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.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Falling in Love with Pedernales Falls

This weekend we joined many members of our Great Escapists Facebook group, mostly friends from our UU church, and we went to Pedernales Falls State Park. For a weekend that was so hot we stayed inside Ursula much of the time, I managed to take a LOT of pictures.

We took a nice scenic route to the park, which is in the Hill Country southwest of Austin. Once we were out of rush hour traffic, it was lovely. This is the height of wildflower season in the Hill Country, and surprisingly enough, the drought didn't ruin the flowers like we thought it would. All that winter rain made things quite happy on the roadsides! The park is way off the main road, and there are lots of windy roads to get to it, but it's worth  it! After a somewhat challenging parking event, we got all settled in and hung out with the friends who were there, playing Scrabble and all those traditional activities.
Ursula's spot, with Mike's car (we shared a HUGE space with Mike and Martha, who were tent camping)
After I woke up and had one cup of coffee, I decided I better so stuff soon, while it was still relatively cool. Audrey and Rod wanted to go to the falls, but didn't have any space in their van (they slept in it). So, Mike and I decided we would walk, since it was "only a mile and a half." It was actually 2.6 miles. It was a beautiful walk, though, and we saw more flowers, listened to birds, and got to see some really interesting spider webs that looked more like pieces of woven cloth than web. Mike kindly took photos of me amid the bluebonnets, since that is a Texas tradition.
You can tell it's spring because I have on my summer hat. Oh and the bluebonnets.

 We really enjoyed wandering around the falls area, which is really well maintained. Mike and I spent a lot of time sort of blankly staring at all the patterns the water made. It was just so pretty. I am doing you a real favor by not posting ALL the pictures I took of water.
There was a nice amount of water in the falls, though you could tell there had been more recently.
Lower falls
We climbed all over the rocks, and found an interesting spring that flowed down into the river in two spots, plus it went UNDER a tree's roots. Really cool.
This is the spring flowing under the roots of the tree.
This is the spring. It flows down both to the right and left. You really can't see it, but the water has little bubbles in it and you can see it moving.
After that we walked all over the river and rocks. We saw a couple of neat cave formations--I wish we could have gotten into them, but the water was going FAST! Here's my favorite cave--a perfect Easter photo, since it looks like the one in the resurrection story where the big rock has moved and nobody's in there anymore!
Is anybody in there?
We also tried to get artsy photos of us wandering around. Here is my most artsy one.
Me, Suna, as if I had long legs.
And just because I think this place is really beautiful, here are a couple of photos with me and Mike in them.
Mike ponders nature's wonders.
I think I missed the "slide" part of this slip-n-slide.And yes, I took coffee with me.
By the time all this rock crawling and photo-taking was over, we were rather warm. We approached Audrey and Rod, who were also rather overly warm, and sheepishly requested a ride back to the camping area. so, we rode in the back of the van, which was way better than trying to walk back. With my heat issues, this probably saved me. Mike didn't complain either.

We all ate lunch together in the shade of Mike and Martha's shelter, then moved over to Ursula's canopy when that shade went away.
Chatting away
We rejoined our respective spouse and partner and told them all we did. It was really, really hot in the middle of the day, and since we only had 30-amp service, we could only run one of Ursula's air conditioners. Still, she made it slightly cooler than the outdoors, so we all hung out in there much of the afternoon. More folks joined us, so by the end of it, we had quite the party going on. The wine flowed, the Scrabble was played, and the stories were told and retold (I knitted, trying to finish a sweater). Man, these people have known each other a LONG time. Stories go back quite far!
Janet, Jennifer and Tina Scrabbled away.
Eventually it got slightly cooler. I am some sort of glutton for punishment, or really, really like scenery. I am not sure which. But, I convinced Tina, who had joined us in the afternoon, to go for a "short" walk with me. We set out to just walk around the camping area, but then I saw a sign pointing to the place where you cross the river to do the big 4-mile hiking trail. I had no intention of going on the big trail, but I did want to see the crossing area. I knew the "swimming" area was really crowded, and hoped this would be less so. What a wonderful surprise, we ended up being the only ones there. It was nice and shady going down to the river, and there was an area just full of lovely flowers.
Coreopsis or something like that
Prickly poppies, one of my favorites
And the river was beautiful at the crossing. There were cypress trees and other lovely plants.
The other side of the crossing. Look how clear the water is.
We made it back from the river with just a few stops for Tina to get her breath. Yep, it was hot all right. And we had to climb. I guess I am better with the heat than I used to be. Of course, I turned quite red and needed a lot of water when we got back!

We had dinner, both the campers and the day visitors who joined us as the day wore on. There was lots of good food, even if we didn't do a potluck this time. I had leftover fish and vegetables from Thursday night, and Lee made mac-n-cheese with Rotel tomatoes in it again.  People liked it! Geri had made strawberry cobbler in their fire. It was delicious. Even two bites told me that. It had rosemary in it--a nice treat.

After dinner and more chatting, I was soooo tired. So we all went to bed. It's getting to where the bedroom in Ursula is as familiar as my own, so I sleep really well, That's only taken a year or so. And Ursula has rather redeemed herself. She did not leak at ALL on this trip! We each took showers, we washed dishes, and we ran the sink in the bathroom! Huh. I guess I now believe that the people in the repair places could not make her leak. I wonder if we did the water connection more tightly or are more level, or what? How weird!

This morning we mostly cleaned up and chatting with our friends. I didn't feel well enough for any more walking marathons. In fact, both Lee and I have been feeling less than perfect. Glad we got to some home. But, we took the long way, via Marble Falls. And we saw some beautiful flowers. Here are a couple of images taken through Ursula's windows.
This entire ranch was covered in flowers.
Typical Hill Country View. Going from Marble Falls to Liberty Hill.
Also, Lee took some nice photos of wildflowers I thought I would share. Here are a couple.
This is what a bluebonnet looks like up close.
Prickly poppy and some bugs.

I forgot to share how we spent Thursday night, after eating the first course of my lovely fish dinner. Ursula needed both additional oil and additional coolant. Both are added in her rear compartment. Neither can actually be reached by just pouring the fluids in. Oh no. To pour the oil, we had to carefully maneuver a large flexible funnel and pour via a very unnatural angle. But what was worse was the coolant. Oh my gosh. The lid to the radiator had two inches of space above it, then metal. How do you pour into that? So, in the dark, we (Lee) had to create a hose/funnel contraption. Knives, cursing, and shoving things around were involved. Also snaking the hose through the louvers of the rear lid. But, after pouring coolant all over Lee's face, we did it! Coolant was added! Ursula did not explode this weekend! Hooray! We are becoming more self reliant I guess.

The Park

I wish I weren't so tired or I'd do a better job of reviewing Pedernales State Park. It's pronounced "perdenales" by the way. And the GPS knew how to pronounce it! If you have only a couple of Texas state parks to choose from this should be one of them. While it is incredibly popular, there aren't too many camping spaces, so it is nowhere near as crowded and loud as Inks Lake. And there is a lot of area to explore. There are many interesting-looking trails, including ones that horses can go on. Plus, there is a bird blind. We forgot the darned fancy binoculars this trip, but next time (I think we come back in the fall), we will be sure to check that out! Jennifer won't let us forget that! The campsites are very large and wooded. What a nice thing. We hardly saw our neighbors. And it was nice and quiet, even though there were a lot of young adults around.