Sunday, April 15, 2012

Getting Closer to Being Legit Ranchers

Ursula lumbered out of her parking spot rather late on Friday, since I stopped by a nice spot and had a drink with some of the work ladies, then had to get some groceries. That meant we didn't make it to Wild Type Ranch until it was quite dark. Nonetheless, I got the new lock on the ranch gate to open (Sara and Ralph have moved to their new house, so it's not the main entrance anymore), and we trundled along a nicely mowed path to our parking spot in front of Willow Pond (which I have named thus because it has so many dead river willows and a couple of living ones). Everything went well with setup except the back air conditioner refused to turn on. Maybe it doesn't like running on the generator. That was all fine, because it was nice outside, so we opened the windows, the better to hear the howling wind and generator sound. Lee found a washcloth to cover the extremely annoying bright green light that glows when the generator's running.

We awoke early, since the sun was up and the wind plowing through Ursula. I took my coffee over to check out the pond, and my brand-new summer cowboy hat flew into the water. Conveniently, there was a large stick nearby, so I fished it back out. I think it's fine.

Here's Ursula, framed by thistles growing on the dam for the pond. 
 You will probably see a lot of this spot in the future. We are pretty sure our future house will be about 40 yards back and to the right of Ursula. Barn will be to her left. She is parked on what will be the property line to our little ranch, which we have found out is 51.57 acres.

Thistles were everywhere, and lots of thistle seed was flying around in the big winds.
 We spent much of Saturday morning walking around the property, marking tentative building sites for the barn and house, and seeing how the wet areas look at a more typical time. I will spare you all the photos of ditches. Because there was a wind advisory, not a lot of birds were out. But there were many, many kinds of butterflies and a whole bunch of different caterpillars!

Here's what I think is  Monarch caterpillar. Someone will correct me if I am not right.
 We walked over to the ranch barn to fetch Hilda the utility vehicle. Of course, the curious bovine residents of the property, who had just been moved off our pasture so we could park, wanted to know what we were up to. I really like that they all have names on their ear tags, so I can address them properly. On the other hand, then I know who I am eating.

Welcome party
 We got Hilda and drove over to see what was going on at the new house. It was the big day the swimming pool was getting filled. Quite exciting. We went back to the barn and got stakes for marking things, then drove Hilda all over the place.
OK, one ditch picture.
 This willow did not die at all in the drought, since it is near the spring. We need to make sure whatever new pond we make doesn't drown it. In the picture above, the road is to the left and the pasture where the buildings will be is to the right. Woods are straight ahead. In the woods are a few of these lovely, yet sorta weedy cactus.

Right now is the lovely part of the year when the prickly pear cactus bloom. 

Prickly pear blossom.
 You don't want your whole field full of these, but a few are nice to have. Some day I will try to make jelly or cook the new leaves like they do in Mexico. But they really ARE prickly. We drove Hilda to every one of the survey markers.

A marker. This is the one marking the intersection of pasture and woods, and which part will be ours and which stays part of Wild Type Ranch.
This is the marker at the far other end of the property, a bit more than a half mile away.
 It's a long way from one end of the place to the other. It's much wider than it is deep. But I am just happy there's pasture, meadow, woods, and hay!

Woman sitting in her field. I hid my hair from the wind, though the hat kept blowing off.
 The hay meadow has lots and lots of plant diversity, as you can see here.

I mostly wanted a photo of a man outstanding in his field. Technically, I think that's some of each of our hay fields. Check out the wind damage to Lee's hair. 
 Once we had checked the boundaries, we went and looked at the ponds. The one below is my favorite, the one that looks most like a real lake. We came here last week to help Sara see if there were any fish in Walker's Creek or any of the ponds. Nope.

What's that black dot in the center right? Yep, turtle.
This time we had better luck. Still no fish sightings, but I saw two turtles in the lower pond, and some beetles in the water.

This is our pond. Tiny but lovely. 
Little pond and Hilda
You can see that "our" pond is not very big. However, it also had two turtles in it, plus a whole bunch of tadpoles. It looks so much better with water in it! There are some trees that have died around it--think these might turn into lumber or something later--the two in the top picture look like they were once very nice trees. The drought did a LOT of trees in, even in this meadow, which is pretty darned damp right now, with all sorts of interesting wetland areas, little streams and fun stuff to explore.

Where I shall place a hammock.
These are two nice living cedar elm trees, and I think it would be just perfect to put a hammock there. Ralph says he has seen evidence that there may have been one there before.

We'd hoped to do some labyrinth planning (me and Sara), but she and her kids were on a new house organizational kick, so we didn't. After all our surveying, Lee and I rested, I knitted, and I took more pictures.

I think perhaps this river willow's been down a while. There is a pretty large cactus growing in it!
Eventually, we went back to the new house and watched the pool fill with water, then went off to feed the chickens and check for eggs. They are laying like crazy now! I even managed to drive Hilda all by myself. I am a rancher now, yep. I got lots of lessons in egg cleaning from Sara's son, which was very educational.

We all went out to eat in Cameron's finest Mexican restaurant (and the one closest to the ranch site). We came back and fed the fish in the pond/tank that they'd had stocked. You could see lots of fishie evidence there, plus a good number of turtles. It sure will be fun for them to look at that action from their house, and to go fishing when the fish grow! After that, we talked over wine, making plans and analyzing life's important events. Sara's son asked her if we were going to be "real neighbors," like eat meals together and do craft activities. We assured him we would be! We have the land survey back, and are now just waiting for some water survey to get done before we can finally be genuine ranch property owners.

We now have two potential ranch names:

  • Hermit's Rest Ranch: This is because Lee has been "The Hermit" for many years. It's his favorite tarot card, and we ARE getting this property so we can go hide from all the ickiness in the world right now.
  • Walker's Bend Ranch: This is because Walker's Creek runs through the property (it was also the name of a former settlement where we are), and our part includes a bend in the creek, mainly because  I want to explore and mess around there.

I guess I need to do a Facebook poll or mull it over more. I like different things about each name. And I like these better than just our names or initials--more cryptic.

Here's more on Walker's Creek, from the sign at Walker's Creek Cemetery just down the road.
This old cemetery is nicely kept, and just down the road from the ranch.

Declan took this picture mainly to get the butterfly.

Here's the history of the area where our ranch property is located.

This morning we were up early for us, because I was supposed to sing "The Rainbow Connection" at church. Did you know that once you learn all the words to that song it will NOT go away? Yes, it's still playing in my head. On our way out, I had Lee turn left at the wrong place, and we went down a really pretty road, but not one that leads to Cedar Park, Texas, where Live Oak UU Church happens to be. It took quite a few miles until we found a suitable-looking road to turn around in, and THAT road ended up being a very narrow dirt road that dead-ended at a gated entrance...but there was enough space to turn Ursula around. The GPS was helpfully suggesting we turn at all sorts of "county roads" that actually were entrances to fields, or nothing at all.

Because of the adventure (it actually was pretty fun), we couldn't drop Ursula off and take my car. Lee dropped me off at the side of the road, and I got in just in the nick of time to sing in the offertory. Whew. Luckily our old soprano had showed up to church to see her son play at the end of the service, so I had a backup person. Whew. In good news, though, I missed the opening hymn, which is my least favorite but a big favorite of the minister who was preaching today. When our ministers go on their separate journeys at the end of the month, I will miss many things about them, but not having to sing "Inch by inch, row by row, gonna watch my garden grow."

Well, that's it for this blog. Stay tuned for more next week, as I believe another visit with Oscar the Donkey is in order.

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