Monday, March 19, 2012

Now I'm a Farmer, and I'm Digging, Digging, Digging, Digging, Digging

Can you identify the source of the title of this entry? It’s a song that features the line, "It’s alarming how charming it is to be a-farming," which always cracked me up as a kid. And this weekend was spent charmingly farming in Yorktown. We really enjoyed the time away and in Ursula.

Beautiful, but spiky. These were all around the farm.
Picking Ursula up went nice and smoothly and there was nothing new broken. Hooray! There is a heck of a lot of wild mustard on the sides of the new toll road. It’s like they planted it there on purpose, but no, they couldn’t have! Once off the toll road, there were many lovely wildflowers, but it soon got too dark to tell!
Lee parks Ursula. Scary.

As you can see, Lee had to park Ursula in the dark, and there were no helpers around, either. But soon Nephew Chris and his wife Beth (and two teens we did not see until the next day) showed up so we had someone to chat with as Lee set everything up. Chris has been working very long hours in his new job, but managed to stay up and get caught up on things until pretty late.


The next morning, we bounced out of bed (for us, anyway) and put water in Ursula’s tanks. I say tanks, because, oops, Lee accidentally filled the black water tank at first. Guess that helped clean it out. Eventually we had water in the right tank, too. Of course, that led to something else. DANG IT Ursula still leaks every time we run water. We have TWICE now asked repair places to fix it, but they say, "We don’t see a leak." Well, why then do we completely soak towels every time we wash a dish, take a shower, or wash our hands in the bathroom sink? It is a poltergeist? (All rhetorical questions)

My first goal of the morning, of course, was to set my eyes on little Oscar the Donkey in person! The herd obliged by being fairly close. He is, indeed America’s Cutest Donkey, as I have dubbed him. Judge for yourself.

Oscar Feels Snoozy

Heading off to greener pastures

Oscar really, really loves the calves. Chris told us that after he experienced the electric fence the first time, he herded the calves away from it! How sweet! He is still pretty shy around people, but will get within a few yards of you, and looks curious and interested, not afraid. I will be happy to take my time with him until I can work with him more and tempt him with horse cookies.

Someone, perhaps Oscar, likes the mud. But isn’t he cuuuuute?

After I bonded with the donkey for a while, and Ernest Sr and Chris were working on getting ready to plant some stuff, Lee, Beth and I went on a walk around the farm. I tracked it by GPS using my RunKeeper software I just started using for my healthy walks. It was pretty funny, because we kept stopping to look at flowers, bees, pipeline equipment, dirt, and giant oil derricks, so the average speed was pretty pitiful. On the other hand, we saw lots of stuff.

A Huisache tree in bloom

These were blooming all over the place. I know they are a weed tree, but they are really pretty and create lovely landscapes (I hope Lee will add some photos he took of them with his good camera). If you wish to learn more, here is a link to the Huisache. Lee notes there a town named Weesatche, which turns out to be the next town down the main road from Yorktown. You know, on the way to Goliad (where ARE all these places??). And that the way I originally tried to spell the tree (Weesatch) also works. It is a type of acacia tree, which I knew by the leaf shape.

Lee and Beth share a joke.

This is a new pipeline that went right through the cornfield. After it was planted. That’s OK, they compensate.

The equipment really compacts the soil. They will put the original dirt back on, then Chris or Ernest Sr. will till the heck out of it to make it usable again next year.

It is cool to have your name on the stick.
The pipeline is coming from this monstrosity, which is across the road in "Betty Ann’s" field. The neighbor.

Once the drilling is over, this will barely be visible. The storage tanks are much bigger and more of an eyesore. I have really learned a lot about the oilfield industry lately, both its good and less good points.

The oil companies are as busy as…well, you get it.

At the end of the walk, we had a nice chat with the people who guard the entrance to the farm (that is because another well is going up behind the farm, and it’s easier to get to it on the road that goes to the first well). They apparently spend their winters guarding work sites (they check every truck that goes in, day or night, which does make you feel more secure). They then go do a bit of spring on the coast of Texas, then they go back up to Minnesota where they help manage an RV resort. What a fun life! Well, other than being on call 24/7 to keep track of the comings and goings.

Lee seems to have a thing for flowers and barb wire. Maybe it’s like leather and lace.

After more chatting back at the family compound, Beth and the teens left, and I did a bunch of knitting until Lee’s dad declared he was hungry, and that it was too windy to do any planting. It was like 4 pm. But, OK, it was a fine time to eat if all you’d had all day was a SlimFast bar. We went to the Texas Outpost, which is the fanciest and newest restaurant in town (as opposed to Aunt Di’s, which is much older). We were pleasantly surprised at how good the food was. I remembered it was St. Patrick’s Day only because the waitress had on a green lei. I guess it’s not a big holiday in German/Polish/Mexican land. I saved half my delicious sirloin for another day, and mostly ate the really good steamed fresh vegetables.

Lee had a hard time deciding which butterfly picture to use. He finally went for action over pretty.

To top off the excitement of the day, Chris worked on fixing the broken riding lawn mower. Lee was advocating a new one, since the thing is like 30 years old, but no, all that was left to fix was a fuse that had arced. Chris and I went off in search of a fuse and ice cream for Lee’s dad (wow, he IS feeling better--eating like crazy!). Oh, and I needed carpet cleaner since someone had tracked cow poo all across Ursula’s carpet. The fuse was eventually located at a convenience store, and sure enough, the mower ended up running like a charm. It is so much fun to watch someone who’s good with machinery and fixing things. Makes me miss my dad a lot.

Lee is amazed at the menu options

At night, we watched some weird TV show and listened to complaints about digital TV and how it is no good for rural people.

The derricks are pretty at night, even if they are very noisy.
And we had a cool view of two planets at bed time.


You’d think this would be enough excitement for one visit...but no! There’s still Sunday! Sunday was full of excitement because the plan was to get up early and do the planting of the "grazer"—which I am told is a type of sorghum that will be there temporarily before they plant that field in hay (used to be for corn--they are moving toward more cattle and less corn). I entertained Lee’s dad while we waited for Chris. Ernest Sr. was chomping at the bit, but Chris gets lots of work calls he needs to deal with. The men got the planting thing on the old tractor, which was to be followed by the new tractor tilling in the seed.

Seeds ready to plant.

During all this I took photos of the cattle and Oscar. Believe me, this is a tiny selection.

Oscar is greeting his best friend, the bull calf that was already born when the new cows came. He is, unfortunately, about to go away, because he wants to be a bull. Luckily, Oscar also likes the other calves.

Left calf is from #14 and is the son of that weird Brahma bull from last year. He and #16’s similar calf are both really pretty and will get to go be Daddy calves. The middle is one of the new cows’ calves, and the right is a female Charlois cross from one of the new calves--the only cow calf they’ve had in at least three years. The other little white one is very pretty, too.

I just couldn’t resist this one of Oscar licking his little friend. They were rubbing their heads on each other. Really shows you how animals do have friendships.
At that point I decided it was real exercise time and took off on a long walk. The flowers were prettier than I have ever seen them there (Lee’s dad has not yet killed them all like he usually does). Here’s some of what I saw.

This is the other tree that is in bloom. It smells great. It is some type of mesquite. Another weed, but one that does serve some purposes as well. The blooms make great honey and the wood makes nice barbecue. However, I do not want any in my pastures. That is what blinded Pardner the Horse.
I mainly took this picture to record the yellow flower, which is I guess a primrose, but not one I "know."
When I got back from the walk, I found the planting operation at a halt. Something had broken on the tiller or cultivator or whatever the attachment is (argh, I am a bad farm person). Chris switched the bad one up to the front and put a good one on the back. Soon they were up and running again. Lee and I helped by fetching things and banging on dirt clods. Those durned City Folks.

Yep, it’s broken, all right. Lee’s dad just wants to get back in the tractor.

Hooray, he is back in his favorite spot!
Once that was all over, it was time to eat again. Aunt Di’s was too full (we didn’t beat the Baptists to their after-church gathering spot, apparently), so once again we had to haul all the way out to Cuero (really not that far) and eat at Don Bravo’s, land of questionable cleanliness but delicious food.

This captures the essence of Don Bravo’s. Nice weeds, huh. Not sure what that hanging thing is.
Everybody got huge plates of food. Well, I didn’t. I figured huevos rancheros would not be too big, and it wasn’t. Yummy eggs totally smothered in some brown sauce, with salad-like substance and beans. I just ate a bit of the beans and didn’t use tortillas. Another successful diet mean while eating out!

After lunch, we spent a while working on Ursula, and now she is spic and span. This made me look up the term spic and span, which is from the 1500s in England and has nothing to do with Hispanics! Who knew? Anyhow, we reluctantly left the family member sand America’s Cutest Donkey around 4, and made it to the RV storage place before dark. Other than leaving wet towels in the shower (leftover from dealing with the leak), I think we successfully completed the trip without forgetting a lot of stuff.

What’s next? Why, I think Ursula’s next big outing will be to an actual campground in two weeks, with our church camping buddies! A state park she has never been to before! Lee may go out to Cameron again next weekend, but probably sans RV this time, so he can take the trailer and Hilda the Utility Vehicle up there.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

She's Back! Rumbling in the Rain!

Ursula's issue with the jittery leveling system has finally been put to rest--as in Rest in Peace, because the people at the RV repair place finally gave up on making the beeping stop and put in a kill switch. When she beeps, Lee can just kill it. Ahhhh.

We wasted no time in putting Ursula to use. We had planned to hook the trailer with Hilda the utility vehicle on the back of Ursula so they could stay at the ranch, but nooooo. Ursula's always got some trick or another going on. The doo-dad that attaches her lights to the lights on the trailer has a nonstandard connection--I guess some kind of special RV one. Sigh. So, the trailer got left and is going to have to sit in the RV storage place until we either get an adapter or tow them up with the truck. Wow, this really makes RV ownership sound exciting, doesn't it?

It gets better. We drove through a pretty good rain up to scenic (and very green) Milam County on Saturday morning. We probably should have thought a bit more before leaving, since it turned out that there was no LP gas in Ursula, thus no heat. And it was chilly! It also turned out that Lee forgot he had drained all the water out of Ursula because freezing weather happened while she was in the shop. So flushing was fun. Luckily we weren't going camping in the boondocks or anything, and the civilized folks we visited provided us with a nice space heater and restroom facilities.

It's been as rainy this winter as it was dry last summer. So, everything is gorgeous this spring. It had rained on Friday, so we enjoyed looking at how full the rivers, lakes, ponds/tanks, and creeks were, once we got off I-35, anyway. We made it to Wild Type Ranch HQ in good time, and got all set up with plenty of time to get to work, because we were there to help out Sara and Ralph with the big party they were having to thank the people who had worked on their lovely new house. No more one-room cabin living for them!

Ursula knows better than to expand her slides at the ranch. We kept her compact.
We all went to work chopping and cooking things, and drove back and forth between the house and the cabin way more times than were good for the very wet road, so we drove through a very wet pasture instead. Very wet is the key. It continued to rain.

Wet weather makes the red bud look practically unreal!
We did get all the food and drinks to the beautiful new house, then welcomed the other folks who were helping set up, a family from Belize who did the HVAC work. We moved in some furniture that Ralph had gotten at a hotel sale (really amazing stuff), and were all ready when people started to arrive.
All the stuff Sara and I worked on, plus curried eggs and my wine glass. The tables are desks for the kids' rooms from the hotel sale.

It was very interesting meeting many of the people who had helped build the house. Someone said how nice it was to actually see it finished, since usually they are never invited back to see how houses turn out! Of course, it helps if the house you helped build is on the next property from yours--the concrete and metal building folks are on the next ranch over, our future next-door neighbors. And everyone liked the furnishings, which aren't the finished interior design, but worked well for the evening.
Sara is ready to relax a bit.

I got to be the first sitter on the new couch. Note rain outside.

Everyone was very nice and friendly to us, and I feel lots better knowing more folks who live around the area. Not all the people who'd worked on the house showed up--I could hardly blame them, because around 5 pm it really, really started to rain. It ended up raining 3.5 inches, and I can see not wanting to wander down the narrow county roads in that stuff. We kept looking out the windows and marveling at the rain! Well, that and eating all the delicious food. I killed my diet by eating a rather hearty helping of home-made peach cobbler. First dessert serving of 2012!

When the rain finally stopped, Sara and I went out and fed all the new fish in the pond/tank behind the new house. We heard a sound. That sound turned out to be a roaring waterfall pouring out of the pond in the next field (not theirs, thankfully). Water was just rushing everywhere, and now all the ponds are full!

Water rushing toward the tank with the baby fish in it. Look how GREEN the plants are!
There was no problem springing forward Saturday night, since by the time we were finished cleaning, everyone was totally ready for bed an hour early. We didn't expand Ursula, since we hardly used her and figured the less space to heat, the better the little space heater would do. It did just fine, and luckily, it got warmer on Sunday.

We spend most of Sunday at the ranch doing chores and fun stuff. When everyone else was eating breakfast, I took a long walk by our future property to see how the water drained. I had a bit of an issue getting off the ranch. The cattle thought perhaps I had some Moo-Cow Treats with me.

The welcoming committee. One of whom will be dinner soon.
I was happy to see that all the stuff flowing in where we hope to make a little lake is clear, not silty. Here is some of our temporary waterway.

Where the water flows down to the arroyo. Hoping this will be part of a lake soon.
I went farther down to where the spring is, and there was a nice waterfall there. I have decided to call it Occasional Falls.

Occasional Falls
We are going to have to figure out a way to get that to stop eroding, but right now it looks pretty cool.

And the above is where all that water ends up before heading off to the creek. I walked along and was heartened to see bluebonnets and other wildflowers have been planted on the roadside. Next time we are up they should be looking good. They aren't too spectacular yet. I also enjoyed so many birds that were happy the rain had stopped.

And this isn't even as big as Walkers Creek gets!
In this picture, the tree in front must have had two dozen birds of different species in it. I could hear woodpeckers, cardinals (there are FLOCKS of them here--like a dozen each), warblers, jays, and sparrows. And something I couldn't identify that had a lovely song. Plus bluebirds were flying around. I sure look forward to more bird observation here!

It's hard to believe that last summer the bottom of Walkers Creek was barely damp, and you could cross it by jumping a muddy spot. So, after checking all this out I went back past the mooing gauntlet to do some more fun stuff.

The men went and fetched the refrigerators that go in the house. The women got to play with horses. Sara was going a deal where she teaches the younger horses to love the trailer by feeding them in it. And also she had to take the guys the key to the house with the fridge in it. That left me and Rosa from Belize with the old horse, Pardner. He is a really, really, really kind horse. He also likes to roll in the mud. Rosa and I brushed and brushed on him, then I walked him around and bonded with him (that was my first Parelli horse-person lesson). Such a sweet-natured animal. You can just tell he has a good heart. And he was much shinier, too.

A well-groomed animal
Pardner has the kind of coat that gets real thick in the winter and needs to come off for spring. He also doesn't sweat well, so needs to get the extra hair off. You can see he has a ways to go. And yes, he can't see out of that eye, but still he's a great riding horse I am told! I am really glad Sara is letting me work a little with him, since I want to try to do some gentle training with Oscar...if I ever get to see him. This weekend, I hope?

Anyway, after all the equine fun, all us grownups went in and drew all over maps and filled out forms. We have our application for the loan for our little chunk of land, and are working towards making a real place to watch the sunsets in the sunset of our lives. After all that, we took Ursula home, and since the sun was setting, we got to test out Lee's new sunshade--yes he finally has one on his side of the RV.

We hope to go see Lee's dad and Chris this weekend (and Oscar the Donkey!). I haven't been able to get out there since Christmas, because Ursula has been broken. Lee went out once without me, in the car.

Lee has some nice photos, so he may add some. Or some words. I like words. I just wrote perhaps too many....

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Oh, Ursula

So, have you been wondering why we haven't posted anything about Ursula lumbering around Texas for the past couple of months?

The answer is that she has been here.
Ursula is not going forward. She is backing up. Back to the repair place.
Ursula has been back at the ole RV Outlet Mall. Since early January. Her leveling system has been being worked on all this time. Waiting for parts. Waiting for this and that. Sigh. In good news, the malfunctioning driver's side sunscreen finally works. And they claim that the leak from somewhere near the fridge is not happening any more, though I will believe it when I next wash dishes.

I thought I might get to wash dishes tonight, since we were thinking of driving somewhere and spending the night...but no. We went to get her after being told the repair guy had driven her a few miles and the leveling system had NOT beeped incessantly. Lee paid a bunch of money. He set off. He then stopped at the exit from the RV Outlet Mall (causing much traffic confusion). Ursula's bad ole leveling system had started beeping as soon as he hit a bump. DARN THE LUCK.

I am really not happy that we have not been able to use Ursula since the new year. I have a donkey, dang it, and I can't go visit him. He is the cutest donkey on earth, and he lives at Lee's dad's farm!

Oscar the Cutest Donkey Ever
He's just a baby, and he had a real hard time adjusting to living with the cattle. Ole #14 was NOT friendly at kept chasing him off at first. But, now Oscar plays with all the new calves, which I ALSO have not met yet. I want to go visit the Farm! I want to go out to the ranch and start working on paths in the woods! I want to go to Pedernales State Park at the end of the month! We are paying for Ursula! We want to use her!

In Other Vehicle News

Since Ursula has been out of commission, we have been adding to our fleet of vehicles. Theoretically we should be signing the papers for our little ranch property in the next couple of weeks, so we need vehicles to strew across it. (In addition we need a place to store them--first ranching priority). So, we got one of those "mule" kind of vehicles, which we have named Hilda, after the wonderful Hilda Fountain, who was my dad's next-door-neighbor during his years in High Point, NC. She was humble, hard-working but amazingly helpful and kind. And she lived to be 103, a very productive 103. We hope our Hilda will live to 103 in vehicle years.
Loading Hilda on the trailer
She has four-wheel drive, two-wheel drive and even one-wheel drive (for driving on lawns), plus we got a roof and a windshield, so my hat won't blow off. These vehicles have really improved. She has headlights, plentiful cup holders, and a useful display--the one Lee's dad has doesn't have any of this. I know it will be fun to drive all over the ranch, go visit the neighbors, etc., in Hilda! (She is made by Polaris, by the way, the same folks who made Lee's motorcycle and a lot of snowmobiles.)

And do you note that she is on a trailer? Yep, Lee picked up the trailer, too. Right now the trailer and Hilda are living where Ursula normally would be (so at least we are not wasting the rent on her spot). The truck was also living there (it is destined to be our farm vehicle until we get something that will tow more), until my precious son blew the engine of his Volvo by letting it run out of oil (he had been checking, but didn't realize he was looking at sludge on the dipstick, not actual oil). We feel pretty lucky to have a "spare" vehicle while he waits for the really, really nice guy he got the Volvo from to replace its engine...again...he already replaced it for the lady who originally owned the car and ruined the engine when the water pump broke!

Seems like a lot of weird vehicle luck is going on in our house. But we are OK. Patience is a good thing. I am just wanting to use Ursula right now, since it's the best time of year here! It is not hot and it is not cold, and all the flowers are starting to bloom! I want to go camping in the springtime in the Hill Country!


By the way, we are trying to think of a name for our ranch. It is a part of the Wild Type Ranch, so we though of Wild Type Annex, or Wild Type 2. But there are other possibilities. Ideas? Post them here, share them on Facebook or tell me or Lee in person! We look forward to having an address, electricity and water soon!