Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Welcome to Hermit's Retreat Ranch!

We are now the proud possessors of 52-ish acres of undeveloped property, now known as Hermit's Retreat Ranch. So far it has a culvert and "road" made by workers who have replaced old wooden electric poles with fancy metal ones (which are really high and less obtrusive) on the line that runs smack through most of the ranches in our area. Anyway, here Lee and Ralph shake hands to commemorate our closing
Tasmanian Ralph celebrates shedding some boggy land and a pasture from his lovely ranch.
Ursula will be spending most, if not all her time at Hermit's Retreat as soon as we build her a place to park. Of course, we first have to get water and electricity in (making progress on that) and the all-important heavy-duty septic system installed (among Ursula, our barn, and our distant-future house, we will have many bathrooms).

So, our US Memorial Day weekend activity, after a lovely wedding reception in Pflugerville (where there are actually people named Pfluger still), was to head out and do some ranching. This is going to be a SLOW process, I think. I drove our pickup truck behind Lee in Ursula. The long and winding way...

We got there right as the sun was setting, and had hoped to park by our pond/tank. But, there was construction equipment there, so instead we parked in the same spot as last time, by the Willow Pond. We were most disappointed to learn that the steaks we were going to eat for dinner were left at the house. Oops. We were much MORE disappointed, though, before we would even leave, when we saw this:
What's wrong with this picture?
Argh, one of Ursula's windows is shattered. At least it's safety glass, so it held together during the trip. We have many theories as to what happened. At first we thought it had been shot, but the hole doesn't go all the way through, and the security is SO tight around the RV storage place, it is unlikely. We also thought maybe a bird flew into the window, but there was no dead bird (could have been eaten, of course). A rock hitting it was another idea. We ruled that out at first, since no one can drive fast enough around there to throw rocks up, but it was also suggested that maybe the owners ran a weed-whacker and sent a rock flying. Could be. In any case, dang it, it's broken. It does make a nice background for a giant fly, though.
Disgusting Horsefly
Oh yeah, the rear a/c still doesn't work, and though we tried to get propane so we could cook, the Flying J truck stop's propane dispensary was closed. No cooking, again. On the bright side, the water pump decided to work after giving us a scare. Eh, we gave up and went to sleep.

Sunday morning, Lee had to work, so I went out and knitted and looked at the nature. I saw five distinct types of dragonflies/damselflies, at least, on the pond, plus turtles (a snapper!) and a bunch of scissortail birds in a mating frenzy. Here is the most beautiful thing I saw, in a photo later taken by Lee.
The loveliest dragonfly.
What a beautiful shade of violet these were, and hard to photograph, too, because I think this was the ONLY time we saw one rest. Here are two other really cool ones:
These at least sat still some.

This one looks like a tiger or zebra!
I love Lee's new gigantic camera lens! I wish I'd had it when I looked up, thinking Sara and Ralph's dogs were coming to visit. Then I noticed the "dog" had about ten little beings going "wee wee wee" behind it. That was no dog; it was a feral sow and piglets! I tried to get a picture. But the phone camera, combined with really high grass, reduced Mama Hog to a black dot.
Hog is in the center, directly above the green bush. Really.
I went back in Ursula after this...and then we decided that since it was Memorial Day, and people visit cemeteries to honor the dead and fallen heroes, we should do an activity. We went to the barn to get Hilda the utility vehicle and a weed whacker. Then we went over to Heinrich's grave and cleared the growth that had covered his tombstone since last year's drought cleared it so nicely. We didn't get very far, but it certainly amused the cattle. I took some pictures of the old gate and fence, which we hope to repair.
Lee is closely observed as he tries to get rid of some thistles.
The gate (broken tombstone behind it)
The gate came from Ohio! Wonder if it was installed much later than Heinrich's death in 1886?
Even though the string ran out on the weed whacker, we would have given up--it's hot again, though not as bad as last year yet. We took advantage of having a vehicle by driving over to Temple, Texas, and getting some food and supplies at Target. Wow, Target, just like in Austin or anywhere else. Of course, it being Sunday, most things were closed in Cameron.

We headed over to Wild Type Ranch HQ for dinner with Sara, Ralph and Kids of Sara. It was delicious beef (surprise) and some wonderful organic potatoes and other veggies. And wine. After dinner, Sara and I went out and sipped wine while the kids swam in the now-complete salt-water pool. While we were sipping, the men were apparently guzzling. I will omit the details, but the summary of the rest of the evening for Lee was, "Never try to keep up with Ralph." I got to drive Hilda back to Ursula in the dark, and work the gates in my flip flops. Fun.

Fast forwarding to Memorial Day Monday, I got up bright and early, and got dressed as best as I could. I headed over in the cool of the morning to go riding with Sara. I got to practice more horse skills on the ever-patient Pardner. He seemed to appreciate me dousing him with fly spray and brushing him, though. I got his halter on and stuff, but didn't put the saddle on. I am so short that I am not sure I will be able to do that without banging on the poor old guy. So, Sara calmed Aladdin down a bit then we all saddled up for an exciting walk about the grounds. Aladdin was feeling rather perky, so he got to back up every time he tried to be in charge. A lot of backing occurred. Pardner eventually went forward when I asked, and turned fine. It got better and better, and was quite fun in the end. I even like the cleaning up and putting things away part.

I sure hope at some point we can get Oscar over and work with him some, though I don't think I'd be riding him. And sorry there are no horse photos, but I don't think a person who hadn't ridden in a LONG time should be hauling out the camera, and Sara was quite occupied with Aladdin (he's the gray one).

After the ride, I went back to check on Lee, who was working without his glasses. I brought those, his phone, his rings, and his bathing suit he'd left last night back to him. Pretty soon after that Sara and the boys came to get me and we wandered all over the wooded area, deciding where to eventually put things. I took lots of photos of various things, like where we want to put a labyrinth...
Sara scopes out the labyrinth
...the cool old tree under which I'd like a bench...

Nice dead tree

...the view from the future bench...
Sara's Big Pond

...a bench that nature already put in a good spot...
See, it's a bench.

And the very similar view from it.
Hey, it's the same pond

..and a view I'd like to see from a bench at the high part of our area in the woods.
Nice view of our bottom land and hay meadow in the distance. You can also see the utility road

I never found exactly where I would want to put a meditation gazebo, but I am working on it.

Lee eventually joined us and we hiked along the stream that forms when it rains a lot--the drainage from our front area. There was even a spot that still had water and a LOT of frogs.
Water all gone!
By the end of that, I was extra well overheated, so we went back to Ursula, got rehydrated, and prepared to head home. We will be back soon!

Want to know more?

Here is a ton of info on Milam County, where the ranch is located. Also, look, a map showing you where it is in relation to Austin. You can tell there's no easy way to get there from our house.
Milam County, TX
Next, Ursula gets to go to the beach!

PS: We have had Ursula for a year now! HAPPY URSULA-VERSARY!


  1. I am so happy for you that you found a place you like. It looks great from the photos :) Is this where Oscar will be going when he leaves Cotton Patch??

  2. Yes, once we get fencing, shelter, water, etc., available, Oscar will come to the ranch so I can work with him. He also needs companions, so at least one more donkey needs to show up as well. He can't go in with the horses, so he needs a donkey.