Thursday, December 30, 2010

Good Bye 2010

The weather has been more typical. Some nice warm days and some cooler days. We finally got some rain, about .80 and then a few days of light drizzle, probably an inch overall. That will help the grass and trees. Since we finally got some moisture I did put out 50 lbs of rye grass seed on the bluff area where we are still trying to establish some soil over the rock. We have about half covered and well established with grass. The deer and goats love it.

There was no run off of the rain so my berms didn't really get tested. I'm not finished with the big one yet but will be soon. I have decide to move it forward towards the road.

The neighbors deer hunter did shoot a wild pig this week so it is official about them being on top of the mountain. I will keep an eye out for sure. My big buck seems to have made it through hunting season, I saw him yesterday. It will be interesting to see if he rejoins the little group of does that come up to the house most evenings.

The goats are doing fine in the mountain pasture and the kids now follow the herd. The kids are also eating or at least trying the goat feed in addition to the pasture. There is a lot of dry grass and still a bit of good grass so all is well. I expect new grass in 6-8 weeks.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

First Day of Winter

It's hard to believe that it is the first day of winter and the weather has been brilliant the past two days. It reached 84° both days. Great weather but the days are so very short. We need rain, it is very dry.

For about two weeks we've been letting the goats out on the 'house' side since we wanted to do in order to watch the kids closer. This requires me to manually open the gates each day and also keep the gate from the ranch road to the county road closed. We don't really want to do this any longer than we need to, but the goats have been pretty good about staying away from the house. I did have to repair a few holes in the fence along the road. The kids have stayed with the herd the past few days so I have reopened the mountain pasture gates so they are now on their own again.

I took advantage of the weather to build and finish a small berm next to a culvert crossing under the ranch road. We have a draw between Ray's Ridge and the mountain that drains all the water during a rain. This draw comes down the mountain and opens into the lower park area. I've previously diverted the water to go behind the cabin. When we have a big rain with a lot of run off the water needs to slow down so it will drain through one of the two culverts that drain water from the upper to the lower part of the park area. If it doesn't it will flow over the road. Thus the need for a berm so water will slow. I'm very pleased with the way it looks. I had a temporary berm there so I know it will work well. I've started a new long berm below the road where it goes up the mountain. This berm will hopefully divert water and keep road material and gravel from washing into the park area. This one will require a lot of rocks to finish, At least we have plenty of rock.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wild Hogs

I've had some discussions with the neighbors and it looks like the wild hogs may now be coming up on the mountain. A deer hunter got a photo of some in his wildlife camera on my neighbors place and I now believe that is what got some of my kids. The hogs had been staying in the river and creek beds, but I guess they are now going up hill looking for food. We did have a lot of acorns this year, they may be foraging for them and new territory. I will keep an eye out.

This photo wasn't taken on the ranch, but just north of here near Meridian this past weekend. (I just got this photo and my information is second hand but I believe this is on the Domel place.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

December update

The month started with nice weather, warmer than normal. We didn't get our first 'hard' freeze until this past weekend. The Spanish Oaks have lost most of their leaves by now (probably 60%), but they had very pretty color for a long time. A lot of Texas Live Oaks have also dropped their leaves due to how dry it has been. They do that when necessary, but most are all green.

We don't have a billy with the goats, but we have had a few kids from some late does. Lost a few, but we have three nice ones. We will have a few more in a few weeks. I have the goats in the lower goat lot and have cut a few cedars to clear and then feed to the goats, but still lost 3-4 kids. Not sure what got 2, but 2 were natural.

There were a lot of wild turkeys around at Thanksgiving. Most of the folks that came saw them on the road. Very fitting for Turkey Day.

Monday, November 15, 2010

November 2010

I can't believe it's mid-November. We were away from the ranch from 1 November for 11 days. Thanks to the neighbor kids who fed the animals. By being away we were able to notice things we may not have noticed had we been here every day. First, the deer are much darker in color than when we left. I don't think I have noticed that before. Then again we have the one group that stays so close, I'm getting a very good look at them and recognize them as individual deer. In the past I may have just thought it was different deer. It is amazing that they are so much darker. I wonder if it has to do with the loss of daylight? Second, the Spanish Oaks are turning a nice fall color. Very pretty actually. We drove to Stephenville to shop and the countryside looked good with the fall colors.

It is cooler. About 72°- 48° temperature range.

We still have grass. We did have at least an inch of rain while we were gone as there was almost that in the gauge and the pool was full. We needed the rain.

Animals are all well.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Beautiful October Weather

October is my favorite month and this has been a very beautiful month for weather. Really making up for last years October weather. The weather actually got very warm with highs around 88° and only cooling down to 70's. Today it is 87° at lunch time and supposed to reach 91°, that will be a new record high for this date. We did have a cold front come through on Saturday and it was only 68° with cloudy skies. They had rain, thunderstorms, and a few tornados in the surrounding counties, but only had a few sprinkles. So it is very dry. We really could use some rain, but the grass still looks pretty good.

We really did a lot of clearing and cleaning of cedars the past ten days. This time we are working behind the house expanding towards the bluff and north fence line. I had already cleared the bluff itself over the past few years as it has a nice view to the west and at this time of year the sun sets directly on the fence row and property line (due east/west) so at sunset you can see rays of sun go through the woods and up the mountain. What we are trying to do is clear the area between the bluff and the cleared area behind the house. We can now walk from the house to the bluff without having to take a trail. We had two good burn fires going and I did scorch a few more cedars than I originally intended, but they will probably go out in the next stage of clearing anyway. The area does look good and you can now see the house from the bluff. It still has a lot of cedar, but we have burned all the 1930's CCC debris on the ground and cut as many dead branches as I can reach. We leave the larger cedar and take out the crooked and damaged trees. We have a lot more to do, but it will look good and it is much safer in case of a fire. It will also be a lot harder for a mountain lion to sneak up on us as well. The area that we just cleared is where I lost a big bob cat about five years ago. I know I shot him as went three feet into the air when I hit him, but he got into the brush and escaped.

I mentioned that we need a new name for what we called the lower pasture, it's really not big enough anyway. It's also been improved so much it's really not a pasture even though it is basically native pasture grass. We have removed the stumps, the cactus, and now cut the grass so it's really a landscaped area now. Last night a herd of deer were enjoying it. Some possible names: lower yard, lower lawn, or lower park. I like lower park, but I have to think on that for a while.

The goats are well. The kids are getting big and they are at the stage that they are getting hung up the the field fencing. When their horns get bigger they just can't get into the places they used to be able to so they get hung up. I took two out last night. If I don't find them, the coyotes will get them for sure.

Hummingbirds are gone. Not a lot of birds on the feeders right now. There are a lot more doves than I usually see though.

Love the weather so the usual Ranch chores are getting done: equipment repairs, trimming and maintaining trails and the road, fence repairs, etc. Pepino has returned from Mexico so he was able to work a couple of days too.

Don't usually mention personal stuff, but I will say that have really enjoyed following the Texas Rangers this year. I have watched every game on TV from opening day (except when away) and the two playoff series were very good. I will enjoy the World Series. Good Luck Rangers.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Clearing Again!

It has been beautiful weather all week. Warm in the day, but cool at night. I guess it's considered warm for this time of year, but we'll take it as long as it cools of at night. It has gone from 88° to 55° during the day.

We did some work in the lower pasture this week. (we really need to get better name for this area). We have been working on it off and on for over a year. We cut cedar, burned stumps, cleared briars, and general clearing. We had two fires going to burn debris so we were making good progress. This area is viewed from the big house directly below where the ranch road goes up the mountain. It does look good from the house. The deer have already been there and seem to approve.

The water temperature in the pool is 74-75° very tempting after working outside and used it to cool off, but didn't really swim.

Goats are happy, still lots of grass and I took them some good tree tops including some shumate and live oak tops. Those are their favorites.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Great Fall Weather

The weather is wonderful. Cooling off at night into the 60's and the highs are now in the 80's. The A/C will be off soon.

DW hopefully cut the grass today for the last time this season, but we thought that the last two times. The rains have been very good for the grass. The new area planted has covered so we only have one more area to establish next spring and we will have grass planted all around the house. This year we had a lot of pasture grass that invaded the planted bermuda areas. I'm not sure of the variety, but it is really growing well and fast. Good for the pasture but not so much in the lawn areas we are trying to establish. The goats are very happy.

I worked on removing stumps down in the lower pasture. So we had our first small fire of the season. When we were clearing we had 3-4 big fires a day going, but now that's probably only going to be a weekly thing this fall.

Did the pool thing for probably the last time this past weekend. Water temp was 77-78° I've been leaving the pool sweep in the pool so it's getting the frog eggs. Looks like that has now slowed down, haven't seen any for a few days. Hope so.

Deer should be happy. Cooler weather, lots of acorns, lots of grass, and corn in the feeder. The group of four rarely leave the area around the house. I've seen a lot of fawns in the mountain pasture.

All is well on Rattlesnake Mountain.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

First Day of Fall

We have been away from the ranch for a while on a couple of Cruises and a California holiday (read my cruise blog if interested). My aunt and cousin again minded the ranch while we were gone. They enjoy the wildlife and like to come down so we are very lucky that they volunteer.

We had a nice rain the first week we were gone, but the second week brought Tropical Storm Hermine and we had ten inches of rain over two days. I was told it came down well and not all at once. The ranch roads were not near as bad as I thought they would be when we returned. The rain did bring out the grass. More than enough for the goats since we culled the herd before we left. There is a lot of grass. After a few days of rest we got to work repairing the roads and culverts. I hauled a lot of material from the gravel pit and filled in the road as needed. Pepino is in Mexico and he would have mowed but a safety switch on the JD tractor mower malfunctioned. After repairing the mower, actually by passing the switch ;-), it took several days to get all the grass cut. The trees are having a banner year.

Weather has been very nice. Still about 92-95° as a high, but cooling off at night.

There are a lot of acorns on the ground right now. Good for the deer. Also a lot of fall blooming plants. I still see a few Hummingbirds so they are here a little late. Cardinals and the usual are still around.

We do have something new we have have never had to deal with before: frog eggs. I thought this was a spring thing, but the frogs are depositing their eggs in the swimming pool. I've been scooping them out and putting them in the wildlife tank for the fish to eat. They look like caviar. I sat out on the patio last night during sunset and seven frogs gathered around the pool as it got dark, no telling how many frogs we have. Amazing. The frogs do like to make noise although I do find the croaking to be a nice country sound.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lazy Days of Summer

We finally got some relief from the August heat. We had had 25 consecutive days of over 100° weather, but yesterday we got a cold front that broke that string. We had very high winds in advance and it blew down some bird feeders, native vines growing on the back of the pavilion, and my rain gauge so I'm not sure exactly how much rain we had. We later had .5 inch so I'm guessing we had about an inch overall. Not enough rain to gully the road, but a welcome amount for sure. Pepino had cut a lot of dead tree branches with the pole saw just recently, but the winds helped bring down some more. Even with the heat we have received enough rain that the trees continue to look very good.

Thanks to the neighbors I had a mini round up and took some goats to market. All the males and an older nanny. The closest commission sale is now in Hamilton and the sale is on Mondays so Sunday is a good day to haul. It's 33 miles so that's not too bad. It seems two of the new little bucks may have gone missing. The count didn't seem right.

My newly planted grass is looking good. So are the front yards. I also had one of my highest water bills since we have been here at 50,000 gallons. (20,000 is average)

Each year seems to be different as far as the number of critters we see. This year is the year of the Lizard. They are everywhere and the Roadrunners love it. We have only seen one fox this summer and I thought we would see more considering that we watched that one den grow up this spring. I have found it very unusual that I have not seen many raccoons. Usually they are a nuisance, but very few this year. The big buck deer is still making himself at home. The fawns are big now and they too are coming up to feed.

There seems to be a few fewer frogs. We put out some rubber snakes, but I'm not sure that was the cause, more likely a real snake got a few.

There are lots of butterflies and hummingbirds feeding on the blooming Lantana.

Hopefully fall is around the corner.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Screech Owl

Tonight we were entertained by a Screech Owl that landed in the courtyard fountain. It stayed on the edge of the top bowl then dropped down into the bowl itself. Most of the water drains down from the small top bowl so there was some to drink, but I think the owl enjoyed the cool spot. Since the back yard lights were turned on I was surprised it stayed as long as it did. I was able to get very close and watch. I bet he returns.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Buck on a Hot Day

Just shot this picture out the back window. This particular buck is around ALL the time. We don't seem to spook him either. He doesn't run even if we are on the patio or walking close to the house. He's very comfortable here and why shouldn't he? This is getting closer than usual as he stays back at the tree line most of the time.

Notice that the grass is still green. It is going dormant now though. We are watering the front, but not the back. Also I see a hummingbird on the feeder. It's the 13th consecutive day over 100°.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Hot, but Good Week

It has been hot, reaching 100° nine consecutive days now. Clouded up a few times and even very slight shower (.10) but generally just hot summer weather. Typical for this time of year though. Good news is that the grass has survived so far. I did start watering the front yard today. I'll let the rest go dormant and it usually already has by this time of year. I again over seeded the area along the bluff where I'm trying to establish new grass and did water it over the week. I also added some fescue seed to the bermuda just to get a mixture and something established. It is coming up. The small area between the pool and the established lawn that we started in the spring has completely filled with bermuda grass. It looks good.

Very productive week on the ranch. Pepino worked four days so we got a lot done. He applied a new coat of stain on the cabin, porch and railings. It looks great. I ordered new parts for the JD lawn tractor including a new front bumper. It's looking good as new and has new filters, etc.

The Lantana that we planted early in the year is now starting to look very good. The flowers really attract the hummingbirds too. Not pleased with the Begonias we planted. The asian jasmine we planted for ground cover is taking off in the two circle. We have kept the motion water alarms active in the two circle so that the deer would not eat the plants. It has worked well, seems to keep the rabbits away as well. As mentioned several times the trees look great. New growth on all the Texas Live Oaks. I measured one that we cleared cedar away from when we built the house and it has grown at least seven feet in about six years.

We are very pleased with the pool and new deck. We have had two frogs all year, but more have arrived and tonight we had nine around the pool. I don't mind a few, but that's too many so I'll have to deal with that.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Swimmin' Hole

Starting to get more typical late July-August weather--HOT. The new Swimmin' Hole is getting very good use. We did have a rain shower early this week though. Another half inch. That's very good for this time of year. The grass is still green and it has usually gone dormant by now. The trees all look great. I've decide to try and establish some bermuda grass on the new bluff area. This is the new area built out with the dirt, rock and debris from the pool construction. I've run a water hose to the area and have seeded it three times so hopefully we will have that area in grass soon. I have finished the cedar screen in front of the pool equipment and it really blends well with the view. All is well on the ranch.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Some Rain

We had a nice shower late yesterday. 1.8 inches in about an hour. Looks like I will be repairing the road later today when it dries out some. We need the rain, but it seems to come in deluges when it comes. The grass looks great this morning.

I have been building a new cedar screen around the pool equipment. While gathering previously cut cedar from the mountain pasture yesterday I flushed three fawns, a pair and a single. This was just from the upper portion where I had left a lot of cut cedar on the ground. They use it as cover so I'm glad I left some on the ground.

BTW-The Painted Buntings really like the rainy weather.

Friday, July 23, 2010


It has now become more typical July weather. Up to the high 90's during the day. Still not as hot as the 1st week of June though. We did get more rain last week. A 1.2" rain followed by a .75" rain. I did have to grade the road three times in a week, but it has been very dry this past week. The grass is very green for this time of year. The pastures all look great. The goats love it.

We have really started to enjoy the swimming pool. It is very nice indeed. We have two frogs that are also using the pool. There is a perfect little frog cave in the natural stone area and the other one stays in the waterfall. Since we are using the new UV system we don't have to use high levels of pool chemicals and the water is very nice for both humans and critters.

I have moved some bird feeders so that they can be seen from the new pool and patio area. The birds like them. I still see a Painted Bunting every day and on every feeder. I'm not sure how many we have in total, but at least two pair.

Add: We had a summer shower just after posting this message. A nice .45 almost a 1/2 inch of needed rain.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

June or July?

We seem to be getting June's weather in July and July's weather in June so far. June started very hot with 100° heat early and very hot all through the month. July has started rainy and cooler. We have had 5+ inches of rain so far with isolated/scattered rain forecast for another week. The grass has really greened back up and looks good.

The Mountain Pinks have bloomed as usual. A unique summer flower only found in this area. They usually start blooming around June 21st.

We've been getting a lot of chores done and cleaned up around the house as we have had a lot of visitors the past two weekends. I had a metal grill made that fits onto a tractor rim that makes a very good BBQ pit. Also the plumber came out and we had a list of repairs for him. I could not locate one water line (in time) so I still need a stand pipe set near the Pavilion.

The fawns have been getting brave enough to come up by the house. We've seen a set of twins and two other ones. The baby goats are getting their horns now and are eating grass and testing the feed as well. The birds are active and I still see the Painted Buntings almost daily.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Summer Time

It's almost been two weeks since our busy time with the annual Texas Scottish Festival and we are just getting back into life on the ranch. The weather has continued to be hot so we are on summer hours. Up early for chores, afternoon inside, and feed in the evening. The great change this year is the swimming pool. We can actually get some more work done knowing we will get that refreshing dip in the pool to cool off after some chores.

The goats have just been put back in to the pasture. I had been closing them off at night so that the babies would not be left alone while the rest were away feeding. There are nine babies and they follow the group up to the mountain then back down in the evening. The last baby was born while we were at the Festival, but he is doing well. We were very lucky that Pepino (BTW-not his real name) was able to work here while we were away so he was able to watch & feed the goats. He had just returned from Mexico so the timing was very good. He has been working extra days this week as well.

The foxes left some time while we were gone. We did get a heavy rain the night before I left and that probably washed them out of their den in the drainage pipe. I haven't seen them for two weeks.

The deer are used to our routine and the pool. They come up to the feeder as long as we stay on the new patio or in the pool. It's great to watch them and the other wildlife from the pool.

Other than the one heavy rain it has been very dry. We are missing the rain showers that have fallen in the area. I did some work on the ranch road and it's looking very good, but could use some rain on the new gravel. I may need to find a new gravel pit as I'm getting onto some solid rock where I'm at now. I'm digging just below the location of the old Norwegian quarry that was here 100+ years ago. I'm sure I just have to move a bit. Oddly the official USGS survey done here last in the 1970's shows that location as a gravel pit on the USGS map. It's small but that is what it is.

We are starting to catch up on the usual chores: cutting cedars, burning stumps, watering new grass, trimming trees, etc. I'd like to finish some work in the mountain pasture and cut cedar for a screen in front of the pool equipment.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Painted Bunting

We are lucky to have Painted Buntings on the ranch. I think they are one of the the prettiest birds in Texas. For about five weeks we have had a Painted Bunting tapping on our bedroom window early in the mornings. Not every morning, but 5 days a week on average. There is a bird feeder right outside the window and I thought he was seeing the reflection, but a few times it has been on a different window. Not sure what's up, but a least he is making it very easy to watch him. I do keep the better seed in that feeder just to attract the Buntings and it is their favorite bird feeder. I wasn't counting on the early wake up calls though.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Much Warmer Weather

It's been very interesting watching the baby foxes. They are very active and getting very brave venturing away from their den. They are even coming up on the patio and looking in the screen door. I don't see the mother much at all, but suspect she is watching from further away. We've noticed squirrels dropped off for the babies. I tossed over three cowbirds I had culled and they were gone in an hour. They are fun to watch especially while playing and hunting bugs, but they will need to be moving on soon, as we don't want them next to the house.

The weather is warming up and reached 90° twice this week. The pool is up to 82° and now feels great especially on these hot days. We will take advantage of the pool this year.

The baby goats are coming. We have seven so far. I've closed off the mountain pasture as that has not been good for babies of late. There are lots of wild critters up there. The neighbors got rid of their dogs so that has not been a problem this time. Perhaps we'll have some good babies this year. For the past 10 days I have allowed the goats to pasture during the day around the house and new pastures. I can leave the new mothers with the babies this way and monitor the others expecting. They have been very good and not really gone for the landscaping. They really enjoyed the rye grass, but the rye grass is about gone because of the recent heat. It's time to plant bermuda grass in the new areas around the house. The goats really cleaned out the thistles and finished off most of the wildflowers.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Baby Foxes

We have been watching a family of foxes who seem to have taken residence in our drainage pipe in front of the Pavilion. The mother is a small red fox and she has four pups. The babies climb and jump on her just like other mothers & babies of various types. I'm sure she wants to get them out and about as that is a small pipe and they are getting active. Very cute babies.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Nice Week

It was a nice week on the Ranch. The weather was generally nice with high's about 78° and cooling at night. We did get an inch of rain on Friday night. We planted some more larger Asian Jasmine as a ground cover, but our order of two flats of small AJ didn't come in this week.

I did get the huge pile of brush burned this week before the rain. We had accumulated a lot from trimming and cleaning on the county road fence row and other places. I also did some stump burning as weather allowed.

The water temp of the pool reached 75° on Saturday so I had the first official dip in the pool. It was very nice. We will enjoy it this year.

Pepino painted the new pipe rail gate and entry. It looks very good. He will be in Mexico for three weeks so we'll miss his fine touches around the place. The wildflowers are looking good. They are everywhere for better or worse. We cleaned the wildlife tank and added two Water Lilies that we got from our neighbor. The deer are trimming the pads closest to the edge of the tank for us.

BTW--I also saw the first Painted Bunting of the year on the bedroom bird feeder.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Some Rain

We got a lot of flower bed work done around the house this week. DW set more flowers and Pepino really prepared a wonderful bed in the large circle in between the Pavilion and new Patio. He dug out all the grass etc., dug out the rocks, and spread three loads of new top soil I had brought in with the tractor. It really looks good and is ready for new planting. We are planning on planting Asian Jasmine as a ground cover. It's a large area so we have ordered 40 small plants and 6 larger ones in order to cover it. Hopefully it will within two years. We also spread natural fertilizer on the front yard just in time for the weekend rains.

I did do some trimming and set fire to a brush pile in the mountain pasture. The weather seemed right for burning as it was looking to rain. The drizzle did start Friday evening and we had good rains on Saturday. Drizzle and light rain on Sunday. Probably 3 inches overall. A good result of the rain is that it seems to have knocked down the 'fuzzy' bits of the blooming Texas Live Oaks. We had just reached the stage that they turn everything green. The patio, tables, the tractor, the cars, everything. Hopefully most have been washed out of the trees, the ground and road is covered with the 'fuzzy' bits, but at least they won't be covering everything nearly as bad. Good.

I haven't seen a Hummingbird on the feeder, but one buzzed me on Saturday so they are arriving. The wildflowers are looking great.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

April is nice! Patio is Ready!

The weather has been much better although we had two weeks of high winds. In one stretch of 36 hours the wind never dropped below 20 mph day or night, with gust up to 40 mph. It has helped getting the leaves off the trees though. Of late the weather is nice with day highs in the 70's and dropping to 50's at night. Good working weather although this is my busy time in the office.

We have cleaned all the flower beds set out all new flowers, mostly begonias. The deer did get the Mexican Heather in the pots out front, but everything in the beds are fine so far. This is the first time we have planted since the new rock borders were completed. The beds around the house look very good. We set three tomato plants and the Mint is coming along very well. I don't think we are going to get the big garden in this year.

The trees continue to look good. They are still in process of change. The Live Oaks are dropping old leaves as the new ones come out. Most of the Spanish Oak have budded and should be in leaves very soon. The lone Hackberry tree, usually the last to bud, has now done so. I have to double my inventory of Pecan trees. We have really cleaned the area where I knew I had the big pecan and now I know that there are two very large native pecan trees. When I looked before I just assumed there was one, but now that the brush and briars are cleaned I can see both at the same time. The wildflowers are coming now out. We have a lot of Prairie Verbena around the house as usual. Between the goats and the deer they have eaten most of the wildflowers on the ranch. There are a lot of Bluebonnets along the roads and highways.

The wild birds are not as active as last year yet. I think we are behind schedule this year. We had beautiful indigo buntings by mid-April last year. I did put out the first hummingbird feeder today. I haven't seen any hummers, but they are due anytime.

The deer have not been as active now that we have grass and they have lots of things to eat on the mountain and pastures. We still get the regulars that live here on the ranch, but I haven't seen the large groups of deer for a week or so. I did have a deer stand in the ranch road yesterday when I was going to feed the goats. He didn't move until I had to come to a stop in the Gator.

We have added pots to the new patio and the furniture has been painted so the patio is looking very good as well. I believe it is now officially open!! Still too cool to swim, but the water has been getting up to 70°. It's still cooling off at night so the water also stays cool. Won't be long though.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring is here!

tuekeyWe have have had some very nice days, but on the first day of spring the weather again turned cold and cloudy like the weather we had had all winter. It only lasted about 36 hours, but it did freeze the water in the fountain so it was cold. They had snow again in the DFW area and set an all time record for snow. It cleared and was nice today so hopefully the cold weather is now over.

The Texas Live Oaks are losing their leaves and budding. The Spanish Oaks are also budding. There seems to be a lot of buds and I'm looking forward to the new leaves. The native grasses are coming up and turning green and I saw the first wildflowers this week. Looks like a good spring and I bet we have a lot of wildflowers this year too. DW set flowers in the new flower bed next to the pool today and has painted the patio furniture in anticipation of a lot of use of the new patio and pool this year.

The birds have been very active. Lot's of birds at the feeders. We can also see the geese flying north. They are impressive to watch flying overhead. I saw this flock of turkey on the county road this week. A new FB friend drove down our road and was able to get this photo. Although I see quite a few turkey around here I've never been able to get a photo this good. The deer are also somewhat active, but with the new grass coming in not as many deer are coming by to feed on our winter rye grass.

I did cut two very large cedar trees in the back of the house this week. The Live Oaks are looking very good and as they get bigger we have to cull more cedar. Again, once they are gone you really don't miss them. I'm having to burn the stump on the larger one as it was huge. I'm using the fire ring and had it about burned out before that cold snap and rain put it out. Used to be common to have fires that close to the house, but not in several years.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Much Better Weather in March

We have had much better weather. We had a deluge type rain early in the month with several inches of rain in a short period of time. This type of rain really gullies the road and as wet as it has been most of the gravel and caliche was too wet to make immediate repair, but when it starts to dry you can get some material that sets up almost like concrete. You have to catch it just right though. We decided to make a major change in the view from the front of the house by cutting down the large cedar tree in the center of the circle in front of the house. It really opened up a wonderful view. You can now clearly see four different mountains from the front of the house. After cutting down a big tree we always wonder why we didn't do it sooner. The tree is being recycled as we are using the cedar logs to make a screen in front of the pool equipment and I was able to use the cedar top as a drag to sweep and repair the road. I bet we end up cutting down the other cedar tree in front as then we would have the two huge Texas Live Oaks as the only trees in front. It would also really open up the view of Gary Mountain directly across from us.

The new ranch entry is already finished. The fence crew came and began clearing the fence line and setting the posts. The welders showed the next day and we had a nice four rail pipe entry and gate in 2 ½ days. I really like it. The gate is also made from the same pipe so it looks great and custom made. The weather was very nice so of course we spent several days clearing and cleaning around the new entry. The entire entry area looks much better. It's simple and clean just as we wanted. I think we may extend the pipe fence down the fence line two more sections. If we do we'll have an old pile of debris from the 1970's to clean as it would be seen, but we'll save that project for the summer.

During the process of building the new gate I discovered a new talent or skill. The art of dowsing. The main water line for the area water co-op follows the county road just inside my fence row. It goes somewhere under the area we are placing the new posts for the new entry. We requested that the line be marked, but that was never really done until the end of the first day so we had to determine the location of the water pipe so that we wouldn't hit it and knock out the water for everyone in the area. One of the crew started using a diving rod to find the water line. That really fascinated me as I've always been interested in that since I saw it done as a little kid on the farm in Oklahoma. They were confident and continued the work. I was at the gate working late moving the cedar they had cut when the water man came by to flag the line. He also used a diving rod. I had him instruct me on how to do it and did some sample finds myself. That night I really researched the art of dowsing and tested it for a few days. It would have come in handy when we couldn't find the water line when we ran water to the new wildlife tank this fall. I'm pretty confident in my new ability and it's fun.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

March 2010

The 1st day of March was again the same weather as we have had all winter: cloudy, wet & cold. The 2nd day was better with sunshine and warmer, but still below average. Hopefully we will have more typical weather for the rest of the winter. I will say that the wet weather has helped the trees and the rye grass looks great. The deer have enjoyed the rye grass and done a good job of keeping it trimmed. The hired hand has missed the past several weekends, but it was really a good time to go to Mexico as the weather here hasn't really been the best for outdoor work.

We have decided to improve the entry to Twisted Oak Ranch so we have been looking at various styles of gates and entries along our county road and other roads in the area. We don't want a fancy entry, no arches nor rock columns, just something clean and simple. I think we will go with a pipe entry and leave it natural. When we built the house we just pushed through the cedars creating a new entry from the ranch road to the county road. We just set a temporary cedar post entry with cattle panels and nice simple pasture gate. It has been fine and we rarely close it, but do have to wire it to a tree to keep it open. We are not going to install an automatic gate opener although that seems to be the hot thing out in the country. The cost is higher than the entry cost itself and since we only occasionally have animals in this section we will probably leave it open most of the time. In the process of looking at gates, we discovered that we have the smallest gate on Gary Creek Road at only 12 feet wide, but we have the original ranch entry that is wide enough for equipment to enter. The new gate will be 14 feet and the entry will consist of four rail pipes with three sections on each side of the gate. We will have to cut some cedar trees to get the additional room needed, but I think we will have a nice clean entry when it is finished. Hopefully we'll have this project finished by the end of the month.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Finally, the sun.

We finally had a nice day on Saturday. The sun was out all day for the first time in February. We did get some work done over the weekend. I found some dry caliche to spread and cover the pad area of the new pool construction where it meets the gravel road. When we get the new gravel it will just show stone on the back wall. While on the tractor doing that I did some work on the road and trails. We also set some large rocks as a transition between the gravel and new grass at the pool, cleaned flower beds, worked on the pool, moved a rock pile, and some other chores. It was just nice to get outside. The forecast is for more cold and wet weather so the nice weather will unfortunately not continue, but nice for a while.

Birds are very active as are the deer.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Heavy Snow

This continues to be the wettest and coldest winter in Texas in many years. We again had one nice day with 60°+ weather, but most days continue to be cloudy and cool. We actually had a very heavy snow in central Texas on Tuesday. We had 4-5 inches on the ground here at the ranch. It only lasted 36 hours, but that was a unique snow. Again it was nice watching the birds and deer in the snow. The birds are very active as I'm filling the feeders every other day. Of course I'm not getting any work done outside due to the weather. We really need to get a few pretty days so I can get some cedars removed for the new garden location.

Friday, February 12, 2010


The cold rainy weather continues. We had one good work day and took advantage cleaning the culverts at two of the gates on the county road from the debris accumulated from rain run off. I also built a water divertor where a trail meets the ranch road in front of the house. Water would run down the trail then wash out the road. Barely had it finished when the rains began again. The DFW area had really big record snow, over a foot. We are just far enough south that we only got 1-2 inches or so. The snow is pretty, but the ground is already so wet that it's messy. Pretty wildlife scenes watching the deer and birds in the snow though. The photo is looking down the mountain at the cabin, ranch road, and Gary Creek valley in distance. Notice how the snow weighs down the cedar trees. I haven't been out to see if we have lost any trees, but we did lose power overnight so trees have come down somewhere in our rural system.

Today is a unique day in U.S. history, the first day that there is snow on the ground in all 50 states.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Groundhog Day

I can't believe that it's already February. The weather still remains colder than usual. We have had a few nice days, but it's really been cool, cloudy, and rainy. We've had 5-7 inches of rain in the past few weeks. The trees look good and when we get sun again I bet we get grass right away. More rye grass has come up with this recent batch of rain. I will plant bermuda grass over it later.

We are getting big groups of deer. A group of 8-9 does and a group of young bucks come almost every night. Also a few single bucks and does at various times. The grass over the septic remains green and the corn I put out attracts them to the back of the house. They also seem to like the new rye grass too.

We lost a goat who had climbed a cedar tree and got hung up. Unfortunately it was the very cold nights we had and although we freed her she really couldn't survive. I had Pepino trim all the remaining brushy multi-trunk cedars in the goat pasture. If it's not predators or dogs, it's the weather or something unusual that gets your goats.

We have used a lot of propane due to the cold weather. I bought two electric heaters to supplement heating the house and liked the one that looked like a small fireplace so much that I ordered an electric insert for the fireplace. It looks like a real fire and I can use it to heat or just turn on the flames. I like it.

The pool is basically finished and we had the pool school so it is now our responsibility to maintain it. They still need to change the gauge on the filter, but that's about it. The pool equipment has run a lot this month as it has a freeze guard that runs the waterfall automatically when it gets close to 32 degrees. We had the wooden pavilion built over the patio portion of the deck. It looks very good. We will add some small utility tables and planters to the patio this spring. We are now ready for new gravel on the road as soon as the weather cooperates.

The ranch looks good even though it is winter. We have trimmed more cedar trees in front of the house and at the entry. We really need to consider a new entry and gate. We just have a simple cedar post entry and stock gate. An automatic gate will help keep people out and a pipe fence entry will look much better,

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Winter of 2010

This has already been the coldest weather we have had since we have lived on the ranch. We had one cold spell while we were gone, one following, and now a third. We are actually preparing for the coldest weather in over 20 years this week. I'll let you know.

The Cardinals are becoming more active. The deer appreciate the corn we put out for them. I saw the large fawn I mentioned in previous posts. He actually grew a set of horns and is very big. He will be a big trophy buck in just a few years. We get a group of about eight does, groups of individual young bucks, and a few big bucks almost daily at the feeders. They are fun to watch.

Only a little cosmetic work left on the pool. I will order new gravel for the road and some pea gravel for around the house as soon as the weather improves and that will finish the project.