Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Ranch

Rye grass in the bottom field
My parents own a ranch on the outskirts of town that we like to visit whenever we can.  On a lark, I took the girls and the baby out for a day trip with the hopes of getting an apiary to assemble.  No dice on the apiary, but the trip was not wasted in the least.

We have had several days of rain and cool weather in my little corner of the world.  Down on the property everything than can in getting up to bloom or has already bloomed.  The rye is tall down on the pastures and the pond is full.  A. and I took a little walk along the edge of the water hopping over little streams and rivulets.  In places where water had become trapped there were small brim and pollywogs.  The frogs have taken full advantage of all this water, their eggs seemed to have been laid early this year.  Wherever we advanced upon their position on bank they would fling themselves full-tilt into the water with a loud "eek!"  A. loved it and we spent a long time searching the banks for more frogs to surprise.
The pond

The land lies in the crook of the Brazos River, south of small dam that forms one boundary of a long skinny lake.  It rolls gently down from the top of the property at the road down to the river.  The river itself is full to the brim with rush water from the recent rains.  I was surprised to see it.  I always forget about the water that is to rise, but every year it does with a regularity that makes me feel out of step with nature.

The mighty Brazos River

In the not so distant past, before the dam, this property was farmland.  They grew cotton and corn.  Every spring the rains would come and flood the lower fields bringing the much need nutrients to the soil that would feed these crops that are such heavy feeders.  After the dam was built, the flooding stopped and the farmers had to depend on chemical fertilizers to build up the soil.
 Now this isn't a diatribe against modern farming.  It is simply an observation.  As the price of corn and cotton went down and the price of fertilizer went up the heirs of the land began to look for other sources of income.  Eventually the crops became less and less productive and the family that had owned the land for more generations than I even know sold it to an investor.  The land was tired, good for nothing more than a development.  Or so they thought.  One day along happened my folks and they fell in love.  They bought it from the investor and have slowly begun to restore the tired pastures using natural methods.

It has become wild over the years, there are many head of deer, javalina, possible a jaguarundi, and many species of venomous and non-venomous snakes.  There is an enormous owl in the southeast corner of the property.  Rabbits are plentiful.  The cardinals never fail to startle with their bright red coats as they streak through the brush and vines near the river.  There are scissor-tails and finches and jays that like to play in the fields up top.  The songbirds are too numerous to count.

I love this place.  It is truly God's country. On this trip, I noted where the blackberries had gone wild and blooming like crazy, the location of two great pecan trees that lean over the road (where pecan picking will be relatively easy and snake free), the wild grapes are setting their first tiny flowers nearby.  We picked wild garlic to go with some homegrown kale.

The new rooster
I need to carry a spade.  The garlic bulbs
stayed in the ground, but these will still be
good eats.

We visited the chickens.  There is a new rooster.  He is big and white with a speckled collar and black feathers.  I think he must be a Columbian Wyandotte.  He herded his ladies like a champ, making certain they did not stray too close to my vehicle, and he kept them away from the 3 year old (the animal world has decided that E. is a dangerous creature.  It is both funny and nerve-wracking).  It appears that they really did need a man around the house.

The girls collected eggs and chased after buttercup colored butterflies.  Too soon it was time to return home.  I made out traditional stop for chopped beef sandwiches (6 sandwiches for $5, you can't beat it).  I'm becoming vegetarian.  It was hard to resist.  I'll have to come better prepared next time.  It never fails that visits such as these make me want to run away to the country and live my life like Little House on the Prairie.  Maybe someday.  Do you have a refuge from the world?

the ladies

Isn't funny how different real eggs
 are from the store bought?  That little egg
has no yolk, but the long oblong one has two!

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