedar I wanted to keep it as it was the ONLY hackberry tree on the ranch. The next week I engineered how I was going to cut the big oak down, but despite my best efforts it came down and broke the hackberry tree in half. Oh well, I tried. I decided to pick a good spot on the trunk of the hackberry about 5' from the ground and made a diagonal cut across and hope for the best. Well you can see the excellent results. Without the cedars the tree grew in a perfect balance and now looks fantastic. Although many hackberry trees are considered a nuisance tree this one looks very good, has good fall color, and provides food for the birds. And as mentioned it's the ONLY hackberry tree on the ranch.

Note how good the stand of Texas Live Oak trees look. They have doubled in size since all the cedar were cleared away from them. That's Gary Mountain in the background. BTW-the area cleared is larger than in the photo and the photo taken with the zoom lens also makes it look smaller than normal. I only put corn in that feeder when we have guests in the cabin, but this is now a favorite 'hang out' for deer.